Monday, February 21, 2011

Vaccinium - a sour ale experiment

Lately I have been intrigued by sour, funky beers - Lambics, Flanders Reds, Oud Bruins, and a wide array of "wild" ales from small American craft breweries (e.g. Cisco Brewers, Jolly Pumpkin, Allagash). I've been wanting to brew up a sour/funky beer for a while, but have not really known where to start. But after several months of tinkering with an idea, I finally took the plunge and brewed something up today.

My inspiration for this recipe was Ithaca Beer Co.'s Brute and head brewer Jeff O'Neill's interview on the Brewing Network. I sampled Brute at the Beervana Beer Festival in Pawtucket, RI this past Fall and was blown away by it - by far my favorite beer there. I was shocked to learn during the BN podcast that the sourness comes from a high percentage of acidulated malt and not actual Lactobacillus or other souring bacteria.

I've also been intrigued with the idea of using a wine yeast on a beer, thanks to yet another Brewing Network podcast featuring Shea Comfort (aka the "Yeast Whisperer"). I have no idea what to expect from using a wine yeast on this recipe, but I chose Lalvin's BM45 for it's production of berry/cherry-like flavors and aromas. Part of my train of thought also included the fact that wine yeasts might be better suited to the more acidic fermentation environments that the acidulated malt would create. My plan is to finish the fermentation with Bretanomyces clausenii for some mild funkiness. Since wine yeasts can't metabolize more complex sugars, there should be plenty of food left behind for the Brett.

And since I'm experimenting here, I might as well go all out. I used flaked corn for the first time, did my first step mash (including a protein rest because of all the adjuncts), and am planning on adding local cranberries. I'm thinking this might be ready to drink for Thanksgiving, give or take a couple of months.

I'm probably out of my mind trying so many new-to-me aspects, but I'm hopeful I'll end up with something interesting. (I wonder if I should add some oak cubes...)

Brewed on 1/21/11

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.75 gal
Boil Size: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.054 SG
Estimated Color: 4.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 22.7 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.00 %
Boil Time: 65 Minutes

3 lbs Pale Malt - 40.00 %
1 lbs Acidulated Malt -13.33 %
1 lbs Corn, Flaked - 13.33 %
1 lbs Vienna Malt - 13.33 %
1 lbs Wheat Malt - 13.33 %
8.0 oz Wheat, Flaked - 6.67 %

0.56 oz Mt. Hood [4.40 %] (60 min)
0.35 oz Goldings, East Kent [4.50 %] (30 min)
0.53 oz Cascade [6.00 %] (5 min)

Lalvin BM-45
Brettanomyces claussenii (White Labs #WLP645) - to be added in secondary with cranberries

Mash Schedule
Step Time Name Step Temp
15 min Protein Rest 130.0 F
45 min Saccrification 158.0 F

2/24/11 - it took 3 days for the BM45 to get going! And it is slow going at that. I hope it goes OK.

2/25/11 - WOW, the airlock is going crazy - looks like the yeast are just fine

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Opening Day Altbier

Even though we've had one of the snowiest, coldest winters in recent years, Spring is not that far away and the Sox will once again be regular fixtures on the living room tv. But before Jon Lester or Josh Beckett throws their first real pitch, I need to take advantage of the winter temperatures to brew my annual "lager".

With no real temperature control, I rely on the various temperatures in my house and garage for different fermentation and conditioning regimes. Since my cellar sits in the low high 50s/low 60s, and my "mudroom" sits in the low-mid 50s, and my garage is in the high 30s/low 40s right now, I like to take a short hiatus from my usual ale brewing and try something that can take advantage of these colder temps.

This is my second attempt at brewing an altbier. Though technically not a lager, it benefits from a cooler fermentation and some cold storage - think of it as a transitional style between ales and lagers. Once again, I am trying to emulate the traditional altbiers of Dusseldorf in honor of a friend and colleague whose wife hails from Dusseldorf and both of whom rave about the beers available there. Last year, my friend's wife said my attempt "was good", which I take as a high compliment given I have never been to Dusseldorf and have only sampled a couple Dusseldorf alts (thanks to my friend's generosity in sharing his private altbier stash he collects during his regular visits to his wife's family). I even took 3rd place in a local competition with it (the South Shore Brew Off). My version was a little too dark and roasty however and I am hoping to adjust for that this year by adding the dark malt only during the sparge. My LHBS also had White Lab's Dusseldorf Altbier yeast in stock this year, which I hope will put this beer over the top.

I think traditionally this beer was brewed using a decoction mash. I'm not confident yet to give that a whirl (maybe next year), so instead I augmented the grist with some Munich and Melanoiden malts. I fermented this in the cellar for 7 days - ambient temp was 59°F - before moving it up to the first floor for a diacetyl rest for 3 days (ambient temp = 67°F). I then racked to a secondary glass carboy and moved it to the mudroom for 4 days (ambient temp = 50°F) and then to the garage (ambient temp = 38-42°F), where it will sit for a few weeks before bottling.

Opening Day Alt
Brewed on 1/30/11

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.50 gal
Boil Size: 5.00 gal
Estimated Color: 12.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 38.8 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.00 %
Boil Time: 75 Minutes
OG: 1.049 SG

5 lbs Pilsner (Weyermann) - 81.57 %
8.0 oz Melanoidin (Weyermann) - 8.16 %
8.0 oz Munich I (Weyermann) - 8.16 %
2.0 oz Chocolate Wheat (Weyermann) - 2.12 % (added to mash during sparging)

50.00 grams Tettnang [3.50 %] (60 min)
14.00 grams Hallertauer [3.00 %] (30 min)

Dusseldorf Alt Yeast (White Labs #WLP036)

Mash Schedule
Single Infusion, 150°F, Batch Sparge

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fireside Porter

I've long been a fan of smokey flavors - BBQ and hickory-smoked bacon of course, but also a nice Islay single malt scotch, lapsang souchong tea, and Bramberg rauchbier. Amazingly, I hadn't tasted any smoked porters until recently, but once I sampled Clipper City's Smoke on the Water and Alaskan Brewing Company's Smoked Porter, I knew this style was going on my short list to brew. Looking to brew something rich, flavorful, and smooth, I did some research and came up with this recipe. I actually wanted Chinook hops, thinking a nice piney flavor/aroma would complement the smoke nicely. Unfortunately, my LHBS was out of Chinook so I decided to give Columbus a try. I've never used this hop and hope it works out OK.

Brew day went without a hitch. I am getting used to my new set-up - all-grain, small batch, split boil - and am quite happy with the results so far. As for the grist I decided to go with approximately 20% Weyermann's beechwood-smoked malt - I want the smoke character to have a real presence, but not dominate like in a rauchbier. I've become a fan of honey malt in lieu of crystal malt - I find it less intense. I also like to add some wheat to my brews for increased head retention and overall body and since my LHBS carries chocolate wheat, I decided to kill two birds with one stone, getting my wheat and my roasted grain in one. I threw in a dash of black patent so the beer had a bit of acridity to it. I wasn't looking for anything special from the yeast, so I went with the clean-fermenting dry US-05.

After listening to the BN podcast with Shea Comfort on using oak, I decided to add some oak cubes to the primary, which Shea suggested can add mouthfeel, but little oak flavor to the finished beer. Not sure what kind of effect this will actually have - or if I will be able to detect it - but I figured it was worth a try.

I'm thinking this will need some time to condition in the bottles, so I'm looking at mid-March before it will be ready.

Fireside Smoked Porter
Brewed on 1/12/11

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.50 gal
Boil Size: 5.00 gal
Estimated Color: 29.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 46.7 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Boil Time: 70 Minutes
OG: 1.060
FG: 1.014
ABV: 6.00%

4 lbs 8.0 oz Pale Malt - 57.62 %
1 lbs 8.0 oz Smoked Malt (Weyermann) - 19.21 %
1 lbs Munich I - 12.80 %
8.0 oz Chocolate Wheat - 6.40 %
4.0 oz Honey Malt - 3.20 %
1.0 oz Black Malt - 0.77 %

0.18 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.50 %] (60 min)
0.5 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.50 %] (30 min)
0.5 oz Williamette [4.80 %] (15 min)
0.5 oz Williamette [4.80 %] (1 min)

0.5 oz Oak Cubes, Hungarian, Med Toast (Primary)

SafAle (Fermentis US-05)

Mash Schedule
Single Infusion, 152°F, Batch Sparge

Friday, February 18, 2011

Little Rhody Red (hopburst version)

This beer is one of my favorites and one I proudly call my own creation. And it is the brew I will be tinkering with until it's perfect. This is my second recipe for this beer and while it is very good, I already have some changes in mind for next time. I brewed a slightly different recipe of this up not quite a year ago. At that time, it was the first beer that I designed to taste and not to any particular style. I wanted a hoppy, reddish-brown ale with a little bit of roastiness, a little bit of body, but not a lot of caramel-sweetness. And that's exactly what this is.

I also like this beer because I use some locally-grown Rhode Island hops from Ocean State Hops. They very generously sent me several ounces of free hops to try last year. I still had some whole leaf Cascade left so I decided to use them up for this recipe. I augmented their hops with some from the LHBS.

This time around I decided to try the hopburst method (adding most of the hops in the last 20 minutes) along with mash hopping with the whole leaf Cascade. I also decided to give Simcoe a try for the first time. The end result is a very nice beer, packed with a ton of grapefruity/citrusy flavor and aroma. It's too dark for an IPA (and not dark enough for a Black IPA/CDA) and probably too hoppy for an American Amber, though I am going to enter it into some comps as the latter. I think next time I will brew this without the Simcoe - it's good, but there's this ever so slight flavor in there that I think is the "cattiness" that is often used to describe Simcoe. I could do without that.

Little Rhody Red (hopburst)
Brewed on 11/20/10

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.50 gal
Boil Size: 5.00 gal
Estimated Color: 12.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 55.3 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
OG: 1.064
FG: 1.015
ABV: 6.4%

7 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter - 87.39 %
6.0 oz Wheat Malt, Pale - 4.74 %
4.0 oz Honey Malt - 3.12 %
4.0 oz Munich I - 3.12 %
2.0 oz Chocolate Malt (450.0L) - 1.62 %

1.55 oz Cascade [4.00 %] (mash, whole leaf)
1.00 oz Simcoe [12.30 %] (20 min)
1.00 oz Amarillo [8.70 %] (20 min)
0.50 oz Amarillo [8.70 %] (10 min)
0.50 oz Cascade [7.40 %] (10 min)
1.00 oz Simcoe [12.30 %] (0 min)
1.00 oz Amarillo [8.70 %] (0 min)
0.50 oz Amarillo [8.70 %] (Dry Hop 7 days)
0.50 oz Cascade [7.40 %] (Dry Hop 7 days)

SafAle US-05

Mash Schedule
Single Infusion, 153F, Batch Sparge

Mother Rigby's Oatmeal Stout (Redux)

Brewed on 9/11/10

This was a companion brew for my Feathertop Pumpkin Ale. I figured pumpkin beers are not everyone's favorite, but who can pass up a nice creamy oatmeal stout? I even thought this and the pumpkin ale would make a nice "black and tan" (note: I never could get the beers to layer, though the mixed beers was pretty tasty).

Inspired by Jamil Z's award-winning oatmeal stout, I wanted to this to be smooth and thick, with a nice roast/hop balance. This was my second attempt at an all-grain recipe and unlike my first attempt at using this technique (the aforementioned pumpkin beer), I managed to hit all my numbers on this one. This beer didn't ferment out like I had hoped, stopping at 1.022. I think the fact that I failed to aerate the wort properly, did not use any yeast nutrients, and did not make a starter may have been part of the problem. Either that or my mash was too high and I had a lot of unfermentables in there. I tried rousing the yeast, warming it up and even pitching a cup of yeast slurry from the pumpkin beer, but still the gravity remained at 1.022, so I went ahead and bottled it. It turned out pretty good just the same, though perhaps a little thicker than I was looking for. Though I received more rave reviews of this brew than any others I've made to date.

To try to get some more of that distinctive oatmeal cookie aroma and flavor, I toasted the oats on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350°F for ~30 minutes a few hours before mashing. For hops, I went against conventional wisdom and used a small charge for both flavor and aroma (I seem to have a problem with single hopping).

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.50 gal
Boil Size: 2.50 gal
Estimated Color: 43.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 32.3 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 51.00 % (no sparge)
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
OG: 1.057
FG: 1.022
ABV: 4.56%

7 lbs 8.0 oz Pale Malt, Maris Otter - 71.43%
1 lbs Oats, Flaked, toasted - 9.52 %
10.0 oz Aromatic Malt - 5.95 %
10.0 oz Chocolate Malt (450.0 SRM) - 5.95 %
8.0 oz Crystal (Muntons) (56.0 SRM) - 4.76 %
4.0 oz Roasted Barley (500.0 SRM) - 2.38 %

0.75 oz Challenger [7.00 %] (60 min)
0.12 oz Challenger [7.00 %] (15 min)
0.12 oz Goldings, East Kent [4.50 %] (15 min)
0.12 oz Goldings, East Kent [4.50 %] (1 min)
0.12 oz Challenger [7.00 %] (1 min)

London Ale (White Labs #WLP013)

Mash Schedule
Single Infusion, 154°F, No Mash Out, No Sparge

Feathertop Pumpkin Ale (Redux)

Generally, I'm not a huge pumpkin beer fan, but I wanted to try my hand at brewing one this past fall. I did a fair amount of research on this, finding inspiration and insights from here and here, which helped me craft my own variation of this style. I envisioned Colonial New England, crisp fall weather, and changing leaves. I wanted something that was not too heavy and certainly not too spice-laden. I also wanted something with a nice orange color. As is my wont, I eschewed the conventional advice of only using hops for bittering and went ahead with some late additions thinking (accurately IMHO) that the EKG would compliment the pumpkin and the spices.

For the pumpkins, I used 2lbs of pie pumpkins generously donated from the Roger Williams University student organic garden. I did not precook the pumpkins. Instead, I scooped out the innards and cut the pumpkins into chunks and sent them through my Cuisinart with the grater attachment (skin and all). I then combined the grated raw pumpkin with the rest of the grist in the mash.

This was the first attempt at using my new 5-gallon MLT, which I decided to build because of this recipe. I was hoping this would be my first all-grain batch (no sparge, 3.5 gallons), but I missed just about every number possible. I was low on my mash temp so I added some boiling water, but only managed to raise it a couple of degrees. My efficiency sucked, even for no sparge, so I ended up using a pound of extract to make up the difference.

To top it all off, even though I made a starter, my initial pitch of yeast never took off, so after 72 hours of no fermentation I repitched with a packet of dry yeast. Fermentation took off after that.

Even with all the issues, in the end, I think this turned out to be a really good beer. I hit the color dead on and it has a nice solid spicy-ness to it without being too much. Good body. Very tasty.

(the name is based on Nathaniel Hawthorn's short story, Feathertop)

Feathertop Pumpkin Ale
Brewed on 9/6/10

Recipe Specifications
All Grain, No Sparge, Partial Boil
Batch Size: 3.50 gal
Boil Size: 2.56 gal
Estimated Color: 13.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 28.7 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 34.00 % (?!?!?!?!?!?!?)
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
OG: 1.052
FG: 1.012
ABV: 5.21%

5 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter - 47.62 %
2 lbs Pumpkin, fresh, raw, grated - 19.05 %
1 lbs Caramunich I - 9.52 %
8.0 oz Melanoidin - 4.76 %
8.0 oz Vienna Malt - 4.76 %
8.0 oz Wheat Malt, Pale - 4.76 %
1 lbs Extra Light DME - 9.52 %

1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [4.50 %] (60 min)
0.25 oz Goldings, East Kent [4.50 %] (15 min)
0.25 oz Goldings, East Kent [4.50 %] (1 min)

0.50 tsp Cinnamon, ground (Boil 1.0 min)
0.50 tsp Nutmeg, grated (Boil 1.0 min)
0.25 tsp Allspice, ground (Boil 1.0 min)
0.25 tsp Ginger, ground (Boil 1.0 min)
0.125 tsp Cloves, Ground (Boil 1.0 min)

SafAle US-05
(original yeast WLP001 never took off, so repitched with the SafAle)

Mash Schedule
Single Infusion, 149F, No Mash Out, No Sparge
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