Friday, March 18, 2011

Vaccinium - continued

I continued my first sour/Brett/fruit/wine yeast experiment by racking the beer onto some cranberries I picked up fresh last fall that I sealed and froze. The primary yeast (a wine yeast, Lalvin BM45) had fermented the beer down to 1.022 and the sample I took tasted very nice - clean, a bit fruity. It was still very cloudy and I must admit not nearly as sour as I thought it would be with all that acidulated malt in the grist. With the Brett and cranberries I figure the acidity will jump up some.

Not sure that I had to or should, I pasteurized the cranberries, still in the vacuum sealed pouches, in 165°F water for about 20 minutes. I then mashed them up and dropped them into the carboy, which more difficult than I anticipated. I then racked the beer on top and set the whole thing in my basement for 24 hours before pitching a vial of WLP645 - Brettanomyces claussenii. I went with this strain because I didn't want an overpowering Brett character. I'll let this sit undisturbed for a while - 3 months maybe? At the moment I am thinking of adding some oak cubes as well - I have 0.5 ounces soaking in some red wine that I might add at some point.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tabula Rasa (aka John) - Empirical Series 2011

"No man's knowledge here can go beyond his experience."

The original intent of my annual "Empirical" project was to brew a barley wine every year. However, I've since realized that, 1) I don't want to be limited to a single style for this series, and 2) the previous years' brews were, in fact, not actually barley wines. So, I've now decided that style plays little role in these beers and that the only "rules" are that they are big and that they are allowed to age for a year before drinking. Live and learn. The slate has been wiped clean.

The inspiration for this year's recipe was Deschute's Black Butte Porter. Now, the interesting thing here is that I have never had the privilege of tasting this particular beer, but by all accounts, it is wonderful. And as an avid listener of the Brewing Network, I had a good starting point for a recipe after the boys on CYBI brewed up a clone of this beer (podcast here; recipe here).

For my version, I increased the OG to 1.090 to help get me in the 9-10% ABV range and added some smoked malt for added complexity, especially in conjunction with a planned addition of oak. Also with these Empirical beers, I like to add 5-10% simple sugars to help increase the ABV as well as to help the yeast attenuate as much as possible. Given the nature of this project, I opted to experiment with a new-to-me sugar, sucanat - essentially, dried pure sugar cane juice. I expect this unrefined sugar to give the beer some rum notes, which I think will work well with the chocolate and smoked malts and the oak aging. I was unsure about the hop schedule, but since it seems to work for Deschute's, I figured I'd stick to it as close as possible - just increasing the additions to get me close to an estimated 70ish IBUs.

I ended up pitching three vials of yeast because I broke the growler of my intended starter and didn't have time to make up a new one. Fermentation took off quick and I had airlock activity for a good 7 days (the longest I can remember for any of my beers). I'll let it sit in primary for 4 weeks and then rack into a secondary carboy with some oak cubes for several weeks before bottling. I'll keep the bottles squirreled away until next winter.

Tabula Rasa - Empirical Series 2011
Brewed on 2/23/11

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.75 gal
Boil Size: 5.00 gal
Estimated Color: 29.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 65.6 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
OG: 1.090
FG: 1.020
ABV: 9.3%

7 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) UK - 60.87 %
1 lbs Wheat Malt, Pale - 8.70 %
8.0 oz Chocolate Malt (450L) - 4.35 %
8.0 oz Crystal malt (50-60L) - 4.35 %
8.0 oz Smoked Malt - 4.35 %
1 lbs Extra Light DME 8.70 %
1 lbs Sucanat - 8.70 %

0.75 oz Galena [13.00 %] (60 min)
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] (30 min)
0.50 oz Mt. Hood [6.00 %] (5 min)

0.75 oz Oak Cubes, Hungarian, Medium Toast (Secondary 4-8 weeks)

Dry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007)

Mash Schedule
Single Infusion
60 min 152°F

3/18/11 - racked to 3 gallon carboy for bulk aging; added oak cubes; SG = 1.020
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