Thursday, June 23, 2011

New England Wild Yeast Saison

Not sure what style to call this brew, so I'm going with "New England Saison" (yeah, I know it's a made-up style). Maybe a more generic "American Wild Ale" or "American Farmhouse Ale" would be better, but I looked to the saison style for inspiration. Not really knowing the characteristics of my wild-caught yeast (don't forget to check out the photos!), I figured I would go with a relatively simple recipe with a modest, but not too modest, OG. I know that saisons are mainly brewed with pilsner malt and continental hops, but since this is not a standard Belgian saison, and since I'm coming to realize I am not the biggest fan of pilsner malt or continental hops, I decided to spin this a little more English-style. It is a New England Saison after all.

Nothing special about the brew day. I'm starting to really settle into a groove with my split-boil, 3.5 gallon batch process. I had run out of Irish Moss during my last batch, and forgot to grab some at my LHBS, but I figured a little cloudiness would be OK with this brew. After aerating and cooling the wort to about 70°F, I decanted my wild yeast starter and dumped the slurry in (saving a little of the yeast in a bell jar so I could try to maintain an active culture, just in case this turns out to be a yeast I want to use again). I was a bit nervous about how the fermentation would go, but within 24 hours I had an amazing krausen forming and the airlock was rocking. After a few days I moved the fermenter upstairs to a warmer part of the house (~75-77°F). A couple of days after that, I wrapped a heating pad around the fermeter, set on low, to get the fermenter temp up to the low 80s. I want to give this yeast every chance to attenuate well. I'll let it sit in the fermeter for at least a couple of weeks before bottling.

(tasting notes posted)

Voie du Curé (Saison de la Nouvelle Angleterre)
Brewed on 6/16/11

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 3.50 gal
Boil Size: 5.00 gal (split 2.5 & 2.5)
Estimated Color: 5.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 31.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
OG: 1.053

6 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter - 88.8%
8.0 oz Wheat Malt, Pale - 7.4%
2.0 oz Caramunich I - 1.9%
2.0 oz Acid Malt - 1.9%

7 g Northdown [12.30 %] (60 min)
10 g Goldings, East Kent [4.50 %] (30 min)
20 g Goldings, East Kent [4.50 %] (5 min)
10 g Northdown [12.3 %] (dry hop - 6 days)

Local, Wild-Caught Yeast

Mash Schedule
Single Infusion, 147°F, Batch Sparge

Brewed on 6/16/11

Two stage strike
  • 2 gallons @ 212°F + 1.34 gallons @ 77.4°F --> 3.34 gallons @ ~154°F in mash tun
  • With grain added, mash temp hit 146.5°F
  • Added 2g gypsum and 1g CaCl2 to the mash
  • Mashed for 80 minutes

Batch sparge and split boil
  • ~2.5 gallons of 1st runnings = 1.062
  • Sparged with 2.5 gallons @ 170°F
  • ~2.5 gallons of 2nd runnings = 1.024
  • hopped just 1st runnings

aerated with aquarium pump and stone for ~20 minutes

6/17/11 - strong krausen forming

6/18/11 - moved to warmer upstairs (ambient temp = 75°F)

6/20/11 - wrapped with heating pad (fermenter temp = 83°F)

7/1/11 - racked to 3-gallon glass carboy, dryhopped with 10g of Northdown - overfilled carboy, lost some of the hops during overflow - not sure how much. Moved to cellar; ambient temp ~73°F

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wild Yeast Microscopy

Here are a few photos of the wild yeast I captured from my backyard. They look like pretty standard yeast to me - not sure I can tell much more simply based on their physiology (Brettanomyces? Saccharomyces?). I'm no microbiologist, but they appear to be in pretty good shape; I think there are even some showing some budding. Some rough measurements of the cells give cell lengths of 9-11µm and widths of 4-7µm. I'm not entirely sure what the smaller "specks" are - they seem too big to be bacteria, but I suppose they could be. I recently brewed up a relatively simple "saison" with this culture that is happily fermenting away at the moment (post and recipe here).

All photos were taken with a Nikon D90 mounted on a Nikon Eclipse TS100 inverted microscope at 400x total magnification.

(click on each image for a larger version)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

2010 Cider (redux)

For this year's cider attempt, I managed to get 4 gallons of fresh pressed juice from a local orchard. Though it was fresh-pressed, I got it after it went through their UV pasteurizer - I was hoping to get it unpasteurized , but the orchard owner didn't want to disconnect the set-up for only 4 gallons, which I figured was fair enough. The juice was pressed from a variety of apples that made it on the sweet side, which I have read isn't necessarily ideal for making cider, but I was happy to try it nonetheless. The orchard owner said that he was going to do a special tart apple press in a few weeks for some other cider makers and agreed to give me a call when he does (UPDATE: I never heard from him...oh well)

My two previous attempts at cider have had mixed results. The first attempt (February 2009) was straight juice + ale yeast and turned out good - though certainly very dry and quite tart. I'm still drinking it and I like it. My second attempt turned out (so far) to be undrinkable - I think it might be overly oxidized. For that one, perhaps I got too complicated - juice + honey + raisins + dried cranberries + ale yeast. I'm hoping it turns around, but I'm not holding my breath.

This time, I tried a few new things:

1) I made a "reduction" out of some of the juice to drive the OG without adding other sugars and to hopefully add some body, complexity, and perhaps some residual sweetness via the caramelization process. I boiled 1 gallon of juice down to 2 cups and added that to 3 gallons of straight juice.

2) Used a wine yeast

3) Added some oak cubes to the primary fermenter for added character and complexity (per the BN podcast episode with Shea Comfort - one of the best episodes out there).

I'm excited about this one, and initial samples are promising, but only time will tell how it will work out.

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.13 gal
OG: 1.064
FG: 1.000
ABV: 8.36%

3 gallons fresh-pressed apple juice
2 cups of apple juice "concentrate" - 1 gallon of fresh-pressed juice boiled down to 2 cups

Lalvin 71B-1122

3.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient (added to boiled down juice)
1.50 tsp Pectic Enzyme - added ~6 hours before yeast
0.50 oz Oak Cubes, Hungarian, Medium Toast (Primary)

  • Started on 10/23/10
  • OG of fresh cider = 1.050
  • reduced 1 gallon down to 2 cups and added yeast nutrient
  • OG with reduction added = 1.064
  • added pectic enzyme ~6 hours before yeast
  • fermented in mud room - ambient ~60°F
  • 11/3/10 - SG = 1.001
  • 11/23/10 - SG = 1.000; racked to 3 gallon carboy (did not transfer oak cubes); topped off with some organic, stop & shop apple juice; mud room closet temp down to 58°F
  • 1/23/11 - bottled with fructose - target volumes = 2.5

Bottled on 1/23/11

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Taming wild yeast

As my appreciation for and intrigue by "wild ales" has grown, I've been more and more interested in trying my hand at brewing a batch of beer with local, wild yeast. I originally thought I would try it the old school way by brewing up some wort and then setting it outside, open to the elements (and airborne microbes) to cool and see what I get with the resulting beer. But then I read a post by the Mad Fermentationist about collecting wild yeast using a simple starter technique and I was inspired to try something similar. Why waste a whole batch of beer when you have no idea what yeast/bacteria/mold might jump in?

So, after I realized I had a few cups of runnings left in the mash tun from brewing the "luau beer", I decided here was a great opportunity to try my luck. I diluted the runnings down to a gravity of about 1.030, boiled it for ~15 minutes with a couple grams of old Tettnang pellet hops, threw it in a bowl and covered it with some cheesecloth. I then placed the covered bowl of wort in my backyard in little wooded patch, under some oak trees. I let it sit there overnight. In the morning, I transferred the wort to a sanitized jug and affixed an airlock.

After a few days, I started to see a slight white foam forming on the surface of the wort. I wasn't sure if it was yeast or mold or what, so I just let it go, hoping to get some sort of krausen and some airlock activity to convince me I had something worthwhile. I never saw anything like that though. I'm guessing now that the relatively small number of cells, the low gravity wort, and the large amount of head space in the container just wasn't conducive to me seeing much activity.

With some advice from "Mad Mikey T.", I boiled up a couple cups of starter wort with some DME (1.040) and added that to the jug. This time though, I ditched the airlock and gave the jug a good shake/swirl every so often - just like I would do with a regular yeast starter. Well, much to my delight the starter took off and I had a nice foamy krausen after a couple of days. It smelled pretty good too - yeasty, of course, but also slightly fruity and a bit spicy. I think I have something to work with here! The gravity of the starter came down to 1.012 as of this evening. I ventured a taste of the hydrometer sample and I have to say I think this experiment could pan out - although pretty mellow, I definitely got hints of clove and pepper and some underlying fruitiness.

So now I know what my next brew is going to be - a local New England Saison (not yet an official BJCP style). Hopefully I will be able to get to this in the next week or so - I don't want to lose this yeast before I get to try it out. Stay tuned!
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