Friday, September 26, 2014

Science & Art Series

This post will serve as a repository for recipes and tastings notes of the beers in my Science & Art series.  The series is a line of blended saisons, often also incorporating portions of wild ales that I have brewed.  It's amazing what just 10% blonde sour will do to a beer that was otherwise only saison yeast and Brettanomyces.  With the name, I wanted something that I could keep around for awhile, as with these blends, I thought it would be easier to go with a standard name followed by numbers or years, such as Lost Abbey Veritas, Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude, and Cantillon Zwanze. Given that these beers will be blends of wilds and saisons, I thought "Science & Art" would be appropriate. One of the things I love about brewing, and particularly about saisons, is that there is so much room for creativity. However, at the same time, there's still the base science behind beer making and, most importantly for my purposes, fermentation.

Each beer in the Science & Art series is meant to be a concept, such that I will attempt to blend beers to achieve the same results on multiple occasions.  For example, I have already blended two separate iterations of Science & Art #1 and Science & Art #3.  

Photo of Science & Art #2

Science & Art #1
  • A blend of Farmhouse Mild and Citrine at a ratio of 85-90% to 10-15%.  The resulting blend is extremely fruity, lightly acidic, and finishes very dry and clean.  
  • Batches:
    • 01: Tasting and blending notes can be found here.  Original blend was on October 6, 2013.
    • 02: The second blend was done in mid-March 2014, with the entire batch being legged.
Science & Art #2
  • A blend of Dionysus #2, a blonde saison with white wine-soaked oak cubes, and Citrine.  Mildly fruit with some tropical and stone fruit notes, with underlying citrus and faint acidity.
  • Batches:
Science & Art #3
  • A blend of Farmhouse Mild, Citrine, Dionysus #2, and Demeter Passion.  Pungent and fruity with passion fruit along with peach, orange, light oak, and hints of white wine.  Very dry with a nice tartness through the finish.
  • Batches:
    • 01: Tasting and blending notes can be found here.  The original blend was on June 4, 2014, and the entire batch was kegged.  However, I did bottle some for the TalkBeer Saison Homebrew Competition.  The beer won the competition with an average score of 39.36. The competition judges were pretty harsh (I know I was), as second place came in at 34.54, with third averaging 33.00.
    • 02: This was blended and bottled on July 28, 2014.  This blend left out Dionysus #2, as I only had one bottle left.  Based on initial tastes, blend 01 was much better, with the oak from Dionysus #2 really upping the complexity.
Science & Art #4
  • A blend of Demeter Vert, Namur (Meyer Lemon), and Flowerfield.  The beer is delicate with a bit more body than previous blends.  The Nelson from Flowerfield comes through well underneath the citrus coming out of the Demeter Vert and Namur (Meyer Lemon).  The lemon has a stronger presence, but is nowhere near dominating like in that version of Namur.  I've had a few people taste the blend without telling them what's in it, and most have just said "citrus" without specifically identifying lemon or lime.
  • Batches:
    • 01: Blended and bottled on July 28, 2014.  Tasting notes forthcoming.
Science & Art #5
  • The first dark beer in the series.  A blend of Demeter Rouge (cherries and passion fruit), Demeter Sinis (Cranberry), and two different batches of Ruby.  The beer is dark and fruity with cherry, red wine, and dark fruits.  Moderately acidic, though still not entirely "sour."
  • Batches:
    • 01: Blended and bottled on July 28, 2014.  Tasting notes forthcoming.
Science & Art #6
  • An idea that came from the fact that I brewed 10 gallons of Demeter Automne for fall 2014.  Instead of bottling all of that, I decided to also go with a new addition to the Science & Art series.  For this, I took about 90% Demeter Automne and blended in 10% Citrine, and then bottle conditioned the blend with Montmorency tart cherry juice.  The resulting beer has cherry in the nose, with the flavor being more earthy and lightly spicy, with some background notes of biscuit.  A bit leafy.  Cherry comes through in the finish with a light acidity.  Very reminiscent of fall, at least in my opinion.  A great bonfire beer.
  • Batches:
    • 01: Blended and bottled on September 1, 2014.  Tasting notes forthcoming.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wallonian Pale Ale (Batch 02): Tasting Notes

Here are the tasting notes for my second batch of Wallonian Pale Ale, which is aimed to be a hoppy farmhouse ale, merging the fruity, citrusy, tropical notes of American hops with tropical and earthy notes coming from our house blend of saison yeast, Brettanomyces, and other critters.  On the hop side, this batch included Amarillo, Belma, Citra, Columbus, and Mosaic.  I like trying to use a multitude of hops, and that way I can attempt to replicate an aroma/flavor profile based on what I have on hand.  The full recipe for the batch is here.

Appearance: Slightly hazy light orange color with a fluffy white head. Good retention and plenty of spotty lacing as it goes down.

Nose: Initial whiff is resinous hops. The Mosaic really comes through here. Tropical fruit, citrus pith, and pine come through underneath. Mango is prevalent alongside leafy hop goodness. As it warms, a bit more orange marmalade.

Flavor: Like the nose, hops hit hard on the front end with nice resin and pine, paired with an intense citrus character. Some light earthiness in the background. Bitterness is moderate, light considering that the flavor and aroma hops are well into the range of a Double IPA.

Mouthfeel: Light with very apparent bitterness. IBUs aren't terribly high, but the water profile and sub-1.005 terminal gravity really accentuate the bitterness. Extremely dry. Very faint tartness from the lactic acid bacteria in the blend coming through on the backend. I've heard people say that sour and butter don't go well together, but the very faint acidity works quite well alongside the dry bitterness, in my opinion. Carbonation is in between that of a standard pale ale and a saison, which seems about right here.

Overall: I'm extremely pleased with this and have been blowing through the keg. Luckily, it was a 10-gallon batch and I decided to bottle off the other half, conditioning with tropical fruit juice instead of table sugar.

I don't think there's much at all that I would change with this one. I'll mess around with the hops based on what I have on hand and what I haven't tried in a while, but this otherwise fits the bill of what I've been looking for -- a saison / IPA hybrid that fits within the farmhouse mold, but could be served to a broader set of drinkers than a wild saison. This will hopefully sit as part of the core lineup at the eventual taproom for Ambrosia Farmhouse Ales.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Demeter Automne: Recipe

Now that August has rolled around, it's time to start thinking about brewing -- not releasing -- fall beers.  I've only done one pumpkin beer in the past and that was a pumpkin stout for my wife, Amy, and not something that I particularly enjoyed.  This time I decided to do a pumpkin saison, keeping the spices quite light so that they'd give more of a "fall feel" rather than being all that noticeable by themselves, and not to the level that it'd be possible to really pick out much of the individual spices.

I brewed a 10-gallon batch, and plan to do something fun with the second 5-gallon portion as part of my Science & Art series.  Right now, I'm thinking that I'll age that half with red wine-soaked oak cubes, and then eventually blend a bit with some funky cider to be ready in time for next fall.  I picked up some store-bought apple cider to try out with some Brett and other dregs, but also hope that I'll be able to pick up, juice, and blend some real cider apples this fall.

Thankfully I had planned to do a pumpkin beer for Amy last year and never got around to it, so I had 5 pounds of frozen pumpkin that she had chopped up and roasted last fall.  I used this along with a mix-and-match set of base malt for the grain bill, using up all the remaining Maris Otter and Two Row that I had, then also using some Vienna, Munich, and Biscuit for some background bread and toast.  The brown malt should add a bit of nuttiness, with slight spice coming from the rye.  I also added the honey malt and Caramel 60 for some backing sweetness and additional character.  As a side note, honey malt itself is incredibly delicious.

Pumpkin and rice hulls at the top of the mash.

Here are the full details on the batch:

Batch Number: 92

Brew Date: August 10, 2014
Keg Date:
Batch Size: 10 Gallon
OG: 1.052 (est.)

FG: 1.005 (est.)
Fermentation Temperature: ~70-75*F (fermented at "room" temperature in the garage, which doesn't have temperature control)
IBU: 24.0 (modified Tinseth from BrewCipher)
ABV: 6.2%
SRM: 13.0

Mash: Single infusion for 60 minutes at 154* F
Boil: 60 minute


7.00 lb Maris Otter
5.00 lb Two Row
2.50 lb Vienna Malt
1.00 lb Munich Malt
1.00 lb Caramel 60
1.00 lb Brown Malt
1.00 lb Biscuit Malt
1.00 lb Honey Malt
1.00 lb Rye Malt

I then also added 5 pounds of pumpkin puree and half a pound of rice hulls to the mash.

Salts & Water

All salts added to the kettle.  Also added 5mL of lactic acid to the mash to get the pH to around 5.4.

5.4g Calcium Chloride
4.5g Gypsum
6.4g Sodium Chloride

Resulting water profile is as follows:

Mash pH (est.): 5.4
Calcium: 78
Magnesium: 12
Sodium: 50
Chloride: 125
Sulfate: 70


0.75oz Columbus (17.7 AAU), whole leaf, at 60 minutes
3.00oz Willamette (5.1 AAU), whole leaf, at flameout


2.0 tsp. Wyeast Yeast Nutrient at 10 minutes
0.84g (.50 tsp.) nutmeg at flameout
0.66g (.50 tsp.) black cardamom at flameout
0.47g (.25 tsp.) dried ginger at flameout
0.39g (.25 tsp.) cinnamon at flameout
0.31g (.25 tsp.) allspice at flameout
0.16g (.125 tsp.) clove at flameout


Full batch used Ambrosia Blend 005 (now the fourth generation) from the cake of Wallonian Pale Ale. Each 5-gallon portion got 100mL of dense slurry from that cake.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Demeter Vert (Batch 03): Tasting Notes

I've had this one (recipe) on tap for a month or so now, and I'm finally getting around to reviewing it.  While it is really nice having this on tap, I do really prefer to have my saisons bottle conditioner, for several reasons.  First off, based on experience with kegging partial batches and conditioning the rest in the bottle, I believe that the bottle conditioned beers have a better mouthfeel.  There's something about the conditioning process that really makes the bottles jump, both figuratively and literally.  For the latter, there's nothing like popping a 750 of a farmhouse beer and see
ing that slow gush.

Aside from the conditioning effect itself, which is a fairly minor thing for me, what I really like is being able to sit on the bottles and see how they develop, particularly since everything that I'm doing nowadays has Brettanomyces and lactic acid bacteria (and likely other critters as well).  The Brett helps scavenge any additional oxygen, and also does a great job cleaning up the diacetyl that is created by Pediococcus.  This is particularly important for a lot of the beers that I've done lately, as I've added plenty of Crooked Stave dregs, and it seems as though they've got a strain of Pedio that really, really likes to kick up a lot of diacetyl.

With this diacetyl creation, there are issues with kegging and then trying to bottle for friends, particularly if that means that the bottles are going to become warm for some time and allow the Pedio to get started again.  Without Brett to clean up, I may end up sending out buttery saisons, which is something I certainly don't want.  With Pedio in the bottles, there's likely Brett as well, although the latter may not be all that viable, as Chad Yakobson at Crooked Stave has mentioned (video link) that he's seen issues with Brett effectively dying off after being refrigerated for too long.

With those thoughts aside, here are the tasting notes for the beer:

Appearance: Slightly cloudy light peach color with a nice initial head, though the retention could certainly be a lot better.  Another unfortunate side effect of draft beer, in my experience.  Even when pouring with a thick, rocky head using flow control faucets, the head ends up not lasting for more than a few minutes, and not much lacing is produced.

Aroma: Just a touch of sulfur in the background behind notes of lime and soft malt.  A bit of wheat and earth.  Very faint background rye spice.

Flavor: Much more complex than the nose, with the rye coming through a bit more alongside lime peel and a bit of light tartness, likely coming from both the lime juice as well as the lactic acid bacteria used in fermenting the beer.

Mouthfeel: Very light and fairly effervescent while still being a bit chewy, likely as a result of the significant adjuncts.  The main saison strain used in producing this beer is the Yeast Bay's Wallonian Farmhouse, and it's possible that this yeast produces a good amount of body-enhancing glycerol, much as Wyeast French Saison (WY3711) does.  The glycerol produced by that French Saison strain is also mentioned in his talk discussed above.  Even with the chewy mouthfeel, the beer finishes quite dry, as well as faintly tart.

Overall: I'm quite happy with this beer, and it's been a great summer drink, especially filling pint mason jars of it as "growlers" to drink on the Metra train on the way home from work.  (Yes, one of the perks of my commute is that Chicago's Metra commuter trains allow alcohol.)  In terms of improvements, I definitely think this would be better with increased carbonation and a more-lasting head.  The carbonation is just right early on, but seems to fade after the glass is initially poured.  I'd prefer to have a bottle conditioned version that hits above 3 volumes of CO2.

Aside from the carbonation issues, I'd also plan to use just a bit more lime zest next time, as that should help the aroma pop a bit more.  I think that the lime juice that was used appears in the flavor, but doesn't come through too much in the aroma.  The bitterness and mouthfeel (aside from carbonation) are where I want them, so I probably wouldn't change much there.  I would also maybe dry hop with around 2 ounces per 10 gallons of Sorachi Ace to give a bit more additional aroma (maybe the additional lime zest could also be added here?).

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Wallonian Pale Ale (Batch 02): Recipe

This is my second time trying out this recipe, with the theory that this is a fairly hoppy pale ale with saison yeast.  The first attempt didn't go over that well, as I really didn't like the French Saison yeast.  This time I'm going with the third generation of Ambrosia Blend 05, which is a blend of saison yeast and various Brettanomyces strains.  Based on my experience with Demeter Vert (Batch 03), this is also picking up some lactic acid bacteria from the buckets I'm fermenting in, which is a good way to transfer some bugs from batch to batch since I don't have a barrel, though I do plan to make use of oak cubes for the same purpose soon.  (I don't worry about the contamination, as anything I do that's "clean," which isn't all that often, is fermented in stainless steel kegs.)

I went pretty simple on the grain bill, and then hopped fairly intensely with Belma, Citra, and Mosaic at flameout.  I'll also be looking to dry hop heavily as well.

Here are the full details on the batch:

Batch Number: 91

Brew Date: July 27, 2014
Keg Date:
Batch Size: 10 Gallon
OG: 1.042 (est.); 1.044 (measured)
FG: 1.003 (est.)
Fermentation Temperature: 70-74* F
IBU: 53.0 (modified Tinseth from BrewCipher)
ABV: 5.2%
SRM: 5.0

Mash: Single infusion for 60 minutes at 154* F
Boil: 60 minute

10.44 lb Dingemans Belgian Pilsner
4.00 lb Munich Malt
2.00 lb Flaked Wheat
0.88 lb Acid Malt
0.69 lb Flaked Oats

Salts & Water

Calcium Chloride (2.6g in the mash and 4.0g in the boil kettle)
Gypsum (2.8g in the mash and 4.3g in the boil kettle)
Sodium Chloride (2.5g all in the boil kettle)

5.9mL lactic acid added to the sparge water to get that pH to approximately 5.3.  

This time I added the salts to the mash and the boil kettle, aiming to get the full water profile in line, except for the sparge water, which is just acidified.

Resulting water profile is as follows:

Mash pH (est.): 5.25; measured at ~5.35 (pH meter drifting between 5.3 and 5.4)
Calcium: 94
Magnesium: 12
Sodium: 24
Chloride: 95
Sulfate: 96

9mL of HopShot (~3 AAU) at 60 minutes
4oz of Mosaic (11.6 AAU), pellet, 30 minutes after flameout
2oz of Belma (11.6 AAU), whole leaf, 30 minutes after flameout
2oz of Citra (12.9 AAU), whole leaf, 30 minutes after flameout

Let the hops sit in the wort for about 1.5 hours total, as I was busy bottling a few new beers in the Science & Art series and figured some additional exposure to the wort wouldn't hurt.

Dry Hops

Per 5 gallons:

2oz of Amarillo, whole leaf, 7 days
1oz of Citra, whole leaf, 7 days
1oz of Columbus, whole leaf, 7 days

After tasting the beer at two weeks, I decided that it was quite tropical/fruity from the flameout editions, and I wanted a little bit backing earth and floral character, as well as some additional citrus.  Given that, I went with the combination above, with each 5-gallon portion getting a total of 4 ounces of whole leaf hops.


2.0 tsp. Wyeast Yeast Nutrient at 10 minutes

Full batch used Ambrosia Blend 05 (now the third generation) from the cake of Farmhouse Mild (Batch 05).  Each 5-gallon portion got 100mL of dense slurry from that cake.


07.27.2014: Removed chiller at 72*F, but let hops sit in the wort for 90 minutes or so before transferring to two buckets, each of which received 30 seconds of pure oxygen to each half just before pitching.  Will plan to dry hop in 1-2 weeks.  The temperature controller is set at 72*F with a 2*F differential, so should sit right in that range unless the garage gets really warm.

08.04.2014: Smell and taste are really nice.  Didn't take any readings, but will soon.  Temperature is at 74*F after a few days that were quite warm, though the water bath still keeps the temperature from swinging too drastically (also, just as important, from swinging too quickly).

08.10.2014: At two weeks, added the dry hops per the above after transferring 5 gallons to a keg, and leaving the other half in its bucket on the yeast.  I had a bit of trouble weighing the hop bag down enough in the latter (even with plenty of stainless steel bolts!), so I may need to leave those ones in for a bit longer than a week.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Namur (Satsuma Mandarin): Tasting Notes

This was a portion of the second iteration of Namur, which is a rotating mix of blonde saisons.  While most of the Namur batches are clean, I've done a few variants that take things in different directions.  This one is included, as here I added the juice and zest of Satsuma mandarins, and used a blend of Wyeast Biere de Garde (WY3725), Hill Farmstead dregs, and Crooked Stave dregs.

I have delayed getting these tasting notes done until now, as I previously thought that the Satsuma was too strong.  Based on that, in the future I'd plan to use 25-33% less juice, though probably about the same amount of zest.  Based on my experience working with citrus in saisons, the juice comes through and is a lot more pungent in small doses compared against zest, where it's mostly aroma without an excessive amount of flavor contribution either way.  Side note: The Meyer Lemon portion is still excessively lemon-y to my palate at this point, so I'm waiting for that to subside a bit, though in the interim I may use it as a blending component to brighten up a base.

Appearance: Gusher!  Light peach color with residual haziness.  Good retention, although not a great deal of lacing as it goes down.  Based on the aforementioned gusher status, not sure if the retention is related to sediment being kicked up, or instead the fruit content of this beer.

Nose: Heavy on the Satsuma character even though this beer was brewed over six months ago at this point.  A bit one dimensional, but the character is something quite nice on a hot summer day like this.  A bit of backing funk.

Flavor: Starts out with a nice orange zest character and light backing acidity.  Touch of bitterness on the backend.  Orange really carries everything through here, and is not so much an accent as it is the dominant character of the beer.  Could use a bit more backing yeast character and/or funk.  Oak could work too.  It's enjoyable as it is, though could use a bit more depth.

Mouthfeel: Light and crisp, slightly puckering.  Fairly-heavy carbonation level despite the initial gushing.  Dry and thirst-quenching.  The acidity is certainly fruit-derived, but is at a really nice level.

Overall: It's a one-dimensional beer, but that's not the worst thing in the world for a summer slammer.  The next time I do this, I'll certainly make sure to do something a bit different with at least half the batch, whether it's aging on oak for a bit more depth and mouthfeel and/or blending with something that's a little more earthy and funky.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Science & Art #3: Tasting Notes

Now that my keg for this blend kicked yesterday, I figured it was about time to put up some tasting notes.  First, a bit of background on the beer, which is the third "Science & Art" installation, a series of blended saisons.  The first was a blend of approximately 85% Farmhouse Mild and 15% Citrine, and the second was a similar blend of Dionysus #2 and Citrine.  The series has really inspired me to make sure to keep plenty of extra beer on hand in kegs for future blending, though I may also look at putting portions of batches that are promising for future blends into 1-gallon jugs.  I've already started to ensure that I'll have plenty of Citrine on hand at all times for future blending, and -- of course -- enough for blending multiple batches of Citrine and aging some on fruit.  (Michigan tart cherry version coming soon.)

For this one, all of the components of the first two were involved in different ratios, and I also added in Demeter Passion, which is a portion of a recent Demeter Auran batch aged on passion fruit puree.  I started with a keg of Farmhouse Mild, and it made up approximately 50% of the blend.  From there, Citrine made up about 20%, with Dionysus #2 (aged version of this batch of Namur) and Demeter Passion each filling out 15% each for the remainder.  I blended this directly into the keg of Farmhouse Mild that I had around, as I was looking for something unique to submit to a TalkBeer saison homebrew competition.  The results of that should be coming in soon enough, and I'll make sure to post some outside feedback once I have that.

Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of this one, so the best I've got is a photo from a friend's Untappd checkin:

Appearance: Mostly clear with a bit of haze.  Pale golden color with an orange tint.  High level of saison carbonation leads to great retention with plenty of lacing on the way down.  (Unfortunately the above doesn't capture the usual form with a pour out of a growler that I had filled straight from the tap.)

Nose: Passion fruit and orange zest up front with a light acidic bite.  Very mild hints of oak with a bit of grain in the background.  Brett-related notes of mango and pineapple as well.  Pretty balanced with nothing standing out too much, though it's surprising how much passion fruit came through given that (1) Demeter Passion wasn't too heavy on the passion fruit and (2) that it comprised only about 15% of the blend.

Flavor: Quite similar to the nose, with the Brett-derived tropical fruit taking a more prominent role, though passion fruit is close behind.  A bit of citrus zest along with a mild funk, which appears here quite a bit more than in the nose.  Reminiscent of some of the character I often get from Crooked Stave beers, which makes sense as those dregs were used in a few components of this blend.  Just a bit of oak in the background as well.  Very light acidity, coming through more in the finish than as a substantial flavor component (just where I like it).

Mouthfeel: Light and crisp, though a decent enough amount of body coming from all the adjuncts used in many of the underlying beers, as well as the oak component coming from Dionysus #2.  Quite easy drinking, and was perfect for the first half of summer.  Light funk and acidity made this complex enough without being overpowering.  This probably explains why I went through the keg so quickly.

Overall: I was extremely pleased with this beer, and plan to blend something similar in the future.  I'd like maybe just a touch more oak in a future blend.  My only knock on this was that as it warmed, I could get just a hint of malt oxidation, which is likely because the Demeter Passion that I used came from bottles that I very gently poured into the keg to top off the blend after flushing the headspace with CO2.  While I was careful, I'm sure there was some oxygen pickup.

As mentioned above, in the future I'm hopefully going to keep around extra portions of miscellaneous beers in kegs or carboys so that I can blend easier.  Also, next time I'll definitely have to finish blending in a bottling bucket so that I can more accurately measure components and anything from bottles can be poured with the neck fully-submersed in the liquid.  Since this one was a bit on the fly and in a bit of a rush, that didn't happen here.

Finally, Science & Art #4 should be coming up soon, using Demeter Vert as the base.

UPDATE: This beer won the above-mentioned TalkBeer Homebrew Saison Comeptition.