Thursday, November 20, 2014

Science & Art #5: Blend & Tasting Notes

With Science & Art #4 being unique as the first in the series that didn't use Citrine, this one is unique in that it is the first dark blend. It's also the beer blend that uses something other than different saisons as a sizable portion of the blend, with a Flanders-style wild being the largest component of the blend. In the end, this one ended up being 50% Flanders-style wild and 50% dark saison. The Flanders-style component is made up of two batches of Ruby (Batch 02 (recipe lost due to a computer issue, unfortunately) and Batch 03), and the saison component is made up of Demeter Rouge and Demeter Sinis (Cranberry). The final blend was as follows:

  • 2 gallons of Ruby (Batch 03) 
  • 2 gallons of Demeter Rouge 
  • 0.5 gallons of Ruby (Batch 02) 
  • 0.5 gallons of Demeter Sinis (Cranberry) 

Overall, I think this blend really captured what I was looking for, which was to take the fruitiness of Demeter Rouge, but cut back on the acidity created by the passion fruit. Oddly enough, this was accomplished by cutting the beer with a sour Flanders-style base, albeit versions of that beer that were more funky than acidic, particularly given the age of the "young" Ruby that was used. The Demeter Sinis (Cranberry) added a nice bit of cranberry alongside some earthy, spicy notes from the black cardamom and lavender used in that beer. Finally, the Ruby additions allowed some mild funk along with notes of strawberry, raspberry, and general jam character, which is something I've had in my recent dark wild beers, particularly Biere de Nord (which I actually thought about using a bit of in this blend, but determined it wasn't necessary).

In terms of process, the Demeter Rouge, Ruby (Batch 02), and Demeter Sinis (Cranberry) were all already carbonated, so I had to be careful on that front. The Demeter Rouge was carbonated to around 2.0 volumes in a keg, and the latter two had already been bottle conditioned and were probably around 2.5 and 3.0 volumes, respectively. Given this, I opted to only aim for 2.0 volumes when using the priming calculator, assuming that this would eventually get me somewhere in the 2.5-3.0 volume range. 

In the future, once I hopefully open up a small brewery and have my own little barrel room, I'll be able to blend components without worrying about needing to pull from previously-bottled batches. One thing I'm planning on doing in the future to have more for blending is to take a half gallon or gallon of each batch and let it continue to age in a growler or gallon jug. That way, I can have uncarbonated beer for blending, and also add wine- or spirit-soaked oak cubes to portions of a batch for greater complexity. I've done smaller portions with oak cubes in the past, but never with the general intention of saving that beer for blending.

With that, the full tasting notes for this blend are below. Follow additional views on this beer, take a look at its page on Untappd.

Appearance: Deep mahogany with an even stronger reddish hue under bright light. Head fizzes up light brown, a bit darker and thicker than with cola. Could go for better retention and stability, though it's not too bad considering that a decent chunk of this beer is Flanders-style wild.

Aroma: Initial nose is quite fruity with cranberry and cherry leading the way. A hint of orange zest alongside faint coffee and chocolate notes. A touch of roasted malt and hints of cardamom. Lactic acidity in the back along with a touch of earthy funk. There's a general fruity, berry-jam character to it as well, which I attribute to the Ruby variations included in the blend. Strawberries and raspberries more and more as it warms. Just a hint of tropical fruit. The cranberry, of course is from the cranberry version of Demeter Sinis, and the cherry comes from the Demeter Rouge. The passion fruit in the Demeter Rouge is only there in faint tropical notes. 

Flavor: The tropical character comes through plenty more in the flavor, along with more noticeable acidity. Cherry, cranberry, and jam there as well. A bit of earth and funk, though that's relatively minor. Hints of red wine.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light and moderately acidic. Carbonation moderate as well, hitting about where I wanted it to be. It's elevated over typical clean ale levels, but not nearly high enough to be at saison level. The beer is a bit light, and could use some extra body. It would have been great to have been able to put this in a red wine barrel, picking up some oak character, tannin, and body.

Overall: I'm quite happy with this blend. Other than the aforementioned lack in body, there isn't too much that I would change here. I think this one definitely accomplished the foremost blending goal of creating something more interesting and enjoyable than any individual component.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Farmhouse Mild (Watermelon): Tasting Notes

This was a batch of Farmhouse Mild that had the Pedio in the fermentation blend kick up some diacetyl after I had kegged the beer and before I tapped it.  In order to clean this up, I added some extra Brettanomyces, and since I had been wanting to try a beer with watermelon juice, I decided to add that here to provide some extra sugars to jump-start the Brett.  I ended up adding the juice from 8 pounds of watermelon into roughly 5 gallons of Farmhouse Mild, and then let it ferment for about a month.  The resulting beer had a nice watermelon character, with a nice taffy-like character.

Appearance: Pours a hazy light peach color with just a touch of pink in the light.  Big, fluffy white head with good retention, and plenty of sticky lacing on the way down.

Aroma: Nose starts out with a nice watermelon-taffy aroma, and then fades into some slight lactic acidity as well as a bit of plant-like watermelon rind.  The latter isn't off-putting at this level, and reminds me of the "green"-type flavor you get from something like watermelon gum.  Speaking of, I was pretty shocked how well watermelon taffy/gum apparently captures the flavor of watermelon juice.  (Well, at least how watermelon juice tastes after it's been fermented and mixed with saison.)

Flavor: Similar to the nose.  Quite juicy and refreshing.  It's too bad I'm only a few months late on this one, as it snowed half an inch in the Chicago area last night.  (In fairness, I've had this on tap since mid-October, though it's not like it was super warm then either.)  Watermelon really leads the way, dominating over any other character, though the watermelon itself is not overpowering.  I like the level here, even though the base beer doesn't shine through too much.  There's a touch of grain/grass in the background.  Though the hops from the base beer have mostly faded, there is still a generic "fruitiness" that I wouldn't attribute to the watermelon, and I'm guessing is lingering from the initial American hops.

Mouthfeel: Light and extremely refreshing.  This is something I could drink a gallon of after doing yard work in the summer.  Even as I sit here cold and watching football, it's hard to put down.  Super crisp with heavy carbonation, it's light and airy, yet the flavor still lingers quite well.

Overall: I'm quite pleased with how this one turned out, especially given that it was an experiment with a beer that had developed some issues.  I will absolutely return to this one next year, and this pretty much firms up my thoughts lately that there's no reason for me to brew fruited Berliners when I can instead just go with a session saison and add fruit (particularly when adding fruit juice, which creates a swift secondary fermentation).

Science & Art #4: Blend & Tasting Notes

This is my fourth blend in the Science & Art Series, a group of blended saisons and wild ales. The components of this blend were Demeter Vert, Namur (Meyer Lemon), and Flowerfield. The idea behind blending is to create something that's better than the sum of its parts. Here, I had three beers that ranged from okay to quite good, with each one either having something that I didn't quite like (Namur and Flowerfield), or that were almost there, but could use an extra boost (Demeter Vert).

Demeter Vert was going to be the star of the show, as the lime saison base was something that I really enjoyed. I've been tweaking the recipe for that one across batches and think that I have most things generally dialed in, but this batch was lacking a bit of extra oomph. I think this is due to the fact that this beer was my first time using my yeast/bacteria Blend 05, and the Brett and bacteria weren't a big enough portion of the blend. Based on that, I was looking for something that could give this base a bit more flair.

For each of the previous versions of Science & Art, Citrine -- which is my house blonde wild -- had been a component of the blend, adding some acidity and fund. In this case, I was looking for something that was clean and not really funky, though I was hoping for a bit of acid to boost the overall flavor profile. My first thought was Namur (Meyer Lemon), which was just far too lemony. That beer was my first time using Meyer Lemon (or any type of lemon, for that matter) in a beer, and it was far too much. I was a bit surprised by this, as the use was generally in line with other citrus beers that I've done (Demeter Auran, the above-discussed Demeter Vert, and a few others), and those generally have hints of citrus without being too overpowering.

The lemon juice that was used alongside the zest in that batch of Namur created a good amount of acidity, and the beer itself was very clean and not at all funky, so after a few quick small-scale blends with Demeter Vert, I knew that I'd like to add that to the blend. That blend was still a bit citrus-heavy (though not obviously heavy on either lemon or lime), so I looked for something else to add in.

The perfect answer was a bit of Flowerfield, which is a collaboration that I did with Matt over at Stickman Brewing (he runs A Ph.D in Beer) over Memorial Day weekend 2014. We brewed that as a blonde Brett saison with Nelson Sauvin. To ferment that batch, I used the Yeast Bay Saison/Brettanomyces Blend and I wasn't a huge fan of the profile. There was something in the finish that was slightly acidic and just didn't quite agree with my palate, though others enjoyed it. (Matt, for one, agreed with me.) There wasn't anything wrong with the beer, so I didn't want to get rid of it, but I though blending would be a good option for some of what was remaining in the keg.

After messing around with the ratio of the three beers using a pipette and sample glasses, I settled on a blend that was four parts Demeter Vert, one part Meyer Lemon Namur, and one part Flowerfield. From there, I transferred into a bottling bucket, mixed in the priming sugar, and bottled. Since the Flowerfield portion was already kegged and carbonated and the Meyer Lemon Namur was in bottles, I needed to reduce the sugar so that I didn't get too far over my goal of 3.0 volumes of CO2. (Since the Namur was in bottles, I added that portion last, slowly pouring from chilled bottles into the bottling bucket with the neck submersed in the liquid in the bucket.) Given this, I decided to put the target at 2.2 volumes (almost purely guesswork) in the priming calculator, and then used that as my sugar level for bottling.

And now for the tasting notes, which are coming around 3.5 months after I bottled up the blend.  For tasting notes from others, you can follow the beer here on Untappd.

Appearance: Clear, bright light yellow with a fluffy white head. Good retention and plenty of lacing as it went down. Visible carbonation bubbles rising through the liquid. Has just about all it needs for a saison. I generally don't pay too much attention to whether my saisons are clear or hazy so long as they have a nice head of foam and good retention, as hazy beers seem a bit more rustic, which is something I don't mind at all when dealing with saisons with Brett and/or lactic acid bacteria (LAB).

Aroma The citrus citrus isn't too strong in the nose, and is mostly generic but tending a bit more toward the lemon. Lime there as well. I'm glad that most people haven't been able to pick out the exact citrus, as one of my goals here was to really knock down the lemon of the Namur variant, while preserving the lime from Demeter Vert. At this point, I think I was pretty successful there, likely only picking out the distinct citrus fruits as I know what went into the beer. As it warms, there is also a bit of an almost honey-like character, mixing with a bit of apricot. Maybe a bit of green grape there as well, which could be coming from the Nelson Sauvin that was used fairly heavily in Flowerfield.

Flavor: Lightly tart with just a hint of backing grain. Very clean without any funk, focusing in on the light acidity and citrus character. Maybe a bit simple, but I wasn't looking for this to be an overly-complex beer. The citrus character is just about where I want it, with some Brett-induced fruitiness in the background. The light acidity comes from the citrus, as well as from whatever lactic acid bacteria are now in this fermenting blend. (I typically use buckets that I use a carboy brush to clean, so there are plenty of scratches for LAB from dreg batches to take hold.)

Mouthfeel: Again, quite light, and also extremely crisp. The carbonation is high without gushing or being too bubbly. Clean finish, not much lingering taste. This would be a great beer for the summer, though I'm not sure I'll have much, if any, last until then. The Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse is the base yeast for the fermentation blend of Demeter Vert, and I think it contributes a nice bit of body in beers that are otherwise bone dry. That's certainly apparent here. The water profiles of the base beers also likely contribute to this, as I tend to go relatively heavy on the chloride for saisons, where it seems like many other saisons are too sulfate heavy for my tastes. 

Overall: I'd describe this as simple, but elegant. Really easy drinking and is something that I'll try to re-create in the future, potentially all in the same beer by using the base for Demeter Vert and then adding in just a touch of Meyer Lemon and also maybe dry hop with some Nelson.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Wallonian Pale Ale (Batch 04): Recipe

This is my fourth time trying out this recipe, a very hop-forward saison with moderate bitterness.  I absolutely loved my second batch of this (recipe; tasting notes).  The third batch was basically the same recipe as the second, and I didn't feel that it warranted its own post.  This was especially true as I was brewing with a friend (his half of the batch was fermented with basic Chico yeast) and I wasn't able to take many notes.  This attempt is slightly different, as I plan to change up the hop profile a bit, and will also probably dry hop each half of the batch differently.

Here are the full details on the batch:

Batch Number: 97
Brew Date: October 18, 2014
Keg Date: November 9, 2014
Batch Size: 10 Gallon
OG: 1.045 (est.)
FG: 1.003 (est.)
Fermentation Temperature: 65-70* F
IBU: 56.0 (modified Tinseth from BrewCipher)
ABV: 5.5%
SRM: 5.0

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


10lb 8oz Dingemans Belgian Pilsner
4lb 0oz Munich Malt
2lb 0oz Flaked Wheat
0lb 14oz Acid Malt
0lb 12oz Flaked Oats

Salts & Water

6.6g Calcium Chloride (all in the boil kettle)
7.1g Gypsum (all in the boil kettle)
2.5g Sodium Chloride (all in the boil kettle)

5.5mL lactic acid added to the sparge water to get that pH to approximately 5.3.  

Resulting water profile is as follows:

Mash pH (est.): 5.34
Calcium: 96
Magnesium: 12
Sodium: 25
Chloride: 100
Sulfate: 100


1.5oz Pacific Gem (pellet, 16.0 AAU) at 60 minutes 
4oz of Mosaic (pellet, 11.6 AAU), 30 minutes after flameout
2oz of Belma (leaf, 11.6 AAU), 30 minutes after flameout
2oz of Galaxy (pellet, 15.0 AAU), 30 minutes after flameout

Let the hops sit in the wort for about an hour total, as I ended up leaving them for a long time with Batch 02 of WPA and really enjoyed the character.

Dry Hops

01.02.2015: This one has been on tap for about two weeks, and I'm finally getting around to adding some dry hops in the keg.  I've been way behind, as my wife and I had twin boys in November!  I had planned on doing a blend of 3-4 hops and using some leaf, but I discovered that I'm out of large hop bags and don't have the time to reseal that many packages.  Thus, I ended up going with only two varieties of pellet hops, adding them to a hop bag (without weights, also can't find those) and dropping that into the keg attached to some unwaxed/unscented floss.

I went with 4 ounces of 2014 Mosaic and 1 ounce of 2013 Columbus.  The Columbus came from a 1-ounce package.  I usually have those around since I like to use them for bittering.  The Mosaic came out of a 1-pound bag.  I put the bag into a gallon Ziploc and put it back in the freezer.  Hopefully I'll have time to vacuum seal sooner rather than later.


2.0 tsp. Wyeast Yeast Nutrient at 10 minutes


Full batch used Ambrosia Blend 005 (now the seventh generation) from the cake of an September 27, 2014 batch of Demeter Facile.  Per yeast, I needed 320 billion cells for the entire batch.  At 40-60% solids, this would mean 250mL for the whole batch.  I went with 500mL, as I was pulling from a wine thief and didn't have the best view, and I'd rather overpitch than underpitch, and didn't have time to let everything settle out before measuring.


11.09.2014: Kegged each half.  Will wait until closer to tapping to add the dry hops.

Demeter Sinis (Batch 03): Recipe

This was my third time brewing Demeter Sinis, the winter seasonal in the Demeter series.  As I have been pretty happy with it since the first batch, I didn't really change anything up here.  I'm also pretty excited as it has been a long time since I've had "straight" Demeter Sinis available.  This is due to the fact that last year's Batch 02 was all fruited, with the pomegranate portion getting kegged and the cranberry portion was bottled.  Thankfully I do still have a few bottles of the latter.  

As I've cleaned up my temperature control equipment for the season making way for a steep drop-off in brewing over the next few months (twin boys coming soon to the Thorpe family!), I decided to just ferment this one at room temperature.  In my experience, I've gotten yeast-driven character that's pretty similar no matter the temperature I use with my current yeast/Brett blend, it just takes a bit longer when fermenting in the 65-70*F range as opposed to the 75-80*F range.  I really do need to do some actual split-batch experiments with temperature next year though.

The recipe for the full batch is as follows:

Batch Number: 96
Brew Date: October 4, 2014
Bottle Date: November 2, 2014
Batch Size: 10 gallons
OG: 1.045 (estimated)
FG: 1.002 (estimated)
Fermentation Temperature: 65-70* F (room temperature)
IBU: 27.0
ABV: 5.5% (est.)
SRM: 17

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


7lb 8oz Belgian Pilsner
4lb 0oz Wheat Malt
4lb 0oz Wheat, Flaked
1lb 0oz Acid Malt
0lb 12oz Rye Malt
0lb 8oz Oats
0lb 8oz CaraMunich
0lb 8oz Carafa II
0lb 4oz Chocolate Malt

Salts & Water

5.5g Calcium Chloride (all added directly to the kettle)
4.3g Gypsum (all added directly to the kettle)
6.1g Sodium Chloride (all added directly to the kettle)

All of the salts are added directly to the kettle to achieve the ultimate water profile that I am looking for. Acid malt is being used to get the mash pH almost to where I wanted it.  I also added 4mL of lactic acid to the mash.

Resulting water profile (based on EZ Water Calculator v3) is as follows:

Mash pH (est.): 5.21
Calcium: 78
Magnesium: 12
Sodium: 50
Chloride: 127
Sulfate: 70

I also added 5.5mL of lactic acid to the sparge water to get the pH of that liquor to 5.2.


1.0oz Nugget (pellet, 13.3 AAU) at 60 minutes
1.0oz Willamette (leaf, 7.5 AAU) at flameout


2.0 tsp. Wyeast Yeast Nutrient at 10 minutes
6.0g Lavender, dried, at flameout*
1.0g Black Cardamom, at flameout


Full batch used Ambrosia Blend 005 (now the seventh generation) from the cake of an September 27, 2014 batch of Demeter Facile.  Per yeast, I needed 160 billion cells for the entire batch.  At 40-60% solids, this would mean 250mL for the whole batch.  I went with 500mL, as I was pulling from a wine thief and didn't have the best vie, and I'd rather overpitch than underpitch, and didn't have time to let everything settle out before measuring.


11.02.2014: Bottled around 9 gallons, aiming for 3.0 volumes of CO2 based on the priming calculator.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Demeter Automne: Tasting Notes

After about two months in the bottle, it's about time to write out some tasting notes for this batch, which is my first time brewing Demeter Automne, a fall saison (recipe).  I'll say that early on, I thought the finish was too biscuit-heavy, but that character has certainly died down over the past month, and is now just about where I want it.  

Appearance: Medium to dark amber with a puffy light tan lasting head.  Fairly clear.

Nose: Toasty biscuit alongside faint pumpkin spice.  Earthy and leafy.  I think the combination of light spicing and Willamette at flameout got me what I was looking for -- something that isn't too heavy in any one direction, but is instead just reminiscent of fall.

Taste: Earth and toast with a bit of fall spice.  Nothing stands out too much.  Some pumpkin in the background as it warms.  I'm glad that I used fresh-roasted (then frozen) pumpkin in this recipe, as I think the squash flavor does actually come through.  Some light funk on the backend, alongside a faint acidity.

Mouthfeel: Dry finish, though the body itself isn't too light.  Carbonation just where I want it for a darker saison.  Easy drinking without any one element becoming too dominant.  Light tartness through the finish.

Overall: For a first attempt, I'm quite happy with this one.  I'm not sure there's anything that I would change up too much.  Next year, I think I may increase the Willamette addition at flameout just a bit, adding a bit more of the leafy/earthy character that I really like in this beer.  As mentioned above, at first I thought the biscuit malt was too much, but I think after a month of being fully-carbonated, that character is just about where I want it.  

Now that I have the base recipe down, I think I'll likely do a few batches of this next year, as I'd like to try a few "barrel-aged" variants.  I'm most interested in trying a version with wine-soaked oak cubes, and then another version with brandy-soaked oak cubes.