Sunday, November 16, 2014

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.

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