Monday, June 30, 2014

Biere de Nord: Tasting Notes

These are the tasting notes for Biere de Nord, the biere de garde that I brewed and is partly inspired by Hill Farmstead Biere de Norma, and also by the historical biere de garde information mentioned in Phil Markowski's amazing Farmhouse Ales.  The beer utilized mostly French Pilsner malt, adding in a few other malts to add complexity and depth.  I like the bready character provided by amber malt, and the toasty, faint nuttiness provided by aromatic and brown malt.  Finally, a bit of CaraMunich for caramel and sweetness.  The hops were kept to a minimum in order to let the malt and, more importantly, the yeast, shine.

Appearance: I let a bit too much sediment get into the bottles at bottling, which requires leaving a good half inch in the bottom of the bottle, but perhaps that allowed the beer to develop faster.  Leaving the dregs behind, beer pours a fairly-clear deep amber with a nice head that has a slight reddish hue.

Nose: The first whiff is fresh strawberry coupled with pungent raspberry jam.  A bit of vinous grape in the background.  A touch of bread and sweet malt, but mostly quite fruity.  Hints of leather as it warms.

Flavor: Also focused on the jam aspect with just a touch of warming alcohol through the finish.  The oak from the red wine-soaked oak cubes is felt just a touch here as well.  A bit more of the Brett L leather than in the nose.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with low, but acceptable, carbonation, which is what I was aiming for at 2.4 volumes, mimicking beers like the aforementioned Hill Farmstead Biere de Norma and BFM Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien. A bit of residual sweetness, but overall fairly dry.

Overall: I'm really pleased with this beer, especially being my first attempt at the style.  This was before I really got into pH and water chemistry (only using 5.2 buffer here), though I don't know that I would change much, other than matching the Alexandria, Virginia water profile used to brew the beer as opposed to the Chicago (Lake Michigan) water that I use now.  I would also maybe add a bit more of the oak cubes to impart slightly more red wine character, or age it a bit longer on the cubes.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Namur (Batch 03): Tasting Notes

Tasting notes for the clean portions of Batch 03 of Namur, which consisted of fermenting a single batch of wort with four different yeasts/blends: (1) Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse, (2) Yeast Bay Saison Blend, (3) Yeast Bay Saison/Brettanomyces Blend, and (4) and East Coast Yeast Farmhouse Brett (Saison Blend).

Tasting notes (with dates of sampling) for the Wallonian Farmhouse and Yeast Blend are below.  I wante to give the YB Saison/Brettanomyces Blend and ECY Farmhouse Brett (Saison Blend) a bit more time before I finish tasting notes there, as I thought that ECY portion was a bit bland early on after bottling.  Hopefully that will develop a bit further.  The YB Brett portion was nice and fruity, and seemed to have a bit of tartness to go with the initial fruitiness.

Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse

Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse

Bright clear golden yellow with a fairly-thick fluffy white head.  Good retention and moderate lacing as it falls.

Nose starts out with ripe fruit and faint spice, though initially difficult to pinpoint any one thing in particular. A bit chalky.  Notes of mango and peach.  Perhaps the faintest touch of banana.  Faint tartness and a bit of earth into the flavor.  Quite dry; very crisp.  Touch of a backing grain with hints of lemon.

Overall, quite nice, especially given that this was fermented around 70*F.  I love the general characteristics of this yeast, and am really looking forward to pushing the temperature higher the next time I use it.  I can see this turning into a house yeast, and am quite curious to see how it'll do with some Brett C and Trois.

Yeast Bay Saison Blend

Bright and clear, more of a light orange color than the Wallonian.  Big white head and decent retention.

Nose has moderate fruit, more citrus notes than the tropical character in the Wallonian Farmhouse.  Perhaps an orange marmalade.  Mild grain and faint spicing.  Lots of fresh fruit.  Flavor is super light and crisp, with backing orange and just a touch of pepper.

Mouthfeel is very light, yet at the same time a bit creamy.  Might be a bit more glycerol coming out of one of the yeasts in this blend.

As with the Wallonian, I'm really impressed with this.  I'll definitely be going with this again, and am very curious to see how the blend evolves over a few batches, and also how it performs at higher temperatures.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lucky Charm (Batch 04) & Bauernhof: Recipe

Since I don't do any sort of boil for my Berliner Weisse, I figured this time I could probably stretch 15 gallons out of a single brew session, and luckily it ended up working.  Since I had this much, I'd do a bit of an experiment to change up my traditional Berliner.  I still did 10 gallons of the standard Lucky Charm Berliner Weisse, but for the remaining 5 gallons, I decided to do a saison/berliner hybrid.  For this portion, I thought that name "Bauernhof," the German word for farmhouse, would be appropriate.

I've detailed my "sour mash" process in the past, but in sort, I mash out right into the boil kettle, though from there I do not go to a burner, and don't raise the temperature at all.  Instead, I chill to 80*-100*F, depending on which heat sources I have available and how long I'll be souring for.  I then add this to a CO2-purged keg with a muslin sack of 1/4 lb. of pilsner malt.  This time I did things a bit differently.  For the Lucky Charm portion, I had a vial each of White Labs Berliner Blend (WLP630), although in my experience this doesn't get the beer tart enough.  Since I've had such great experience with Jolly Pumpkin dregs in the past (they sour cleanly and quickly), I decided to use dregs from Calabaza Blanca here in lieu of the muslin sack with pilsner malt.

Given that I wasn't using the lacto that lives on the outside of the uncrushed malt, I didn't do a total CO2 flush this time; in fact, I even oxygenated this time.  (Normally when doing a sour mash you want to avoid any oxygen getting in contact with that mash, as that will encourage the growth of all sorts of nasty critters that will make it smell like vomit.)  So, each 5 gallons of the Lucky Charm portion got a vial of the WLP630 as well as the dregs from a relatively-fresh (December 2013) 375mL bottle of Calabaza Blanca.  The dregs were added the day after the White Labs, as I only had one bottle the day I brewed, and I added that to the Bauernhof portion, along with a starter of Ambrosia Blend 002, which is a mixture of ECY08, Brett C, and Brett Trois.

Here are the full details on the batch:

Batch Number: 87 & 88
Brew Date: June 1, 2014
Bottle Date:
Batch Size: 15 Gallon
OG: 1.029
FG: 1.002 (est.)
Fermentation Temperature: 70-76* F
IBU: 0.0
ABV: 3.5&% (est.)
SRM: 2.7

Mash: Single infusion for 60 minutes at 150* F
Boil: None


8.25 lb. Pilsner
4.5 lb. Torrified Wheat
3.75 lb. Flaked Wheat

Normally I just go 50/50 Pilsner and White Wheat Malt, though I was completely out of the latter this time, even though I thought I had a bucket full of it.  Hopefully this works just as well.

Salts & Water

5.0g Calcium Chloride (into the mash)
12mL Lactic Acid (into the mash)

Resulting water profile is as follows:

Mash pH (est.): 5.42
Calcium: 52
Magnesium: 12
Sodium: 7
Chloride: 47
Sulfate: 27

7.5mL lactic acid added to the sparge water to get it to a pH around 5.5.




3.0 tsp. Wyeast Yeast Nutrient before chilling

Lucky Charm:

White Labs Berliner Blend plus Calabaza Blanca dregs


Ambrosia Blend 002 (2nd generation) plus Calabaza Blanca dregs


06.01.2014: Brewday.  20 seconds of pure oxygen to each of the 5-gallon portions.  The two portions that got the Berliner Blends were put in a water bath with an aquarium heater set at 68*F (in my experience this overshoots a bit, so probably ends up at 70*-72*F).  The water bath on the portion of the wort with the saison blend was placed in a separate water batch at 70*F.  This portion also started out with the dregs of a 375mL bottle of Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca.  I'm trying this here in lieu of using the lacto from raw grain this time.

06.02.2014: The portion with the saison blend was at 74*F this morning after a very warm evening last night.  Basement even got quite warm.  This evening, changed it was back down to 72*F, and altered the controller to keep it here.  The two 5-gallon straight Berliner portions in the other water bath are still set at 68*F, and I added the dregs from a December 2013 batch of Calabaza Blanca to each one, again instead of using the lacto from grain here.  

06.03.2014: Saison portion -- Bauernhof -- was at 76*F this morning.  The temperature probe had slipped out of the Ziploc bag that I have submersed in the water to measure that temperature.  Thankfully it didn't get too warm.  Re-adjusted and it's back down to around 72*F.

07.27.2014: Ready to get the Lucky Charm portions onto fruit.  Both are sitting at a pH of 2.9.  Using the BrewCipher refractometer conversion, gravity is currently at 1.011 before the fruit additions.

For the raspberry-lime, started by adding 10 pounds of raspberries and then transferring.  Looking back, this is double what I used last time with Batch 03, so should be fairly intense.  I'm keeping the lime a little more in check with what I had last time.

Raspberries for the raspberry-lime portion.

For the pineapple-coconut, starting with 5 pounds of fresh pineapple, 22 ounces of fresh coconut meat, and one quart of fresh coconut water.

Pineapple-coconut portion.

Bauernhof received passion fruit puree.  Added two 2.2 lb tubs plus two 14oz packages.

07.29.2014: Forgot to add the lime to the raspberry version on Monday night.  In Batch 03,  I used the juice of three limes and 3 Tbsp. of zest.  I'm looking to add just a bit more here given the additional raspberries, but will take more precise measurements this time.

07.30.2014: This morning, added the zest of 4 limes, which was roughly 3.5 Tbsp. (10 grams) along with the juice of those limes (100mL).  Checked the fermenters and the raspberry version didn't seem to be doing much when I added the lime juice and zest, though there was a decent amount of carbonation coming up when I added the weighted muslin bag with the zest.  There were apparent signs of fermentation on top of the pineapple-coconut version, and Bauernhof (passion fruit) had a nice pellicle.  Will leave all of these undisturbed for a month or so and then check the gravities.

Finally adding the limes.

08.04.2014: Went to check on all of these after a nice camping trip in Michigan.  The raspberry-lime portion is fermenting quite well.  To make sure that I achieve maximum color and sugar extraction, and also to keep out unwanted oxygen exposure, I punched down the raspberries, utilizing a technique often described by Jester King.

"Punching down" raspberries with a sanitized stainless steel spoon.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Flowerfield (Stickman Collaboration): Recipe

Over Memorial Day weekend, I brewed a collaboration with my friend Matt at Stickman Brewing while he was in town for the holiday.  We naturally decided to go with a saison, and each ended up using our own yeast blends.  I opted for a second use of the Yeast Bay Saison Blend, which I had previously tried out in a batch of Namur (Batch 03).  I also ended up adding some East Coast Yeast 03 Farmhouse Brett (Saison Blend) and some Citrine (the "dreg blend" portion of Batch 5&6), as for whatever reason, I had a hard time getting the Yeast Bay Saison Blend to start fermenting, even though it was a relatively fresh cake and I had done a starter. Matt went with his house blend, which contains saison yeast along with Brett C and Brett Trois.  We mashed quite a bit higher than I normally do, which should hopefully bring out a bit more Brett character.

I also took 1 gallon of my portion and fermented separately in a gallon jug with the grown up dregs from bottles of Ale Apothecary Sahati and Sahalien, both courtesy of the ever generous William.

We ended up naming the beer Flowerfield, not because of our use of flowers, but related to a running joke about a town near me that no longer exists, but still has signs welcoming you to it.  Although, in the interest of keeping with the name, we blew in a few dandelion seeds during chilling, potentially adding a bit of Lombard wild yeast.

Here are the full details on the batch:

Batch Number: 86

Brew Date: May 25, 2014.
Bottle Date:
Batch Size: 10 Gallon
OG: 1.048 (est.); 1.045 (actual)
FG: 1.002 (est.)
Fermentation Temperature: 68-76* F
IBU: 30.2
ABV: 6.0%
SRM: 3.4

Mash: Single infusion for 60 minutes at 155* F
Boil: 60 minute


12.5 lb Pilsner
3.5 lb Flaked Wheat
2.0 lb Flaked Rice
1.0 lb Acid Malt

Salts & Water

4.0g Calcium Chloride (all into the kettle)
3.0g Sodium Chloride (all into the kettle)
3.0g Gypsum (all into the kettle)

Resulting water profile is as follows:

Mash pH (est.): 5.38
Calcium: 67
Magnesium: 12
Sodium: 29
Chloride: 84
Sulfate: 58

5mL lactic acid added to the sparge water to get it to a pH around 5.5.


1.0 oz. Columbus (17.5 AAU) at 60 minutes
4.0 oz. Nelson Sauvin (12.0 AAU) at flameout


2.0 tsp. Wyeast Yeast Nutrient at 10 minutes


3.5-4 gallon portion:

Yeast Bay Saison Blend (2nd Generation)
East Coast Yeast Farmhouse Brett (Saison Blend) (2nd Generation)
Citrine dregs

1 gallon portion:

Ale Apothecary Dregs


05.25.2014: Brewday.  OG a bit low at 1.045.  Missed the initial volume on the mash, going way thick, as I used the wrong measuring stick.  Keeping with the name of the beer, blew in the seeds from two dandelion stems.  Won't add much other than perhaps a bit of Lombard wild yeast.  3.5 gallons went into a bucket that got 30 seconds of O2, and a starter of the Yeast Bay Saison/Brettanomyces cake from Batch 082 of Namur.  I had a relatively thick cake (approximately 125mL) and put that into a 1.25L starter for 1.5 days before pitching.  Pitched the whole starter.  The remaining gallon received 10 seconds of pure oxygen, and I pitched the dregs from bottles of Ale Apothecary Sahalien and Sahati that I had grown up on the stir plate.

05.26.2014: Room temperature to start.  Bumped to 68*F at 16 hours.  Bumped to 70*F at 24 hours.  

05.27.2014: Bumped to 72*F at 30 hours.  All readings so far are actual temperatures, with the controller set 2*F higher with a 2*F differential.

05.28.2014: This morning, still nothing happening.  Gravity is down to 1.042.  Added a jar a slurry (~250mL) of ECY03 cake, and also a wine thief full of the December 2013 batch of Ctrine.  Bumped temperature to 74*F.  Finally fermenting in the evening.

05.29.2014: Good krausen this morning.  Bumped the temperature to 76*F this evening.

05.31.2014: Late tonight, turned the temperature down to 75*F on the controller, which should allow the actual temperature of the water bath to fall down to 73* F.

06.01.2014: Sitting at 73*F, so this morning I turned the controller down to 72*F, which should allow it to naturally drift down to 70*F, which should be right where I want it to start fermenting Batch 087 later today.  After adding in Batch 087, removed this bucket to room temperature to finish out as necessary.

06.19.2014: Kegged the 4-gallon portion.  Again the Yeast Bay Saison/Brett blend is giving me a little bit of acidity, and it's not something I particularly care for.  Will need to see how that develops, as I might need to use a bit of fruit to complement it, or perhaps use this portion for blending in the future.

07.20.2014: Small auto siphon broke while trying to transfer Ale Apothecary dreg version.  Was not able to bottle, but saved cake to use for future batch.

07.27.2014: Update on kegged version.  Measured pH is 3.9.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Citrine (Batches 07 & 08): Recipe

My 30th birthday was a few weeks ago, and I wanted to brew something special to mark the occasion.  I decided that I'd do 10 gallons of blonde sour, with half of that being fermented entirely spontaneously.  To assist in the non-spontaneous portion, I consumed the entire Drie Fonteinen Armand'4 set so that I could use their dregs.  For those not familiar with the series, these were blended solely from Drie Fonteinen-brewed lambic and helped raise money after the great thermostat incident that wiped out a gut-wrenching amount of lambic.

A blend was created for each season, and at this point (and also fresh, in my recollection) the blends do resemble their seasonal namesakes.

The summer (Zomer, in Dutch) blend is bright and acidic and full of lemon and other citrus.

The autumn (Herfst) is dry, earthy, and a bit leafy, with more pronounced fund and less acidity.

The recipe itself was pretty straightforward.  I used about 55% pilsner and 45% wheat, with the latter being split between wheat malt and flaked wheat, as I thought I had more flaked on hand than I actually did.  While eventually I'd really like to use raw wheat and do a turbid mash, for this time I used what I had on hand, and then mashed very high (158*F) to keep as many long chain sugars as I could.  I had considered adding some flour (perhaps made by processing pilsner malt until it was flour-like consistency) as others have suggested to have some unconverted dextrins for the bugs to get to over time, but I went with what I know for this one.

Otherwise, I used 5oz. of aged Liberty hops that I ordered from Hops Direct a ways back, and also did some slight water adjustments to get roughly in line with the profile given in Wild Brews.

It was a rough and tumble beginning to the brew process, as it was pouring as I was trying to heat up the mash water.  Luckily, by when it was time to heat the sparge water, it was down to a drizzle, and rain didn't bother me too much during the boil.

I definitely wanted to spontaneously ferment a portion of this batch, and had been thinking about that for some time.  I had to think of the logistics, as our backyard is fairly wild in that we frequently have raccoons, possums, and other creatures of the night milling about (we live about 100 yards from an old railroad track that's been converted to a trail and has 10-20 feet of woods on each side, and also a neighbor who likes to leave out all sorts of food scraps).

I remembered that we still have a fairly large metal dog cage around from when our dogs were younger, so I fished that out and line the plastic bottom with some towels, as I put two pots (5 gallons in each) directly onto those in the cage after the boil.  Knowing that raccoons are crafty little fellows, I also zip-tied the latches for the cage, just in case.  Finally, since there was still the possibility of rain, I put a tarp on top of the cage to keep out any overnight rainfall.  The whole setup was placed beneath a tree in bloom next to our driveway.  Hopefully next year I'll have fruit trees in bloom in the backyard and will be able to use those.

The overnight low was 43*F, plenty cold enough to not have to worry about any thermo bacteria.  The next morning, I transferred each half (there's a second pot on the other side of the picture below) to a Better Bottle, pouring through a funnel.  Half was left to ferment entirely spontaneously, and the other half received the aforementioned Armand'4 series dregs in addition to the spontaneous culture.

My "coolship" sitting underneath a tree in bloom.

The full recipe for the batch:

Batch Number: 85

Brew Date: April 29, 2014
Bottle Date:
Batch Size: 10 Gallon
OG: 1.041
FG: 1.000 (est.)
Fermentation Temperature: Room temperature (60*-70*F)
IBU: 4.3
ABV: 5.2% (est.)
SRM: 3.3

Mash: Single infusion for 60 minutes at 158* F
Boil: 60 minute


10.0 lb Dingeman's Belgian Pilsner
5.5 lb. White Wheat Malt
2.0 lb Wheat, Flaked

Salts & Water

6.0g Sodium Chloride (all into the kettle)
5.5g Gypsum (all into the kettle)

Resulting water profile is as follows:

Mash pH (est.): 5.44
Calcium: 88
Magnesium: 12
Sodium: 7
Chloride: 76
Sulfate: 72


5.0 oz. Liberty (Aged) at 60 minutes


Dregs from the 4 gueuze blends in the Drie Fonteinen Armand'4 Series
Lombard spontaneous culture


It took a few days, but after 2-3 days, both were fermenting well, and the portion that was entirely spontaneous actually showed signs of fermentation first.  Here are a few pictures from 3-4 days in: