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), Crooked Stave, and miscellaneous saison 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 Competition.  Here is a link to the scoresheets that I received.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Farmhouse Mild (Batch 05): Recipe

This is the fifth iteration of Farmhouse Mild, and presented a good opportunity to try out a new yeast blend, which I always love.  In this case, it was GigaYeast Farmhouse Sour (GB121), which is new enough that it's not even on GigaYeast's website.  Instead, I had to take the description from Farmhouse Brewing Supply's website, which says that this is "a blend of Belgian ale yeast, Brett and lactic acid bacteria-- sweet, sour and a little funky."  This is my first product from them, and it sounds quite promising.  Hopefully the IBU in this one don't interfere too much with the lacto performance.

The other half of this batch is with an evolving blend that I've been using, Ambrosia Blend 05, which is a mixture of Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse, East Coast Yeast Farmhouse Brett (Pure Strain) (ECY03-B), and Ambrosia Blend 002 (East Coast Yeast Saison Blend (ECY08), Brett C., and Brett Trois).

For the grist, I went with my typical mixture of a few different grains, including several adjuncts.  I started fairly late in the day, so ended up using some wheat and rye, foregoing the oats and raw spelt that I've used in the past.  (I want to try a cereal mash the next time I use raw spelt, and I was nearly out of oats.)  For hops, standard 60-minute addition for a bit of bitterness and for flameout, as always, I went with a decent amount of fragrant American hops.  In this case, Simcoe.

The recipe for the full batch is as follows:

Batch Number: 90
Brew Date: July 6, 2014
Bottle/Keg Date:
Batch Size: 10 Gallon
OG: 1.042 (estimated); 1.040 (measured)
FG: 1.003 (estimate); 1.005 (GigaYeast);
Fermentation Temperature: 72*F
IBU: 24
ABV: 5.2% (est.)
SRM: 4.0

Mash: Single infusion for 60 minutes at 152 F.
Boil: 60 minute


10lb 6oz French Pilsner
2lb Wheat, Flaked
1lb Vienna Malt
1lb Rye Malt
1lb White Wheat Malt
12oz Acidulated Malt

Salts & Water

8.0g Calcium Chloride (all added directly to the kettle)
4.0g Gypsum (all added directly to the kettle)

Resulting water profile (based on BrewCipher) is as follows:

Mash pH (est.): 5.42  (measurement swung from 5.4 to 5.5)
Calcium: 94
Magnesium: 12
Sodium: 7
Chloride: 88
Sulfate: 70

I used lactic acid to adjust the pH of the sparge water, adding 5mL to the 8.75 gallons of water used for the sparge.


1oz Nugget (13.3 AAU), pellet, at 60 minutes
4oz Simcoe (13.0 AAU), pellet, at flameout


2 tsp. Wyeast Yeast Nutrient at 10 minutes


5 Gallons: GigaYeast Farmhouse Sour (GB121) (Generation 1)

5 Gallons: Ambrosia Blend 05 (Generation 2)

For the GigaYeast portion, I simply pitched the pack, which was quite fresh (June 25, 2014).

For the Ambrosia Blend 05 portion, I calculated that I needed 85mL of slurry from the Demeter Vert cake.  Roughly 1.8 billion cells/mL based on the calculating from my previous slurry post.  Viability should be near 96% harvesting today according to yeastcalculator.com, so take starting volume of 154 billion cells to get to 148 viable cells.  154/1.8 = 85.


07.06.2014: Chilled to 70*F and pitched into a water bath that should sit at 70-72*F based on the setting (72*F) and differential (2*F).  Each bucket received 30 seconds of pure oxygen through a stone.

07.07.2014: At 24 hours, water bath is at 74*F, likely because it was over 90*F outside. Temperature should come back down a bit over night back toward 72*F.

07.09.2014: At 2.5 days, beer sitting at 70*F. Controller still set at 72*F with a 2*F differential.

07.27.2014: GigaYeast Farmhouse Sour portion measures 1.005 as final gravity, using the BrewCipher refractometer conversion.  10 Plato originally, and now measuring 3.75 Plato, converting to 1.0047 FG.

Same gravity readings for the Ambrosia Blend 05 portion.

The GigaYeast portion was blended into a new batch of Science & Art #3, with this one consisting of 4.5 gallons of Farmhouse Mild, one gallon of Citrine (dreg portion of Blend 05), and one gallon of Demeter Passion (from 5 bottles)

The Ambrosia Blend 05 portion was put into a keg.  Oddly, tasted normal at the beginning of the day, but after transferring to the keg and sitting for a few hours, I noticed some diacetyl.  That's happened with this one before, and ended up being why I added the lemon guavas to Farmhouse Mild (Lemon Guava), as those gave some additional sugars to get the Brett going again, which allowed it to clean up diacetyl presumably created by pedio that's infected plenty in the brewery (originally introduced through Crooked Stave dregs, which seem to have a pedio strain that really kicks up diacetyl).

If this one ends up showing signs of diacetyl after two weeks on its own in the keg (I intentionally transferred a decent amount of the cake to have Brett in suspension), then I'll consider adding in some fruit, or maybe even bottling and priming with some fruit juice.  It may take a bit of time, but the Brett should be able to clean up pedio's mess.

08.24.2014: For the portion that had some issues with diacetyl, I transferred it back to a carboy on top of the juice from 8 pounds of watermelon.  I also added some fresh yeast from Demeter Automne, hoping to capture enough Brett to clean things up.

11.16.2014: Tasting notes for the watermelon portion can be found here.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Science & Art #2: Tasting Notes

This is my second in the line of "Science & Art" beers, which will be an ongoing project involving blended saisons with Brett and/or wild ales.  This particular version is a blend a Dionysus #2 and Citrine.  Dionysus #2 (tasting notes to come) is a version of Namur that was originally brewed with White Labs Belgian Saison III (WLP585), and then aged on white wine-soaked oak cubes and Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois (WLP644) for about six months.  Citrine is my evolving blond sour ale, mostly utilizing dregs from various lambics, as well as previous batches of Citrine.

This beer is essentially the result of fermenting WLP585 too low.  I didn't have temperature control (heating) available in the basement over some of the colder months last year, and decided to use the 585 at around 68*F.  After 3 weeks of primary, the gravity wasn't terrible (1.010 or so, if I recall), but the was an overabundance of phenols compared to the fruity esters that I prefer from saison yeast.  Knowing that the Brett would be able to take some of these in a different direction, I added plenty of Brett Trois and some oak cubes and let it sit for six months.  Since I've got a bit of 585 frozen in a glycerin solution, I'll have to make sure to do this again soon, maybe doing a 5-gallon portion at a low temperature and then aged on Brett, and then starting the other portion out at 70-72*F and then letting it free rise, then kegging on its own.

The Brett portion will then be ready to blend with some Citrine, which I now plan to always keep on hand.  The young Citrine (around 6 months) is generally slightly acidic with a nice lemon kick, and is great for blending, especially since I usually only have to use 0.5-1.0 gallons of Citrine in a mix with saison.  Then, I can let the other half of the 10-gallon Citrine batch age for eventual blending gueuze-style, or incorporate in some fruit.  The last time I brewed Citrine I incorporated plenty of spontaneous fermentation, and plan to do so from here on out, weather permitting (generally would like the overnight temperatures to be 50*F or below).

Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Bright golden-orange with a nice fluffy white head.  Thick foam and nice retention.  Fairly clear, but still a bit of haze.

Nose: Starts off with a light lemon acidity underneath a bit of melon, mostly honeydew.  Notes of oak, especially as it warms.  Not much in the way of white wine, even though the cubes had been sitting in the wine for nearly a year.  Very faint peppery spice.

Flavor: Oak, melon, citrus, and a bit of Brett funk start things out.  A nice body that carries the flavors through, even though this blend finished out damn near 1.000.  Perhaps residual glycerol production from the saison yeast (I'm not sure where 585 ranks on this skill), but more likely from the oak, as there's also a faint hint of vanilla and tannin.  The oak is just about where I want it to be, rounding out Dionysus #2, which is too oak-forward in my opinion, and I'm planning to use mostly for blending.

Mouthfeel: Very dry and crisp with a light acidity, despite the perceived body through the initial taste.  Quite refreshing, though with enough oak such that it's not entirely quaffable.  After the oak and honeydew, there's a bit of lingering earthiness.

Overall: I'm quite happy with where this beer turned out, and definitely plan to try it again.  As much as I've enjoyed brewing with the dregs of Crooked Stave, Jolly Pumpkin, Tired Hands, Fantôme, and others with my wild saisons, it's satisfying knowing that I can absolutely source the strains that I used again and replicate these.  Of course, there's something magical about using all sorts of dregs and only vaguely knowing what's fermenting a given beer, so I'll never be able to give that up either.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Demeter Vert (Batch 03): Recipe

This is my third time going through this recipe, which is a blonde saison that includes lime zest and is hopped with Sorachi Ace.  This is my first time adding in a bit of fresh lime juice as well, hoping to get a little more acidity early on without resorting to bacteria.  

Half the batch will be getting a pitch of straight Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse (2nd Generation) and the other will also be getting the same second generation plus a nice blend of Brett variants (plus a few other saison strains mixed in an older cake).  The portion with only the Wallonian will serve to test something I've been curious about, which is whether my plastic buckets are now just harboring all sorts of Brett and bugs.  I'm thinking yes, as I've had cross-contamination on other saisons using loose lids, but so much so that I thought it was in the buckets.  

This isn't something I'm shying away from, as I'd love for the buckets to develop a bit of a house culture similar to how oak barrels do.  I've been using hard-bristle brushes on the buckets, so expect there to be plenty of places for the bugs to get into.  Likewise, I've also been just spraying with StarSan rather than soaking in mixed solution.  Generally, I don't want to be dirty, but I would like a little rustic character.  Eventually, I'd like to get to the point where I've got a larger temperature controlled shed or portion of my garage where I'll have barrels and beams that are littered with Brett and other bugs, with house character developing.  

I go back and forth on exactly how to best achieve the results that I'm looking for (clean primary then finishing with Brett, mixed fermentation throughout, blending clean and Brett/wild) and have so far been experimenting with different methods.  Eventually, I'd like to nail down a house process.  As of now, I'm thinking my preferred route is fermenting with a mixture of saison yeast and Brett, and then blending in wild/sour beer when I want some acidity, as that's worked out quite well with my "Science & Art" series.  (Tasting notes for #1 here and #2 here, with notes #3 coming soon along with reviews from the TalkBeer Homebrew Competition (Saison).)

Here are the full details on the batch:

Batch Number: 89

Brew Date: June 21, 2014
Keg Date:
Batch Size: 10 Gallon
OG: 1.045 (est.)
FG: 1.002 (est.)
Fermentation Temperature: 70-80* F
IBU: 35.0 (modified Tinseth)
ABV: 6.2%
SRM: 5.0

Mash: Single infusion for 60 minutes at 152* F
Boil: 60 minute


13.0 lb Dingemans Belgian Pilsner
2.5 lb Flaked Wheat
2.0 lb Munich Malt
1.25 lb Flaked Rye

Salts & Water

8.0g Calcium Chloride (all into the kettle)
2.0g Gypsum (all into the kettle)

6mL lactic acid added to the mash

Resulting water profile is as follows:

Mash pH (est.): 5.41
Calcium: 81
Magnesium: 12
Sodium: 7
Chloride: 82
Sulfate: 47

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


0.75 oz. Columbus (leaf) (17.7 AAU) at 60 minutes
5.0 oz. Sorachi Ace (pellet) (12.0 AAU) at flameout


2.0 tsp. Wyeast Yeast Nutrient at 10 minutes
100mL lime juice at flameout
4 Tbsp. lime zest at flameout


5 gallons: Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse 

5 gallons: Ambrosia Blend 005 (Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse, East Coast Yeast Farmhouse Brett (Pure Strain) (ECY03-B), and Ambrosia Blend 002)


06.21.2014: Pitched at 70-72*F after 30 seconds of pure oxygen to each 5-gallon bucket.

06.22.2014: Up to 74* F at 24 hours.  (All water bath temperatures.)

06.23.2014: Up to 76*F at 36 hours, and 78*F at 48 hours.

06.24.2014: 80*F at 2.5 days.

06.25.2014: Started to drop temperature back down, allowing to fall down to 74*F naturally.

07.06.2014: Transferred both portions to kegs.  Heavy pellicle on the bucket that was just the Yeast Bay Wallonian, so definitely Brett living in the buckets.  Purged head space and letting sit at room temperature for the Brett to develop further in that one.  Intentionally added some extra yeast cake to that keg.  Transferred the Wallonian plus (intentional) Brett to a separate keg and began force carbonating.  Small pellicle on that one.

08.10.2014: Tasting notes for the keg version for the Wallonian plus intentional Brett (Ambrosia Blend 005).