Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Science & Art #6: Blend & Tasting Notes

Science & Art #6 was a first in the series in that in addition to blending several beers, I also blended in fruit juice to add the sugar necessary to bottle condition the batch.  To start, I had plenty of Demeter Automne (recipe; tasting notes), as that was a 10-gallon batch and I didn't really need 10 gallons of funky pumpkin saison to get me through the fall season, so I knew that  wanted to do something interesting with the second half of the batch.  I considered adding red wine-soaked oak cubes or blending in some dry commercial French (or French-style) cidre such as Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouché or Virtue Percheron.  

Ultimately, when I found tart cherry juice without any preservatives at a local specialty foods shop, I decided to blend that in and use its sugars for conditioning, as that has been something I have wanted to try.  It's a nice twist on conditioning with honey, and Logsdon Farmhouse Ales has done a great job with this method, conditioning its beers (mainly saisons, including the outstanding Seizoen Bretta) with pear juice.

Once I knew what I was working with, I decided which batch of Citrine I would use to blend with the Demeter Automne.  I ultimately, selected a batch of Citrine that was fermented with East Coast Yeast 20 (Bug County), as that wasn't too acidic and added a nice, subtle fruitiness and mild funk that I thought would complement both the Demeter Automne and the cherry juice.  At the point of blending (September 2014), the Citrine was about nine months old.  The final blend ratio was 3.75 gallons of Demeter Automne, 1 gallon of Citrine, and 45 ounces of Montmorency tart cherry juice.  Based on my calculations, the sugars in the juice used should create about 3 volumes of CO2, toward the low end of where I like my saisons, but I generally go around there for darker saisons.  The total yield was 39 375mL bottles and 6 750ml bottles.

In order to determine the amount of cherry juice that I needed to use, I first used a priming calculator to figure out how much sugar I would need in grams.  Since the sugars in the cherry juice should be 100% fermentable, I could then figure out how many grams of sugar I would need from the juice.  From there, since the nutrition label would tell me how many ounces of juice I would need to use to reach the right number of grams of sugar.  Regrettably, I didn't write down the exact numbers.

However, as an example, assume that the priming calculator told me that for 4.75 gallons of beer, I would need 100 grams of sugar.  Then, I look to the nutrition label and see that one serving of cherry juice is 8 fluid ounces and each serving contains 20 grams of sugar.  That would then tell me that I would need 5 servings of juice to get to 100 grams of sugar.  Multiple 5 servings by the serving size of 8, and I'd be using 40 fluid ounces of juice in that scenario.

A picture and full tastings notes are below.  At this point, the beer is around 4.5 months old.

Appearance: Light mahogany color with an eggshell-white head that's fairly long-lasting. Plenty of visible active carbonation. Quite clear.

Nose: Bright, fresh tart cherry with backing earth and mild funk. Just a touch of background clove, maybe a hint of cinnamon. A bit of the biscuit character of the base beer as it warms.

Flavor: Cherry pie with a light acidity. Earthy with a bit of pie crust and biscuit. Slight spice and fall notes without being too far in any one direction.  A bit leafy through the finish.

Mouthfeel: Very dry finish, though a bit chewy initially. Acidity is above a tartness, but not at all to the level where I'd consider it too acidic or even distracting.  It very much reminds me of a tart cherry as opposed to any specific lactic or acetic character.  Moderate to high carbonation, just about where I want it.  The cherry character lingers through the finish.

Overall: I quite like this beer.  I like the base beer of Demeter Automne well enough, but this is much, much better.  It's amazing how much just enough cherry juice to bottle condition really changed this beer alongside the Citrine addition.  I would like to try again next year and also use some fresh-pressed juice from cider apples, but this one will definitely stay in the repertoire and hopefully be a future seasonal once we open Ambrosia.


  1. Was wanting to do this with a upcoming saison carbing to 3.0 volumes. Was wanting to use an all natural/organic/preservative free 100% pineapple juice I found.

    I'd need to use 56 oz, do you think this would be too overwhelming?

    1. For that much, it would probably depend on how well the pineapple pairs with the underlying beer, and how strong of a flavor you have with the base. I assume it goes well enough or you wouldn't be using it. In terms of intensity, I would blend the ratio of juice to beer that you'd need with the 56 oz of juice to see how that tastes, keeping in mind that the sweetness will be gone. If it's too strong, you could always partially condition with the pineapple juice, doing something like 28oz of juice and then table sugar for the remainder needed to get up to 3.0 volumes.