Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mystery Beer

Not sure what to brew, I just went to my LHBS yesterday and began collecting ingredients. This is what I came home with:

4lbs Dark Wheat malt
2 lbs floor malted Bohemian Pils
2 lbs US 6 row
1.5 lbs Belgian Pale Malt
.5 lbs Belgian Aromatic

1 oz Spalt
1 oz Kent Goldings
1 oz Fuggles
1 oz Hallertau

I'll add some sugar in the boil and ferment with Wyeast 3942 saved from the last fermentation.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Barley Wine and Bitter

Parti-gyled from 14.5 lbs of malt. The strong one will be a malt worms' delight as it is a mix of Maris Otter and Briess Ashburne Mild Malt. A starting gravity of 1.103 will make for plenty of alcohol for the coming winter. On the other, we a nicely balanced bitter at 1.030. Kent Goldings and Fuggle whole leafs all around.

This has been a long brew session for me. usually I can crank out my saison in 5-6 hours. Already 9 hours in today and the bitter still has over a half hour to boil.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Les Framboises du Mal: Vintage 2010

The fresh one. Fruity and juicy with enough acidity and funk to balance things out. Darker than previous years as some of the raspberries were actually blackberries.

Still not quite in condition but quite enjoyable.

Les Framboises du Mal: Vintage 2009

This one still tastes like raspberries, but not as cloyingly as it did a year ago. Still very sour but seems to be getting more funky with time.

What to do with the remaining bottles? They should continue to age well but the raspberry flavor will fade. With this year's batch ready that should serve as a fruity sour beer and I could keep the 2009 around to let it's funk progress and do its thang.

Les Framboises du Mal: Vintage 2008

2 years in and no more raspberries. The funk has won. Le goût d'Orval! Mais rouge.

That was the last bottle. Makes me want to brew a batch of beer, add Orval dregs in secondary. Then stick it in the basement and forget about it for several years.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

October Brewing

The Boston Public Library's flickr stream has several poster's from old Boston breweries. This P.B. Ale has to be my favorite, and not only because it fits the season. Its just pretty and makes me wish I could try a bottle. Now off to look for a recipe.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saison avec mes amis.

If you read these modest scribblings, I think I can assume that you know the pleasure of sitting down and relaxing with a beer after a long brew day. I hope you are also familiar with the pleasure of teaching friends to brew. If not, please acquaint yourself with that feeling.

The brew was my tried and true saison recipe as I did not want any surprises while teaching the basic process. My friends arrived right on time for mash in and everything proceeded smoothly with good conversation and a couple beers tasted.

I'd post a picture or write some more, but I'm tired and there's beer and football to consume.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rhubarb Sour

Here it is, the crazy rhubarb sour beer.

Hazy burnished orange. The rhubarb added some color but not the vibrant red of its ripe stalks. Some small chunks of rhubarb appear to have made it through the sieve at bottling and float suspended in the beer but aren't perceptible when drinking. The aroma is mostly lactic sourness and a bretty funk with a slight earthy vegetal note in the background. The flavor starts off with a sharp, austere acidity and morphs into a rounded earthy, herbal bitterness. Not hop bitterness, but, well, rhubarb bitterness. The finish is bone dry, but not harsh despite the acidity and slight bitterness. Still, this is not a beer for the non-lambic lover.

I'm pleased with the rhubarb sour overall. I think one gallon was about the right batch size. Maybe I'll make more someday if I can get more rhubarb. The 11 bottles won't last long as everyone I told about this has been pestering me to try it for the past few months. I know which of them will be agog over it and which will just gag.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tasting: Foreign Stout

Take a gallon of Double Stout, blend with a bit of funky-sour beer and age for nine months.

All the 90% dark chocolate, espresso and peaty smoke is still there. Time and funk has brought out faint cherries, port and leather notes. The rough edges have been smoothed out but the beer still finishes dry with a nice roasted bitterness. That dry finish makes it suitable for a hot summer evening. This will likely continue to improve until I can no longer resist those last few bottles.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tasting: Summer Saison

I got in two saisons before getting fed up with the heat this summer. Given a couple slight changes I thought it prudent to drink aside each other so the effect of those changes stick out.

Another out of stock yeast at the LHBS again forced an on the fly substitution. This time I had to use the notoriously slow to finish Wyeast 3724 (DuPont) in place of the well-behaved 3711 French Saison. For the second batch I made sure to buy a package of 3711 in advance AND make a from-the-bottle starter of Dupont yeast (which I've never had trouble with) for a mixed ferment. Now on with the comparison...

As the summer tempuratures rose, so did my impatience with this yeast and I bottled before terminal gravity was reach. I paid the price of a couple cracked bottles and excessive carbonation. The taste is good though. Grassy hops, pepper and late summer fruit (apples, plums and overripe peach) dominate the aroma. The taste has a nice rusticity from the dried out base malts (Belgian pale, US pale, and Vienna) and noble hops (excepting the Styrian Goldings) used for all additions. A nice refreshing summer beer.

For the summer's second batch of saison I changed the late additions to just Saaz (an ounce each at 15 minutes and knockout). The blend of Saaz, Hallertau, and S. Goldings produces a nice flavor but I wanted to see if I could get away with something simpler. This one attenuated to 1.001 in a reasonable amount of time, so no over-carbonation problem. I'm not sure this one is quite ready yet as it has a raw yeasty smell that I've found with bottles that have not undergone enough conditioning time. There is a nice saison there, but I will have to show some patience for it to shine.

Next tasting: Rhubarb Sour.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tasting: Les Fleurs du Mal 2010

The beginning of August marks the start of my annual month long sabbatical from brewing. Only beers not in bottles are the sours, which calmly do their thing in the corner just passing the time until it's their turn. It is too hot and humid for brewing to be any fun. And there is fun to be had out of doors. But this is a good month to drink some beer and write, neglecting this blog a little less. First up in the August tasting notes series is Les Fleurs du Mal.

This one presented a bit of a challenge when I went to buy ingredients at the LHBS. With Wyeast 3942 (De Dolle) out of stock, I was left scratching my head for a substitute. 3864 (Unibroue) seemed a reasonable substitute. No Amarillo whole leaf hops also forced a choice between Cascade leafs and Amarillo pellets for dry hopping. I chose the pellets and I'm not sure it was the best choice as they were a pain to separate from the beer and they seemed to affect the flavor.

OG: 1.070
FG: 1.010
ABV: 7.9% ABV

The medium amber color is decidedly darker than previous years. I account for this with unexpected efficient and color extraction as the grist did not change much. Just two months after bottling, the citrusy aroma of the hops is fading. The Amarillo pellets for dry-hopping seemed to give a harsh edge to the flavor and aroma that I've not found in my whole leaf dry-hopped beers. The fading hops have struck a nice balance with the yeast and malt. There are fresh pears and apples. Maybe a bit of mango? A bit a honey sweet malt gives way to a bone dry finish accented by just enough bitterness.

I had not sat down and focused on the flavor of this brew but I'm glad I did. Even with the on-the-fly changes I am pleased with how this turned out. I doubt I will let more than a bottle or two get much older as previous batches turned too sweet, almost syrupy, when the hops faded.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Let There Be Funk

George Clinton once said "If the funk was going to happen, I wanted to be there." He best get to my apartment to encourage this year's Les Framboises du Mal, not that it needed any, just look at that pellicle.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fooling Around

A batch of saison is brewing. But the foolishness stems from the combination of a gallon of pale sour beer and a pound of rhubarb.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Tasting: La Fontaine du Sang

After a frustrating bottling session (never using pellet hops for dry-hopping ever again) I am ready to sit down and drink a couple strong, tasty beers. So here is a comparison of the original bottling of La Fontaine du Sang and the most recent from a few weeks ago.

Original: Bottled September 19, 2009
Dark cherry color. Big cherry smell. Tart cherry taste. There is more though, mostly funky aromas and flavors. Mostly the same since it was bottled, just a bit less sweet than I remember. I wonder if the wine yeast I used at bottling killed off the Sacc. and Brett?

Fresh: Bottled May 14, 2010
This batch is a blend of a pull off the solera and fresh, non-soured beer. The solera was refilled with the fresh beer that did not go into the bottle. Straight solera beer could have stood on its own and would have been fantastic. But I wanted something with a sweet-sour balance for summer slurping.

The color is nearly the same for this version. The aroma has more barnyard funk and earthiness aside lemony acidity. The cherries are there, but faintly in the background. The taste is similarly skewed towards funk more than acidity. But this is actually drier than the first and makes the light sourness more enjoyable. I did not bother with wine yeast to condition this batch so it will likely be more interesting to age.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brew Updates

April and May have been slow months for brewing and beer drinking in general. The beers I have brewed in Springs past were all I could find time for. Les Fleurs du Mal just received an ounce of Amarillo dry hops. Les Framboises du Mal is in primary fermentation and should be ready for raspberry additions when the early summer fruit season begins. Yay. A sharp jump in efficiency will result in both beers being stronger than past versions, both creeping towards 8% ABV.

I blended and bottled La Fontaine du Sang a week ago. A tasting and comparison to the previous bottling will be coming shortly.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Solera: La Fontaine du Sang

In the brewpot right now. The plan is to ferment clean then blend with a pull off the solera. The pre-hopped wort is sweet and almondy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

From the Cellar:* Smuttynose Farmhouse Ale

After absolutely adoring this one on tap last summer, I went out and bought several bottles (for a reasonable price as Smutty tends to be). Unfortunately, the bottled product did notmatch what was on tap. It had an overpowering fruity sweet - syrup that stuck out. Things have changed.

It certainly looks the part of a saison, orange-straw under a big white cap of foam. The aroma got lotsa fruit: bosch pear, a hint of peach, and fragrant apples (Macoun or Roxbury Russett). Like a farmstand in late August. There's also a straw and earthy smell, presumably hops, that hints at balance. The sweetness has left, thankfully, leaving a refreshing dryness along with all that fruit. Moreish. Indeed I will buy more next summer and not open any for at least six months.

*A box in the back of the pantry

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tasting: Tweaked Saison

It's always fun to split a batch at some point in the brewing process then compare the final results. In the case of this beer I split the Tweaked Saison at bottling. Half plain and half with 1.5 gallons of some low gravity beer that has been aging, getting funky and sour.

Pours a very light copper with big, slightly off-white foam. The beer is almost as clear as if I had proper wort chiller. Aroma from the yeast is melons and clove that mingle with the oranges and grass of noble hops. The mouthfeel is soft with a very fine carbonation. Appropriately thing for a beer that is somewhere between a Saison and a Belgian pale ale. The taste is a lovely balance of sweet malt, fruity yeast, and refined bitterness, which lingers unobtrusively. I do prefer the saison made with Dupont yeast but wouldn't mind this beer any time.

The bugs from the funky brew seems to have done some work and created higher carbonation. That extra CO2 caused the yeast to get stirred up when opened and poured so it ended up cloudy in the glass. Not a problem for me though. The fine hop aroma plays second fiddle to the funk. Yogurt and tropical fruit, mango mostly. There is also the smell and taste of Flemish sour beers that I'm not sure what to call it. There is certainly a slight acetic component, albeit subdued, thankfully. The taste lacks the hops bitterness from the plain portion. Replaced by bit of tartness that doesn't overpower allows for savoring of the fruitiness and funk from each part of the blend. This turned out about as good as I could have hoped for.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Saison, Tweaked

I made a few tweaks to my saison recipe to investigate how they will affect the beer. The main change was using De Dolle yeast in place of Dupont yeast. Both produce a lovely beer but there I have no way of getting the Dupont yeast warm enough to finish in the dead of winter. I also plan on blending at least some of this batch with a low gravity sour to make it a bit ghoulish. The other minor changes were the addition of a rest at 136 F and adding a third of the hops as a First Wort addition.

Fermentation started explosively, blowing the lid off the fermentor twice within 12 hours of pitching.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tasting: Belgian Chocolate

The brown liquid out of the bottle
finds itself much darker in a monk's goblet
and pushes up a toffee foam,
invites a whiff.
and pepper.

A sip through the lips,
plums and blackberries
play on the tongue.
Dry and bitter,
the soft brew slides down
into a happy belly.