December 3, 2012

Random Rambling about 2013

I've been trying to keep a steady pace of posting twice a week on Monday/Tuesday and Thursday and one of the ways I get that done is to write drafts on the other days of the week when I have the free time and inspiration. This post was actually written late Saturday night, while I was being supercool and studying for finals. Did I mention I'm also drinking a little beer? This brief study break will be the most exciting part of my night. I know this is not the most exciting post. I have a couple finals early next week so I don't have time to whip out anything more in depth. I have a lot of beer stuff going on the second half of December so I promise better content soon.

I'm currently drinking a 750ml of the blended brett brown beer that started off as some half-ass idea of an oud bruin. I didn't do a great job of stabilizing the brett portion so over time it has chewed up some of the sugars in the clean portion and made some overcarbed bottles. Fortunately the beer is still pretty good. I brewed the brett portion back in January 2011 and finally blended early June 2011 after I came back from my honeymoon. For a while the beer was really funky. My younger brother said it tasted like how the family dog smells. He wasn't entirely wrong. It was pretty funky, just like the dog. About six months ago I opened a bottle and it was in a weird funky-cherry place. It wasn't terrible but didn't taste "complete" which is a problem for a lot of brett beers when they go through evolutions of change in the bottle. Now the beer has risen to a spectacular place. It's full of funky cherry like a lambic but with the malty character of an oud bruin and no sourness. It's quite tasty. Sadly, while this beer is rocketing up towards deliciousness the dog's health is declining fiercely. It's too bad. She used to be a really entertaining and playful dog. Now she looks like life kinda sucks but she's trying to get better. She's still awesome in my book. So Bitey, this awesome beer deserves your name even if it doesn't taste like you any more.

I posted here about my end of 2012 and 2013 brewing plans. I intend to keep those plans -- at least loosely on that schedule -- but I already have some additions I'd like to add. Obviously I need to do some more work on my yeast project but that's not really making drinkable beer as much as just trying to catalog what I have. I picked up some DME so I can brew some really simple beer and reduce the amount of trub I ended up with in the first round. I have also been playing with the idea of brewing a barleywine and along with it trying another partigyle brew. I am tinkering with a one gallon barleywine/two gallon dark mild partigyle split. The recipe as it is now is mostly about trying to use up odd ounces of different grains I have in my fridge that are 1-2 years old and just need to get used. The mild will go into the party pig as a test run on the cask idea  I wrote about back in September. I planned to try out an ESB for my after-bar exam party in the party pig but I'm thinking a house full of people is the wrong time to see if an experiment is a good idea.

So I'd like to brew the partigyle in January so I'll have time to drink all the mild (a 3% beer is very easy to put down) and fill the ESB and condition it before the party. The problem is that the lambic solera is going to suck up a lot of my gallon fermentors in a couple weeks. Currently I have two committed to the stout-black sour blend and one free gallon fermentor (I will write about this separately next week). I need all three to complete the blending process, which I will do the week after next, but two will go right into service on the lambic the same week. One will house a gallon of lambic for next year's gueuze blending. One gallon is getting blackberries for six or so months. That leaves one fermentor available for all my gallon batches. The barleywine will need to age for many months and I'd like to hit it with oak and some dry hops before bottling, so that will require keeping it in a fermentor so it will be close to ready to drink after bottling so the dry hops can be enjoyed. I'm trying to use up another five liters of jug wine as I can but that's a lot of wine to put into food. So I need another free fermentor available for other beers. The partigyle would use both a jug, for the barleywine, and my bucket fermentor, for the mild. The only fermentor left would be a corny keg and it's really hard to rack out a small batch from a corny keg. I've tried.

Losing the extra gallon fermentor would set me back on the coffee oatmeal stout and losing the bucket will interrupt current plans for brewing the black IPA and American wheat. We are thinking about pushing the party back to April when it will be warm enough to enjoy the outdoors so I may delay the American wheat. That's something we just started discussing. It probably would be helpful to brew a little less while studying for the bar but I don't want to end up not brewing all the beer I would like next year. We'll see.

The next big thing on the horizon is the third brew on my lambic solera. It's going to be a massive brew day. My wife will be off of work to help out, which is good because there is going to be a massive amount of work involved. Of course I will be brewing the new three gallon batch, complete with a triple decoction mash, which will take several hours and the decoction mash will be a busy process by itself. I'm also draining the entire fermentor so I can empty the huge amount of trub (it's 3-4 inches tall) and give the fermentor a good cleaning out. I'm losing a lot of room in the fermentor to trub and I don't know if it will support another year of trub. Plus, after a couple of years it's about time when autolysis might start to be a real concern, especially for the first year's dead yeast trapped under all that trub. I will then siphon off two gallons into the two gallon fermenters and bottle a third gallon. Then sanitize the solera fermentor, add the remaining beer back in and add the fresh wort. I'm also going to give it a helping hand of some fresh saccharomyces. I'm going to hit it with some of the South Austin BGSA yeast I have just to make sure it gets healthy fermentation and the excellent ester profile from that yeast will help add nice flavors for brett to manipulate over the years.

When I first brewed the lambic I added a small amount of oak chips I boiled forever and soaked in some chardonnay. I know, oak flavor is not meant for lambic. I agree. The oak chips were devoid of oak flavor. I added them to give brett another source of food and try to leach out some of those tannins into the beer. Since I've been happy with my lambics so far I felt like the oak was at a minimum doing no harm and at a maximum adding complexity, so I decided I should add more after recleaning. This time I decided to go a little unconventional and after boiling out a lot of the color and flavor from the oak chips I added it to some Canadian whisky.

Okay, if you punched yourself in the face after reading that know there was a deliberate reason. Canadian whisky, unlike Scotch or Bourbon, is a milder blended whisky. I think adding scotch to beer is dumb because you'll miss all the subtle scotch flavors under the beer. Bourbon is simply too sweet to make sense. American rye whisky, like Wild Turkey, would be too much rye character. It's not as smooth as a blended scotch. It often has herbal and smoky notes from the rye but not as much rye character as an American rye whisky. My goal is to really use the whisky as a device to extract more color and flavor out of the oak and impart just a little extra something for brett to play with. I don't expect to taste any of the oak or whisky in the final product. I thought it would be an interesting experiment and I found two 1.5 liter bottles of the stuff in my liquor cabinet so I wouldn't miss a few ounces in the service of lambic.

Who knows, maybe brett and Canadian whisky is an unknown combination of awesome. I plan on extracting the chips for the lambic. The remaining whisky will either go down my gullet or if it tastes pretty good it might go into another homebrew. Maybe a stout. Anyway, I'll write more about the lambic rebrew and the Canadian whisky-oak chips later.


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