February 23, 2011

Brewing of an Oud Bruin Part 5 -- 1 month update

So it is officially one month in the fermenter. It looks, well, exactly like a pale age fermented for one month. Not terribly exciting. I took a whiff in the fermenter and although it smells somewhat tart and somewhat fruity, it definitely is not showing signs of brett -- yet.

I'm not concerned at this point, especially considering that the lambic solera has been fermenting for a little over two months and it is just now starting to change from a sour-tart smell to a pronounced brett smell. I expect the brett to begin to appear 2-3 months out as well. Considering this beer does not have lacto or pedio to continue souring the beer as the lambic does, I would expect brett to work more slowly to develop in a less sour environment.
February 16, 2011

Lambic Solera Update #2

This is the two month mark for the lambic solera. Looking back, it doesn't feel like it's been two months, but when I think about the past six weeks of school time feels like it is slowly creeping by and it could have been a long time ago. Ok, enough complaining about school. Back to beer.

So after about a month the lambic began to develop a white pellicle and very large bubbles. The bubbles have grown larger and more plentiful, but it hasn't turned into the sort of crazy pellicles some people seem to get. I'm not worried about the quality of the pellicle, I'm just glad it means things are progressing as they should. Unfortunately there is krausen residue on the sides of the bottle preventing me from getting a clean picture outside the carboy but I did snag a good picture from inside the opening.

There is definitely a great sour/tart aroma to it that is somewhat reminiscent of the Cuve Rene dregs I added. I'm sure it's a fairly common lambic smell coming off it though. The smell is what makes me most excited about getting to taste the beer in a year. When I see the carboy sitting in the bathroom where I do most of my fermentation, I don't think too much about it, but the smell really makes me anxious.

Looking back to my first batch of beer a little more than a year and a half ago, I remember how incredibly excited and anxious I was every day. It was almost painful to wait two weeks for fermentation and three weeks in the bottle. Now it's rare I bottle a beer after less than 3-4 weeks in the primary and drink it less than five weeks in the bottle. Now I'm going to wait over a year before bottling. It's crazy how that patience builds up once you start brewing a lot and appreciate that patience and time produce much better beers.

Honestly I think the hardest thing will be once I bottle the beer I will want to drink it all very quickly, but then I would be stuck waiting another year for bottling. I'll pull four gallons, which sounds like a lot when you are talking 30-40 12oz. bottles in a four gallon batch but when you're brewing something exceptional you want to share it and when you have to bottle in large champagne bottles you have very few bottles and a very high desire to open them you can go through it very quickly. It's a good thing that my fiance and I enjoy the Lindeman's products because it is an easily way to obtain the 330ml champagne bottles that will help spread out the lambic into more bottles. (I really like the faro and gueuze but I am not beyond enjoying some of the fruit lambics for what they are.)

I am still contemplating how I will split up this first batch. My current thought is two gallons on cherries for an additional 4-6 months of aging, one gallon backsweetened with splenda to make faro, and one gallon straight lambic, but carbonated. (Unblended lambic is generally served uncarbonated, but it's my homebrew and I'll make it how I want!) That will give me three different lambic flavors. The next year I will probably try raspberries and depending upon how I like the faro and straight lambic I may do one or both.

I fear that I will like this beer so much that I will want to take out five gallons instead of four. Although it isn't the worst thing imaginable, it will reduce the average age of beer each year from 1.33 years to about 1.10 years. I don't know how much of a change that will make but I think the more age I can keep in the solera the better it is for flavor. Ideally when being a lawyer starts to pay off (once the student loans are paid off) I would like to move into a larger home where I will have more room for fermentation (perhaps a fermentation cellar???) where I can have multiple soleras going and I can pull beer every 18-24 months and really get some age and a lot of lambic flowing.
February 7, 2011

Hot Carl Update

I broke out another bottle of Hot Carl over the weekend. "Hot Carl" is the name of my wild yeast I captured off a peach I bought at a grocery store. I also named the test batch I made with it the same thing. (For a full review, take a look at this thread.) As I mentioned in the end of that thread, I brewed the beer in October, bottled for a full month through November and tasted it in early December. At the time it was a big glass of diacetyl. It tasted like butterscotch through and through. Pretty foul. I intended to open another bottle in January but I kept forgetting about it in the fridge.

This was like a completely different beer. Obviously there was some refermentation in the bottle. When I cracked it open the beer started to foam up very quickly. I poured it into a pint glass and smelled a dry, slightly fruity smell. The taste was incredibly different. There was still some diacetyl flavor but it has been replaced by the unmistakable flavor of brett. It tasted a lot like Orval, almost like an Orval that had not been dry hopped but with a lot of diacetyl. I think after a few more weeks the diacetyl should be mostly removed and the brett characteristics should shine through.

The bad news is that I will have to consume the bottles fairly quickly to avoid bottle bombs but I really wanted to hold off and drink the bottles one per month to see if the diacetyl went away. The good news is that the diacetyl does go away and I have a beer that develops big brett character after a handful of months.

I will definitely make another batch of this beer. Next time I will leave it in the fermenter for six months or more to allow the brett to stabilize before bottling. I may decide to brew it as a saison instead. I also contemplated other uses for this wild blend. Since the brett character becomes so dominant I may try making another fake oud bruin in the same way I made the current batch I am working on but take the one gallon portion, sour mash it and then add Hot Carl so it gets the sour and brett notes. I may try doing the same thing for a fake lambic. I will consider which path to take after my current oud bruin project (take a look at the oud bruin project in the menu to the right) is complete.
February 2, 2011

Some updates

Not too much new brewing going on thanks to my incredibly busy schedule this year semester. I am taking 15 hours of law school fun plus completing some volunteer work for a legal services organization, writing a lengthy article for a competition, on the hunt for summer internships and adding a slight hint of assistance planning our May wedding. Thanks to the incredible storm cancelling three days of class I am now ahead on studying for class and without assignment for my volunteer work. I took the opportunity to brew up a five gallon Left Hand Milk Stout clone and a one gallon batch of a scotch ale recipe I have been working on. The good news is that the cold weather is keeping my dining room in the low to mid 60s which is great for fermentation.

I need to sit down and write up an update on the lambic solera and take some pictures because it is developing a nice pellicle. I should probably knock that out this week.

I did break out two beers for their first tasting recently. First is the brown ale from the grain roasting experiment. Delicious! It is dark with great head retention and a nice complex flavor for a session beer. It has a bit of an acrid finish due to going overboard on the black malt and over-roasting it. I bottled the honey version of that recipe this week so hopefully it will be even better.

Second is the fake kriek that I did with the sour mash. In spite of getting a solid lacto infection it turned out really delicious. It is tart with a small cherry flavor. It isn't complex and it is missing the brett funk but otherwise it is crisp and refreshing. My fiance said it reminded her of the Cantillon kriek, which is a huge compliment. I doubt it is that good (I have yet to try Cantillon myself) but to be even in the ballpark is a real positive. I would be happy to try that recipe again, but I would go bigger on the sour mash, avoid the infection and either go fresh cherries or cherry juice. The canned cherries just didn't add a lot.

This year I have decided to try growing hops. Hops are primarily work during the summer, which will be easier on my schedule since I will not be taking summer classes this year. One difficulty I will face is that hops like to grow very tall but I will be limited to eight feet due to the HOA limitations at my house. I intend to grow Mt. Hood, Spalt and Kent Goldings. I will receive my rhizomes in early March and intend to get it all set up over spring break.

I have several small batches I intend to brew in the next couple of months because I need to refresh several of my yeast strains and I have several new recipes to get it going, including a dunkelweizen, dunkel wheat wine, black ale and a dark saison that will get broken out next winter.