June 21, 2014

Petrus Aged Pale Clone Update #5

I've mentioned this beer off and on as a problem child in my sour brewing. It wouldn't sour for the longest time and after doing the unthinkable--picking up the fermentor and shaking the shit out of it--I finally triggered the brett and bacteria to do their thing. This beer has been a problem child the whole time. This beer is now named Problem Child.

Problem Child is definitely an incredibly acetic beer. I tasted the beer and tried to identify it. I smelled it against some malt vinegar in the kitchen and it was very similar. I drank a little kombucha yesterday and the flavor and aroma was identical. It's not awful but the acidity is very sharp and the flavor is the same sort of funky earthy/vegetal/barnyard mix you find in kombucha. Not really something I want to drink an entire glass of by itself. I put roughly half a gallon on a half gallon of currant juice. I want to see if cutting it with fruit flavor makes it more enjoyable to drink. If so then I might split most of the batch up among different fruit. If it isn't great then I'll keep it around as an acid beer to mix into blends where the acidity isn't as bright as I would like. Not what I hoped for with this beer but sometimes with sour beer you just have to roll with what you get.
June 17, 2014

Spontaneous Fermentation Project Part 10 -- week 23 of fermentation

It's been a couple weeks since my last update on this project but I've observed a changed condition in the beer and that seemed like a good reason to make another update. In the last post I discussed the strange jellyfish-like growths floating on the surface, along with some colorful pictures. On the surface of the beer, which I apparently did not photograph, there were the whatever-they-are things floating on top and otherwise the surface had a slight sheen but was otherwise like any other beer.

However, this weekend I noticed patches of tiny bubbles forming on the surface. Some of these bubbles seem to be coming off the jellyfish but their presence next to the patches may be unrelated other than the floating blobs happened to be in the right place. Most of the swarms of bubbles are independent of the blobs. I suspect these bubbles might be caught under a translucent film. I'm not sure at this point whether the bubbles are merely offgassing CO2 as the temperature rises in the house with the progression of summer or something biological.

You can see the edge of a blob on the left and some of the clumps of small bubbles in the middle. If you look at the surface as a whole you can tell there is some kind of oily film on the surface.
June 14, 2014

I Hate This Place Kellerpils Recipe

Living in a town called Keller, I thought it made sense to try brewing a beer in the technique of the same name. "Keller" is German for "cellar" and refer to beers that have been lagered. However, the term is not generally used for modern lagers, rather it is generally used along with "zwickel" to identify beers that are unfiltered and unpasteurized, leaving behind a beer that has naturally clarified by lagering but not filtered or fined like modern lager styles. Kellerbier is generally served on a gravity pour from a lined barrel, not too different from English cask ale. It's fairly clear, since it undergoes some lagering, but lacks the clarity of filtered lagered. Like cask ale, it is low in carbonation because it is traditionally aged in unbunged casks so no carbonation forms. However, you may find some served with a cask-like level of carbonation, particularly those given the zwickel name.

Kellerbier has been adopted as a particular style of (flavor) hoppy and orange-ish German beer that is unfiltered; however, I am using the term "keller" in reference to the technique of creating a lager-like beer without filtration and served by cask. The base beer for this particular recipe is a bohemian pilsner rather than what has been deemed kellerbier as a specific style. It is an untraditional marriage of a non-German lager style with German verbiage. I am not creating a kellerbier, merely a bopils brewed and served using keller technique. This recipe is an adaptation of the kellerpils recipe from Victory in For the Love of Hops.

Although this beer was designed with the keller serving method in mind, it's a fairly straightforward pilsner recipe that could be adopted for bottling or kegging. It's a bohemian pilsner recipe at its heart but I've adopted a little German influence with some first wort hopping and a newer noble-like variety for the big hop finish at knockout. So it's also a little all-over-the-place. Maybe calling it "fairyly straightforward" is incorrect. However, this recipe is 100% pilsner malt. There are lots of pilsner recipes out there with munich malt, melanoidin malt and even old 1990s recipes with crystal malt out there. I prefer my pilsners a little drier and to develop those melanoidins through a decoction mash rather than specialty malt.

The danger in using straight pilsner malt is that the malt flavor in the beer can be very one note so I've combined two different pilsner malts from two different parts of the world. Here I have blended American and Belgian pils. I admit that's unconventional for a bopils. I wanted to get some floor malted pils and mix it with another variety but I couldn't find the floor malted in stock at the time I bought my grain for the year (it seems to come and go at various shops) and took what I could get. It will certainly be an interesting experiment.

Kellerbier is most commonly served out of a gravity keg but I am going to employ my free party pig, sans pressure pouch, to accomplish roughly the same technique that I have used to treat the party pig as a cask for English/American beer styles but leave out the regulator piece and carbonate it down to around one volume so it will pour easily. Plus, a little priming will help consume the oxygen trapped in the pig during packaging so that will help the beer stay fresh while it ages. I hope to be drinking this end of July or early August, right at the midpoint of our ridiculously hot summers.

Last note before getting into the recipe: I said above that I live in Keller, Texas. I hate living here and frequently tell people that. The name of the beer is meant to impugn the city's good name rather than honor it by brewing a beer in the technique of the name. Suck it, Keller. The long term plan is to move to Denver but financially we have to stay put for a while.

I Hate This Place Kellerpils Recipe

Batch size: 2.5 gallons
Est. IBU: 43.6
Est. SRM: 3.4
Est. OG: 1.046
Est. FG: 1.008
Est. ABV: 4.9%

The Grist

3 lb. 4 oz. Briess Pilsner malt (2 SRM)
1lb. Dingemans Pilsner malt (2 SRM)

The Mash

Decoction mash with RO water adjusted in Bru'n water to target Pilsen profile but acidified to target 5.2 mash ph.

Mash Schedule

Infuse 8.5 qt at 128.6F for 122F rest for 15 minutes
Decoct 2.95 qt and boil, return to mash for 148F rest for 30 minutes
Decoct 1.28 qt and boil, return to mash for 156F rest for 30 minutes

Mash Water: 8.50 qt

0.1g epsom salt
0.1g chalk
1.1 ml lactic acid

Sparge Water: 1.70 gal

0.1g epsom salt
0.1 calcium chloride
0.9 ml lactic acid

The Boil

90 minute boil

0.15 oz. Spalt [4.5%] first wort hop 20 minutes (3.8 IBU)
0.40 oz. Belma [12.10%] at 90 minutes (39.8 IBU)
1.00 oz. Aurora [8.25%] at flameout (0 IBU)
0.20 oz. Spalt [4.5%] at flameout (0 IBU)

The Fermentation

Pitch 1.2qt starter of Wyeast 2000 Budvar Lager
Ferment at 52F with diacetyl rest at 1.020 gravity
Lager 2-3 weeks
Re-yeast at packaging

The Brewday

Brewed 6/14/14

Had issues getting hitting the last rest after returning the final decoction. Had to pull a second decoction to raise temperature. Ended up mashing like 146F for 35 minutes, 152F for 10 minutes and 158F for 15 minutes. Should be ok.

First runnings: 1.053
Second runnings: 1.018
Pre-boil gravity: 1.035
Pre-boil volume: 4 gallons
Mash efficiency: 88%

Added 20 minutes to boil time to reduce volume to 3.5 volumes

Post-boil gravity: 1.048
Post-boil volume: 2.5 gallons
Efficiency 75.8%

Pitched yeast at 65F with fermentation chamber set to 52F.

6/20/14: Raised temperature to 55F

6/21/14: Gravity 1.014. Raised temperature to 59F for diacetyl rest.

6/30/14: Cooled to 37F to lager. Gravity dropped to 1.012. Tastes malty and grassy, slightly herbal hop flavor.

7/12/14: Bottled/casked to 2.0 volumes. FG: 1.012.
June 7, 2014

Mebier Tasting Notes

I brewed this adambier at the beginning of the year with the expectation that the beer would undergo some aging before cracking it open. I kept it in the fermentor for a couple months and then another three months in the bottle before busting them open. The recipe was loosely based on the early Hair of the Dog Adam recipe in Barleywine from Brewers Publications. Having tried HOTD's Adam since brewing this beer, it is not too far off the mark minus my version's lack of minerally peat smoke flavor that dominates HOTD Adam.

Appearance: Dark reddish brown with a light tan head. Clarity is good but might be a touch better if I had fined and/or lagered the beer. The head is tight and laces slightly.

Aroma: Caramel, toffee, apricot, grain, molasses and cherries dominate but the aroma has whiffs of other stone fruit and berries.

Flavor: Much of the same flavor as the aroma but the caramel and grain character is more prevalent. It is a touch sweet but not cloying. The beer is smooth and mellow, from aging, although there is a lot going on in the flavor.

Mouthfeel: Moderate body and extremely smooth. It is deceptively smooth for a bigger beer.

Overall: Overall really happy with the beer. I wish I had obtained better efficiency on this batch and I would have liked it to dry out a little further. I used S04, which is less attenuating than S05 or some of the other English strains, but that is something else I can tweak in a second rendition. I definitely want to make some minor tweaks to the recipe and rebrew but I will try it out with a strain with better attenuation. I'm not sure how much flavor the yeast drove into this batch so I may have to pick out an expressive but attenuative English strain to keep the flavor profile similar but with better attenuation. I like this beer enough that I am strongly considering it as a contender for a new blending/sour project going forward. 
June 1, 2014

Spontaneous Fermentation Project Part 9 -- week 21 of fermentation

It's been two and a half months since I've updated this project. Sour beers don't progress visibly like clean beers so I didn't want to show pictures of the same thing over and over again. I wanted to wait to post up some more pictures until I had something new to show from the last update. In the last update I discussed the weird yeast-colored pads floating on top. They are still hanging around the top of the beer but they are developing into jellyfish-like pads with the tendrils hanging down in the beer.

Weird, right? I'm not entirely sure what's going on here. I know there are some people on the interwebz who insist the tendrils mean mold and it's undrinkable but I don't think that is anything more than baseless speculation. I've continued to try to find somebody mentioning something similar but I've seen some non-beer fermentations that appear to be in the same ballpark (e.g. sherry flor) that makes me think I'm probably not going to die if I drink it.

I checked the ph with test strips and it came up in the low 4.something, which definitely suggests it is at least acidic enough that it shouldn't be risky to drink. I tasted a drop off of the test strip. Nothing too unusual in the flavor. Sweeter than I expected but tasted like a very boring wheat beer. No remarkable fermentation flavors. Definitely no perceivable acidity. (If I stop posting then everybody was wrong, something does grow in beer that can kill you.)

Overall I'm perplexed by what is going on. Aside from the mystery jellyfish, there is no pellicle although the surface has a slight oily appearance. The beer is still cloudy, which could be starch from the turbid mash or continued fermentation from something else (or both).