August 22, 2014

Spontaneous Fermentation Project Part 11 -- week 30 of fermentation

Not much is new about this beer. Surprisingly it is still not showing any sign of pellicle although the floating islands of whatever have been on the move and shuffled around. The surface is increasingly developing an oily slickness. I forgot to take a picture. (Sorry)

What is new is that I broke down and pulled a sample to taste that was large enough to get a good test of the aroma and flavor. The PH using test strips looks to be in the low 4 to upper 3. It is very clear with some white specks floating in it. The aroma is phenolic and a little rubbery. Not really pleasant. On the other hand, the flavor isn't too bad. It has that wheat beer sweetness to it like a hefeweizen, which is unsurprising given the grain bill. There is definitely some fermentation flavor. There is a moderate amount of fruit. It is fruit salad-like, similar to a saison yeast. Banana, melon, citrus fruit, tropical fruit. Subtle clove, pepper and nutmeg. However, those flavors are mild like a saison strain diluted with a lot of neutral ale yeast. What is particular interesting is that it also has a lager yeast character to it as well. Taken as a whole, it might best be compared to a lager yeast fermented at warm temperatures. If it wasn't as sweet (and I didn't fear bottle bombs) I would think about bottling at least a potion of this beer as it is. Definitely not as bad as I had expected.
August 16, 2014

I Hate This Place Kellerpils Tasting Notes

I have been desperately waiting with both fear and anticipation to try out this kellerpils. Two months of waiting since the mid-June brewday to figure out whether my first attempt at one of the least forgiving beer styles would be a glorious accomplishment of a delicate and refreshing beer for the hot summer or an utter failure of diacetyl and fermentation mishaps that I would have to drink to punish myself for not treating the beer with the respect it deserves. I had a lot of fear about brewing a pilsner for my second lager attempt because it's such an unforgiving style, even if brewed in a keller format that is forgiving towards imperfect clarity and imperfect lagering. However, I'm happy to say it's a pretty glorious beer.

Appearance: Pours extremely foamy out of the cask, resulting in a big glass of perfect white foam that slowly unveils the predictable yellow beer. Once the beer settles it presents a straw yellow beer with a lasting white head. The head doesn't do a great job of creating lacing on the glass but it lasts down to the very last sip. Light carbonation creates a minimal amount of bubbles along the bottom and sides of the glass. Clarity is not great for a lager and moderate for an ale. This would be a huge flaw for a lager that should feature brilliant clarity but produced in the keller style it was not fully lagered, which leaves some of the powdery lager yeast in suspension. The aggressive early pours from the cask also kick up some of the yeast and add to the moderately cloudy appearance.

Aroma: The beer has a gentle mix of aromas but you can smell them coming out of the glass. Hop aroma hits you first. I opted not to go the traditional saaz hop route and it is obvious. There is the expected spicy/herbal Saaz-like aromas but they are wrapped up in Aurora's complex fruity and floral character. Lime, pineapple, mango and passionfruit appear but with greater restraint than the fruity flavors of American or southern hemisphere hops. The lime character is pleasantly milder than Styrian Celeia, which is all lime all the time. There is also a gentle floral aroma. A nice sort of American/Czech blend of character that reminds me of the IPLs floating around. Under the hops appears the grain with notes of straw, cracker, bread crust and a hint of white grape.

Flavor: While the aroma tells you the beer is going to punch you with hops, the grain hits you first. It is more grainy than the typical BoPils (due to using American pilsner malt) but not offensively so. Grain, hay, white bread, bread crust, cracker, slight caramel and toffee notes. Then comes the hops with a flavor that matches the aroma. As the beer warms the lime fades and the spicy notes become more evident. While the beer is smooth up front, as the hop flavor hits there is also a distinct bitterness that balances the beer and presents a lasting bitterness that lingers after swallowing. Slight fruity esters appear in the middle of the flavor expression. It's pleasantly gentle and helps smooth the transition from grain to hop flavors. It's not the smooth perfection of a lagered pilsner but the flavor has a nice rustic element to it that makes it obviously a BoPils but also obviously something different than the norm.

Mouthfeel: Light but not watery. Early into the pour the creamy head gives the beer more body and a very smooth, creamy feel. As the head reaches a more moderate tone the light carbonation becomes more obvious and it develops a more expected lager mouthfeel. Not quite as crisp as the usual pilsner but definitely not as heavy on the tongue as an ale. The lingering bitterness gives the feeling of cleansing the palette and preparing you for the next gulp.

Overall: Really happy with this beer. It's not a traditional BoPils by any means but it delivers exactly what it should. A crisp and light beer with a fairly robust flavor that makes it a great summer beer when I'm not in the mood for the usual saison or sour. It's exactly what I envisioned. The party pig cask packaging has turned out fantastic. It gives the beer a little more body and mellows the bitterness but did not give the beer the heaviness of cask ale. Good stuff.

I really like this beer and would be very happy to rebrew it exactly the same way. I do miss some of the saaz character in a BoPils and I would like to try both a more traditional hop profile and blending Aurora with Saaz to bring out more of the herbal side of hops. This beer would fail in competition as a BoPils with the undoubted comments that it should be lagered more and styled as an IPL but within the unbound terms of keller style it is justifiably labeled a BoPils with an unconventional hop choice. It's probably too hoppy for a BoPils but I'm not concerned with fitting into style guidelines as much as I am about making delicious beer. And I have.

 If I wanted to bottle this beer with the normal carbonation level I would reduce the IBUs slightly to account for the bitterness accentuation brought by a higher level of carbonation. However, I am so happy with the party pig (maybe even more than using it with ales) that other than bottling a bottle or two to share with people out of the house I don't see a reason not to use the party pig. I definitely see more kellerbier in my future.
August 6, 2014

Lambic Solera Update Nineteen - Forty-Two Months

It's been a while since I've updated about the solera. I didn't get to taste Year Three until the end of May and I just recently opened my second ever bottle of the gueuze so I wanted to wait to make an update until I could add those notes. The solera has lost the offensive trashy smell from early in the year and now has its typically delicious acidic and cherry aroma. It looks good and it is sporting its usual thin white pellicle.

Lambic Solera Year Three Tasting

If my math is correct, after the prior to two years of removal and replenishment of beer, the Year Three beer should be an average of about 1.7 years old. With annual pulls on the same schedule, the solera will top off around 1.9 years and should get into that range on the next pull. There is definitely an interesting mellowing character in this year's pull and its flavor says a lot about the gueuze's character because it's 60% of the gueuze blend.

Appearance: Low carbonation but not still. Light straw color with reasonable clarity. Slight haze.

Aroma: Lactic acidity, barnyard, honey, melon.

Flavor: Honey and funk, sort of like a bretted mead. There is acidity but it is more restrained than the last two years. Acidity becomes more noticeable in the bite as well as the flavor as it warms.

Mouthfeel: Prickly from the acid and moderate body. Almost a white wine mouthfeel but with some carbonation.

Overall: An interesting and unexpected result from the solera. I don't know where all the honey flavor came from. It wasn't quite this big on the honey note at bottling so it is something that is maturing in the beer. My speculation is that the saccharomyces I added with Year Three's replenishment was responsible for that turn. I wish there was more acidity in the beer to make it a little less mead-like but overall I'm happy with it.

Gueuze Tasting

If my math is still correct this blend has an average age of 2.6 years, which is pretty old for a gueuze blend. It is 50% Year Three, so it would be surprising if the Year Three honey character isn't predominant in the blend. The first tasting I made was a couple weeks after bottling and it was very similar to Year Three. I wanted to give it several months to meld together before retasting to see if it melds into something distinct from its individual components.

Appearance: Low carbonation. Slightly darker hay color than year three. Relatively clear with minimal haze.

Aroma: Barnyard funk, lemon rind, grapefruit, cherry, honey.

Flavor: Honey note has drifted off from the early tasting. Acidity is bright and punchy with a big lemony flavor. Brett funk wraps around it with subtle hints of other citrus fruit, cherries, leather, honey and hay. Slight herbal note.

Mouthfeel: Slightly watery, which is the only thing I dislike about this beer. It could have used a little more carbonation to give it some snap to compensate for the thin body but it is not so watery that it is unenjoyable. The acidity is very prickly.

Overall: Certainly a good blend. The flavors came through nicely once the beer had some time to come together in the bottle.  I feel good about the blend. It's certainly one of the best beers I have ever put together, if not the best. Better than the sum of its parts although the original Year One batch was not far off. A little different from other gueuze I have tried but honestly I would put it up against several commercial examples (maybe not against the well-known Belgian blenders).
August 3, 2014

Melting Point Imperial Saison Tasting Notes

When I went to Portland in April, shortly after bottling this saison, I had a suspicion that I should stick the bottles in my fermentation chamber while they carbonated in case something bad happened. It was a fortunate decision because one of the 22oz bottles blew up and the shrapnel seemed to have caused a couple other bottles to explode. I came home to a really nasty mess in the chamber. Fortunately most of the batch survived and I am both saddened with the loss of several bottles but pleased with the outcome of the survivors.

Appearance: Slightly hazy with a yellow color just slightly more coppery than goldenrod. Snow white, fluffy head lingers over the beer. Typical saison appearance.

Aroma: Gentle but present hop aroma with floral, citrus, spice, grass and a hint of pine. Clearly a noble hop-dominated profile rather than the more aggressive versions of these hop aromas produced by American hops. Surprisingly the cascade hops integrated very nicely and do not overwhelm the European hops. There is just a hint of something out of place in the mix of floral and citrus fruit. Hop aroma battles with the aroma from yeast compounds, bringing in lemon, pepper, clove, grapefruit, slight peach and pear notes. Combined the aroma is bold for a saison.

Flavor: Complex flavor profile with waves of flavor combinations. The hops strike first with a flavor profile very similar to the aroma with a mix of grainy pilsner flavor and a hint of honey. Then the yeast come through with the citrus fruit salad mix of fruit and a dose of pepper with some of the sweeter malt flavors. Then the hop bitterness becomes more noticeable and rounds out the experience with another dose of grainy pilsner, tart citrus fruit and herbal spice. There's a lot going on here and it's difficult to try to capture the entire experience in a single pass. As the beer warms some of the biscuit comes out and the fruit flavors from the esters become more distinct and easier to identify.

Mouthfeel: Definitely heavier on the tongue than my usual saisons but it is neither cloying nor what you would generally consider a heavy beer. It feels like a beer a little under its 1.010 FG but definitely not mistaken for a saison at 1.002. Carbonation is spritzy but not excessive. The finish is slightly astringent, as intended, which helps reset the palate for the big dose of flavor.

Overall: Pretty happy with this beer. I am still mixed on my thoughts about the Celeia hops and maybe that is something I would consider changing out in this beer. I am not a big fan of floral hops but I think they work well in blends. Maybe its the combination of lime and floral that I find weird and slightly out of place in the aroma. Aurora brings some of the same character but with more herbal spice than floral with the lime. I like them better so maybe that will be a change for the future. Otherwise the beer is exactly as I had hoped. It's hoppier than the Dupont Avec les Bon Voeux that inspired this beer but it's more appealing as a summer beer that way. A less hop-forward version would probably be a nice variation for winter months.