February 28, 2015

Spontaneous Fermentation Project Part 15 -- Thirteen Months

Did a more robust inspection of the beer this time in an effort to try to figure out what the heck is going on than my previous attempts. I guess I don't really know much more than I did before but I feel increasingly more confident that I should let the beer ride out and keep seeing what it turns into.

It's sitting at around 4.3-4.4 ph (I'm only using strips so I can't be more specific) and the gravity is hovering around 1.019. By those specs it could easily pass off as a generic extract kit wheat ale. However, the flavor is definitely not the generic kit beer. It doesn't even taste like beer anymore. The weird hefeweizen-like flavor is completely gone and now it just tastes like pear juice. Not like Duvel or a beer with pear. Just pear juice. It's about as sweet as pear juice with roughly the same mouthfeel. It's very unusual. The batch is definitely heading somewhere. I'm hopeful it's not heading towards five gallons of nail polish remover.

Visually the weird islands of yeast are still floating on the surface. The surface seems slightly oily but definitely not a pellicle. There are some clumps of tiny bubbles on the surface. They do not appear trapped under a pellicle-like cover, just too lazy to pop. The airlock has some bubbles built up as well. The combination of all these bubbles suggests there is some internal activity. It could be continued release of CO2 from the initial fermentation but the airlock on this beer is far more bubbly than any other sour beer I've seen. By holding an LED light up to the beer I could see that there is quite a bit of suspended material in the beer. Small random shapes about 1-2mm in diameter. They did not appear to be falling off the yeast islands or in any kind of movement, just suspended in the beer. Small bubbles passed by the lit area every few seconds. That might be normal behavior for the beer or the result of my jostling. Impossible to say without jostling the beer for a view.
February 25, 2015

Another Colorado Beercation 2015

I don't know how many people actually read these posts reviewing my beer travels. I assume not many do, which is alright with me. I mostly write these posts for my own purposes so I can go back and review beers and locations from prior trips. I was particularly lazy this trip about taking notes and pictures so this post will probably be of little interest to anybody else. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Crooked Stave (The Source)

Although I have visited Crooked Stave's production facility/tap room in the River North neighborhood of Denver, this was my first trip to the tap room at The Source outside of downtown where Crooked Stave has its coolship installed. The Source is an open concept food market where you can eat, drink and shop (for food items) around an open seating area. It's cool. Crooked Stave has a tap room with a solid set of taps and bottles available and Crooked Stave's bottle shop (The Perfect Pour) where I snagged a bottle of Fantome Boo at a fairly reasonable price.

The tap room has a similar set of beers as the original tap room where I was able to sample fantastic beers like Origins, Motif, Nightmare on Brett Street and a variant of Saison Vieille double dry hopped with moteuka hops. As much as I enjoyed the sour beers I was really in the mood for that saison and it was the winner for the day. I was short on time in Denver for the day so I didn't get to sample as much as I would have but cramming in as much as I do in my Colorado beer trips means great beer always gets left by the wayside.

River North Brewing

River North is a short skip away from The Source so my wife and I decided to stop by for their anniversary beer released that afternoon. My wife is a huge fan of River North so any visit to Denver requires a stop. I've talked about RiNo Brewing in past posts and I'll give out the short description that I am not always a fan of their base beers but I think they are making some very interesting barrel aged beers that are really well done.

This year's anniversary ale is a boozy 17.2% biere de garde. The alcohol was unmistakable but not burning or misplaced in the beer. Stonefruit, caramel, citrus and anise dominate the flavor profile. Although I enjoyed the flavor and found the alcohol integrated it is still a stout beverage and splitting a four ounce taster was the right amount for this beer.

River North also offered its 2013 and 2014 barrel aged Avarice, a slightly hoppy Belgian imperial stout. The hops, predictably, had mostly rolled off the 2013 variant and a spicy-licorice note appeared in both variants. It's definitely not the predictable BBA stout that every brewery seems to be unloading into the market these days.

Manitou Springs Brewing Co.

Manitou Springs is a small tourist town on the west side of Colorado Springs in the foothills of the Rockies. It was originally built as a tourist attraction around the still-running mineral springs and it has the feel of other mountain tourist towns. Located in the town's interior is Manitou Springs Brewing Company, which is more of a brewpub offering house beers with guest taps, wine and spirits.

The house beers span an interesting mix of styles and I believe what was on tap on our trip was their winter set of beers that included a steam beer, a wheat ale, spiced winter warmer, dubbel, ipa and oatmeal milk stout. The steam beer was the best of the bunch with very mixed opinions about the other beers around the table. None of the beers were terrible but several seemed to be recipes in the midst of getting dialed in rather than recipes prepared to be served next to their GABF medal winning BDSA. Maybe we just have difference preferences for some of these styles. The dubbel, for example, was made with a spicier yeast (tasted like the Achouffe strain) than the normal fruity abbey/trappist strains that proved not too popular at the table. I liked it but I think I was the only one of the group who appreciated the unusual direction.

Bristol Brewing Co.

If Trinity Brewing is Colorado Spring's best known brewery, with its unusual farmhouse beers and Office Space references, then Bristol is surely Colorado Spring's second best known brewery. Bristol opened its doors in 1994 during the 1990s wave of craft brewing and recently moved into the Ivywild School, an elementary school built in 1916 and closed in 2009. It was renovated into something similar to The Source with a brewery, restaurant, whiskey bar, bakery, butchery, music studios and a handful of other ongoings. It is an incredible building and the mix of old and new was very well done.

Bristol's range of beers focuses on a core set of what can fairly be considered craft beer's core styles that the industry built itself upon during the 1980s and 90s. Many of these styles, like scottish ale and amber ale, have fallen out of favor among new breweries and beer snobs but can still be readily found at many older craft breweries like Bristol. Bristol also mixed in several Belgian styles and various hoppy offerings. We ordered a flight of the standards plus the winter seasonal and the single hop Warrior IPA. Admittedly, we were not overly impressed by the beers although everybody thought the Warrior IPA was a great beer. None of the beers were bad but other than the Warrior IPA the other beers just didn't stand out well enough that I would make the drive from north Denver to Colorado Springs (past untold numbers of breweries) to get them.

Left Hand Brewing Co.

Left Hand is well known for their milk stout (and among the craft beer industry some grumblings about their trademark of the word "nitro") but isn't thought of as a brewery doing exciting things these days. Left Hand might not be making the most exotic beers but they quietly release a stream of excellent and interesting beers that are tough to find, such as the Ambidextrous series of beers and their cask offerings. I didn't have time for too much beer at Left Hand but my wife and I hit a sampler that included a session IPA out of a series Left Hand is running (Safety Round), a cask of milk stout with coffee and chai, their porter (Blackjack) casked with EKG hops, their coffee ale and a sour beer. The coffee ale is Denile Ale which is brewed for the Old Chicago chain. It's a solid blonde coffee ale and thankfully available in Dallas.

The most unusual and unexpected offering was the sour beer. I had no idea Left Hand was souring beer but like many of their limited offerings it is hard to find much information about them outside of the taproom or stumbling upon them at a bar. They call this WTF Sour Blend and like many of their limited releases there are a number of releases under this name that are numbered off sequentially. I'm not sure which release this is. It was a sour brown with a really interesting flavor profile. There was a strong strawberry and cranberry flavor to it. It reminded me of some of those Ocean Spray cranberry juice blends. However, the blend had a strong acetic acid character that I didn't like and it was a little thin for my preferences. I tried blending a little with the cask porter and found it adjusted the mouthfeel and acidity but lost that great fruit flavor. I don't know for sure what was in the blend but I feel confident in guessing their barleywine (Widdershins) was a significant part of the blend. I suspect with less confidence that their ESB (Sawtooth) was also present.

Oskar Blues

Oskar Blues is well known for its long running line of canned beers but they also have a series of beers that are brewed exclusively or semi-exclusively for their own restaurants and tasting room. It's easiest to find these beers at the tasting room in the production facility in Longmont and more rarely at other Oskar Blues locations. My wife and I made a quick run through the restaurant and tasting room in Longmont on our way out of the state and were able to capture a few of these beers. We found Pump Can, an unimpressive pumpkin ale and Velvet Elvis oatmeal stout, which was a little thin but had a nice flavor. We captured Shipwrecked Circus barleywine which I enjoyed quite a bit. It's a good mix of malt character and American hops. We also snagged some of the Pinner throwback IPA with pineapple on cask which was unusual. The pineapple worked with the more restrained IPA. We picked up a couple cans of other beers that we brought home.

Fort Collins Brewery

I know I've said it several times before but Fort Collins Brewery is a thoroughly underrated brewery. In my opinion they are putting out some of the best smoked beers in the country with a solid range of other beers. The food in the restaurant is excellent and it's an obligatory stop in Fort Collins (along with Funkwerks). This trip we captured the smoked marzen which is fantastic. FCB has also started doing variants on their Double Chocolate Stout and the cherry variant was my favorite (compared to coffee and barrel aged). They also released an Australian sparkling ale (Champagne of Craft) which was bright and dry.


Funkwerks is among my favorite breweries in Colorado and thankfully they have finally rolled into the north Texas market although we receive a small piece of the Funkwerks offerings and obviously none of the beers that never leave the taproom. I was sad to learn White (a wit fermented with saison yeast) had been relegated to a seasonal offering but thankfully it was on tap this trip so I enjoyed a big pour. Funkwerks also had Blanka, a double wit, which was interesting and full of spices but lacked the brightness I appreciate in White. I also enjoyed Crimson, a cherry-filled sour brown. I didn't find it quite as spectacular as Funkwerks' Oud Bruin but they were clear that this beer was aged for a short period of time while Oud Bruin was aged for considerably longer. We picked up a bottle of Crimson to age and see how it develops. Pale Ryder was a nice rye Belgian pale ale with a nice mix of fruity hops, yeast esters and rye's unmistakable peppery character. I also enjoyed the boozy Quad for all its expected quad flavors. Barrel-aged Deceit was also among my favorites. Funkwerks is aging this beer up to two years before blending it into packaging and the smooth aged flavor really pulls through.

So that was most of my great time in Colorado this month. We also hit Horse and Dragon in Fort Collins but we didn't stay long and I didn't drink too much because I was saving up for the other breweries. We also hit New Belgium but I forgot to take notes on what we drank and that was towards the end of a very long day of drinking. We also stopped by Mayor of Old Town in Fort Collins and tasted some beers from Zwei in Fort Collins who is making some very solid lagers. I also left out a stop in Denver but I want to hold off on talking about that place until the right time.
February 22, 2015

Worm Protein Imperial Gose with Tequila

I'm not a particularly big fan of the gose style. They either seem to be a sort of generic wheat beer or a salty berliner weisse. Neither particularly catches my fancy. I am brewing this beer for a friend as an opportunity to play around with some different techniques. She's a big fan of salt, sour beer and tequila so I am trying my hand at marrying these flavors together. Gose is the natural vessel because salt is a requisite ingredient. It's easy to sour a wheat beer and tequila barrels can work with sour beer so everything works together in this style.

You might be groaning at the idea of another one of these margarita-styled beers floating around. This isn't quite a margarita beer. There's no lime or other citrus fruit going into the beer so that's going to be a significant difference between this beer and a margarita. I'm definitely not trying to make something that emulates The Bruery's Roble Blanco, which is heavy on the lime. The concept for this beer is to balance salt, tequila and oak flavors against a tart but not full-on sour beer. I am using Himalayan pink salt for its floral flavors and sour worting half of the wort to develop some tartness. The purpose of souring the beer is to give the beer a drier, crisper finish that will enhance the floral and citrus notes from the pink salt and coriander with the tequila intermingled. Definitely not a margarita.

Initially I had in mind a beer with a significantly lower gravity than what this turned into but I accidentally threw in too much grain and turned a 5% beer into a 9% beer (not accounting for the souring reducing the ABV). Oops. Not a lot I can do about that after the fact.

FWIW...the name comes from a mezcal-fueled event at a Denver bar in which there may have been a lot of discussion about the health benefits of consuming the worm in a bottle of mezcal. It is, after all, a source of protein.

Worm Protein Sour Worted Imperial Gose with Tequila

Batch size: 1.1 gallon
Est. OG: 1.087
Est. FG: 1.018
Est. IBU: 18
Est. SRM: 7.3
Est. ABV: 9.2%

Grain Bill

2 lb. White wheat malt (2 SRM)
12 oz. German pilsner malt (2 SRM)
12 oz. Munich (9 SRM)

Water Supply

3.25 qt. mash water
1.1 gal. sparge water

Water profile designed in Bru'n Water for yellow balanced

Water Profile

Calcium 50ppm
Magnesium 7ppm
Sodium 5ppm
Sulfate 79ppm
Chloride 59ppm
Bicarbonate 0ppm

Mash Water

Gypsum 0.3g
Epsom salt 0.2g

Calcium Chloride 0.3g

Sparge Water

Gypsum 0.4g
Epsom salt 0.3g
Canning salt 0.1g
Calcium chloride 0.4g
Lactic acid 0.6ml

Mash & Sparge

Mash 3.25qt at 169F for 152F mash for 90 minutes
Sparge 1.1gal at 180F

Mash half grain and water. Sparge with half sparge volume. Bring runnings to boil and pitch grain. Raise to 105F for 1.5 days to sour. Mash remaining ingredients as usual.


90 minute boil. Combine mash and sour wort in boil.

0.1 oz Belma [12.10%] at 90 for 14.8 IBU
.7 g crushed Indian coriander at 0 minutes
4 g Himalayan pink salt at 0 minutes


Ferment with US-05 at 64F. Add 1/2 oz. oak-aged tequila after fermentation. Adjust with more if necessary. Bottle to 2.7 volumes.

Brew Notes

Sour mash on 12/26/14. Rest of brew day on 12/28/14.

Sour mash ph approximately 4 at time of boil.

Bottled on 1/17/15 with .80 oz. of priming sugar and 1.15 oz (by weight) of oak-soaked tequila. FG: 1.007. Approximately 10% ABV. Some funky character, slight acidity. Salty and citrusy. Interesting.
February 2, 2015

Deflated Balls Sour Brown

As a Jets fan I haven't had much to look forward to this NFL season but the whole Patriots deflategate issue has at least been satisfying to watch our hated rivals squirm. My opinion is that it's nearly impossible that Brady or Belichick or both did not know this was going on and did not have a hand in it. This really isn't the place to get into that debate (or about spygate or the illegal use of the substitution rule in the past couple games) but all the talk about deflated balls is amusing to say the least. I decided the term "deflated balls" would go nicely with all of my other inappropriate beer names, especially for a brown ale brewed on Super Bowl weekend.

This beer is a kitchen sink-type recipe with a lot of different ingredients thrown together out of piles of extra specialty grain I have left over. It's usually a little cheaper to buy by the pound instead of by the ounce so I try to buy by the pound and put together several recipes using the same specialty malts so I don't have too much left over. This recipe doesn't fit into any style. I suppose it's closest to a really busy dubbel grain bill but at roughly a fifth caramel malts it would be too sweet for a clean beer. By souring it I'm hoping to develop that sweet-sour combination typical of Flemish reds but without having to blend in a clean portion. I also find that brett works well with crystal malts. I'm fermenting this beer with a combination of dregs from my lambic solera and a bottle of Cascade something that I'll drink during the game. It should have some solid sourness and a bit of funk.

To be honest, I don't have a good sense of what will happen with this beer. It may turn into a glorious sour brown or it may end up too heavy on the crystal flavors to be a great beer on its own. I'm ok with whatever happens here. If it's good on its own then I'll be happy to bottle it by itself. However, if it's too sweet or lacking in acidity then I'll keep it around for blending to add sweetness and complexity to other sour or brett beers. I've wanted to build up some stock sour/brett beers for blending anyway. We'll see what happens.

Deflated Balls Sour Brown Recipe

Batch size: 1 gallon
Est. OG: 1.071
Est. FG: 1.020
Est. ABV: 6.7%
IBU: 12.8
SRM: 9.5

Grain Bill

73.0% 2 lbs. Pale malt (2.0 SRM)
13.8% 6 oz. Carahell (20 SRM)
6.60% 3 oz. Caramunich III (56 SRM)
6.60% 3 oz. Biscuit malt (23 SRM)

Mash & Sparge

Single infusion 90 minutes at 148F of 3.56 quarts at 159F
Batch sparge 2 gallons at 180F
Water adjuster to amber malty in Bru'n Water

Water Profile

ph: 5.3
Calcium: 53
Magnesium: 5
Sodium: 10
Sulfate: 55
Chloride: 64
Bicarbonate: 35

Mash Additions

Gypsum: 0.2g
Epsom salt: 0.2g
Canning salt: 0.1g
Calcium chloride: 0.3g
Chalk: 0.1g

Sparge Additions

Gypsum: 0.5g
Epsom salt: 0.4g
Canning salt: 0.2g
Calcium Chloride: 0.8g

Boil Schedule

60 minute boil

0.10 oz. Belma [12.10% AAU] at 60 minutes


Pitch dregs from 750ml Cascade and 750ml Lambic Solera Year One and let ferment at room temperature.

Brewday & Fermentation Notes

Brewed on 1/31/15.

First runnings: 1.086
Preboil volume: 2.5 gallons
Preboil gravity: 1.036
Mash efficiency: 91.6%
Postboil volume: 1.2
OG: 1.068
Efficiency: 83%

Ended up with way, way too much runnings. Accidentally left beersmith on large system profile so used way too much sparge water. Adjusted boil time to 2.5 hours to boil down runnings.

Also decided to coolship the beer by leaving the open kettle outside after knockout. Temperatures in the upper 40s with a slight breeze so it should cool slowly and pick up some playmates from the ambient environment. Cooled to 85F within 1.5 hours. Transferred to fermentor.

Pitched dregs from a bottle of Lambic Solera Year One and Cascade Figaro approximately 24 hours later.

2/8/15: Visible signs of fermentation showed up approximately four days later with incrementally more aggressive fermentation culminating in a vigorous fermentation on day seven that looked as healthy and active as any clean pitched beer, albeit several days late. Airlock activity dropped off on day eight. Healthy layer on yeast in the bottom. Possibly fermentation driven by Cascade's primary yeast or a particularly aggressive wild strain. Unlikely the five year old saccharomyces from the Lambic Solera was a meaningful participant in fermentation. Flavor is weird. Caramel and diacetyl are prominent. Sweet and oily. Musty.