September 18, 2015

Swordfight 3 Spiced Belgian Blonde

For a long time craft beer poisoned the well of spicing beers by relegating their use largely to pumpkin beers and overly spiced Belgian beers. That period where so many domestic takes on Belgian styles tasted of coriander and more coriander almost drove Belgian styles right out of the craft market. Even during that first wave of saison popularity every saison was coriander galore. The era of coriander drove me away from spicing my own homebrewing but I've realized after drinking quite a few spiced beers over the past year or so that I really enjoy what spices bring to the table when done appropriately. I've been thinking a lot about brewing a non-saison Belgian beer with some moderate spicing and I need a big pitch of Belgian yeast for another beer later this years so the time is right to get a lighter Belgian beer brewed with spices.

For this beer I opted to assemble hops, lemon peel, coriander and star anise around WY1214 for a complex mix of fruit and phenolic spice. The late addition hops will be a gentle dose of Belma hops to lay a soft melon character that I hope will meld the flavors together. Coriander is a good base for spicing Belgian beers and contributes a citrus element that the trappist/abbey yeast lack. The lemon peel is a different approach to the usual orange peel. I want the lemon to brighten up the coriander with a small amount of peel. The star anise is a way to add complexity to the phenolic character and help balance against these other fruity spice additions. As a whole none of the spices should overwhelm the yeast character or the beer as a whole.

My goal for this beer is to create a beer that is easy to drink and versatile to add fruit or sour while also having enough complexity to drink on its own. I will bottle part of this batch straight while the rest will go on plums. I might sour the plum portion. 

Spiced Belgian Blonde

Batch size: 2 gallons
Est. ABV: 4.7%
Est. IBU: 25
Est. SRM: 3.4
Est. OG: 1.046
Est. FG: 1.010

Grain Bill

3 lb. 8 oz. US Pale malt (2 SRM)

Mash Schedule & Volumes

Mash in 4.38 qt at 167F for 75 minute 150F mash
Sparge 1.76 gal at 180F

Water Profile & Additions

Water profile modified Bru'n Water yellow malty

Water Profile

Ca: 50
Mg: 5
Na: 5
SO4: 55
Cl: 72
Bicarbonate: -92
Ph: 5.3

Mash Additions

Gypsum: 0.3g
Epsom salt: 0.2g
Canning salt: 0.1g
Calcium chloride: 0.6g
Lactic acid: 0.6ml

Sparge Additions

Gypsum: 0.4g
Epsom salt: 0.4g
Canning salt: 0.1g
Calcium chloride: 0.9g

Boil Schedule

60 minute boil

0.15 oz Belma [12.10%] at 60 min (18 IBU)
0.10 oz Belma [12.10%] at 20 min (7.3 IBU)
0.20 g star anise at 20 min
2 g lemon peel at flameout
1.6 g coriander seed at flameout
0.10 oz Belma [12.10%] at flameout

Fermentation Schedule

Fermented with WY1214 at 70ml slurry. Pitch at 64F and keep for twelve hours. Raise temperature on fridge to 72F let free rise to 72F. Let rise to 78F after four days of fermentation.

Brewday Notes

Brewed 9.17.15

Preboil volume: 2.6g
Preboil gravity: 1.038
Mash efficiency: 77%

Postboil volume: 2.2g
Postboil gravity: 1.046
Brewhouse efficiency: 80%

10.7.15: Checked FG at 1.009, pretty much dead on to the recipe. Initial tastes are a little strong on the star anise. Cold crashed for two days in preparation for bottling. Half will go on plums and the other half will be bottled straight.
September 4, 2015

Fake Fox Rye Saison Tasting Notes

I've had brewing a low ABV saison (often referred to as a table saison) on the to-brew list for a long time and this was my first swipe at one. Overall I'm pretty happy with the recipe for Fake Fox rye saison and it seems to be quite a crowd pleaser. So let's get into it.

Appearance: Pours a touch darker than pure-pilsner blonde. The head is snow white and rocky, leaving beyond moderate lacing while the head survives to the bottom of the glass. The beer initially poured quite clear but as the sediment was aroused into the beer on the second pour from the bomber it became slightly cloudy. Without the yeast kicked up it definitely did not suffer from any protein haze from 33% rye.

Aroma: The prominent aroma is rye, somewhere between rye bread and rye crackers. Subtle malt sweetness. The hops are tucked in but present with peach, apricot, cherry, melon, white grape and some pine. Yeast character mingles with the hops with pepper, lemon, orange and tropical fruit salad.

Flavor: Rye crackers covered in apricot preserves comes first. Citrus fruit, melon and pepper follow with a a graininess and finished with a touch of malt sweetness. Early tastes when the beer was first poured were on the sweeter side but as the beer warmed the hop bitterness appears and makes the fruit character more vibrant and moderates the rye. The finish develops some of the earthy, tea and pine notes from the rakau hops.

Mouthfeel: The risk with low ABV beers is avoiding a thin mouthfeel and this beer is miles off. The light malt bill plus the rye creates a nice mouthfeel that feels as dense as a beer twice its gravity but doesn't feel heavy on the tongue. There is a moment where the rye sits heavy on the tongue but it's wiped away by the carbonation and then you're left with just a little of that rye slickness in the finish.

Overall: I'm happy with this beer. It's pretty much on the mark for what I wanted. The initial draft of the recipe was heavy handed with hops but I dialed it back in the final recipe. I could go a touch heavier on the whirlpool hops. This is probably the first beer I've had that I liked with rakau hops and I think the aurora hops did a nice job of downplaying what I don't like about rakau and playing up what I do like. I would use rakau again but probably not in equal proportions. I might also play with mixing in cascade, which also works wonderfully with aurora, for a little grapefruit to punch up the citrus notes. If I were judging this beer as it is I'd probably go upper 30s and maybe low 40s but with a little cascade--maybe in a dry hop--I could easily make this a mid-40s in saison. At least as long as I picked up a judge with a love for rye.

What I probably like most about this beer is how well the rye works. I really enjoy rye in a beer but to be heavy handed with it you really have to be careful because the great mouthfeel and body on this beer easily turns into an unpleasant oil slick on the tongue. Even in big rye stouts going 30% rye is just too much.