Tuesday, September 30, 2014

#33 Wild Pear-Apple Cider

Recipe     -     Tasting

This fall has been a little hectic trying to take advantage of all the freshest local ingredients.  Blackberries, hops, and now apples have all ripened in quick succession, and friends have been nice enough to hook me up with an ample supply of each.  This time Jonny Bamboo from Martin Family Orchard hooked me up with a delicious pear/apple cider blend.

The juice is Fuji apple and D'Anjou pear cider from the towns of Cashmere and Orondo in central Washington; I don't know the exact ratio but it tastes fantastic raw.  Both fruits are sweet varieties with little acidity or tannins compared to historic cider varieties.  Jonny said the juice was UV treated, but (not unexpectedly) they were naturally fermenting anyway.  From what little I've read, it's very difficult to sterilize a liquid with UV light, so those microorganisms that survive make a resurgence in the absence of competition.  The wild yeast threw up a nice little froth on the top of the cider, and the bubbling carbonation threatened to explode the jugs all over the back of my car on the way home, but I measured the SG at 1.049 so they can't have gotten too far.

In order to check this activity, I racked the individual jugs into two larger carboys--with most of a gallon held out as a control trial--leaving the yeast and sediment behind.  I then dosed both carboys with Campden tablets (potassium metabisulfite).  Sulfite works by increasing the osmotic pressure in the cells of microorganisms in the must, forcing them to exhaust their energy reserves to the point of death or at least hibernation.  After 24 hrs, the sulfite bubbles away and a preferred yeast culture can be pitched with their competition already exhausted.  (See this page for more info on sulfite.)  Since the yeast already have a healthy start on fermentation, I doubt I will stop them in their tracks but the sulfite is most effective on non-fermenting organisms which will eliminate the bacteria responsible for spoilage.  This should give me time to introduce my own yeasts for a good mixed fermentation.

In one carboy I plan to pitch some Nottingham dry yeast like I used in my dry cider last year, as I think the added esters will better fit the wild yeast and smooth out any rough edges.  In the other batch I want to really embrace the wild yeast, but I still want to make sure it's palateable, so I'm culturing up a menagerie of dregs from Spanish cider (sidra natural asturiana).

Cidermaking has been popular in northern Spain for more than two thousand years, especially in Asturias.  The ancient native apple varieties are still fermented naturally, with just the yeast of the orchard and the press.  Spanish cider tends to be slightly acidic and very dry, while the wild yeast give each brand its own distinct funk.  The yeast are never filtered out, so the bottom each bottle is a treasure trove for my purposes.

I mixed up a yeast starter by boiling one quart of water with a quarter pound of corn sugar (no malt extract, gotta keep it gluten free!) and half a teaspoon of yeast nutrient.  As I drink the ciders, I will pour the dregs into the starter in the hope that the yeast wake when introduced to a more hospitable environment.  Yes, the first strains will get a head start so it's not well controlled, but what part of this experiment is?  Here are the cider brands and their pitch date:

9/30 - Fanjul
10/1 - Val d'Ornón
10/2 - Riestra

10/3/14:  Went to pitch the yeast, but it looks like it won't make a difference.  The wild yeast has really gone to town, plowing right through the Campden tablets and low temperature (56F).   It's bubbling pretty aggressively, and I've already had some serious blowoff, leaving murky pond-water in the airlock.

11/9/14:  Racked to secondary.  This was my first taste to see how fermentation went.  Yes, the wild yeast dominate the flavor, but it's pretty tasty.  Some of the musty esters from the English yeast are apparent but don't blend as well as I hoped.  The Spanish-style cider on the other hand is cohesive yet complex, and it's hard to tell where the Cashmere bugs end and the Spanish ones start.  I'm really excited for it, but I'll let this drop clear before bottling.

12/13/14:  Bottled all 10 gal of cider.  The two batches have become more similar, both finishing at 1.006.  They never cleared up but that's ok, neither did the Spanish ciders I tried.  Added priming sugar to carbonate the batch with Nottingham yeast to around 1.8 vols.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

#31 Export Stout - Brewday

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

Yeast Starter 9/23/14:
For this batch I'm using Irish ale yeast harvested from the wheat ale on 8/24.  I mixed up 1.5 gal of starter with the end of the bag of malt extract (somewhere between 1 and 1.5 lbs) and half a teaspoon of yeast nutrient to split evenly between this batch and the wet hop IPA.  The Chico yeast took off as expected, but the Guinness yeast took 24 hrs to show any signs of carbonation when swirled.  Cold crashed the starters for the last day to settle the yeast.

Brewday 9/28/14:
The night before I brewed, I picked up the malts at the homebrew shop before going to pick hops for the wet hop IPA.  Unfortunately I forgot to pick up the flaked barley.  I was trying to brew the IPA at the same time, so after I mashed in on that beer, I made the trek back to the store to get the last ingredient.

The mash ended up going smoothly, but I somehow ended up with an extra gallon of water in the wort.  I had already planned for a 2 hr boil, so I didn't want to extend it any longer, but I turned up the heat just a bit to try to maximize the boil off.  I was able to get it down to just over 5.5 gal in the fermenter at SG 1.071.

45 sec O2, yeast starter decanted and pitched at 66F, placed in fridge set to 66F.

2 Days:  We've had a bit of blowoff, as expected with the minimal headspace.  Temperature upped to 70F.

5 Days:  It looks like the heater hasn't been working, so the temp has dropped to 62F.  The IPA is still working but it looks like this one has dropped pretty clear.  Hopefully it's fermented out all the way.

13 Days:  Temp is still low, the heater never recovered.  I removed it from temperature control (so I can cold crash the IPA) and left it at ambient temps w the cider, about 58F.

5 Weeks:  Finally got this racked to secondary.  The SG is still at 1.020, so I think the low temperature really hurt it.  The high final pH (4.63) indicates a slow fermentation as well.  It tastes pretty good though, if still a little green.

9 Weeks: Bottled with priming sugar for 2.5 vol of carbonation.  It's dropped two more points to 1.018 which is a good sign.

#32 Cascade Wet Hop IPA #2 - Brewday

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

Yeast Starter 9/23/14:
Using a fresh smack pack of Wyeast 1056 with a starter.  I mixed up 1.5 gal of starter with the end of the bag of malt extract (somewhere between 1 and 1.5 lbs) and half a teaspoon of yeast nutrient to split evenly between this batch and the export stout.  Starter looks healthy as expected.  Cold crashed both starters for the last day to settle the yeast.

Brewday 9/28/14:
I brewed a double batch today and had planned to brew the export stout first, but I realized I forgot the flaked barley so I had to audible.  I started the mash for this beer and raced off to the homebrew shop.  By the time I got back, I ended up doing a 90 min mash with no mash out, but that shouldn't have much effect.

The boil was pretty standard ... except for the fact that I drowned it in hops.  Usually hops just disappear into the wort but these fresh hops had to be actively jammed down to get them immersed.  I had enough hops to bump up the wet:dry (by mass) ratio from 7:1 to 8:1 for a total of 1 lb of hops in the 20 minute addition,  Then at flameout I had a few extra hops so naturally I threw them in, totaling 26 oz.  These Oxbow-grown hops smell good, let's hope they taste good too, because they're going to dominate this beer.

45 sec O2, yeast starter decanted and pitched at 66F, placed in fridge at 66F.

2 Days:  We've had a bit of blowoff, but fermentation looks healthy.  Temperature upped to 70F.

5 Days:  It looks like the heater hasn't been working, so the temp has dropped to 62F.  It's still working but slowly.

6 Days:  It's still fermenting, but I added the dry hops, 1 oz Cascade and 1 oz Simcoe.

13 Days:  Temp set to 34F for quick cold crash before kegging.

2 Weeks:  Racked to keg.  SG dropped to 1.010 as expected, looks like the early drop in temperature didn't cause any problems here.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

#32 Cascade Wet Hop IPA #2 - Recipe

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

So just in case I didn't learn my lesson last time, I stumbled into another load of free hops that have to be brewed with immediately.  Man, it's a rough life.  My friend Pat (one of the gang who helped with the oatmeal pale) works at Oxbow Farms where Cascade hops adorn the premises.  Along with friends Dana and McKayla, we picked more than two pounds of hops.  Again, I already have a beer planned for this weekend--yeast starter is going and everything--but I can't let these beautiful hops go to waste.

I'm taking advantage of some of the lessons I learned from that last wet hop IPA though.  The caramel 120L malt came through as a nice burnt caramel kind of flavor that I really liked, not the smooth dark fruit flavor I anticipated.  This time I want to better harness that malt by pairing it with crackery Victory malt--which was also out of place in my earlier session IPA--to form a more brash malt character.  The wet hop IPA was pretty thick, so besides removing the light crystal, I plan on adding some corn sugar to lighten it up.

Another lesson I learned from that IPA was that I need more hops!  I know that's a common refrain among hop heads, but specifically I think the ratio of 5:1 when converting to wet hops was insufficient to get the flavor and aroma I expected.  I recently read (can't remember where) that Sierra Nevada uses a ratio of 7:1 wet weight to dry weight, so I feel confident I can bump up the hops without exposing myself as a victim of Lupulin Threshold Shift.

Cascade Wet Hop IPA #2 - "Oxbrew"
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal
Estimated ABV: 7.4 %
Estimated OG: 1.067 SG
Estimated FG: 1.010 SG
Estimated Color: 9.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 76.5 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt          Name                                     %/IBU
12 lbs       Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)           85.7 %
8.0 oz       Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM)   3.6 %
8.0 oz       Victory Malt (25.0 SRM)                  3.6 %
1.00 oz      Columbus [16.10 %] - First Wort Hop      46.7 IBUs
1 lbs        Corn Sugar (Dextrose) (0.0 SRM)          7.1 %
2.00 oz      Cascade [7.70 %] - Boil 20.0 min         24.6 IBUs
1.00 Items   Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)        -
3.00 oz      Cascade [7.70 %] - Boil 2.0 min          5.2 IBUs
1.0 pkg      Irish Ale (Wyeast Labs #1084)            -
1.00 oz      Cascade [7.70 %] - Dry Hop 5.0 Days      0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz      Centennial [10.30 %] - Dry Hop 5.0 Days  0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz      Columbus [16.10 %] - Dry Hop 5.0 Days    0.0 IBUs

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion @150F, No Mash Out, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 13 lbs
Estimated Cost: $30.38

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

#31 Export Stout - Recipe

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

Last February I brewed a dry Irish stout in preparation for St. Patrick's day.  It was good, nice and creamy though a little bit light on roast, but I remember thinking, "these flavors would go especially well in a bigger stout" which is what I tend to prefer.  Well now that winter is coming, it's time to get started on a stout and this seems like a good way to kick off the season.

Now scaling up a dry stout results in a recipe right in the middle of the range of the foreign extra stout, so I guess you can say that's what I'm making.  It's funny because I have a feeling that's exactly how this style came about.  While there have always been stouts (and porters) in all shapes and sizes, the export stout style (as per the BJCP guidelines*) is pretty much based off of the Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and friends.  Guinness scaled up their recipe with extra alcohol and hops to preserve it for worldwide distribution, which is pretty much what I'm doing here, except mine will be lucky if a bottle makes it across the country.

Like the dry stout I brewed last time, I'll keep the lighter American 2-row instead of a more traditional English floor malted pale malt.  It's true that I generally like more malt flavor in my dark beers, but for this one I want the nice, clean, crisp base.  Add in the flaked barley and I'm expecting a nice milky creaminess instead of the thick malty sweetness normally found in a thick stout.

For roasted malts, I'm starting with the black roasted barley (500L) from the dry stout.  It wasn't nearly as roasty as I wanted, so I'm going to bump the roasted malt from 1lb up to 1.5lbs.  I've read that it isn't necessary to scale the roasted malts on a stout, but I don't really know what to expect.  I also considered other roasted grains but decided just to keep it simple.

(UPDATE: I got to the homebrew shop to find they have changed the roast barley they stock from a 500L version to a 300L version.  I did't think the 300L roast barley alone would give me enough roast flavor for what I'm trying to brew, so I dropped it to 1.25lbs and added half a pound of black patent malt.  This turned out surprisingly similar to the recipe for Stone IRS which I brewed last winter.)

To round it out, we've got Willamette hops used just for bittering, and Irish ale yeast that I've been using in several beers lately.  Between the domestic ingredients and repitched yeast, this has turned into a rather affordable recipe for such a big beer.

Export Stout
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal
Estimated ABV: 7.6 %
Estimated OG: 1.075 SG
Estimated FG: 1.017 SG
Estimated Color: 36.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 60.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Boil Time: 120 Minutes

Amt           Name                                     %/IBU
15 lbs        Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)           80.0 %
2 lbs         Barley, Flaked (1.7 SRM)                 10.7 %
1 lbs 4.0 oz  Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM)               6.7 %
8.0 oz        Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM)          2.7 %
3.00 oz       Willamette [7.50 %] - Boil 60.0 min      60.2 IBUs
0.50 tsp      Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins)              -
1.0 pkg       Irish Ale (Wyeast Labs #1084)            -

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion @152F, No Mash Out, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 18 lbs 12.0 oz
Estimated Cost: $28.18

* Note that this style also encompasses the sweeter versions--essentially scaled up sweet stouts, just as this is a scaled up dry stout--popular in both the East and West Indies.  Anchor Brewing has a good article on the history of the style, and as always there is a good BYO article on how to brew it.

#27 Classic American Wheat - Tasting

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

ABV: 5.0%
IBU: 27
Serving Temp: 35F
Carbonation: 2.8 vol
Grade: B-

I intended this beer has something inspired by Widmer hefeweizen--smooth and easy drinking with a pronounced wheat flavor--but while these descriptors still hold, this apple fell surprisingly far from the tree.

The appearance was a little hazy, as you would expect, with a nice clean white puff of foam on top.  I finally got around to balancing my draft lines with this neat little trick, so while previous kegs poured glasses of foam, this one is leaves a perfect half inch of head.  Interestingly, as the keg sat on tap, it slowly cleared, so that by the time I filled my last beer it was one of the brightest beers I've served.  Stan Hieronymus mentions in Brewing with Wheat that this is an issue for Bavarian brewers who want the signature cloudy appearance, but it was still surprising to see such a drastic transformation for myself.

The flavor was very bright and crisp, with just a hint of the thicker wheat flavor.  For this brew I used Irish ale yeast instead of an american or German strain and the effect is quite apparent.  It's dry, but with a unique, mysterious character I remember from my Irish red ale.  Here it definitely comes across as more fruity--maybe some Fuji apple notes?

As a whole it's an okay beer.  The wheat and yeast don't really add anything to each other (and the Hersbrucker hops were just AWOL) to create a compelling product, but at least they don't clash.  I brought this to some friends' barbecue and it was an easy sell, so that's a good sign.  I just hope next time I can finally nail that perfect wheat beer...
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