Piety and scholarship under Lupulos.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wild times

A new IPA called Sintennial is in bottle, and after a week tasting much like Two-Hearted, though lighter and drier (in ways I prefer).

I can say that my recent shortage of American hops in the freezer is coinciding with an emerging boredom in the IPA as a style. Not that I don't enjoy them, but I'm ready to get a bit more experimental. I am happy though: I never thought I'd run through those hops so quickly.

With the Pining for Pliny (P4P) I brewed months ago, I siphoned off 2L (1 per yeast) into new "fermenters" and inoculated with wild yeast (Brettanomyces). This produced about 5 bottles (2.5 each). The results were interesting. First, the flavor variation among bottles -- even within-batch -- was high. Interestingly, the half of P4P that under-attenuated in the primary ended up tasting much wilder -- presumably because it had more remaining fermentables for the yeast -- although the bitterness was too high. But the other P4P half received a touch of lemon that was quite nice. Both ended up pretty dry. The amazing thing was how much the wild yeast transformed the flavor in a relatively small time. The wild beers were almost completely unrecognizable from their source.

This inspired me to continue with wild fermentation.

I brewed a Westmalle/Westvleteren clone (the beers share the same yeast). The base beer is a Belgian tripel. This time, I have siphoned off half of the whole batch for a Brettanomyces second fermentation, which will make for a wild blonde. The other half has received some special ingredients which I hope will add some of the unique flavors of Westvleteren.

Interestingly, I took a long whiff of the dregs of the yeast starter I made from Bretts. Amazingly, this one tasted very much like a lambic. This got me thinking that I could try a beer that is 100% Brett fermented. For various reasons, full Brett fermentations are discouraged, one reason being that the yeast work better under reduced PH environments typically caused by a primary fermentation from brewer's yeast. But, the smell was too compelling.

So, tonight I made a very small (.75 liter) -- though smaller than planned -- batch to be used as 100% Brett. It will probably end up like a Flanders Brown or Oude Bruin. I'm calling it "Lil' Orvie". Because, as a bad scientist, I can't resist confounding variables, I used only wild hops that we picked from a nearby abbey. Hopefully tomorrow morning I'll wake to a pellicle.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Life has handed me lemons, in the best way possible.

On my first batch I siphoned off 2L for re-yeasting using a highly experimental yeast. The yeast has converted the IPA to lemons, and it's delicious.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Citroen tasting nice

Opened Citroen today, after a week in the bottle.

Tastes only slightly green. Carbonation is great (I carb'd even more this time), but head dies quickly. Yeast did not want to settle out after an evening in the fridge.

Flavor is surprisingly similar to P4P despite being a different hop.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Observations on Pining for Pliny

First of all, something completely blew my mind about this batch. I split the wort into 2 fermenters and inoculated one with an American Ale and the other with a Duvel yeast. I lost track of which was which (dumbass). Weirdly, one of the batches took a complete nose dive. Fermenter activity was seemingly strong for both, as measured by bubbling in the airlock. The "normal" one turned out fine. The "bad" one had weird qualities. It was nearly flat even after 3 weeks in the bottle. It tasted watery and overly bitter. The former 2 lead me to suspect a problem with the yeast. Not enough? Weirdly, the beer transformed into a ruby red color. I even tried on homebrewtalk which is usually an oracle for this shit. They had no clue. WTF did I do?

I am noticing my tastes change in time. I am definitely less of a hophead than I used to be. The DIPAs just don't do it for me like they used to (Pliny the Elder remains the eternal exception). My interest in Belgian beers, particularly lambics, has renewed my appreciation for dryness and fostered an appreciation for acidity. The new P4P I brewed seems to have gained ground in the latter respect. Does this mean it's the Duvel yeast at work, or my own perceptions kicking in?


Popped open a homebrew (from the Pining for Pliny batch). Not sure which yeast is working here.

Appearance is bright hazy golden. Half inch of head in the mid of the Duvel glass, not a lot of retention.

Very tropical aromas with pineapple dominant.

Taste is dry, acidic, and slightly bitter. Perhaps only slightly on the thin side but not surprising given the relatively low gravity.

This one is a knockout!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Citroen in primary

Citroen brewed last night. Simple recipe pitched on top of existing yeast cakes from last batch.

Stuff is taking way too long and driving me crazy. Boil time seemed forever. I bailed on cooling and pitched at around 100F, hoping the cellar would further cool the wort. I think this was a bad idea but it was after midnight and my "helper" was retiring for the evening.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Brew from Belgium

Finally got my setup for the new "brew house" mostly complete. Brewed yesterday: a simple variant on Pining for Pliny. This was of course not without challenges.

First, I forgot to order DME from the brewstore, and the yeasts I purchased were both propagators -- meaning not enough cells for a real batch. I tried making an all grain starter but it was impossible: the cooler could not keep such a small volume of water warm. In the end I decided on an approach that turned out even better. I decided to brew a normal sized batch (~3G) and split into two fermenters and pitch the different yeasts on each one. This has the advantage of keeping the volume to a reasonable amount for the yeast w/o starter, plus I get to learn the differences between the yeasts!

Second, no barley mill. Rolling pins do not provide a consistent crush and are labor intensive. I used a coffee grinder and achieved reasonable though not ideal results.

I learned about my setup today. My kettle and stove will take over an hour to bring 3.5G of wort to a boil. That kind of sucks but now I can plan.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Comin' back at ya!

This blog is not dead ... it was merely going through a prolonged conditioning phase. I've had a few things happening over the last several months: graduating, starting a new job, and moving to Belgium. Of these, only the last may have a nontrivial influence on my brewing. Case in point, my next project:

I've got a few ideas bouncing around. We have both technical and recipe matters at hand. Regarding the former: as I have moved temporarily (2 years) to Belgium, I'm trying to maintain my brewing without necessarily spending a lot on equipment, as equipment is generally impractical to move to the US. I'm trying to use my experience with brewing to identify areas where corners can be cut.

First of all, wort chilling seems to be a stinker within the cost/benefit curve. On homebrewtalk.com, there has been an emergence of activity and interest on the subject of "no chill" brewing, where hot wort is not artificially cooled. The fears of DMS seem to be insignificant on a homebrewer's scale. Basically if you can keep the vessel that contains the wort sanitized enough for an evening with cooling wort, you're fine.

I thought about buying a cheap food-grade container for fermenting, but I'm now leaning toward a Better Bottle, which is more expensive, but available in Europe and will suffice for both fermenting and bottling.

Next, we're drinking some Hopus beers which have the benefits of a swivel top and cheap price at the local "wal mart". Hopefully will accumulate 3 gallons worth in the next 2 months or so, though it may require a party.

Recipe-wise, I must admit a deep affinity for Duvel, a truly sublime beer. Among its beauties include the dryness, light body/color, alcoholic sweetness, subtle hop flavor, and clarity. I'd like to merge this with the "Sonoma IPA", a yet-unofficial style, describing Pliny the Elder (PtE) by Russian River. PtE is actually unlike a lot of IPAs in its light body, color, and dryness, all of which accentuate the hop aroma and flavor. Interestingly, Duvel is so unique that Michael Jackson invented a style to describe it. Now, all "golden strong ales" are compared against Duvel.

Duvel, to me, creates its effect through unconventional means. It seems bitter, but not from the hops, as traditional beers would, but from a combination of the heavy carbonation, dry finish, and perhaps effects from the Scotch Ale yeast (Wyeast 1388). It seems sweet, but isn't (i.e., it's dry), due to the well-masked alcohol. It is truly a beer about recreating expectations from roundabout means.

So, how to get the dryness of Duvel? Dryness is a consequence of lots of the fermentables from the wort getting fermented. Hence, you should lean away from non-fermentable sugars such as maltose. Two ways to achieve this: low malt-temperatures, and a lot of raw sugar in the overall grain bill.

I'm taking this approach with Belgian Pale Ale malt, a lot of sugar, and the Duvel yeast. I'm going to throw an American spin with some Pliny-friendly hops.