Friday, February 24, 2012

Millet Table Beer

Its already getting warmer here in AZ which means its time to brew another table beer for the hot spring days ahead.  All of the Belgian table beers Ive brewed over the last year or so have been big hits, and rarely do they last more than 2weeks.  Great thing about the ones Ive done is that while they all are similar, they each have had their own unique character (spelt, D2, amaranth) that's really kept me wanting more.  This one hopefully wont be much different.

For this attempt at a table beer I decided to use millet as my adjunct grain.  When I was looking for exotic grains this was the only thing that I could find easily.  Ive had millet a few times at ethnic restaurants and I wasn't really ever that impressed. It was always a slightly nutty mush pile that in my opinion need a bit of texture to make it worth eating.  Somehow though I have a feeling that it will work in beer much better though.  To try and help that along I decided to pan toast the millet until became fragrant and started popping.  I'm hoping this will help to bring out the nutty flavors in the beer.  Strangely thought toasting the millet didn't result in much color development.

Other than the millet, this table beer basically follows the template of all the others Ive done. I should note though, that this beer as with any I do using an unmalted grain I ground the millet essentially to flour (pic).  Ive never had a problem doing this with wheat, amaranth, etc, but in this case I added a handful or two of rice hulls  when I sparged. Just like all my other Belgian table beers this one follows the same recipe; lower gravity beer with lots of late hopping, Belgian yeast, and an adjunct grain.  This time around for yeast I didn't have any Ardennes around so I stepped up a frozen culture of Belgian strong WY1388.  Which after a year plus in a tube seemed a bit strange (strange yeast formation on starter surface) but it went off like gangbusters in the primary.

Millet Table Beer

Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
2.5Millet (Toasted)
Amt (oz)TypeTime
1.0EKG (5.1%)60
1.0EKG (5.1%) 10
1.0EKG (5.1%) KO
Mash Schedule
170F2.1qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastBelgian Witbier WY3944 (frozen stock)
82% effIBU23
6.5gal BoilFG
Notes: First mash step (147F) was an accident, I grabbed mash in water when it was too cool, I quickly added 2qt of boiling water to step up the temp. Hopefully it wont affect the beer too much:  

Review - 4.24.2012 - Notes & Thoughts

Belgian Table Beer - The Origina
Amaranth Table Beer
Dark Table Beer

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mazarin - Sour Cherries, Sherry Flor and Mahlab (mahleb, mahlepi, mahlebbi)

This beer is another in my line of Dumas inspired beers.  I had been tinkering with the idea of a Mazarin inspired beer for awhile, and I wanted something with hints of Italy (wine yeast), a bit of nuttiness and a deep red color. Luckily I had a bunch of sour cherry juice that I needed to use up, and not a single lambic/etc ready for fruit.  Generally I'm not a big proponent of fruit in non-sour beers, but I think that I might be slowly drifting away from that.  It's really interesting to look at what Ive brewed over the years, you can really identify different influences and interests that send me in one direction only to move away from it several months later.

Lately, Ive become very interested in using wine yeasts in beer.  Ive been playing around quite a bit behind the scenes with several different strains and I really like what I'm seeing.  Wine yeasts offer several qualities that can be quite interesting in beer.  A major one is that wine yeast lack the ability to ferment maltotriose, which is the second most abundant fermentable sugar in wort (~14% on average).  This can result in some interesting beers that aren't quite possible with ale yeasts.

For one you could mash relatively low and still end up with quite a sweet beer.  You could also add quite a substantial amount of sugar to the wort and still end up with sufficient mouthfeel and sweetness to balance. Im hoping to test the limits of this soon, with a very high mash temp, and lots of sugar.  Another interesting thing about wine yeasts are there temp tolerances.  Most strains can ferment well into the 80's (27C+), which is interestingly enough quite like many Belgian strains and in particular saison yeasts which are said to be mutated wine strains.  For me currently the temperature tolerances isn't a big deal, its winter time and quite cool in my house (60's), but during the spring and summer months this could potentially make brewing significantly easier on me.

Anyway, back to the beer!  Having a bunch of sour cherry juice laying around needing to be used up I decided to make a very bready, nutty beer to balance the acidity of the cherry juice.  For a while I was considering using some of the almond liqueur/extract I made a while back in the Fat Washing post, but I decided to hold onto that for something where the flavors might shine a bit more.  Instead I decided to use a spice not too many people are familiar with, but I absolutely love..Mahlab.

Mahlab is the seed of the St Lucie Cherry, and is used quite extensively in sweetish breads around Easter time. It has a very nice nutty, tart cherry flavor that is very almond-like.  Strangely though it took some looking to find it, none of the little Middle-Eastern markets around me carry it year round.  Apparently they only have it around Easter, luckily though a Penzey's just recently opened in the area and I was able to pick some up from there, albeit a tad expensive.

Now that I had both the sour cherry juice and mahlab, I wanted to provide a biscuity, cracker-like malt profile. To get this I decided to use a sizeable portion of dark munich malt and some light crystal malts.  My last addition to the recipe was the sherry flor.  I used this yeast last about a year ago in a biere de garde (Athos).  Now I haven't done a formal tasting of the beer, but its quite interesting.  It has a great nougat flavor with hints of licorice and apples and retained a nice malt profile.  I'm hoping to get a similar result from the yeast this time, as I really think those yeast flavors would play very well with the cherries and mahlab.

Mazarin - Sour Cherries, Sherry Flor and Mahlab
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
5.0Dark Munich (10L)
1.0Crystal 10L
~30ozSour Cherry Juice
2ozGround Mahlab (secondary)
Amt (oz)TypeTime
0.50Sterling (7.9%)60
Mash Schedule
170F2.0qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastSherry Flor - WLP700
5.0galOG1052 + Juice?
80% effIBU14
6.0gal BoilFG

Review - 3/13/13 - Notes & Thoughts

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Candy Syrup the Right way (Hint - We've been doing it Wrong!)

(sorry in advance for the long post......)
(Updated 3/21/12 - Lessons Learned section and better advice on the amount of lime to add)

Edit - Before you read this I would like to say that the mixtures in this post should not be taken as a "recipe" to make the candy sugar.  Rather it is more of a lessons learned to guide you.  Heating temps, boiling times, and other things will be specific to your stove, pot, amount of sugar, etc.  So you should do a trial batch yourself before you go all in.  Amounts of sugar and nutrient should scale linearly, however when adding the lime you will need to feel it out. Do a small test batch using the guidelines found under "What Ive learned from Each Additive" Once that's set everything should scale.  What Ive found is a good indicator to having a high enough pH is if you smell ammonia coming off the syrup when it starts to heat up.  If you dont smell this, you should add more lime, the best way is to have a thick slurry of it pre-mixed with water

So for quite some time now I have been thinking about candy sugar.  I mean I love the stuff (I brew a lot of Belgian beers) but its been difficult to get lately and its quite expensive.  Now Ive seen a ton of posts out there about how to make it, and Ive even done one myself in the past.  The recipe always is ....

Sugar + Acid + DAP + heat = Candy syrup

I'm here to tell you that is completely and utterly wrong, well I guess that is if what your shooting for is something like D2, if on the other hand you want some burnt sugar your right on track.

Thinking about the chemistry involved in the above recipe always bothered me. The acid was supposedly added to the sugar to help the sucrose split into glucose and fructose.  Well, OK, that's fine and dandy, that may be faster and more complete but sucrose splits into those two sugars when its simply heated (sucrose itself can act as a weak acid). So the addition of the acid really isn't doing anything for you.  In fact I'm here to tell you that its actually harming your candy sugar quite a bit. Especially since when making beet syrup, inverting sugar is something that is avoided at all costs.  Think about it, if sucrose is split into glucose and fructose, that's basically less final product they end up with (sucrose)

Now Belgian candy syrup is made from sugar beets, and supposedly the syrup we all buy is simply the left overs from the sugar extraction.  Its said to be made by repeated heated and cooling of the sugar and extraction of sucrose.  Technically this is actually true, but the devil is in the details.  There are quite a bit of other things that are happening during this process and things that are added that aren't really considered ingredients, as such you wont find them on any food label.

If you google the sugar beet extraction process you'll probably pull up one of a couple different sites that detail the method. Basically beets are chopped, pressed, and the syrup goes through a couple stages of what are essentially filtration steps to remove all the crud from the syrup.  The big step that we are all missing is what is done during these intermediary steps that has a big, no GIANT impact on the final product.

Now before I delve into what we really need to be doing, I wanna jump into a tiny bit of chemistry, I'll keep it fairly basic, but if your interested and you wanna really get into it shoot me a message and we can discuss all the nerdy details.

Caramelization and maillard reactions are the reason we get the great flavors from the dark Belgian candy syrups.  Caramelization is very different than maillard reactions, caramelization is a type of pyrolysis. Essentially what is happening is we are carbonizing the sugars, this if taken too far results in the characteristic burnt sugar flavor.  If controlled and done correctly caramelization will essentially results in solely color formation (if its not take too far) However, with everything Ive read out there, the way we are currently making homemade candy syrup isn't the right way.

Maillard reaction are more responsible for the flavor development in candy syrup, but they requite a source of amino acids.  Maillard reactions are a result of the amino acids reaction with a reducing sugar to form several intermediary compounds that go through several rearrangements (amadori, enolization, etc,etc) to form melanoidins (among other things) These melainodins are what give use the great flavors we desire in our candy syrup.  The reason we add DAP or yeast nutrient when making candy sugar, is that normal table sugar doesn't have any of the necessary amino acids for form the melanoidins.   Unfortunately for us, the type of amino acid plays a large role in the flavor development, with different amino acids resulting in different flavors.  Sugar beet syrup will have a complex mix of amino acids that we are not likely to recreate (glutamine, lysine, threonine, serine, etc). So this will limit our flavor development somewhat.

Now if you read up on the beet sugar processing method you might notice that I'm going to wave my hands a bit and sort of ignore a couple things they do.  That's because they have a different goal than we do.  I might also overlook some of the more complex chemistry (very high pH + sucrose = saccharates) because well, maillard browning and caramelization are not understood well by people who spend their life researching this stuff, let alone me.  And because when they make beet sugar they head down a similar path, but we need to deviate slightly for our purposes..

Making beet sugar they add slaked lime to increase the pH.  This also binds up the sucrose until it is gassed with CO2 to precipitate chalk. Doing this help to remove suspended non-sugars.  However, even after the chalk is precipitated, the pH is still fairly high (9-11). This high pH is what we want when we make our sugar syrup.  In particular it helps us avoid the burnt sugar flavors that are not in the dark candy syrup

To determine what might be a best set of conditions i set up a relatively large number of trial.  Each set had a different starting mix. Some of the various things I tried are below, eventually I would like to try to vary the concentration of each and see where that can get me, but it takes a loooong time to do any of these. I did quite a few more than I'm showing either in the picture or in tasting.  This is because several of my early attempts helped me to find the correct range for adding lime.  Too much and it was quite medicinal/minerally (saccharates?) which ruined the flavor of the syrup.

When doing this my procedure was as follows.
  1. Measure and add 1 cup sugar
  2. Measure and add 1/4 cup water
  3. Add in each of the trial specific chemicals 
    1. 1/2 tsp Lime
    2. 1/2 tsp Lime + 1/2 tsp Yeast Nutrient
    3. 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
    4. 1/8 tsp Malic Acid
    5. 1/8 tsp Malic Acid + 1/2 tsp Yeast Nutrient
    6. 1/2 tsp Chalk
    7. 1/2 tsp Lime + 1 tsp Treacle + 1/2 tsp Yeast Nutrient
  4. Begin heating the mixture on high until boiling (note all times in table are from the start of the boil)
  5. Add small amounts of water when the sugar mixture becomes too hot - you can tell because it will boil up and become much more frothy and normal.  This helps to prevent scorching, but the more it is in this frothy stage the darker the color becomes and the more flavor development there is.
  6. Take small samples and allow to cool at regular intervals to determine flavor development

Candy Sugar Experiment
Lime + Nutrient
Baking Soda
Acid + Nutrient
Treacle Nutrient Lime
Very sweet, no other flavor Sweet, but as much as Lime, tastes just like frosted flakes (melanoidins!) Less sweet, than Lime nutrient, otherwise tastes like sugar slightly tangy, otherwise tastes just like sugar Sweet but less so than acid, not as tangy either, slightly fruity Sweet, tastes like sugarSweet, caramelly, some hints of frosted flakes
Very sweet, hints of caramel in the finish Frosted flakes, biscuity?, caramel, and much more rich than the 5 min Sweet, caramelly sweet, tastes like sugar Burnt sugar, toffee, still slightly tangy Sweet, tastes like sugar sweet, toasty, still hints of frosted flakes, reminds me almost of a buttered piece of toast sprinkled with sugar
Sweet, frosted flakes, cotton candy finish Chocolate! and caramel,tastes
like a tootsie roll, very good, I could eat this on its own
Sweet, reminds me of cotton candy Sweet, burnt sugar   dominates the flavorBurnt sugar, stronger than 7min, slightly tangy Sweet, and slightly biscuity Toasty, caramelly, hints of toffee?
Sweet, slight bit of cotton candy, and slight minerally finish Chocolate, seriously all I can taste it tootsie roll Sweet, some hints of caramel,  slight medicinal finish/cotton
Burnt Sugar flavor, still sweet, hint of tanginess Burnt sugar, slightly fruity and bitter, slightly tangy finish Sweet, slightly biscuity Hints of chocolate, and dark fruit, very caramelly
Sweet,a very slightly minerally finish Chocolate, some hints of coffee Sweet, slightly minerally- medicinal finish Burnt sugar, slightly more intense, hint of tanginess Strong burnt sugar flavor, slightly bitter, slightly tangy Sweet, hints of frosted flakes Chocolatey,
strong caramel and toffee flavor, slightly buttery
Sweet, slightly minerally and slightly chalky Lighter chocolate flavor, strong toffee and caramel flavors Sweet, slightly minerally- medicinal finish Burnt sugar, tanginess has faded Strong burnt sugar flavor, slightly bitter, hints of coffee Sweet, but a bit more color Chocolately, lots of toffee, very
Sweet, slightly minerally and slightly chalky Toffee, chocolate, some slight hints of burnt sugar like creme brulee Sweet, slightly minerally- medicinal finish Burnt sugar, slightly bitter Burnt sugar, slightly bitter, roasty? Sweet, no other flavor Mostly toffee, hints of dark fruit and chocolate, slightly buttery
Sweet, slightly minerally and slightly chalky Toffee, and caramel, hints of burnt sugar (not acrid though) Sweet, slightly minerally- medicinal finish Strong burnt sugar flavor, slightly bitter Burnt sugar, bitter and roasty, slightly acrid Sweet, no other flavor Toffee, dark fruit and slight hint of chocolate
Sweet, slightly minerally  and slightly chalky Toffee and dark fruits, hints of burnt sugar (again not acrid or bitter) Sweet, slightly minerally- medicinal finish Strong burnt sugar flavor, slightly bitter and acrid Burnt sugar, bitter and slightly acrid Sweet, no other flavor Fruity, strong dark caramel flavor, has a hint of tanginess in the finish
1. All times listed are from the start of the boil:  
2. Amounts of each chemical for the mix are listed above in the text.
3. Timing for flavor development is specific to my stove/pot/etc your mileage may vary a little.  
4. Amounts of lime added are likely not going to scale linearly, you may have to play around slightly if you do a larger batch.
5. Wyeast Wine nutrient isn't the same as DAP, or even Wyeast beer nutrient, as a result flavor development will be different if you substitute
6. Each time the sugar syrup began to boil up too much small amounts of water were added to cool the temp down a bit
7. None of the sugars were inverted prior to mixing with DAP + Lime.  I have a trial underway that will compare pre vs post inversion of the sugar.

Lime + Nutrient
  1. Off gassed ammonia when it started boiling
  2. @7-8min: smells like cherries and chocolate
  3. @16-17min: begins to boil very strange - very frothy
  4. @19min: smells like cherries/almond extract
Acid + Nutrient
  1. No ammonia smell
  2. Less vigorous(frothy) boil than alkaline sugar syrup

What Ive learned from Each Additive

Lime - Stops the burnt sugar flavor from happening. This is because the alkaline environment, inhibits dehydration reactions of the sugars which normally cause the burnt flavor as the sugars burn.  Color formation is increased when compared to acid addition, but it should as, unless you are below pH 3 both maillard and caramelization reactions are hindered.  Too much lime causes a medicinal, minerally flavor that ruins the flavor of the sugar.  This is quickly gauged by doing a small test batch of say 1/2C sugar along with the lime, within 5-7min you can taste they syrup and see if it has that off-flavor, if it does reduce the lime and try again. Keep the ratios roughly the same when you scale it up.  On the otherhand, too little lime and you wont get the flavors we all want.  When you start heating the sugar + nutrient mix, if you do not smell ammonia, the pH isnt high enough and you need to add lime.  The best way to do this is by having slurry of lime mixed with water to add.  If you simply add the powdered lime you will get dark brown bits of sugar

Acid - hampers color formation, the lowering of the pH provides prime conditions for dehydration reactions to occur. These dehydration reactions are the cause of the burnt sugar flavor, as water is removed from the sucrose/fructose/glucose the sugars begin to burn.

Baking Soda - Increases color formation, as with the lime too much results in a minearly/medicinal flavor, additionally baking soda adds a slightly salty flavor, especially when too much is added. The only reason I tried baking soda is that most people have it readily available. I would advise against using it, and instead getting some pickling lime.

Chalk - Similar to baking soda, although doesn't have the salty flavor.  Much more like lime (no sodium), although color formation seemed to be slower with the chalk.  Most likely this is due to the limited dissociation of chalk (doesn't like to dissolve) which probably impeded the raising of the pH.  This one was again used because I thought it might be something lots of homebrewers would have on-hand (water adjustments).  As with baking soda, I recommend using pickling lime.

Type of Yeast Nutrient - Ive played with DAP and Wyeast Nutrient now quite a bit, and I far and away prefer the range and depth of flavors I get from the Wyeast Nutrient.  The DAP is comparatively bland.  Hopefully soon I'll have a chance to test the Wyeast against servomyces, fermaid K and any other nutrient I can get ahold of.

Suggestions for Doing this Yourself

If you attempt to do this yourself, I would suggest doing a small test batch. You can follow the basic recipe & size that I used in the trials to gauge flavor and color development for yourself.  This is an important step because the time necessary to get different flavors will be specific to your stove, pot, etc.  If you still want to do this on the fly, what you can do is get a bowl of ice water to drop the sample in.  This way it is rapidly cooled for you to try.

Also, I should mention that when scaling a batch you should increase all ingredients EXCEPT the lime.  If you make a batch and it has a strange medicinally/minerally flavor you used too much lime.

To reiterate.

1 - Do a trial batch
2 - If you want to taste on the fly grab a bowl of ice water for dropping samples into
3 - When scaling batch size, get the lime right first.  Make sure you get a strong ammonia smell coming off and a very frothy boil in the test batch. Once the flavor is right in the test batch scale everything up.

Good Reading and Resources
If your interested good resources for reading about all of this (aka another way to become confused)

Sucrose degradation in alkaline environments
Base-catalyzed sucrose degradation studies
Mechanisms of alkaline degradation of sucrose
Model compounds from alkaline degradation
Chemical destruction in hot alkaline process juices (syrup) and liquors

Overview of Maillard & Caramelization reactions
A Good Overall Understanding of Caramelization and Maillard Reactions

Sugar Beet Process Flow - Courtesy of the EPA

Sugar Methods
Beet sugar handbook
Food Chemistry  - This ones a pretty good read for all kinds of things
A handbook of sugar analysis - very good but a bit dated

Saturday, February 4, 2012

D'Artagnan Perry - Carbonated Version Review

Appearance - Dark golden, great clarity you could read a newspaper through it, no head, but a constant stream of bubbles breaking at the surface

Aroma - Tons of pear and apple, slightly sweetish, with hints of something else that's hard to put my finger one, maybe hints of honey?, overall very fruity with a small hint of a cellar-like quality

Taste - Sweet and tart apple/pear-like flavor, soft acidic finish, it has a very cellar-like quality that is difficult to describe.  It has the same type of finish as a relatively fresh Basque cider.

Mouthfeel - Very high carbonation that is quite prickly on the tongue. Generally I dislike high amounts of carbonation, but it suits this perry very well

Drinkabililty - I really love this perry, it has a nice touch of sweetness to balance the acidity and the high carbonation suits it extremely well.  Its definitely a thirst quencher!

Oaked Version review - 9/12/2011
Brewday - Recipe & Notes - 11/15/2010

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