Thursday, March 29, 2012

Petite Raspberry Saison

Saison is a style Ive always liked quite a bit, but I don't like the direction that most homebrewers take with it.  My biggest complaint is the high gravity of the beers that are brewed.  Saisons are said to be what many farm workers drank to quench their thirst during long hot days in the field.  I have a really hard time believing that they were in 7%abv + range that many homebrewers and  commercial breweries are putting out.  If I was working in the yard all day during the summer and slogging down beers that were 7%abv I think I would pass out drunk about 1/4 of the way through the day! Even if I wasn't working outside I would still pass out if I drank them all day long.

Another one of the things that irks me about they style, especially on the hombrewed level, is the use of spices. I generally am not one to use spices in beers, but when I do I make sure to use a very light touch. Somehow just about every saison Ive tasted at brew clubs etc is over the top with spices.  Some of the worst ones Ive tasted were orange blossom water (waaaay too much), chamomile(soap-like), licorice, and kola nut.  Again I'm not against someone using those spices (well except for the chamomile - I hate that stuff), but please use restraint.  In my opinion in most beers if spices are used I should just barely be able to notice it. They should be more of a compliment to the yeast flavors than anything else.

My approach to saisons is very different than many homebrewers, I like a very simple grain bill, a relatively low gravity, no sugar, and no spices.  Completely omitting sugar isn't necessary but I like to adjust the mash temps accordingly then.  Most saison yeast strains devour any and all sugars in wort, so ending up with a low finishing gravity is pretty easy (even for 3724), but having enough residual body to balance the flavor and mouthfeel is necessary as well.  If I use sugar in a saison I up the mash temp to keep a bit more body to the beer, otherwise I still probably use a higher mash temp than most brewers, but like I mentioned before saison yeasts eat through just about anything.  Its no longer available, but there was a thread on BA (before it went down) that the poster did a 50% crystal malt saison and it still finished in the low single digits.

For this beer I was looking for something that would be light, and thirst quenching for those late spring days.  I was thinking about styles to brew up and just ideas in general when I was at a local grocery store, when I noticed that they had a bunch of really ripe raspberries in stock.  It hit me that moment, a petite saison with a very light touch of raspberries.  I thought that just a kiss of raspberries could really set off the great spicy and fruity flavors of a saison yeast.  Event typing it here the idea sounds brilliant.  Googling around there seems to be some examples out there, which I haven't personally tried, but it seems like most examples have far too much raspberry in them.  Raspberries are one of those fruits that you should probably use with restraint, as their flavor is so potent.  It doesn't take much to make it over the top to the point it dominates the beer/wine/mead and doesn't really taste right (something I learned early on with a raspberry mead).

Petite Raspberry Saison
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
Amt (oz)TypeTime
0.75EKG's (5.1%)60
2.0EKG's (5.1%)KO<170F
Mash Schedule
170F1.9qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastBelgian Saison WY3724 (0.6L Starter)
85% effIBU13
7gal BoilFG
Notes: Raspberries were frozen prior to adding to the beer after primary fermentation had died down;  20L was added to give the beer a slight sweetness to balance the acidity of the berries; Mash temp of 152 was to give the beer a bit of body when it ferments out because of the low OG and the fruit addition

Review - 9/1/012 - Notes & Thoughts

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sumac Witbier

I've generally been one to shy away from most spices in beers, but I always seem to add something to my witbiers (Always with a light touch though). The past few wit's Ive brewed have used fairly traditional spicing (coriander, and Seville orange peel).  Luckily here in AZ I have access to lots of fresh Seville Oranges, and I have access to plenty of coriander.  It seems though that many brewers out there tend to add a "secret" spice, often chamomile (something I detest), other times black pepper or some other miscellaneous spice to add depth to the beer.  This isn't something Ive ever done, but my curiosity was piqued when I recently had some sumac-ade.

Basically its a lemonade-like drink made from ground sumac berries and some sugar.  For those that are not familiar with sumac, its a bush-tree like plant that grows across much of the US (never seen one in AZ though).  It has dense bunches of red berries that can be picked and used in drinks or in Greek food.  The one that I always saw when I was growing up was Staghorn Sumac, and never could stand the flavor when I was younger.  I'm not sure what type the berries I got were, but I was able to pick them up at a middle-eastern grocer here in town. I wasn't really sure about how much to use, but I remembered a blog I frequent had talked about using them in a saison, so after a couple quick emails I had a ballpark'd idea as to how much to use.

Only time will tell if the flavor comes through nicely and I can always add more later, but I was told that 5grams was the lowest end of the flavor threshold and 20gm+ would be on the high-end.  I went about right down the middle and added 10gm at the end of the boil along with my fresh Seville zest (no coriander this time).  Otherwise the grain bill was similar to things Ive done in the past, with the exception being that I used raw barley rather than oats (I ran out of oats).

Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
3.0Flaked Wheat
0.5Raw Barley
Hops & Spices
Amt (oz)TypeTime
0.75Cascade (7.2%)60
10gmSumac BerriesKO
100gmFresh Seville Orange ZestKO
Mash Schedule
170F1.8qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastBelgian Witbier WY3944
86% effIBU13
6.5gal BoilFG

Review - 8/11/2012 - Notes & Thoughts

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wild Fermented Funky Peach

This is a beer that's been in the works for quite some time, and has been in the fermentor for quite some time as well. Peach beer has always been something that I avoided, as the first time I attempted to make one it turned out terrible.  There was absolutely no peach flavor and the beer was thin and insipid.  Normally I'm not one to let something beat me, but it seemed at the time that using peaches in beer just really didn't work. In fact reading others accounts and even in Radical Brewing, peaches didn't seem to be a good idea.

Flash forward  until sometime last spring, when the MadFermentationist did a white peach beer that he said turned out quite well.  After a couple quick back and forth comments, it got me wondering if it wasn't so much peach beers but "clean" peach beers that wouldn't work.  Maybe there was something to a sour that could make the peach flavor shine? (I should note Mike also suggests using white peaches, not yellow)

Right around that same time it was peach season here in the desert southwest, and we were lucky enough to pick about 30lbs of very sweet and ripe peaches from a farm here in town (yellow variety).  When we got them home I quickly chopped them up and froze them to be ready when I was gonna brew up a sour peach ale.  Then time got in the way, and I didn't get around to getting this one going until about 3wks ago.

Now Ive had pretty bad luck with wild fermentations in the past, part of me thinks this is due to the constant heat around here in Phoenix.  So was I decided to do was do a "starter" using a bit of grain and some DME.  I stepped it up a couple times to hopefully kill off any enterobacter in there that would cause those awful hot garbage tastes/smells.  The culture seemed to be coming along amazingly well, it reeked of fruit (peaches actually!) and was slightly tart.  So I pitched it into a fairly simple malt bill of some spelt, maris otter and pils. I kept the hopping light so as to mesh well with the anticipated sourness and the peaches.

About 2wks later I pulled a sample and to my astonishment and disappointment the beer was over the top fruity, but didn't have any sourness whatsoever.  So I did something I wish I hadn't and tossed in some grain into the beer, hoping to get a bit of sourness out of it yet.  (part of me wanted to keg it as it was, and save the peaches for another time!)  I let the grain soak for a day or so and then tossed in about 6# of frozen, skinned, peach mush (was likely around 9-10# of peaches).

So that's where things sit today.  I'm hoping that the wild culture wont decimate the peach flavor like every other clean attempt Ive had, but only time will tell.  At any rate, I plan on giving this another try later this spring when peaches are in season again, hopefully that one will actually sour!

Ashley's Funky Peach :)
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
3.0Maris Otter
6.0Ripe Peaches
Amt (oz)TypeTime
0.4Sterling (7.9%)60
Mash Schedule
170F2.0qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastCultured from MO grain (2x step up to 2L total)
85% effIBU10
6.5gal BoilFG

Monday, March 12, 2012

What the Funk - Second Review

Appearance - Slightly hazy golden orange, single finger head that dissipated leaveing a decent amount of lacing in the glass.

Aroma - Tart fruity aroma, soft phenolic brett presence with hints of cardamom and leather and possibly a wisp of butterscotch

Taste - Malty up front with a nice subtle brett flavor (leather, spice, funk), soft phenolic finish that lingers long after you swallow.  Slight hints of oxidation with an ever so subtle butterscotch flavor if you look for it

Mouthfeel - Medium-high carbonation, leaving the body nicely full and round.  Very spritzy

Drinkability - This beer is starting to come into its prime.  The fruitiness has grown since my last tasting, and really makes the beer quite good.

Notes/Thoughts - This beer has evolved quite a bit over the past 10months or so, quite a bit more than I expected it to.  The fruitiness has increased quite a bit, and the bretty/phenolic finish has become much more subtle.  Interestingly the carbonation was quite stable for the first yeast or so it was in the bottle, but it has increased in the past year quite a bit.  The slight hints of butterscotch really meld all the flavors together very well.

First Review - 3/20/2011
Brewday - Recipe & Notes - 4/12/2009
Thursday, March 8, 2012

Corn Lager - Review

Appearance - Light golden yellow, two finger bright white head with a bit of staying power. Exceptional clarity but it should after over a year in the keg. Lots of lacing down the glass as you drink

Aroma - Slight Pils sweetness from the malt, however the hops seem to dominate the aroma and they come off as slightly oxidized. This is something I noticed in the kolsch version of this beer as well.

Taste - Smooth with a touch of sweetness from the pils malt, it is however definitely tipped more towards the hops.  Slightly more bitter than I would like. Fairly clean malt and yeast taste, however the hops have a slightly phenolic/oxidized note that doesnt sit well with me.

Mouthfeel - Medium/light body with farily high carbonation, fairly full feeling.

Drinkability - A nice beer, but the hops are distracting, which is strange because I normally love crystal hops.

Notes/Thoughts - A good attempt at a classic American Pilsner but the hops were a bit distracting.  I did have some bad luck with hops from hopsdirect last year being a bit less than fresh, so Im betting on this being the culprit.  This beer would be exceptional if I did two thing . 1 - Drop the mash temp to 150, 2 - use different fresher hops.

Brewday - 1/16/2011 - Recipe & Notes
Sunday, March 4, 2012

Jaggery Pale Ale

Not too much to talk about with this one.  Basically I needed a quick turn around beer that would be ready for post Strong Beer Fest indulgence.  Sadly the Boricha Porter decided to leak out of the faucet after my last pint for the night.  Let me tell you, it was a great morning to wake up to ~4gal of beer all over my office floor!  I shed a tear for that beer as it was really a great porter (my best attempt to date).

Anyway I really liked the Tapioca EIPA that I brewed up late last year and I wanted something similar but a tad lower alcohol.  Lately Ive been enjoying beers brewed with Maris Otter that are thinned a bit by and adjunct like tapioca starch, sugar, or in this case jaggery.  The malty goodness of MO still shines through but it allows me to make a beer that isn't quite as filling.  Plus with the high $$ of importer MO vs domestic pale it lets me stretch my budget a bit and still have the depth of flavor that the English grains provide.

For the remainder of the beer I used what I had on hand East Kent Golding hops and Thames valley yeast.  The jaggery has a great buttery toffee-like flavor, Ive used it once in a Belgian spiced beer (that I forgot to write up - maybe soon?) and really liked what it added to the flavor  I think it should mesh well with the earthy hops and the sweet breadiness of the malt.

Jaggery Pale Ale
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
7.0Marris Otter (Muntons)
1.08 (17oz)Jaggery
Amt (oz)TypeTime
1.5EKG (5.1%)60
1.0EKG (5.1%)10
Mash Schedule
169F1.8qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastThames Valley WY1275 (slurry)
83% effIBU31
7gal BoilFG

Review - Tasting & Thoughts - 4/15/2012

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