Monday, January 31, 2011

Style Series: Old Ale with Treacle, Brett C

I have been patiently waiting to make a beer like this one. This beer will be part of my annual schedule, every January/December I will make one and bottle the previous years. There are quite a few versions of Old Ale, it seems to be one of those styles that is guidelines give a good amount of wiggle room. You have the option to add any of the following Lactobacillus to sour, Oak, Brettanomyces (Funk), Brewing Sugar - Brown Sugar, Table Sugar, Molasses, Black Treacle. The gravity has a pretty wide range and so does the malt profile.

With this beer it is especially important to visualize "tastulize" the final beer. Below I list the characteristics I want and how I tried to achieve them.
Strong Dark Dried Fruit Flavor - Crystal Malts - Special B, Crystal 120 and Treacle - huge sweet raisin flavor
Vinous - High Alcohol, Mashed high, lots of unfermentables, Brett C should not attenuate too much (If it does I may add lactose at 6 months because this is only partially fermentable by Brett from what I've read), Oak should add some nice tannins
Toffee, Burnt Sugar - Treacle (this is the real deal), Turbinado sugar should help with the toffee flavors.

Recipe: Old Ale
O.G.-1.081  F.G.-TBD   IBU-39 Size -5.75 gal
SRM-20   ABV-7.5-8.5%   Cal-273

Grain Bill (76% Efficiency):
13 lb Maris Otter Malt (83.2%)
6 oz  Crystal 120L (2.4%)
6 oz Crystal 60L (2.4%)
6 oz Special B (2.4%) 
1 lb Treacle (6.4%) - Added at Day 7

8 oz Turbinado (3.2%) - Will be added around 6 months

2 oz Golding, 4.9%, pellet, 90 min 39.7 IBU
200mL of yeast slurry from Brett C Brown (WLP645, WLP023 or S04)

Brew Day:
Brewed: 1/9/11
Kegged: ???

San Diego (Alvarado) Tap Water
1 campden tablet for 5 gal.

Mash Details:
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1 qt/lb
Mash Volume: 3.5 gal
Sacc Rest. Temp/Time: 154F @ 60min
Strike Temp: 173F
Batch Sparge Volume: 6.5 gal
Sparge Temp/Time: 170F

Boil Details:
Boil Volume: 7.5gal
Boil Time: 90min
Post Boil Volume: 5.75 gal

Ferment Details:
O.G.: 1.071 (no sugar)
Ferment Temp: 66-68F
Primary Length: 7 days
Secondary Length: TBD

1/17/11 Update
Gravity 1.018 - Added 1 oz boiled American Oak cubes, Added 454g (1 lb) of black treacle that was warmed so it would pour. This is transferred to a 5 gal Stainless Steel keg with a 6.5 gal carboy cap stretched on top.

07/06/11 Update 
Gravity - 1.005 ABV - 8.75%
Slight funk, touch of sour, some booze, slight cherry pie, mild Oak with  some vanilla. And unfortunately way too thin and dry. It is actually close to a nice wine in its characteristics. Not sure if I should add anything or just let it go and make another beer to blend this with. Next year, I'm thinking no Brett and go for a thick and rich malt bomb. And make this beer much darker, I think the color contribution from treacle is not as significant as I planned.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Undercover San Luis Obispo: Hot Springs

When I got my GPS unit about 6 years ago I instantly became obsessed with trying to find hidden or little known places. Well, that eventually turned into trying to find hot springs in and around San Luis Obispo. And that lead me to this site that list all the known hot springs in California and their GPS coordinates. There is a few ways to use this data: 1) Click the link on the site and it will take you to a nice topo map 2) Put the coordinates straight into your GPS unit 3) Put all the points of interest into Google maps by using Batch Geo (Easier to copy and paste data into excel, format, then paste into Batch Geo). I actually do all of these things because once you get there it is better to have too much information.
To be honest I did not have the best luck finding most of the hot springs. I started looking for them too late in my college career. But it is a goal of mine to find them when I visit.
Here is a list of the local hot springs and a link to a map of San Luis Obispo Hot Springs

STATE LAT LONG Popular or USGS Spring Name TF TC
USGS quadrangle
CA 35.649 -120.687      108 42
CA 35.663 -120.692 PASO ROBLES ARTESIAN SPRING  102 39
CA 35.122 -120.542 NEWSOM SPRINGS    99 37
OCEANO 7.5  
CA 35.269 -120.851 PECHO WARM SPRINGS   95 35
CA 35.908 -120.367 TABLE MOUNTAIN (SPRING)   88 31
CA 35.4 -120.25 CAMETA WARM SPRING   73 23

 On the top of the list, the spring with no name. I searched for a while and I believe it is located some where in the middle of the river.

The Paso Robles Artesian Spring I believe is one of the springs that is used by Paso Robles Inn. I guess the reason that Paso Robles is even in existence is because of the Natural Hot Springs. Many people including the Native Americans believed in the healing powers and would travel to Paso Robles just to soak. It also appears that another part of this giant underground spring came to the surface after the 2003 Earthquake and can be seen in the parking lot of City Hall.

Newsom Springs (confirmed in the comments by the owner that this is on private property) - I have not visited this one, but it is worth checking out (map). According to the Geothermal Map of California it is 97 F and used for baths or pools. Here is one other description I found, "Newsom's Hot Springs are in Newsom Canyon, a tributary of Arroyo Grande Valley. The hot sulfur springs, emanting from Miocene rocks, occur probably along minerlized sones. The springs had been developed for public use. One of the springs issued water of 100F. An 1888 chemical analysis showed that the spring water was magnesium-calcium-sodium bicarbonate in character and had a TDS concentration of 630 mg/L" - Source

(map courtesy of Brandon Stevens)
Pecho Warm Springs is out in Montana De Oro, I was close to finding this one until the dog got some ticks and we had to turn around. The spring appears to just be off the dirt road/trail that is right before you get into the cove. Look at the map above and good luck.

The other spring in Paso Robles called Santa Ysabel Springs (Sulphur Springs) is really the only one I was successful finding. I am pretty sure this one is on private property so go at your own risk. We parked up on the road, then walked down into the creek and after about 2 minutes were pleasantly surprised to see a man-made pool around the spring. It hadn't been used in probably decades, but the water was a bit warm. By the time we found it though we didn't have much time, so I would like to go back and explore the workings a bit more.
EDIT: I was contacted by the The Santa Ysabel Ranch Homeowners Association. This area is PRIVATE PROPERTY and actively patrols for tresspassers and the San Luis Obispo Sheriff's department removes/cites violators. Vehicles parked outside the gates are towed. 

Table Mountain Spring and Cameta Warm Spring are both a good distance from San Luis Obispo, so I never took the opportunity to even look for them. If you have any luck finding any of these springs please post in the comments. I will update this post with any progress.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Homebrew Tasting: Dubbel with Figs and Dates

I'm not sure if it has been laziness or a concern that I don't want to over post but this will be my first tasting review. I read a good amount of other homebrewer blogs and I realized it is pretty important to have the results from each batch displayed. So I will try to post as many reviews as possible so if anyone ever decides to brew a similar recipe they will know what they might want to adjust based on my review of the finished product.

This beer is my Dubbel in which I added Black Mission Figs and Dates to the beer in secondary. The beer was left on the fruit for about 2 months.

There is mixed results, but this is more due to the Dubbel base beer than the figs/dates I added. The plain Dubbel came out alright but it had far too much banana ester for my liking. I think this was due to fermenting around 62 for too long. That must be the magic banana temperature for the Chimay yeast. Also I think my lack of oxygen in solution is really hurting me on my big beers. I think I'm getting plenty of yeast pitched, but not enough oxygen so the yeast can build up sterols before splitting. So I am getting some "hot" off flavors.

Appearance: Somehow lacked the great head these beers normally have. I forced carb this beer to around 3 Volumes (or probably not, so I may uncap these and add 2 carb tabs). Great rich amber but with some very small fig particles still in solution.

Aroma: Big Banana at first, then Sweet booze, then fruity figs (definitely more figs than base beer)
Taste: Follows the Aroma almost exactly, has the dark fruit I was looking for but the beer needs that touch of chocolate that is so good in commercial examples.

Mouthfeel: Medium and that is even with lacking the carbonation it needs.

Drinkability: I am pretty bothered by the banana ester, which I have become sensitive to. I think the dark fruit flavor is there. This beer is like a painting with a lot of paint that was just thrown on the canvas and hopefully some age will let me appreciate it.

1. Use Oxygen for anything over 1.060
2. Forget homemade syrup and use D2 next time to help with the chocolate notes
3. New yeast or different fermentation temperature to avoid the banana flavor
4. No need for dates, at least in this beer

Dubbel Recipe

Adding figs and dates

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dreg Series: Avery 15 or Drie Brett Bitter

I received a vial of this Brett strain that a fellow QUAFFer Adrain built up from a bottle of Avery 15 (decent video about Avery 15). Actually, the Avery 15 dregs are the Brettanomyces from Drie Fonteinen gueuze. All I learned about this strain comes from Chad Yakonson (Descriptions about Avery 15 Dual Brettanomyces Strains, Avery 15 culturing of dregs) of the Brettanomyces Project and now his new Commercial Brettanomyces Brewery - Crooked Stave. He also sent me a pdf version of his Master's thesis, which includes some great background information and some great testing on 7 different strains used in Brett Only fermentations (email me and I'll send it).

I smelled the vial that Adrian gave me and it was just fantastic. It had a nice bit of tartness with a good amount of fruity and citrus. It smells very comparable to a pretty old gueze. I wanted to build these guys up a bit so I added them to a .5 gal of my Best Bitter. I figured it would be fun to see how the fruitiness of the Brett went with the floral English hops. Plus, the lower gravity of the Best Bitter seemed like a good starter.

The Brett took off, it was ferementing in less than 12 hours. And after a day it had a nice 1" krausen with very fine bubbles. It seemed like it feremented out in about 7 days and I decided to bottle this after 3 weeks (Brett acts very much like Saccharomyces when used by itself, so I am not too worried about bottle bombs). I bottled the .5 gal with .5 oz corn sugar which should give me around 2.5 Volumes of CO2. This is more than a Bitter, but less than a gueze. I figured it should be enough to give a nice head on the beer to produce a lot of aroma. F.G. - 1.010.
Spoiler alert: This beer smelled like tropical punch when it was being racked into the bottling bucket. The taste was not quite as fruity as the smell and it had hardly any noticeable tartness (yet).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Session Beer Series: The Best Bitter

This is one of my favorite styles of beers. But it is very difficult to find a good version in the US. The bottled Bitters really just don't do a lot for me. They are often too carbonated and lack that great smooth creaminess that only beer on cask can achieve. But most importantly they miss the fresh hop aroma that I believe is only achieved by serving this from a dry hopped cask or mini keg for me.

I have been working on my recipe for a couple years and it is getting closer (Last year's Best Bitter). I started with Jamil's recipe for a Best/Special Bitter and tweaked it for my tastes. I wanted more of the full carmel flavor than the slight fruit taste so I used more Special Roast than Crystal 120. I am also a big fan of the bready taste in English beers. I used Maris Otter but to elevate the bread, biscuit, toast flavors I added some Victory (or American Biscuit Malt). For the hops, I really like a big floral hop taste ( I'm thinking the hop aroma from Samuel Smith's Organic Ale). I also brewed this at the top end of the gravity range because supposedly that helps you stand out in competitions. And I think I'll enter this beer in a few this spring.

I am also very proud of myself for listening to lesson I learned last year. ALWAYS HAVE DRY YEAST ON HAND in case something happens to a batch you wanted to re-pitch from. Well, I was going to re-pitch the WLP005 yeast from the my Brown Ale, but the second half of that batch that was going to get some maple syrup got a Brett infection. ( I decided to transfer that Brown Ale onto the figs and dates after I kegged the Dubbel).

Recipe: The Best Bitter
O.G.-1.048   F.G.-1.012   IBU-30 
SRM-11   ABV-4.7%  5.5 Gallon

Grain Bill (75% Efficiency):
7.5 lb Maris Otter (81.1%) 
1 lb Victory (10.8%)
8 oz Special Roast (5.4%)
4 oz Crystal 120L (2.7%)

.5 oz Goldings, 4.9%, pellet, First Wort Hopping 10.3 IBU
.75 oz Fuggles, 4.75%, pellet, 60 min 16.6 IBU
.5 oz Goldings, 4.9%, pellet, 20 min 3.9 IBU
.25 oz Goldings, 4.9%, pellet, once wort is at 140C 1.2 IBU
.5 oz East Kent Goldings, 4.9%, pellet, Dry Hop in Keg

1 Packet of S-04

Brew Day:
Brewed: 12/19/10
Kegged: 12/29/10

San Diego (Alvarado) Tap Water
1.5 campden tablet for 8 gal.

Mash Details:
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.3qt/lb
Mash Volume: 3 gal
Sacc Rest. Temp/Time: 154F @ 60min
Strike Temp: 167
Batch Sparge Volume: 5 gal
Sparge Temp/Time: 170F

Boil Details:
Boil Volume: 6.5 gal

Boil Time: 60min
Post Boil Volume: 5.5 gal

Ferment Details:
O.G.: 1.049
Ferment Temp: 66-68F
Length: 10 days
F.G.: 1.012

I did not do a formal tasting for this beer so just see below for my judge comments from the Club Only Contest.

From what I remember they are dead on. And if you read my description above on what I wanted with huge floral hops you can see I nailed it. It was a bit over-the-top for the style so the score is not that good. The tip about using high alpha hops is a good one that I have started to use in all styles I brew. I also think what contributed to the big floral notes is because I had to use dry yeast. I have read about this yeast producing some huge esters, so next year I'll use a more tame English yeast.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dreg Series: Holiday Party Oud Bruin

 I heard about a fellow QUAFF member using the dregs from homebrews at a club meeting to make a cider. This cider I believe placed at the San Diego County Fair competition.

So I knew I was going to bring out some nice beers for our Holiday party. So I made sure to make some extra wort that we could pour the dregs into. The one problem with this idea is that the wort is going to have to sit around for about a week without yeast. Well I learned that is not a good idea. I like to think that I am pretty santitary but it is very difficult to have a gallon of sugar water and expect nothing to start growing in it. What I could do next time is to bottle this wort and then pasturize it one the stove. And right before the party pour the bottles into the gallon container.

After a few days I noticed some growth on top. I decided to let this go a couple days until right before the party when I boiled the batch. Then throughout the party we added dregs from a few commercial beers. We had less dregs than I thought (too much filtered beer).

I did add dregs from:
- Jolly Pumpkin La Roja
- Dark Horse Brewing Company Scotty Karate
- Dominion Oak Barrel Stout

The only one I have experience with is Jolly Pumpkin. So we'll see what happens. The plan for this batch is to give it some wild currants that I forage in late summer.

08.14.11 Update
1.010 Gravity has dropped to a nice level that balances the sourness with some sweetness. The La Roja dregs are sure giving the beer a nice Flanders aroma and taste. The beer needs some fruit to add some complexity. I decided to add 6 oz of juice I made from wild gooseberries (post about making wild gooseberry juice).

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sour Beer: Oud Bruin 2010

Here is my other Big Batch Sour Beer for the Year. I tried to space my Flander's Red and Oud Bruin about six months apart. The Flander's Red will annaully be ready for my Birthday and the Oud Bruin will be ready for the Winter Holidays. I am pretty late writing about this beer since it was brewed on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I got the day off work but the wife had to work so that means brew time.

This was my first brew with Flaked Maize but I have been reading about its advantages in sour beers. Wild Brews and a few other online articles speak about the benefits of the added starches for the microbes to work on during aging. And if it works for Rodenbach it works for me. For this batch also I decided to use the White Labs Sour Mix, and I just pitched the vial straight into the chilled wort. I have heard that it doesn't sour the beer as much as the Wyeast Roeselare, but that is probably more due to people's process than the bugs. Either way I'm going for a bit of tart with this beer, probably even a bit more sourness than commercial examples. And if it turns out too sour than it will be blended at bottling.

Also unique with this beer is that I chose to ferment in Stainless Steel. I was given a few very old cornies from a home wine maker friend. They are 5 gal cornies with a Sanke type coupling. So in order to ferment in them I just used the 6.5 gal carboy cap method. You need to soak the cap for a while and very close to boiling (loosen those molecular chains). Then it takes a bit of patience to stretch over the opening and then fit in an airlock.

Recipe: Oud Bruin
O.G.-1.061  F.G.-TBD   IBU-21.1
SRM-13   ABV-6.5-7.5%%   Cal-205

Grain Bill (76% Efficiency):

10 lb Pilsner  Malt (78.4%)
1 lb  Flaked Corn Maize (7.8%)
8 oz Aromatic Malt (3.9%)
8 oz Caramunich I (3.9%) 
8 oz Special B (3.9%) 
4 oz Brown Malt (2%)  

1 oz Golding, 5%, pellet, 90 min 21.1 IBU
1 vial White Labs WLP655 Sour Mix I

Brew Day:
Brewed: 11/26/10
Kegged: 2011?

San Diego (Alvarado) Tap Water
1 campden tablet for 5 gal.

Mash Details:
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.07 qt/lb
Mash Volume: 3 gal
Sacc Rest. Temp/Time: 156F @ 60min
Strike Temp: 173F
Batch Sparge Volume: 5.75 gal
Sparge Temp/Time: 170F @ 30min

Boil Details:
Boil Volume: 7.25 gal
Boil Time: 90min
Post Boil Volume: 5.75 gal

Ferment Details:
O.G.: 1.062
Ferment Temp: 68-70F (Winter Ambient Temperatures, No Temp Control)
Length: TBD

1.10.11 Update
Gravity 1.010 - Quite a bit lower than I thought it would be at this point. The taste is really bland and maybe even a bit vegetal. The initial fermentation did take over 2 days to show signs of fermentation. I am a little concerned about this batch. The color is also not as dark as I would like. I think I will keep feeding this batch every time I have some dark lightly hopped wort.
Next time: I think I will make a starter for the batch and pitch the whole starter.

08.14.11 Update 
1.004 - Now the traditional Flanders smell and flavor are becoming dominant. The sourness is right where it should be, maybe even a bit much for the style. The beer is missing the mouthfeel and big malty backbone that the style is known for. Next year I will need to mash even higher and up the darker malts a bit more. Maybe even add some flaked oats or barley. For this year's batch I will blend it with a rich thick stout.
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