Friday, November 30, 2012

Barrel Project: Bottling Chardonnay American Saison

It has come time to bottle our American Farmhouse Chardonnay Saison. We were expecting a pretty quick turn-around on this barrel for a few reasons:

1. This was a fresh Chardonnay barrel and we didn't want too much flavor extraction
2. A Saison with Brett does not need the extended timeline as true sour beers with bacteria. The Saison yeast is capable of fermenting a large portion of the sugars, which reduces the rick of the Brett over-carbing the beer once it's in the bottle. (This beer finished at 1.005)
3. We are going to cork and cage the beer - so high carbonation is just fine.

The difficult part about these projects is communication. Our group has used an email thread to organize who is bringing what and discuss ideas on the best way to accomplish the task. One thing that we learned from this process, is that with 6 people trying to communicate it is difficult to keep up with the all the information. With our group there ended up being confusion on how many bottles we needed and who was bringing bottles. So tips for next time:

  •  Create a Google Doc or Forum so the ideas and tasks can be better organized
  • Have 1 person get all the ingredients 
  • Start getting the ingredients several weeks before the bottling session (we had a tough time finding appropriate Belgian beer corks locally and even online)

We decided to bottle half and to keg half of everyone's share. Below is a list of all the supplies we needed to bottle 1 - 60 gal barrel (55 gals of beer):

The other trick to this process is to get a good assembly line going. First, crack open a super nice bottle of beer like Lost Abbey Veritas 011 (thanks Chris - this also solidified me brewing a strong malty Brett beer aged with Cognac since trying Crooked Stave Sentience in Cognac)

Clean your bottles. Rinse with the faucet attachment and then the bottling tree is a huge time saver.

Get a couple people filling bottles (we used a bottling bucket and a beer gun from a keg).

Then the bottle is passed to the corker (it takes some adjusting at the beginning to get the correct insertion distance (TWSS)). Then put on the cage and give it 7 twists. (use a pencil or other round object to twist the wire)

We didn't quite get the full volume we were expecting. Mostly because we were a few gallons short when filling the barrel. In a last minute audible  Steven got some of his year old Berliner Weisse and we blended it half and half for the final 5 gals.

Expect to see a tasting of this beer shortly as I have heard from 2 of the guys that the beer is carbed and tasting fantastic. Also I have 5 gals in a keg I'm considering to mess around with, let me know if you have any ideas.

We are still working on the next beer to fill the barrel. There is still a lot of Chardonnay flavor left, so we are leaning towards a pale base and going full sour.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dark Rye Super Saison

I brewed this beer almost 2 monthes ago before the craziness of the new house started. I thought I posted about this beer, but apparently not. I had a lot of fun with designing the recipe and my fingers are crossed that it tastes good (I still haven't tasted the beer, it's still in Dan's Cellar).

Last year's Dark Saison had a clear focus on dark fruit - by using Special B and treacle for the fruit flavors and a higher kilned base malt to help with the richness. After many months the flavors came together and it's one of my more favorite homebrews. This year however, I wanted to try a much different flavor focus. From reviewing my last few Saisons you can see I'm experimenting with new (to me) adjunct grains. (Oats in Table Saison, Spelt in Traditional Saison). For this beer I wanted to go big on the rye. To be honest, I have a difficult time picking out this flavor in commercial styles I've tried. I read about the "spicy" notes, but it hasn't registered for me. With this beer I wanted to make sure I included plenty of rye, I ended up around 30%. To build on this "spiciness" I also included a decent amount of late hopping with Saaz.
The other big component I wanted in this beer was a distinct roastiness. (Side story: I do a lot of recipe generation in my head while I'm bike riding. A group of us ride each Wednesday night and after these rides, it is our tradition to share homebrews. At the time of this recipe, it was pretty chilly (we are talking 50s in San Diego) and I really just wanted to drink something with a rich roastiness.) What better way to get the roast in this beer than to use a new malt I have been wanting to try - Chocolate Rye from Weyermann. And try a new technique for me - Cold Steeping. Two days before brew day I boiled and cooled 1 gal of water. I added about half to a 1 gal container and then poured in my 2 lbs of Chocolate Rye malt. I topped up the water, gave it a good swirl to make sure all the grain was soaked and left it in the fridge. On brewday, I just poured the 1 gal container into the boil kettle and used a colander to catch the grain. (I took a sample taste of the cold steeped liquid and it was delicious on its own.) I dumped the soaked grain on top of the mash before sparging.
Just like last year's version, I wanted to make this a big beer. With an O.G. at 1.080 I'm hoping to get around 10% ABV. I soured a portion of last year's and the sourness really disguised the alcohol (the dryness helped also). I ended up calling that beer the "Widow Maker" since all the guys drank way too much during Halloween and the wives wanted nothing to do with us. I'll probably end up souring some more this year, but haven't decided on what bug cocktail to use.
As for yeast in this batch, I wanted to continue my split batches. I ended up making starters for ECY 08 and my harvested Dupont yeast. I also did a gal with Brett Drie to test the alcohol threshold of the strain.

Recipe: Dark Rye Super Saison

Batch Size 10.0 gal        O.G.-1.081                       F.G.-TBD
IBU-30                             SRM-24                             ABV-TBD

Grain Bill (77% Efficiency):
22 lb Pilsner Malt (69%)
6 lb Rye Malt (19%)
2 lb Flaked Rye (6%)
2 lb Chocolate Rye Malt (6%) - cold steep

1.5 oz Super Styrian, 9.5%, pellet, 90 min 30 IBU
2 oz Saaz, 4.5%, pellet, Whirlpool

Re-used Cultured Dupont dregs - 5 gal batch
Re-used ECY08 - 5 gal batch
Re-used Brett Drie - 1 gal batch

Brew Day:
Brewed: 9/30/12

50/50 Blend of San Diego tap water and Distilled

Mash Details:
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.0 qt/lb
Sacc Rest. Temp/Time: 148F @ 60min
Sparge Temp/Time: 170F

Boil Details:
Boil Time: 90min

Ferment Details:
Ferment Temp: pitched at 70 and allowed to free rise. No temperature control. In Dan's cellar.

The Dupont version was off to an explosive start and all the beers seemed to finish up pretty quickly. These beers are sitting in carboys just waiting for an empty keg. I need to start drinking some beer. I should have some tasting notes posted as soon as I have time to get these packaged.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A New Chapter

I apologize for the title, I could only think of cliches. So I decided to go with the corniest one possible.

I want to updated all the loyal readers inside our great online community, that there are some big changes currently happening in the Crane household.

My wife is pregnant and we are expecting our first child (a girl) in February. This alone is very exciting, but we also decided it was time for us to move from our downtown San Diego condo. We really enjoy living within walking distance to a lot of great places, but the thought of a crazy person on the street waking up my daughter in the middle of the night after I just got her to sleep would drive me crazy. We decided to sell the condo and are currently in escrow for a house in University City area (Central San Diego). The house is an original 1972 work of art. I have quite a bit of work to do in the upcoming months (and forever).

The good news (for brewing) is that I will be moving my brewing from a 30 sq ft balcony and 25 sq ft closest to a 2 car garage. I will now have much more room for fermentation space. Get ready for barrel projects, more experiments and finally my home lab setup for isolating yeast and bacteria.

The brewing and blog writing might be slow over the next few months, but I already have a few new posts in the works.

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