Essentials to Brewing a Great Saison

Saison has to be one of my personal favourite beer styles year round. Where most people would like some sort of IPA on tap at all times I would take a some sort of saison. Aside from being delicious at all times of year saison has to be one of the most versatile styles of beer. Clean and refreshing, ester/phenolic and dry, funky and hoppy, dark and smooth, the list goes on. Saison can also range from session strength to “what did I do last night” imperial strength. With the exception of getting in the car and driving there is a saison for any and all occasions.

Traditionally saisons were brewed on farms in the colder months and the stored until the summer for serving to farm labor. This is where the term “farmhouse ale” comes from. Unless you brew it on a farm you should probably just call it a saison… Lower in ABV than modern versions (3-4 ABV) the saison served as a source of hydration and refreshed the farm workers during the hot months. Those lucky ducks got to drink up to 5 liters a day! Saisons have evolved quite a bit since the craft beer boom.

Why do I love saison so much? Why love it over the king pin “the IPA” and all its sub-styles? It’s accessibility and shelf life. A saison is perfectly fine when bottle conditioned and stored warm for months on end. Fermentation temp is not very important (unless you are going for repeatability). The variety of things a saison can be leaves the brewer 21769859_10155496531565336_2094459934_nwith a blank canvas. The average saison seems to be yellow, slightly hazy, higher carbonation, in the ballpark of 6.5 ABV, noble hops, hoppier than most European styles, a balance of fruity/ citrusy esters and spicy phenols and very well attenuated. Some brewers are taking creativity in their own hands and adding some darker malts, american hops, brett-ing, barrel aging, adding fruit, “imperializing” and more.

For me a good saison needs a solid base recipe. From there you can move forward and be as creative or minimalistic as you desire. As a fairly yeast forward beer many people often overlook the grist of a saison. I beleive the grist is a make it or break it part. For me doing a pale base I like to use 70-90% Belgian Pilsner (usually Cheateau but I am currently playing with Franco Belges). Belgian Pilsner has a prominent honey note that brings a bit of a sweetness to such a well attenuated beer. Other Pilsners like german ones I find more bready. They work but are not my favourite. 10% Munich (10L) is always a good idea as almost any style of beer seems to benefit overall from the additional malty flavours. 0-20% Spelt, wheat, rye or a blend. These are the grains the will help give your beer its signature haze. Classic examples call for haze, but it is not 100% needed to make a great saison. Personally I prefer spelt for my saisons if I am using a non-barley malt. If you have access to Franco Belges Special Aromatic it is also a good malt to sub in for up to 10% of your pilsner malt or Munich. This specific aromatic malt boosts the overall malt aroma giving a saison a bit more depth of flavour. My personal favourite combination is 75% Belgian Pilsner, 10% Munich, 10% spelt and 5% special aromatic. Some folks like to use cane sugar as a fermentable in their saisons. We call those people sinners.

Arguably the most important ingredient is the yeast and how you treat it. The most accessible commercial examples are Wyeast 3711, 3724, 3736 White Labs WLP565, WLP566, WLP568, WLP585 and WLP590. If you have access to Escarpment Labs their Old Wolrd Saison Blend and Wild Thing are both top notch. For me I generally use a wild saccharomyces that is similar to 3711 (my favourite easy to find commercial yeast). How you treat the yeast is going to really decide the flavour of the beer.

The last two things I think about when brewing a saison is the water and my hop selection. For a “classic” saison I go with Brewers Friend balanced profile 1. For an American hoppy saison I either use pale and bitter or a NEIPA water profile depending on my goal. A mash pH of 5.2-5.3 is my preffered target. For hops I keep it simple. A bittering charge and an aroma charge. Saisons are a bit more hop forward than your generic crushing beer. I aim for a BU/GU ratio of 0.45-0.52. I use 70-80% of my IBUs during the bittering charge with German Magnum. Usually I add these as a FWH addition. The rest of my IBUs come from a 5-10 min addition of something like Saaz, Tettnanger, Spalt, Hallertau Mittlefruh, Crystal or other low alpha acid hops with noble flavours/aromas. Sometimes I like to dry hop depending on if I want a bit more noble character and freshness in my final beer. A dry hoping rate of 0.2-0.5 oz/gal of the same aroma hop is what I like to use 5-7 days prior to packaging. For an American hoppy saison I like to add a German Magnum bittering charge and then treat the rest of the hops like a dumbed down NEIPA using 4-6 oz total of whirlpool/dry hops.

So you have thought about the ingredient you wish to use. Now you need to think about how to use them to produce your desired final beer. Typically I aim for an OG of 1.048 and try to get it to attenuate as best as possible. A mash for 60 min at 148F is what I prefer to use for all my saisons to encourage over 90% attenuation. A 60 min rigorous boil is more than enough to drive of the dreaded DMS. Fermentation is where this beer really can change. Recently my homebrew club GTA brews did a barrel fill with an imperial saison. Everyone followed the same recipe except for fermentation temp. We let everyone do their own thing. When tasteing all 12 batches to make sure none were off every saison had its own unique flavour to it. In a flight I would have said they were all different beers. Esters and phenols were the big differences here.

How are you going to control esters and phenols to make the beer that you want? For esters there are a few ways one can promote of discourage the flavours. Underpitching, under oxygenation prior to pitch, fermenting warm and fermenting under pressure all contribute to ester formation. Of course severely under pitching and failing to oxygenate can lead to some serious issues in your beer. I find pitching a 500 ml starter of 1.040 into 5-6 gal of wort at 1.048 promoted ester development much more than my standard 1L starter. As well I don’t oxygenate with an O2 wand. Instead when transferring to FV I allow it to splash around a bit. When I pitch I like to be in the mid 70s for moderate esters and high 70s-mid 80s for high levels of esters. I prefer to bottle condition my saisons as well as I find it really brings the flavour out even more than kegging does. These techniques tend to help boost phenols. Phenols can also be increased by having a first mash rest at 113F to create more ferulic acid. Mashing at 5.7-5.8 pH is supposed to encourage more phenols as well. I have yet to try this though since I prefer a balance between the two. If all this seems confusing/too much work then I suggest you forget about it and ferment ambient from 70-85F.

Saisons are versatile and are rather forgiving. Play around and see what you like most. I highly suggest bottle conditioning to 2.8-3 vols as the high carbonation forces the beautiful aromas into the air and makes the beer that much more refreshing on the palate. Once you have a great base saison recipe then you can go wild. Imperialize it if you want a winter refresher/warmer, add some darker malts to make it more rich, milk the funk by Bretting it or turn it into dessert by adding fruit to secondary. Or hell do a combination. The possibilities are nearly endless with this style.

Cheers MD

 

Kveik is the New Lager or at Least the Strains I have are

A few weeks ago I decided to brew up a beer using a blend of 3 Hornidal strains generously supplied by the fine fellows at Escarpment Laboratories. I had previously brewed with this yeast in January. The grist was similar as well as the hops, but the last one was pitched at 750000 cells/mp/P and fermented at 70F. This time I decided to under pitch (about 10 ml of slurry) and pitched at 95F. I attempted to hold it as warm as possible by cozying up with it on the couch while watching some Netflix and wrapped in a blanket. I even had a charcuterie board and some Belgian lambic during my date night with Ms. Kveik. I know romantic right?

I managed to get a very comparable beer to the original one in terms of flavour, aroma and mouth feel. The only change on this one was the appearance. The last one dropped bright after 3 weeks in primary with no coldcrash. This one has a moderate haze. I attribute that to the 20% spelt in the grist.

So far tasters who have tried this beer have given me similar feedback. Usually along the lines of, “Dude this is really good. It’s like a lager with more flavour and body. Really easy going and sessionable!”, and then followed up by, “Can I have another?”. The tasters so far have been nothing more that craft beer lovers, but I agree with all of them. It tastes like a fresh lager.

Kveik Lager

Water:

Still I am tweaking my water profile until I get it just right for this style of deliciousness.

  • Calcium: 80
  • Chloride: 75
  • Sulfate: 80
  • SO42-/Cl- ratio: 1.1

Mash pH 5.2

Mash:

  • Mash in at 148 and hold for 60 min. 1.64 qt/lbs
  • Raise via induction to 168 for 10 min
  • Fly sparge with 168

Grist:

  • 70% Chateau Pilsen
  • 20% Weyermann Spelt
  • 10% Barn Owl Munich

Hotside

60 min boil

  • FWH 0.4 oz German Magnum 13.9% AA (20 IBU)**
  • 11 min 1 oz Czech Saaz 2.6% AA (4 IBU)
  • 15 min Whirlfoc+nutrient
  • Flamout and chill to 95F

Cold Side

  • Pitch Escarpment Labs Hornidal 1, 2, 3 blend (10 ml slurry)
  • Have a home date with Netflix, good food and beer and while wrapped in a blanket
  • Maintain as hot as possible temps

Stats

  • OG: 1.054
  • FG: 1.016
  • ABV: 5
  • IBU: 24
  • BU/GU: 45
  • BHE: 81%
  • Fermentor Volume: 5.5 gal
  • Packaged Volume: 5 gal
  • Carbonation: Kegged to 2.8 Vols

**I calculate my IBU of FWH the same way as I do with 60 min boil additions as I find FWH calculators widely vary. YMMV.

I kegged this beer 13 days after pitch. FG was reached within 1 point after 3 days. In hindsight I probably could have kegged way earlier. You could potentially be drinking “lager” in 7-10 days instead of the 2 months most people wait for a lager or even the 2 weeks when using the quick lager method Brülosophy writes about. So here is my take on the beer.

Kveik Lager Review

18191324_10155053254100336_739419075_n

Appearance:
Straw to golden in colour. Moderately hazy which is expected with 20% spelt in the grist. can still easily distinguish individual fingers through the glass. Pours a thick creamy white head. Fades after about 10 min to some strange looking “patches” of head. Never had another beer have that. Tiny bubbles rise through the glass if you look for them.

Aroma:
Sweet grain. Very mild toast. A faint spice either from the hops or spelt. Hard to tell the source. Smells like grandmas house when she use to make her family bread recipe. Please light easters of sweet bread and generic fruitiness. A very low amount of something tropical in the background.

Mouthfeel:
Moderate carbonation. Creamy body and not overly attenuated. Invites another mouthful yet does not demand it. The body is just a bit heavier than anticipated.

Flavour:
Grainy sweetness with notes of honey from the pilsen malt. Constrained and pleasingly low level of bitterness. Some hoppy herbal notes backup the malt. Some small amount of spice. Again not sure if hops, spelt or both. Fairly clean yeast with some bready characteristics. No phenols. Generic fruity esters with a faint tropical something.

Overall Impression:
Could session a few glasses of this or be content with just one. Very easy going yet tasty. If someone told me it were a kellerbier and handed a glass to me I would certainly have believed them. Lacks the “Kveikiness” I was aiming for, but it’s damn delicious.

Next Time:
Skip the spelt malt and use another 10% pils and 10% munich. Use german pilsner malt to try and cut down a bit on the sweetness and give it a more bready flavour. Bump the 60 min addition up another 5 IBUs. Increase the amount of sulphate to try and emphasize some dryness.

Cheers,
MD

Finally Built the Keggerator

This has been a long time coming. Finally I have draft beer in my condo. This build has been planned for about 3 or 4 months now. The goal was simple, 1 mini fridge, 3 taps. So maybe not as simple as I made is sounds. After a month of snooping online and carefully measuring everything a friend said “Why not do a build similar to this?”. So I ditched all my other ideas and used that post as a guide.

First was finding that mini fridge. A Danby 4.4 cubic foot mini fridge. This one to be a little more specific. There are a few different colour schemes so pick whatever you like. For me black is sexy so I went with that.

Next you obviously need kegs and all the other bits and pieces. You will need ball lock kegs to make this fit. Two 5 gal kegs and 1 that is 3 gal or less. For me 3 gal and 2.5 gal were the same price so 3 gal it is! Make sure to do a good PBW soak and such even if the kegs are new. Star san them and then purge out and leave ready for closed transfers.

So you have all your parts. Now it is time to get it all together so that you never leave home again because you beer on tap. You’re going to need some tools and a bit of know how. You will need:

  • Drill
  • Drill bits (most important is the step bit)
  • Utility knife (FRESH BLADE)
  • Silicone
  • Silicone gun
  • Rivets
  • Rivet gun
  • Nylon clamps appropriate to tubing O.D.
  • Zipties
  • Round/flat file
  • Large Adjustable Wrench
  • 2 appropriately sized electrical grommets
  • Spray foam

18009607_10155017881565336_248241449_n-e1492457177918.jpgWhen you take the fridge out of the box there should be some grey plastic protecting the medal door Keep it for later. Start out by removing all the shelves and other loose things on the door and inside the main body. Then remove the 3 screws on the back for the top and then the 3 screws holding the door hinge. Keep those in a pint glass somewhere safe. Remove the door. Now see all that annoying stuff jutting out of the door? We need to get rid of that to make room for kegs. Remove the door seal. Get your utility knife and fresh blade out and start to carve along all the 90 degree areas. Once through get your blade as close to parallel with the door and start to shave those pesky bits off. Eventually it’ll just fall right off and look something like this.

Now at this point all the kegs can fit in there but we will need our gas lines in and out taps. Next step is going to be the most tricky one so go slow. We need to add our 3 taps in. For drilling into the face of the door I used a stepped drill bit that went all the way up to 7/8″. Just large enough for the tap tail pieces. So I carefully measured my centers of where I wanted them (high up on the door) and drilled a 1/8″ pilot hole. After that I got out the step bit and in about 1 min I had all 3 holes drilled out. This is what a step bit looks like.17965707_10155017881750336_582663923_nAnd here is what the door looks like.

17974841_10155017881620336_2007246732_n

Now the back looks pretty ugly so my OCD said I should clean it up a bit. Remember that grey plastic from earlier? Well it fits almost perfectly on one dimension and when you trim off the excess it fits perfectly. Get out some silicone (outdoor silicone is best) and lather that thing up. Now you have a less ugly inside. Once the silicone has set drill out the back piece with a 7/8″ bit and carefully file the metal to remove any spurs.

17965460_10155017881715336_766999743_n

While the silicone is setting it’s time to work on the other part of the fridge. This build doesn’t allow for the CO2 tank to be in the fridge so you’ll want some holes in there. Because of my short line length I couldn’t make them go through the easy place in the bottom. So I had to go through the side. With your knife carefully carve off a credit card sized piece of the inside plastic. Then with a spoon or something dull scoop out the plastic to expose the outside metal. If you are like me you will have found some wire/tube covered in aluminium tape. I have no idea what this is but it is probably best not to damage it.

17974870_10155017881780336_1609909757_n1

I put mine in right above the step in the back. Now its time to drill and make sure you miss that tube/wire. Depending on the grommet size you will have to drill an appropriately sized hole. I used 3/4″ grommets and they were a touch small and needed to be filed down in the bottom to accommodate the crimp clamp on my gas lines.

18009423_10155017881825336_1392159852_n18009609_10155017881850336_1994433662_n

Once this is done stick something in there and fill the rest with spray foam. Let set. While that is setting rivet in the manifold/tubing and also add a 90° street elbow to the manifold. If you’re using aluminium rivets and a cheap rivet gun you may need pliers to snip off the bits that the gun leaves behind. Remember the file these down. As well If you have a manifold like me you may need to “modify” your rivet gun by filing it down to make it smaller. Before riveting add some silicone to really keep it in place. Once this is done go have a beer and come back to finish the job the next day. 18009750_10155017882270336_1977035638_n
Once everything has set it’s time to do the final steps. Run the lines where you want them and rivet them in with nylon clamps. Put the taps in and zip tie/rivet the tubes into place and re assemble everything/tighten all the fittings. Now all you need to do is put beer in there to chill and carbonate. Some ball lock kegs have a lip around the bottom that juts out a 1/4″. I found this made things a bit too tight to fit so I took a hot knife and cut it down. The small keg in the back is prone to tip forward so I put in a chunk of wood to hold it up. Solid American white oak because no other wood will do.
18009130_10155017882365336_526314763_n
And the big reveal!
18035034_10155017882435336_1627996285_n
18009731_10155017882490336_170078488_n

Why I Quit Gimmick Brewing and Why You Should Too

Disclaimer: I’m actually not going to dictate how you should brew. If you like brewing gimmicky beers all the power to you. However, humor me and give this a read/some consideration.

roguealeThis image does not belong to me. If I am breaking copyright please let me know and I will remove immediately. 

Like many of you reading this I started off by brewing beer kits. All the ingredients were there, recipe in front of me and all I had to do was follow it. Perfect! I had a 1 gal system so I could brew often and practice often. I started with a stout, then an IPA, a Belgian blonde and then got a little different. I brewed a jalapeno saison.

“Cool!”, I thought to myself, “I can use thing I find tasty and improve upone other beer styles!”. Oh how naive I was.

After those first 4 brews it was time for me to write my own recipes. I started with an imperial black IPA that actually turned out pretty decent. MO, midnight wheat and C15 was a great combo. After being excited with my success I though I could make only good beer with my own recipes. I’m a genius! I should become a brewer! Oh boy time for my next great idea! So time for the next brew. An imperial wit with lemon and raspberry and hopped with citra. That’s delicious sounding! So in my 1 gal of wort using 6 row cause you know, diastatic power is important. You see where this is going right? So I juiced my 1 lemon and then cut it all up. I added the juice and the entire lemon. Pith and all. Then for raspberries I decided to use a can of jam cause, more sugar = more ABV right? Holy hell was that an awful beer.

I got a bit discouraged and decided to take a break from brewing. My buddy wanted to try so I wrote a chocolate stout recipe. with some cocoa powder in the mash. Probably way more than was needed. It was pure chocolate. No beer. If there was an off flavour there was know way of knowing. And we thought it was delicious. “More chocolate than any commercial beer”, we said to eachother. So for the next many months all I brewed was out there beers. Biere de Garde with pineapple juice, licorice root coffee stout, peated malt RIS, smoked apple session stout, Lavender oak aged blonde ale, root beer APA and this list goes on. Basically it was X beer with X weird ingredient. The problem with all these beers? Some of them were kinda off but I had no way of knowing what it was. The X ingredient added masked fully whatever off flavour was there.

September 2016 strikes and I go to my first homebrew club meeting. I try what other people have and I see a trend. The excellent beers are a classic style like ESB, APA, Dark Mild and stuff like that. The beers that made me think “Hmm, maybe not” were the out there beers like a chili porter, ginger lemon APA and my beers. My beers. How come my beers sucked compared to a boring as hell ESB? My IPA has 5 different hops in it! I have always been under the impression more is better. More ingredients and more ABV!

So I decided to try brewing more classic styles and follow the 2015 BJCP guidlines. Suddenly I got a 3rd place in the saison category after a few months. My palate was picking up the subtle pleasant flavours of all the different styles. I signed up for a BJCP tasting course to learn more. Now with confidence I can tell you why a Munich Helles is my preference when compared to an American Lager. And I also can tell you why I prefer my 2 malt, single hopped saison from my old IPA with 5 malts and 5 hops. More effort and care.

My beer recipes on standard beers went from 5-10 malts, 3-7 hops + some flavouring to 2-5 malts, 1-3 hops and the odd flavouring if it seems like it would benefit the beer already made. Simplicity. Making sure that every ingredient benefits the brew and is not muddying the others. When there is an off flavour now I can locate it fairly easily.

Because I now am brewing base beers I can begin to develop more out there beers again. But now with purpose. Like a big brett porter. A few local breweries use a baltic porter as their base and the add some brett creating a beautiful funky, dark, smooth and complex beer. So I plan to add some B. Lambicus because unlike B. anomalus, Lambicus cannot ferment lactose. As well the deep cherry flavours given off from Lambicus should pair perfectly with some pale chocolate malt giving the beer a black forest cake like flavour. Baltic porter will be a better choice than American Imperial stout becuase the heavy roast may clash with the delicate brett character.

Or I could go off the deep end with a tequila and lime oak aged gose. A coworker/new brewer came up with this idea after a local brewery did not produce their annual Sour saison aged in tequila barrels. I couldn’t argue that sour and tequila do not go together so here I am helping him come up with something good. Tequila, lime and salt all in a less than 5 ABV beverage? Sounds like summer is already here. By using the MTF gose as the base recipe we already have a tried and true gose. Now to tweek it. For adding the tequila and oak portion I have soaked 30 grams of heavy toast oak in about 100 ml of tequila that will be strained and added to the fermentor after week 1 of fermentation. The heavy toast oak should impart the mild smoke and spicy character I love in a good tequila. For the lime I have the zest of 2 limes in the tequila oak mixture and, will add about 2 oz zest to the end of boil as a 15-20 min “zest stand”.

So what I am saying is experimentation is good and all but, before going down that road get a recipe or style you know is good. Critically think about what you can add to it to achieve your desired final product. And while you think about that have a glass of a classic English bitter.

Cheers,
MD

I Think I Now Know 7

I seems every month there is a new “This is it hop”. A few months ago Idaho 7 (Who has a few other aliases) blew up a bit. Heck even a favourite local brew pud of mine did a single hop pale ale with it. I figured it was time for me to get back to the basics and do a “not so SMaSH”. As many of us know SMaSH does not stand for a beer that’ll get you smashed (experience may vary user to user) but rather means Single Hop and Single Malt. SMaSH recipes are mainly used by newer brewers who are trying to learn what different ingredients taste like. So here I am, ready to learn what Idaho 7 tastes like in a NEIPA.

17634676_10154968136240336_5768471920607786121_n

I Think I Now Know 7

Water:

Still I am tweaking my water profile until I get it just right for this style of deliciousness.

  • Calcium: 127
  • Chloride: 160
  • Sulfate: 96
  • SO42-/Cl- ratio: 0.6

Mash pH 5.2

Mash:

  • Mash in at 153 and hold for 60 min. 1.75 qt/lbs
  • Raise via induction to 168 for 10 min
  • Fly sparge with 168

Grist:

This is where this beer become s a “no so” SMaSH. I still am playing with my grain bill for this style so flaked oats and caramel oats are used.

  • 74.7% Thomas Fawcett Pearl
  • 16.8% OiO Toasted Oat Flakes
  • 4.2% Simpsons Golden Naked Oats
  • 4.2% Lactose (added at flameout)

Hotside

30 min boil

  • 15 min Whirlfoc+nutrient (Why has no company made this combo tablet yet?)
  • Flamout and chill to 180F
  • Whirlpool via pump for 20 min
  • Add 1 oz of Idaho 7 hop hash 31.4% AA (~39 IBUs) not a typo
  • Add 5/8 oz Idaho 7 14.1% AA (~11 IBUs)
  • Let temp drop naturally over whirlpool
  • Chill to 68F

Cold Side

  • Pitch Escarpment Labs Vermont ale yeast @ 1 mill cells/ml/p
  • When Krausen begins to dry hop with 3 oz Idaho 7 14.1% AA
  • KEG when ready with 1.375 oz Idaho 7 14.1% AA

Targets

  • OG: 1.054
  • FG: 1.013
  • ABV: 5.2
  • IBU: ~ 50
  • BU/GU: 94

This was my first 30 min boil and threw my BHE off by about 5% but overall everything else went well. Filled my first keg with the beer for the Full Sized Red Wine Barrel contribution this coming Saturday. Going to let that barrel rest for about 3 months. All of my kegging equipment (aside from the fridge) is now purchased and ready to go! Build will be on the 15th of this month. This Idaho 7 NEIPA will be the first beer that flows through a tap of my own.

Traditional German Brewday

Last week I asked reddit their opinion on brewing a maibock. Mai have been a bad idea. I ended up doing a decoction an then just for fun I chose to follow the Reinheitsgebot. Having never done a decoction I learned a few valuable lessons.

  • Manual decoction calculations are hard
  • Decoction smells amazing
  • Decoctions sputter and burn you. Gloves required
  • Kettle scorches suck
  • Decoction has an impact on the beer. Naysayers be damned!
  • Fortified my opinion that charcuterie boards are essential for brewing

Recipe and Process

Water:

Tap. Following the Reinheitsgebot does not allow for acids and brewing salts. That being said here is my horrible tap water.

  • Calcium: 82
  • Magnesium: 46 (this is why I usually cut with distilled water)
  • Sodium: 26
  • Chloride: 82
  • Sulfate: 66
  • Alkalinity: 210
  • pH: ~8

Aside from the shitty Magnesium content this profile is fairly close to Düsseldorf water. Perfect for Altbier so I figured it should make a palatable Maibock.

Mash pH was adjusted with Acidulated Malt to ~5.5.

Grist:

  • 56.4% Weyermann Floor-malted Bohemian Pilsner Malt
  • 28.3% Weyermann Vienna Malt
  • 5.4% Weyermann CaraHell
  • 5.4% Weyermann CaraMunich I
  • 3.5% Weyermann Acidulated Malt
  • 1% Weyermann Melanoidin Malt

Mash:

Here is where things get fun.

Start by heating up your carefully measured volume (1.5 qt/lbs) of water to strike temp. Infuse to get a temp of 97F. Rest for 20 min. Pull off your calculated thick mash amount and begin to heat. Do not stir much because kettle scotches/caramelization is awesome right?  Stir and feel the sugars stuck to the bottom and curse loudly 3-4 times. Once decoction pull has reached 148F rest for 15 min. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. You will notice now that the kettle scorch/caramelization has somehow been lifted off. I chalk that up to the mash pH. When the grain begins to boil have your hand as close to the mash as possible so that you burn your fingers when it sputters. Curse and put on some rubber lab gloves to avoid too many more burns. Boil for 15 min. Add decoction back to your mashtun. Miss temp by 10 degrees as curse again. Staggered cursing is much more effective than cursing prior to mashing. Re work your calculations to ensure the next 2 decoctions hit the right temp. Let the rest of the process go smoothly.

Decoction 1

  • Mash in 97F rest for 20 min
  • Pull decoction portion and heat to 148 then rest for 15 min
  • Boil decoction for 15 min
  • Add back to mashtun and hit 125F (target 135F)

Decoction 2

  • Rest for 5 min
  • Pull decoction portion and heat to 148 then rest for 15 min
  • Boil decoction for 5 min
  • Add back to mashtun and hit 150F (target 148F)

Decoction 3

  • Rest for 45 min
  • Pull decoction portion and Boil for 5 min
  • Add back to mashtun and hit 167F (target 168F)

Vorlauf and then fly sparge @168 to collect appropriate kettle volume.

Boil:

Stir like crazy when the hot break forms. No ferm cap = easy boil over. The FWH addition helped keep that fairly in check. No boil over!

60 min total

  • FWH with 0.5 oz German Magnum 13.9% AA (20 IBU)*
  • 20 min 0.9 oz Czech Saaz 2.6% AA (4 IBU)
  • 10 min 1.1 oz Czech Saaz 2.6% AA (3 IBU)
  • Chill to 50F

Pitch Wyeast Bavarian Lager 2206 @ 1.75 million cells/ml/P

Ferment at 53F

I still have to do a diacetyl rest and then lager as cold as possible for 2 weeks.

Stats:

  • OG: 1.071 (1 point higher than expected)
  • FG: N/A 1.016 expected
  • IBU: 27
  • SRM: Unknown but the decoction certainly darkened it! ~ 10
  • BU/GU: 39
  • ABV: 7.13 expected

*I calculate my IBU of FWH the same way as I do with 60 min boil additions as I find FWH calculators widely vary. YMMV.

Thoughts:

The people of reddit do not lie. It was a day long event of 7.5 hours total including cleanup. People claim decoctions do nothing, I call BS. Aromas I have never smelled before were wafting all around my brew space. The wort was some of the best I have tasted. The colour got pretty dark! Aside from my first screw up it went well and I enjoyed doing this historical brewing method.

This coming brewday I will take things a little easier with a single hop NEIPA using Idaho 7.

This years magnum is resinous. Check out that hop nugget!

17690786_10154962229085336_564051746_n

The 23 year Old Lambic Homebrew

Been busy this week and am still dialing in my recipe for tomorrows Maibock. Beer will be my first decoction and will follow the Reinheitgebot. Details to follow in another post. For now a story. Disclaimer: a few minor details have been fabricated because I (and even Ed) may not know them.

The Story

February 20, 1994. It was a mild day in Toronto of about 4C outside when Young Ed got out his brew gear. After a recent trip to Belgium he had discovered the beauty of mixed fermentation. As A homebrewer he knew his next tasks: Research and brew. This was the early days of the internet. No Reddit. No homebrew forums. And certainly no examples available for purchase in Canada. He went forth with confidence. He mashed, boiled and pitched. Once fermentation had stopped in late September he had a brilliant idea. Store it in a corny kegs under the stairs at the family cottage. It could age and evolve uninterrupted there without the temptation of consumption. Brilliant!

Soon after putting his precious cargo to sleep his wide gave birth to their more previous cargo. As we all know babies = homebrew ghosting. Fast forward to 2015. Ed had awoken the beast and begun homebrewing again. He join his local (kick ass) homebrew club. Also while cleaning the family cottage he discovered an old soda keg. Full. Of what you ask? A beverage that rivals that of the best Belgian lambic brewers. Split the batch, some straight and some aged on raspberries for 4 months. Tasting his 2 new babies he knew what needed to be done. Enter it in the largest homebrew competition in Canada. The Brew Slam part of Brewer of the Year.

Well This beverage took best in show. Ed won the opportunity to do a Pro/Am brew at a local craft brewery. Obviously the brewery didnt have 22 years (how old it was when it was judged) to wait for this beer so they went down a different path. A Black NEIPA with raspberries. Long story short the beer was/is amazing and is the 3rd highest rated beer on untappd of that brewery.

How did I manage to get a bottle? Once upon a time after a few homebrews I commented on a picture he posted of the beer saying “I would offer my soul for just a sip”. A few months later I got a FB message asking if my soul was still available. Ed needed a small flavour. I said sure (picked up his plate chiller from an out of towner and held it until I next saw him) and was rewarded far more than I deserved for just being a decent dude. A bottle of the legendary now 23 year old lambic. The beer sat in my fridge for 2 weeks until last evening when my SO and I sipped and cherished the beverage as dinner was cooking. Ed has been keeping my soul in the fridge with a few pints and occasionally lets the dogs play with it.

qhvpmnv

Review

Appearance:
Crystal clear until the dregs started to slip in. Ruby red. It looked as if we were drinking a liquid gemstone. A few bubbles but nothing that could form a head. Almost like a toned down Champagne.

Aroma:
Extremely clean lactic acidity. Tart raspberries and other field berries. Zero off aromas. Mild tropical fruit and funk. More pleasant than a vast majority of commercial examples.

Flavour:
Bright and clean lactic acidity with a firm tartness. Raspberry tang, Aged hop funk and hay. immediately brought 3F Golden Blend to mind but with raspberries. A wide array of flavours that my palate can only describe as “complexity” in a good way.

Mouthfeel:
Moderately low carbonation. Mildly sweet after the initial tartness that then finished refreshingly dry. Strong lactic acidity. Fairly thin well attenuated body. Draws the cheeks in slightly and begs for another sip.

Overall Impression:
I know I hyped myself about this but holy hell. IMO This kicks the crap out of any North American made sour I have ever had. Even some Belgian lambics fail to compete with this. This is 3F and Cantillon level. It is no wonder this took best in show. Guess I need to forget about some beers for 20+ years!

In case you are wondering what yeast was used… Wyeast 3278 Lambic Blend and some various dregs from back in the day. Stale Hallertau, 65% 2 row and 35% soft wheat