Brewing Log – Rye Saison and Saison #2

Soooooo……. about those brewing updates I promised last post. Here’s some notes from my first two attempts at brewing a Saison.

Rye Saison and Saison #2
My infatuation with brewing farmhouse ales has hit full swing. I’m really trying to hone in on a great saison recipe. The Rye Saison I brewed for Big Brew is now just a memory. I didn’t take any tasting notes, but recall the sharpness from the rye being pretty dominate. There wasn’t too much flavor from the spices or citrus in the mix. I wanted to start the recipe with a very small amount of blended spices and gradually step them up in the next batch (if needed). The phenols from the Wyeast 3711 fermented intentionally warm (+70F) really came through, which I think also accented the rye. Overall I was very happy with the finished product for a first attempt.

For my second attempt I decided to cut the rye and opted for a higher percentage of wheat. I used a combination of wheat malt and flaked wheat, which really contributed nicely to the mouthfeel in my opinion. The amount of spices was increased to allow more perceived flavor. The last major difference I made was keeping the fermentation temperature closer to 65F. This batch was brewed on 4/28 in order to be kegged for Jen’s surprise 30th birthday party on 5/18. Given the fast turnaround time the beer was a little cloudy, but it could’ve also been from the wheat. The keg kicked in a couple of hours, which is always a good sign! I was very pleased with the way it turned out. It was definitely an improvement from the first attempt. Here’s the recipe:

Jen’s 3-0 Saison
Brewed April 28, 2012
Yeast: Wyeast 3711
Starter: No
Batch Size (Gallons): 5.5
Target Original Gravity: 1.055
IBU: 26
Efficiency: 79%
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60
Color: 5 SRM
Mash: Single Infusion @ 151F (60 minutes) – Batch Sparge

Grain Bill:
5 lb Pilsner (48.5%)
21 oz White Wheat Malt (12.7%)
1 lb Flaked Wheat (9.7%)
1.5 lb Munich Malt (14.6%)
1.5 Pale Malt (14.6%)

60 min 1 oz Tettnang (4.8%)
20 min 1 oz Czech Saaz (3%)
15 min Irish Moss
10 min 1 oz Czech Saaz (3%)
5 min Spices:
Coriander (16 grams)
Grains of Paradise (1/4 tsp)
Star Anise (6 blades)
Bitter orange peel (1/2 oz)
Sweet orange peel (1/2 oz)

Because Wyeast 3711 is such a beast and I’ll be brewing with it again soon, I decided to wash the yeast from this batch. There’s a ton of instructions and how to videos on the various methods to harvest yeast. I basically follow Bernie Brewer’s how to on The only things I do differently is use less water (and jars) and place the carboy on its side when allowing it to sit. This way the yeast gets disturbed less when pouring into the mason jars. Here’s some pics of my process:


Brewing Log – Dieci Anni Di Dolci

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been meaning to post some updates about the beers recently brewed and currently fermenting. This is the first of various updates I’ll be posting in the next couple days to document many of the notes I’ve taken.

Dieci Anni Di Dolci Russian Imperial Stout
This will probably be the last update about the RIS for a while. In case you missed it, I decided to prepare french oak cubes soaked in bourbon. After an extended stay in the primary fermenter, I finally transferred this batch almost two months after it was brewed. The gravity at this point has remained at 1.029 for quite some time, indicating that the yeast is pretty much done. The oak cubes had a chance to soak up the bourbon for a little over a month. They were added to the secondary carboy after being strained from the bourbon. I didn’t want to add the bourbon for fear that the flavor would dominate the finished product. There was only a shots worth of french oak infused bourbon left, so I saw no use in saving it. Time to enjoy one oaky boilermaker!

it’s hard to tell the difference between the beer and the bourbon since the whiskey’s color changed drastically

a little more head space than i wanted for this long conditioning stage. hopefully the glass will help keep the oxygen out

Over the next 6 to 10 months, I’m excited to taste small samples to see what flavors the oak imparts. The reading I’ve done on oak cubes indicate that different flavors develop throughout this maturation process.

Barley Legal Big Brew at Iron Hill

The AHA Big Brew is officially in the books and Barley Legal threw one hell of a party. Think beer festival, tailgate and Cinco de Mayo all rolled into one. Toss in over 440 gallons of beer brewed by about 50 brewers and I’d call Big Brew a success. It was great to get out of my comfort zone and “mobile brew” a couple batches. Our gracious hosts at Iron Hill prepared over 300 gallons of 1.050 ish 2-row wort for brewers to use if they didn’t feel like performing a mash. I decided to do one 5 gallon all-grain batch, but also made a smaller 3 gallon batch from the wort prepared by Iron Hill.

The 3 gallon batch was a breeze: Boiled the 5 gallons of wort down to 3, added a bunch of random north western hops and pitched some Chico yeast. Nice and easy. For my all-grain batch, I decided to use a slightly modified version of the AHA’s Ardley Brown Ale recipe. The minor changes were made because I’ve decided to attempt a sour. That’s right… I’ve officially made the leap to bugs and bacteria. Since I’ve been digging this style so much lately I decided why not? The modifications to the recipe included:

  • Hop additions reduced to 1 oz of EKG at 60 minutes and 1/2 oz of Fuggles at 30 minutes to minimize any aromatic hops from clashing with the wild yeast.
  • Mashed higher than suggested at 153F. This was done to allow some residual sugars to remain for the slower fermenting wild yeast.
  • Used Belgian Ardennes yeast and the dregs from bottles of Russian River Consecration and Jolly Pumpkin La Roja… DROOL. These were all pitched at the same time. This decision was made after reading a great article by The Mad Fermentationist
  • Substituted a couple of ounces of amber malt with some white wheat malt since it’s what I had on hand.

The batch went pretty smooth considering the unfamiliar surroundings. I mashed with a much higher water to grain ratio to reduce the need for a third batch sparge. My mash temperature also dropped 3 degrees after 30 minutes, so I added some additional hot water to raise it back up. Other than that it was smooth sailing. What really impressed me was the club’s chilling station, which consisted of a baby pool filled with ice that had a pump and hose connections. My wort was chilled to 80F in 20 minutes. Hats off to Jim for putting it together.

Even though it was a busy day brewing I still had some time to make my rounds. Some of the all-grain setups within the club are incredible. I also got to sample some great homebrews and received some nice compliments about Rye Saison that kicked by the end of the day. Great food, prizes and awards given… there was even a goat. Hats off for everyone’s hard work in putting this together, but especially to the officers: Evan, Devin, Ryan and Cleteur. Also a big thanks goes out to Rick and Jeremy for setting up the three tap system to pour our beers. Don’t miss this event next year. It’s bound to be even better in 2013. Here are some candid pics I took throughout the day:

AHA Big Brew – May 5th

The first Saturday of May is commonly known as the date of the Kentucky Derby. While thousands flock to Churchill Downs to enjoy the race, Mint Julep in hand, homebrewing enthusiasts around the world will raise a glass of another libation: Homebrew. The celebration is to commemorate National Homebrew Day and the comradery this hobby brings. Across the globe homebrewers of all levels will gather to compare techniques, share a pint and most importantly, brew beer.

As you can probably tell from the flyer above, Barley Legal will be celebrating at the same location they have for the past few years. If you’re looking for something fun to do on Cinco De Mayo, I strongly urge you to make an appearance at Iron Hill. You don’t need to homebrew to enjoy the day! There will be enough Barley Legal homebrews to go around. A facebook page for the event can be found HERE.

According to the AHA there was an estimated 6,700 homebrew enthusiasts gathered at 308 registered sites in 2011. Based on reports from these locations, a grand total of 14,800 gallons of beer was brewed. These numbers alone demonstrate how widespread this hobby has grown. I think it would be great to collect as many stories, pictures and accounts from Big Brew Day as possible. If you’re a beer blogger and plan to post about the Big Brew Day in your area, please drop me a line with a link. I’ll be sure to post a rundown of everything I receive.

For more information regarding locations, recipes and how you should celebrate National Homebrew Day, please visit the American Homebrewers Association’s page.

Barley Legal Cereal Contest

Homebrewers are responsible for some of the craziest ideas imaginable, so it’s hard to stretch the boundaries. Leave it to Barley Legal to come through with some beers that could’ve been created in the Wonka Factory. One of our members Kirk (winner of Sierra Nevada Beer Camp and brewer of Alternate Ending) came up with a challenging contest originally suggested by Denny Conn. The mission: Brew a beer of any style using at least one pound of commercial cereal in the mash. Teams and cereals were randomly picked at a meeting over a month ago. Last Tuesday the concoctions were brought in to be judged by the BL panel.

As you can probably tell, our team drew Froot Loops. We ultimately decided on a Berliner Weiss since we had a smack pack of Wyeast 3191. The grain bill was a whopping 6 pounds of grain (pilsner and white wheat malt) with a measly amount of Hallertauer hops. We kept it simple with a no sparge, single infusion mash. Of course there was the super loops too. For an added touch of… something… another pound of loops were added to the whirlpool. Wyeast Kolsch blend was used with the 3191 to make sure this one fermented out. Overall, it was a fun day talkin’ about brewing and enjoying some GREAT beers. By the end we had five gallons fruity gray wort. Some green food dye was added after fermentation to make it presentable. I swear this isn’t a late April Fools.

Surprisingly all the beers entered were very drinkable… all things considered. Each team tackled the challenge of incorporating the cereal differently. I can only imagine what the new guys attending their first meeting thought of this madness! Thanks to Kirk for organizing and everyone who participated. Here’s the results with some descriptions and pics:

Barley Legal Cereal Contest

1st Cocoa Pebbles (Mild ale with toasty character/Pebbles in mash)
2nd (tie) Cinnamon Toast Crunch (Jamil’s dunkel recipe/2 lbs of CTC in mash)
Lucky Charms (Irish stout/Oats and Charms in mash, boil, and “dry mallow”)
3rd Froot Loops (surprisingly turned out with some decent funk with some loop undertones)
4th Peanut Butter Captain Crunch (PB&J wheat beer/1 lb in mash, boil, and “dry crunch”/Raspberry puree)

Less is more. Saison brew day

For the past month I’ve been finding some great examples of farmhouse ales. From the Saison du Buff collaboration to a funky Bam Biere by Jolly Pumpkin, these beers have been my “go-to” styles. Farmhouse ales from the Wallonia region of Belgium and northern parts of modern day France represent a diverse range of flavors. In addition to sampling, I also picked up Phil Markowski’s book about Biere de Garde and Saisons. The diversity makes sense given the beer was brewed traditionally for sustainability. Batches were brewed in the winter to be consumed by workers during the late summer months and never left the farm. Besides historic research, the book provides a basis for recipe formulation. It was definitely a great buy which I highly recommend.

With Iron Hill in Maple Shade hosting Big Brew Day on Cinco de Mayo, I thought a Saison would be perfect to brew for the occasion. I choose Pilsner as my base malt considering most recipes use this. There are examples of unconventional grains being used so I added a decent percentage of rye malt to give some spiciness. One of the facinating things about saisons is how some brewers use a mix of spices while others rely soley on the yeast strain for that distinct saison flavor profile. I decided to go with a less is more approach and mixed a small portion of multiple spices that will hopefully add a sutble note. Monday night brewing went perfectly and I hit almost every number. My OG was a couple points high, but that’s never a bad thing! Here’s the run.down:

Big Brew Day Saison
Brewed March 26, 2012
Yeast: Wyeast 3711
Starter: No
Batch Size (Gallons): 5.5
Target Original Gravity: 1.056
IBU: 33
Efficiency: 75%
Boiling Time (Minutes): 80
Color: 5 SRM
Mash: Single Infusion @ 148F (60 minutes) – Batch Sparge

Grain Bill:
7.87 lb Pilsner (69.22%)
2 lb Rye Malt (17.5%)
1 lb White Wheat Malt (8.8%)
8 oz Munich Malt (4.4%)

60 min 1 oz Northern Brewer (8%)
20 min 1 oz Strisslespalt (2.3%)
15 min Irish Moss
5 min 1 oz Czech Saaz (3%)
5 min Spices:
Coriander (9 grams)
Black Pepper (1/4 tsp)
Star Anise (3 blades)
Orange peel (1 whole)
Grapefruit peel (1/4 of skin)

Catching up…

Hey now! It’s been a while, but there hasn’t been much brewing lately. I’ve been out-and-about recently enjoying some great music and also drinking some quality brews. My brewing efforts have revolved around carefully watching over my RIS, Dieci Anni Di Dolci. It’s been fermenting for over a month at ambient temperatures between 62-72F. Airlock activity has slowed and the yeast is slowly falling out of suspension. My last gravity reading was right around 1.030, which would indicate 71% attenuation. Hopefully these warm temperatures allow for a couple more points to drop. The hydrometer samples still have a “hot-liquor” taste that I think will mellow as it ages… still very tasty.

In the meantime, I’ve been preparing a nice twist for this brew. My goal was to make this something special, so I’ve incorporated medium-plus toast french oak cubes soaked in bourbon. Many expert brewers say the cubes should impart different layers of flavor and are intended for longer aging as opposed to the chips. The bourbon… why the hell not?! My process involved the following:

  1. Measure 1 oz of oak cubes
  2. Using a vegetable steamer, sterilize the cubes for 15 minutes
  3. Clean and sanitize mason jar
  4. Add cubes to jar and fill with enough bourbon to cover the cubes.

That’s it for now… hopefully some brewing is in my near future. I’ve been reading up about and tasting some great saisons and biere de garde styles. But for now here are some pics of my bourbon oak cube experiment: