Partial Mash Sour Beer

So having not brewed beer about a year, I decided to get back into brewing with a partial mash. Here’s the problem; I’ve never been able to make a brew day simple. So here is the evolution of this project.

Firstly I knew I wanted to brew a sour beer because I wanted something low maintenance that I could leave kicking around untill I really began brewing more seriously again. On top of that, the aging time on sours make them a priority on my brewing schedule.  Now, considering that I haven’t unpacked my brewing equipment since I moved to Florida a year ago, I originally thought about brewing a 3 gallon extract batch. Then all of a sudden, I re-discovered around 20 lb of nice base malts that I totally forgot about. Doing the taste test I found the we’re still fresh (SCORE). So, with new found treasure, it would be a sin not to use it, thus the 3 gallon extract became a 3 gallon partial mash. 

Then, the danger started, I began thinking. If I’m going to the trouble of making a partial mash AND it’s going to get diluted anyway… why not go whole hog and make it a 6 gallon batch (what the hell right). Thank god I didn’t feel like getting my mash tun out or this could have gotten out of hand. So finally we have 6 gallons of wort that I split into two 3 gallon batches.

The first batch is my “control” group and is fermented with one of Wyeast seasonal releases. The second is a lot more weird and hopefully more funky. It has dregs from a couple of bottles and aincent smack packs of old wyeast sour strains. Additionally, for a bit of insurance, I added some Belgian dry yeast which I discovered in the back of the fridge. I cultured them all up in a flask with a mini started. I left behind 200 ml of starter to keep it going, just to see what happens.

Overall it was a fantastic brew day (amazingly) temperatures were all spot on and I got surprisingly great efficiency. The wort tasted nice, a hint of bitterness but not much, with a good malty backbone. I even had an assistant, Jim, through the brew day.

Odin Sour Red (6 Gallons)

  • 3 Lb Pilsner Malt
  • 8 oz Wheat Malt
  • 10 oz Each: Caramunich II, Special B, and Aromatic
  • 4.5 Lb Golden DME
  • 1 oz Aged Hops (approx 7 IBU)

OG: 1.052

Fermentation #1 (Sacrifice): Wyeast 3789 Trappist Blend, I’m hoping it will provide a stable “control” Sour that will be reasonably clean and minimally funky

Fermentation #2 (Resurection): Dregs from Wyeast De Bom, Wyeast Old Ale, Alsop IPA, Cantillon and Prarrie Brewery, Safale T-58. This is the experimental wild. Hopefully it will be plenty Sour and plenty funky.

Sourdough Kvass

I’ve recently been experimenting with making sourdough breads. Now, while I haven’t perfected it to the point of blogging (hopefully that will come soon) I have made some tasty product. However, for every one success, there are probably three failures. Personally, I hate wasting food, especially failed cooking experiments. While I was pondering what to do with the bread besides trying to compost it, I remembered the relatively obscure Russian beer kvass.

FullSizeRender_1Classically, a kvass is a low alcohol beer brewed from old rye bread. The bread is mashed and the resulting slurry is fermented and consumed in a thick, often lumpy, smoothie. In more modern variations, the bread is separated from the sugary liquid and then the resulting wort is fermented. Being low in alcohol and before the time of “modern” brewing, it is likely that kvass developed a level of sourness after only a few days. It makes sense that a sour dough bread, having had lactobacillus already sour the mix, would be a perfect choice for a more modern take on the classic Kavas.

In order to extract as much sugar from the wheat as possible, I mashed with a bit of brewers malt just to make sure that the enzyme level was high enough. I had relatively poor control over the mash temperature so the temp ranged from the mid 150s to the low 140s. After an hour I did a quick sparge and then squeezed the brewing bag to extract a fair amount of liquid. I then boiled for an hour with a single bittering hop addition.

FullSizeRender.jpgI wanted to take this one step further. Since this beer is about as far from Reinheitsgebot as you can get, a bit of experimentation was in order. I chose to make this beer into an herbal beer, adding thyme and basil to complement the bready characteristics. I wanted the beer to remind the drinker of bread sticks and salad (sounds a bit weird, but its a combo that has worked for Olive Garden for years). Going above and beyond I wanted to see what this beer tasted like in both a “clean” and “soured” form. One gallon went to a clean German wheat fermentation, the other went onto some jolly pumpkin dregs I had kicking around the house.

Recipe: San-Fran Kvass

Weird… Yah, Tasty… depends on who you ask. The clan version is very pleasant, with a freshly baked bread flavor and a hint of herbs on the finish. It only has a mild level of sourness, just enough to give a slight twang on the tongue. Overall, it is dry and refreshing, perfect after a day under the sun! The sour beer will be ready in a few months and will hopefully be drinkable. This modern take on a Russian kvass brings together San Francisco sour dough flavors with a nice basil and thyme backbone. At such a low, ABV this is a good session beverage which has a sour tang without the need to mess with sour bugs…. unless you want to.

Recipe: 2 Gallons

OG: 1.036 —- FG: 1.000 —- ABV: 4.73%

  • FullSizeRender2.5 Lb Sour Dough Bread
  • 0.5 Lb Brewer’s Malt
  • 10 g Tradition
  • 10 Basil Leaves
  • 3 Sprigs Thyme

1 Gallon with Wyeast 3056

1 Gallon with Jolly Pumpkin Dregs

Simple Sour

I love a full brew day, the challenge and complexity of all grain brewing; but sometimes I come home and I want to take a step back and brew an easy extract batch. Although sometimes complexity and depth of flavor can be lost in an extract brew day, the benefits of ease can more than compensate for a few points off of judging score sheet. There are also other times when I have a desire to brew an extract batch for more than just ease of use. This was the case for my latest sour brewing endeavor.

I found myself I possession of a small sample of Brett Brux starter wort generously donated by a friend. Over the last few months I have been kicking around this yeast, moving it from starter to starter and never quite knowing what to do with it. It had come that this yeast had gone though around 3 starters and I still had not found a use for it. Now, I am very careful when I’m making yeast starters, but even with care an infection can occur. For this beer, I was too dubious of the quality of the Brett to use it in something I would slave over for hours then age for several months to years. It is for situations like this that extract brews make the perfect caliper of beer.

The brew day itself only took around 2 1/2 to 3 hours, and I probably could have shaved off even more time. I chose to do a small partial mash to impart flavor. Since it was so small, I did  a brew in a bag mash which saved on both time, labor, and equipment clean up. While I may have payed a few bucks extra for the extract rather than grain, I think my time was worth the investment. I was incredibly happy with the final result of this beer, especially after it was dry hoped. The beer had a fantastic, yet restrained, level of funk which complemented the tropical tones of the hops quite nicely.

Have you ever made an extract sour beer? Tell us more about it below!


 

Recipe: Dumpy The Waste Sour

Who says a sour has to be a time intensive beer? This dry hoped brett beer is a relatively quick turn around wild beer. The hops lend definition to the funk of the beer, giving it a bit more structure. This easy brew will produce a decent sour in less than 3 months.

OG: 1.045 —- FG: 1.0## —- ABV: #.##%

FullSizeRenderRecipe: 5 Gallons

  • 3 Lb Pilsner DME
  • 1 Lb Golden Light DME
  • 1 Lb Dark Wheat
  • 1 Lb Avangard Vienna
  • 18 g Magnum at 60 min
  • 28 g Saaz at 10 min
  • 28 g each of Citra, Mosaic, and Nelson Sauvin Dry Hop for 7 Days

Yeast: Brettanomyces bruxellensis (Starter) and Safale US-O5

Mini-Mashed the Wheat and Vienna in 2 gallons at 152 F. Beer was brewed on 1/10/16, Racked to 2ndary on 2/10/16, Dry hopped on 3/25/16, and Kegged on 4/3/16. The beer was force carbonated to a highly effervescent level. Overall the beer took approximately 3 months to complete. 

Dunkelweizen

Hefeweizen has become a very popular style among craft beer drinkers. Many breweries have at least a seasonal hefeweizen available on draft or in the bottle. However, there is a is a darker, more sinister, cousin of hefeweizen that many people have never even heard of… the dunkelweizen.

Lets break Dunkelweizen down. Dunkel is German for dark and Weizen is German for wheat. Put them together and you get a Dark Wheat Beer. One key component to brewing a dunkelweiss is producing a beer that has a dark color combined with rich malty flavor. We can accomplish this through a number of methods, but I recommend utilizing a bend of various high lovibond malts. This will not only give a darker color, but will also create an interesting malt profile. Next we have to think about the weizen component to this beer. I personally prefer a near 50:50 ratio of wheat malt to barley malt but this is again about personal preference. One thing to remember is that the more wheat you have, the more challenging your sparge will be. Although it may be overkill, I like to use 1 pound of rice hulls in my wheat beers. I can say that when I use high amounts of rice hulls, I never get a stuck sparge.

This brew makes an excellent beer for the fall. It has the excellent banana and clove aromas that hefeweizen is redound for, but it has a more rich malty note that makes it perfect for colder weather. This is an excellent transition between the light beers of summer to the dark beers of winter.


Recipe: Dunkelweizen

This is a highly malty, rich beer with a beautiful hint of chocolate. It balances the banana and spice of a German wheat with the complex malt and dark sugar notes of a dark Belgian ale.This particular version is heavy in the darker malts, giving a plum and raisin flavor.

DunkelweissOG: 1.051 —- FG: 1.0** —- ABV: *.*%

Recipe: 5 Gallons

  • 5 Lb Red Wheat Malt
  • 4 Lb German Pilsner Malt
  • 1 Lb Dark Munich
  • 4 oz Carafa I
  • 4 oz Special B
  • 4 oz Crystal 90
  • 1 Lb Rice Hulls
  • 0.75 oz Hallertau (4.5% aa) at 90 min

Yeast: Mangrove Jack Wheat

Fermented at Room Temperature for 12 days, Kegged and Forced Carbonated

Tincture Brewing

IMG_2866First off, what is a tincture? A tincture is simply an infusion of a spice or herb in an alcoholic solution. Traditionally these were used for medical purposes, extracting and preserving the healing properties of herbs and spices for use at a later time. A happy extension of this practice is the infused alcohol which we enjoy in cocktails (think rosemary infused vodka martini or the infamous Jägermeister). For our purposes as brewers, we can use these tinctures to improve our homebrew. Tinctures allow a quick, precise, and relatively easy way of adding a unique and exciting boost of flavor to your beer.

Advantages of Tinctures

Tinctures provide the home brewer with a number of distinct advantages over simply adding the flavoring agents to the beer. Firstly, tinctures allow for a precise amount of control over the amount of flavor added. When added at the end of fermentation or before bottling, the brewer can add small amounts of a tincture and taste the beer with each addition. This prevents the risk of adding too much or too little flavor and can cater the taste exactly to your personal preferences.

The next great advantage is the reduced risk of infection. While many herbs and spices, hops included, have inherent antimicrobial properties, there are still some which may harbor bacteria. By soaking your flavor addition in an alcoholic solution, you are significantly reducing the chances of a rogue microbe getting into your beer. The alcohol not only extracts flavor but sanitizes at the same time.

The final great advantage is the shorter time frame associated with tinctures. This is especially true when working with oak. When aging on oak, the time required for full extraction can be along the lines of months to even years. On the other hand, you can make an oak tincture (with either vodka or bourbon) and have it ready for addition within 2 weeks time. While it is true that this can take away from some of the complexity associated with oak, its time advantage can definitely outweigh this disadvantage.

What Spices/Herbs to Use

Any spice or herb can be used as a tincture. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the flavor of your tincture should compliment the beer you put it in. While sage may be delicious in a saison or Belgian wit, its flavors may clash with a malty porter. I’ve outlined a number of spices/herbs you may want to try, and the beers that they could go very well with.

  • Sage: With a fresh yet potent aroma, sage screams out spring. It makes an excellent addition to saisons and Belgian wits but I would recommend using it with a light hand as it’s flavor can get overpowering very quickly.
  • Rosemary: This is one of my favorite herbs and it lends itself very well to beer. I personally enjoy using rosemary in my saisons, but I could see it being an excellent addition to a Belgian golden ale or possibly even a dry cream ale.
  • Mugwort: Said to ward off evil spirits and promote vivid dreams, this unique herb possess a sage like aroma and intense bittering potential. This is one of the ancient bittering herbs used for gruits. Try it today ind rich porters or northern English brown ales.
  • Heather: This herb is common to the Scottish highlands and was commonly used in old school scotch ales. With the high taxes associated with hops (usually grown in more southern climates) the Scotts often turned to this bitter herb to mellow out the malt in their beers. Heather possesses floral and earthy notes. Try adding a tincture of heather to your next scotch ale.
  • Cinnamon: This favorite spice can be found in almost every pantry across America. Obviously cinnamon imparts a cinnamon type flavor, but what many people don’t realize is that cinnamon lends a unique spicy heat to the beers it is put in. You could experiment by adding just a dash to your next stout or English mild. I’ve had a great deal of success adding cinnamon to Irish Red ales.
  • Vanilla: We all know vanilla from various experiments in baking. Its flavors go very well in stouts, particularly milk stouts. For something a bit beyond the pale, you could try adding this to a blond or cream ale. If you want to try an example of this, Forgotten Boardwalk’s Funnel Cake Ale is a Cream Ale brewed with lactose sugar and vanilla.
  • Cocoa Nibs: Cocoa nibs are just dried and fermented cocoa beans. They lend a rich chocolate flavor to your beer. For a pure chocolate flavor, add these to a neutral spirit such as vodka. For something a bit more extraordinary, you could add them to either rum or bourbon. Stouts would be the classic beer to add this tincture to but Triptych Brewery’s Golden Oatie adds coffee and cocao nibs to their blond ale with very unique results.
  • Pumpkin Spice Mix: The types of beer that you could put this mix into are endless. My personal favorite style is a rich and malty amber, but I have put it in stouts and saisons as well with varying levels of success.
  • Gingerbread Mix: I generally like putting this mix in brown ales but it really could go into anything. Check out the recipe below for my Gingerbread Beer Recipe.
  • Winter Spice Mix: Generally consists of allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger but other permutations are more than possible. I have heard of cardamom being used as well as mint. Generally this mix is associated with very full bodied malty beers. You could try them in an old ale, a stout, or a porter

How to Make a Tincture

IMG_2863

While this is not the only method of making a tincture, it is a great starting point for the newbie willing to experiment. The following pictures are from an experimental green tea tincture I decided to make.

Clean Equipment Step 1: Start by thoroughly washing your container. While sanitation is not essential for this process, it is important to make sure there is no dirt which could lead to off flavors in your tincture. As far as choice of container, I personally like using canning jars. In regard to size, I would recommend either 4 oz or 8 oz jars. They are large enough to provide almost any size tincture, but small enough to easily fit into any space for storage.

Add Spice/Herb to JarStep 2: Add your spice or herb to the mason jar. For wet herbs, I would recommend shredding them lightly to increase surface aria and release some of the essential oils. The amount that you use is completely your prerogative and is a matter of personal choice. At this point, it would be hard to go overboard with the amount since you will essentially be diluting this mixture later.

Step 3: Add the alcohol to the jar. Make sure that the spirits are completely covering the spice.

IMG_2873

Store the TinctureStep 4: Store the tincture in a dark place. The warmer the location, the faster the extraction will occur. Every few days give the jar a shake to mix the herb/spice and disperse the flavor. After 2 weeks, the tincture will be fully extracted. Longer wait time will only increase the potency. A combination of tasting and trial and error will let you know when its finished extracting.

Straining TincturesStep 5: Once you have decided that your tincture is finished extracting its time to take the extract off of the herb/spice. There are a number of ways to do this. One is to purchase a fine mesh bag and squeeze until all of the tincture is separated from the left over gloop. Another way is to use plain old coffee filters. While less efficient than a mesh bag, coffee filter’s convenience and price point makes them a reasonable alternative. Store in a cool dark location. Shelf life should be good for several months before flavors begin to diminish.


Recipe: Gingerbread Brown Ale

This beer is the perfect winter brew, combining the rich malt of an English brown ale with the warm spice of gingerbread. This makes an excellent gift to family or friends for the holidays. Although the spice diminishes slightly as the beer ages, the flavor still gives the beer a unique twist.

Gingerbread BrownOG: 1.060 —- FG: 1.015 —- ABV: 5.9%

  • 6.6 Lb Gold LME
  • 0.5 Lb Carapils
  • 0.5 Lb Crystal 80
  • 0.5 Lb Biscuit
  • 0.5 Lb Chocolate
  • 0.5 Lb Marris Otter
  • 3/4 oz (East Kent Golding) – 60 min
  • 3/4 oz (East Kent Golding) – 20 min
  • 8 g (Gingerbread Spice Mix) – Flameout
  • Gingerbread Spice Tincture to Taste

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 (London Ale III)

Notes: Gingerbread Spice Mixture as Follows (2 Part Cinnamon : 2 Part Ground Ginger : 1 Part All Spice : 1 Part Clove : 1 Part Nutmeg)

Next time I will consider dialing back on the darker malts in order to balance the profile and make the beer a bit lighter in both body and color.


Resources

House Blond Ale #1

I’ve recently been looking for a solid house blond that I could brew repeatedly and nail down. My goal was to create a recipe with a pleasant malt base, restrained bitterness, and an overall high level of drinkability. I decided to go with a high alpha hop and a later addition in order to get the best of both bittering and flavor. Citra, with its unique and pleasant characteristics in addition to its high alpha content, made a great choice for this beer. I chose honey malt since it would provide a level of sweetness, a hint of color, and a level of “what is that taste” to this brew. I decided against carapils for this round, but I may use them in the future to bulk up the body and add a bit of stability to the head.

Overall, I found this to be a good first try in creating a house blond. It is what I would consider to be an IPA lover’s dream blond ale. It comes at you with a very pleasant floral bouquet, and imparts strong flavors of cooked pineapple. It is most certainly a highly drinkable beer, but I am not thrilled by the hop selection. Next time I would like to go with something a little more subtle, allowing the malt bill to shine. However, I am hugely fond of the base of this beer and think it is a keeper.


Recipe: House Blond Ale #1

This beer has a pleasant malt base, restrained bitterness, and an overall high level of drinkability. The citra hops come across as a melange of tropical fruits with pineapple taking the lead. This recipe could be adapted to any taste with the substitution of another high alpha hop for the citra.

Blonde AleOG: 1.047 —- FG: 1.0** —- ABV: *.*%

  • 9.5 Lb Brewers 2-Row Malt
  • 0.5 Lb Gambrinous Honey Malt
  • 1 oz Citra at 15 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1099 (Whitbread) with 1800 mL starter of 2 days, cold crashed

Mashed at 152° F for 60 min, Whirlpool 10 min, Rest 20 min

Fermented at 67° F for 11 days, Cold crashed at 40° F for 3 days

Notes:

  • With the starter, this beer took off like crazy and finished fermenting in around a week
  • 1099 flocculated amazingly, it formed a very compact bed at the bottom of the fermenter and left very clean beer behind
  • The flavor has mellowed with time to become more of a subtle hop character