Bioreactor Culture A – Gen 1

Sour-Cellar

The current state of my sour beer cellar. 20+ vessels (mostly 1-gallon) in various states of aging.

It’s been well over a year since I started my bioreactor project. What started as a method to maintain a single ‘house’ mixed culture has grown into maintaining 3 separate and distinct mixed cultures. Each of these cultures is refreshed every 4 months by brewing a new 3-gallon batch of beer and splitting it into (3) 1-gallon jugs for each culture. In addition to the 1-gallon refreshes, with every refresh I grow up a separate large slurry of one of the cultures and pitch it into a larger 3-gallon test batch.

Over a year in, the first of the cultures, “Culture A” (I know, very creative) has begun to produce the first finished 1-gallon batches of beer. The recipe for this beer and review is below.

“Culture A” Provenance

“Culture A” started its life as bottle dregs grown up from the following commercial beers:

  • Cantillon Gueuze
  • Tilquin Gueuze
  • Russian River Beatification
  • Crooked Stave Surette
  • Jolly Pumpkin La Roja

bra1Bio Reactor – Culture A – Gen 1 – Recipe and Review

Specifications:
Size: 1.5 gal
Efficiency: 80%
Attenuation: 85%

Original Gravity: 1.054
Terminal Gravity: 1.008
Color: 3.95 SRM
Alcohol: 6.11% ABV
Bitterness: 0 IBU
Terminal pH: 2.86

Malt Bill:
2.25 lb (90.0%) Best Pilsner Malt
0.25 lb (10.0%) Briess Cara-Pils

Mash Profile:
158°F – 60m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
Added to mash: 2g Calcium Chloride

Hopping:
0.25 oz Aged Cascade Hops (0.0% AA) – 90m

Kettle Additions:
0.25 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15m
0.25 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 10m

Yeast:
Bio Reactor “Culture A”

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 28B Mixed Fermentation Sour Beer

Aroma (9/12):
Quite fruity and tart on the nose with aromas reminiscent of sour cherry, berries, and perhaps a little tart apple. There is a fair amount of Brett funk on the nose—hay, leather, wet earth, and then some cinnamon-like spice with a touch of plastic-like phenol.

Appearance (2/3):
The beer paints a deep golden hue with crystal clarity. The beer pours with a nice, white foam, but quickly dissipates, likely due to lactobacillus’ ability to degrade foam positive proteins.

Flavor (13/20):
The beer leaves an initial impression of stark dryness and acidity though manages to balance with just a touch of residual malt sweetness. There is a low crackery malt character that is amplified by a hint of Cheerios-like THP. The beer has a tannic character that is reminiscent of apple skins. Most of the funk exhibited on the nose is subdued on the palate. The acidity is primarily lactic in nature, which is somewhat surprising considering the abundant amount of head space that was in the carboy during aging.

Mouthfeel (3/5):
The beer manages to feel crisp in spite of what is a fairly low level of carbonation. The acidity is soft and round not sharp or biting. A little bit more carbonation would be a welcome addition.

Overall Impression (6/10):
This is a very nice, refreshing sour beer with just enough funky Brett aromatics to keep it interesting. While blending is typical in sour beer production, this beer manages to remain somewhat balanced without any additional intervention.

Very Good (33/50)

Cream Ale Homebrew Recipe and Review

cream-aleIt’s with a heavy dose of irony that I admit that the largest proportion of beer I drink is industrial American lager. Much of this is attributable to the fact that my go-to after-work happy hour bar serves inexpensive buckets of Narragansett tall boys, but I can honestly say (without much irony) that I frequently enjoy drinking cold, effervescent, dry, and nearly flavorless adjunct lager. I am a firm believer that there is a beer for all occasions, and this is especially true for adjunct lager. The fact of the matter is there are very few craft breweries producing any sort of light American lager so when a situation calls for this type of beer, I am often reaching for an industrial macro lager. Whether it is the economics of tying up tank space or a reaction against Big Beer, it is somewhat sad to me that no one is taking up this style. The closest thing that can be found are cream ales or ‘blonds’; often feeling like they want to be an adjunct lager, but are too self-conscious to describe themselves as such. It’s along these lines that I brewed the recipe below—essentially an ale version of Budweiser with a little extra gravity and flavor. I really enjoyed drinking this beer, and apparently so did the judges at the National Homebrew Competition who gave it a second place ribbon in the first round.

Cream Ale Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 74%
Attenuation: 82.7%

Original Gravity: 1.052
Terminal Gravity: 1.009
Color: 3.0 SRM
Alcohol: 5.6% ABV
Bitterness: 17.0 IBUs

Malt Bill:
3lb (46.2%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
2lb (30.8%) Briess 2-Row Brewers Malt
1lb (15.4%) Briess Flaked Corn
0.5lb (7.7%) Corn Sugar

Mash Profile:
151°F – 60m
170°F – 5m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
3g Gypsum (to mash)
3g Calcium Chloride (to mash)

Hopping:
22g Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (3.8% AA) – 90m

Kettle Additions:
0.5ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15m
0.5tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10m

Yeast:
Safale US-05 Dry Yeast – 1 Packet

Tasting Notes:

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 1C Cream Ale

Aroma (10/12):
Overall, the aroma is very muted. Malt is apparent with just a hint of bready pilsner character and a touch of graininess. There is a very low pear ester that reminds you this is an ale fermentation. I find a touch of corn in the aroma which I doubt I would have noticed it if I hadn’t brewed the beer myself. Surprisingly, there is a touch of herbal hop character that comes through against the generally muted aroma.

Appearance (2/3):
The beer strikes a very light straw hue with just a hint of haze. The beer is capped by a big white frothy foam with moderate to low persistence.

Flavor (18/20):
The beer is exceptionally clean with a very minimal malt character—just a hint more flavor than the beer’s adjunct lager cousins. There is a very low bready malt component that finishes with a touch of sweet corn and grainy husk. There is a very low bitterness, just enough to balance the slight sweetness attributable to the flaked corn addition. Overall, the beer is exceptionally dry, clean, and refreshing.

Mouthfeel (5/5):
This is an exceptionally lean beer with a spritzy level of carbonation. The beer finishes perhaps a touch watery, but not less than the style would dictate.

Overall Impression (9/10):
This is a great quenching and dry beer with enough snappy carbonation to make it very refreshing. A tall pint of this would be a great choice for hot summer days when you’re looking for a light lager, but want perhaps a touch more flavor.

Excellent (44/50)

The Homebrew Wife Brews Her First Batch

Hello! It’s Jessie, the homebrew wife here at The Pour Report, and I have some exciting news to share. I’ve brewed my first batch of beer!

Mashing In

The homebrew wife’s first mash!

Having been tangentially involved over the years, the thought of actually brewing up a batch of my own is a recent occurrence. I have attended various beer-centric events, gone on many a beercation, and chatted endlessly with Nick, but had mostly stayed out of the brewery. When I attended my first full national homebrewers conference in 2015, it was the history seminars that piqued most of my interest. Although I attended some of the more technical seminars, I did find them a bit over my head. So in preparation for Homebrew Con 2016, I decided to read Randy Mosher’s “Mastering Homebrew”. (Thanks for the book, Sarah!) Doing most of my reading while riding the subway to and from work, I found myself thinking over and over how much better the information would stick if I could get some hands-on experience. While I was able to conjure up images of Nick doing what Randy was describing, there’s nothing quite like getting your hands dirty. So it was decided that I was going to have my first brew day.

Going in, I knew that I wanted something light with a very low ABV (I’ve been “blessed” with wonky genes, which makes me a bit of a featherweight). And as I hold tart beers close to my heart, why not make one for my first brew? With my newly gained knowledge from Randy and some consultation from Nick, I put together my recipe (see below) with the hopes of creating a tart, crisp, and slightly fruity beer. You’ll see Clarity Ferm listed in my recipe. In addition to having poor drinking genes, I was also told about a year ago I have a gluten sensitivity. (No, the irony of a homebrew wife who doesn’t do well with either alcohol or gluten is not lost on me.) And since Nick has been wanting to play with Clarity Ferm but has not yet had the chance, we thought it fitting to use it in my beer.

With a date picked and ingredients ordered, a bit of nervousness started to set it. Headed into my first brew day, I had some minor concerns about how it would all play out the day of.
1) My complete and utter lack of culinary prowess: I can make a mean scrambled egg (and once made penne vodka from scratch), but that’s about where my capabilities max out. I’d like to think I have a pretty good feel for certain things, but I know for sure that I have zero instinct when it comes to cooking. As I have often said to Nick, I need “very explicit instructions” when in the kitchen (or in this case, the brewery).
2) Stepping into Nick’s domain: despite being both excited for me and very encouraging, I also know that Nick has very specific ways of doing things and a very high standard for everything that he does (as evidenced by his numerous accolades). The actual working together part of it didn’t really worry me (we’ve collaborated on various projects in the past); it was more about not living up to his very high brewing standards. Plus, I didn’t want to be responsible for breaking any of his equipment.
3) Lack of technical knowledge: while I had no problem conceptualizing the beer I wanted to brew, I wasn’t quite sure how I was actually going to get from recipe to fermented beverage. Luckily, my first brew day was going to be a tandem brew with Nick.

The brew day itself actually went remarkably smoothly (just one of the benefits of brewing with someone who knows what they’re doing!). Slightly flustered by the initial mise en place and set up of the brewery, the bulk of the brew day went pretty much according to plan. I have to admit I was a little surprised at how much down time there was (I’m looking at you, 90-minute boil). But it did feel like the cleaning of equipment was endless and, boy, that hot water sure is HOT (even through those Blichmann rubber gloves). But cleanliness is next to godliness and a must for any decent brewer.

A couple things of note about this beer in particular:
1) Mashing in high: because we started at such a low gravity (1.038), we mashed in at a higher than typical temperature (158°F) to try and keep the attenuation from being too high.
2) Tracking the mash: our initial mash pH was 5.3. Post boil, the wort was further acidified to pH 4.5 to prevent the lacto from enzymatically degrading the foam positive proteins. By Day 2, the lacto had acidified the wort to pH 3.24 and dropped the gravity to 1.019.
3) The fermentation schedule: pre acidification on Day 1 with the French Saison yeast + Clarity Ferm being pitched on Day 3. And to finish off the beer, three days sitting on one ounce of Galaxy hops post-fermentation.

Having survived my first brew day, I am now even more impressed with all of the homebrewers out there pursuing this hobby. Cheers and Happy Homebrewing!

Sun Shower Saison Recipe

Specifications:

Size: 3.25gal
Efficiency: 70%
Attenuation: 76%
Original Gravity: 1.038
Terminal Gravity: 1.009 (estimated)
Color: 3.18 SRM (estimated)

Alcohol: 3.93% ABV (estimated)
Bitterness: 0 IBU

Malt Bill:
4lb (76.2%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
0.75lb (14.3%) Flaked Wheat
0.5lb (9.5%) Briess Cara-Pils Malt

Mash Profile:

158°F – 60m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
Added to mash:
4g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate)
2g Calcium Chloride

Hopping:
1oz Galaxy – secondary fermentation

Kettle Additions:
0.5tsp Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15m
0.5tsp Wyeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 10m

Yeast/Bacteria:
Wyeast 3711 French Saison
White Labs WLP672 Lacto Brevis

Additional Ingredients:
Clarity Ferm – added with yeast

Homebrew Con 2016 – Baltimore

Homebrew Con 2016 - One Motley Crew

One motley crew at Homebrew Con 2016.

It seems like only yesterday I was a doe-eyed, neophyte homebrewer enamored by the spectacle of the National Homebrewers Conference, my first being Bellevue in 2012. Four years, hundreds of batches, and four conferences later (I missed Grand Rapids in 2014), I’m only slightly less doe-eyed, but equally as enamored with what is undoubtedly the marquee event of the homebrew calendar.

For those unfamiliar, Homebrew Con is the annual conference hosted by the American Homebrewers Association. Every June, the conference lands in a different city for three days, bringing along with it over two thousand fanatic homebrewers ready to learn more about the hobby they love and to hang out with the community of people that makes the hobby so great. Conference days are generally spent in a variety of seminars, whereas social events keep you busy at night. In between, plenty of informal drinking happens via an abundantly stocked hospitality suite located in the middle of an exceptional trade show displaying the wares and gadgetry from different vendors around the country.

The Seminars

Charlie Papazian Giving a Slideshow

Charlie Papazian gave us a high-paced photographic tour through the last 30 years of homebrewing.

The seminars at Homebrew Con form the backbone of programming for the overall conference. In terms of content, the AHA seems to strive to address a broad spectrum of interests and levels of complexity, from beginner discussions about simple brewing techniques to highly technical overviews of contemporary research into brewing. At times, it was necessary to make difficult decisions about which seminars to attend; luckily, the AHA posts video recordings of all the seminars on their website.

Several seminars stood out for me this year:

Homebrew Bloggers Roundtable – The folks behind Brulosophy, Five Blades Brewing, Ales of the Riverwards, and A Ph.D in Beer gave a great talk about some of the issues surrounding some of the (bigger) homebrew blogs out there. Certainly inspired me to write more!

How and What to Brew With S. eubayanus – A tremendously interesting talk (and tasting) by Jared Spider about a fairly recently discovered species of yeast called S. eubayanus. Modern genetic sequencing has led us to believe that lager yeast (S. pastorianus) is actually a hybrid S. eubayanus and S. cerevisiae. There are tremendous implications in terms of what this means for the possibilities of creating new hybridized yeast without the need for genetic modification.

How to Fail at Starting a Brewery – Nicole Carrier from Throwback Brewery gave an amazingly insightful presentation on what it takes (beyond just good beer) to create a successful brewery. The need to differentiate beyond simply making great beer was driven home, as were her thoughts on creating a personal connection with customers and making them become strong advocates for your brand.

Unlocking the Genetic Code of Brewing Strains – Chris White teased the audience by previewing some of the scholarly research White Labs is conducting utilizing DNA sequencing of yeast. He let it slip that, genetically speaking, White Lab 001 and Wyeast 1056 are not the same strain of yeast—pretty cool stuff!

Pro Night (AKA Craft Beer Kickoff Party)

Pro Night kicks off the social event schedule with the pouring of beer from dozens of local breweries (along with a few non-locals, like Lagunitas and New Belgium). In general, this year’s beers were a bit…boring. With exception of a few, most beers fell firmly in the ‘okay’ to ‘good’ range with a number being flawed and dipping below the mediocre line. There were many breweries listed on the conference website that appeared to have cancelled, leaving a noticeable population of empty booths on the tasting floor. The lineup was lacking in terms of star power—with the exception of Adroit Theory Brewing Company whose line was the longest of the night, but whose beers, to my palate, were a bit overspiced. Hands down however, Kleinevriend, a dry-hopped, slightly sour, saison from Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company, was an easy favorite and highlight of the night.

Club Night

The Golden Girls make a rare appearance at Homebrew Con 2016 Club Night

The Golden Girls make a rare appearance at Homebrew Con 2016 Club Night.

Without a doubt, the best night of the conference. Dozens of homebrew clubs bring their best beers to pour for their homebrew peers. The costumes, booths, and beer coalesce into a convivial and exuberant celebration of beer brewing. Club Night this year was outstanding. The quality of beers was great—I’d argue that they were better than the beers poured the night before at Pro Night. It was a bit of a blurry night, but I managed to scribble down my favorites as the night progressed. In no particular order:

  • Gueuze – NYC Homebrewers Guild
  • Czech Lager – Keystone
  • Red IPA – Lancaster County Brewers
  • Dark Mild – MASH
  • Cherry Pie Beer – Annihilated
  • Consecration Clone – South Shore Brew Club

Awards Banquet

Making some new friends at the Grand Banquet.

Making some new friends at the Grand Banquet.

The best part of the awards banquet are the friends you make in line and around your dinner table. This year was no different. We had a great time hanging out with brewers from around the country while enjoying some good beers, passable food, and watching the best homebrewers in the country step up to claim their medals from the second round of the National Homebrew Competition. This year I had a Cream Ale and Marzen in the competition, but didn’t manage to snag a medal. Maybe next year!

The Conference In Photos

Next year, Homebrew Con travels back to Minneapolis, MN. Hope to see you there!

Vienna Lager 5.0 Recipe and Review

Vienna LagerHow time flies! My apologies for the radio silence over the past two months. Between moving apartments, a trip to CBC, the announcement of a brewery that I’ve working on, and an awesome trip to Asheville, NC, things have been crazy! More information on all of those things to come, but in the meantime, here’s a quick post about my latest batch of Vienna Lager. Cheers!

It’s a little baffling to realize that this is the fifth iteration of Vienna Lager which I have brewed. Not only does this make me do a double take in terms of realizing how much I’ve brewed over the past 6.5 years (over 150 batches and counting), but also illustrates how much I love this style.

Considering the number of different batches I brew, the breadth of styles that I have attempted to master, and the period of time that a lager like this occupies my fermentation space, it speaks volumes about the amount of respect I give a humble beer like this.

In many ways, Vienna Lager is the perfect beer for my tastes. I find it somewhat intangible trying to pinpoint why I love this beer as much as I do. It circumvents reason and defies cogent prose, but the closest I can get to describing why I enjoy this beer so much has to do with malt’s ability to be delicate and nuanced, while maintaining a quenching minimalistic lager dryness and boundless sessionability.

Being the constant tinkerer that I am, I made a couple tweaks over previous versions of this beer. As time has progressed, I’ve consistently lowered the amount of crystal malt in this beer. This version eschews crystal malts completely, making the beer a pure expression of the high-quality German base malts of which it is solely comprised.

Vienna Lager 5.0 Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25gal
Efficiency: 76%
Attenuation: 76.0%

Original Gravity: 1.052
Terminal Gravity: 1.013
Color: 13.35 SRM
Alcohol: 5.21% ABV
Bitterness: 23.0 IBUs

Malt Bill:
4lb (61.0%) Weyermann Vienna Malt
1lb (15.2%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
1.5lb (22.9%) Weyermann Munich TYPE II
1oz (1.0%) Weyermann Carafa® TYPE II

Mash Profile:
144°F – 30m
151°F – 30m
170°F – 5m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
2g Gypsum (to mash)
4g Calcium Chloride (to mash)

Hopping:
42g Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (2.7% AA) – 60m

Kettle Additions:
0.5ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15m
0.5tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10m

Yeast:
White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager – Decanted 2L Starter on Stir Plate

Tasting Notes:

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 7A Vienna Lager.

Aroma (10/12):
Bready malt wafts from the glass accompanied by complimentary amounts of toasty crust and just a hint of toffee. There is some slight malt sweetness coming through on the nose. There isn’t any real apparent fermentation character, although there is a touch of grape-like fruitiness. It is unclear if this is a fermentation by-product or coming from the Munich malt. No apparent hop aroma.

Appearance (3/3):
Medium copper color with pristine clarity. Tightly spaced, off-white bubbles form a great foam cap which persists.

Flavor (17/20):
Beautifully balanced malt with nuanced layers of toasty malt and just a hint of caramel or toffee. The malt is balanced far more towards toasty and dry rather than sweet and caramel-rich. A touch of hop bitterness balances out the slight perception of sweetness attributed to the malt. Exceptionally clean lager fermentation with no hints of alcohol, ester, or diacetyl.

Mouthfeel (5/5):
Medium to medium-low bodied with moderate carbonation. Soft and round with no perceptible astringency.

Overall Impression (9/10):
This is a beautiful, clean malty beer without being overwhelmingly melanoidin-rich or overbearingly complex. The beer finishes clean and dry making it a crushable pint. Dropping out the crystal malt only seems to have enhanced the beer as the base malts are still capable of producing some perception of caramel flavors without any of the associated sweetness or contributions of unfermentable sugars. This beer is a great alternative to Octoberfest beers which offer a great malt richness, but can often be a touch overbearing in terms of fullness and alcohol.

Excellent (44/50)