Rauchbier Recipe and Review

RauchbierRauchbier is probably one of the most polarizing styles of beer to brew and consume. I take great joy in serving it to friends and co-workers unfamiliar with the style as it tends to elicit a broad range of reactions. Perhaps 10-20% of the people I’ve served it to emphatically enjoy the beer; while the rest find it an interesting curiosity, but not something they’d likely come back to pint after pint. I don’t feel like there is much of a middle ground in terms of the enjoyment of rauchbier.

Luckily for me, I tend to enjoy the clean bacon-y smoke and neutral lager character exhibited by a good rauchbier. The first few sips are almost always unfailingly over-the-top, but this beer tends to grow on you as your palate adapts and becomes accustomed to the smokey malt. The key, however, is to not overdo the smoke—allowing it to be confidently present while finding a balancing element in the rest of the malt character. While not a beer with universal appeal, those willing to delve deeper into the style and find nuance beyond the smoke will be rewarded with a great imbibing experience. Whatever you do however, please don’t use peat-smoked malt in this beer. Peat has a place in scotch, but is pretty gross in a rauchbier.

Rauchbier Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 72%
Attenuation: 76%

Original Gravity: 1.056
Terminal Gravity: 1.013
Color: 13.73 SRM
Alcohol: 5.58% ABV
Bitterness: 23.0 IBUs

Malt Bill:
2.75 lb (36.7%) Weyermann Smoked Malt (Beechwood)
2 lb (26.7%) Weyermann Munich TYPE II
2 lb (26.7%) Weyermann Vienna Malt
8 oz (6.7%) Weyermann Caramunich® TYPE II
4 oz (3.3%) Weyermann Melanoidin Malt

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 (2.7% AA) – 60 m

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

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

Tasting Notes:

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 6B. Rauchbier

Aroma (12/12):
For what it is, the beer actually has a fairly mellow smoke note on the nose that is reminiscent of bacon and perhaps smoked kielbasa. The smoke is clean and crisp. Beyond the smoke is a moderate caramel and toffee malt presence followed by abundant amounts of toasty bread crust. The malt provides a certain level of sweet aroma acting to mediate the upfront smoke. The fermentation character is amazingly clean with no alcohol or ester character.

Appearance (3/3):
Deep copper with great highlights somewhere in hue between a ruby and garnet. The beer is crystal clear and would appease even the most dogmatic German brewmaster. The beer is topped with a tan foam comprised of tight tiny bubbles with outstanding persistence.

Flavor (18/20):
A smokey, bacon-like flavor assertively holds the palate while managing to not dominate the entire beer. There are layers of malt flavor beyond the smoke with abundant toasty bread crust, hints of deep caramel, and touches of almost dark fruit or grape. There is a very low hop bitterness providing just a bit of a counterpoint to the touch of residual malt sweetness. Most of the balance in this beer is achieved through the contrast between smoke and residual malt sweetness. The beer showcases an exceptionally clean fermentation profile without even a hint of ester, alcohol, or residual diacetyl.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
Medium-bodied with a touch of creaminess on the finish. The carbonation is moderate and quenching. No astringency.

Overall Impression (8/10):
This is a great rauchbier that falls at the medium to low-end of the pack in terms of smoke intensity. The beechwood-smoked malt used in this beer exhibits a bacon or ham-like character that may not be for everyone, but is true to the style. I really enjoy how the smoke in a beer like this provides a balancing counterpoint to what otherwise is a fairly complex and rich malt character.

Outstanding (45/50)

Doppelbock Recipe and Review

dbockFor me, the best Doppelbocks are pure expressions of German Munich malt. Providing a ton of flavor and richness through its high melanoidin content without bringing too much sweetness to a beer, Munich malt is a favorite of mine to brew with. Melanoidins are byproducts of Maillard reactions and differ in flavor from caramelization in that they lean more towards bready/biscuity/toasty as opposed to the caramel/toffee/burnt sugar exhibited by crystal malts. Varying amounts of Munich malt can bring different qualities to a beer. In small percentages, it enhances the overall malty impression of a base malt. When used in high percentages, such as in this beer, it provides an extremely rich toasty bread crust flavor.

Doppelbocks tend to be rich, highly-alcoholic beers that manage to not bog you down in the ways other high-alcohol beers can. This recipe is a work-in-progress as it continues to feel heavier than I would like. Future tweaks to the recipe will likely push the beer to attenuate better.

Doppelbock Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25
Efficiency: 73%
Attenuation: 71.4%

Original Gravity: 1.084
Terminal Gravity: 1.024
Color: 22.23 SRM
Alcohol: 7.94% ABV
Bitterness: 25 IBU

Malt Bill:
8 lb (67.4%) Weyermann Munich II Malt
3 lb (25.3%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
0.5 lb (4.2%) Weyermann Caramunich Type III
0.25 lb (2.1%) Weyermann Melanoidin Malt
2 oz. (1.1 %) Thomas Fawcett Chocolate Malt

Mash Profile:
146 °F – 25m
150 °F – 25m
154 °F – 20m
170 °F – 5m

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

Hopping:
1.5 oz Hallertau (2.7% AA) – 60 m
0.5 oz Hallertau (2.7% AA) – 5 m

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

Yeast:
Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager – Decanted 2L Starter on Stir Plate

Tasting Notes:

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 9A. Doppelbock.

Aroma (12/12):
Liquid bread. Rich toasty bread crust dominates the aroma. The malt profile is very complex, possessing some slightly grape-like dark fruit aspects. There is a hint of a floral hop character that is somewhat surprising considering the low amount of finishing hops in the beer. Just a hint of toffee and caramel sits in the background. This beer exhibits a very clean ferment with no ester or alcohols apparent.

Appearance (3/3):
Deep brown with some garnet highlights. Crystal clear with a beautiful tightly-bound tan foam. Foam lasts for days. Perfect appearance.

Flavor (12/20):
This beer hits all the notes in terms of malt richness and complexity. Flavors of freshly baked bread crust dominate, but intermingle with some nice dark fruit components as well as a hint of toffee and perhaps just the faintest amount of dark cocoa. There is a bit of hot alcohol heat that hits the back of the throat. The beer has a considerable level of sweetness that reaches just beyond the range described in the style guideline. Hop bitterness is present, but more of a background balancing note.

Mouthfeel (2/5):
This is a full beer with a moderate level of carbonation. I wish the beer was a touch less full, which would enhance the quaffability of the beer.

Overall Impression (5/10):
This beer is so close to great. If I can get it to attenuate perhaps another 4-6 gravity points, it would be right up there with world-class examples. The sweetness is manageable, but makes it drink closer to a melanoidin-heavy barleywine rather than a true doppelbock.

Very Good (34/50)

Mixed-Culture Saison Recipe and Review

It seems that more and more breweries are beginning to incorporate Brettanomyces into their brewing repertoire. When done well, I’m a huge fan. By and large, my favorites are those that focus on creating a pleasant and complex fruity character rather than a horsey, phenol-heavy Brett character typically produced by many strains. I’m not a huge fan of that type of aggressive phenolic Brett character, which I find to be at times overly harsh and perhaps even biting. I think this is one of the biggest mistakes being made by contemporary brewers trying to make funky beers. Bigger Brett character is not always better.

saisonThe key to this beer recipe is the oats which provide a nice silky component to what could otherwise be a very dry, thin beer. Even more important is achieving proper fermentation character. In my brewery, I am achieving this by utilizing a mixed culture which I’ve been propagating over a number of generations. The culture is composed primary of fruit-heavy Brett and Sacc strains, as well as a touch of Lactobacillus, which is kept in check through the IBUs in the beer.

Mixed Culture Saison Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 96%

Original Gravity: 1.052
Terminal Gravity: 1.002
Color: 5.54 SRM
Alcohol: 6.57% ABV
Bitterness: 12.8 IBU

Malt Bill:
5 lb (69.0%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
.75 lb (10.3%) Briess Flaked Oats
.75 lb (10.3%) Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
.75 lb (10.3%) Weyermann Munich TYPE I

Mash Profile:
144 °F – 50m
154 °F – 15m
170 °F – 5m

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

Hopping:
6g Centennial (10.5% AA) – 90 m

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

Yeast:
1L Starter of my house saison culture. The mixed culture is made up of cultured Saison Dupont dregs, The Yeast Bay’s Amalgamation Brett Blend, and White Labs Lactobacillus Brevis.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 28A. Brett Beer.

Aroma (10/12):
This is a very fruity expression of Brettanomyces. The beer’s fermentation character dominates the aroma, imbuing the beer with impressions of ripe fruit — cherry, honeydew, and even some tropical pineapple. A very light phenolic pepperiness is in the background with only the faintest hint of rubber. The malt character is very minimal and clean. There is a light tartness on the nose and just a hint of acetic sharpness. As the beer warms, some hot alcohol comes out which detracts slightly.

Appearance (1/3):
Beautiful deep gold with brilliant clarity. A large fluffy white head forms, but quickly dissipates — likely attributable to the Lactobacillus in the mixed culture.

Flavor (17/20):
The overall flavor is really clean considering that this is a mixed-fermentation beer. There is a touch of a leatherlike earthiness from the Brett, but most of the fermentation character is bright and fruity. The malt is really crisp and nice — like a good German pilsner. The beer is about six months old at this point and only has a hint of the Cheerio character it had exhibited only a couple months ago — something I attributed to THP from the Brettanomyces ferment.  There is a touch of acidity to the beer that is quite pleasant — not something I’d consider ‘sour’, but more of a complementary note to the fruitiness.

Mouthfeel (5/5):
The beer is very dry, but there is a bit of roundness to the body that prevents it from being too austere. There is a nice mellow acidity that combines with a relatively high carbonation to give a bright clean finish to the beer.

Overall Impression (8/10):
I am really happy to see how my house saison culture is expressing itself in the beers fermented with it. The Brettanomyces personality of this beer is much more in-line with ripe fruit than the earthy funk that can sometimes dominate Brett beers.

Excellent (41/50)

G.Y.O. – Rare Barrel, Firestone Walker, De Garde Dregs

G.Y.O. – Grow Your Own

Step One: Enjoy sour beer.
Step Two: Propagate live mixed-culture from the sample.
Step Three: Build up the propagated culture, and use it to brew your own sour beers.

Harvesting commercial dregs offers incredible utility to homebrewers of sour beer. By implementing cultured bugs into your recipes, you’re able to add a diversity of characteristics simply not available from commercial lab cultures.

For example, some cultures can produce tremendous acidity without any attenuation (The Rare Barrel). Others are highly attenuative, but only moderately acidic (De Garde). Taking advantage of these individual attributes, I believe it is possible to create custom blends that express the best features of individual cultures. I’ve completed sensory analysis for three sour cultures harvested from some of the best sour breweries in the country. All cultures were stepped up gradually from bottle dregs and allowed to ferment for two weeks before tasting and measuring gravity and pH.

The Rare Barrel - Forces Unseen

The Rare Barrel – Forces Unseen

The Rare Barrel – Forces Unseen

OG: 1.040
FG: 1.040
Apparent Attenuation: 0%
pH: 2.69

Sensory Analysis Spidergraph

 

 

 

 

 

 

Firestone Walker Sour Opal

Firestone Walker – Sour Opal

Firestone Walker – Sour Opal (Barrelworks)

OG: 1.040
FG: 1.014
Apparent Attenuation: 65%
pH: 2.91

Sensory Analysis Spidergraph

 

 

 

 

 

 

De Garde - The Duo

De Garde – The Duo

De Garde – Duo

OG: 1.040
FG: 1.008
Apparent Attenuation: 80%
pH: 3.01

Sensory Analysis Spidergraph

ProAm Collaboration with Yonkers Brewing Company

Mucking out the mash tun.

Big brewer, tiny mash tun. Doing my fair share of cleaning at Yonkers Brewing Company.

Opening a commercial brewery is the ultimate fantasy for many homebrewers.There is something incredibly thrilling (and cool) about taking a beer that you have conceptualized and crafted and bringing it over to the commercial beer world. This is a big part of the reasoning why most homebrewers jump at the opportunity to have one of their recipes scaled up and brewed on a commercial scale.

This is precisely the spot I found myself in a couple weeks ago when I had the opportunity to brew my Oast House Saison at Yonker’s Brewing Company. All of this was the result of winning the Brewer’s Choice award at the Westchester Farmhouse Ale Competition — not a bad prize!

One interesting thing I have realized over the course of this experience is how non-brewers perceive brewers and the work they do; recipe formulation is viewed as alchemy and something to protect. But I’ve always taken the mindset that recipe is fractionally important compared to the technical skills of the brewer. I think it is somewhat absurd that I have been asked multiple times if I am being monetarily compensated for this recipe being brewed at Yonkers. Honestly, the value in seeing firsthand how a commercial brewery operates is far more valuable than the recipe. The marketing and experiential value has been enormous for me — especially as I consider perhaps one day opening my own brewery.

This was my third time taking a personal homebrew recipe and scaling it up to a commercial batch. This is always a challenge as commercial brewers may not have the same stock of ingredients used in the original recipe. Being malleable is critical for a successful ProAm collaboration. Remain humble and realize that this is a profession for those you’re working with and that there are economic considerations that simply don’t exist in homebrewing. Try to stay true to your vision, but allow yourself to be creative in achieving the same end despite the means. It is important to play the role of the humble homebrewer — these types of collaborations are fun and should be positive for all parties involved. I think we achieved this on all ends of this collaboration.

If the case of my beer, I used a complex mixed-culture of saccharomyces, brettanomyces, and lactobacillus to ferment my beer. This fermentation was critical in achieving the appropriate level of acid and funk in my complete beer, but something that could not be achieved at Yonkers Brewing without running the risk of contaminating their brewery. The suggestion of their brewer was to kettle sour half of the batch and then blend it back with the other half that was cleanly fermented with saison yeast. The idea is that the kettle soured half would bring the tartness exhibited by my homebrew while keeping any souring organisms to the hot side of the brewery where contamination would not be a risk. Additionally, we tweaked the recipe slightly, adding approximately 10% corn sugar to encourage the high level of attenuation exhibited by my homebrew and attributed to the atypical fermentation.

Right now the beer is finishing fermentation and conditioning. Stay tuned. I’ll post details soon about when and where the commercial version of Oast House Saison can be enjoyed.

Brew Day Play-By-Play