German Pilsner Brewday and Review

pilsBrewing an outstanding Pilsner has been a bit of an enigma for me. I’ve done a number of Bohemian Pilsners in the past, and they always seem a bit off the mark. This time around, I decided to take a shot at brewing a crisp and hoppy German Pilsner. The goal was to produce an austerely dry beer that classically showcases the herbal and spicy notes found in classic German hop varietals and the crisp refreshing character that is a hallmark of the style. The recipe ended up quite good, although brewer error and less-than-optimal yeast management led to a beer that missed my target.

German Pilsner Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 83% (measured)
Attenuation: 78% (measured)

Original Gravity: 1.054 (was shooting for 1.050)
Terminal Gravity: 1.014 (measured)
Color: 3.95 SRM
Alcohol: 5.5% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 22.8 IBU

Malt Bill:
6 lb (96.0%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
4 oz (4.0%) Weyermann CaraFoam

Mash Profile:
144 °F – 30m
Decoction
153°F – 30m
Decoction
168°F – 5m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
5g Gypsum (to mash)

Hopping:
20 g Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4% AA) – 60 m
20 g Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4% AA) – 10 m
80 g Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4% AA) – Whirlpool 15 m

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

Yeast:
White Labs WLP830 German Lager – Starter on stirplate to achieve 1.5 million cells per milliliter of wort per degree Plato. Use Mr. Malty to determine proper starter sized based on age of yeast package. Pitch into 44°F wort and allow to free rise to 48°F. Raise temp to 50°F after 2 days. As fermentation begins to slow, raise temperature to 62°F. Once complete, chill 5°F per day until 32°F is achieved. Lager at 32°F 6-weeks.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 2A. German Pilsner.

Aroma (6/12):
Medium grassy hop aroma with some herbal and slightly spicy qualities. Malt aroma is low, but has a pleasant slightly toasty quality. Soft malt is a touch sweet. No DMS or diacetly. Slight hint of alcohol warmth. Low amount of green apple (acetaldehyde).

Appearance (2/3):
Straw colored and crystal clear. Medium white head that quickly dissipates. Low retention.

Flavor (11/20):
Moderate grainy malt with a touch of honey-like sweetness. Firmly bitter with some definite mineral notes. Hop flavor is medium-low with some herbal character. Nice crisp dry finish that is the hallmark of the style. A touch of alcohol. Some yeast fruitiness.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
Light bodied and crisp. Moderate to high carbonation.

Overall Impression (7/10)
A very refreshing beer overall. There are some yeast derived flavors (slight ester, green apple, alcohol) that detract from the overall drinking experience. This slightly off fermentation is tough to not notice in such a simple and austere beer. Beer could benefit from additional lagering and the use of a healthier pitch of yeast. Additionally, during the decoction process, the main mash temperature dropped quit low, likely degrading certain foam positive proteins and causing deficient foam retention.

Good (29/50)

 

Brambic – Spontaneously Fermented Wild Homebrew

Against what may or may not be good logic, I’ve begun a new sour beer project. My goal is to successfully create a delicious sour beer fermented only from airborne yeast and bacteria. There is something beautiful about the idea of successfully producing a delicious sour beer that reflects the micro-flora present where I live. I love the tangible connection that can be made with world-renowned Lambic brewers who continue to brew traditional spontaneously fermented beers (as well as American craft brewers like Allagash, Jester King, and Russian River). I am keeping this project as wild as possible; I will not be culturing yeast from fruit, grains, bottle dregs, or any other source, rather only what I can capture across the cool evening breeze.

Brooklyn wild cultures.

Brooklyn wild. What fermentive creatures lurk in our Gowanus air?

The Internet is full of stories both of success and failure when it comes to truly spontaneous beer. Whenever I attempt a technique that includes a high probability for failure, I try to set as many variables in my favor as possible to get a successful end result. There are no guarantees for success in a project like this, but taking a few simple measures can greatly increase your odds. Using this logic, I decided that running multiple samples and testing their qualities before pitching into a full 2.75 gallon batch of beer was the way to go. This was especially important given the fact that I live an dense urban environment with little vegetation and no fruit bearing trees that could be attractive homes for wild yeast.

My Process

_DSC1962Initially I prepared (3) 8 oz. samples of sanitary 1.030 OG wort and placed them boiling hot into pint sized mason jars. I added 0.3 ml of 88% lactic acid to each sample in order to acidify each below pH 4.5. My goal is to inhibit pathogens from growing in the wort as well as non-pathogenic bacteria that can produce objectionable flavors. Since I would be tasting the wort, I wanted to minimize terrible tasting samples as well as ones that could potentially make me sick.

Each of the three samples were placed around my apartment. One was located on the roof of my building, one in front of an open window at the rear of my apartment, and one in front of an open window at the front of my apartment. Each were covered with a couple layers of cheese cloth to prevent any insects from entering the sample and then left to cool for approximately 24-hours. After 24-hours I fitted each jar with a lid and airlock to create an anaerobic environment, providing control of another variable and putting selective pressure on the organisms growing in the wort.

I completed this experiment in the late fall, which according to American Sour Beers offers the best probability for culturing yeast and bacteria that will have a positive fermentation character.

After approximately one-month, I completed a sensory analysis of each sample (smell and taste). In hindsight, I should have also taken pH and gravity measurements.

_DSC2024Sample A – In Front of Window – Small filmy pellicle. Cabbage, some baby diaper. No apparent alcohol flavor.

Sample B – Outside on Roof – Small filmy pellicle. A couple spots of white fluffy mold. Some alcohol on nose. Light rubbery phenol.

Sample C – In Front of Window – Small filmy pellicle. Cabbage. Some oniony aromas. Pretty sweet, low alcohol.

Encouraged by the initial results, I stepped each into a three new 300-ml sanitary starters. Each were allowed to ferment for another month under airlock.

Sample A – Very sweet. Didn’t appear to ferment much. Clean.

Sample B – Quite sour. Some definite plastic-like phenolics and slight alcohol. Some pleasing barnyard notes.

Sample C – Reminiscent of pickle juice. The most sour. Definite alcohol on nose. Not very pleasant.

After the second round of fermentation, I decided that Sample B (the sample pulled from my roof) was the most pleasing (or least offensive). I pitched it into a fresh 1200 ml starter (also under airlock) and made preparation to brew a full 2.75 gallon batch. For my recipe, I decided on a simple golden grain bill to act as a clean slate for the culture to express itself.

2014 Brambic Recipe

_DSC2036Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 75%
Attenuation: 90% (estimated)

Original Gravity: 1.049 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.005 SG (estimated)
Color: 3.33 SRM
Alcohol: 5.71% ABV (estimated)
Bitterness: 0.0 IBU

Grist:
4.0 lb (64.6%) Dingemans Belgian Pils
2 lb (32.3%) Briess Flaked Wheat
3 oz (3.0%) Weyermann Acidulated Malt

Mash Regiment:
A turbid mash regiment (basically a thin decoction) was completed through the steps below. A Ferulic acid rest was completed to encourage the formation of 4-vinyl guaicol which Brettanomyces can theoretically convert into 4 ethyl-guiacol which produces some of the ‘funky’ aromas and flavors that Brettanomyces is known for. A short Beta rest was followed by a very high Alpha rest to encourage a dextrinous wort and protracted secondary Brettanomyces fermentation.

113 °F - Ferulic Acid Rest – 10min
136 °F – Protein Rest – 5min
150 °F – Beta Rest – 20min
162 °F – Alpha Rest – 30min
168 °F – Mashout Rest – 5min

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

Hopping:
1.25 oz AGED Cascade (0% AA) – 90 m

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

Yeast:
1200ml Brambic Spontaneous Culture
Fermented at ambient temperatures (70°F or so)

The beer will be allowed to ferment for at least a year until packaging.

Parabola Clone Review

Over a year ago, I took a shot at brewing a clone of Firestone Walker’s Parabola. According to Firestone Walker, Parabola is characterized by:

Bold bourbon, tobacco and espresso aromas and a hint of American oak greet the nose. Rich, chewy roasted malts, charred oak and bourbon-like vanilla fill the palate and create a seamless finish.

The recipe was derived from a combination of information compiled from Firestone Walker’s website, and my own tasting notes. Unfortunately, my beer missed the spec pretty badly in terms of fermentability. That said, it is still a pretty nice beer.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 22C. Wood Aged Beer.

Half of the batch was aged with Larceny (wheated bourbon) soaked oak. Half of the batch was aged with Rittenhouse Rye soaked oak.

Half of the batch was aged with Larceny (wheated bourbon) soaked oak with the rest aged on Rittenhouse Rye soaked oak. The overall differences between the two batches were extremely subtle with the Larceny exhibiting slightly more caramelly notes, and the Rye version showcasing a subtle background spicy note.

Aroma (8/12):
Initially there is a impression of sweet vanilla oakiness. Additionally there is a mellow roasty character with notes of bittersweet cocoa  and a slight hint of coffee. Roasty impression increases as the beer warms in the glass. Under the roast is a caramelly toffee malt character. A slight hint of oxidized malt (dried cherry, fig) gives a hint to the beer’s age. Below the vanilla oakiness is an aroma of raw sawdust that hints at the oak cubes which were used. Some warm alcohol is apparent.

Appearance (3/3):
Jet black with a low tan head consisting of tight bubbles that persist. Beer pours with a readily apparent viscosity.

Flavor (10/20):
Flavors are round and fill the mouth with intensity. Heavy amounts of roasted coffee are apparent as is a substantial amount of chocolatey roast malt. Creamy and smooth with only a hint of hot alcohol. Bitterness is high but balanced against a high level of residual sweetness. There are some pleasant burnt sugar toffee flavors on the finish. A bit too sweet and filling to be drinkable in any quantity more than 8-10 ounces.

Mouthfeel (2/5):
This is a huge beer with a luscious mouth-coating viscosity. Carbonation is medium. Roast character is slightly astringent.

Overall Impression (5/10):
This is a massive beer that falls short in terms of balance compared to its inspiration, Parabola. The bourbon and oak character in Parabola is much more integrated and rich, whereas the oak in this beer comes off a bit artificial tasting. This beer is like a  big, rich chocolate milkshake – luscious, but only consumable in restrained quantities. Additional attenuation would be a welcome addition to this beer.

(28/50) – Good

 

2014 Gueuze Brewday

Gueuze is a wonderfully complex sour beer that is typically a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old spontaneously fermented Lambic batches. While, technically not a Lambic (Lambic is a protected term for a specific type of beer brewed within a specific geographic region of Belgium), this beer is made in the spirit of Lambic. It eschews the typical spontaneous cultures used in traditional Lambic fermentation for a commercial microbe blend (Wyeast Roeselare) combined with grown up bottle cultures.This batch of homebrew marks the my second annual batch of Lambic-style beer that will ultimately become part of a 3-component Gueuze blend that includes 3-year, 2-year, and 1-year old Lambic-style brews.

 To further provide variation (and flexibility) in what will ultimately build the blend, I brewed a 3-gallon batch the was split three-ways and inoculated with distinct culture grown up from various bottle dregs: Jolly Pumpkin La Roja, Russian River Framboise for a Cure, and my house bug culture.


To further provide variation (and flexibility) in what will ultimately build the blend, I brewed a 3-gallon batch that was split 3-ways and inoculated with distinct cultures grown up from various bottle dregs: Jolly Pumpkin La Roja, Russian River Framboise for a Cure, and my house bug culture.

2014 Lambic-Style Homebrew Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 4.25 gal
Efficiency: 75%
Attenuation: 90% (anticipated)

Original Gravity: 1.045 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.005 SG (anticipated)
Color: 3.1 SRM
Alcohol: 5.3% ABV
Bitterness: 0.0 IBU

Malt Bill:
5 lb (66.7%) Belgian Pils (Dingemans)
2.25 lb (30.0%) Flaked Wheat (Briess)
4 oz (3.3%) Acidulated Malt (Weyermann)

Mash Regiment:
A turbid mash regiment (basically a thin decoction) was completed through the steps below. A Ferulic acid rest was completed to encourage the formation of 4-vinyl guaicol which Brettanomyces can theoretically convert into 4 ethyl-guiacol which produces some of the ‘funky’ aromas and flavors that Brettanomyces is known for. A short Beta rest was followed by a very high Alpha rest to encourage a dextrinous wort and protracted secondary Brettanomyces fermentation.

113 °F - Ferulic Acid Rest – 10min
136 °F – Protein Rest – 5min
150 °F – Beta Rest – 20min
162 °F – Alpha Rest – 30min
168 °F – Mashout Rest – 5min

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

Hopping:
1.75 oz AGED Cascade (0% AA) – 90 m

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

Yeast:
WYeast 3763 Roeselare Ale Blend – No Starter
Ferment at room temp until activity ceases. Rack into individual 1-gallon fermentation vessels. Inoculate each with separate secondary cultures.

Honey | Orange Pale Ale – Recipe and Review

_DSC1871Synergy between ingredients is something that I often seek out when writing a new beer recipe. In this particular case, I started with the premise of wanting to use orange blossom honey in a beer. Orange blossom honey has a delicate orange flavor as well a soft floral honey bouquet. Building a beer recipe around these attributes, I started with a Belgian Pilsner malt base which I’ve found to produce a honey like sweetness in my beers. From there, the base malt was accented with a small amount of Gambrinus honey malt to emphasize the honey character. Additionally, I delicately hopped the beer with Mandarian Bavaria hops which I’ve found to have a pronounced sweet orange (not pith) character that would be delicate enough not to overpower the honey.

Honey | Orange Pale Ale Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.75 gal
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 80%

Original Gravity: 1.050 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.010 SG
Color: 6.07 SRM
Alcohol: 5.28% ABV
Bitterness: 20.3 IBU

Malt Bill:
5.5 lb (72.1%) Pilsner Malt (Dingemans)
0.75 lb (9.8%) Munich TYPE I – (Weyermann)
6 oz (4.9%) Honey Malt – (Gambinus)

Mash Profile:
146 °F – 60m
168 °F – 5m

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

Hopping:
16 g Mandarina Bavaria (7.2%) – 90 m

Note: After boil was complete, the kettle was topped up with cold water to lower temperature to 180°F.

2 oz (43.8%) Mandarina Bavaria – 180°F Steep – 15 m
1 lb (13.1%) Orange Blossum Honey – 180°F Steep – 15 m

2 oz (43.8%) Amarillo® – Hop Back (Blichmann Hop Rocket)

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

Yeast:
WYeast 1056 American Ale™- Starter on stirplate to achieve 1 million cells per milliliter of wort per degree Plato. Use Mr. Malty to determine proper starter sized based on age of yeast package. Pitch into 60°F wort and allow to free rise to 64°F. As fermentation begins to slow, raise temperature to 70°F.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 23 Specialty Beer

_DSC1966Aroma (10/12):
Low to moderate floral honey notes. There is a medium to medium-high sweet citrus / orange / tangerine hop aroma. Some soft candy-like malt sweetness is in the background. No alcohol, DMS, or diacetyl. The is a touch of grassy hops in the background.

Appearance (2/3):
Color falls somewhere between a light copper and a deep blond. There is a slight haze to the beer. Fluffy white persistent head.

Flavor (17/20):
Moderately high hop flavor that is like sweet or candied orange. None of the pithy bitter citrus flavors that are often associated with traditional types of citrus hops. Honey is strongly present and quite floral. Malt is soft and bready with a light crackery character. The hop bitterness is medium-low and leaves behind just a hint of malt sweetness. There is a wonderful honey flavor that persists through the finish.

Mouthfeel (3/5):
Crisp with a medium to medium-low body. Quite balanced. No astringency. Beer has a medium-high carbonation which is slightly biting.

Overall Impression (8/10):
This is a very nice balanced pale ale that showcases the honey content. The beer is exceptionally balanced with layer of flavors; none of which stick out or feel out of place. Very well crafted beer.

Excellent (40/50)