Sour Blond with Apricots – Recipe & Review

Sour Blond with Apricots

Sour Blond with Apricots – Light and Refreshing

One of my all-time favorite flavor combinations in beer is that magical concoction of a lightly sour blond ale and ripe acidic apricot. For me, this is one of the preeminent examples of synergistic beer formulation.

This particular beer starts with a lightly tart base beer provisioned with an ample, earthy Brett funk and naturally occurring stone fruit-like fermentation esters. The sour base reinforces the inherent acidity in the fruit while the slightly phenolic Brett funk finds harmony with the somewhat tannic and earthy qualities that the apricot skins bring to the table. Apricot sour beers can easily become overly acidic (to my palate)/ So with this beer I hoped to start with a mellower sour base beer in order to prevent too much sharp acidity after the fruit had been added and fermented out. If you’re looking for an insanely sour fruit bomb like Cantillon Fou’Foune, you probably don’t want to use this recipe (or, if you do, bump up the fruit addition). If you prefer a mellower, more nuanced beer, then this recipe is on point.

Sour Blond with Apricots Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 62% (no sparge)
Attenuation: 83%

Original Gravity: 1.048 (does not consider apricot puree)
Terminal Gravity: 1.008
Color: 4.77 SRM
Alcohol: 5.23% ABV (calculated, does not consider apricot puree)
Bitterness: 0 IBU

Malt Bill:
5.0 lbs. (66.7%) Dingemans Pilsner Malt
1.0 lb. (13.3%) Briess Flaked Wheat
1.0 lb. (13.3%) Briess Flaked Oats
0.5 lb. (6.7%) Weyermann Carafoam

Mash Profile:
158°F – 60m

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

Hopping:
1 oz. Aged Hops (0.0% AA) – 90m

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

Yeast:
1L – Bioreactor A House Mixed Culture

Secondary Fruit:
3 lbs. 1 oz. – Vintner’s Harvest Apricot Puree. Added after 10 months of primary fermentation. Beer was allowed to referment on the puree for an additional 4 months.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 28C Wild Specialty Beer

Aroma (11/12):
The beer features a complex bouquet of mixed-culture funk. The Brett character is strong with plentiful aromas of wet hay, grass, as well as some fruitier stone fruit elements. There is some acid character on the nose that is tangy and bright. The apricot aroma is somewhat nuanced but well-integrated with the funk, featuring an overripe, fermented fruit character. There is just a touch of grainy malt that sits in the background. I wish the apricot would pop a bit more against the complex fermentation-derived aromatics.

Appearance (1/3):
The beer is a medium golden with a slightly milky haze. Abundant white bubbles form a soapy head when poured, but quickly dissipate.

Flavor (13/20):
Initially the beer showcases a bright, medium-plus lactic sourness. This acidity is complementary to a bright, juicy apricot note that is reminiscent of nicely ripened fresh fruit. The complex Brett funk that was apparent on the nose is pretty subdued on the palate and gives way to the beer’s other fruity elements. The finish is somewhat short, leaving a one note impression of acid and fruit. There is a slight, plastic phenol on the finish.

Mouthfeel (2/5):
The beer is medium-low in body with medium-low carbonation. The beer feels a bit flat and could benefit from a bit more carbonation.

Overall Impression (8/10):
This is a nice, enjoyable fruited sour beer. The fruit melds well with the funky base beer, but would could benefit from a bit more concentration. The sourness in the beer is pleasing and clean without being over-the-top and palate destroying. Nice beer, although it may not stand out in a beer competition due to its more nuanced character.

Very Good (35/50)

Bonus: See how judges scored this beer at the 2017 Homebrew Alley competition in NYC.

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Mixed-culture Saison – Hops vs. Lacto!

Hoppy Mixed Culture Saison

Great head retention, on this beautiful golden saison.

I’ve had a lot of fun over the past couple of years maintaining a mixed culture of Sacc, Brett, and Lacto; and using it to make some pretty nice tart, funky saisons. The culture started its life as a blend of cultures grown from Saison DuPont bottles, The Yeast Bay’s Amalgamation Brett Blend, and White Labs Lacto Brevis. Over the 6+ generations I’ve used the culture, it continues to produce great beers that have an awesome Brett fruitiness that plays especially nicely with big punchy dry hops. Initially, I was very concerned that too much drift would occur in the blend of different organisms, but the culture has remained remarkably consistent in its fermentation characteristics—something I hope stays true for many more generations.

One thing that I’ve always known is that this mixed culture reacts differently to varying levels of kettle hopping, especially in terms of lactic acid production. I’ve observed this anecdotally over several batches, but never completed a side-by-side experiment. For fun, I decided to actually test the culture on two very similar worts to see just how different the beers would become.

For starters, I used the hoppy saison recipe that has turned out quite good in the past.

Base Saison Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 69%

Original Gravity: 1.050
Color: 4.45 SRM
Bitterness: 0 IBUs

Malt Bill:
5 lbs (71.4%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
1 lb (14.3%) Flaked Oats
1 (14.3%) Weyermann Rye Malt

Mash Profile:
150°F – 60m
170°F – 5m

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

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

Yeast:
Mixed Saison Culture

The Experiment

Two identical batches using the above recipe were brewed back-to-back. The key difference is that Batch 1 received hopping at the end of the boil in the whirlpool, whereas Batch 2 did not and was instead given a post-fermentation dry hop. Other analytic differences between the two batches are outlined below.

Batch 1  – Whirlpool Hopped at End of Boil
Hopping:
2 oz. Mosaic (12.3% AA) – Whirlpool 15 m
4 oz. Azacca (10.3% AA) – Whirlpool 15m

Attenuation: 76%
Terminal Gravity: 1.012
Alcohol: 5%
pH: 3.27

Batch 2  – Dry Hopped Post Fermentation
Hopping:
No hops before fermentation.
2 oz. Mosaic (12.3% AA) – Dry Hop 2 Days
2 oz. Azacca (10.3% AA) – Dry Hop 2 Days

Attenuation: 80%
Terminal Gravity: 1.010
Alcohol: 5.24%
pH: 2.71

The Results

Both batches of beer turned out extremely unique (and quite delicious). I am guessing most people would be surprised to find out that the two beers were produced from the same mixed culture and remarkably similar recipes.

As expected, the whirlpool hopped beer developed significantly less acidity than the batch that was not hopped prior to fermentation. Tasting the beers, it is very obvious that the beer that did not receive kettle hopping is significantly more sour than the beer that was hopped in the whirlpool. That said, the whirlpool hopped beer did develop a light lactic tartness that is consistent with its 3.27 finishing pH.

It is also interesting to note that the kettle-hopped beer attenuated slightly less than the beer that only received a dry hop. I would have thought the opposite would have occurred with the lower pH inhibiting attenuation by the Brett / Sacc in the culture. The difference of .02 SG is probably not significant enough to draw any real conclusions, but it is an interesting anecdote.

The sensory aspects of the two beers are strikingly different. The beer that received kettle hopping ultimately developed a much higher level of the traditional flavors attributable to the Brett in the mixed culture (funk, overripe fruit) whereas the Lacto-heavy dry-hopped beer is much more two note with lots of acid and a significant fruity, dry hop character. It is unclear to me why the kettle-hopped beer developed more Brett character and it will be interesting to see if the dry-hopped beer eventually develops these characteristics. I hope to keep some of the beer around to see if the flavors ultimately converge at a single point or whether they continue to remain two incredibly different beers.

UPDATE: The dry-hopped version of this beer placed first in Category 28, American Wild Ale at the 2016 Joint Novembeerfest / Puget Sound Pro-Am.

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

Triple IPA Brewday & Review

_DSC1886Take a ridiculously hoppy double IPA, increase the hopping and alcohol to ludicrous levels, and you have a decent outline for crafting a triple IPA. These are fun beers to brew, and a great way to use up any extraneously hops that may be buried in your freezer. This beer is very much in the same spirit as coveted beers like Pliny the Younger (you can read more about my club’s attempt at cloning the Younger, here).

This is a tough beer to brew as it can easily fall victim to common faults. The most frequent and egregious fault with American-style IPAs is not achieving adequate levels of attenuation. Nothing ruins a big hoppy beer’s drinkability quicker than excessive residual gravity or caramel flavors. This is even more apparent when you’re pushing the beer to triple IPA levels. Controlling fermentability with the addition of simple sugars and low mash temps will take you most of the way. From there, it is key to pitch a big healthy population of yeast, adequately oxygenate the wort, and carefully control fermentation to keep higher alcohols in check.

_DSC1888The second most common fault would likely be harsh or grassy hop flavors. This most commonly occurs when brewers leave dryhops in contact with the beer for excessive periods. Many sources cite the fact that the majority of hop oils are extracted within the first 24-48 hours of contact with our beer. Anecdotally, I’ve definitely experienced this and typically now only leave dry hops in contact with my beers for 2-3 days, maximum.

Lastly, it is extremely important to limit oxygen pickup post fermentation with your hoppy beers. Hop compounds are extremely susceptible to oxidation. Very few factors will contribute to the destruction of a hoppy beer quicker than oxygen. Purging vessels, pushing beer with C02 in closed loops, and cold storage can greatly increase the shelf-life of your hoppy beers.

Triple Tap Triple IPA Recipe

Specifications:
Size: 4.5 gal
Efficiency: 67%
Attenuation: 92%

Original Gravity: 1.088 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.007 SG
Color: 8.3 SRM
Alcohol: 10.65% ABV
Bitterness: 55.7 IBUs (Doesn’t account for substantial bitterness achieved with whirlpool additions)

Malt Bill:
12 lb (76.2%) Pilsner Malt (Weyermann)
1 lb (6.3%) Munich TYPE II (Weyermann)
.25 lb (1.6%) Caramalt 15 (Bairds)

Mash Profile:
147 °F – 60m
154 °F – 10m
168 °F – 5m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
6g Gypsum (to mash)
3g Calcium Chloride (to mash)

Hopping:
0.25 oz Centennial (10.5%) – 60 m
1 oz Centennial (10.5%) – 20 m
1 oz Amarillo® (8.7%) – 20 m

2 oz Citra™ (13.7%) – Whirlpool 20m
1 oz Amarillo® (8.7%) – Whirlpool 20m
2.5 oz Mandarina Bavaria (7.2%) – Whirlpool 20m

2.5 oz (17.5%) Amarillo® – Hop Back (Blichmann Hop Rocket)

2 oz Galaxy (14.0%) – Dry Hop @ Room Temp 3 Days
2 oz Citra™ (12.0%) – Dry Hop @ Room Temp 3 Days

Kettle Additions:
2.5 lb (15.9%) Corn Sugar – 15m
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) –  15m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

Yeast:
WYeast 1056 American Ale™ – Large 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

_DSC1976Aroma (10/12):
Huge, punchy hop-nose. The hops are extremely juicy and tropical — reminiscent of mango, orange, and pineapple. In many ways, this beer reminds me P.O.G. (passion fruit, orange, guave) juice. There is a moderate amount of grassy, plant-like aromas. By and large the hops are almost uniformly fruity with very little pine or resinous aromas. Malt character is slightly bready. No alcohol, DMS, or diacetyl are perceptible.

Appearance (1/3):
Beer pours a muddy copper color. Extremely hazy with hop compounds. Beer is capped with a bright white, thick, persistent head.

Flavor (10/20):
Taking a swig from the tasting glass fills your mouth with huge, round, hop flavors. The flavors are very fruity and tropical, although there is a slightly biting, resinous, bitterness on the finish. There is a bit of residual sweetness that keeps the beer feeling slightly full and heavier than I would like. As the beer warms, some warming alcohol dances across the palate.

Mouthfeel (3/5):
Medium body and carbonation. Some light hop astringency is present on the finish and detracts from the overall drinking experience. The hops seem to lend a creamy texture to the mouthfeel.

Overall Impression (6/10):
This beer pushes the level of hoppiness that I am able to enjoy almost to the breaking point. The beer is young and brash with bold assertive flavors that come off a touch green. It is very much in the same vein as beers like Pliny the Younger, which are best enjoyed in small glasses and shared with friends.

Very Good (31/50)

 

Hoppy Rye Saison with Brett Trois – Recipe and Review

More and more I’m beginning to think that there is real potential to create delicious beers by exploiting the synergies that can take place between fruity American hops, and fruity yeast strains. To achieve this end, it is important to select the appropriate hop varieties that lean more towards the fruity/tropical rather than pine/resin end of the flavor spectrum. To further investigate these possibilities, I decided to brew up a super hoppy saison that would be complemented by the pleasant fruitiness provided by the Dupont saison yeast and intense tropical esters provided by Brettanomyces Trois (which may or may not actually be a Brettanomyces strain). Additionally, my goal in pitching a Brett strain along with the traditional Dupont strain would be to allow the Brett to finish up the ferment where the Dupont yeast typically stalls out.

Rye Saison

Hoppy Rye Saison with Brett Trois

Recipe Specs:
Size: 3.31 gal
Efficiency: 70%
Attenuation: 84%

Original Gravity: 1.050
Terminal Gravity: 1.008
Color: 3.87 SRM
Alcohol: 5.5% ABV
Bitterness: 30.6 IBU
Mash Temp: 144°F 90 min., 154°F 10 min.

Grain Bill:
5.75 lb (79.3%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
.75 lb (10.3%) Weyermann Rye Malt
.75 lb (10.3%) Briess Flaked Rye

Hopping:
0.75 oz Mandarina Bavaria (7.2% AA) – 90 m

1 oz Citra™ (13.7% AA) – 180 degree hop stand – 20 m
2 oz Mandarina Bavaria (7.2% AA) – 180 degree hop stand – 20 m
1 oz Centennial (10.5% AA) – 180 degree hop stand – 20 m

2 oz Amarillo® (8.5% AA) – Hop Back

1 oz Mandarina Bavaria (7.2% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days
1 oz Citra™ (13.7% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days

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

Yeast:
WYeast 3724 Belgian Saison™ – Added to 2 gallons of wort
White Labs WLP644 Brettanomyces Trois – Added to 1 gallon of wort

The Saison strain and Brett strain were pitched on brew day into two separate fermentation vessels. Once the Saison yeast stalled (typical of this strain), the two fermenters were combined and allowed to co-ferment.

Water Treatment:
Soft NYC municipal water with 3g Gypsum and 2g Calcium Chloride added to the mash.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 16E Belgian Specialty Ale

Aroma (11/12):
Initially there is a big hit of meyer lemon-like fruit up front, followed by a massive amount of tropical fruit. The beer is almost reminiscent of POG (Passion Orange Guava) juice. Very bright and refreshing aroma. The impression of fruitiness is huge, but it is unclear where the hops and yeast character begin and end. A great melding of aroma compounds. Malt is soft and bready. No grassiness, alcohol heat, or other off-aromas. Just a hint of pepper — not as much as you’d find in a typical saison.

Appearance (1/3):
Murky gold. The hop haze and high-protein rye have produced a very muddy beer. Glass is capped with a nice persistent white foam.

Flavor (16/20):
Huge tropical notes fill the pallet. Very delicious and refreshing. Low amounts of pepper-like phenols are present and add to the beer’s dry impression. The base malt is in the background and nondescript. The rye is evident and provides a spicy kick. The overall impression of dryness is very high and gives a great refreshing impression. The is a firm hop bitterness that is high for style, but works well in this beer.

Mouthfeel (5/5):
This is where the rye really shines. The beer has an immensely pleasurable silky mouthfeel that prevents a dry beer like this from feeling too austere. The silky body balances well against a prickly level of carbonation.

Overall Impression (9/10):
This is a fantastic, refreshing, and complex beer. In many ways, it feel more like a Belgian IPA than saison due to the immense hop aroma and flavor. The synergies that are happening between the potent hopping and yeast derived compounds work well. It will be interesting to see where this beer goes as the hops begin to fade and the yeast derived flavors come more to the foreground.

Excellent (42/50)