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

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

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)

Pumpkin Beer – Brewday and Recipe

2 Sugar Pumpkins were heavily roasted yielded about 3 pounds of sweet pumpkin meat.

2 sugar pumpkins were heavily roasted yielding about 3 pounds of sweet pumpkin meat that was pulverized and added to the mash.

Update: You can find a full review of this beer, here.

People seem to either love pumpkin beers, or love to hate them. Craft beer drinkers consume them in quantity each fall while a certain segment of ‘beer geeks’ gleefully rant about their disdain for the style and write them off as a trend (oh, the irony). Having been part of this latter group, I can confidently say that my tune has changed. In particular, I look forward to the yearly ritual of consuming high gravity samples like Elysian’s ‘Great Pumpkin’ and the signal of fall these beers represent.

Many craft pumpkin beers feature in-your-face spicing paired with a big residual sweetness. For this beer, I am shooting for something a bit different. While malt-forward, the focus is on toasty bready notes, and less on sweet caramel. This beer features low-spicing — hopefully allowing the heavily roasted pumpkin to shine through. The goal of combining a Maris Otter base with biscuit and honey malts was to produce a graham cracker like character, similar to what is found in pie crust.

Recirculating for mashout. Very nice orange color.

Recirculating for mashout. The malt bill and pumpkin produced a very nice orange color.


Size: 2.75 gal
Efficiency: 70%
Attenuation: 72.0% (projected)

Original Gravity: 1.086 SG (Actually hit 1.077 due to pour efficiency)
Terminal Gravity: 1.024 SG (projected)
Color: 16.26 SRM
Alcohol: 8.2% ABV (projected)
Bitterness: 27.9 (projected)

6.25 lb (65.4%) Maris Otter (Crisp)
1.3125 lb (13.7%) Munich TYPE II (Weyermann)
8 oz (5.2%) Biscuit Malt (Dingeman)
8 oz (5.2%) Flaked Oats (Briess)
6 oz (3.9%) Crystal 45 (Crisp)
6 oz (3.9%) Honey Malt (Gambrinus)
4 oz (2.6%) Belgian Caravienne (Belgian)
3 lb Roasted Sugar Pumpkin

8 g (100.0%) Magnum (14.5%) – added during boil, boiled 90 m
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 10 m

1 ea Cinnamon (Stick) – Whirlpool 10m
.125 tsp Clove (whole) – Whirlpool 10m
.125 tsp Nutmeg (ground) – Whirlpool 10m

WYeast 1056 American Ale™
1 ea Vanilla Bean Soaked in Bourbon (1 bean in 2 oz. bourbon) – Secondary

120 °F – 5m (Beta Glucan)
154 °F – 60m (Saccarification)
168 °F – 10m (Mashout)

Yeast Starter:
Final Volume into Fermenter = 2.25 Gallons
Yeast Required = 132  billion (per Mr. Malty)
Yeast Production Date: 8/16/13
Yeast Starter = 1L @ 1.040 on stir plate (per Mr. Malty) =  4 1/8oz. DME

1. Chill to 60* F and keep at 62* F until activity slows (1 week+).
2. Raise temp to 70*F 2 days
3. Crash to 32*F 5 days

A Tale of Three Saisons (with Brett)

Intent. In food, beer, architecture, art, everything — a clear vision is key to truly honing your craft.

Along those same lines, I’ve gotten to the point where the intent of most batches transcends beyond simply creating something delicious to consume. I feel like each batch needs to serve a broader purpose, specifically, learning about the impact of various ingredient choices and processes.

1-gallon each of Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, Brettanomyces Lambicus, and cultured Crooked Stave Surette.

1-gallon each of Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, Brettanomyces Lambicus, and cultured Crooked Stave Surette inoculated saison.

The intent of this beer is to see how citrusy American hops meld with various strains of Brettanomyces. Specifically, I’ve taken a pretty typical saison recipe, tweaked the fermentability of the wort by creating a higher proportion of long-chain sugars to be consumed during a secondary Brett fermentation, and hopped it to higher levels using American varietals. I am using the notoriously fickle Dupont strain which is nice and fruity, but painfully slow — something that will work well with a super-attenuative Brett strain.

Inoculating with cultured Crooked Stave Surette microbes.

Inoculating with secondary microbes.

The base beer was allowed to ferment with Wyeast 3724 until approximately 54% apparent attenuation was achieved (about 3 weeks) before being transferred into secondary 1-gallon fermenters, where each beer was dosed with different bugs:

  • White Labs Brettanomyces Bruxellensis
  • White Labs Brettanomyces Lambicus
  • Cultured Crooked Stave Surette (cocktail of Brett, Lacto, etc.)

With some luck, in about 6-10 months I’ll have bottles of each variety ready for consumption.

The Recipe

Size: 4.54 gal
Efficiency: 72%
Attenuation: 94.0%

Original Gravity: 1.055
Terminal Gravity: 1.003 (Projected)
Color: 5.32 SRM
Alcohol: 6.24% ABV
Bitterness: 16.4 IBU (Calculated but doesn’t account for whirlpool isomerization)

7 lb (76.7%) Pilsner Malt (Dingemans)
1 lb (11.0%) Munich 10L Malt (Briess)
1 lb (11.0%) White Wheat Malt (Briess)
2 oz (1.4%) Acidulated Malt (Best Malz)

8 g (5.7%) Citra™ (14.1%) – added during boil, boiled 60 m
20 g (14.1%) Citra™ – WHIRLPOOL (14.1%)
1 oz (20.0%) Simcoe® – WHIRLPOOL (13.0%)
2 oz (40.1%) Citra™ Leaf – HOP BACK (13.8%)
1 oz (20.0%) Centennial Leaf – HOP BACK (10.0%)

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

1 ea WYeast 3724 Belgian Saison™

60m – 152 °F
10m – 168 °F

Final Volume into Fermenter = 3.5 Gallons
Yeast Required =  125 billion (per Mr. Malty)
Yeast Production Date: 6/26/13
Yeast Starter = 1L @ 1.040 on stir plate (per Mr. Malty) =  4 1/8oz. DME

1. Chill to 66* F and allow to free rise to room temp (high 70’s)
2. Keep at room temp until fermentation stops
3. Rack to (3) 1-gallon purged FVs and Pitch Secondary Cultures

Secondary Fermentation:
Rack to 3 separate 1 Gallon FVs.
Pitch with (3) different cultures:
1. Brett Bruxellensis (Whitelabs)
2. Brett Lambicus (Whitelabs)
3. Crooked Stave Surette Culture

Brettanomyces Pitching Rate:
White Labs Brett Vial: 50 million / ml
(Per White Labs FAQ: http://www.whitelabs.com/yeast/wlp650-brettanomyces-bruxellensis)

Target Secondary Pitch = 20,000 / ml / degree plato (0.02 million / ml / degrees plato)

12.62 plato X 3785 ml (1 gallon) x 20,000 = 955,334,000 (0.95 billion)

Pitch 19.1 ml of slurry from each vial into one gallon

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale Review

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin

October is finally here. Although pumpkin beers have been on the shelves for months, they never seem that appealing to me until the days start getting shorter and a chill grasps the morning air. Living in Seattle ruined pumpkin beers for me. Admittedly, I need to be in the right mood to imbibe pumpkin beers and when I do, I tend to gravitate toward the hallmark for the style, Elysian’s Great Pumpkin. When I drink a pumpkin beer, I want it to be rich– like the pumpkin pie so many are inspired by. That being said, I don’t like overly sweet beers or ones that taste like you’re drinking some sort of spiced tea. I was pleasantly surprised by this example from Weyerbacher. While not as awesome as the Great Pumpkin, it is a worthy replacement, especially in the 12 oz. format The Great Pumpkin sorely lacks.

Beer Data:

Purchased: 9/3/12 at Whole Foods Bowery – $12.99 / 4-pack 12oz bottles
Availability: Fall
Bottled: 7/12/12
Alcohol: 8% ABV

Commercial Description from Website:

Like a pyramid for a pharaoh, we set out to make a bold monument for The King of the Pumpkins! This 8.0% ABV pumpkin ale is the mother of all pumpkin ales. It is heartier, spicier, and more “caramelly” and “pumpkiny” than its faint brethren!

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: My first impression of this beer is a huge dose of nutmeg, bringing up fond memories of eggnog and celebrations of Christmases past. Some cinnamon and clove round out the spice perception, which is a little more in your face than most examples I enjoy. There is a sweet dark caramel malt component. The yeast shows a very faint fruity ester, which pleasantly combines with the spice. The spice aromas are bright and crisp, giving way only to a handful of sweet malt aromas. Alcohol is mildly perceptible on the nose.   10 / 12

Appearance: Rich copper bordering on brown with some nice ruby highlights. Beer is hazy with off-white head featuring tight bubbles that persist. 2 / 3

Flavor: The hints of rich malt that were apparent in the aroma sing with each mouthful. Toasty, melanoiden-rich flavors of bread crust combine with some sweet caramel and molasses flavors providing a very rich flavor. Cinnamon is much more apparent in the flavor. Like most pumpkin beers, the actual pumpkin component is very light and almost imperceptible. The beer has a nice bitterness that prevents it from being too sweet. Spices finish with a hair of astringency.  15 / 20

Mouth Feel: Medium / medium-high mouth feel. Very nice creamy carbonation helps round out some of the intense spices. A bit of hot alcohol on the finish combines with bitterness and spice astringency making the beer finish slightly thin. 3 / 5

Overall Impression: This is a very nutmeg-forward example of a pumpkin beer which helps it stand out on a shelf filled with competing pumpkin beers. Spices are a bit too prominent and out of balance. I’d like to see some of the cream and crust flavors other examples of the style have. Still very delicious and a great example. 7 / 10

Score: 37 / 50 (Very Good)

Note: Evaluation done according to BJCP Scoring System. This beer was reviewed as a Category 21a. Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer.

Victory Wild Devil Review

Victory Wild Devil

Victory Wild Devil

Having been in Brooklyn for over a month now, I find myself frequently traveling around scoping out what is available on local shelves peppered with brands not available on the West Coast. From what I can tell, bottle shops come in two flavors. The high-end boutique shops (like Bierkraft) that I’ve become accustomed to in Seattle and the more utilitarian beer distributors whose storefronts are the public face of their broader distribution business. This bottle was purchased at the latter, New Beer Distributors in Manhattan. These distributors tend to have warm, dark warehouses with massive variety and minimal service. Because of this, things sometimes get lost on the shelves or simply forgotten in the back somewhere.

Browsing through the cavernous interior at New Beer Distributors, this bottle of Victory Wild Devil caught my eye. Somehow I had remembered that this particular beer hadn’t been produced for a least a couple years. How it ended up on this shelf at the bargain price of $6 is a mystery, but with so little invested, it was worth a shot.

Beer Data:

Purchased: 8/29/12 at New Beer Distributors for $6.
Format: 750ml corked and caged bottle
Bottle Date: 4/22/2009
Alcohol: 6.7% ABV

Commercial Description from Bottle:

It’s arguable that our menacingly delicious HopDevil has always been ‘wild’. Though the India Pale Ale style that he represents was born in Great Britain, we approached the style with German malts and whole flower American hops, making a unique ale of him, indeed. But what has made him truly wild is change of yeast. Brettanomyces yeast has given many a Belgian ale its soulful character of sharp tang and deep funk. Fermented completely with brettanomyces, WildDevil features the greatest flavors of Europe and America combined. Floral, aromatic hops still leap from this amber ale, but a whole host of new flavors are intertwined with the citrus and pine flavors of these hops, making WildDevil a sensation that is wild, worldly and wonderful!

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: Earthy notes of Brett are the initial impression with strong components of leather and tobacco. After the first punch of Brett additional aromas of prune and light tart cherry become evident. There also appears to be some piney hop notes which seem a little out of place.  10 / 12

Appearance: Hazy copper hues become muddied by obvious floating particles that were kicked up by a very active level of carbonation. A dramatic head forms with even the gentlest pour resulting in large bubbles that settle into a billowy latte colored head. 2 / 3

Flavor: There are some initial flavors of light caramel and light toasty crackers. There is a big bitterness bordering on astringency that beats up on the subtle malt flavors. Peppery phenolics are evident and seem a bit harsh. Very light paper notes from oxidation.  10 / 20

Mouthfeel: In-spite of a very high level of carbonation this beer manages to retain a nice medium body. The peppery phenolic notes are drying on the palate and tend to linger.  Slightly boozy finish.  3 / 5

Overall Impression: This beer is amazing on the nose with the oxidized malt aromas of prunes combining nicely with some of the more earthy Brett flavors. Unfortunately, the flavors is dominated by a harsh phenol which really make the experience less than optimal. I would have loved to taste this beer with less age as it seems like it probably was an outstanding beer earlier in its life. 6 / 10

Score: 31/50 (Very Good)

Note: Evaluation done according to BJCP Scoring System.  This beer was reviewed as a Category 16 Belgian Specialty Ale (Belgian IPA with Brett).