Delicious... than not... then ok?

Nummy Nums

(American Wild Ale, Brett Beer, 28A (unofficial 2014)) BeerSmith Recipe File

Formulation

The inspiration for this beer came from one place: Michael Tonsmeire. His blog is a fantastic tome of wild and sour beers. He has also recently authored a book on the subject, of which I have referenced heavily for this recipe.

What surprised me about 100% Brett beers after having a few commercial examples is the lack of funk. You’d think, given that a little Brett in finished beer can produce lots of funk, that a beer made entirely of Brett would make a beer so funky as to be undrinkable. Not so. The resulting flavors of your 100% Brett beer will vary based on the strain of Brett you use, so do some research and select the strain carefully. Brett Trios aka Brett Drie produces wonderful tropical fruit flavors that lend it to IPAs (1), so that’s what I’m making. A 100% Brett IPA.

The single hardest part about making a 100% Brett beer is that you need to make massive starters. Maybe massive isn’t the right word, since I would say lagers need massive starters. You need to make an epic starter for 100% Brett beer, or better yet, a multi-step starter. The vials of Brett that White Labs sells only contain 2-3.5 billion cells, compared to 100 billion cells in a S. cervasiea vial. Throw that number into your favorite yeast pitching rate calculator, and you’ll realize that you need to start preparing for this brew day 2 weeks in advance.

Since it is such a pain in the butt to make all that yeast, I would also make plans to harvest as much as you can post fermentation. Even if you never make Brett beer again, save another brewer the trouble of making godzilla starters.

Brett ferments like to have a little lower pH than “normal” wort. So I also added a half pound of acid malt after the sacrification rest (post mash, pre sparge) to help the Brett ferment faster (again, see Tonsmeire’s book for why), and to allow for the creation of the ester ethyl lactate, which is perceived as “tropical fruit” by many.

 

Recipe

9 lbs. US 2-Row
4 lbs. White Wheat Malt
0.25 lbs. Carapils
0.25 lbs. Munich Malt
0.5 lbs. Acidulated Malt (added post mash)

Mash @ 153° for 60 minutes (1.5 qt/lb.), sparge w/ 4.9 gal

Boil for 60 minutes
1 oz. Citra (14.4% AA) boil for 60 min
1 oz. each Citra, Mosiac, Equinox, Nelson Sauvin at flameout, steep for 15 min

2 Step starter of WLP644 Brett. Trois, pitched @ 66°

Dry Hop 1 oz each Citra, Mosaic, Equinox, Nelson Sauvin for 3 days

OG: 1.060
FG: 1.008
ABV: 6.8%
IBU: 76
SRM: 5.3

Brew Day

There really isn’t anything exciting to say about the brew day. The hot side of this wort isn’t really the important part. Perhaps I should point out (or should have already pointed out) that the higher percentage of wheat in this recipe is an attempt to help give the final beer some body. Fermentations with 100% Brett usually result in final gravities well below 1.010, which can be overly dry on the palate, especially for this style of beer.

 

Fermentation

The fermentation proceeded exactly how you’d expect a S. cerevisiae (normal ale yeast) beer to. In fact, it was identical to an ale fermentation, save for the tail end. The beer seemed to have airlock activity (not always the best indicator of yeast activity, but I digress) for at least another week before settling down. I let the beer sit in primary for a total of 3 weeks, just to ensure the gravity was somewhat stable before packaging. I began fermentation at 66°, and began ramping up to 72° on day 4 over the course of several days.

I racked the beer to a keg for dry hopping. I dry hopped for 3 days.

 

Packaging

I carbonated this beer in the keg for a week. While you can certainly bottle condition 100% Brett beers, make sure the gravity is stable! Again, if you have questions about what that means, read American Sour Beers, or hit Michael T.’s blog.

 

 My Take

Delicious... than not... then ok?
Delicious… than not… then ok?

I REALLY like this beer. The aroma is off the charts tropical fruit! While certainly dry, it isn’t off putting. I brought this beer to two different homebrew club meetings, and got nothing but positive compliments from everyone.

Which makes this next part kind of awkward…

 

The Stig

Some say He is the founder of the nudist colony “Twigs and Berries”, and that He sleeps in an cocoon… All we know is, He’s called The Stig!

Aroma: pineapple popsicle and orange concentrate. Vey yeasty/ doughy, as well.

Appearance: super hazy, pale yellow. So cloudy that there’s almost a grayish tint to the body of the beer. Fine, white head that forms a persistent film, as well as provides some spotty lacing.

Flavor: some faint citrus comes through, but mostly dominated by autolytic off flavors: dough and raw egg whites. There is also a sharp, vegetal bitterness.

Mouthfeel: astringent, and very dry. Long, lingering bitterness. Carbonation is frothy, but the beer is so bitter and dry that those sensations dominate everything.

Overall: I think the fermentation was halted, and/or was in a weird phase. If the brett was still working, no matter how sluggish, hop aroma and flavor would have been kept in very good condition- continuous fermentation drives off oxygen and preserves these characteristics for up to 10 months. I’ve spoken to a professional brewer who brews a fantastic 100% brettanomyces fermented IPA, and he says his beer is best in the 9-12 month old range. I got no typical brett flavors from this beer: it’s not earthy, tart, fruity, grassy, barnyard-y, horse blanket-y, or nutty. Fermentations of this kind can go through weird, ‘sick’ phases where everything is off. I remember reading a Russian River bottle log on a batch of Sanctification that documented this occurrence.

 

Reaction

So, by the time The Stig got his hands on this one, obviously it had evolved into something entirely different from what Jason, lots of other home brewers, and I loved so much. 100% Brett beers are new to me, and I have yet to learn how these things develop and change in the bottle. I have to say, the review is disappointing and confusing. Especially considering that one month AFTER this review, the beer scored reasonably well in a home-brew competition, with none of the negative comments mentioned by The Stig being noted (2).

So, to summarize: We here at Klaserhausen loved this beer fresh, The Stig hated it 2 months old, and the competition judges thought it was OK at 3 months. Put this beer in the “win” and “loss” columns? A tie?  One thing is for sure, I’ll be brewing 100% Brett IPA again sometime soon

Also, as a last little note: since I last posted something, I’ve become a Certified Cicerone®! Since I don’t work in the beer industry (and have no desire to), it was sort of a silly thing for me to do… but I don’t care, it was fun!

It should say Certified Gansta®
It should say “Certified Gansta®”

 

 

(1) I can’t plug Michael’s blog enough. This is required reading if you’re thinking of making wild or sour beer. Enough said.
(2) I should point out, that both judges in the comp said “no hop aroma” and yet noted intense fruit aroma and flavors. They don’t get to see the recipe, and perhaps they would have realized that, given the hop varieties used, those fruity flavors are both the result of fermentation and the hop additions. Just sayin’.

Submariner

(American Barleywine, 19C)  BeerSmith Recipe File

***This beer earned at Bronze Medal at the 1st round NHC in NYC, 2014!!!***

The USS Tennessee some years ago...
The USS Tennessee some years ago…

Formulation

This beer holds a very special place in my heart, second only to Mom and Dad. I joined the U.S. Navy right after high school 14 years ago, and I immediately volunteered for submarine duty. I served on the USS Tennessee SSBN 734G from 2003-2008 as a Sonar Tech, making 7 strategic deterrent patrols. That time helped shape me and I grew immensely as a human being, and I’ll never forget my time there or the life-long friends I’ve made.

My best friend Danny and I, 2003
My best friend Danny and I, 2003

Fast forward to the summer of 2012 (1 year before I started this project). I was recently out of the Navy, had yet to start my classes at Rutgers, was unemployed and bored to death. I decided to brew a beer for some of my old Sub buddies, and immediately realized American Barleywine is the only beer for the job. I called it Submariner, and gave it out only to those “Qualified-in-Submarines” (except my parents… and John has tried some). It was a sort of cathartic exercise for me, as I was struggling with all those transitional emotions we all have when we make huge changes in our lives. For me, it was a salute to all my Submarine peeps, and the beer turned out awesome.

This recipe is very similar. I did adjust the specialty malt percentages a tad, and the hop schedule will reflect the fresh hops that I have available as well as the CO2 hop extract I still have. I also decided to lengthen the boil to 90 minutes, as many far better brewers than I have recommended longer boils for these beers. This will be, to date, the biggest beer I’ve made using my current system (10 gallon rubbermaid cooler & 9 gallon kettle), and I’m willing to bet my efficiency is going to be way off the normal 75-80% I normally get. I’ve got some DME on hot-standby, and I’m not afraid or embarrassed to use it. Any beer that climbs north of 1.085 is going to really tax your equipment, and I just don’t have any more room in the mash tun to make up the difference in efficiency with more grain.

 

Recipe 

20 lbs. U.S. 2-row
1.5 lbs. 10L crystal
1.5 lbs. 80L crystal
Mash @ 150° for 90 min (1.3 qt/lb), sparge with 3.4 gal

Boil for 90 minutes

15mL CO2 Hop Extract boil for 60 min (~62 IBU contribution)
1 oz Calypso (15.6%) boil for 20 min
1 oz Centennial (10.5%) & Citra (14.4%) boil for 10 min
1 oz Cascade (5.5%) & Amarillo (8.7%) boil for 5 min

WLP090 San Diego Super, 2 vials & 1300mL starter w/nutrients
Fermentation Temp: 65-68°

1st Round dry hop 1 oz Belma & Citra for 3 days
2nd Round dry hop 1 oz Amarillo & Cascade for 3 days

OG:  1.103
FG: 1.020
ABV:  12.1%
IBU:  104
SRM:  14.7

 

Brew Day

This brew featured a brief Jason appearance, but he had to run early on. He did leave his O2 tank, which I will definitely be needing on this brew day. Fermentations on beers this big are just nuts, and the yeast really need plenty of O2, and shaking takes too long to get the desired 8ppm of oxygen.

Run off is clear!
Run off is clear!

I decided to adjust the spacing of my grain mill a smidgen wider, mostly because last brew I encountered a stuck sparge that let a lot of grain material in the kettle (that was a pain to fish out). I think my default mill setting is crushing the grain too fine, and has resulted in my sparging issues.

Aerate!
Aerate!

Mash in went perfectly, and we nailed 150° which is always nice. The problems began when we lautered, and found our pre boil gravity at 1.067. Barleywine does not a 1.067 wort make. I expected efficiency to suffer, but this was dismal (about 62% vs. my normal 80%), and I did not have enough DME on hand to make up the difference. I added the DME I did have, approximately 2 pounds of light (I forgot to weigh it, sorry). We proceeded with the boil, Jason left me to my humid kitchen and everything else went according to plan. The wort cooled quickly, again due to my ~55° tap water, I racked the beer to the fermenter and discovered my OG was only 1.090. Now, this is perfectly fine for barleywine, well within The Guidelines, but I wasn’t happy about not cresting 100 points. I decided to not pitch, let the wort sit overnight, and in the morning I ran to the local home-brew shop for some more DME. I made an extremely concentrated wort with another 2 pounds of light DME (I measured this time) in about 0.25 gallons of water. This stuff was boarder-line simple-syrup, and mixing 2 lbs. of DME in that little volume of water is an exercise in patience.  I added this to my already 12 hour old wort, and the gravity was now 1.103. Satistfied, I pitched the starter, aerated with O2, and put it in the fermentation fridge with the controller set to 65°.

 

Fermentation

I finally got my thermowell, and so I’m actually controlling fermentation from the internal temperature now! I’m really excited about this addition, and I’m hoping that if this batch yields great results to get back into lager production. I can’t ignore lagers for much longer, but I’m still licking my wounds after YourMomtoberfest. I started the beer at 65°, and after 7 days let it climb to 67°.

San Diego Super demolishes low gravity wort, but in my experience it seems to perform no faster than WLP001 in big beers. This guy was still slowly (3-4 bubbles/min) off-gasing when I decided to move it to secondary, almost two weeks since I pitched. Since there was still noticeable activity, and because a sample tasted a tiny bit “hot”, I racked approximately 50mL of slurry along with the beer into a keg. I let the keg sit at room temperature, which is a tad warmer (~73°) than the fermentation fridge , for 4 days. Then, I stuck it in the “lambic closet”, which which is 65-67° for 13 days before beginning the dry hop schedule.

 

Packaging

Each dry hop was for 3 days, after which the beer was put in the fridge (@ 35°) and allowed to carbonate for 1 week.  After this, the beer was bottled (all 5 gallons) into 12 oz bottles using the counter-pressure filler.

 

Last year's is tasting pretty good...
Last year’s is tasting pretty good…

My Take

At first, I was reluctant to serve this beer to nubs (in fact, the first edition had a label that explicitly said “not for nubs”!). But after some reflection I reasoned that given tax-paying Americans paid my salary for a number of years, they deserved to drink this beer even if they never stepped foot on a submarine. I did, however, make them field day my apartment while I watched crappy movies underneath my bed. And I made them wash my dishes. And I verbally abused them for months. Some of them didn’t make it.

 

The Stig

And now it’s time to turn the beer over to our Team Tasting Imbiber. Some say that Russian submarines only do a “Crazy Ivan” to make sure He isn’t lurking behind, and that his towed array is never at short stay. All we know is, he’s called The Stig!!!

Aroma – Roasted cacao beans, over-ripe banana, cinnamon, baked red apple / red apple skins. Also, quite a bit of fusel alcohol. *Note* after warming all the way up to room temperature, some sulfur notes (sulfidic: raw egg, mild sewer gas) are perceptible. Could be the product of stressed out yeast which is easy to do in such a strong beer, also could be the sign of the beer being too young, or “green.” Spending more time on the lees in secondary, as well as pitching more yeast (or a strain that is more resilient in environments that are highly alcoholic) for such a massive beer could mitigate this flaw.

Appearance – Approximately 14 degrees SRM. Russet/Medium Brown body with patchwork , off white head. No lacing or head retention to speak of. Glassy, almost iridescent top layer, has glassy texture – most likely due to high alcohol content.

Flavor – Much of what is present as far as aromatics are also there on front palette. However, all those delicious flavors are overpowered by the hot, boozy alcohol presence. Also, overly bitter. The powerful ABV, along with the lack of malt flavor and depth, allows the hop bitterness to become overtly apparent.

Mouthfeel – Again, way too much perceived alcohol. This highly attenuated beer is left with a slick, thin mouthfeel that is very warming and practically astringent/medicinal.

Overall Impression – Clearly there is a lot of potential for this beer, as it starts out with fantastic aromatics and flavors. The lack of balance, which is particularly difficult to dial in for high ABV beers, is where this barleywine falls short. I feel that if this beer could be more in the 9-10% ABV range, it would benefit from more malt character, providing depth and a much needed counterpoint to its massive IBU count. Despite the trend of American style barleywines being excessive in practically every way, the best examples almost always exhibit a tenuous balance between the drastic levels of malt sweetness and hop bitterness. Perhaps you could include less kettle additions and more late hopping to not only lessen the IBUs, but also provide more hop flavor and aromas. I think Chinook would work very well with this beer as a late addition hop.

 

Reaction

Whoa, that’s a rather long review by The Stig. This beer was actually brewed about 9 months ago, which doesn’t sound like a long time, but I’ve been changing my thinking a little bit about big beers. I’ve just noticed that for big beers, I personally prefer the ones that come in around 8.5-10% ABV, and start to dislike them as they go north of that. Of course, there are exceptions, but in general I’ve been finding the HUGE beers to lack balance and really one dimensional. I used to love all big beers, but now I look for something more than just alcohol. It’s about time I started brewing with that in mind. I completely agree with The Stig’s comments, though I think the booze isn’t as apparent as He seems to think. The BJCP Judges who judged the beer agreed that the beer need more hops flavor and aroma and more malt backbone. A higher mash temp, by a few degrees might have been a good idea. The beer is definitely good, good enough to advance to the second round of NHC 2014. But I think dialing back the ABV and dialing in the hop profile would help make this beer great.

Who brings beer to a baby shower? This guy!

(Family)²

(Belgian Dubbel, 18B, 2008 Guidelines) BeerSmith Recipe File

Formulation 

I love creating beers for special occasions, but this one might be the most special. A fellow home-brewer and friend of Klaserhausen is having twin boys. So we decided to brew him and his wife a special batch of Dubbel. We’re going to bottle it all (save for The Stig’s sample) in belgian bottles, and give it to the parents-to-be at the baby shower.

The recipe is straight forward, though I’m using up the last little bit of our CO2 hop extract for bittering. I was hoping to get my hands on the East Coast Yeast Abbaye Ale, but alas none was available. Tripel Happiness was made with that yeast, and a belgian dark strong (non-blog related) and The Stig loved both those beers. Coincidence? Not sure, but I was hoping not to leave that up to chance. So, I settled on the Trappist Ale yeast from White Labs.

I’ve been struggling back and forth with efficiency and lautering ever since I began crushing my own grain. I couldn’t seem to the the perfect crush that allowed for good extraction but didn’t result in a stuck sparge. I’ve finally settled on my current crush and resigned to using rice hulls in every mash. It’s not much of an expense, and my efficiency is much better for it.  I should note my crush isn’t particularly fine. For whatever reason this seems to just work for my system. Sometimes you have to sort out the quirks of your setup and find workarounds.

 

Recipe

11 lbs. Belgian Pilsner Malt
1 lb. Aromatic Malt
0.75 lb. Special B
0.5 lb. Rice Hulls
1 lb. Belgian Candi Syrup 45L (added before boil)

Mash @ 149° for 90 minutes, single infusion (1.5 qt/lb) sparge with 4.5 gal
Boil for 90 minutes

4mL CO2 Hop Extract boil for 60 minutes
1 oz German Tettnang (3.9% AA) boil for 10 minutes

WLP500, 2000ml starter

OG:  1.073
FG:  1.010
ABV:  8.6%
IBU:  21.4
SRM:  16

Fermentation Temperature:  65-70°

 

Brew Day

It was a great brew day. John and Jason were both present, and we cracked many a brew and didn’t manage to make any mistakes despite our “research”. We absolutely nailed efficiency, and worked very quickly, finishing in great time.

The Klaserhausen Dream Team (Stig not pictured).
The Klaserhausen Dream Team (Stig not pictured).
Steven ponders rocks...
Steven ponders rocks…

A friend of the blog, Steven Graham was also in attendance, and even brought along a bottle of Brooklyn Black Ops. Let it be known:  anyone who comes to my apartment with a bottle of RIS will not be turned away…

 

Fermentation

We pitched the yeast at 67°, set the temp controller to 65° and let our little fungus friends get to work. On day 3, I set the controller to 67°. On day 5, I set the controller to 69°, and on day 7 the controller was set to 71°. It stayed there for a day or two, then settled back to 67° since I don’t have a heating element. Due mostly to my own busy schedule, the beer sat in primary another week before I moved it to the keg.

The ABV puts this beer outside the Guidelines by over a full percent . . . that seems to be a theme with me. That wasn’t really my intention, but perhaps a lower OG would have been a good idea assuming the attenuation stays the same.

I also had to do something that I hate to admit to: I dumped a batch of home-brew. It was to be a belgian pale ale, but the phenols made this guy undrinkable.

We played "Taps" as in swirled down the drain...
We played “Taps” as it swirled down the drain…

 

Packaging

In the fridge, I let the dubbel carbonate for a week to 2.7 volumes. Normally I would push this to 3 volumes, but since I planned to pitch Brett into half of the bottles, I decided to err on the side of caution. I used an eye dropper to put 20 drops from a vial of Brett Brux into half of the bottles. All told, it was about 1/2 the vial for 11 750mL bottles. I marked the bottles containing Brett with a green “X” on the bottom. Over time the beers should differentiate themselves, which I think is really cool!

I presented the bottles to the parents-to-be at their housewarming/baby shower party (they’ve been especially busy!).

Who brings beer to a baby shower? This guy!
Who brings beer to a baby shower? This guy!

Turned out, those babies must have heard about the beer, because they decided to arrive a bit early, before the baby shower! They’re perfectly healthy twin boys, and they’re growing so fast. Congrats again to lucky parents!

 

My Take

The two most important palates (the parents) loved the beer, so I call that a win. After only a few months, they have also noticed the Brett version starting to take on some character of it’s own, which is really cool.

I’m going to be honest here: I definitely tasted this beer, but I didn’t take any notes. I don’t recall any major flaws or anything “wow” either. I bottled this beer in the middle of getting ready to leave for a trip to South Africa, so I was a little frazzled. We’ll leave the professional judging to The Stig.

 

The Stig

Some say that He was immaculately conceived, and that He reproduces asexually. All we know is, He’s called The Stig!

Aroma: Raisins, dark rum, brown sugar, butterscotch, cloves, ripe banana, baked apple, and a noticeable amount of fusel alcohol.

Appearance: Almost clear, russet brown/reddish tinged deep amber ~ 18 degrees SRM. No head retention, burnt orange foam that dissipates quickly to reveal a glassy body.

Flavor: Dates, sweetened almonds, dark rum, and cloves. If it were a bit less boozy it would have flavors very reminiscent of mincemeat pie. It is boozy, however, and this lends a sharp, overtly alcoholic character.

Mouthfeel: Thin for the style and not enough carbonation. Hot/boozy, and slick on the palate.

Overall Impression: Great aromatics despite fusels. Front end of palate has requisite flavor profile for Abbey Dubbel, but the middle and finish on this beer is lost to overwhelming alcohol flavors and sensations. Seems as though fermentation got away from intended levels. Which might have resulted in a lower than desired final gravity, yielding a beer without enough body and residual sugars. Perhaps a higher mash temp would serve this beer well – limiting final gravity and providing a more substantial mouthfeel.

 

Reaction

Well, I know for a fact that temperature control wasn’t an issue since I was using my thermowell and temperature controller! The beer never got over 69° for the first week, essentially the whole of primary fermentation. And the beer was controlled to 65° for the all important first few days of primary. I don’t recall tasting fusels, but if His Holiness The Stig says that the beer has fusel alcohol, then…

I agree the mash temperature should probably be raised, and the beer would improve with the increased final gravity. BUT: my thinking was to get the gravity fairly low, prior to dosing with Brett, since too high a FG would definitely result in bottle bombs. The fusel production really is stumping me. I had temperature control down, I aerated with O2, and I made an appropriate starter. Perhaps it is just a strain selection problem. Maybe it is just a fluke.

We don't condone drinking while babying here at Klaserhausen... :)
We don’t condone drinking while babying here at Klaserhausen… 🙂

Regardless, the intended audience loves the beer. That makes me happy.

 

Books I referenced for this recipe:

Zainasheff & Palmer. Brewing Classic Styles. 2007.
Palmer & Kaminski. Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers. 2013.
Tonsmeire. American Sour Beers. 2014.
2008 BJCP Guidelines.

Love a good floor corker

Pretension

(Biere de Garde, 16D), BeerSmith Recipe File

Formulation

You’ve seen them: Belgian beers in 750mL bottles with profound one word names. Why should we not join in here at Klaserhausen?

It’s with Trepidation that I take on this style of beer. Commercial examples often have that musty-woodsy character that I love so much. But I came to the Realization that I cannot replicate these complex flavors and aromas. I can probably make a damn good beer here, but it will ultimately be a disappointment in my eyes. If you read the Guidelines, they even say home brewers likely won’t reach the character that the pros do, because those flavors and aromas we love so much are the result of “indigenous yeasts and molds”. I’m worried that without this important part, I’ll experience Dissatisfaction.

This grist is pretty much a shot in the dark, as the style itself is quite broad, and many examples are very different from each other. This recipe puts the beer firmly in the middle of the color range. I’m not using the proper noble hops, but Crystal is a solid lager hop with a hint of spiciness, so I it will fit nicely in the overall profile of this beer. Assumption.

I’m also using a White Labs Platinum Strain, Antwerp Ale yeast, which they describe as lager-like. I think it will be perfect for this beer. The Guidelines specify ale or lager yeast, some I’m hoping a low Fermentation temp will help achieve that lager-like quality that makes these beers so tasty. Calculation.

 

Recipe

12 lbs. Belgian Pilsner Malt
1 lb. U.S. Vienna Malt (it’s all I had access to at the time, oh well)
1 lb. Belgian Caramunich Malt
0.75 lb. Belgian Aromatic Malt
0.5 lb. Belgian Special B

Mash @ 147° for 90 min (single infusion, 1.5 qt/lb). Sparge with 3.9 gal

Boil for 90 minutes
1 oz Crystal (6% AA) boil for 60 minutes
1 oz Crystal boil for 10 minutes

WLP515, 1200mL starter

OG:  1.070
FG:  1.013
ABV:  7.8%
IBU:  22.5
SRM:  13

Fermentation Temp: 64-70° (lagered @ 36° for 3 weeks)

 

Brew Day

DAT VORLAUF DOE
DAT VORLAUF DOE

The brew day was lonely with both Jason & John absent. I briefly encountered a stuck sparge, due probably to my eagerness to begin lautering. I stopped the lauter, stirred the grain up (it was really compacted, my rate was too high and I compacted the bed), re-cirulated about 6 quarts until it was running clear again, and resumed lautering.

Very pretentious first runnings
Very pretentious first runnings

Beyond that, it was a uneventful brew day. I boiled for 90 minutes, cooled the wort quickly (~13 minutes thanks to super cold tap water) to 66°, pitched the yeast and set the fermenter in the fridge. I set the temp controller to 65°.

 

Fermentation

I initially set the temperature controller to 65°, and after 24 hours set it to 62°. I did this because I still hadn’t gotten my thermowell yet, and I’m trying to compensate for my likely inaccurate temperature readings from the controller. Also, because this beer is supposed to be lager-like, I’m attempting to keep the yeast a few degrees below the recommended lower range (which is 67°), to keep ester production to a minimum.

On day 5, activity was beginning to slow, and I raised the temperature to 65° on the controller. On day 7, I raised the temperature to 67°, and on day 9 I raised it again to 70°. I let the beer sit at 70° for 2 more days, and then began cooling 2 degrees every 12 hours until I hit 42°. This temperature is about the lower limit of my Fermentation fridge.

FG: 1.013
FG: 1.013

 

Packaging

When the beer got to 42°, I transferred it to a keg, and stuck it in my serving/lagering fridge.  I keep this fridge at 36°. I let the beer lager for 3 weeks, during which I carbonated it to 2.8 volumes of CO2. I’m hoping I can reach a more appropriate level of Carbonation than the last time I attempted this level, in Tripel Happiness.

Now, I was worried that my home-brewed example of Biere de Garde just wouldn’t compare to commercial examples. So, I elected to pitch 1/4 of a vial of Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, which is the strain of Brett most known for its horsey, leathery, barnyard-type character, and not for sour flavor. I feel this will help make this beer smell and taste more like the real deal. Authentication.

Love a good floor corker
Love a good floor corker

I added the Brett at bottling, and allowed the bottles to age 8 weeks. The bottles with Brett were corked and caged. I did not add Brett to The Stig’s sample, more out of sticking to the Guidelines than anything else.

 

My Take

I thought this beer was quite nice, even without the Brett. Sure, it was a little too “clean” compared to commercial examples, but I think it is a solid beer.

I also tasted the Brett version after 6 months in the bottle. I dosed each bottle with 10 drops from an eye dropper. I think that dose was simply too small, because the beer really lacked anything bold in the Brett department. It was there, but barely. I now know that the White Labs Brett vials only contain 2-3.5 billion cells vs. a brewers yeast vial containing 100 billion. So future bottle dosing will be adjusted.

 

The Stig

And now it’s time to turn the beer over to our Team Tasting Imbiber. Some say several strains of Brettanomyces have been isolated from His unmentionable body hair, and that His favorite kind of dog is a badger. All we know is, He’s called The Stig!

Aroma: Fairly clean malt character with notes of quince paste, toast, brown sugar, and toffee. Little to no hop aroma.

Appearance: Clear amber, about 11 degrees SRM. Off-white head with fine bead. Barely any head retention, no lacing, with only a faint, spotty film of foam persisting.

Flavor: Candied, fruity, subtly herbal with flavors of toffee, baked apple, and a hint of sage. Negligible perceived bitterness. Clean malt sweetness without being bread-like. A bit cloying.

Mouthfeel: Full and round, but lacking structure (could use more grain-like tannin, husk quality). Low carbonation and not quite as attenuated as the style should be. ABV is very well disguised with barely any warmth in the finish.

Overall: Really pleasant and technically well within style parameters. Personally I would prefer a drier, more attenuated, and rustic beer for this style. Could use more earthy hop and grain character, and more carbonation or acidity to break up malt sweetness. No overt or obvious flaws.

 

Reaction

I agree with The Stig, a more earthy hop profile would take this beer to the next level. And perhaps adding some simple sugars would help dry the beer out, or maybe mash at 145°, or both. The lack of carbonation is a bit puzzling, I thought I had that under control. I was hoping the Brett versions would be much better, but the Brett has yet to assert itself. So overall, I’d call this one a disappointment. Sure it doesn’t have any overt flaws, and it is a solid beer, but it really isn’t anything special. I suppose it was karma: I was too busy making fun of the commercial names of belgian beers to brew a great version myself!

 

Books I referenced for this recipe:

Zainasheff & Palmer. Brewing Classic Styles. 2007.

Palmer & Kaminski. Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers. 2013.

2008 BJCP Guidelines.