Month: March 2014


I’ll admit it, I am a bit of a sucker for older, out of style, usually no longer brewed styles of beer. There is just something about hearing of a beer that was brewed in the 1600’s or whenever, and is no longer brewed anywhere, commercially, that makes me want to brew it. Especially if its a smoked beer.

One such style comes from the land of Poland. Grodziskie, as it is called,  was last brewed commercially in 1993, but had been a popular style throughout Poland for hundreds of years before this. I first heard of this particular style on the Beer Smith Podcast here . This beer was relatively small, not much more than 3.5 – 4.0% ABV, and  was made with 100% wheat, which was smoked with oak wood. It was light, dry, smokey, with a moderate hopping rate in proportion with its size. Pretty much all things up my alley. Grodziskie was originally named after a town in Western Poland, Grodzisk Wielkopolski, and has seen a bit of a resurgence amongst homebrewers.

During WWII, after the Germans had occupied Poland, they actually changed the name of  Grodzisk to Grätz, thus changing the name of the beer produced there to Grätzer. Eventually,Grätz was changed back to Grodzisk after the war, and all was right with the world once again.  Now, Grodziskie can go by either name, Grodziskie and/or Gratzer, but I don’t want to support any kind of force-able invasion for ultimate, world-wide power. Grodziskie it is.

For my Grodziskie recipe, I decided to use… you guessed it… Oak-Smoked Wheat. However, I decided to add some malted Spelt in there for a little something “extra”, while still sticking with a wheat-type malt. Spelt is an ancient ancestor of modern wheat. I used Saaz hops, which would have been traditional for the region. German Hallertau, Tettanger, or Polish Lublin hops would also work well if Saaz is not immediately available. For yeast, I had to get a little “interpretive” with things, as I have no way of getting my hands on some Polish Yeast. I decided to go with a Saison strain, which would help dry the beer out, and will hopefully leave some spicy/tart notes in there. This may or may not compliment the smokiness from the malt, we’ll see. Specifically, Wyeast 3711 French Saison.

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 3.50 gal   
Estimated OG: 1.037 SG
Estimated Color: 3.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 25.3 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
4 lbs                 Oak-Smoked Wheat (2.0 SRM)               Grain         1        80.0 %        
1 lbs                 Spelt (3.0 SRM)                          Grain         2        20.0 %        
0.67 oz               Saaz [3.75 %] - First Wort 60.0 min      Hop           3        15.6 IBUs     
0.67 oz               Saaz [3.75 %] - Boil 20.0 min            Hop           4        8.6 IBUs      
0.67 oz               Saaz [3.75 %] - Boil 2.0 min             Hop           5        1.2 IBUs      
1.0 pkg               French Saison (Wyeast Labs #3711) [50.28 Yeast         6        -             

Mash Schedule: Double Infusion, Full Body
Total Grain Weight: 5 lbs
Name              Description                                Step Temperat Step Time     
Acid Rest         Add 5.50 qt of water at 104.6 F            100.0 F       15 min        
Protein Rest      Add 2.73 qt of water at 170.4 F            121.0 F       20 min        
Sacch I           Add 3.00 qt of water at 201.9 F            141.0 F       30 min        
Sacch II          Add 3.00 qt of water at 206.6 F            154.0 F       30 min

Created with BeerSmith 2 –

Brewed: March 15, 2014:

Original Gravity: 1.035
Brew day went suspiciously smooth, and relatively quick. Not sure what the hell happened.
The wort smelled very interesting with the smoke very noticeable, but not overpowering.

March 22, 2014:
Gravity down to 1.008.
Very pale yellow in color, moderate turbidity.
Taste of sample was pleasantly smooth. Having never tasted an oak-smoked beer before, not entirely sure what to be honing in on, but the smoke is light, not overpowering, and more on the back end. I was expecting a little more smokey character, but this is tasty nonetheless. Cannot wait to try this once it has been carbonated and bottle conditioned for a bit.

April 12, 2014: 

Gravity holding steady at 1.008

Bottled with 2.5 oz dextrose for 3.0 vol co2



Ramon Rojo

Greetings, fellow crafters of the brew,
This is the first beer that will be added to Barrel San Miguel, in my second attempt at a sour barrel project. Actually, Ramon will be brewed a couple times in the next month or two, and... here's why: The first portion brewed, about 5.5 gals is getting a Saison/Brettanomyces blend that I ordered from The Yeast Bay. This will be allowed to ferment and the Brett to do it's thing for about a month. Around that time I will brew the remaining volume (66%) of worth of the same recipe, ferment it for about a week with a straight saccharomyces strain (WLP002), and then blend both batches into the barrel. P1020325

If you've ever had a beer that utilizes Brettanomyces, you have probably noticed it's ability to drastically change a beers complexion. Most often we associate Brett with a musty, barnyard, hay type of flavor and aroma. Some of you may have just thrown-up in your mouths a little bit, but trust me, it tastes and smells so much better than it sounds. When I think of the characteristic "barnyard funk," I think about Saison Rue from The Bruery.  Now, there are probably close to about 600 zillion different strains of brettanomyces (slight exaggeration), each one different from the next, some will produce barnyard funk, others can produce flavors that resemble cherry pie, and yet others will produce nothing noticeable when added to wort. This wide range of flavor compounds, produced by Brett, are polyphenols. These compounds are the result of Brettanomyces breaking down other flavor and aroma compounds that were produced during fermentation with Saccharomyces (brewer's yeast).  
Here in lies my thinking behind this first batch. 33.3% of the wort will be ferment with Brett initially, the other 66.7% will be fermented with a Saccharomyces strain to produce plenty of 4-vinylguaiacol, which will then be broken down by the Brett, when blended together in the barrel,  to produce (hopefully) some interesting flavor and aromatic compounds.

If you have an interest in reading more on the awesometasticness of Brettanomyces,  Chad Yakobson knows his shit. 

Anyways, back to the beer: 

Recipe Specifications

Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal   
Estimated OG: 1.047 SG
Estimated Color: 9.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 20.2 IBUs
Est Mash Efficiency: 76.4 %

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
6 lbs                 Pale Malt (2 Row) Bel (3.0 SRM)          Grain         1        60.0 %        
2 lbs                 Vienna Malt (Great Western) (3.5 SRM)    Grain         2        20.0 %        
1 lbs                 Caramunich II (Weyermann) (63.0 SRM)     Grain         3        10.0 %        
1 lbs                 Wheat Malt, Dark (Weyermann) (7.0 SRM)   Grain         4        10.0 %        
0.70 oz               Sterling [7.50 %] - First Wort 60.0 min  Hop           5        20.2 IBUs     
1.0 pkg               Yeast Bay - Saison/Brett                 Yeast         6        -             

Mash Schedule: Double Infusion, Medium Body
Total Grain Weight: 10 lbs
Name              Description                                Step Temperat Step Time     
Acid Rest         Add 5.94 qt of water at 125.6 F            113.0 F       20 min        
Saccharification  Add 10.00 qt of water at 185.8 F           154.0 F       45 min        

Created with BeerSmith 2 -

March 8, 2014

OG - 1.049
Collected 5.5 gallons, aerated for approx 5 minutes before pitching Saison/Brettanomyces blend.

March 10, 2014

Fermented at ambient temperature (~65 F). Saw active fermentation for approx three days. 

March 20, 2014

Temperatures have been around 70 F ambient for the past few days. Hopefully this will encourage the Brettanomyces to do what it does, and make things funky like Friday night on the farm. 

Clean Portion of the same beer. 

-Over and out

Le Fou

As you (yes! you!) will come to realize,  I do not make many dentin-melting, palate-raping IPAs. Even when I brew something hoppy, it is usually something that would leave "Hop-Heads" scratching their hoppy heads as to where their bitter-fix is (I have officially used more hyphens in this sentence, then I ever have in any sentence).
Long story short, I brewed a "hoppy" Belgian white session IPA thing... I guess a hoppy belgian single. I was inspired to brew it after hearing "white IPA" maybe four or five times in one day... and that's pretty much all it takes to get me to do anything. Now, the grist for this white IPA resembles that of a witbier, and for good reason too (wit= white). When selecting my hops, I skipped over the hops  completely and thought about which yeast I would use first. I have really been digging on the Wyeast Ardennes strain (#3522), and it was a pretty easy decision from there.
Okay, back to the hops. Now that I had my yeast picked out, I wanted to try and use hops that would work in conjunction with the Belgian yeast (primarily, I am talking about spiciness, as the Ardennes gives a nice, complex peppery finish). Sterling and Saaz were the first that came to mind. Saaz, a very traditional hop used in Belgian beers of many sorts for a long ass time, and Sterling (bred from Saaz) is renowned for its "spiciness." From there, I had a few ounces of Styrian Goldings on hand, an ounce of Sonnet (new hop, also bred from Saaz, but acts like a Goldings variety), and I wanted to try Aurora (Super Styrian) for the first time. I shied away from anything overly citrus-y, fruity, or floral, and wanted to go for a more spicy, earthy hop character... again, to work with the yeast.

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 3.50 gal   
Estimated OG: 1.049 SG
Estimated Color: 4.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 49.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 80.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
3 lbs                 Pale Malt (2 Row) Bel (3.0 SRM)          Grain         1        46.2 %        
3 lbs                 Wheat - White Malt (Briess) (2.3 SRM)    Grain         2        46.2 %        
8.0 oz                Oats, Flaked (Briess) (1.4 SRM)          Grain         3        7.7 %         
0.33 oz               Aurora (Super Styrian Aurora) [9.30 %] - Hop           4        17.4 IBUs     
0.50 oz               Sterling [7.00 %] - Boil 20.0 min        Hop           5        10.9 IBUs     
1.00 oz               Saaz [3.80 %] - Boil 15.0 min            Hop           6        9.7 IBUs      
1.00 oz               Styrian Goldings [3.80 %] - Boil 10.0 mi Hop           7        7.1 IBUs      
1.00 oz               Saaz [3.80 %] - Boil 5.0 min             Hop           8        3.9 IBUs      
1.00 oz               Sonnet [3.80 %] - Boil 0.0 min           Hop           9        0.0 IBUs      
1.00 oz               Styrian Goldings [3.80 %] - Boil 0.0 min Hop           10       0.0 IBUs      
1.0 pkg               Belgian Ardennes (Wyeast Labs #3522) [12 Yeast         11       -             

Brewed Feb 23, 2014

Step Infusion Mash - 100, 122, 144, 154 -- No mash out. 
Original Gravity - 1.048
Pitched starter of Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes. 
Definitely needed a blow-off tube for this one, as it took off within a few hours. 
Fermentation temperatures: started at 70 F for 24 hours and then increased to 75 F for the remainder of Primary

- left in Primary for three weeks 

March 14, 2014 

Bottled with 3.0 oz of priming sugar, for a carbonation level of 3.0 Vol CO2. 
Color was very pale, but still a tad darker than I would have preferred (maybe I can call it an egg-shell white session IPA -ESWSIPA). 
Wort was still fairly cloudy at bottling, though that is likely due to a) the wheat used, and b) the amount of hops, though I did not dry hop. 
Sample taken tasted pretty good. Nice hoppiness, while not being overpowering. Can still detect a bit of character from the yeast on the back. 
Looking forward to trying this again once carbonated. 

Belgian White Session IPA... this beer may or may not have too many descriptors. Will come back with tasting notes when it is ready. Also, I neglected to snap a photo for this post. 
Ramblings 023

That is all for now comrades. Keep brewing whatever it is you like to brew, and I will do the same.

Tasting notes for this beer can be found here.

Barrel San Miguel

Since I started working at my local home-brew shop, I have found myself, one more than one occasion, rummaging through used home-brew equipment and unwanted “tools of the trade.” Often times, its old carboys, cases of bottles, even used beer kits from 15 years ago. Whether it’s a husband, whose wife said “no more” to the brewing, or items sold to the shop that had a much more elaborate plan that never came fruition. Sometimes you get lucky, as I did with a used 15.5 gal wine barrel. The shop had no plans to use it because of leak in one side that was deemed “unfixable.” I was told if I could get the barrel to hold liquid without leaking, I could use as I wished (for brewing purposes). Of course, this made me as giddy as that time I took Salma Hayek on a date… in my dreams that is.

San MiguelNote: If you are a home brewer and someone offers you a used wine barrel (any barrel in general), take it. Even if you don’t know what to do with it yet.

This little guy has been a project in the making for a few months now. I actually got it to seal up after a long, long…. long soak in a tote filled with water. This will not even be my first time filling it with beer. Approx three months ago I added some wort, and few different varieties of souring bugs (wild yeast, bacteria, etc…) . After watching, tasting, watching and tasting, I decided I was displeased with the direction this particular beer was going. So, after much thought, I emptied it in preparation for round two. I cleaned it out again, and it is currently sitting full of a citric acid/ potassium metabisulfite solution to kill off a majority of the previous microbes, and prevent anything new from gaining a foothold.

I have dubbed this barrel San Miguel, for two reasons: It is the name of a tiny little town, which was the setting for one of the greatest westerns ever filmed. In addition, I plan to add many different characters to this barrel, which will change the setting, change the character, and add to the complexity of the aging beer. Much like is the case for any town or city. As it grows, adds residents, it becomes more complex and is often changing.

I will adopt a Solera technique for San Miguel, where after aging the current beer for long periods of time, I will bottle a portion of the beer, and then replace the bottled portion with fresh wort/beer into the barrel. Each time I add a new batch into the barrel I will add a new microbe to the mix, which should change the shape and character of the remaining cast.

Much of the inspiration for my project was provided (unbeknownst to him) by The Mad Fermentationist, whose many many posts on the matter have given me an idea on where to go with this.

I am really looking forward to seeing where this goes, and as is true with most all experiments, the unknown of what to expect is rather exciting.

The first batch that I will add to the barrel is currently in the works (as of approx one hour ago). It will be known henceforth as Ramon Rojo (if you know the movie you’ll get it).


April 27, 2014: The Fill

The Barrel was filled today. The 33% portion with Brett had been sitting for almost two months, and the 66% neutral portion has had a few weeks to do its thing. The time came to blend it all together in the barrel. In preparation for the fill, starting approx one week ago, I emptied the barrel of its citric acid/potassium metabisulfite solution. I rinsed with hot water, filled it up again and added Star San. This process was repeated every two days for the week leading up to fill day.

P1020443After rinsing the barrel out one final time, I racked as much of the ~18 gallons worth of wort into the barrel, using just a regular auto-siphon and nylon tubing (all sanitized of course). A pellicle had formed on the top of the Brett portion, which I neglected to take a picture of during the whole process.

The fill was pretty straightforward, and apart from a little spillage at the end, no major catastrophes to speak off.

Actually, I was left with three extra gallons of wort once the barrel was pretty much filled to the brim. This left over portion will be very useful in about a month. As the beer settles in, in its new home, some of it will be lost to absorption from the wood, and some more to evaporation ( I live in a very dry climate), so in approx one months time I am going to need to top the barrel up with some more beer/wort, and that extra three gallons will be perfect.



One slight miscalculation in the overall process, was the order in which I added the beer to the barrel. I started with the two buckets of neutral beer, and saved the Brett portion for last. In hindsight, I probably should have added the Brett beer first, and then topped-up with the remainder. Now, I have only a portion of the Brett beer in the barrel, while the other three gallons stays in its primary until I need to add more to the barrel. My major concern over this is not having enough Brettanomyces in the barrel to really do anything. I know there is some, but just how much, I do not know. My plan was to add all of the Brett beer, slurry and all. There are two possible outcomes from this; not enough Brett, no Brett character, that ol’ chestnut. On the other hand, under-pitching the Brett, may actually lend to a bit more character, as it may stress the yeast out. Which outcome triumphs has yet to be seen. However, this is going to be a long, drawn out, process, and I am going to be adding the remained of the Brett in approx one month, so I am not too worried about it, as there is no rush in any of this.






Rather than go back and try to recollect a bunch of details from a previous project/brew, I thought it would be better suited to make my first post on a current project, where all the details are fresh in my mind.
Hermine is a Belgian-inspired Witbier. My initial intent was to try a new yeast (Wyeast 3463 Forbidden Fruit), but soon I decided that I wanted to start playing with ginger in some of my brews. Then, not long after, I thought it might be interesting to add some juniper with the ginger. For whatever reason, I always want to brew with juniper, though I rarely do, so here was a chance to incorporate some into a beer.
The Plan : 
Brew a total of 5.5 gals of a base witbier (recipe below). Pitch my starter of the Forbidden Fruit, and implore my fermentation regime (69 F for 24 hrs, increase to 72 F for 24 hrs, and then increase to 75 F for remainder of fermentation). After a two week primary, three gallons will be racked into a secondary fermenter, on top of 0.5oz Crystallized Ginger, 0.5 Juniper Berries, and 0.5oz Bitter Orange Peel.  The rest of the volume from primary will be bottled at this point (for a control and get a true sense of the yeast, which I have not yet used). The volume being aged with ginger, juniper and orange peel, will sit for approx 2-3 weeks more before being bottled.
Recipe Specifications

Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal   

Estimated OG: 1.040 SG
Estimated Color: 3.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 15.4 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
3 lbs                 Wheat, Torrified (1.7 SRM)               Grain         1        37.5 %        
3 lbs                 White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)               Grain         2        37.5 %        
8.0 oz                Oats, Flaked (Briess) (1.4 SRM)          Grain         3        6.3 %         
1.00 oz               Sonnet [3.80 %] - First Wort 60.0 min    Hop           4        15.4 IBUs     
1 lbs 8.0 oz          Candi Syrup, Golden (5.0 SRM)            Extract       5        18.8 %        
1.0 pkg               Forbidden Fruit (Wyeast Labs #3463) [124 Yeast         6        -             
0.50 oz               Ginger      (Secondary 7.0 days)         Herb          7        -             
0.50 oz               Juniper Berries (Secondary 7.0 days)     Herb          8        -             
0.50 oz               Orange Peel, Bitter (Secondary 7.0 days) Spice         9        -  

Created with BeerSmith 2 -

Brewed Feb 19, 2014 -
Step Mash Schedule
Protein Rest at 121 F for 30 min.
Infusion of 7 qts water at 210 F to bring Sacchrification rest to 158 F, held for 45 min. 

OG - 1.043 - 
Pitched starter of Wyeast 3463 (Starter from wyeast smack pack). 
Fermentation started within a few hours at 69 F. 
After 24 hours, temperature increased to 72 F 
After 48 hours, temperature increased to 75 F

March 6, 2014
Gravity down to 1.010                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Racked 2.75 gal into secondary fermenter with 0.5 oz Crystallized ginger, 0.5 oz Bitter Orange Peel, and 0.5 oz 
crushed Juniper berries. Remaining ~2.5 gallons were bottled with 3.0 oz dextrose for approx 3.0 vols CO2. Tasting sample: Yeast produces a rather astounding array of black pepper spiciness and a sharp tart character. I think I am really going to enjoy this yeast for the foreseeable future.  

Will report back in a few weeks with tasting notes from the bottled portion, and an update on the portion in secondary.