Month: May 2014


 This particular batch was a spur of the moment, Memorial day brew. There were a few different aspects of experimentation going on with this one. Firstly, this brew consisted of Rye malt … and that’s it.  100% Rye! I really do love rye, and, if you haven’t already noticed, I use it a lot in my brewing. It adds a spiciness that I love in my beer. I guess I just thought to myself , ‘what if I only used rye?’

The second expeP1020506rimental featurette here, is my first brew of a style referred to as a Tafelbier. Dutch for Table Beer, Tafelbier was just that, beer consumed at the table, during meals and whatnot. This Belgian ale,  ranging anywhere from 1-3% ABV, traditionally, Tafelbier was pretty much the session beer trendsetter. It was consumed by everyone in the household, even the young children, who were introduced to beer  drinking much earlier than we are used to in American culture.

So, a 100% Rye Tafelbier was in the works this past weekend. Depending on how this beer comes out, it may find itself in constant rotation here in the hot Northern Californian summer.

I treated this beer much like I was brewing a saison with the same mash schedule and a dose of my finest farmhouse soldiers (yeast). Also, while mash tun space was not much of a concern with a 2-3% ABV beer, I still utilized a decoction for my mash-out, as I am thinking this will become per the usual on brew day for me. I have not decided yet, but I realized there is tree with some mini sour plums just behind my property, so a portion of this beer may be aged on some mini plums.

As far as the hoping schedule goes, I put a lot of thought and care in determining which hops to use by just using what hops I had in my fridge.

Anyways, enough of all that, here is the recipe:

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 6.47 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.72 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal   
Estimated OG: 1.028 SG
Estimated Color: 3.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 20.3 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 88.0 %

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
5 lbs                 Rye Malt (Briess) (3.7 SRM)              Grain         1        100.0 %       
0.25 oz               Aurora [9.30 %] - First Wort 60.0 min    Hop           2        11.1 IBUs     
0.25 oz               Sterling [7.50 %] - Boil 15.0 min        Hop           3        4.1 IBUs      
1.00 oz               Styrian Golding (Savinja Golding) [3.90  Hop           4        5.1 IBUs      
0.50 oz               Aurora [9.30 %] - Boil 0.0 min           Hop           5        0.0 IBUs      
0.50 oz               Sterling [7.50 %] - Boil 0.0 min         Hop           6        0.0 IBUs      
0.25 oz               Saaz [3.75 %] - Boil 0.0 min             Hop           7        0.0 IBUs      
1.0 pkg               Farmhouse 1.0 (Evan's Room  #)           Yeast         8        -             

Mash Schedule: Saison Step Mash - Decoct Mash Out 
Total Grain Weight: 5 lbs
Name              Description                                Step Temperat Step Time     
Protein Rest      Add 5.35 qt of water at 120.0 F            113.0 F       30 min        
Peptidase         Add 3.50 qt of water at 163.2 F            131.0 F       20 min        
Sacchar           Add 2.25 qt of water at 200.4 F            144.0 F       30 min        
Dextrine          Add 2.25 qt of water at 207.4 F            154.0 F       15 min        
Mash Out          Decoct 3.60 qt of mash and boil it         168.0 F       15 min        

Sparge: Batch sparge with 3.98 gal water at 168.0 F

May 26, 2014:

Brew day: Mash efficiency at 81%. Pre-boil gravity came in at 1.024, and original gravity clocked in at 1.029. 
Pitched 1L starter, and fermentation started in a matter of only a couple hours. 
I did not anticipate a highly vigorous fermentation, what with the low gravity of this beer, so I did not affix a blow-off tube... that was a mistake. Around 4am I found myself moping up beer. The fermenting beer was very pungent, and smelled simply amazing. The whole room smelled like graham crackers. Not sure how this will translate to the finished beer though. Time will tell. 

Will follow up with notes and tasting when this little beauty is ready to go.


Blondie with no name

A patron of the Homebrew Shop I am currently employed at has asked for some assistance in developing a few recipes for a brewery he is hopeful to open up in the next year or so. I agreed to help him out with some recipe formulation and some R&D. As if I needed any more excuse to brew.
This batch, a simple blonde ale (light hybrid, not Belgian) is the first recipe I have come up with. There is nothing off-the-wall about this one, as I am just looking for a solid, light-drinking beer, that hits on all the important aspects of a solid beer (maltiness, hop profile, clarity, etc...).

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 6.73 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.98 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.046 SG
Estimated Color: 4.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 23.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
7 lbs 8.8 oz          Brewer's Malt, 2-Row, Premium (Great Wes Grain         1        80.0 %        
15.1 oz               Barley, Flaked (Briess) (1.7 SRM)        Grain         2        10.0 %        
7.6 oz                Aromatic Malt (Briess) (20.0 SRM)        Grain         3        5.0 %         
7.6 oz                Carapils (Briess) (1.5 SRM)              Grain         4        5.0 %         
0.50 oz               Palisade [7.50 %] - First Wort 60.0 min  Hop           5        15.0 IBUs     
1.00 oz               Sonnet [3.75 %] - Boil 20.0 min          Hop           6        8.2 IBUs      
2.00 oz               Sonnet [3.75 %] - Boil 0.0 min           Hop           7        0.0 IBUs      
1.0 pkg               Irish Ale Yeast (White Labs #WLP004)     Yeast         8        -             

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body, No Mash Out
Total Grain Weight: 9 lbs 7.0 oz
Name              Description                                Step Temperat Step Time     
Mash In           Add 11.00 qt of water at 175.4 F           153.0 F       60 min        
Mash Out          Add 6.00 qt of water at 200.9 F            168.0 F       15 min        

Sparge: Batch sparge with 4.11 gal water at 170.0 F

A pretty basic and straightforward grist for this one. 2-row as the base, 10% Flaked Barley for some body and head retention. I also threw in 5% Aromatic to increase the maltiness of this beer, as the focus with blondes should be on the malty side, as opposed to being intensely hoppy. In addition, 5% carapils for some dextrins. The grist is actually based on a beer I brewed last year, which was meant to showcase a newer hop variety at the time, Belma. While the hop characteristics were lost overall in that batch, the beer in general turned out great. 
This go-around I decided to use Palisade for bittering. I don't have a good reason for this, only that it is a hop very rarely used by homebrewers in this area, and I think it deserves a shot. I am also using a newer hope variety for the flavor and aroma. Sonnet, which is bred from Saaz, and exhibits a lot of Goldings characteristics. Sonnet was a hop I used in the Le Fou, and really like what it had to contribute to the aroma of that particular beer. 
As for the yeast, I really like WLP004 Irish Ale for a more neutral yeast character. In my opinion, it lends a nice balance between the malt and the hops.

I plan to leave in primary for ten days, cold crash, and the keg this one up. 

Brewed on May 17, 2014: 

Mash efficiency was a little better than anticipated: 75% rather than 70% I calculated for. So, original gravity came in a few points higher, 1.051 rather than 1.046. Not the biggest difference, but noteworthy. 
Collected 5.25 gallons of wort, chilled to 69F, and placed in fermentation chamber, which is set to 64F


The Amateur Science Bonanza and Used Car Dealership

I have always (relative to my brewing history) had an interest in using wild yeast in my brewing. For a very long time, wild yeast was the only option available to many brewers of beer. Even the many strains of cultured brewers yeast we know and love today, were at one time “wild” in nature. There are a few strains considered to be wild yeast that are commercially available to brewers, but this is really only a very small piece of the 3000 piece jigsaw puzzle of London Bridge, that is yeast.

There is such a wide variety of wild yeast in …. the wild! Innumerable strains that can differ from one room to another in your very own house are everywhere, and always there. I have had a few experiments that used yeast I have captured and cultured from my own back yard, but recently I have put some serious thought to putting local wild yeast to a wider range of uses. I was very inspired by a smaller craft brewery out of Texas, Jester King, who recently posted on culturing up native yeast and blending  to create interesting flavor profiles.


Now flashback …

While on my most recent trip to New Mexico, to visit family, I visited an old church in the Old Town section of ABQ. San Felipe de Neri, was originally completed in 1719, collapsed in 1792, and was rebuilt that same year. This is the same structure standing today. While I was walking around, checking things out as I do, I found some grape vines in a small courtyard on the grounds. As grapevine bark had been the original source of captured wild yeast in my backyard, I quickly jumped on the opportunity, and took a few chunks of bark off the plant. It sat in a water bottle for months, until I finally decided to make some starter wort, and add the bark to it. After a few days I started to see some action, and about week later, there was a fairly thick layer of what appears to be yeast on the bottom of my flask. Of course there is going to be other microbes in the mix, but that is half the fun.

P1020382I was able to separate the liquid from the back, and then poured the whole solution into a sterilized (pressure cooker) jar for holding. This wild culture will be henceforth known as Neri (for obvious reasons). The following pictures document right after I added the mixture to the jar, and again a few weeks later (cold-stored in the fridge).





As always, I have a plan. My first go with this Neri yeast will be pitched in my Mk. II Rye Saison. A six gallon batch total will be split into two separate fermenters, one will get just straight Farmhouse yeast (which specific strain is a whole story that I won’t get into here, but honestly… I don’t know), fermented at 75F for the first 24 hours, and then allowed to free rise in temperature throughout the rest of Primary fermentation. I have liked the results from lagering my Belgian inspired beers after primary is over and the beer has sat in the fermenter at least three weeks. So… I’m just gonna do that.

Now, in the second fermenter, I will again pitch some of my battle-hardened Farmhouse soldiers, but I will also be pitching a volume of the Neri slurry I propped up. The idea here, is the Farmhouse yeast will take off first, fermenting most of the monosaccharides. At this  time,  Neri will have a chance to wake up, build up its population through a little bump and grind (the scientific term for budding), and will start shredding up those polysaccharides. Pending the results from a little age, this may become a permanent fixture for my saisons/ farmhouse inspired brews. This takes inspiration from the farmhouse brewers of old, whose primary (house) yeast was usually taken from whatever they had in the barn.

I think it is important to incorporate our local environment into our brewing. Looking at any number of styles of beer we read about casually in the BJCP or recipe books, they all were created in specific areas of the world, and their character from that local environment. Now, there is nothing wrong with brewers recreating beers made famous thousands of miles away, adjusting water chemistry, buying only the most authentic hops and barley. It is fun, education, and an overall great way to appreciate beers of history. However, I would like to see more brewers trying their hand at new things, utilizing their surroundings to create beers that are not only unique, but have a sense of where they were brewed.


I will continue to update any progress on here, and leave notes of interest.


Note of Interest 1:

The starter wort that I used to propagate Neri, and what I am currently using to propagate a culture from my yard is pretty simple.

Start with 1000mL water.

Mix in 3 oz of DME ( I prefer Pilsen Light from Briess)

Boil for 10 minutes, which should bring to a volume of approx 700mL and a gravity between 1.028-1.035

It is important not to make your starter wort with a gravity above 1.035-1.040, so as not to stress out your little minions.


Note of Interest 2:

May 4, 2014
Rye Saison Mk. II brewed today.


Recipe Specifications

Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal   
Estimated OG: 1.045 SG
Estimated Color: 5.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 28.3 IBUs

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
1 lbs 0.8 oz          Spelt (3.0 SRM)                          Adjunct       1        10.0 %        
5 lbs 3.8 oz          Pale Malt (2 Row) Bel (3.0 SRM)          Grain         2        50.0 %        
3 lbs 2.3 oz          Rye Malt (4.7 SRM)                       Grain         3        30.0 %        
1 lbs 0.8 oz          Rye, Flaked (2.0 SRM)                    Grain         4        10.0 %        
0.75 oz               Sterling [7.90 %] - First Wort 60.0 min  Hop           5        21.2 IBUs     
1.00 oz               Sonnet [3.75 %] - Boil 10.0 min          Hop           6        4.6 IBUs      
1.00 oz               Sonnet [3.75 %] - Boil 5.0 min           Hop           7        2.5 IBUs      
1.00 oz               Sonnet [3.75 %] - Boil 0.0 min           Hop           8        0.0 IBUs      
1.00 oz               Sterling [7.90 %] - Boil 0.0 min         Hop           9        0.0 IBUs      
1.0 pkg               Farmhouse 1.0                            Yeast         10       -             

Mash Schedule: Saison Mash (Traditional Step) 
Total Grain Weight: 10 lbs 7.6 oz
Name              Description                                Step Temperat Step Time     
Protein Rest      Add 7.33 qt of water at 135.0 F            122.0 F       30 min        
Peptidase         Add 3.00 qt of water at 158.8 F            131.0 F       20 min        
Saccharification  Add 2.50 qt of water at 207.5 F            144.0 F       30 min        
Dextrine          Add 2.76 qt of water at 207.5 F            154.0 F       15 min        
Mash Out          Decoct 3.90 qt of mash and boil it         166.0 F       15 min 

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun , 2.83gal) of 168.0 F water
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Efficiency ended up being much higher than anticipated with the step mash procedure I followed for this brew, which is more of a traditional step mash for saisons/farmhouse ales. O.G. - 1.051
In addition, limited mash tun space really forces one to be creative. Rather than adding just boiling water for my mash out, I took a page out of decoction brewing process and ran off the necessary volume of wort after my dextrine rest, brought it to a boil and added it back to the mash for mash out.



Note of Interest 3:

Clean version of Rye Saison Mk. II bottled today at (hopefully) 3.2 vol CO2

Wild version sits, patiently, hopefully becoming something that resembles the nectar that fed Odin’s Raven.