Month: December 2014

San Miguel top-off

(Disclaimer: This post actually took place approx 3 months ago – Sept 2014)


The San Miguel top-off is not a newly formed, crazed sexual position, though it sounds like it could be fun. Rather, it is simply me, topping off the barrel with a bit more beer. This serves not only to add more complexity (hopefully) to the beer already in the barrel, but also replaces some of the beer lost to absorption from the wood, and evaporation. If exposed to copious amounts of oxygen, a bacteria known as Acetobacter can gain a strong foothold. Acetobacter turns alcohol into acetic acid in the presence of alcohol, and acetic acid is essentially vinegar. So, but reducing the headspace in the barrel by topping off with more beer, we are also limiting the effects of Acetobacter.

For this topping off, I have chosen to use a beer that I have been aging for approx a year now. It is a simple Farmhouse style ale that was soured with Lactobacillus bacteria, Lactobacillus brevis to be specific.

Here is the Recipe for that beer:

Recipe Specifications

Batch Size (fermenter): 4.00 gal   
Bottling Volume: 4.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.048 SG
Estimated Color: 6.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 6.3 IBUs

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
4 lbs 8.0 oz          Brewers Malt 6-Row (Briess) (1.8 SRM)    Grain         1        69.2 %        
1 lbs 8.0 oz          White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)               Grain         2        23.1 %        
8.0 oz                Caramunich I (Weyermann) (51.0 SRM)      Grain         3        7.7 %         
0.50 oz               Crystal [4.10 %] - First Wort 20.0 min   Hop           4        6.3 IBUs      
1.0 pkg               Farmhouse dregs (SN Ovila Saison)        Yeast         5        -                    
1.0 pkg               Lactobacillus Delbrueckii (Wyeast Labs # Yeast         6        -             

Mash Schedule: Evan's Step Mash - Light Body 
Total Grain Weight: 6 lbs 8.0 oz
Name              Description                                Step Temperat Step Time     
Protein           Add 6.50 qt of water at 140.1 F            131.0 F       30 min        
Beta- Sacch       Add 1.82 qt of water at 188.3 F            141.0 F       30 min        
Alpha - Sacch     Add 3.28 qt of water at 179.5 F            150.0 F       30 min        

Sparge: Batch sparge 

The beer was then aged for close to one year before I added it to the barrel. It had developed a nice, yet mellow sourness, a little surprising considering the amount of time it had had. Will be interesting to see how this changes the beer in the barrel. 

100% Brettanomyces lambicus: The Gold Album

You don’t have to be a Microbiologist, or even a real fan of microbiology in general to appreciate the great diversity that comes with yeast used in the brewing of beer. Even the pure strains of Saccharomyces available to brewers and home brewers alike is pretty astounding. Now, multiply that by a number somewhere between 100 and 10000, and you’ll have some semblance of the variety of wild yeasts available for the production of fermented beverages. The problem is, we, as brewers, have only scratched the surface when it comes to understanding wild yeast and other microbial life. There are a few strains of “wild” yeast available to home brewers commercially, and I put “wild” in quotation marks because now that they are available in pure cultured, nicely wrapped packaging, they seem to lose a bit of that wild allure.

Now, often referred to as just Brett, Brettanomyces has undergone somewhat of an identity crisis throughout the history of brewing beer. Before anything resembling a Germ Theory existed, wild yeasts were a common ingredient in all beer, as it is literally everywhere, and brewers among everyone else had little knowledge on the practice or the need of sanitization/sterilization. Once we figured out that these wild yeast were contributing a wide variety of flavors in beers all over the known world, for some reason everyone decided the little critters needed to go. Thus was born the world of single, pure cultured strains of brewers yeast, while Brett was relegated to the shadows, except for a few Belgian breweries who weren’t afraid of no ghost.

In any case, recent history has shown a vast resurgence of the use of wild yeasts, both provided commercially and those cultured from local environments.  One of the more popular commercial examples, commonly referred to Brettanomyces lambicus, was known to be found in many of the Lambic beers produced in Belgian. Now, the actual specific epithet of this yeast is Brettanomyces bruxellensis, but has gained fame under the pseudonym lambicus.

This is my second attempt at a 100% B. lambicus brew, the first was a dry stout, fermented with B. lambicus, and aged for approx eight months before it was bottled. The character I got from this yeast was pretty interesting. It was almost like drinking a sour beer (beers with only Brett are not technically sour beers) with a tart, mouth puckering finish, often described as a tart cherry pie. This was my original inspiration for the B. lambicus stout, as I had read about someone else trying this in an attempt to make a pseudo-cherry stout.

After tasting what the B. lambicus had to offer, I was excited to try it in other beers. This is my second attempt. A pretty simple golden ale, fermented with just B. lambicus and aged for a similar length of time. I have not decided whether or not I am going to age this on fruit, but I will have plenty of time to think it over.


Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 3.50 gal   
Estimated OG: 1.041 SG
Estimated Color: 2.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 24.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 74.5 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
4 lbs 3.7 oz          Pilsen Malt 2-Row (Briess) (1.0 SRM)     Grain         1        70.4 %        
1 lbs 0.5 oz          Pale Malt (2 Row) Bel (3.0 SRM)          Grain         2        17.2 %        
11.9 oz               Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM)                  Grain         3        12.4 %        
0.25 oz               Bramling Cross [7.80 %] - First Wort 60. Hop           4        11.8 IBUs     
0.50 oz               Bramling Cross [7.80 %] - Boil 20.0 min  Hop           5        12.9 IBUs     
0.6 pkg               Brettanomyces Lambicus (Wyeast #) [50.28 Yeast         6        -             
0.25 oz               Bramling Cross [7.80 %] - Dry Hop 0.0 Da Hop           7        0.0 IBUs      

Mash Schedule: BIAB, Full Body
Total Grain Weight: 6 lbs 0.1 oz
Name              Description                                Step Temperat Step Time     
Saccharification  Add 21.44 qt of water at 160.8 F           156.0 F       60 min        
Mash Out          Heat to 168.0 F over 7 min                 168.0 F       10 min        



Dec 7, 2014:

This was my first BIAB for a long while, but it was just a bit too chilly for me outside. I forgot just how much my efficiency suffers with BIAB, but a slightly longer boil was able to bring me a little closer. I mashed higher than I typically like to, just to provide more complex sugars and dextrines for the Brett to chew on.

OG – 1.035

My previous 100% B. lambicus beer finished at about 1.004 after eight months, so I will look for a similar FG  for this beer, but as with all wild ales, it is not up to me when the beer is done, but rather the microbes that are doing the heavy lifting.