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.



Nothing prepares us for the holiday season quite like these chilly, early winter nights, a nice warm fire to cozy up to, and a broad of hallucinogen-addicted Vikings, on a rampage through England, killing thousands upon thousands. Well the latter, at least, is where I take my inspiration for my latest homebrewing endeavor. Gotlandsdricka, as it is called, or “drink of the good land” is thought to be the beverage of choice for many Viking hoards, including the Great Heathen Army. It is said this beer originated on the present day Island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, today a part of Sweden, and many brewers (mostly homebrewers) still brew local variations of this beer on a regular basis.

Gotlandsricka is a combination of flavors that by all standards are pretty intense individually, let alone in conjunction with one another. In keeping with tradition, smoked malt makes up a good portion of this beer, as smoking malt was likely the only means of kilning malts back in the good ol’ days. NoIMG_20141113_151819_478w, team this with the potent scent and taste of juniper, and you have a vague idea of this brews make-up. According to Michael Jackson, the Beer Hunter, this beer was often boiled for hours, three or more, which gave it a prominent rich, sweet, caramelized character. Not only long boils, but also honey was frequently added after primary fermentation started to slow down. This was used to combat “spoilage,” and prolonged the life of the beer. Adding the honey would essentially kick the yeast back into action, and restart fermentation, preventing many beer-spoiling microbes from taking a foothold.

For my version of this lovely, lovely beverage, I “sourced” juniper from a neighbor. Not sure if they have realized it yet. But, I placed maybe a pound of juniper boughs into my HLT, and basically just left them there as I heated up all of my water throughout the brew day.  My base is Rauchmalt from BestMalz, which I had some of lying around. In addition, I added some Oak-smoked wheat, and Crystal Rye to help give a bit of that caramelized character, since I had no intention of boiling for three hours. As for the honey… well, I added some. Just as I noticed primary was starting to die down, I added the honey to kick it back up again.


Recipe Specifications
Batch size: 6.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.043 SG
Estimated Color: 6.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 20.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 78.0 %

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
7.00 g                Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Mash 60.0 mins Water Agent   1        -             
4 lbs                 Smoked (BestMälz) (3.0 SRM)              Grain         2        42.1 %        
2 lbs 8.0 oz          Oak-Smoked Wheat (Weyermann) (2.0 SRM)   Grain         3        26.3 %        
1 lbs 8.0 oz          Rye, Flaked (2.0 SRM)                    Grain         4        15.8 %        
8.0 oz                Crystal Rye Malt (Thomas Fawcett) (80.0  Grain         5        5.3 %         
3.00 Items            Juniper Boughs (Mash 0.0 mins)           Herb          6        -             
0.75 oz               Sterling [7.00 %] - First Wort 60.0 min  Hop           7        20.2 IBUs     
1.0 pkg               Wallonian Farmhouse (Yeast Bay  #) [50.2 Yeast         8        -             
1 lbs                 Honey (1.0 SRM)                          Sugar         9        10.5 %        
1.00 oz               Juniper Berries (Secondary 5.0 days)     Herb          10       -             

Mash Schedule: Saison Step Mash - revised 
Total Grain Weight: 9 lbs 8.0 oz
Name              Description                                Step Temperat Step Time     
Acid Rest         Add 9.50 qt of water at 104.6 F            100.0 F       20 min        
Sacchar           Add 9.00 qt of water at 211.4 F            150.0 F       60 min        

Sparge: Batch sparge with 3 steps (Drain mash tun , 2.45gal, 2.45gal) of 168.0 F water

Nov 13, 2014: Brew day!

All went pretty smooth, considering it was the first "cold" day of the year, and I was freezing my ass off. 
O.G. was low, 1.035, as expected because the honey had not yet been added. 
It was amIMG_20141113_151851_231azing how much the Juniper came through in the aroma of, well, everything! The whole brew session smelled like Juniper, which I really didn't mind. 

Nov 16, 2014:

17 oz of Wildflower Honey (from Germany) added to fermented, and fermentation promptly took off again.
Kind of amazing how much color came from only a few oz of Crystal Rye.

Dec 2, 2014:

Bottled half of the batch with 76g dextrose for (hopefully) 2.8 vol CO2. The other half of the batch I racked onto approx 2 lbs of thawed peaches, which were given to me fresh a couple months ago from a friend. My inspiration for racking a smoked beer onto peaches came from Basic Brewing Video. Will update further when there is something to update.

Tasting Notes: Dec 14, 2014:

Well, it has been in the bottle now for not quite two weeks. I just got impatient to try this thing, so here we go…

Appearance: A dark golden hue, not quite red with a white head that lasts a few minutes. Slightly cloudy, but a lot more clear than I had anticipated, what with using essentially a bunch of tree branches in this beer.

Smell: Juniper pretty much dominates the aroma here. Slightly fruity, maybe from the Rauch Malt, but there is a definite kick of Juniper to the nostesticles… that’s supposed to be a good thing.

Taste: The taste follows the aroma to a point. There is definitely Juniper on the back end, but this beer starts with a slight fruity, smokey flavor. I want to say there is a hint of character from the honey, but I may be imagining that because I know there was some honey used.

Mouthfeel: At first, I was a little worried it was thin, but after sitting here, letting it warm up a bit, it has a decent body for a beer that finished at a SG 1.004, light, but not thin or watery.

Overall:  Compared to my attempt of this beer last year, this one is much much more approachable. Smoke in the flavor is there, but by no means so intense that you can only handle a sip or two. Now, the Juniper seems to be the dominant character overall, I will be interested to see how these two flavors meld with a little age. This beer is only 12 days old, after-all.






It took me a bit longer than I had hoped to get this project (beer) going, but I finally got it brewed, and will be anxiously awaiting the results. But, before I get too ahead of myself, lets take a step back.

As in most cases, this idea sprung up after a conversation with one of the many interesting and imaginative customers we have come by the homebrew shop. This particular individual makes his own Sauerkraut and sells it at local farmer’s markets. Well, as it turns out, the same lactic acid producing bacteria (Lactobacillus) responsible for souring sauerkraut, is also used in the production of certain sour beers, particularly those of German tradition, like Gose and Berliner Weisse. Naturally, I encouraged him to bring any left over juice he might end up with after packaging his Sauerkraut, and he was nice enough to do so. I was given two jars of leftovers to play with. One jar of juice from some Red Cabbage/Ginger Sauerkraut and another jar with Caraway.

Seeing as I am a bit of purist when it comes to brewing, especially when it comes to these styles with rich historical backgrounds, I wanted to keep my Berline-Style Weisse (it’s not technically a Berliner Weisse unless its brewed in Berlin) as close to what is considered traditional as possible. The most memorable Berliner Weisse I have tasted was the 1809 Berliner Weisse, designed by Dr. Fritz Briem of Doemens Institute, so naturally I took my inspiration from this beer. 50% Pils malt, 50% Wheat malt. Mash hopped with aged hops, with a single decoction. The biggest difference in my version of the beer, is that I actually boiled the wort for 1-2 mins, while tradition calls for “no-boil.”

I guess that’s not the biggest difference … I am adding leftover juice from sauerkraut for fuck’s sake


Recipe Specifications

Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal   
Estimated OG: 1.032 SG
Estimated Color: 2.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 0.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Boil Time: 1 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
3 lbs 8.0 oz          Pilsen Malt 2-Row (Briess) (1.0 SRM)     Grain         1        50.0 %        
3 lbs 8.0 oz          White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)               Grain         2        50.0 %        
1.00 oz               Revolution [3.60 %] - Mash 10.0 min      Hop           3        0.9 IBUs      
1.0 pkg               Lactobacillus Bacteria                   Yeast         4        -             

Mash Schedule: Decoction Mash, Single
Total Grain Weight: 7 lbs
Name              Description                                Step Temperat Step Time     
Protein Rest      Add 16.00 qt of water at 102.2 F           100.0 F       20 min        
Saccharification  Decoct 8.12 qt of mash and boil it         150.0 F       45 min        

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (0.45gal, 3.41gal) of 168.0 F water

Sept 20, 2014:

Late night brew. Things went pretty smooth in that I hit my temps and volumes. Sparge 
runoff got a little sticky, and I didn't use any Rice hulls for filtering, as I usually photo (9)
don't use rice hulls. 
Six gallons total - OG-1.031 
Collected into two 3 gallon fermenters. Did not aerate as Lactobacillus is a facultative 
anaerob, and I am certain there is some Acetobacter in the mix, so I want to limit its 
progression as much as possible.
Sept 21, 2014: 
Less than 24 hours after adding Sauerkraut dregs to each carboy, visable fermentation 
taking place. The Red Cabbage/Ginger portion took off a little quicker, but the Caraway 
was not far behind.


Bête Curieuse

My very first post for whatever you call this (a log of my brew-ramblings) was for a Belgian-style Witbier I brewed called Hermine. Hermine turned out pretty damn tasty, and the contribution by the Wyeast 3463 Forbidden Fruit was amazing. It will pretty much be the only yeast I use in witbiers from now on. A few weeks later, I posted about another wheat beer, called Grodziskie, a traditional Polish beer that used pretty much only Oak-Smoked Wheat. 

Now, you may be wondering, "who the hell cares?" It is relevant, I swear!

I decided that it might be fun and interesting to blend these two beers together, so to speak. A nice, smoked witbier. So, that's what I did. 

Again, chose the use the Forbidden Fruit yeast for this batch. I am really looking forward to seeing how the tart, slightly acidic character from the yeast plays with the light smoke from the Oak-Smoked Wheat. 
The Grist was simple, 90% and 10% Oats. Also, I decided to add a bit of Gypsum to the water for this beer, just to harden it up a bit to try and accentuate the dry character. My local water is very very very soft. Despite this, I typically avoid salt additions to alter the water chemistry. I am a minimalist at heart. But, I thought I would try it, just to see. 

After Salt additions, my water read as: 
Calcium: 54.15 ppm Sulfate: 109.38 ppm
Magnesium: 7.39 ppm Chloride: 57.40 ppm
Sodium: 49.17 ppm Bicarbonate: 52.50 ppm
PH: 7.40
Enough of this bullshit, let's see the damn recipe!


Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.75 gal
Estimated OG: 1.035 SG
Estimated Color: 2.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 16.0 IBUs

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
4 lbs 14.1 oz         Oak-Smoked Wheat (2.4 SRM)               Grain         1        60.9 %        
1 lbs 14.1 oz         Wheat, Torrified (1.7 SRM)               Grain         2        23.5 %        
12.0 oz               Oats, Flaked (Briess) (1.4 SRM)          Grain         3        9.4 %         
1.00 oz               Crystal [4.20 %] - First Wort 60.0 min   Hop           4        16.0 IBUs     
8.0 oz                Dextrose (Briess) (1.0 SRM)              Sugar         5        6.2 %         
1.1 pkg               Forbidden Fruit (Wyeast Labs #3463) [124 Yeast         6        -             

Mash Schedule: Witbier Mash 
Total Grain Weight: 8 lbs 0.2 oz
Name              Description                                Step Temperat Step Time     
Protein Rest      Add 9.04 qt of water at 134.2 F            126.0 F       30 min        
Sacchar           Add 9.00 qt of water at 173.5 F            148.0 F       45 min        
Mash Out          Decoct 6.37 qt of mash and boil it         168.0 F       15 min 

July 17, 2014: Brew day 

I undershot my estimated efficiency a bit, which is why I added 8oz of dextrose. The beer is projected to finish around 1.007, which is right where I like it to be. I know dextrose in a wit isn't traditional, but to hell with it. Pitched a 1.5L starter Wyeast 3463 at 65F. I will ramp up the temperature to 72F in 24 hours, and then to 75F 24 hours after that, and ride the 75F for the rest of fermentation. I am really liking this Oak-Smoked Wheat the more I use it. It has such a distinct smoke character to it. It's definitely present, but not so overpowering. I do not have anything crazy planned for this beer beyond Primary Fermentation, but who knows, maybe I'll rack a few gallons onto some Nectarines or something. 



Rye Saison Mk. III

It’s been getting warm here in the Northern Sacramento Valley, to say the least. Temperatures touching 107 F (in the first week of June), have many fearing mass extinctions, global warming, and the ever present flaming fucking hot steering wheel. When I see the thermometer getting up there I get excited, as this is the ideal time for me to brew up some tasty Saisons. I will forego the well-repeated history of the style, rising out of the Belgian-French border, Wallonia, and Les Saisoneres. A very useful resource for the history of Saison is Farmhouse Ales, by Phil Markowski, and my personal favorite. My first heat-defying brew, of what is sure to be a long and dry summer, is my third rendition of a Rye Saison that has quickly found a place in my heart… and my liver. This variation of the Rye Saison will utilize a different strain of yeast. In batches past, I used my go to farmhouse yeast, which is a bit of a mystery strain, isolated from bottles of Sierra Nevada’s Ovila Saison (the original Ovila Saison, not that Abbey Saison Mandarin Orange nonsense). This time I will be using Wyeast 3463 Forbidden Fruit. This is the same yeast I used in my Belgian Wit, Hermine, some posts back. It gave a lot of interesting characters of tart acidity, fruitiness, and a bit of spice in the Wit, and I am anxious to see how this translates with some Rye and Spelt. In a few weeks I plan to rack a portion into a secondary fermenter with four pounds of Mirabelle Plums taken from a tree in my back yard… and another tree, in someone else’s yard. The portion not added to secondary will go straight to bottle for control tasting. P1020516

Recipe Specifications

Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.75 gal
Estimated OG: 1.044 SG
Estimated Color: 3.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 25.3 IBUs

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
4 lbs 10.8 oz         Pilsen Malt 2-Row (Briess) (1.0 SRM)     Grain         1        51.9 %        
2 lbs 15.6 oz         Rye Malt (Briess) (3.7 SRM)              Grain         2        33.1 %        
13.6 oz               Spelt (3.0 SRM)                          Grain         3        9.4 %         
1.00 oz               East Kent Goldings (EKG) [6.70 %] - Firs Hop           4        23.9 IBUs     
8.0 oz                Candi Sugar, Clear (0.5 SRM)             Sugar         5        5.6 %         
1.00 oz               Crystal [3.50 %] - Boil 3.0 min          Hop           6        1.4 IBUs      
1.00 oz               Crystal [3.50 %] - Boil 0.0 min          Hop           7        0.0 IBUs      
1.0 pkg               Forbidden Fruit (Wyeast Labs #3463) [124 Yeast         8        -             

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body, No Mash Out
Total Grain Weight: 9 lbs
Name              Description                                Step Temperat Step Time     
Protein Rest      Add 8.12 qt of water at 125.7 F            113.0 F       30 min        
Peptidase         Add 4.00 qt of water at 180.4 F            131.0 F       20 min        
Sacch             Add 4.12 qt of water at 210.3 F            148.0 F       30 min        
Mash Out          Decoct 6.38 qt of mash and boil it         168.0 F       15 min        

Sparge: Batch sparge with 4.72 gal water at 168.0 F

June 12, 2014: Brew Day: pretty straight forward brewday and it wasn’t even that unbearably hot. I guess brewing butt-naked wasn’t absolutely necessary, but hey, why not? OG – 1.046 5.5 Gallons collected, aerated for approx. 5 minutes (aquarium pump), yeast starter pitched, and carboy left to ferment at ambient temperatures in my spare bedroom (approx. 83 F) Fermentation took off in less than two hours.


June 29, 2014: 

Final Gravity down to 1.008

Bottled half of the batch with 5 tbsp of clover honey.

The other half of the batch was racked onto 4 lbs of Mirabelle Plums that had been sanitized, then frozen for a week, thawed, smooshed, and then dumped into a 3 gal carboy.


July 2, 2014:

P1020520                                             “We like plums.” – Saccharomyces cerevisiae


 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.


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.

Villa del Lupulus (Homegrown Hops)

Phase 1: Villa del Lupulus

P1020355Hops I have grown in the past, though some constant moving over the course of a couple years really hindered any progress in that regard. I recently received four hop rhizomes from Fresh Hops in Oregon. Two each of  Crystal and Sterling. I chose these two because, well, your mother! Kidding, I like both these hops, and they work very well in the styles of beer I happen to brew the most, which are Belgian/French ales. Of course I have a little extra space, and will expand in the future with some different varieties. These will hopefully be going into the ground within the next week. Here is picture of the box that I will be planting in. The picture may not do it justice, as this thing is pretty damn huge, and weighs about 5 tons. You will notice that the posts in the ground are not that tall (at least not tall enough for your average hop bine. As the project comes along, I will be securing wire that will run from the top of each post to the adjacent building, giving the hops plenty of room to stretch out.  Before any of that though ... neccesito SOIL!

Update: April 24, 2014:The humongous box has been filled with soil and my rhizomes were planted approx 5 days ago. I have already had breakthrough on two of the rhizomes, one each of crystal and sterling. There are four total rhizomes. My next step will be setting up wires and a trellis system for the bines to grow on. Each rhizome is ~5 ft from the other, and all were planted in slight hills. The watering schedule for the rhizomes in their infancy is light and often. Thankfully, we have been getting little bits of rain rather frequently the last few days, which has been nice for both the rhizomes and northern California in general.



Ramon Rojo Mk. II

This is the second of two batches of Ramon Rojo. The first was fermented with a strain of Brettanomyces, and has been sitting for approximately one month. This second batch, twice the volume of the first, will be fermented with a more neutral strain of Saccharomyces for approx two weeks, after which time I will blend both batches in my used wine barrel, San Miguel.
The recipe (listed below)  for this batch was exactly the same as the first edition, only twice the volume to fill the space in the barrel.  I chose WLP002 as the yeast for this batch, primarily because of its low attenuation level. I want little attenuation from this batch, which will leave quite a bit of larger polysaccharides for the Brettanomyces to break down once the two batches have been blended together. That is the reason for such a high mash temp, and I also skipped oxygenation of the wort for this batch. Having spent so much time trying to get my yeast to perform at its very best, it was a little odd taking all these steps to try and prevent it from doing so.
Some may be questioning why I would use another yeast at all. Why not just blend the batches now, and let the Brett go buck-wild on all the sugars in the wort? Well, many of the hundreds of compounds that are produced by Saccharomyces yeast strains during fermentation will in turn give certain characteristics when they are further broken down by Brett, secondarily. It is suggested that one will get more depth and characteristic flavor from Brett strains if they are first fermented with Saccharomyces. Basically, using a neutral yeast strain first is the equivalent to adding bacon to anything.
Let me just say, this was a long brew day. As most of the batches I brew are on a 3-4 gal scale (that's just the way I like doing things for the time being) I have only really ever needed a five gallon mash tun. However, this batch was clocking in at a panty-dropping 12.5 gallons. This is obviously far beyond the capacity for my mash tun, so I basically split it into two mashes, mixed the runnings from both, and then brought it to boil in my 15.5 gal Keggle. For someone used to brewing 3 or so gallons, in and out in 4 hours flat, including clean up, two mashes and the time needed to bring 14 gallons of wort to boil started to add up. Thankfully the Giants had a late afternoon game today, which kept me in form.


Recipe: Ramon Rojo (Clean Portion)
Brewer: Evan

Recipe Specifications

Batch Size (fermenter): 13.00 gal   
Estimated OG: 1.047 SG
Estimated Color: 10.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 24.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %

Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
14 lbs 6.2 oz         Pale Malt (2 Row) Bel (3.0 SRM)          Grain         1        60.0 %        
4 lbs 12.7 oz         Vienna Malt (Great Western) (3.5 SRM)    Grain         2        20.0 %        
2 lbs 6.4 oz          Wheat Malt, Dark (Weyermann) (7.0 SRM)   Grain         3        10.0 %        
2 lbs 6.2 oz          Caramunich II (Weyermann) (63.0 SRM)     Grain         4        10.0 %        
2.00 oz               Sterling [7.50 %] - First Wort 60.0 min  Hop           5        24.6 IBUs     
1.1 pkg               English Ale (White Labs #WLP002) [35.49  Yeast         6        -             

Mash Schedule: Double Infusion, Full Body
Total Grain Weight: 23 lbs 15.6 oz
Name              Description                                Step Temperat Step Time     
Protein Rest      Add 15.05 qt of water at 124.9 F           113.0 F       30 min        
Saccharification  Add 17.33 qt of water at 208.4 F           158.0 F       45 min        

Sparge:  sparge with 9.82 gal water at 168.0 F

Created with BeerSmith 2 - http://www.beersmith.com

Brewed April 6, 2013

Brew day went smoothly, however, it was a rather long day. 
Original Gravity - 1.049 
Batch split into two 6.5gal fermenters and each fermenter got one vial of WLP002. No yeast starter was used. 
Yeast pitched at 66 F, fermentation chamber set for 66 F as well. 
Giants lost 6-2 

Fermentation started approx 24 hrs later (again, did not use a starter. 

Now lets get all this crazy yeast mumbo-jumbo and red-hued sugary goodness
 all mixed together and makin' all kinds of sweet, alcoholic love to each other. It's gonna be a bio-chemical orgy.

Tasting Notes: Le Fou


Here are the tasting notes for Le Fou, a hopped-up (relatively) Belgian-esk witbier… thing

A light gold color, which is moderately cloudy (a symptom of using wheat, I suspect). Moderate carbonation with a good head at the start, which dissipates after about 5-10 minutes, but hangs on for dear life to the end.

The aroma is difficult to put into words. It is an entanglement of resinous, yet floral-like hop aroma, mixed with a phenolic spiciness from the yeast. Perhaps some spiciness from the Sterling and Styrian Golding hops as well. Its sharp and crisp on the nose, but not so overpowering that it hits you in the face.
Upon tasting, much of what I was getting on the nose also comes through on the tongue. Floral and crisp, albeit a bit muddled. There is something that lingers that I just can't put my finger (tongue) on. Maybe apricot or peach. It is fruit like, but not tart. It is also hard to say whether this fruit-like character is hop or yeast derived. 


Now my original inspiration for the grist of this beer was a Belgian witbier. So, lots of wheat in this one, and you can really tell in the mouth feel. It is smooth, but by no means thin or watery. 

I am fairly pleased with the way this came out, being a first time brew for this particular beer. The hop character is crisp and pleasing, with no harsh bitterness to speak of. A symptom of hop bursting it, I suspect. Next time I may add a bit more hops, just to get it a bit more defined as far as the hop flavor and aroma. I am not pleased with how cloudy this beer turned out. Witbier or not, this thing is pretty much murky. Perhaps I will alter my protein rest next time. The head starts out maybe two fingers and quickly recedes to a thin layer on the top of the beer that hangs on throughout. 
The weather here is getting warm again... not that it hasn't been all summer, but I will enjoy drinking this one in the heat will I sit on my ass doing absolutely nothing.