Friday, August 22, 2014

Tasting Notes: Le Quatre Saisons (The Yeast Bay Beta Testing Round 1)

All four of the Saison strains that Nick from The Yeast Bay isolated, and so generously shared with us Beta testers, have been thoroughly reviewed, analyzed, and tasted by we the Beta testers, among other folks. I waited as long as I have to post tasting notes on the batch so I could allow the beers to spend some time in the bottles and see how they changed, since there really is something magical about bottle conditioned Saison. 
Tasting I did by myself at six weeks in the bottle,
the night before the Google Hangout.

I did my own little tasting alone to start, prior to sharing them with anyone, then Marshall, Brian and I each shipped a few bottles to Nick for his review. We scheduled a mutually agreed upon, which is always difficult, to do a little Google Hangout video session tasting and discussion on the beers. Some of us had our personal preferences but if memory serves me, since my dumbass forgot to document the other folks opinions that morning, there were at least one clear favorite and one "dumper" if you will, those being strains #1 and #2 respectively. 

We had some differing opinions on strain #3, Brian and I quite enjoyed it while Nick was repulsed and I believe he said "I would never sell that". We all seemed to really enjoy strain #4, which with strain #1 seemed to be the most complex and interesting yet exhibiting some classic Belgian/Saison-esque characteristics. Here are some tasting notes that I took at the time of the Google Hangout, June 29th which was a little over 6 weeks in the bottle.

Les Quatre Saison - 6 week tasting notes:
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #1: poured with a nice head that settle down relatively well straw yellow color moderate clarity. Aromas of lemon, bready malt, peppery spice. Subtle bitter up front, clove, some fruit and pepper. Kind of cloying. Under attenuated but some nice aromas and classic Saison flavors, could do better with a warmer ferm and low mash temp obviously.
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #2: Pours with almost no head, there is a light carb though, somewhat hazy compared to #1. Aromas are subdued, mildly earthy, distant fruits. It's very sweet, extremely cloying, has a tartness to it that seems to cut the sweetness though. You get sweet then it's instantly cut off with a pucker. Bile, it tastes like bile, and I can't drink it. Could work in a blend though, aromas were mildly enticing.
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #3: Pours with a head that lasts throughout, haze similar to all 1 and 4, perfect carbonation. Most appealing visually. Aroma is pepper and Corriander, and some kind of funk I cant pinoint. Spicy, clove, pepper, dry but could be more so, really nice. This is uniquely weird, I'm not sure how it would go over commercially but its bizarre, and I like it.
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #4: Nice effervescent carbonation, same color and haze as the prior. Head is more soapy looking, lays a little flatter than #3 and #1. Smells similar to Palm to me, clove, hay, some fruit, no pepper spice. Medium bodied, slick mouthfeel, clove and spice, picking up some coconut to (suntan lotion). Would pair really well with #3. One of the winners.

Unfortunately all of these bottles are now gone, save for a keg that I racked 1 gallon of each batch into with some Lochristi blend that I plan to share with my fellow Beta-dudes. But before the bottles disappeared from my cellar I got the chance to present our experiment to the members of my club, Philly Homebrew club, and of course share the last 5-6 bottles of each to get some objective feedback from folks other than Nick, Marshall, Brian and I. 

I was really hoping I would get a consensus on 1-2 of these but the feedback was all over the place, it seemed there was someone who liked at least one of the strains. I had a slide up on all of the data points for each strain and how they performed up till that point so some opinions could have been a bit skewed. Unfortunately some people actually neglected to taste strain #2 because I lamented about how it showed some low attenuation numbers, I didn't do a good job selling it I guess. I was a little busy opening the bottles and talking to the group, mostly deflecting inquiries on where the strains were isolated from, to take down any new tasting notes but they all changed for the better with time. 

This is all based on memory - 3 months in the bottle:
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #1: The aromas are classic Saison, peppery spice, very reminiscent of DuPont. So much so that people were very surprised that I shot down their guess at this being a DuPont strain. This is a real serious winner, but is it unique enough to sell? Not sure, especially since so many people really thought it was Dupont.
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #2: So odd, so very odd, people loved this one. The sourness that I noticed 2 months back is even stronger now, it has completely cut the residual sweetness of the beer and its actually quite balanced now. One of the group mentioned the beer was very "Citric".
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #3: This was another group favorite, for me it seemed to be less interesting than I had remmebered but there was still a spice character that grabs your attention. Its weird, but unique, however hadn't changed as much as the others.
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #4: This once again is proving to be a winner, a fellow club member Kirk (who knows his way around a Saison) was quite intrigued by this one and mentioned "...fullness and most desirable-ness of 4's clove-y bubblegum-y complexity". Still picking up a lot of the same notes as the earlier tasting. Probably stands out as the most unique of the 4, and could be a good one as a commercial strain.
Final opinion is that Strains #1 and #4 are the best candidates for single strain production, with strain #4 being the most unique of the two but Strain #1 has the most classic Saison character. Strain #3 would come in third for me, its very unique and weird, but I wouldn't expect to see it commercially because Nick was really repulsed by it, maybe it'll make it into a blend. Finally strain #2, oh what a fickle little strain. I think this could definitely work in a nice sour blend, or something with just a couple Brett strains. Its odd and unique leaving the beer nicely tart, but needs help attenuating. I plan re-use all of these strains and see how they pair in some of my own blends. I hope some people will be able to get their hands on some of these, if Nick ends up selling any I will post and update on what is what.

Check out Brian's tasting notes over at

Friday, August 15, 2014

Solera pull #1, bottling straight.

It feels like a lifetime ago since I started this Solera Project in a sanke keg. I have been really anxious to remove the first portion to bottle but I wanted to stick to my plan of waiting a full year to remove a portion. Now that a year has past (plus 3 weeks at the time of bottling, shoot me) of aging in the Sanke keg I removed a sample to taste and bottle off 3 gallons, I started with ~14 gallons in the keg. The last time I tasted it was when it was 6 months old, and seemed to be coming along despite a lingering sweetness on the back end of the palate. I am happy to report that sweetness is gone, completely, taking its place is even more sourness. Wow! This is a really sour beer, definitely the most sour beer I've ever brewed, as you can tell by that 3.32PH at the time of the pull. 
It could go lower, but I would prefer it not at this point.
I'm glad that I chose to package the first pull prior to brewing the top off batch, post on that is coming soon after, because this may actually be a bit too sour. This give me the opportunity to modify the wort in hopes of dialing back the acidity a little bit and increasing some of the funky/sweaty/horsey aromas, based on tasting notes I took at bottling.

I bottled up all 3 gallons straight, so to get an idea of what has been going on in there over the 12 month aging process. I would have loved to get some of this on fruit, and there really is plenty, but I would prefer to tackle that with the next pull which I hope will be in 6 months time. I re-yeasted with Champagne yeast as I did with the Lambic blend a few months ago, and primed some heavy Belgian/Champagne bottles to ~3.7vols of co2. This will be a highly carbonated, highly acidic beer, fingers crossed.
Filling a mix of reclaimed bottles, some green some brown, all 29mm caps.
I'll go into more detail on my top off batch in the next post but my goal will be to minimize the sourness and increase the funky flavor/aromas. To do that I'll try to implement a few methods that I have gathered through a few different sources I've read over the years. For starters I plan to turbid mash this batch, half will be fermented aside from the Solera for blending and the rest will be for the top off. I also plan to hop the hell out of this batch, I recently purchase a ton, ok only 10lbs, of de-bittered aged hops and I plan to use a full pound in a 10 gallon turbid mashed batch. I will start fermentation in a stainless kettle with Abbey Ale Yeast and TYB Brussels Blend and then transfer to the Sanke just as fermentation is slowing but is still active. I believe this plan should help me get to where I want to be for the next pull.

I am getting close to the first tasting of this beer, its been a long wait but I think it will be worth it in the end. I will judge the beer on first taste, although I probably shouldn't because I expect this should age well for quite some time, well hopefully.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Yeast Bay Brett Blend Review: Beersel, Lochristi, and Brussels

Prior to becoming a strain Beta tester for The Yeast Bay, I was intrigued by the descriptions of the three new blends of Brettanomyces Nick had to offer and placed an order with plans to do a split batch review. Over the years I've learned that blending Brett strains results in much more complex flavor/aroma profiles then single strain additions, especially in Saison. With these blends already being prepared for us, I was excited to see how each one differed and which I liked the most. All three blends offer something different in the descriptions ranging from Barnyard Funk (Brussels Blend), a Fruity/Funky balance (Beersel Blend), to finally a a moderate funky/fruity blend with hints of strawberry (Lochristi Blend). 

Based on that I was most excited for the Beersel, but of course I would reserve judgement until I finally tasted the beers. To get the best idea of how each blend reacts without the distractions of other new/aggressive ingredients I chose to use my Farmer in the Rye recipe since its is a beer I am most familiar with and should allow me to evaluate only the Brett blends and ignore the base beer. I used Wyeast 3711 for the primary ferment prior to splitting into 3 separate carboys and pitching each blend. I wanted an absurdly dry beer so I could secondary with the Brett and bottle in a relatively quick amount of time (4 weeks or less, not the case with the Lochristi though) without having to wait for the Brett to munch the last few gravity points.

Brussels Blend

FitR Brussels notes:

A: Straw yellow, much better clarity then the others. Spritzy, beautiful, perfect to style carbonation with a solid white head that lasts throughout.

A: A bit of orange, wet hay, with an overall classic funkiness rounding out the aroma, a little bit musty. This is classic straight funk, complex but all funk.

F: dry, light spice on the tongue and subtle fruit on the finish, not as dry a finish as the other two.

O: This is pretty similar to Beersel but with more funk in aroma and less fruit. It's quite nice when youre looking for a complex barnyard character.

Beersel Blend

FitR Beersel notes:

A: Straw yellow, slightly cloudy, with a high level of visible carbonation and a thick frothy white head that lasts throughout the glass leaving significant lacing.

A: lemony, citrus, mint?, very subtle background funky sweaty feet but it's hidden behind the more prominent aromas, helps to remind you this is a Brett beer with some complex rusticity.

F: Dry peppery spice up front, slight acidity, citrus fruits. Finishes dry and refreshing.

O: This is my favorite of the 3 blends. It's not overly funky but there is a sweaty note hanging behind lemon and citrus fruits. It's a really nice blend of subtle funk and citrus/fruit, I have already re-pitched it into 3 different beers.

FitR Lochristi Notes:

Lochristi Blend

A: FitR classic straw yellow with a white frothy thin head. Moderate visible carbonation.

A: Aroma is pretty interesting but there isn't a ton there, some light tropical fruit and peppery spice, a very faint mustiness, something that resembles earthworms on the sidewalk after a summer rain. Its actually bordering on clean smelling.

F: Prickly carbonation on the front of the tongue, peppery spice, very dry, giving way to pineapple, bitter orange peel, very dry on the back of the palette.

O: This is a pretty subtle blend, at least in this beer, but I think it would pair really well in a beer with some delicate fruit. It would compliment Apricots or Peaches really well in a supporting role. Certainly for the more subtle Brett fans

All three of these blends are very interesting and quite unique, but the Beersel and Lochristi are my favorite of the three, and actually the most unique if you ask me. The Beersel has a great balance between fruity Brett notes and some of those weird musty/funky notes, and the Lochristi is something that might start slow but evolves into something I have not experienced in any blend or strain available.  If youre looking for a more Rustic funk then the Brussels blend is perfect, there was something about it that smelled/tasted familiar. It reminded me a lot of the rustic nature of a few month old bottle of the Bruery's Saison Rue I had not too long ago.
Brussels Pellicle
The Lochristi is an interesting case for me, of the three its been in the bottle the shortest amount of time so it may still need some age (although it was in secondary for longer than the other two so it has plenty of age but not under pressure). TYB mentions that it can be a slow starter, and I experienced just that, not that there was a ton of activity in any of the three fermenters but Lochristi took the longest to show its character in the beer. I really enjoy the subtlety of it, it is perfect if you want to avoid an overpowering Brett character to a beer. It really would be a great blend to use with a fruited Saison, its subtle with a distant funkiness to it and some fruit notes that would go well with Peaches. Or maybe a lightly hopped Grissette with the Lochristi blend added at bottling, where it will evolve but not completely dominate a more delicate beer. But you really need some patience with it, I was pretty underwhelmed with my first tasting of it, and its the reason I delayed this post for a few months. Be patient, you will be rewarded.

Beersel Pellicle
Really all three of these blends are great, but my style leans more towards the Lochristi and Beersel as I stated before. I have my personal preference and I hope that the review helps people decide which to chose for their own beers. Or try all three of them, I would love to hear other folks experience with these blends. I will continue to use the Lochristi and Beersel in beers down the road, not to say the Brussels blend isn't good, it is, but the other two are more my style. 

Lochristi Pellicle

Saturday, July 26, 2014

FarmWards and WardFarms: An homage to Tired Hands SaisonHands and HandFarm

Ingenuity! I added this to the cooler mash tun ~3 years ago,
works great for vorlauf and sparging.
Earlier this year I spent some time trying to emulate one of Tired Hand's flagship beers, and after only a few tries I got extremely close, if I do say so myself. In doing so I got a few emails, tweets, HBT private messages, etc., asking if I was going to try to "clone" their other flagship beer, SaisonHands. By the way, I'm not the biggest fan of the phrase "clone", these are more like "beers inspired by X" but thats a debate for another post. After all, we have to get our inspirations from somewhere.

SaisonHands (formerly FarmHands) is a pretty simple Saison meant to emulate those given to the workers on the farm way back when in the Wallonian region of Belgium, but with a little American kiss of Cascade hops. Its a light, refreshing, characterful beer and is a standard order for me when I visit the Brewcafe. Below is how Jean describes the beer on the menu.
Thats about all of the info I have to work from on this beer, when I was trying to deconstruct HopHands I was able to chat up Jean (owner/brewer) and try to get some info. For this beer I don't have a ton of questions aside from how heavily they hop the beer with Cascade and what ratios they use for the Oats/Rye/Wheat. So for this attempt I am going to take a bit of a shot in the dark on the how much to use of each. 

I would imagine that the Saison strain of yeast they use is fairly important to the beer, but I plan to continue to use The Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse as it has quickly become my house Saison strain. I do know Tired Hands uses Canada Malting Company malts, which I happen to have on hand as well, but when tasting the original I did not get an overwhelming Pilsner malt character but I could be off. In my case I will be using a Pilsner base, although I have a hunch that they use some basic Pale 2-row, pairing it with Oats/Rye/Wheat to round out the grain bill. 
Emptiness slurry, and post boil sample. The color is spot on perfect. Oh,
the mason jar is blue, hence the green slurry, I assure you its normal yeast.

The hopping is a bit of a guess as well, I assume they bitter with something high in Alpha like Warrior/Magnum/CTZ and the beer probably comes in somewhere around 25-30 IBUs as thats a pretty typical Saison bittering range. SaisonHands has a nice citrus, earthy and spicy nose that I assume is helped by some from late hopping with the aforementioned Cascade. So I chose to go with a decent sized 5 minute addition followed by a flameout/15 minute whirlpool addition. I know the beer is not dry hopped, when I didn't see it on tap during my last visit the bartender told me the dry hopped Saison that was on tap was actually SaisonHands...accidentally dry hopped.

I suppose some of the citrus notes of the beer could be yeast derived, and maybe I am being heavy handed with the hops, but it seems to me that Tired Hands is always a bit heavy handed with hops. I believe this will get me relatively close, even if not, this has the makings of a damn fine little Saison. 

A portion (5 gallons) of this batch will be fermented entirely with dregs from a bottle of The Emptiness is Eternal that my friend Bill cultured up. The plan is to age it for a period of time on Chardonnay soaked oak cubes to mimic HandFarm which is SaisonHands aged in Chaddsford Chardonnay oak barrels with their resident microflora, funky. I am most excited about this portion of the batch, but it will take a few months to age out before I bottle all of it. I hate bottling, but something magical happens to a bottle conditioned Saison, it makes it all worth it in the end. 


Brew day: 6/28/2014
Kegged: 7/12/20134
-I actually brewed 15 gallons but its easier to share the recipe as a 5 gallon version.

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.50 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.80 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.042 SG
Measured OG: 1.045 SG
Measured FG: 1.007 SG
ABV: 5.0%
Estimated Color: 3.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 30 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

83.7% - 7lbs 11oz - CMC Superior Pilsen (1.5 SRM)
 6.1% - 9oz - CMC White Wheat (3.5 SRM)
 6.1% - 9oz - CMC Rye (2.5 SRM)
 4.1% - 6oz - Flaked Oats

Boil: 60min - 0.35 oz CTZ [14.20 %] - 23.8 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 1.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - 6.6 IBUs
Boil:  0min - 1.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - 0.0 IBUs

Generation 4 - Wallonian Farmhouse Slurry - 150ml/5 gallons (175b cells)

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 148.2 F 

Fly Sparge 5.75 gallons 170f

Misc: 60 seconds of pure O2. Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant, 4 grams Gypsum, 2ml lactic acid. Mash ph 5.35.

Notes: Pitched 350ml of healthy Wallonian Farmhouse slurry into 10 gallons of FarmWards and 250ml of Emptiness slurry courtesy of Bill. Both fermentations took off within 6 hours of pitching. FarmWards was basically done in 3 days. Hilariously I forgot to open the blow off valve on the Spiedel fermenter and I almost had a bomb go off in my fermentation chamber but I caught it just in time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tasting Notes: Barrel Aged Philly Breakfast Stout

A quick over night soak with more Dad's Hat
between the Quad and Stout.
Its been quite a while (nearly 8 months) since my friends Dave, Bill, and I brewed the Philly Breakfast Stout, the first beer to go into our Dad's Hat Rye Whiskey barrel (of which now there are two a group of us are working with.) Although we had planned for this beer to be something we could age for a while it turns out its just not really necessary. We brewed this beer on a "system" cobbled together with some of mine and Bill's equipment using 2x 10 gallon mash tuns in order to fit all of the grain in this batch which resulted in some modest (crappy) efficiency and a beer that was about 2-3% abv lower than we had planned. 

In spite of that the beer is delicious, and we are all very happy with how it came out, but we learned a few things throughout the process that we have already begun applying in subsequent barrel projects that are in the works now. On each barrel fill since, as documented here, we have four brewers brew 5 gallons at their leisure and come together for barrel fill day. This has some logistical issues as well but each brewer knows their system and can hit numbers more efficiently. So far it has worked well and with ~20 gallons of finished beer we blend a portion of each for a barrel aged version and some for a non barrel aged version.   

When I posted about the brewday back in December Chris from commented that we would have our hands full. At the time I didn't think it would be too difficult but these group barrels take a fair amount of planning. The most difficult issue is getting a group of people together on one single night/day to empty/fill barrels, damn real life and resonsabilities. Its really a lot of fun, but you need to be organized and keep the beers going in and out of the barrels. We try to have the next beer fermented out and ready to go by the time we removed the previous beer from the barrel so that it never sits empty more than about an hour at a time, mine was empty for a few nights between the Stout and Quad as seen in the photo above. Soon these barrels will be new Solera Projects and will require much less work over longer periods of time, until then, we have lots of barrel aged big beers piling up for the fall/winter...

Don't mind the dog hair on the rim of the glass,
I drank it anyway. 
Philly Breakfast Stout

Appearance: The beer is pitch black, as it should be, with a thin quarter inch tan head, leaving significant lacing on the glass. Subtle carbonation, the appearance is right to style.

Aroma: Big whiffs of chocolate, vanilla, and some coffee in the background all playing very well together. Not a ton of whiskey aromas coming off this thing but I definitely get the oaky notes for sure.

Taste: Silky smooth body, maybe just a tad bit thin, coffee roast, milk chocolate like, and very smooth across the tongue. There is an upfront biting bitterness on the front of the tongue and sides of the mouth probably from the coffee and roasted malts that really helps to balance it all out. It goes down very easily for a barrel aged beer, maybe too easily?

Final Thoughts: This beer is incredibly balanced no one note dominates as you drink it you get a wave of flavors as the Beer crosses your tongue and then the finish your left with a lot of chocolate. It is a tad bit thin on the body and there isn't enough whiskey in the nose, but the oak is balanced really well with the coffee and chocolate this beer is dangerously drinkable. Dont get me wrong, you know this is a whiskey aged beer, but I was kind of hoping that would smack you in the face. 

Maybe this is better though, its a borderline session barrel aged stout if that makes any sense at all. It goes down very easily, unlike much bigger beers like KBS and Bourbon County Brand Stout (abv obviously comes into play when comparing PBS with those two.) We plan to brew this beer again next year, maybe some tweaks to keep things interesting, maybe we will start the next barrel with batch #2 of this.

I need to find somewhere else I can take a snazzy photo, this window is played.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

HopWards Batch #2 Tasting Notes and Recipe Tweaks

Normally when I'm trying to adjust a recipe to get it to where I want it to be I will change only one variable at a time so that I know what each change has brought to the finished product, and if that change got me closer to my goal for the beer. But in a constantly evolving brewing world with new Yeast strains/Hop varieties etc. it can be difficult to stay the course. For batch #2 of HopWards I caved a little bit and changed two variables from batch #1, so shoot me.

In the first batch of HopWards, my Tired Hands HopHands "clone", was damn near spot on to the original and just about how I want my own version of an "inspired by HopHands" beer to be. The late hopping was perfect, it had a uniquely creamy body from the use of the Oats, it was bright citrusy and very refreshing. If there were"flaws" in that beer it would be that the Oats were a bit over powering at 20% of the grist, and that it could use slightly more bitterness. The high % of Oats resulted in a beer that I felt needed to be a bit more dry in the end, not by a lot but enough that may even help to accentuate the bitterness. 

For Batch #2 I decided to lower the percentage of Oats to 12.5%, I had planned for 15% but I came up a bit short on what I had on hand with no time to run out to get more. I figured that by using a smaller amount of Oats ( I also mashed just a little bit lower at 150F to help here) I should achieve a drier beer that I hoped would show off the bitterness more without having to increase my 60 minute hop addition (16-17IBUs) from batch #1.

The last change to the beer was to go from using Safale s-04 to The Yeast Bay's Vermont Ale, aka Conan, which I have a history with dating back to late 2012 when I cultured from a can and re-pitched it for nearly a year. I have a had a love/hate relationship with the strain, I had a lot of hits with my can culture but the ECY29 was a bit of a mess for me. So I am hopping that I can have better success with Vermont Ale, but maybe Derek is right when he says "Conan will only ferment cleanly and attenuate for those with the purest of hearts".

Flocculate much Conan?

HopWards 2.0 Tasting Notes:

Extremely hazy, hay like color, very pale, almost looks like a hefeweizen, which has always been the case for me with Conan. Thin bright white head that faded slowly but leaves significant lacing on the glass, easily mistaken for a freshly pour glass of OJ.

Aromas of Peach, orange, and many other citrus fruits. When this beer was young I was getting a distracting phenol, but after a few weeks this has seemed to fade, green beer? Maybe, but maybe not as I got the same phenol when I used ECY29 in the past, but in those beers it never dissipated.

Soft bitterness but a nice tingle on the front of the tongue, smooth across the middle of the mouth then a pleasing hop astringency on the back end. Citrus, mostly orange, mango, peaches, pretty much any tropical fruit you can think of. I get something different with every sip, its a pretty fantastic hop profile but not entirely different from the s04 batch. There is an interesting aftertaste, or maybe its after breath, thats not entirely unappealing, it could be a fermentation flaw but I cant really put my finger on it.

It's definitely very similar to batch #1 but the body is a little bit thinner, and the oats aren't as noticeable but still there, which was a goal in this version. Actually I think this is may even be a bit too light on the oats. But the bitterness level is just about where I wanted it to be, a slight bitterness upfront then giving way to hops and creamy oats. In the end I like it just fine but it may have been just a bit better with s04, which is really surprising. 15% Oats are where its at in this beer.

As for Vermont Ale, it is significantly better than what ECY had put out, the attenuation is solid, you get those Peach-y notes that Conan can throw off and The Yeast Bay can get you a super super fresh healthy vial. There is something about Conan that has always been a steroid for hops, and malt actually, and this is no exception. I might prefer s04 in this particular beer at the moment but I plan to keep using Vermont Ale for quite some time.

HopWards 2.0

Brew day: 5/31/2014
Kegged: 6/14/2013 
-(then dry hopped in keg for 5 days at room temp)

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.50 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 10.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.048 SG
Measured OG: 1.048 SG
Measured FG: 1.014 SG
ABV: 4.5%
Estimated Color: 4.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 33 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

87.5% - 8lbs 12oz - Pale Ale Malt (3.1 SRM)
12.5% - 1lbs 4oz - Flaked Oats

Boil: 60min - 0.25 oz CTZ [14.20 %] - 17.0 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 0.51 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] - 3.1 IBUs
Boil:  5min - 0.51 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - 3.6 IBUs
Boil:  5min - 0.51 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - 4.7 IBUs
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f - 0.51 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] - 1.4 IBUs -
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f 0.51 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - 1.7 IBUs
20 Minute Whirlpool 185f 0.51 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - 2.2 IBUs
Dry Hop: 7 days - 2.00 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] 
Dry Hop: 7 days - 2.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %]
Dry Hop: 7 days - 2.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %]

500ml starter - The Yeast Bay Vermont Ale

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 150.1 F - Mash PH 5.42

Fly Sparge 5.60 gallons 170f

Misc: 30 seconds of pure O2. Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant,11g Gypsum + 2.2g Baking Soda, 8.4g Epsom salt, 4ml Lactic Acid in the mash.

Notes: Smooth brewday, nothing really to note, fermentation was quick and as expected.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Product Review: Stainless Brewing's Hop Spider

The amount of hops that make it from the boil kettle into the fermenter is something that has always bothered me. I've tried using hop bags, or a 5 gallon paint strainer bag, but they are a pain to clean and bothers me to re-use them. I've also tried going comando and throwing the hops right into the boil then whirlpooling, which has worked fine for me for the last 2+ years but I found that I was carrying a lot of hops into my primary fermenter. Although Trub may not be of great concerns in the final product, I have a desire for clean yeast to harvest from primary for re-pitching.

At the NHC last year in Philadelphia I noticed a relatively (maybe just to me) new product from Stainless Brewing. A hop spider is not a novel idea, homebrewers have been using many variations of this method for quite a while with great success but mostly rely on those nylon bags, which are really a pain to clean and look pretty dingy after a few uses. A stainless mesh basket, however, could be the answer to all my prayers, easy cleaning, virtually infinite uses without significant wear. It seemed perfect, but I was unsure if the mesh would be fine enough to keep pellet hops in, or even too fine and result in loss of hop utilization/aromatics/flavors. 

"Santa" was kind enough to leave one under the tree for me this past year, and I have put it to work on some heavily hopped beers, and some not so heavily hopped as well. The results have been fantastic, I am getting clean and clear hop free wort into my fermenters, I may be getting some break break material in there but with how I whirlpool chill its very minimal. I have noticed no ill effects on hop utilization or loss of hop aromatics/flavor on beers as heavily hopped as Jah-RodBlazing WardsHopWardsWe Talkin 'bout Practice among others. They are bright and hoppy as I would expect them to be. Not a pellet makes it through this fine mesh, even when using up to a pound in the boil/whirlpool.

I also run off the mash into the spider to catch any rogue grain particles I can.
I rinse it out before I boil.
It is solidly built, the basket itself is rigid and yet the mesh seems fine enough to retain the hop debris. It comes with extension arms so you can suspend the basket in the middle of the pot, they can be removed for easy cleaning/storage. The arms have a washer and rubber gasket so you can size it to your kettles specifications (as seen in photo above), to be honest this feels a bit flimsy to me but it does work fine. I have the 6-5/8"x18" and it fits perfectly in the 20 gallon Boilermaker.

Conveniently the strainer fits inside my immersion
chiller. I usually remove the arms at this point.
At first I was just sitting the basket on the bottom of the kettle and letting it lean against the side but I was getting significant kettle caramelization where it sat on the bottom so I have gone back to using the arm attachments so that it rests suspended in the kettle. One thing to note is during the vigorous boil there is not a ton of movement within the basket, it doesn't effect the vigor of the boil but there is very little activity within the basket itself.

Not so much a down side, but more of a needed adjustment in my system since the addition is the displacement caused by the basket giving me a higher then normal reading on the sight glass. This is just something I needed to dial in and figure what volume it is adding to the reading at various times in my 11 gallon batches. Other than that this is a fantastic product and far exceeds the results I have had from the HopBlocker. It is fairly pricey at close to $100, depending on the size you need, but it is well worth it for me over bags or a homemade spider. 

The main reason I wanted to limit the amount of hop debris going into the fermenter was so that I could more easily "wash" yeast and re-use it batch to batch. I have settled on a 2 house sacchromyces strains of late (Wallonian Farmhouse and S-04, still many Bretts and Bacteria though) and want to get the most out of each pitch. This hop spider far exceeded my expectations in that department, I use a whirlpool immersion chiller with this and then pump into my fermenters leaving any break material in a cone on the bottom of my kettle. After I rack the beer off the yeast cake I have thick dense slurry that needs very little washing/rinsing, if at all, to re-pitch into my next batch. This is the biggest reason I love this product so much, and after 12-15 batches I nearly have this thing paid for in yeast savings, more on how I re-use yeast in an upcoming post. It may not be for everyone, but I highly recommend it.

Running off into the basket.