Sunday, June 26, 2016

Tasting Notes for Kathleen Round 3 - More Hops!

I wanted to increase the usage of hops in this beer and add some dry hopping to see if the discussions we had on the Saison Facebook group had any effect on the head retention for this beer.  I also used Bob's carbonation technique to see if that would give me better retention as well.  Here are the tasting notes for the most recent batch of Kathleen.  Brew day post is here.

Drinking on 6-25-16

ABV: 5.88% (estimated after blending)
SG:  1.048 or 11.91°P
FG:  1.002 or 0.51°P
Apparent Attenuation:  96%
Actual Attenuation:  78%

Glowing in the sunlight.

Appearance:  Hazy golden straw in color with a rough white head when poured.  Retention is decent but I still want it better.  The beer looks as if it is glowing in the light.  I enjoy clear beers but I also really like when a beer like Kathleen has this appearance of slightly murky.  Plays on a rustic note to me.  Carbonation runs of the edge of the glass and continues to bubble as I drink it.  Head finally gave way and there was just a ring and a patch of bubbles floating.

Head retention still leaving me wanting.

Aroma:  Citrus, pear, and white grape are what I get at first sniff.  Then I get more floral and grassy notes as I dig in.  Some funky dried hay aromas are there too.  Tropical fruit and the great fruity brett notes that I like of pineapple and maybe even white grape show up.  I really like the brett strain that is in the C2C blend.  Those flavors are also one of the reasons I tend to like Drie or Trois Vrai strains as well.  

Flavor:  Definite white grape in the flavor.  More citrus and pear notes but this time it's more like a white grapefruit flavor that is bitter and dry just like when you eat a white grapefruit or if you are having a Salty Dog cocktail.  It's very refreshing.  The grassy and spice notes are at the very end with the tartness.  May be a touch acetic but that may just be me over analyzing it.  If it is, it's not offensive by any means.  The increased bitterness is very nice.  This may be one of the highest perceived bitterness beers I've done in a while.

Mouthfeel:  Medium mouthfeel, spritsy carbonation and a clean finish.  The tartness makes you want another drink and the bitterness creates such a clean finish that I really enjoy.  

Overall:  I'm more impressed with this beer than any I've done in a long while.  I've loved the previous batches of Kathleen but this one really shines above the rest.  Increasing the bitterness a bit, adding more hops, and dry hopping generously has really made a beer that resembles the previous batches but has even more in flavor and aroma.  I really enjoy the increase in bitterness.  It adds to the drinkability of this beer and really creates a clean finish.

The head retention is still leaving me wanting.  I used Bob's technique on this Saison that was brewed with brett and it really seems to have better head retention.  I think having the acidic beer blended in is something that is effecting the retention on these beers.  I may try and shoot for a 3.5 vol level instead of 3.2 vol like I did this time.  I may have to do that and see if it yields better results and lets the head linger just a bit longer.  Dry hopping didn't have too much of an effect this time but again that may be due to the acid beer having an effect on it.  The dry hops did however seem to have an effect on the clarity but, I'm not overly concerned with that.

I really love brewing and drinking this beer.  I think the process of blending in the sour, mature beer is something I'll continue to do in my brewing practices.  It's not required for all beers but it really is great when used with Saison and similar styles.  This glass was so easy to drink on a 98F degree day here in Mississippi.  It was so good, I think I may have another glass of Saison to follow it up!

Good things!

Andrew "Gus" Addkison
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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tasting Notes of the Dark Saison 2015

It's been a while since I brewed this beer.  Back in late October I decided I wanted to brew a dark Saison for the Winter.  Well, here it is, Summer, and I'm just now getting tasting notes done.  This year I'll brew much sooner so that I will have the beer for drinking during the colder months.  Take a look at the post of the brew day to see where the inspiration of this beer came from.  Michael Tonsmeire has done a ton of dark funky Saisons over the years.  The original post is one of my most read ones so I believe there are many out there who are interested in dark Saison as a style.

Using the notes from Michael Thorpe's post on his blog Spontaneous Funk, I decided to use some tart cherry juice for bottle conditioning this beer.  His post can be found here with a lot of great info.  Knowing I would need 150-155g of sugar to get this beer to 2.8-3.0 vol of CO2, I used 48oz of the juice.  Each 8oz serving contained 25g of sugar.  That would mean just over 6 servings to get where I wanted with 5 gallons of beer.

I chose to use tart cherry juice since the beer had a great cherry note from the GigaYeast Sour Cherry Funk.  The pH of the beer was only down to 4.3 (strangely high I think?) but the tart flavors of the juice and maybe a bit more time in the bottle may increase the tartness over time.

Slightly cold at the time of the photo. 

ABV: 7.9%
SG:  1.060 or 14.74°P
FG:  1.000 or 0.00°P
Apparent Attenuation:  100%
Actual Attenuation:  81.4%

Tasting on 6-9-16
Appearance:  Dark brown with hints of ruby throughout the glass.  Off white to almost cream colored, rocky head with lots of fine bubbles.  Carbonation running up the glass.  More carbonation than I expected.  I wasn't sure how using the juice to carbonate would work out but Thorpe was spot on with his calculations that I copied (not that I doubted Thorpe, it was more me screwing it up than anything).  Really nice lacing as I drank the glass and a portion of the head stuck around the entire time drinking.  Had a solid cap throughout.

Aroma:  Cherry is noticeable when you first take a sniff.  Malt character borderline sweetness but more of a slightly sweet chocolate note.  Maybe more caramel than chocolate I would say.  Just a bit of yeast aroma in the form of spice that I didn't get in early drinking of the bottles.  The cherry is right at the point of being medicinal but not quite.  As the beer warms the cherry turns to more of a dark fruit aroma. Fig and dried or candied fruity is what I start to get with some graininess and a bit of pepper.

Not perfectly in the sunlight but still pretty dark overall.

Flavor:  There is more yeast spice in the flavor than the aroma.  But in a good way.  Less caramel or chocolate sweetness and more of a dried fruit/dark cherry character going on.  You get just a bit of sweetness but it isn't overly sweet at all.  It's really drinkable.  Dry in the finish but just a touch of sweetness before it fades.  Initially there was something off in the beer I was associating with 3725 but now it seems to have mellowed out.  It was something reminiscent of soapy I think.  None of that is present now.  Maybe just a touch of alcohol as the beer warms but the fruit notes really come out more.

Mouthfeel:  Medium-full mouthfeel for sure.  It has a creaminess to it almost.  Lively carbonation help to move it through the mouth.  It's definitely a fuller mouthfeel than my typical Saison and I think that's a good thing.

Overall:  I'm impressed with the beer I really didn't like just a few months ago.  I think I'm really sensitive to the medicinal cherry notes in beers that aren't sour.  I get the cough syrup note in commercial versions of stouts or other beers with cherry that aren't sour.  I never tend to pick that out of sour beers with cherries.  That may have to do with something in the darker malts but I'm not sure.  I really enjoyed drinking this beer and a few others that have had it have said they enjoyed it as well.  What's to note is that there really isn't much funk at all in this beer from the brett in the Sour Cherry Funk.  I understand there not being any tartness due to the higher IBUs but the brett has seemed to have strong cherry flavors as described.  That's the whole reason I wanted to use the cherry juice to prime this beer.  I find that super interesting and think that this blend would be great in a Belgian Strong Dark or something similar.  I'll have to test that out in the future maybe.

I do think this is a much better beer for colder weather, as I intended it to be.  I'm already working on my dark Saison recipe for this year.  I'll brew it much earlier this time and use a different fruit or fruit juice to interact with it.  This one is also using some new microbes from Bootleg Biology that I'll go over in that post.  I'm really looking forward to this years brew.  The autumnal Saison is looking to be something interesting this year as well.  More on all of that to come!


Andrew "Gus" Addkison
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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Kathleen Round 3 - More Hops!

There have been some recent discussions on the Saison, Bière de Garde, and Farmhouse Facebook groups about head retention in Saisons.  I have been wanting to improve the head retention in my beers and make it more consistent.  One of the things I plan on doing is upping the target CO2 volume to around 3.2+ and changing my process a bit.  That was the suggestion of some of the participants in the discussion.  Another suggestion was to have more hop additions and to dry hop.  This is batch of Kathleen will involve both of those suggestions.

Always take good brewing notes.  ALWAYS.

Recipe:  Kathleen
Brewer:  Gus
Batch:  12
Date:  4-30-16

Batch Size:  6.5 gal
Boil Size:  8.63 gal
Post Boil Volume:  6.76 gal
Estimated OG:  1.048
Estimated Color:  2.6 SRM
Estimated IBU:  32.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency:  74.6 %
Est Mash Efficiency:  74.6 %
Boil Time:  75 Minutes  (Decreased boil time to save some time.  If any DMS is noticeable, I'll report back.)

72.6%  Pilsner Malt (Avangard)
10.0%  Spelt Malt
10.0%  Raw Wheat
7.4%  Flaked Oats

16.5 IBUs of EKG (or whatever I have on hand now) @ 60 min
9.7 IBUs of Amarillo @ 15 min
3.2 IBUs of EKG @ 5 min
2.5 IBUs of Amarillo @ 5 min
Dry hop with Amarillo and Hallertau Blanc

East Coast Yeast ECY-08 Brasserie Blend
Omega Yeast Labs C2C American Farmhouse
(Trying out blending these two into a house culture)

By increasing the amount of hops in the late additions as well as bumping back the 10 minute addition to 15 mintues, I'm able to get to a higher estimated IBUs.  I'll also be dry hopping after fermentation is completed.  I plan to still blend a portion of mature beer in with the fresh brew but the final gravity of the fresh part will determine if I dry hop before blending or if I blend and then dry hop.  I want the beer to be as dry as possible as not to cause issue with bottling.  I think I'll use a smaller percentage of mature beer but we will see when that time comes.

Waiting for the boil.  That means it's time to start cleaning!

For bottling the Bière de Coupage batch, I'll be using Bob Sylvester's (of St. Somewhere Brewing Company) technique he shared on the Farmhouse Ales FB group.  Bob said for 7 bbl of beer he uses 12# of cane sugar and 250g dry Champagne yeast.  He puts both of these in 3.5 gallons of 108F water and allows the yeast to bloom for 20 minutes or so.  Using his numbers, I came up with the below:

Per gallon:
0.885oz of sugar
1.15g of yeast
2.00oz of water

Bob mentioned to me that the volume of the yeast is less important than the amount of sugar.  You could overshoot the amount of yeast without any ill effects.  He also recommended using Red Star yeast as that was his favorite.  It has become hard to find for him so he has been using Maurivin PDM and Fermentis Safoeno VR 44.  I'll be using this formula for whatever the volume is of the beer after I've blended.  My LHBS has the Red Star Premier Cuveé so I'll be using that.  I'm doing all of this to help with the head production and retention.  Since every one of his beers I've had all have an amazing pillow-y head that seems to stock around forever, I figured I'd give this a try.  It may also shorten the carbonation period as some of my blends can take up to a month to get where I like them.  He stated that the carbonation happens the same day of bottling if done correctly.  He also says to wait 10 days and that's it.  That with time, the initial "rough" carbonation you get in the first couple days will mellow out into the fluffy stuff.  That's exactly what I'm looking for.

Disclaimer:  If anyone plans to do this, make SURE you are using the correct bottles.  The champagne bottles I typically use are rated for up to 5 vol of CO2.  If you don't have some of the thick glass bottles rated for the higher carbonation levels, you WILL get bottle bombs.  It can be dangerous using anything not rated for the higher level of carbonation.  The caps (or corks if you use them) seals are usually much stronger than the glass so when you go to open them, you could have a bottle shatter.  So proceed with caution and use the right equipment.

The Milk the Funk group has added Bob's technique into the Wiki since I have drafted this post.  You can check that out here.

No air lock.  Semi-open fermentation to let the yeast work.

Brew day was very typical.  Rainy out but everything went very smoothly.  I mashed in at 149 and held it there for 75 min.  It fluctuated from 149 to 150F throughout the mash.  I then boiled for 75 min and cooled the wort to 68F and transferred to my FastFerment.  I pitched the yeast and left the beer at room temperature to ferment without any temperature control.  Temps in the house fluctuated from mid 60s to high 70s throughout the fermentation. 

My brewing area.  Still haven't gotten the control panel mounted yet.


5-3-16:  Very nice fermentation action going on.

5-16-16:  Gravity of the beer was 1.002.  This mirrors the FG of the batch of Kathleen done with ECY-08 alone.  This is also where the previous batch with 3726 was after fermentation was completed.

5-23-16:  Racked the beer to secondary to combine with the mature beer and to dry hop for a week before bottling.  The mature portion was 20 months old at this point.  I dry hopped with one ounce of Amarillo and two ounces of Hallertau Blanc.  I used roughly 1 gallon of mature beer and 6 gallons of fresh Saison.  I wanted to get a little less sour and more along the lines of "tart" for this batch.  Really just enough acidity to brighten everything up  With blending the calculated ABV came to about 5.88%.  Very close to the last batch.

5-30-16:  Bottled the beer.  Tasting notes to follow.  Aroma from the dry hops was fantastic!  My sugar amount was 5.65oz for right at 5 gallons of beer.  I'm glad I did a larger batch as the amount lost from dry hopping with 3oz of hops was a good bit.  I used 5g of the dried yeast.  That was a little higher than the formula, but Bob mentioned that the amount of yeast wasn't as much of a concern as the amount of sugar.  If you use too much yeast it won't be a problem.  I would imagine using a little less would not be a problem either.

Tasting notes right here!

Good things!

Andrew "Gus" Addkison
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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Tasting Notes for a Bière de Coupage Saison!

I love the process of Bière de Coupage.  I like that it lets you experiment with blending while also having the opportunity to enhance a base beer.  Some of you reading may know or have seen posts by James Sites in the Milk the Funk group.  He is a wealth of knowledge and has a ton of brewing experience.  He also seems to be a brewing scholar always researching and sharing information.  He sent me a few beers to try and asked if I'd give some tasting notes on them.  Since he sent a Saison brewed in the Bière de Coupage tradition, I thought I'd do a post here with my tasting notes and thoughts on the beer.  He also sent along a couple other sour beers I can't wait to get into.

I'm not sure of the details of James's process but I do know he said he brewed a Saison and a quick sour to blend in with it.  If he shares more details, I'll update the post.

The Stellmacher Brewing Co - Mercedes

Decided to pop this one while I was feeding my new sourdough starter.

Appearance: Slightly hazy deep yellow in color.  Not cloudy really but not brightly clear.  White to off-white head full of tiny bubbles with a few larger ones mixed in here and there.  Carbonation is streaming up the edges of the glass and there was a solid pop when I pulled the cork.  Head dissipated to a cap and eventually a ring on the glass as I drank.  Pretty decent lacing on the beer too.

Aroma:  First impression is an earthy, spicy Saison nose with a bit of almost woody note.  Cedar-ish if you will.  Light lemon and stone fruits like peach with a touch of pear.  As it warmed up it had some tart green apple character.  But not in an off way, more like a Granny Smith Apple way.  Just a slight touch of honey and/or malt character in the nose.

Just a little bit of condensation on the glass.

Flavor:  Again, very Saison forward with just a touch of tartness.  A very light tartness though.  Not something I would consider sour at all.  First sip has almost a white pepper finish and is really dry in the finish.  (I like dry, REALLY dry.)  Second sip more of the fruity flavors show up.  That hint of pear/apple is there but more peach or even a touch of white grape is there.  Not a bit of alcohol detected.  I'm not sure what the ABV on this one is but you can't detect any alcohol at all.

As it warms a good bitterness shows up and the pepper shines through more.  There is a slight vegetal note on the finish with just a touch of astringency.  But it isn't offensive at all.  It's something I tend to get in Saison from time to time.

Mouthfeel:  Perfect prickly carbonation, medium mouthfeel and a really dry drinkable beer.  Carbonation lends to a smooth mouthfeel that I really love in Saison. 

Overall:  This is a super nice beer that was executed really well.  The cutting of the base with the acid beer has surely brightened up all the flavors and it still maintains the Saison qualities which is very important to me.  If there is too much of the cutting beer, then you can lose what you started out with.  There could be just a hint more sourness in there but that may not have been what James was going for.  He did tell me he used a quick sour to blend and I think those are perfect for brightening up a Saison.

The differences in this beer and my main beer, Kathleen, I use Bière de Coupage with, are that mine has a bit more fruity flavors and less pepper in the base beer.  I don't actually prefer either one, but the yeast strains I've used the past few times have added more fruit tones than pepper notes.  That also may be due to my fermentation temp of usually over 80F for each one.  Again, I don't know all of James's process but those are just impressions.  Kathleen also has a bit of funk to it due to the beer I blend in it being a mixed culture fermentation that has matured for a minimum of a year usually.  Same type process with different beers can yield varied results.  That's one thing I love about the Coupage process.  It really depends on your goal with the beer is and what you have to work with.  I'm sure that the mature beer I used had a lot to do with the fruity aspects as unblended Kathleen doesn't have near the stone and tropical fruit flavors that Coupage'd Kathleen has.

I'm really glad he sent me another bottle of this so I can see how/if it evolves over time.  Saison tends to have a longer shelf life than other beers and the lower pH from adding in the acid beer will help even more with storage.  Thank you, James, for sending me the bottles and I'm looking forward to popping the others soon!  If the others are as good as this one, I know I will enjoy them at least as much!


James shared the recipe information so I thought I would add it in.

- Grist consisting of 70% Pils and 30% Wheat to an OG of about 1.065/16P
- Mash at 158F until fully converted
- One hour boil with the first runnings, simply for concentration, with no hops
- One oz. per gallon each of Cashmere and Archer hops added at 170F
- Cooled and split between ECY08 - Saison Brasserie and WLP566 - Saison II with three strains of Brett pitched in each half (B, C, Drie)
- Ferment until terminal then blend the two halves and do two, three-day dry hoppings with 0.5 oz. per gallon each of Cashmere and Archer.
-Second runnings will be boiled for a short time then cooled and racked into an already inoculated oak barrel to sour.
- Blend the first and second runnings once stable terminal gravity is reached, probably around 1.002/0.5P, at a rate to be determined, but probably around 3/4ths hoppy brett saison to 1/4th sour base.
-Bottle condition

Good things!

Andrew "Gus" Addkison
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