Sunday, November 30, 2014

Petite saison rebrew tasting notes

Setting up for the tasting.
With this batch of petite saison I wanted to work out yeast blend ratios. There were 4 treatments total:
A) 70% Wyeast 3724, 30% Wyeast 3711
B) 90% Wyeast 3724, 10% Wyeast 3711
C) % Wyeast 3724, % Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse, % Wyeast 3711
D) 90% Wyeast 3724, 10% Wyeast 3711 (though at a lower pitching rate than the above treatment) with additions of Yeast Bay Lochristi Brett blend and Wyeast 5223 Lactobacillus brevis

To mildly confuse things, I had labeled the bottles of treatment A 60/40 blend and the bottles of treatment B 80/20 blend based on what I though I did during blending, but as I found out from calculating my blends it turned out to be about 70/30 and 90/10 respectively. Through tasting these beers on their own I had formed some general opinions of how I felt about them and how they compared but in order to really figure out what the blend ratio did I needed them side by side. So I set up a somewhat blind tasting. I knew the beers - the three 'clean' (no brett/lacto) treatments form above plus my previous batch of petite saison, leaving out the brett and lacto petite rebrew treatment (D from above). And I poured them myself so I knew a bit about appearance. But then they were re-arranged and arbitrarily numbered for me given to me a minute or two later.

From tasting these beers individually while knowing what they were (and maybe pouring them, though with the exception of the previous batch with a different grist and therefore color, the differentiating characters were mostly taste and aroma based) I was able to correctly identify the different blends but it ended up being hard to determine which was the 90/10 blend and which had Wallonian Farmhouse. They were identifiably different but not necessarily in a way that I could pin to the yeast blends. I am not very familiar with Wallonian Farmhouse at this point and that probably contributed.
The poured glasses. As you can see there are some visual differences
Glass #5 (later revealed to be treatment A from above, the 70/30 blend)

Aroma: Peachy and floral with mild lime stand out. This one has more green fruit (in a slightly under-ripe way). There is a nice minerally character that is pleasant. This has a mild peppery spice and mild apple and it is more herbal than the other glasses

Appearance: Large white head, great retention, nice lacing, clear brilliant copper

Taste: Tangy lime, thinner flavor than the others with sour and green fruit. It has a dry finish and comes across medium-bitter. Overall the flavor is green and under-ripe fruit forward with low pepper.

Mouthfeel: fluffy light body with high fine carbonation, the carbonation feels a bit higher than the other blends and the body may be a bit thinner, but that might be influenced by carbonation.

Overall Impression: 3711 beers have an identifiable character to me that I would describe as green slightly under-ripe fruit with yeast. I know that's sort of a poor description but I don't really know how to convey the flavor. Either way that is what I identify with 3711, and this beer has more of that than the others. From that I was able to identify it as the 70/30 blend. It was the most 'green' and had less peach and orange citrus. There was a nice tang and spice but I want more 3724 flavor in the balance overall.

Glass #12 (later revealed to be treatment C from above, the blend with Wallonian Farmhouse)

Aroma: There is more 3724 character overall and the beer is more doughy/bready with mildly tangy citrus and tropical fruit (like mango). The aroma has a bit of a character I associated with stressed 3724. It has a sweeter aroma and is more tart than the others.

Appearance: Medium head, lower than #5, the head is a bit chunkier, brilliantly clear pale copper

Taste: Tangy citrus fruit, unique, peach, doughy/bready, unique tropical fruit in this treatment. 3724 character is in there but it is less identifiable than in other treatments, it comes across crisper than #9 (which might be influenced by the tangyness). Nice but it could use a bit more hop character.

Mouthfeel: Fluffy body, nice high fine carbonation

Overall Impression: Great citrus and tangy fruit. The character is a bit like what I got out of a saison brewed with Logsdon Seizoen dregs a while back (sidenote, this Logsdon dregs beer was what I sent to the first round of the 2013 NHC which came out a fair bit different from what I sent to the final round). This version is a bit more reigned in than that Logsdon version. The fruit is unique and different from what I usually get. I think this is the Wallonian Farmhouse version and #9 is the 90/10 but it is hard to tell.

Glass #3 (later revealed to be the previous batch of petite saison)

Aroma: Floral, fruity candy, pear stands out. The classic Dupont aroma is there. There is nice malt and a stronger noble hop character but also some slight oxidation.

Appearance: Slightly paler and more of a golden color than the other three glasses. Large white head with great retention and nice lacing.

Taste: This has more of the classic Dupont floral character with a touch of pleasant sulfur. It has a dry finish with nice hop charatcer and a light tangyness. The hop flavor in this one is good and is more in line with what I am looking for out of this recipe.

Mouthfeel: Fluffy/creamy body with high fine carbonation. Less tangy than #12. The hops contribute nicely to the body.

Overall Impression: The other glasses are missing this hop flavor and I like the Dupont-esque mild sulfur. The fruit is slightly more restrained in this and I really like that. It is still pronouncedly fruity but is a bit more refined. Maybe over-expressed fruit is what I mean when I talk about stressed 3724 character. At it's prime this version was the best. I may still prefer this malt bill to the malt bill I used in the re-brew.

Glass #9 (later revealed to be treatment B from above, the 90/10 blend)

Aroma: This version is the funkiest and is seems complex than the others. Strong peach and 3724 character. There is a nice doughy character in the aroma. There is a bit of stressed 3724 with strong floral. A bit of sharpness almost like what cheddar has and if I didn't know what went in here I could believe that there was some mild Brettanomyces.

Appearance: Very similar to #12 with a low white head and good retention.

Taste: Strong fruityness dominated by the classic peach character I associate with 3724 and a mild green fruit that I associate with 3711. There is a touch of brett-like funk and doughyness and a touch of sulfur in the finish (though it is less smooth and pleasant than what I find in Dupont saisons). Nice citrus fruit (tangerine) and floral. Nice malt character but I want more hop flavor and bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Great creamy/fluffy body. High fine carbonation. I want more hop character.

Overall Impression: The darker color in glasses #5, #12 and #9 compared to #3 is nice but I'm not sure the darker malt bill benefits the flavor. Maybe I'll go back to the original malt bill. And if I decide I want the darker color maybe I'll add a bit of Carafa-type malt for color adjustment. The perception of funk is nice here and I'm not sure where it is coming from. It could be that something else got in, and if so it's pleasant, but I'm not convinced about that. It could also be a combination of the tangyness, malt and slight sulfur. In the 4 tasting this is my preference, but only slightly.

The revealed identities of the saisons.
Closing thoughts: Overall these were very similar. that may not be reflected in my notes because I was looking for differences. Especially the 90/10 and Wallonian Farmhouse bottles. With what remained in those bottles I compared them head to head and may slightly prefer the Wallonian Farmhouse in a 2-way tasting. I should redo a 2-way tasting to test that. The WF batch is slightly more assertive than the 90/10 due to the tangy citrus and tropical fruit. One theory I have for this at the moment is that in a 4-way tasting I might be tasting more for what I think is the best saison for my palate but in a 2-way tasting I might choose the beer that stands out pleasantly. Looks like I have to do a new 2-way for these two.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dark English Mild

Heating up the strike water
There's been a bit of delay in my getting a post up on this blog, but the Hors Catégorie facebook page has been getting lots of regular brewing updates including a nearly 70 gallon brewday of saison which is now waiting to go into a 60 gallon wine barrel, a 10 HL batch of saison which was a collaboration with a local brewery, blending of sour barrel aged beers, and a string of the posts about the general saison-related stuff I find myself doing on a weekly (if not daily) basis. But I finally got a bit of time to put up a new post. I've been brewing a lot of saisons lately and although I love saison, I was ready to try out something different for a batch or two. Having to prepare 10 gallons of old ale for a barrel aging project and a mistake for one of my yeasts in a shipment of an East Coast Yeast order (which fortunately was corrected as soon as possible) meant that I had a couple different English strains around. I like having a nice malty but easy drinking beer here and there, and as with my saison brewing, lately I've been focusing on trying to make lower alcohol beers with great flavor. So a dark English mild was a natural choice.

My ground malt and the dark grains cold steeping
I found a dry toasty/mildly astringent character that I don't really care for in some of my previous batches of mild and I also find it with some commercial milds I've tried. It is kind of like the flavor of sunflower seed husks. While I don't find it awful, this flavor (which I think may be enhanced by the thinness of the beer) is something I am looking to avoid in milds. I wanted to try ways to get a darker malt character without that so with this batch I tried cold-steeping my grains - my first use of this technique. In brief, the theory behind/advantage of this is that you don't pull out as many rougher flavors like tannins with the cooler temperatures which still getting the color and much of the dark malt flavor out. The liquid you get from this can then be added back at late in the boil, to the hot wort, or straight to chilled wort or the carboy. There are plenty of places to learn more about cold steeping of grains, such as the article by Chris Bible in the October 2014 issue of BYO magazine.

I cold steeped my grains in a 1 qt mason jar, which was an excellent vessel for this sort of thing. The only downside I found in my approach was that my water to grain ratio was way too thick and as a result of this I did not get very complete extraction. I would have needed multiple mason jars for the amount of dark grain I used. In subsequent brews with less dark grain a 1 qt mason jar has worked great, and when I use this much grain again I'll split it into 3 or so mason jars. So anyway, the day before brewday I started cold steeping. With this batch I decided that I would add the liquid from my steeping at the end of the boil, so with 10 min left I poured the contents of the jar into a fine mesh hop sack which I held above my kettle. This is the point where I realized too much of my water was still hung up in the grain and I didn't have a bit of rinsing water around. So my utilization of the dark grains was pretty low on this batch and I'll be ready for next time with a thinner dark steeping.

My (not very dark) mash runoff
The wort was split into 3 carboys with 2 of them getting WLP007 (one of these two also got a small amount of oak) and one getting ECY18. I figured this was a great way to take advantage of the accidentally getting sent a vial of this yeast and to see how the ECY18 English Mild yeast compared to other English strains. By now these three carboys are all bottled up and bottle conditioned (1-1.5 weeks in primary was fine with an appropriate pitch of rather flocculant yeast in a low OG beer like this) and while I've had each of the three treatments at this point, I'll wait a bit more until reviewing all three.

The Recipe

Brew Day: 19 October 2014
Batch Size: 13.5 gallons in carboys
OG: 1.034
IBU: ~14, Tinseth formula
FG: 1.011 for the two WLP007 batches and 1.012 for the ECY18 batch
ABV: 3.0%
Color: about 20 SRM (I haven't really looked too closely to get an exact number yet).

10.6   lb (4.81 kg) Doehnel #24 (UK style light malt, ~1.9 L) -                     63.9%
1.75   lb (790 g)    Doehnel #26 (North American style light malt, ~1.9 L) - 10.5%
1.5     lb (680 g)    Brown Malt -                                                                      9.0%
1.25   lb (567 g)    Crystal 60 L -                                                                     7.5%
1.0     lb (454 g)    British Crystal 135-160 L -                                                6.0%
0.375 lb (170 g)    Hugh Baird Chocolate -                                                     2.3%
0.125 lb (57 g)      Weyermann Carafa II Special -                                          0.8%

*Note: I talk a bit about Doehnel malts in earlier posts like this one. These malts are grown and produced locally by a small maltster. The color and general style allow closest substitute malts to be chosen.

33 g Slovenian Aurora 8.0% aa boiled for 60 minutes

WLP007 Dry English and ECY018 English Mild
1 tsp Wyeast yeast nutrients

Victoria's water is very low in minerals so salt additions are basically the final concentrations.
9 g CaCl2, 5 g CaSO4 in 30qt sparge
13 g CaCl2, 7 g CaSO4 in 43 qt sparge
1 tab whirlfloc

28 g oak - a single piece which was cut from a section of an oak chain from the now defunct Okanagan Barrel Works. This oak went into the primary of one of the carboys and stayed in until the beer was bottled (11 days). I prepped it by rinsing it a couple of times with boiling water and then soaking it overnight in a mason jar full of boiling water. This definitely strips out some of the oak but I was more worried about over-oaking than under-oaking. Also I didn't want to pick anything up in a beer like this, which due to it's low hopping, low alc, and low percent of attenuation is especially susceptible to contaminant microbes.

Mash and Fermentation:
I mashed at 156 F (68.9 C) for 60 minutes. For the fermentation I pitched at 64-65 F (17.8-18.3 C) and kept it there for the first 48 hours. I raised the temp to 68 F (20 C) over the next day (the ECY18 carboy got warmer because I neglected to check the setting of my aquarium heater) and I held this temp for 2 days before letting the beers return to room temp and bottling (at day 7 for the WLP007 carboy, day 10 for the ECY18 and day 11 for WLP007 + oak). The difference in bottling times was driven by how much time I had to bottle rather than each carboy needing different amounts of time.

2016 Update: I'm long overdue in linking the tasting notes into this recipe post. Here are the tasting notes for this brew.

The WLP007 plus oak took first place in the first round (Seattle) of NHC 2015 and scored in the upper 30s in the final round but didn't place. I stored bottles in the fridge but didn't rebrew it, or rather, changed some parts of the recipe in the rebrew and the rebrew wasn't better than the original. Although there was time I didn't want to try again going back to the initial recipe (I had my fill of dark milds for a bit) so the bottles I sent were well past their prime by the time the final round came.
My finished wort was much darker than the mash runnings due to the cold-steeped malt