Friday, February 21, 2014

Old Ale with Brettanomyces - Recipe

Alright, sorry for the almost month-long delay since the last post. The only reason I'm able to get to a post now is a flight delay of a day due to the full shutdown of Europe's 3rd largest airport (Frankfurt) by a strike from the security personnel. At least I was able to put up this post because of it. Anyway, on the beer info.

This is a recipe for an English Old ale that I brewed in October 2012 and bottled in May 2013. If you are unfamiliar with the style, it is a light amber to brown, malt forward English strong(er) beer that was traditionally aged for an extended period of time. During this long aging, especially at a time when brewery microbiological control wasn't where it is at today, the beer may pick up non-typical brewing yeasts such as Brettanomyces (brett) and other organisms normally associated with beer spoiling. In the right amounts and contexts these yeasts and bacteria can add nice complexity. My goal with this beer was to try an English beer with some Brettanomyces character. Belgian beers with brett are more common in both commercial and home brewing and I hadn't ever tried using brett in English beer before. I'm certainly not an English brewing historian so I can't speak to how well this recipe fits to historical English old ales, and that wasn't necessarily my goal. I did model the recipe of the sorts of flavors described in the BJCP guidelines and tried to stick with ingredients that an English brewer may have used, but that's about as far as I went with the strict historical accuracy. If you're interested in historically accurate reproductions of English styles there are some blogs out there that might be helpful such as Shut Up About Barclay Perkins.

This beer was inspired by Upright's Billy the Mountain, which is a blend of 'clean' old ale (only Saccharomyces cerevisiae for fermentation so no 'wild' yeasts or bacteria) with barrel aged old ale with Brettanomyces. I talked with Alex Ganum, the head brewer/owner at Upright, years ago when he was releasing the second batch of Billy the Mountain. At that point I remember he was blending a younger and fresher batch of the old ale with what I think he said was the previous year's brewing of the old ale which had been aging in barrels with brett. This may have changed since then, though I expect he is still following a similar process and bottling a blend of the new brew with a portion of the previous brew that has been aging with brett. Blending at this stage allows good control over the level of brett character and also combines some of the flavors you might get in an aged beer (like those associated with oxidation) with the those in a younger beer.

I decided to blend my beer as well, combining a clean aged portion with a brett aged portion, however with only one batch I wasn't going to be blending young clean beer with old brett beer. Instead it would be clean and brett beer both aged for the same amount of time. I let primary finish and then racked into three different vessels in November 2012, 1 month after brew day. The vessels were a 3 gallon carboy which I filled with the 'clean' portion and two 1 gallon jugs to which I added Brettanomyces clausenii (also classified as Brettanomyces anomalus/Dekkera anomala). I filled the 3 gallon carboy right to the neck to try to minimize oxidation. I got pellicles on both of the 1 gallon jugs, but they were relatively tame. I also added dregs of Upright's Billy the Mountain to both of the brett treatment jugs.

After aging for 7 months I blended back and bottled (May 2013). I primed the 3 gallon carboy to about 1.8 volumes of CO2 and then bottled about one gallon of the clean portion. Then I racked one of the brett jugs into the 3 gallon carboy, mixed and bottled without adding more priming sugar. I bottled this portion in high pressure bottles and a good number of swing tops in case the brett started to work away at what was left in the clean portion, but so far the carbonation doesn't seem too high. I'm not sure why it didn't drop lower but that seems to be the case so far. I bottled the final brett portion on it's own. Bottling seems to have been the only snag in this beer, as I'll get to in a follow up post with a review of the three treatments.

Batch Size: 5.25 gallons (19.9 L)
OG: 1.088
FG: 1.019 (non-Brett portion, 8.9% ABV) and 1.013 (Brett portion)

16 lbs (7.26 kg) Thomas Fawcett Marris Otter
2 lbs (0.91 kg) Munich
1 lb (454 g) Briess Crystal-60
1 oz (28 g) Pale Chocolate (for color)


at 70 minutes left in the boil:
1.5 oz (42.5 g) East Kent Golding pellets, 4.7% aa (~19 IBU calculated, Tinseth Formula)
1.5 oz (42.5 g) Fuggle pellets, 4.0 % aa (~16 IBU calculated, Tinseth)
1.5 oz (42.5 g) Willamette whole hops, 5.6% aa (~22 IBU calculated, Tinseth)

30 minutes left in the boil:
0.5 oz (14 g) East Kent Golding pellets (~5 IBU)
0.5 oz (14 g) Fuggle pellets (~4 IBU)

Wyeast 1028 London Ale
White Labs Brett Clausenii
I made a 1.4L stater of the London ale that I let ferment out and decanted. I also made a small starter for the Brett c.

1/2 tab whirlfloc
1/2 tsp Wyeast yeast nutrients
4g CaCl2
2g CaSO4
Base water profile: basically distilled/deionized. The water profile of Victoria is similar to Plsen.

Mash - single infusion, 60 minutes at 154 F (67.8 C). Maybe this is a bit lower than typical for the style but I'm happy with where my FG was.
Boil -  90 minutes, boiling 8.25 gallons (31.2 L) down to about 6.25 gallons (23.7 L) to yield 5.25 gallons (19.9 L) in the carboy. It was a bit of a windy day and the boil strength was irregular at times.
Fermentation - a bit over a week for primary. Pitched at 63 F (17.2 C) and let rise to 69 F (20.6 C) over the first 4 days. The temp was held at 69F/20.6C for 4 more days, by which point the gravity was down to 1.019. At this point I stopped heating the carboy and let it drop to ambient temps of about 60 F (15.6 C). Then I let the carboy age for about 7 months, with racking into secondary at the end of the first month. Aging was carried out at about 54-60 F (12.2-15.6 C). When I need to warm a beer, I control temps with a water bath and an adjustable aquarium heater. The water batch is about the same volume as the beer, maybe a but more, and it comes up to at least half way up the carboy. I feel this helps keep the carboy from getting much warmer than the temp that I heat to.

In a couple weeks I run through my tasting of the three beers and why I think some of them came out as they did. Overall at this point I'd say this recipe was a success. But look for a finished beer breakdown in a couple of weeks.