Tag Archives: wild yeast

The Brett Tasting: comparing Brett types, pre/post fermentation additions

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Blind tastings are fun with friends

Here is another section of my journey into souring beers.  For this part, I really wanted to focus on Brettanomyces and the impact it can have on beer.  While Brett is not the main souring organism in sour beers, I have heard far too many different opinions, so I decided the only way to really grasp what this yeast does is to try it myself.  I decided to make 5 one gallon batches (X, Y, 1, 2, 3). Of these 5 batches; Y was the control with only Saccharomyces, X was Brett B added after Saccharomyces fermentation was complete, 1 was only Brett L, 2 was only Brett B, and 3 was both Saccharomyces and Brett B pitched together at the beginning of fermentation.  All Brett was from Wyeast.

tastings:

Y (control): a mild flavor with light chocolate, roast, and fruit flavor. some bread character with a slit astringency. big bodied

X and Y

 

X (Brett B added after Fermentation): a light cherry citrus nose with hints of strawberry, some cardboard in the taste but the flavor stands out more. chocolate in the front and a solid head. mild astringency

1 (Brett L only) Smells like sour strawberry and Worcester sauce.  The taste was reminiscent of ketchup and chocolate. no head retention

2 (Brett B only) An acetic hint in the nose with the same citrus cherry character.  Tasted very chocolate and was mild and balanced. best beer!

1 and 2, 3 was so gross that there is no pic, just bad memories

3 (Brett B and Sacc pitched together) smelled and tasted like vinegar. sharp acetic. ack. vinegar!

These beers were vastly different, more than I would have thought.  I can still run through this experiment two more times, can’t wait to see what changes.

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“Coaching” Session at Boston Brewery

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One of the perks of winning last autumn’s Brooklyn Wort was a one on one coaching session with an employee of Boston Brewing. By the way, the next Brooklyn Wort is being held in Manhattan in October and entries start Aug 11 for the preliminary round.  Details are here. (http://www.brooklynwort.com/)

I was offered a bunch of options, like a phone conference with a marketing specialist, but I was really interested in speaking with a brewer that could help me out with some of the more experimental things I’m playing with in my kitchen, I mean brewery. I was hoping that one of the biggest Micros would be willing to let me take up an hour of time to really pick a pro brewers brain.

After months of failure trying to work out a date that I could make it up to Boston to actually get face time with someone, summer finally came to my rescue.  I grabbed two friends who happened to have a weekday off and drove up to Boston.

Rolling up to the “Boston Brewery” I was immediately taken back by how small the scale was.  It turns out that they only use a 10 barrel system up in Boston, be it a nice one, the vast majority of their beer is brewed at two other major breweries in other parts of the country.

that’s it?

The shock of that quickly wore off when I learned that the Boston Brewery is responsible for their cask room releases.  The brewery is all set up for nice tours and cool pictures with plenty of history about Sam Adams and lots of awards that they have won hung above.  I would recommend a visit for someone who hasn’t really toured breweries before, you get to smell hops, check out grains, and walk the floor of the brew house.

big barrels!

Luckily, the majority of my visit was spent with Grant,  a recent addition to Boston Brewing, who is one of the brewers there.  After a few minutes, Grant figured out that I wasn’t there for some fun chat about pitching rate, but that I had a few more in depth questions that I would like to discuss.

Grant dropping knowledge

The talk very quickly turned into a great coaching session with ideas being shared about wild yeast identification and pH adjustment, with a little bit of info about KMS and stabilizing bigger beers.  Having someone with this kind of brewing knowledge really explain some of the science behind my ideas essentially leapfrogged my experiments about 2 years forward.  On the way out, he even hit me up with a couple of online resources that are exactly what I was looking for.  Grant made the four hour drive worth it.

This experience really renewed my affection for Sam Adams.  Sam was one of the first Micros that I ever tasted and many times, it was their brew that was my first exposure to different styles of beer.  Having them treat me with such a high level of respect and openness really boosted this beer back to the top of the pile for me. I know what I’ll be drinking next time I’m at a normal bar.  Much more on the information that I learned about in the coming posts, I hope Sam Adams starts a beer school!

Many thanks must be said to both Michelle and Grant.

commercial pic

The sour beer experiment cometh..

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Recently I have begun souring beer, which is a simple process of inoculating (infecting) beer with specific micro organisms that like living in beer.  So far, I have soured left over beer that was less than perfect, like my earl wit that had a bit too much gypsum and a poor fermentation. I decided to repurpose this beer into a Lambic.  I have also started souring my casks, starting with quad/ homemade wine into a rye cask with Roeselare Blend from Wyeast.

Now, repurposing beer is cool, and a great way to start souring beers, but I have way too many questions about the variables in souring to just use my leftovers for this.  It was time to brew a 10 gallon batch of Flanders Brown Ale. The brew day was easy for this beer, all until I transferred the cooled wort into all the different fermentors.

So, what am I going to do with all this beer to sour!? that’s right, use up every one gallon jug i can find.  To start off I took 5 gallons and put it into a normal 6 gallon better bottle carboy, which I pitched American Ale  yeast . This 5 gallon fermentor will be inoculated with Roeselare Blend after fermentation is complete.

VARIABLES!

The rest of the batch left plenty of room to play with, so I split up the beer into 1 gallon jugs and labeled them 1,2,3 and X, Y.  Y is the clean fermented beer that will act as the baseline for comparison (control).  1 was only Brett L, 2 was only Brett B, 3 was yeast and Brett B pitched simultaneously, and X will be Brett L added after regular yeast fermentation.  I also used a growler for my wild yeast, which will have US05 added after 3 weeks fermenting.

The beers with only Brett fermentation was very interesting to watch.  Brett L seems to be the same micro that infected my Earl Wit.  The Brett B fermentation looked crazy for about a week, then everything flocculated.

Brett L infection

Brett B infection

1L : brett L 2B: brett B

Now it’s a long wait to start bottling/ blending. which will take about a year!

brewing on a budget….

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This last year has been a great time for my brewing.  I won my first homebrew competition, which gave me a real kick in the butt to brew more frequently.  Since that competition I have been brewing weekly, sometimes working on beer 3 times a week.  Its been about 5 – 6 months of that schedule and I have spent all my money. As you can tell, slowing down my brewing is an answer to my problem, but I find a great amount of joy playing with my beer, so I’ve decided to knock back the brewing schedule to every other week and start saving money wherever I can.

With my science background, I’m planning on saving yeast and making slides, but I’m broke enough that an autoclave (pressure cooker!) is out of the question right now. This leads me to the cheapest/easiest way to save money on brewing, reusing yeast.  All I do is put the newly made beer directly on top of an old batches yeast cake.  I always make sure that the cake is as fresh as possible and never leave the yeast without beer in it for more than an hour or so.  I know this is tremendously over pitching the yeast… but whatever, its easy and the fast fermentation is wonderful!

I have also been reading/listening up a lot on no sparge brewing (video link).  No sparge brewing is a process commonly used for lower ABV beers that could use a better malt backbone.  In this process, you use all the water you need for your brew day in the mash tun, vorloft it well, and drain the entire mash tun into a brew kettle.  You lose some efficiency, but it makes for a wonderful beer (which I will soon find out!)

While I was listening to this method, I thought of a way to still use the extra sugars in the mash tun, make a partygyle brewday out of this process.  After I brew a no sparge batch, I simply add another 3 -4 lbs of grain (sometimes specialty grains) to the mash tun at the mashing temp and let it go through another conversion.  This second mash usually lasts about 2 hours, since I have been only using my 7.5 gallon kettle for inside brews and i have to wait to get the first beer out of the brew kettle.

The results of this process have been promising.  After 2 brew days, I have been able to get 4 different 5 gallon batches for the grain normally used to make 2 gallon batches.  Is the original gravity lower on all 4? sure! But with OG’s in the 1.040 range, i am more than content with having a few 4 – 5 % ABV beers coming down the pipeline.

This leads me to my last option to save money. STOP BREWING BIG BEERS.  Usually my beer all hover in between 6 and 10 % ABV.  ya know, I make strong beer! But with my goal being lower ABV beer, my bills are remarkably smaller, usually walking out of the homebrew store with a bill for less than $40.  That means I making beer at about 40 cents a beer.  Its weird, but it seems that I can finally make great beer that is cheaper than buying commercial beers! It only took about 6 years of brewing to do it, but my original goal was to make good beer cheaply. and now I have.

More on these beers to come!

the purrfect ipa

Our Invisible Roommates Part 1

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Harvesting Wild Yeast

all my invisble friends!!!!

As a person who has found science and brewing to be a wonderful world of interest and excitement, I have recently been going back in time and revisiting some of the lab equipment that I had to use in college.  It turns out that a great deal of the science I learned in school is readily applicable to brewing.  The first process I wanted to focus on was harvesting wild yeast.  This is a practice that was the traditional procedure for brewing beer in history.  It can be traced back to the beginning of civilization, when people first started using our micro organism friends as workers. This is still practiced in Belgium and in many of the new craft breweries that are focusing on wild yeast and other micro organisms (Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, and Brettanomyces)
First off, I would like to say that this is a very challenging process, especially for someone who has been accustomed to modern brewing techniques, where sanitation is paramount to making good beer.  Harvesting wild yeast is not for the casual brewer, or in many ways, the professional brewer.  Controlling this process would be nearly impossible, the daunting amount of variablity would make products that vary from batch to batch. Blending can help, but wild beers are an intense idea. To get pure yeast, it’s really something that dorky scientist’s should to do, like my friend Dave. 

He's a Yeast Scientist!!

In order to harvest wild yeast, you essentially have to create an environment that only a few organisms will be happy in (like an alcoholic mixture with a low pH (BEER!)) and expose it to the air. If your lucky, you get S. Cervisae. If your unlucky, you can be harvesting a mixture of mold and dangerous bacteria. It was very challenging to get any success with this, with most of the samples being over run with mold. Let’s see what I got!
THAT’S NOT YEAST

This could be due to using a starter what was far too low of a OG.  I accidentally made the starter with only .3 grams for a 50 mL sample (OG 1.010???)instead of the 3 grams that was needed.  This could have made my results a bit unreliable, but I still got some samples with what should be yeast.

I started with 36 samples, placed randomly both inside a large room and outside by the Verrazano Bridge. I left them for 24 hours on a breezy windy early december night.  I then brought the samples in and let them sit covered for 10 days.  Out of 36 samples, only 5 looked to have yeast.  I put those samples onto petri dishes ( about 18 dishes) and let them incubate for another 5 days.  Of the 18 samples. 6 seemed to have yeast colonies. I then put these samples into 6 50 ml starters, then put them onto a stir plate or back into incubator. After 18 days, I took the FG reading on my refractometer.  of the 6 samples, 3 had fermented down to the low 1.030’s, from 1.045.  The other samples had no difference in gravity (into the garbage!)
the one on the left! that’s yeast! I hope….

Looks nice!

At this point, I’m planning on taking the sample with the most active yeast and get my science friend to tell me whats in it. Then, onto a test batch! MORE TO COME!!
Next time I plan on adding sterilization practices to this as well as making a correct starter