All Brett Everything: Porter

Apologies first and foremost for the lack of content I have been putting out recently. Getting a brewery off the ground apparently is time consuming. who would have guessed? Anyways I figured that it has been way too long since my last recipe post. It’s been especially long since my last post that uses ingredients that are very easy to find. So with the idea of beers appropriate for Reverence Barrel Works and winter weather beer I bring you the first iteration of my 100% brett fermented porter.

Conception: I wanted a quick turn around brett beer that was approachable for those who are use to only clean styles yet interesting enough to get wild beer fans geeking out a bit. Dark beers with Wyeast Brett Lambicus (5526) have always been a personal favourite of mine due to the fairly intense cherry flavour and aroma. Nothing like black forest cake in liquid form!

27335090_10155855640050336_2075506064_o

100% Brett Porter V0.0

Water:

  • Calcium: 100 ppm
  • Magnesium: 5 ppm
  • Sodium: 35 ppm
  • Chloride: 60 ppm
  • Sulfate: 50 ppm

Mash pH: 5.3

Mash:

  • Mash in at 153F and hold for 60 min (1.5 qt/lbs)
  • Raise via induction to 168F and hold for 10 min
  • Fly Sparge at 168F

Grist:

  • 76.8% Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter
  • 10.3% Thomas Fawcett Pale Chocolate
  • 5.2% Thomas Fawcett Crystal 45
  • 5.2% Thomas Fawcett Crystal 120
  • 2.5% Weyermann dehusked carafa III

Hot side:

  • 60 min boil
  • FWH EKG for 20 IBU
  • 15 min add whirlfloc and Nutrient
  • 10 min EGK for 4 IBU
  • 5 min add 1 lbs of lactose sugar
  • Chill below 82F

Cold side:

  • Pitch Wyeast 5526 starter (1L starter/5 gal wort) 6 days on stir plate.
  • Let ferment ambient (68F) for 6 weeks
  • Keg and force carbonate

Stats:

  • OG: 1.063
  • FG: 1.011
  • ABV: 6.8
  • IBU: 24
  • BU/GU: 0.37
  • BHE: 82%
  • Fermentor Volume: 4.5 gal
  • Packaged Volume: 4 gal
  • Carbonation: Kegged and force carbed to 2.1 Vols

Review:

Appearance:

Black. Pours a tan 1 finger thick head that sticks around. Head has some very large bubbles and some very tiny ones. After about 5 min it’s still an 1/8” thick. Laces the glass more than most beers. When held up to the lights it’s a very dark brown with a copper hue. Moderately clear as well. Head eventually fades to a halo and a few large patches.

Aroma:

Chocolate cake batter with extra chocolate chips. A generic dark fruit character with a black cherry accent. Hints of leather. For the most part it’s hard to tell this is brett fermented. Rather clean smelling.

Mouthfeel:

Low carbonation that just barely tickles the tongue. Medium creamy body. Coats the 27294905_10155855640000336_1189639510_ntongue. Slightly warming alcohol note.

Flavour:

Rich chocolate cake. Not the kind you get at a kids bday but a decadent cake that I probably couldn’t afford regularly. Similar to the aroma that there is a generic dark fruit flavour with a black cherry accent. The cherry become much more prominent as it warms. Very light floral alcohol. Leather is somewhat there but very mild. Light toffee/caramel on the back end.

Overall Impression:

For around 1 of a 100% brett Porter I am quite pleased. No huge complaints however, I think I would prefer this at a more sessionable ABV. Pretty surprised for how clean this is for a Brett beer and the head retention/lacing. This is a first for me. If I was not told there was brett in here I may not have been able to pick it up.

Next Time:

I plan to knock down the OG to target an ABV of 5.2-5.2. Increase the BU/GU by about 20% to give a little more character. Increase Chloride content to enhance the mouthfeel. Some red wine soaked oak and letting it age an additional 2 weeks to simulate a barrel. Also a bit of O2 in during the fermentation to encourage a slight amount of acetic acid to also make it taste more true to a barrel aged beer.

Cheers,
MD

Lets get Spontaneous

Before diving into the “why you shoulds” and “how you dos” lets take a look at what spontaneous fermentation means in the beer world. As we already know, all fermented beverages/foods were once caused by spontaneous fermentation and not controlled lab cultures.

Lambic. Possibly the most coveted and rarest of beers. Also, one of the hottest debate topics in the beer world. What is it and what are its sub categories? The TL;DR version is turbid mashed, ~65/35 pils/raw wheat, aged noble leaf hops, spontaneous fermentation, barrel aging, standard strength golden ale from the Pajottenland in Belgium. Although many breweries label beer as lambic without following these rules people seem to look the other way. (See Cantillon Iris, Drie Fonteinen Nocturne, the dozens of back sweetened abominations and many others). Lambic has a mysterious origin and history with references all the way back to the 1500s. Aside from gruit lambic is possibly the oldest style of beer. With the modern advent of the bottle, lambic has been blended and Gueuze/Geuze (blend of 1/2 and 3 year old lambic) was born in the late 1800s. Shortly after Kriek (Cherry lambic) and Framboise/Framboos (Raspberry Lambic) joined the party. We saw a dark age when back sweetening became popular. Many breweries/blenderies fell throughout the 1900s. Then the craft beer boom began we saw a resurgence of lambic and creativity. To this day we continue to see lambic growing. So much so, that American craft brewers and blenders from other countries began to make their own “lambic”.

For the purpose of keeping arguments down and to make things a bit simpler lambic 31631866_10156120630015336_5970165495339417600_nand Méthode Traditionnelle (MT) are going to be used interchangeably. Besides many of the lambic producers/HORAL members “stretch” the definition of lambic.

So that leads us to today. Yes you sitting at your desk pretending to work I am talking to you. If you are reading this blog you either are a homebrewer, have been a homebrewer or are thinking about becoming a homebrewer. Whatever the case is you should consider brewing a lambic. Yes the longest beer style with the most variables of screwing up. You. Should. Brew. One. I have yet to meet a homebrewer who has not toyed with the idea of brewing a historical style or a hard to brew style. Lambic ticks both those boxes while still being easy to ferment.

So why should you brew one? No temp control needed or yeast handling equipment required! Old hops are pretty easy to find in homebrew clubs (and often free). It is the cheapest grain bill you can imagine. FREE YEAST. 20 year (or more) expiration date once packaged. The down sides? Mashing take forever, 3-4 hour boils are boring, barrels for homebrewers are $$$ and hand to find, waiting years sucks, potential to never turn out.

So to take some of the cons away I have developed my own way to make these beers. As you can see turbid mashing is slightly more convoluted than a single step infusion mash. I have simplified (see below recipe) not only to save time but also to remove a few steps to make the day more manageable.

Lambic:

Water:

Something simple. I use filtered tap water for “authenticity” but if you have less than great tap water something like Brewers Friend balance profile 1 will work perfectly.

Grist:

60% Pilsner Malt (Belgian or local is my go to)

40% Raw Wheat (Belgian or local is my go to)

Mash:

Ok here is where things get… fun. This first step I like to do in a bucket as to not knock my mash manifold out of place and to not have mash tun dead space affect me.

  • Mix in grain with 0.6 qt/lbs of water to end with a mash temp of 113F.31909450_10156120610775336_1849989100405260288_n
  • Rest for 20 min.
  • Infuse water to end up with a thickness of 1.6 qt/lbs and a temp of 136F
  • Rest for 5 min
  • Pull 15% of your PREBOIL volume (you will have to calculate this for your system/boil off rate)
  • Raise the temp of this milky looking starch water to 185F and hold there (this is your turbid portion)
  • Infuse the mash with boiling water to reach 149F
  • Rest for 30 min
  • Infuse with boiling water to reach 172F
  • Rest for 20 min
  • Begin fly sparging with 185F water into the pot with your turbid portion
  • Begin heating to boil while you sparge

This seems crazy but is actually pretty simple. Keep in mind this is a 3-4 hour boil so over sparge and get that volume up! Kettle too small? Collect in a bucket and add back to the boil as you go.

Boil:

Believe it or not you are past the tricky part! As you begin to sparge add your hops. I add 0.8-1 oz/gal of final boil volume. So if I am targeting 5 gal into fermenting vessel I add 4-5 oz of aged noble leaf hops. Remember these hops suck up a TON of liquid. So set your timer for 180-240 min and boil away!

Coldside:

You are a homebrewer. You do not need a coolship. You have a kettle for that! Set the kettle outside or near a window. I cover mine with cheesecloth to try and keep critters out. Come back in the morning (8-16 hours after flame out) and fill your fermenting vessel. You are supposed to use a barrel but homebrew sized barrels are A) expensive, B) hard to find and C) less than ideal for long term aging. Glass and a few oak cubes is perfectly fine! If you do have a barrel fill with boiling water, drain and fill with cooled wort. I have filled with wort still at 75F and also with wort at 41F.

You may have noticed something there. 41F is not a temp generally reached in the warmer months. That kettle was actually left out at 25F over night. Traditional lambic brewers advise only brewing these beers when the overnight low is 25F-46F.

31890714_10156120613205336_4156986906065764352_nSo why am I telling you this now as the days get warmer? Planning! These brews take time and planning. Not the best to do on a whim. Also these traditional lambic brewers also claim that “lambic cannot be made outside of the Pajottenland”. Last I checked Jester King, Microbrasserie Pit Caribou and Block 3 have all brewed “lambic” so perhaps these lambic brewers may be wrong again. I do plan to brew a “lambic” this summer on a cooler night to see what happens. Will report back with what happens on that experiment. Also you can produce lambic wort, chill and pitch lambic dregs + siason yeast as “practice” until the temp is right outside! I am switching all of my mixed culture brewing over to turbid mashing as I have found it really emphasizes brett character.

Anyways if you have made it this far I hope I have encouraged you to get thinking outside the box. So far my lambic attempts have turned out. None are done fermenting/developing yet but they have certainly turned into beer! I look forward to blending and fruiting these as I continue to push Reverence along.

Cheers,
MD

 

All Brett Everything: NEIPA

To continue along the same path as my previous post 100% Brett fermentation is back. Again I am working on developing recipes that are relatively quick to turn around for Reverence Barrel Works. A great brewer (thant I cannot remember the name of) once said, “If you hate money then do not brew hoppy beer”. So with that in mind I have set out over the last 12 months to develop a hoppy all Brett beer.

Conception: I wanted another beer that was trendy that would be approachable to all the hop heads out there. All brett ferments generally tend to be more ester forward. The idea of fruity brett mixed with the juiciness of the NEIPA is a combo I simply could get out of my head. After over a dozen iterations I am finally at a point where I will keep the recipe.

28343009_10155935619560336_1529692625_o

100% Brett NEIPA V3.2

Water:

  • Calcium:  115 ppm
  • Magnesium:  15 ppm
  • Sodium: 15 ppm
  • Chloride: 150 ppm
  • Sulfate: 75 ppm

Mash pH: 5.3

Mash:

  • Mash in at 158F and hold for 60 min ( qt/lbs)
  • Raise via induction to 168F and hold for 10 min
  • Fly Sparge at 168F

Grist:

  • 75 % Thomas Fawcett Pearl
  • 17 % OiO Toasted Flaked Oats
  • 8 % Simpson Golden Naked oats

Hot side:

  • 60 min boil
  • 15 min add whirlfloc and Nutrient
  • Chill to 175F
  • Whirlpool for 30 min with 2 oz each of Citra, Azzaca and Mandrina Bavaria
  • Chill below 82F

Cold side:

  • Pitch Escarpment Labs Brett D (1L starter/5 gal wort) 6 days on stir plate.
  • Let ferment ambient (74F) for 3 weeks.
  • After 7-8 days dry hop with 2 oz each Citra, Azzaca and Mandrina Bavaria
  • 3 days before packaging dry hop with 1.5 oz each Citra, Azzaca and Mandrina Bavaria
  • Keg and force carbonate

All the Bretts from Omega (OLY218) is a great blend to use as well and is far easier to get a hold of. Really any IPA hops can work here. I like to switch things up and rotating my hop varieties.

Stats:

  • OG: 1.050
  • FG: 1.011
  • ABV: 5.1
  • IBU: Who knows?
  • BU/GU: N/A
  • BHE: 80%
  • Fermentor Volume: 6 gal
  • Packaged Volume: 5.5 gal
  • Carbonation: Kegged and force carbed to 2.2 Vols

This time I did 3 half batches and decided to ferment them all with a different brett variety. Escarpment Labs Brett D, Escarpment Labs Brett Q and Escarpment Labs  Brett Brussels were used.

Want to try this beer and will be in Toronto the weekend of March 23rd? Well come on out to the Grand Opening of Peoples Pint Brewing Co. and try our collaboration brett NEIPA! I will be joining them this Sunday to brew a batch. I bet you can guess what my next blog post after this one will be about.

Do you bottle condition? Are hoppy beers lack luster due to oxidation? Look no further! Brett is excellent at scavenging O2 (the destroyer of all things hoppy) and metabolizing it quickly. Brett NEIPAs keep fairly well for over 2 months when bottle conditioned! What does it metabolize O2 into? Acetic acid. However the amount introduced during bottle conditioning is next to nothing. No worries you beer will not turn to vinegar!

Appearance:

D: The haziest. Light orange that the camera struggles to capture. nice small tight 28417517_10155935619925336_1427555506_obubbles in the head. Head sticks around for a min before slowly fading to a film across the top. A little bit of lacing on the glass
Q: The least hazy but still opaque. Brilliant orange when backlit. Medium large CO2 bubbles in the head. Best head retention. eventually fade to patches after a few min.
Brussels: Middle road of the haze. Again orange but needs backlighting to see it. Head retention similar to D. Slightly larger bubbles in the head than D.

Aroma:

D: Apricot, “a bit too squishy” peach and pineapple dominate. Some fresh cut grass and a faint hint of honey in the background.
Q: Creamsicle topped with honey. More stone fruit than tropical fruit. Lightly toasted bread and a tease of farmyard.
Brussels: Guava, Mango and… goat cheese? Yeah fruity and goaty. Kinda like that tangy smell you get from goat cheese. Not like stale hop cheese. Really digging this.

Mouthfeel:

D: Silky and full. Low carb helps accentuate the juiciness. Feels like mango nectar on the tongue. Mild hop astringency.
Q: Silky medium mouthfeel. A tad thinner that D. Again low carb. Slight pleasing bitterness
Brussels: Silky and super full. Fullest of the 3. Almost feels like a fruit smoothie. Almost has a light acidity to it as well. Low carb again (obviously).

Flavour:

D: Huge tropical fruit smoothie. Mango and pineapple jump out. As refreshing as breathing in mountain air but without the pine.
Q: Classic “C” hop characteristics followed by a strong white peachy note. The lightest barn yard on the end of each sip.
Brussels: Pineapple, Mango and grapefruit. A bit of that goaty tang from the aroma. Fresh cut grass on the backend.

Overall Impression:

D: I could crush this all day long. Winter or Summer this beer is delicious.
Q: Prefered D but this still has a lot of potential. May be better with a different hop combo.
Brussels: Strangest of the 3 but it worked really well. Going to ahve to revisit this strain again!

Next Time:

Who knows? I hope to take this recipe and change it. This was more of pale ale strength. I’d like to go back to about 6.5 ABV, make an imperial version, sour brett NEIPA, hell even a black Brett NEIPA. Chocolate covered fruit and funk? Sign me up! Different hop combos as well.

Cheers,
MD

Switching Careers: Building a Brewery

Well well well. A homebrewer who has a dream of opening their own brewery. What an original idea right? Lets face it if you are a homebrewer the idea has crossed your mind. “I make good beer that people seem to like. I am going to make it professionally and sell it!”. Then they tend to look into what actually goes on at a brewery and they learn that their dream of brewing beer as a career is actually 90% cleaning, 9% legal paperwork and 1% making beer. Not to mention running a business is completely different than a hobby. Also worth mentioning is the ever growing saturation of the market. By the time a new brewery opens they have to fight to get a line at a bar. They have to struggle to sell their IPA on a shelf with over 100 IPAs already.

So why am I going into it and what is “it” exactly? “It” is Reverence Barrel Works. If the name doesn’t already give it away Reverence Barrel Works will have barrels. Lots of them. If you have run into me in online communities or in person you know what my favourite beers are the funky and/or sours. Reverence Barrel Works is going to essentially be a mixed fermentation warehouse. Not a single beer will be made without Brett. Reverence Barrel Works will be in house sales with next to no distribution. So that is the “what” now here is the “why”. My day job is OK but I can’t see myself being here until I retire. My dads family is nearly entirely entrepreneurs. Great grandfather? Moved to Canada during WWII to start his own business and succeed. Grandmothers brother? Started his own business and retired a happy man. My father and his brother? Both run a business. My Mother? You guessed it business owner after retiring from a 30 year nursing career. Relatives still over in the Netherlands also for the most part were business owners prior to retiring. Way back in the 1500s an about 15 x Great grandfather owned and operated a small brewery in the Netherlands. Maybe it’s in my blood. Maybe it’s cause the Dutch are stubborn as mules and hate to work for other people. All I know is it has been a dream to be a business owner since I was very very young.

21768488_135365790531865_5581011200780910584_n.jpg

How and why in the saturated beer industry? Small, in house and niche. I’ll be starting out by contracting a single brew as the brick and motor location is established and built. once the location is up and running it will be a ~3 bbl system with barrels upon barrels of funky and/or sour beer. The “big guys” (craft breweries in stores and in every bar around the area) can fight among themselves with distribution and all that stuff. With tapline “bribes”, hop contracts and the loathed LCBO I struggle to see how and why I would want to go big. Smaller means less employees and I can focus on small sales of higher end products than bulk sales of standard pale ales. Sure there will be a few specialty bars that focus on my kind of beer that I will try to be in, but for the most part this will be a brewery to customer transaction. With the availability of online sales with direct to doorstep shipping in my area I can supply sour and funky beer lovers with the beverages they love in the comfort of their own home.

There are a lot of people I want to thank for getting to this point. The fine folks on the homebrewing subreddit, the old homebrew ledgends like John Palmer for teaching me in the beginning, my local homebrew club GTA brews, Escarpment Labs, Blogs like Brulosophy, The Mad Fermentationist and The Sour beer Blog, everyone who has contributed to Milk the Funk, the IRC crew, my family/friends and last but not least my extremely supportive and loving SO. She tolerates quite a bit of my BS and understands what being a small business owner will do to our relationship.

I plan to still be actively involved in the homebrewing culture and to hopefully work with educational folks like Escarpment Labs to bring more knowledge to the beer industry and hobby. I also plan to continue sharing recipes and techniques. I wouldn’t be where I am without other sharing so I will pay it forward. Thanks to everyone for the support! It’s a slow and legal path to opening a brewery but I look forward to following in my family steps of becoming a small business owner.

If you want to follow along and watch the building of my brewery check out and follow Reverence Barrel Works on Facebook and Instagram.

Cheers,
MD

25395301_10155742738025336_1297760800_n

How to be Happy and Bottle at the Same Time

Everywhere you look in homebrewing communities you see people talking about how much they hate bottling and why kegging is superior. Complaints typically are about the time and effort involved in bottling as well as how bottling ruins beers. While the latter may be true for some styles such as the NEIPA it is not true for all. Something like a mixed fermented sour ale is much nicer in a bottle where it can age in a cellar and be enjoyed at the drinkers leiser as the flavours develop. Still the issue of time and effort comes up. I hear some people talk about how packaging in bottle take 3 or more hours for 5 gallons. So how do we shorten that to a more reasonable time? How does one make bottling easier and more efficient? Over the course of a few year I have developed a way to get everything done in under 45 min. Start to finish.

beer-gushers

What you will need:

  • A bottling bucket/vessel (spigot not needed) BV
  • Auto siphon/tubing/bottle wand (tube length TBD)
  • A counter to stand at while working
  • Something to put the bottling bucket on such as a milk crate
  • Something to wedge under the bottling bucket to keep it on an angle
  • Bottle blaster
  • Bottle rinser
  • Bottle tree
  • Enough bottles for your batch that are all the same size
  • Caps
  • Capper (preferably a bench capper)
  • StarSan
  • Small pan
  • Priming sugar
  • Scale(s)
  • This priming sugar calculator
  • OPTIONAL: Dishwasher
  • OPTIONAL: SaniClean
  • OPTIONAL: BAC of 0.00. Sober work is fast work. Have a beer (or 4) after.

Most of this stuff you probably already have on hand. Before you get started on bottling day you need to be a responsible drinker. After consuming a bottle RINSE IT. Do not let it sit there festering and growing mold. Rinse that and keep it clean. If you have a dishwasher it isn’t a bad idea to run it on a rinse cycle with your bottles the day before packaging. Just in case. Ok bottling time.

Step 1: Sanitize you bottling vessel and auto siphon/tubing/bottle wand (transfer gear). I like my transfer gear to be 3/8″ ID for faster transfer. Your vessel should be able to be covered with a lid. Make sure to have already taken an FV reading.

Step 2: Place a people weighing scale on the ground with your bottling vessel on top. Tare it. Proceed to transfer your beer from the FV to the BV. If you are just ball parking the volume range skip the scale and just transfer to your BV.

Step 3: As the transfer is happening fill a small pot with about 250 ml of water and begin to heat it. Also fill your bottle rinser with StarSan or SaniClean (I prefer SaniClean). Sanitise the bottle tree. Set out you milk crate, capper and cup full of sanitizer/caps at your packaging. Put your bottles out by the blasting and rinsing station.

Step 4: Read the weight and convert it to volume. 1 gal is about 8.35 pounds. 5 gal = 41.75 lbs. Cover the BV and use the priming sugar calculator.

Step 5: Add the calculated sugar weight to the 250 ml of boil water. Boil for another 5 min with the lid on to steam/sanitize the inside of the pot.

Step 6: Begin blasting the bottles. This is just another way of making sure you don’t have any built up junk in there. Just a 3-4 second blast and move the bottle around.

Step 7: With the freshly blasted bottle still in hand now rinse it with the StanSan/ SaniClean solution. 2 pumps and dip the neck before putting on the bottle tree. Sanitize.

Step 8: Remove the boiling pot from the heat after 5 min. Add directly to the BV full of beer and put the lid back on. Continue step 6/7 filling the bottle tree.

Step 9: Put the BV up on the milk crate, Prop your 2×4 (or whatever) under it to put it on a slant. With your auto siphon sanitized again stir the beer very slowly about 5 time. Clockwise because of OCD.

Step 10: Place your auto siphon in the BV with the end of it at the lowest point. Put a few bottles on the counter with the bottling wand in one bottle attached to the tubing and auto siphon. The tubing length is important here. Too much and it’ll be slack possibly knocking bottles over. Not enough and the wand wont be in the bottom of the bottle.

Step 11: Start the flow. Here is where things get fast. Once the bottle is full pull the wand out and place it in the next bottle.

Step 12: As the next bottle is filling take your current bottle, put a sanitized cap on top and run it through the capper. Repeat until all of the liquid is in the bottles. I find it is easier to have cases to place my capped finished bottles in so that I am not knocking them over as I run around.

Step 13: Wait for ~2 weeks, chill to desired temp and enjoy.

This process will take a few attempts to get correct and without having spills but once you get into the flow of thing this is almost as easy as kegging.

TL;DR – have the carboy higher than the bottles and fill with gravity. While filling you cap the previous bottle.

Cheers,
MD

Brewing Beer for Festivals

If you are one of the lucky few then you have had the opportunity to make beer for a festival. This fall I was invited to brew for a small batch beer fest hosted by People Pint Brewing Co and for the legendary Cask Days. How does one get to participate in the opportunity? What burning hoops of fire must you jump through to make it legal? What does this do for you?

Depending on where you live there may be no way to legally do this or no festival in which you can do this. To you I am genuinely sorry because this is the best way I have been able to get feedback for my brews. For those of you that live in places that you can do this get stoked and get brewing! In my area a beer must be brewed at a licenced brewery and brewed under licence. Things may be different in your area so check and make sure! No need for the law to come rain on your parade. There are a few essential things you will need to have in order to be able to brew for a festival.

22449909_146512532750524_3800410464358370871_n

First of all you are going to need a homebrew club. More than just that you are going to need to be actively involved in it. There are many ways to do this but volunteering time to make special events like bulk buys, competitions and group activities happen is going to be your best bet. You now have a face that is know in your group and possibly by some pro brewers/people in the industry. Your group is probably the reason that homebrew is at the festival is a thing!

Next you need to obviously be a great brewer and a great person to deal with. Great brewer is fairly self explanatory. Make good beer but make different beer. Show off and share that killer RIS you aged on bourbon slats. Pop bottles of that orange raspberry gose you are so proud of. Be known for constantly placing medals in a specific category in competitions. When your name is brought up in the homebrew group people should associate some sort of beer with you that you are known for. To be a great person to work with you need to have a few different attributes. Be flexible. Do what works for others and do it with a smile. Include other people in what you are doing. Have a sense of leadership and overall “good vibes”. People notice this kind of thing and take note. Be willing to let other people have the better part of a deal because festivals will not always compensate you for brewing for them.

Be a go getter. Don’t harass everyone involved in the homebrewing part of a festival but when you hear about it find out who you know on the organization team. Grab a beer with them or shoot them a message. Express your interest and let them know you are flexible. Sometimes they may come to you and ask, other times you may need to plant the idea in their head. Don’t be pushy or annoying about it. If you haven’t heard any word about it and the festival is coming up in a few months maybe drop another line.

Hope this helps some of you fine brewers get to have this amazing opportunity!

Cheers,
MD

Essentials to Brewing a Great Saison

Saison has to be one of my personal favourite beer styles year round. Where most people would like some sort of IPA on tap at all times I would take a some sort of saison. Aside from being delicious at all times of year saison has to be one of the most versatile styles of beer. Clean and refreshing, ester/phenolic and dry, funky and hoppy, dark and smooth, the list goes on. Saison can also range from session strength to “what did I do last night” imperial strength. With the exception of getting in the car and driving there is a saison for any and all occasions.

Traditionally saisons were brewed on farms in the colder months and the stored until the summer for serving to farm labor. This is where the term “farmhouse ale” comes from. Unless you brew it on a farm you should probably just call it a saison… Lower in ABV than modern versions (3-4 ABV) the saison served as a source of hydration and refreshed the farm workers during the hot months. Those lucky ducks got to drink up to 5 liters a day! Saisons have evolved quite a bit since the craft beer boom.

Why do I love saison so much? Why love it over the king pin “the IPA” and all its sub-styles? It’s accessibility and shelf life. A saison is perfectly fine when bottle conditioned and stored warm for months on end. Fermentation temp is not very important (unless you are going for repeatability). The variety of things a saison can be leaves the brewer 21769859_10155496531565336_2094459934_nwith a blank canvas. The average saison seems to be yellow, slightly hazy, higher carbonation, in the ballpark of 6.5 ABV, noble hops, hoppier than most European styles, a balance of fruity/ citrusy esters and spicy phenols and very well attenuated. Some brewers are taking creativity in their own hands and adding some darker malts, american hops, brett-ing, barrel aging, adding fruit, “imperializing” and more.

For me a good saison needs a solid base recipe. From there you can move forward and be as creative or minimalistic as you desire. As a fairly yeast forward beer many people often overlook the grist of a saison. I beleive the grist is a make it or break it part. For me doing a pale base I like to use 70-90% Belgian Pilsner (usually Cheateau but I am currently playing with Franco Belges). Belgian Pilsner has a prominent honey note that brings a bit of a sweetness to such a well attenuated beer. Other Pilsners like german ones I find more bready. They work but are not my favourite. 10% Munich (10L) is always a good idea as almost any style of beer seems to benefit overall from the additional malty flavours. 0-20% Spelt, wheat, rye or a blend. These are the grains the will help give your beer its signature haze. Classic examples call for haze, but it is not 100% needed to make a great saison. Personally I prefer spelt for my saisons if I am using a non-barley malt. If you have access to Franco Belges Special Aromatic it is also a good malt to sub in for up to 10% of your pilsner malt or Munich. This specific aromatic malt boosts the overall malt aroma giving a saison a bit more depth of flavour. My personal favourite combination is 75% Belgian Pilsner, 10% Munich, 10% spelt and 5% special aromatic. Some folks like to use cane sugar as a fermentable in their saisons. We call those people sinners.

Arguably the most important ingredient is the yeast and how you treat it. The most accessible commercial examples are Wyeast 3711, 3724, 3736 White Labs WLP565, WLP566, WLP568, WLP585 and WLP590. If you have access to Escarpment Labs their Old Wolrd Saison Blend and Wild Thing are both top notch. For me I generally use a wild saccharomyces that is similar to 3711 (my favourite easy to find commercial yeast). How you treat the yeast is going to really decide the flavour of the beer.

The last two things I think about when brewing a saison is the water and my hop selection. For a “classic” saison I go with Brewers Friend balanced profile 1. For an American hoppy saison I either use pale and bitter or a NEIPA water profile depending on my goal. A mash pH of 5.2-5.3 is my preffered target. For hops I keep it simple. A bittering charge and an aroma charge. Saisons are a bit more hop forward than your generic crushing beer. I aim for a BU/GU ratio of 0.45-0.52. I use 70-80% of my IBUs during the bittering charge with German Magnum. Usually I add these as a FWH addition. The rest of my IBUs come from a 5-10 min addition of something like Saaz, Tettnanger, Spalt, Hallertau Mittlefruh, Crystal or other low alpha acid hops with noble flavours/aromas. Sometimes I like to dry hop depending on if I want a bit more noble character and freshness in my final beer. A dry hoping rate of 0.2-0.5 oz/gal of the same aroma hop is what I like to use 5-7 days prior to packaging. For an American hoppy saison I like to add a German Magnum bittering charge and then treat the rest of the hops like a dumbed down NEIPA using 4-6 oz total of whirlpool/dry hops.

So you have thought about the ingredient you wish to use. Now you need to think about how to use them to produce your desired final beer. Typically I aim for an OG of 1.048 and try to get it to attenuate as best as possible. A mash for 60 min at 148F is what I prefer to use for all my saisons to encourage over 90% attenuation. A 60 min rigorous boil is more than enough to drive of the dreaded DMS. Fermentation is where this beer really can change. Recently my homebrew club GTA brews did a barrel fill with an imperial saison. Everyone followed the same recipe except for fermentation temp. We let everyone do their own thing. When tasteing all 12 batches to make sure none were off every saison had its own unique flavour to it. In a flight I would have said they were all different beers. Esters and phenols were the big differences here.

How are you going to control esters and phenols to make the beer that you want? For esters there are a few ways one can promote of discourage the flavours. Underpitching, under oxygenation prior to pitch, fermenting warm and fermenting under pressure all contribute to ester formation. Of course severely under pitching and failing to oxygenate can lead to some serious issues in your beer. I find pitching a 500 ml starter of 1.040 into 5-6 gal of wort at 1.048 promoted ester development much more than my standard 1L starter. As well I don’t oxygenate with an O2 wand. Instead when transferring to FV I allow it to splash around a bit. When I pitch I like to be in the mid 70s for moderate esters and high 70s-mid 80s for high levels of esters. I prefer to bottle condition my saisons as well as I find it really brings the flavour out even more than kegging does. These techniques tend to help boost phenols. Phenols can also be increased by having a first mash rest at 113F to create more ferulic acid. Mashing at 5.7-5.8 pH is supposed to encourage more phenols as well. I have yet to try this though since I prefer a balance between the two. If all this seems confusing/too much work then I suggest you forget about it and ferment ambient from 70-85F.

Saisons are versatile and are rather forgiving. Play around and see what you like most. I highly suggest bottle conditioning to 2.8-3 vols as the high carbonation forces the beautiful aromas into the air and makes the beer that much more refreshing on the palate. Once you have a great base saison recipe then you can go wild. Imperialize it if you want a winter refresher/warmer, add some darker malts to make it more rich, milk the funk by Bretting it or turn it into dessert by adding fruit to secondary. Or hell do a combination. The possibilities are nearly endless with this style.

Cheers MD

 

Coconut Kveik Porter and the Intertap Stout Spout

20106901_10155300774730336_2096033250_oWith all of the easy drinking yellow beers I have been enjoying for the summer season I have begun to miss some of the darker styles. After recently doing an English barley wine with coconut brew day at Toronto Brewing (Now sitting on some B. Claussenii) I had a craving for some sessionable summery coconut beer. After brainstorming I decided to go with a porter as the base beer. Influenced by the BYO article from Nov 2016 I went off to figuring out a recipe. Back in April I brewed up a Baltic porter that I then added some Wyeast Brett Lambicus to secondary. I nearly didn’t Brett it because of how delicious the porter already was. So I scaled down and slightly tweaked the recipe to have a lower OG. Then I hit a roadblock.

Lagering fridge decided it doesn’t want to hold lager temps anymore. 60 F is the lowest it will go. So my yeast choice of Wyeast Bavarian lager was out of the question. Good thing I recently discovered how Hornidal Kveik strains if treated properly can exhibit lager like flavours.

For the coconut addition I decided to used unsweetened shredded coconut. 2 pounds of it. 1 for mash and one for a flameout/whirlpool addition. I read quite a few places that you need to be “cautious of the coconut oils and the head retention”. Not sure if these folks ever used coconut oil before because the oil solidifies and floats on top of most liquids unless at/over 76 F.

Kveik Lager

Water:

  • Calcium: 85
  • Chloride: 60
  • Sulfate: 50
  • SO42-/Cl- ratio: 0.8

Mash pH 5.3

Mash:

  • Mash in at 153 and hold for 60 min. 1.5 qt/lbs
  • Raise via induction to 168 for 10 min
  • Fly sparge with 168

Grist:

  • 76.9% Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter
  • 10.3% Thomas Fawcett Pale Chocolate Malt
  • 5.1% Thomas Fawcett C45
  • 5.1% GWM C120
  • 2.6% Weyermann Dehusked Carafa III
  • Added 1 lbs. of unsweetened shredded coconut to the mash

Hotside

60 min boil

  • FWH with UK Phoenix for 20 IBUs**
  • 15 min Whirlfoc+nutrient
  •  10 min added 4 IBUs of UK EKG
  • Flameout and whirlpool 1 lbs. of unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Add 1 ml/gal of Madagascar bourbon vanilla
  • Chill to 95F

Cold Side

  • Pitch Escarpment Labs Hornidal 1, 2, 3 blend (150 ml starter for 5.5 gal of wort)
  • Let free fall to ambient (68-70 and ferment there)

Stats

  • OG: 1.052
  • FG: 1.015
  • ABV: 4.9
  • IBU: 24
  • BU/GU: 0.46
  • BHE: 79%
  • Fermentor Volume: 5.5 gal
  • Packaged Volume: 5 gal
  • Carbonation: Kegged to 2.2 Vols

**I calculate my IBU of FWH the same way as I do with 60 min boil additions as I find FWH calculators widely vary. YMMV.

I went on vacation for a bit so I let this beer do its own thing for 2 weeks. Every time I use this yeast blend I am shocked by how clean it is no matter how much I try to stress it. It is no surprised that the land that harboured the Vikings also harboured These Kveik yeasts. Stuff is beastly and versatile.

Intertap Stout Spout

19814200_10155300776400336_476671790_oI had been eyeing this item since before I build my Keggerator. Our good freinds over at Brülosophy did a good job of convincing me that this may be a great substitution for a full nitro set up. I decided to pick it up for this specific brew to see how well it performs. For only $15 it was hard to pass up. After a few “test pints” I settled on a serving pressure of 9 PSI for my set up.

I am honestly blown away. A $15 investment and I have a 95% match to a full nitro setup. A few areas that is is lacking is that it still has some carbonation (albeit very minimal) and it has slightly larger bubbles in the head. The creamy mouthfeel is right there though. For fun I tried the beer with the standard nozzle and then the Stout Spout side by side on the same PSI. Massive difference. Almost couldn’t tell they were the same beer.

20048628_10155300772650336_1077873367_o.jpgFor anyone who fell in love with the rich creaminess of Guinness and other nitro ales this is a must. I couldn’t justify ever spending the full amount for a nitro setup when I have such an easy and economical solution like this. 10/10 tell your friends about it. For those curious I have my regular set to low carb serving pressure (9 PSI) and just leave it at that. No fuss. Pints take about 1:15 min to settle. A little top up is then needed to fill the glass. Cannot wait to try an ESB in the fall.

Kveik Porter Review

20050365_10155300773850336_743057369_o.jpg

Appearance:
Pours “like” a nitro served beer. Cascades a bit quicker and has slightly larger bubbles. Solid tan head that stuck around for the entire 20+ min it took me to write this review. Very dark but when held up to a white LED it is clear with ruby and garnet highlights. Laces the glass heavily.

Aroma:
Chocolate and mild notes of blonde coffee. Pleasing background hints of coconut. Aroma reminds me of the chocolate macaroons my mom use to make. Some mild dark fruit from the grain that reminds me of plums. Faint strange tropical estery flavors that I cannot quite put my finger on.

Mouthfeel:
Creamy. The Stout Spout certainly did not disappoint. Medium body and still has a faint tingle of CO2 carbonation on the tongue. Somewhat makes me think of a hybrid between fresh cask ale and nitro pours. Silky and mouth coating. Slightly sweet but not cloying.

Flavour:
Similar to the Aroma. 65% chocolate with blonde coffee and some raw coconut. Mild fruity esters and a slight hint of vanilla. Caramel, wafers, toast and biscuits are in the background. Restrained roasted character and slightly sweet.

Overall Impression:
I could have fooled myself into thinking it was a new Guinness product. The mouthfeel was very close. very approachable and nostalgic feeling that makes me think of first discovering that dark beer wasn’t nasty ash liquid. Could use some tweaking but overall I am very happy.

Next Time:
I think I will take the mash coconut addition and combine it with the flameout addition to increase the coconut flavour. Next time I think I will up the IBU 3-4 more to combat the slight sweetness. I also may choose to ferment it with WLP007 for more attenuation and more fruit esters. I was not aiming to be able to taste any vanilla so I will scale it back probably 15% just so it help boost the coconut flavour.

Cheers,
MD

 

Kveik is the New Lager or at Least the Strains I have are

A few weeks ago I decided to brew up a beer using a blend of 3 Hornidal strains generously supplied by the fine fellows at Escarpment Laboratories. I had previously brewed with this yeast in January. The grist was similar as well as the hops, but the last one was pitched at 750000 cells/mp/P and fermented at 70F. This time I decided to under pitch (about 10 ml of slurry) and pitched at 95F. I attempted to hold it as warm as possible by cozying up with it on the couch while watching some Netflix and wrapped in a blanket. I even had a charcuterie board and some Belgian lambic during my date night with Ms. Kveik. I know romantic right?

I managed to get a very comparable beer to the original one in terms of flavour, aroma and mouth feel. The only change on this one was the appearance. The last one dropped bright after 3 weeks in primary with no coldcrash. This one has a moderate haze. I attribute that to the 20% spelt in the grist.

So far tasters who have tried this beer have given me similar feedback. Usually along the lines of, “Dude this is really good. It’s like a lager with more flavour and body. Really easy going and sessionable!”, and then followed up by, “Can I have another?”. The tasters so far have been nothing more that craft beer lovers, but I agree with all of them. It tastes like a fresh lager.

Kveik Lager

Water:

Still I am tweaking my water profile until I get it just right for this style of deliciousness.

  • Calcium: 80
  • Chloride: 75
  • Sulfate: 80
  • SO42-/Cl- ratio: 1.1

Mash pH 5.2

Mash:

  • Mash in at 148 and hold for 60 min. 1.64 qt/lbs
  • Raise via induction to 168 for 10 min
  • Fly sparge with 168

Grist:

  • 70% Chateau Pilsen
  • 20% Weyermann Spelt
  • 10% Barn Owl Munich

Hotside

60 min boil

  • FWH 0.4 oz German Magnum 13.9% AA (20 IBU)**
  • 11 min 1 oz Czech Saaz 2.6% AA (4 IBU)
  • 15 min Whirlfoc+nutrient
  • Flamout and chill to 95F

Cold Side

  • Pitch Escarpment Labs Hornidal 1, 2, 3 blend (10 ml slurry)
  • Have a home date with Netflix, good food and beer and while wrapped in a blanket
  • Maintain as hot as possible temps

Stats

  • OG: 1.054
  • FG: 1.016
  • ABV: 5
  • IBU: 24
  • BU/GU: 45
  • BHE: 81%
  • Fermentor Volume: 5.5 gal
  • Packaged Volume: 5 gal
  • Carbonation: Kegged to 2.8 Vols

**I calculate my IBU of FWH the same way as I do with 60 min boil additions as I find FWH calculators widely vary. YMMV.

I kegged this beer 13 days after pitch. FG was reached within 1 point after 3 days. In hindsight I probably could have kegged way earlier. You could potentially be drinking “lager” in 7-10 days instead of the 2 months most people wait for a lager or even the 2 weeks when using the quick lager method Brülosophy writes about. So here is my take on the beer.

Kveik Lager Review

18191324_10155053254100336_739419075_n

Appearance:
Straw to golden in colour. Moderately hazy which is expected with 20% spelt in the grist. can still easily distinguish individual fingers through the glass. Pours a thick creamy white head. Fades after about 10 min to some strange looking “patches” of head. Never had another beer have that. Tiny bubbles rise through the glass if you look for them.

Aroma:
Sweet grain. Very mild toast. A faint spice either from the hops or spelt. Hard to tell the source. Smells like grandmas house when she use to make her family bread recipe. Please light easters of sweet bread and generic fruitiness. A very low amount of something tropical in the background.

Mouthfeel:
Moderate carbonation. Creamy body and not overly attenuated. Invites another mouthful yet does not demand it. The body is just a bit heavier than anticipated.

Flavour:
Grainy sweetness with notes of honey from the pilsen malt. Constrained and pleasingly low level of bitterness. Some hoppy herbal notes backup the malt. Some small amount of spice. Again not sure if hops, spelt or both. Fairly clean yeast with some bready characteristics. No phenols. Generic fruity esters with a faint tropical something.

Overall Impression:
Could session a few glasses of this or be content with just one. Very easy going yet tasty. If someone told me it were a kellerbier and handed a glass to me I would certainly have believed them. Lacks the “Kveikiness” I was aiming for, but it’s damn delicious.

Next Time:
Skip the spelt malt and use another 10% pils and 10% munich. Use german pilsner malt to try and cut down a bit on the sweetness and give it a more bready flavour. Bump the 60 min addition up another 5 IBUs. Increase the amount of sulphate to try and emphasize some dryness.

Cheers,
MD

Finally Built the Keggerator

This has been a long time coming. Finally I have draft beer in my condo. This build has been planned for about 3 or 4 months now. The goal was simple, 1 mini fridge, 3 taps. So maybe not as simple as I made is sounds. After a month of snooping online and carefully measuring everything a friend said “Why not do a build similar to this?”. So I ditched all my other ideas and used that post as a guide.

First was finding that mini fridge. A Danby 4.4 cubic foot mini fridge. This one to be a little more specific. There are a few different colour schemes so pick whatever you like. For me black is sexy so I went with that.

Next you obviously need kegs and all the other bits and pieces. You will need ball lock kegs to make this fit. Two 5 gal kegs and 1 that is 3 gal or less. For me 3 gal and 2.5 gal were the same price so 3 gal it is! Make sure to do a good PBW soak and such even if the kegs are new. Star san them and then purge out and leave ready for closed transfers.

So you have all your parts. Now it is time to get it all together so that you never leave home again because you beer on tap. You’re going to need some tools and a bit of know how. You will need:

  • Drill
  • Drill bits (most important is the step bit)
  • Utility knife (FRESH BLADE)
  • Silicone
  • Silicone gun
  • Rivets
  • Rivet gun
  • Nylon clamps appropriate to tubing O.D.
  • Zipties
  • Round/flat file
  • Large Adjustable Wrench
  • 2 appropriately sized electrical grommets
  • Spray foam

18009607_10155017881565336_248241449_n-e1492457177918.jpgWhen you take the fridge out of the box there should be some grey plastic protecting the medal door Keep it for later. Start out by removing all the shelves and other loose things on the door and inside the main body. Then remove the 3 screws on the back for the top and then the 3 screws holding the door hinge. Keep those in a pint glass somewhere safe. Remove the door. Now see all that annoying stuff jutting out of the door? We need to get rid of that to make room for kegs. Remove the door seal. Get your utility knife and fresh blade out and start to carve along all the 90 degree areas. Once through get your blade as close to parallel with the door and start to shave those pesky bits off. Eventually it’ll just fall right off and look something like this.

Now at this point all the kegs can fit in there but we will need our gas lines in and out taps. Next step is going to be the most tricky one so go slow. We need to add our 3 taps in. For drilling into the face of the door I used a stepped drill bit that went all the way up to 7/8″. Just large enough for the tap tail pieces. So I carefully measured my centers of where I wanted them (high up on the door) and drilled a 1/8″ pilot hole. After that I got out the step bit and in about 1 min I had all 3 holes drilled out. This is what a step bit looks like.17965707_10155017881750336_582663923_nAnd here is what the door looks like.

17974841_10155017881620336_2007246732_n

Now the back looks pretty ugly so my OCD said I should clean it up a bit. Remember that grey plastic from earlier? Well it fits almost perfectly on one dimension and when you trim off the excess it fits perfectly. Get out some silicone (outdoor silicone is best) and lather that thing up. Now you have a less ugly inside. Once the silicone has set drill out the back piece with a 7/8″ bit and carefully file the metal to remove any spurs.

17965460_10155017881715336_766999743_n

While the silicone is setting it’s time to work on the other part of the fridge. This build doesn’t allow for the CO2 tank to be in the fridge so you’ll want some holes in there. Because of my short line length I couldn’t make them go through the easy place in the bottom. So I had to go through the side. With your knife carefully carve off a credit card sized piece of the inside plastic. Then with a spoon or something dull scoop out the plastic to expose the outside metal. If you are like me you will have found some wire/tube covered in aluminium tape. I have no idea what this is but it is probably best not to damage it.

17974870_10155017881780336_1609909757_n1

I put mine in right above the step in the back. Now its time to drill and make sure you miss that tube/wire. Depending on the grommet size you will have to drill an appropriately sized hole. I used 3/4″ grommets and they were a touch small and needed to be filed down in the bottom to accommodate the crimp clamp on my gas lines.

18009423_10155017881825336_1392159852_n18009609_10155017881850336_1994433662_n

Once this is done stick something in there and fill the rest with spray foam. Let set. While that is setting rivet in the manifold/tubing and also add a 90° street elbow to the manifold. If you’re using aluminium rivets and a cheap rivet gun you may need pliers to snip off the bits that the gun leaves behind. Remember the file these down. As well If you have a manifold like me you may need to “modify” your rivet gun by filing it down to make it smaller. Before riveting add some silicone to really keep it in place. Once this is done go have a beer and come back to finish the job the next day. 18009750_10155017882270336_1977035638_n
Once everything has set it’s time to do the final steps. Run the lines where you want them and rivet them in with nylon clamps. Put the taps in and zip tie/rivet the tubes into place and re assemble everything/tighten all the fittings. Now all you need to do is put beer in there to chill and carbonate. Some ball lock kegs have a lip around the bottom that juts out a 1/4″. I found this made things a bit too tight to fit so I took a hot knife and cut it down. The small keg in the back is prone to tip forward so I put in a chunk of wood to hold it up. Solid American white oak because no other wood will do.
18009130_10155017882365336_526314763_n
And the big reveal!
18035034_10155017882435336_1627996285_n
18009731_10155017882490336_170078488_n