Jun 28 2016

Saison – Nørwegian Farmhøuse with Sigmund’s Voss Kveik

The devil in marketing is that it can convince you that you need something that you have never previously heard of, or ever dreamed that you needed. I’m not drawing a straight parallel between, say, the Zune and Sigmund’s Voss Kveik, but I think the drive to grab the next, hot thing either plays to your early adopter personality, or you are the type who is happy to let other people test the latest, shiny thing.

As a home brewer, there’s not a lot of downside to trying the latest yeast, hop or adjunct. If things go horribly wrong, you are only out 5 gallons and you’ve learned something. Perhaps only that being an early adopter is a roll of the dice.

When The Yeast Bay announced that they had isolated a single strain of saccharomyces cerevisiae from a Norwegian farmhouse blend, I knew I needed this thing in my life. I also did not have a keg to share at Homebrew Con in Baltimore, and this was an interesting experiment to bring to Club Night.

The kveik, that was supplied by Sigmund Gjernes who does the Lars Garshol blog, is a Norwegian word for “yeast” and refers to, at least in this scenario, yeast is reused for generations and generations in Norwegian farmhouse brewing. The yeast is traditionally captured on these interesting and intricate rings that are covered in the yeast and then hung on a wall to wait for the next batch of beer.

Kveik Yeast Ring

Kveik Yeast Ring picture stolen from http://www.garshol.priv.no/blog/291.html 

The beer is made from pilsner malt, saaz hops and water infused with juniper branches, and the kveik is added to ferment. My understanding of the kveik was that is a faster fermenter that throws some spice and orange peel flavors and aromas, while keeping the phenolics and fusel alcohol low despite higher fermentation temperatures.

(For a deeper understanding of this, check out Sigmund’s Voss Kveik post about his brew day, and Milk the Funk Wiki for Kveik.)

I ordered this yeast and planned out a recipe and brew day that mostly mirrored a traditional saison. The reason for this was I wanted to get a good understanding of the yeast before adding traditional flavors like juniper. And I would be using a juniper berry tincture, instead of branches, to make the spice easy to add before kegging. The story behind Norwegian farmhouse beers is very interesting, but this was to be just an initial test of the yeast. 

Yeast Bay Sigmund's Voss Kveik

Yeast Bay Sigmund’s Voss Kveik

I built up a 2000ml yeast starter in the traditional way and added it after I had crashed the wort down to 70F. The starting gravity was 1.061 (15 Plato) and I aerated and pitched the yeast planning for it to free rise naturally. In order to understand if it did suppress phenols and fusel alcohol, I needed it to run hot.

Within 10 days, the gravity dropped from a 1.061 to 1.005 (7.4% ABV). I had a few weeks before the batch needed to be kegged, so I let it remain in primary for a little longer. Between the 10th and 20th days of primary, it dropped another 4 points to a final gravity of 1.001. Great attenuation, but more saison-like in terms of speed for fermentation to terminal.

Nørwegian Farmhøuse

Nørwegian Farmhøuse

The final beer, before the tincture, was low in phenols and perceived alcohol despite reaching the mid 80s in fermentation temperatures. There was some spice in the way of a light pepper, but very restrained if you expected saison levels of spice. I sensed a hint of the orange peel, but it was more lemon-like to my tastes and subdued citrus brightness.

Norwegian Farmhouse

Dark Norwegian Farmhouse picture

I added a tincture of juniper berries at bottling to give it a hint of what I thought a traditional Norwegian farmhouse beer would be, but I kept that light so as to not overpower the spice and lemon of the base beer.

All and all, I was impressed with the subtlety of the beer despite the high fermentation temperature and delicateness of the yeast driven flavors and aromas. I have heard others mention that this yeast would be great for IPAs, and I can’t disagree. The dryness and clarity of the final beer would benefit the style and the citrus flavors would support big, bright American hops.

The Nørwegian Farmhøuse (my apologies for abusing the “ø” for my amusement) was poured during Club Night and promptly kicked before 9pm. It got solid feedback and obviously big interest from the crowd. Even drinkers who said they don’t like juniper found it refreshing and easy to drink. Perhaps too easy.

I hope to reuse the yeast for an American IPA, at Belgian yeast temperatures, in the coming weeks. I’ll report back about how that went.

 

 

The recipe I used is below.

Nørwegian Farmhøuse – Voss – 2016

OG: 1.061 (3/26/16)
        1.005 (4/5/16)
FG: 1.001 (4/16/16)

12 lbs Golden Promise
0.5 White Wheat
0.5 Flaked Wheat
1 lb Cane Sugar

Mash: 149F

0.5 Magnum pellets 13.1% AA (60 min)
1.0 Czech Saaz pellets 2.6% AA (10 min)
1.0 Czech Saaz pellets 2.6% AA (0 min)

Whirlfloc
Wyeast yeast nutrient
ClarityFerm

Yeast Bay Sigmund’s Voss Kveik

Juniper tincture made and dosed at bottling

Kegged and brought to HomebrewCon 2016

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Jun 17 2016

Darwin and the Art of Mixed Fermentations

Survival of Whatever Fit

 
In the fifth edition of On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin introduced the phrase “survival of the fittest” intending it to mean “better designed for an immediate, local environment.”

As a brewer of mixed fermentation beers, you understand the importance of getting your favorite mix of yeasts and bacteria into your creations. You want diversity, but only the diverse group that you had hand selected to do the job. Once that beer is complete, you probably want to use that same culture of amazing funk and/or sour for future beers, as well. All you need to do is harvest those dregs, and off you go with your prized mix for the next project.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work exactly like that.

You can use a single yeast strain for multiple generations and, slight mutations aside, it will just get better with the first few ferments. But for mixed fermentations, you have often have saccharomyces and brettanomyces competing in some fashion for sugars, as well as lactobacillus and pediococcus bacterias doing the same. It is survival of the fittest until the bodies/cells hit the floor. Many of the players in your vessel are making contributions, but there’s only one or two MVPs being selected to represent after the game.

That concept was new to me and it was brought to my attention by Jeff Mello, of Bootleg Biology, weeks ago and he echoed it again in his presentation during this year’s National Homebrew Conference. (Yes, I continue to struggle with calling it Homebrew Con.)

When he streaks out cultures from finished beers, there are usually only a couple of winners from the yeast and bacteria genera. In addition, most “wild” mixed cultures end up being primarily yeast because of how and when they are harvested and a smaller percentage of cultures that ending up having viable bacteria if there is yeast present. (**What’s important to remember here is that this is my recollection of what he said. If what I’ve typed here is wrong, it is my error not his.**)

That isn’t to say that all of those yeasts and bacteria didn’t have a hand in the final beer, but it is a long shot that you will get the same results with those dregs in your next beer.

Does that mean commercial mixes of twenty brett strains in one vial is just a marketing gimmick? In my opinion, yes. But I have used those cultures with great success, so it is hard to dissuade you from using them, and that is certainly not my goal here. Having said that, if you know only one or two strains will shine through, it seems more logical, albeit maybe less economical, to choose those strains yourself rather than hope they emerge from the hunger games of pitching all the bretts.

What does this mean for my beers?
 
The implications of this, at least for me, was a reminder to continually push for diversity in my beers. At onset of a new batch or new barrel, I’ll still be carefully adding the commercial cultures and dregs that will create the complimentary effects I want imparted into the beer. That’s the same.
 
What might be the larger reminder is to keep pushing for diversity in subsequent generations of beers with that original culture and/or with your wonderfully funkified barrel. While brett might have crawled into your wood and your barrel is riddled with pediococcus, you still need to feed the diversity and to keep your beers from devolving into simplicity. Keep putting your favorite dregs into your beers for diversity’s sake, but also to ensure what you have what is best designed for that immediate, local environment.

TL;DR

The diversity of yeast and bacteria that you add to a beer is a continual endeavor. Your mixed fermentation beer is a living thing, and the cultures that made the beer what it is are not necessarily the ones left to harvest and repitch.

Sour Collab Barrels at a Local Brewery

Sour Collab Barrels at a Local Brewery

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Jan 16 2013

Barlow Brewing 2012 Homebrew Year in Review

At the end of each year (2009, 2010, and 2011), I go through the stats of my homebrewing adventures and try to identify some trends and larger takeaways.

I used to set a goal of brewing 60 gallons a year, which only equates to brewing a 5 gallon batch each month. I don’t know what I shoot for anymore. I try to brew once a month, but when I brew more than once a month if gives me an excuse to skip other months. This year I brewed 91.5 gallons so, somehow, it all worked out.

Looking back at 2012, the three trends that defined that brewing year were: the return of sours, 100% brett beers, and barrel fills.

 

The Return of Sours

I never really ran out of sours, but I was surprised to do the math and figure out that I only brewed 5 gallons of sour beer in 2011. Given how long it takes for sours to age into awesomeness, I did not set myself up for a good 2012.

So I immediately went to work on sours and brewed 23 gallons before the year was done. I did a Berliner Weisse and a Flanders Red for a barrel fill, but sour I most enjoyed making was for a friend’s wedding. I got less than 10 months notice to brew it, so I had to do a little voodoo and blending to make that one come together. But I was happy with the uniqueness of that soured porter on cherries and pinot noir oak.

 Old Lambic Hops

Old Lambic Hops

 

100% Brettanomyces Beers

I’d been wanting to make a 100% brettanomyces beer for quite a while and, inspired by Crooked Stave’s beers,  I finally around to it last year. In fact, I made three of them. I brewed an American IPA with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, and then I brewed a saison and a dubbel with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois, which is supposed to be the strain from Drie Fonteinen.

Brett strikes fear into the hearts of many homebrewers, but it is relatively easy to work with if your sanitation habits are strong and have separate tubing and racking equipment from your normal batches. Brett ferments just as quickly and cleanly as saccharomyces cerevisiae and finishes around the same place in terms of final gravity. You just need to pitch your yeast at lager rates and to tweak your recipes to favor more proteins for a fuller mouthfeel in the final beer.

I’ll be posting the recipes and stories about those brett beers in the coming months (as I catch up on my blog). I don’t know how many 100% brett beers I will do this year, but I loved the interplay between brett and hops in the experiments, and I feel like I know much, much more about these mysterious wild strains that I did before. But there is still much more to learn.

You Bretta, You Bretta, You Brett

100% Brett AIPA 

 

Barrel Fills

My homebrew club acquired a bourbon barrel last year and we planned to fill the barrel once, and then we would drain in sometime in 2013.

We ended up filling the barrel almost three times in 2012.

The first fill of the barrel was with an imperial porter and we let that go for a few months. That was getting smoother and picking up nice vanilla notes….until it turned sour. We never figured out if we didn’t prep the barrel well enough, or if one of the club member’s portions gave the barrel an aggressive lactobacillus culture. (My conscience is clear because I bottled some of the surplus beer from my batch, that didn’t go into the barrel, and it earned a silver medal in a BJCP competition for a robust porter.)

We drained that barrel and then decided to go with a sour beer, not that the barrel had given us much choice. We filled it up with a Flanders Red and beefed up the bugs with Roeselare and ECY Flemish blends. We were storing the barrel at one of the local homebrew stores and a few months after racking the beer into the barrel, the store had to do some renovations and we had to drain the barrel in December.

So we filled the barrel again, but not until early January of 2013, with a Batch 001 Beatification clone inspired by The Mad Fermentationist. I look forward to seeing how this beer evolves.

And hopefully we don’t have to drain this beer before 2014.

 Bourbon Barrel - Filling Crew

The CAMRA Homebrew Club Barrel Filling Crew 

 

What’s on Tap for 2013?

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, and I’m not going to do any here.

Having gone so far into the dark/sour/brett side in 2012, I can see myself making some more mainstream beers in 2013. I’d like to do a maibock and perhaps a dark lager. Maybe a kölsch.

But I’ll continue to play with whatever new ingredients I can get my hands on. My second batch of beer for 2013 was an American pale ale that I hopped with the hot, new Mosaic hop. (HBC369 – A descendent of Simoce and Nugget that brings pine, tropical fruit and blueberries to table).

I’ll keep playing with fruit, as well, as I’ve already added cranberries to part of the Flanders red batch that was temporarily aged in the barrel, and I’ve got 10 pounds of Gewürztraminer grapes to put on a batch, likely a Belgian pale ale, too.

Maybe this is the year I’ll act upon my crazy idea to make a Hendricks beer. And a Kvass.

I’d like to not get shut out in the National Homebrew Competition like I did last year, as well. (Just kidding.) (Actually no. No, I’m not.)

 

If you are into stats:

Weights and Measures
Gallons of Beer: 91.5
Gallons of Cider: 12
Pounds of Grain: 230
Pounds of Hops: 2.7

Averages
Average Batch Size: 6.1
Average ABV: 5.74%
Average OG: 1.057
Average FG: 1.013
Average Pounds of Grain per Batch: 12.37
Average Ounces of Hops per Batch: 2.69

By Category
Ales: 11
Lagers: 3

Brett Only: 3
Ciders: 2
Sours: 4

Medals and Ribbons
BJCP Competitions Entered: 3 (NHC, Dominion Cup, CASK Beer Blitz)
Medals Earned: 8 (4 Gold, 1 Silver, 3 Bronze)
National Homebrew Competition Ribbons: 0
National Homebrew Competition Medals: 0

Superlatives
Favorite Brew – 100% Brett IPA – You Bretta, You Bretta, You Brett
Favorite Brew (Runner Up) – Berliner Weisse – Waterloo
Worst Brew – Southern English Brown
Favorite Name – You Bretta, You Bretta, You Brett
Favorite Name (Runner Up) – Panty Lock Brakes
Biggest Trend – 100% Brett Beers

 

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Jan 3 2013

(Not Quite) White IPA – Iron Brewer Championship Round – Wahoogaarden

I was lucky enough to win the Iron Brewer Championship last year (2011) with my black rye IPA, and that gave me a free pass to the championship round this year (2012). That is quite a boon, because some great and creative brewers enter the competition and it is difficult to win a qualifying round, let alone win the championship round.

The final round ingredients were announced as: Honey Malt, Lime Peel and Cascade Hops.

That’s an interesting but mixed bag and, with Iron Brewer, there’s is always an ingredient that throws a monkey wrench into recipe formulation. The lime peel and cascade hops were easy to wrap my head around as they impart a similar kind of citrus character.

It was the honey malt that was the problem. I had used that grain before in a Belgian beer years ago, but I didn’t remember much about it. In doing some research, it’s a lot like crystal malt, but without the caramel and roast. It only imparts color and sweetness.

In the end, I decided to do something silly (again) and figured I’d take a shot at a White IPA. Yes, White IPAs are yet another “new” (also read as: “made up”) IPA style, but there was something interesting about them. I had tried a Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA during one of my trips to Oregon, and I thought it was nice. Cut to the chase, it is basically a hoppy wit beer. The Deschutes version used orange peel and cascade hops, and was frankly close enough for me to take a shot.

Deschutes is kind enough to supply homebrew recipes of their beers, but they don’t exactly hand over the keys to the kingdom. The Chainbreaker clone recipe was helpful enough to get me on the right path of pilsner and wheat malt, centennial and cascade hops, and coriander and orange peel. I followed that basic structure and then threw in some honey malt. I knew that the honey malt would have a big impact to the color of the beer (which couldn’t be helped) and that it had to be used in moderation in order to have the malt come through the final beer, but not make it too sweet. I decided, in the end, to use 0.5 of a pound of honey malt.

 

 

Honey Malt

Honey Malt

 

Honey Malt Close-Up

Honey Malt Close-Up

 

In terms of the lime peel, I decided to be fancy and use key limes. In retrospect, I wasn’t fancy at all because all of the other Iron Brewers used key limes, too.

 

 

Key Lime Peels

I ended the boil with the typical wit beer ingredient of coriander and, my secret wit weapon, chamomile.

Chamomile, Coriander & Key Lime Peel

Chamomile, Coriander and Key Lime Peel

The brew day went as planned, which was surprising since I hadn’t brewed in two months and I’m prone to screw-ups when I’m rusty.

I fermented it for seven days at 68º F and let it roll up to 72º F before the end of the week. I dry-hopped it with cascade in primary on the 7th day, and let it go for another week. I bottled it without secondary since I was pressed for time and clarity isn’t a necessity for the style.

 (Not So) White IPA - In the Glass

A (Not So) White IPA (This is a bad pic. It isn’t quite that dark)

I liked how this beer turned out, but it’s certainly not a white IPA in most regards. The color is off, the lime is too bright in the flavor and aroma, and it is a bit sweet in a way that hides the spices. But that is how the Iron Brewer competition should go. The three required ingredients need to shine above all other components, and you can’t judge it by style.

All that being said, I was happy with the way that beer this turned out.

As it has aged, the lime aroma and flavor was been the first thing to drop out and the coriander has come to the forefront. I’d like to try to make a proper white IPA one day, and I think this recipe is a good foundation once you strip out the Iron Brewer pieces.

It did well in the Iron Brewer competition, but not well enough. I came in 2nd to a superior beer from Robert (a great and seasoned homebrewer), who delivered a fantastic cream ale with the same ingredients. Congratulations to him and, with that, another fun Iron Brewer year comes to a close.

I look forward to 2013 for…REVENGE.

 

Wahoogaarden (Iron Brewer 2012) – (White IPA) – 6g
Starting Gravity: 1.050 (11/4/12)
Final Gravity:  1.010 (11/18/12) 14 Days
5.3% alcohol (by volume)
Apparent Attenuation: 79.3%
Real Attenuation:65.0%

Mash (60 minutes 154º)
6 lb Pilsner Malt
5 lb Wheat Malt
0.5 lb Honey Malt  

Boil (95 min)
1.0 oz Magnum (14.7% AA) Pellet (60 min)
0.50 oz Cascade (6.2% AA) Pellet (10 min) 
0.50 oz Centennial-Type (9.7% AA) Pellet (10 min)
2.2 grams Wyeast Nutrient (10 min)
1.5 oz Key Lime Peel (5 min)
0.1 oz Ground Coriander (5 min)
0.25 oz Chamomile (~5 tea bags) (5 min)
0.50 oz Cascade (6.2% AA) Pellet (0 min) 
0.50 oz Centennial-Type (9.7% AA) Pellet (0 min)

Primary (68º F)
1 smack pack Wyeast 3944 – Belgian Witbier – Starter made
2 oz Cascade (6.2% AA) Pellet (Dry Hop)  (from Day 7 to Day 14)

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