Mar 22 2010

Emperor Norton Memorial Tasting Society – March 2010 Meeting

This learned group is dedicated to tasting beers that are difficult to obtain in Central Virginia, or have been cellared into rarity.  The majority of these brews will be commercial, but occasionally homebrewed beers will appear if they make sense within, or prove a nice segue between, selections.

The second meeting of the year 2010 will be loosely themed around Belgian beers. Included in the tasting will be two beers from Westvleteren Brewery, which is located inside the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren. We will also visit a few sour beers and do some house-keeping in cleaning up a few lingering Winter Warmers. A Pliny the Elder will surface, as well, to keep our taste buds sharp and nimble.

As usual, coherent notes are not expected to arise from these scholarly sessions.

The March 22, 2010 docket includes (but is not limited to):

Big Sky Moose Drool (American Brown)
Three Floyds Brian Boru Old Irish Red (Irish Red)
Westvletern 8 (Dubbel)
Westvletern 12 (Quad)
Herbell Brewing Santamas Special (homebrew)
Russian River Pliny the Elder (Imperial IPA)
Jolly Pumpkin Bam Noir (Sour Saison)
Barlow Brewing Stupid Sexy Flanders (Flanders Red) (homebrew)
New England Brewing Imperial Stout Trooper (Russian Imp Stout)
Captain Lawrence Nor’ Easter (Winter Warmer)


Aug 6 2009

Soured Saison Split Batch Experiment

This update is more thinking (or is it typing?) out loud about split batches.  In an effort to get a lot of brewing experimentation and testing done in a short amount of time, I’m splitting batches and that began not long ago with the splitting of my barleywine.  Part of that beer was bottled according to plan and a portion of the barleywine is being aged a little longer on bourbon oak cubes.

Right now, I have a traditional saison in primary and I’m determining how I want to break that one apart.  I’ll post the recipe for it on a later update, but it is your garden-variety saison homebrew from the 10,000 foot view.  Lots of pilsner malt, some wheat, a pound of cane sugar (to dry it out) and a few other specialty grains.  I also threw in 2 pounds Golden Promise just to add a little malt weight to the mix. 

The secret ingredient for my saisons is a touch of acidulated malt.  The acidity of that specialty grain adds a subtle complexity in the finished beer, but sticking your nose in a bag of this malt is like inhaling fresh sourdough.  At first I only used 2 ounces per 5.5 gallon batch, but lately I’ve been using 4 ounces.  I might have gone a little higher with this brew, but part of the experiment is the souring of the saison with brett, and I didn’t want too much noise coming from the sour malt.

I brewed up a 5.5 gallon batch on Sunday (8/2/09), and it has been in primary for four days.  The original gravity was 1.068, I pitched a built-up starter of WLP565 into the carboy once it got down to 75° F, and then I pitched a package of Safale-05 after the first 48 hours of active fermentation.   Saison yeasts are notorious for pooping out too early, and I have been burnt before, so I usually pitch something strong and neutral to bat clean up for the saison yeast if it decides to die on me.

At this time, I’m looking to split the batch three ways:

  • Segment A (Control): 1 gallon will be bottled and carbonated in the usual way for the style
  • Segment B: 3 gallons will be racked in a smaller carboy and I will pitch brettanomyces bruxellensis (medium intensity brett – WLP650) on that and let it sour
  • Segment C: 1 gallon will be racked it a wine jug and I will pitch the dregs of a bottle of Jolly Pumpkin La Roja (American-made Flanders Red) on that

I’ve tried the Bruery’s Saison Rue a few times over the last few months, and I like that beer a lot.  It is unusual because of their use of rye malt in the brew, but they also add brettanomyces at bottling to sour it ever so slightly.  It is a solid and very balanced beer, but I wanted a little more sourness in my version.  For that reason, I want to give segment B a little extra time before bottling for the brett to do its thing.

Segment C is just a spur of the moment decision since a good friend brought down some Jolly Pumpkin beers, and I’ve been loving then so far.  Building up and pitching those dregs should add JP’s brett, pedio, and lacto cultures to the saison, and I’m most excited to see how that segment turns out.


Down the road, I’ll be looking to use the 10 pounds of cherries I acquired a few weeks ago, but I think those are better used on a Belgian dark strong or golden ale.

Stay tuned, and any thoughts or comments are welcomed.