Jan 13 2010

Dry-Hopping the Brett-Saison with Amarillo Hops

Back in August of 2009, I took a fully fermented homebrewed saison batch of mine and split it into two 3-gallon carboys. On one I put a vial of Brett B, and on the other I pitched the dregs of an Avery Brabant. The initial post about the sour saison experiment is here.

I haven’t post anything about the tasting of these two batches simply because I haven’t bottled them yet.  (Despite the fact the Brabant version has won a silver medal in a BJCP competition. Ahhh, the joys of wine thieving….)  I will be bottling that soon, hopefully this week.

But the clear winner was the Brabant version.  It was more tart, sour and refreshing.  (More to come later) But this wasn’t a really fair race.  The Brett B version was purely a brettanomyces addition, and the dregs of the Brabant included brettanomyces, lactobacillus, pediococcus and whatever else was cultured up from the bottle.

So, never leaving well enough alone, I decided to play with the Brett B saison before bottling. I’m not a huge fan of the Americanization of Belgian and French beers, but I have had a few interesting ones of late.  I really liked the aroma hop kick of the Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian IPA, and seemed like it would be fun to try dry-hopping my saison with American hops.

Without look it up, it was clear to me that the dry hop aroma from the FDRB was Amarillo hops. So took 1 oz of some Amarillo hops and dropped them into carboy, which holds about 2 gallons of sour saison at this point. The look of it is disturbing.

Through the neck of the carboy

Amarillo hops and the remaining bits of pellicle.

The mixture of green Amarillo pellet hops and the remaining bits of pellicle is glorious.  But, unfortunately, it was difficult to photograph. If you aren’t familiar with what these sour beers look like, I think it might be unsettling. Honestly, it looks like some sort of tomatillo salsa verde thing.

But I am loving the look of this, and the smell is already amazing.

I’ll leave the hops on the saison for about a week, then I’ll bottle them up.


Nov 25 2009

More Split Batches and Falling off the Blogging Horse

I took an accidental hiatus from the blog for a while.  Yeah, I fell off the blogging horse, so I’m dusting myself off and getting back on track.

I’m still moving forward with split batches, and I’m still trying to squeeze as much learning as I can out of these brews.

Sour Saison

My sour saison split is still getting funky. That was the one that I split a saison into two 3 gallon carboys, and I pitched brettanomyces B on one, and the cultured up dregs of an Avery Brabant on the other. They are still aging and they have both dropped ~0.001 in the gravity department.  The biggest difference between the two, from my infrequent visits to them, is that the Brabant is showing the signs of having some pediococcus and lactobacillus.  Neither are particularly enjoyable to taste, but these things take time to clean up. Before it is all over, I’m sure I’ll be adding the last bits of some sour commercial beers in the brett-only saison to fill out the flavors and complexities of the beer.

I might be bottling these beers in the near future. Although they have only been souring for about 3 months, I was aiming for more of “at bottling time” addition of brett than the long souring and aging variety.

Robust Porter

The robust porter split is done and bottled, and I’ll be comparing the robust porter fermented with Safale US-05 against the same wort fermented with the Safale-04 in a future blog post. I’ve tried them side-by-side once and there were slight, but obvious, differences. I’m not sure what I was expecting to find with this split, and I think I’m still better off not having expectations until after the last taste.

Belgian Dark Strong Ale

The next split was my Belgian Dark Strong Ale which is going three ways. Six gallons of the BDSA went down in a typical fashion with lots of grain, some simple sugars delivered through cane and candi syrups, and that was all fermented down with a gallon starter of the White Labs WLP530 Abbey ale yeast.  This was a relatively small BDSA, and it weighed in only (merely!) at an 1.081 OG. After that fermented down, I bottled about a gallon of that beer and then pitched the Wyeast brettanomyces lambicus on the rest, along with pinot noir & French oak. 

The third part of this brew was a gallon that BDSA wort that was fermented with Safale US-05 yeast (a clean, American strain).  What exactly is the style of a beer that has the malt and sugar bill of a Belgian Dark Strong ale, but is done with a California yeast?  A dry and malty Old Ale? I don’t know.  We shall see.


The latest split brew is a Mild, and I will probably bottle that this week.  This is a low-alcohol session ale that weighed in at 1.038 OG, and it  finished at 1.009 (and rockin’ 3.8% ABV).  I’m really happy with how this one tastes so far. It is as close to a worty, grain flavor as I’ve ever gotten out of one of my homebrews without being cloyingly sweet, as well.  The other part of the split was the same exact beer and yeast (Danstar Nottingham), but I threw in some French oak when I pitched the yeast on the second portion of the mild. I’m only leaving the wooded mild on those oak cubes for two weeks, and I will be bottling that one, too, this week.

Sour Cider

The last atypical brew that I have in motion isn’t a beer at all. It is a cider. Now, I made a cider a month or so ago under the tutelage of a fellow homebrew club member who is the cider master.  That turned out great, but I am making another batch of cider with the questionable idea of fermenting it with the Wyeast 3278 Lambic Blend. I had a plan to go brett-only, but it takes time for the brett to take off and this is fresh juice (off the tree, into the press, and into the carboy) with lots of wild and unpredictable yeast on the skins and in the press.  This mixture of two brettanomyces, a Belgian wheat, and a sherry yeast strain, as well as a lactic acid bacteria, will hopefully beat out the unknown critters.  I picked up the fresh juice last night (which was 50% Staymens, and 50% Pink Ladys) and I added the sodium metabusulfite to hold the natural yeasts at bay for a time.

A friend, in a moment of genius, has called this… thing “Lambicide”.  I don’t know how that name CAN’T stick.

The Battle of the Bocks

A few weeks from now, I have an epic brew day scheduled. My friend Greg and I are planning to do two 12 gallons batches at the same time. One will be a Doppelbock, the other an Eisbock.  At the end of the day, we should both go home with 6 gallons of each beer. No experiments or splits are planning for this. That 24 gallons should be enough.

Details of the above beers and ciders will follow….