Friday, March 21, 2014

Farmhouse/Saison (WLP568 Saison Blend + Wyeast Brett L.)

'Tis the season for saisons, or at least it is quickly approaching. However, the traditional season for brewing saisons was the past few months. Gordon Strong explained it best in a BYO issue last June:

"Most beer geeks know that saison is a refreshing beer style associated with Wallonia, the French-speaking agricultural region of southern Belgium, and that the word literally means "season" in French. However, I'd bet that many of those same people don't understand what "season" means in this context. It doesn't mean different beers for each season, as one might suspect. It refers to a kind of beer that was brewed "in season" (i.e., during the cold winter and early spring, December through March, an idle time at most farms) and then kept as a provision (stock) ale for consumption during the active farming season (May through September)."

Signs of Spring
The recent warm weather in the Willamette Valley and the crack of spring has everyone running to the kettles to get those summer beers ready. I think I jumped the gun a bit, with my current tap list consisting of a German Pilsner, Bavarian Hefeweissebier, and a hard cider. I did brew a saison last a few weeks ago but pitched a vial of ECY20 Bug Country into it, there won't be much to report there for some time. Other batches I brewed this winter are all sitting on fruit or brett or something else all funked up, and will hopefully be able to report on some of these before the next quarter of school starts.

I am not a big fan of brewing stronger versions of saisons, as the trend with American brewers seems to be. I feel most beers you are going to have on draft should be more sesssionable. Hence, this version came in at a modest 1.050 original gravity, which might actually attenuate to stronger than I would like. For this brew I went with a pretty standard saison grist, 85% Pils, 5% Wheat Malt, 5% Munich and 5% Flaked Oats (for mouth feel). This was a split 10 gallon batch, with both halves getting WLP568 and one half getting a pitch of WY Brettanomyces lambicus (with plans to condition it on merlot skins). The water is high in sulfates, with  a 2.1 chloride to sulfate ratio. I also have been trying something new this brew and the last (a wit bier), with adding a tablespoon of flour towards the end of the boil for some starch haze. I am one of those really annoying people who has the problem of their home brew becoming too clear! I really enjoy the rustic appearance of a hazy saison

The brew day's grist

Farmhouse/Saison (brewed 3/20/14)

Size: 10.5 gal
Boil: 13.5 gal (90 minutes)
Yeast: WLP568 2 liter starte + 1 quart starter of WY Brett L.
OG: 1.050
IBUs: 30-40 (see note below)

16 lbs. Belgian Pils
1 lb. NW Munich (8-10L)
1 lb. Flaked Oats
1 lb. Wheat Malt

Water (in ppm)
Ca: 94.5          Cl: 67.6
Mg: 2.0           SO4: 143.3
Na: 27.6          Ratio: 2.1

-Treated all water with 0.025 grams/gallon of potassium metabisulfite for chloramines.
-Acidified sparge water with citric acid.
-Added 14 grams gypsum an 8 gram calcium chloride to the mash.

-Mashed at 154F for 60 minutes at 1.6 quarts/lb. Single infusion, single batch sparge with 170F water.
-Mash pH = 5.44.

-Added a pinch of Goldings at FWH to facilitate boiling.
1 oz. Sorachi Ace (14.7%) @ 60 minutes ----> 25.9 IBUs
1.5 oz. Sorachi Ace @ 10 minutes -----> 14.1 IBUs
      *Sorachi was kept in freezer but is pretty older, estimated IBUs in the 30-40 range
1 Tbsp. whole wheat flour @ 10 minutes (for starch haze)
1/2 oz. each Amarillo, Crystal and Willamette @ Flame out

-Chilled with plate chiller to 66.5F, pitched at same temp.
-Aerated 60 seconds each 5 gallons with pure O2.
-OG: 1.050. Initial pH = 5.22.
-Set chamber to 68 F (will start raising temp tomorrow).

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hoppy Brett Saison

Belgian Session IPA, Hoppy Brett Saison, American Farmhouse.....I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to name this concoction. Call it what you will, either way, it is delicious, refreshing, and sessionable, just like a solid Saison should be.

My intention was to have this be a table saison with awesome hop flavor and brett for complexity and fruitiness. Most saisons you see around these days don't drop below the 6.5% ABV mark. It's a shame because there is something awesome about a session beer with great flavor and complexity, which is what a saison was historically. Sometimes you just want to drink down a few glasses and not be on your ass. I think this brew has achieved my goal, although I think the half that I intend to bottle will meld together much better overtime compared to this fresh version.

Anyways, here's the stats:

Hoppy Session Saison - (brewed 12/18/13)
Size: 10.5 gallons
Boil: 13.0 gallons
OG: 1.042
Yeast: Repitch of WLP Sasion Blend, + WLP Brett B & C, WY Brett L

Grist12 lbs. 2-Row (78.7%)
2 lbs. Wheat Malt (13.1%)
1 lbs. Flaked Oats (6.6%)
1/4 lbs. Caramunich I (1.6%)

Water - (Corvallis, OR)
Treated water for chloramines with Potassium metabisulfite. Added 10 g gypsum/6 g CaCl to mash. Strike water pH = 6.825

Ca: 70.4 ppm            Cl: 51.9 ppm            RA: -27.5 ppm (as CaCO3)
Mg: 2.0 ppm             SO4: 106.8 ppm      Cl:SO4 = 2.1
Na: 17.6 ppm            HCO: 17.2 ppm

2 oz. each Sorachi Ace (14.7% AAU), Simcoe (14.5% AAU) & Mosaic (11.5% AAU) @ Hop Stand
IBUs calculated @ 10% utilization = 64.19 IBUs

-Mashed at 154F @ 2qts./lb. Mash pH = 5.28. Stuck sparge PITA. New filter is too good, clogged easily. Chilled to 55F accidentally with plate chiller (ground water was really cold already).
-Stuck wort in fermentation chamber for a couple hours and pitched at 65F.
-Aerated 60 second pure O2. Set chamber to 72F.
-OG: 1.042. Initial pH = 5.25
-12/19/13: raised to 75F
-12/20/13: Raised to 78F
-12/21/13: Left for vacation, turned chamber down to 72F
-1/04/14: Brought inside to 68F
-1/07/14: Dry hopped with 2 oz. of Multihead in primary
-1/15/14: Brought outside to cold crash overnight
-1/16/14: Kegged. Aroma is fantastic, funk mixed with tropics, punched me in the face

Tasting - (1/26/14)
Appearance: Hazy yellow corn, white head, good lacing & retention.

Smell: Complex. Pineapple, lemon, barnyard (mostly hay/grass), black pepper, earth, rustic brett b quality, and bitter citrus rind.

Taste: Lemon & Pineapple dominant, with bitter citrus (grapefruit) rind in the finish. Light pepper, rustic, refreshing.

Mouthfeel: Medium high carbonation, medium light body, slightly prickly, dry, refreshing, lightly silky & tart.

Overall: Never had anything like this. Interesting play between the fruity hops (citrus rind/tropical fruit) and the yeasts. I love the aroma, tons of depth. The dry brett/saison yeast character mixed with the expressive hops creates a unique complexity. This does not carry as well into the taste, although the taste is still great, dry, refreshing, rustic and fruity, a great beer. I will definitely rebrew and tweak this recipe. I'm excited to see where bottle conditioning the other 5 gallons takes this beer.

3/1/14: Ran out of beer, so I kegged the other half rather than bottle it. ph = 3.98. Taste similar to the above, except a bit more barnyard in the nose as the hop aroma has faded (mostly right after you pour it). It has become more tart (as expected) and is now bone dry. Will probably loose the brett b next time.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cell Counting With A Hemocytometer

Thanks to Mad Dog and Lib I have a brand spanking new binocular compound microscope with a mechanical stage! One of the main things I will be using this for is doing accurate cell counts so I know what my pitching rate and viability is for every batch. I also scored two hemocytometers for about $25 and some methylene blue for staining and checking viability for another $12.

Even though my schooling is science lab heavy, I had yet to use a hemocytometer, so I used the tutorial here for a quick rundown on the calculations and protocols. A hemocytometer has two small wells (0.10mm deep each), along with a grid etched into the glass in which you count the cells. You count only a few squares, usually five, then take the average and then extrapolate the count to the size of your total volume (usually a starter for homebrewers, 1-2 liters). It will become more clear with my example.

Hemocytometer diagram
The picture to the right shows a diagram of the entire hemocytometer. For my sample I drew off a few milliliters of a fermenting beer. I swirled up the sample real well before every step to make sure the yeast was evenly distributed in solution (homogeneous). Next, I took 1 ml of the sample and diluted it with 10 ml of DI water. From this, I used a pipette to draw a small amount of the newly diluted sample and put the sample in the counting chamber. To do this, you must first cover the chambers with a cover slip, then place the pipette tip on the edge of the counting chamber. You don't even need to squeeze the sample in, or else the wells will overflow, it should go in easily through capillary action.

Below is an image of the hemocytometer grid. For yeast, you only need to use the large middle square out of the 9 large squares (since yeast a so small). Inside of the large middle square, you count 5 of the 25 smaller squares. I counted the corners and the very middle one, which is the norm.
Grid specifications

One thing to note is that cells on the border of each square are not always counted. The counter chooses two sides of the square to include in the count. For my count, I chose to not include cells that were on the right side and bottom borders of the square, and include those on the top and left borders. Also, those cells which are budding are usually only counted as one. I did read in Yeast, however, that brewers usually count a budding cell as two cells if the daughter cell is at least half the size of the mother.

After I finished counting the squares, I averaged my count per square, which ended up at 10 cells/square.

Next, I found the volume of a single square:

Volume = (W)(H)(D) = (0.25 mm)(0.25 mm)(0.10 mm) = 0.00625 mm3

Next, I found the dilution factor from diluting my sample:

Dilution Factor = (Final Volume)/(Sample Volume) = (10 ml)/(1 ml) = 10 Dilution Factor.

Next the cell density:

Cell Density = [(Average cells per square)(Dilution Factor)]/(Volume of square)
                   = [(10 cells)(10)]/(0.00625 mm3)
                   = 16,000 cells/mm3

The sample I drew was from 5 gallons of fermenting beer, which I thought I definitely under pitched in a rush from a top cropping to get an IPA done for a competition.

5 gallons = 19,000 ml.

There are 1,000 mm3  in 1 ml, so that yields (1.60 x 10^7 cells/ml)(19,000 ml) = 3.04 x 10^11

or 304 billion cells.

Note worthy is that my 1.060 OG IPA = 15 degrees plato needed 15 million cells/ml, and I had 16 million cells/ml, not bad for eye balling.

Below is my sample on the counting grid. This is exactly what you want; a sample evenly distributed across the grid, representative of the population.
Picture of the counting grid taken with my phone, I'm surprised at how well it turned out

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Split Batch IPA

One of the great things about brewing 10 gallon batches is the ability to experiment. For this IPA, I split the wort two ways and did separate boils. One batch was kind of an iteration of the New Zealand IPA, but with Motueka added to the hop stand, along with Nelson Sauvin and Pacifica. The other batch went in the Northwest direction, with Chinook, Centennial, and Citra for the hop profile.

On recent IPA batches I have abandoned the hop stand technique detailed here, and instead chose to throw all the hops in at flame out, and stand for 30 minutes. These results have produced spectacular hop flavor, with extremely smooth bitterness. I then rely on dry hopping for more aroma. One thing I have learned about these large flame out additions is that extra care must be taken to clear these beers before serving, otherwise you will encounter increased astringency. I have done well using highly flocculent English strains, along with cold crashing, and keg conditioning for a week or so before tapping.

I have also been having trouble figuring out my IBUs with these hop stands, relying on sensory to estimate. Some sources suggest that you should be getting about 10-15% utilization as a homebrewer, while some professional breweries estimate they are getting as high as the low 20s. This will take some experimentation to figure out your own utilization on your system.

A bonus of my back log of brew days yet to be posted is that I already have tasting notes to post on this brew. In fact, I think both batches have already been drank.

NW/NZ IPAs - (brewed 9/27/13)

Sizes: 5.5 gal
Boils: 7 gal
Yeast: WLP002 English Ale ~300 Billion Cells each
O.G: 1.065
F.G: 1.014


Exact profile was not saved, but I have jotted down:

Ca = 66 ppm
SO4:CL = 2.1 (hoppy)


23 lbs. Maris Otter
3/4 lbs. Crystal 40
3/4 lbs. Carapils

-Mashed at 153F for 60 minutes. 1 tsp. irish moss @ 15 minutes.


NW IPA: 3 oz. each Chinook, Citra, and Centennial @ Hop stand. Dry hopped 1 oz. each for 7 days.
NZ IPA: 3 oz. each Nelson Sauvin, Motueka and Pacifica @ Hop stand. Dry hopped 1 oz. each for 7 days.

9/27/13: Aerated 60 seconds each with oxygen stone. Pitched at 66F, temp raised to 68F after 2 days.
10/12/13: SG: 1.014
10/15/13: Racked to secondary onto dry hops.
10/22/13: Kegged. Force carbonated at 30 psi for 2 days.

NW IPA Tasting Notes - (tasted 11/10/13)

Appearance: Slight haze, orange/golden, white head, great retention.

Smell: Good balance of citrus/pine/mango. Aroma not punching me in the face though.

Taste: Citrus (lemon), orange, grapefruit and bitter citrus rind (in a good way). Slight tropical notes in the
back (mango) similarly in the nose. Faintly sweet malt. Finished with a medium high bitterness, probably almost 70 IBUs.

Mouth feel: Medium body and carbonation, dry, crisp finish. Refreshing.

Overall: Great fruity IPA. Flavor, mouth feel, and finish are excellent. Definitely dry and hop forward, not much malt balance, but a good backdrop for hop heads. Aroma is lacking.

NZ IPA Tasting Notes - (tasted 11/12/13)

Appearance: Same as NW IPA; golden, slight haze, white head, great retention and lacing.

Smell: A lot of pepper. Papaya/mango in the background. Over-ripe tropical fruit. Hard to pinpoint this aroma.

Taste: Pepper up front, not as dominant as the nose. Citrus in the back melds well into the lingering bitterness. No typical white grape Nelson flavor/aroma, but definitely some blue and gooseberry. Upper 50 to low 60 IBU range.

Mouth feel: Medium body and carbonation, similar dry, crisp finish.

Overall: The hop combos did something weird. Hard to pick out what happened between the hop varieties, the Motueka was definitely the contributor of the spice, with the Nelson/Pacifica contributing the fruit. Will probably drop the Motueka out, does not really meld well, but still a quaffable IPA.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Split Batch Wild Farmhouse

The next for or five posts will be a backlog of brews, as I have been busy with school, work & interning. The first things to get cut when you are this busy are blogging and laundry.

The goal for this beer was to create a pretty standard saison grain bill, then split the secondary fermentation. Primary fermentation yeast was the same for both beers, Wyeast 3711 French Saison, which I feel results in a really nice, rustic, peppery farmhouse profile. Batch 1 fermentor would get a pitch of White Labs Brettanomyces claussenii in secondary and Batch 2 would also get Brett c. along with a smack pack of Wyeast Pediococcus.

Enjoying one of Ivan's outdoor open fermented farmhouse
Brett c. gives off awesome tropical aromas and flavors, with pineapple & mango usually most prominent from my experience with it. Pediococcus is a lactic acid producing bacteria, which also throws a lot of diacetyl (butterscotch off flavor/aroma) as a by-product. Luckily, brett will take that diacetyl and turn it into wonderful flavors and aromas.

I'm interested to see how Batch 2 will result for a sour beer. Up to this point, all my sours have had a plethora of different organisms, whether it be a sour blend from one of the big yeast companies, or from bottle dregs. I really wanted to see the results of a pitch of only pedio and brett.

I'm not yet sure what the long term plan is for both beers. Batch 2 will definitely require a year of aging for the pedio and brett to work on the souring process. I think Batch 1 will most likely be bottle conditioned, and savored for a few years to come.

Recipe - Split Batch Wild Farmhouse (brewed 9/19/13)

Size: 11 gal
Boil: 13 gal
IBUs: 37
OG: 1.050

16 lbs. 2-row (Rahr)
2 lbs. Wheat Malt (Weyerman)
1/2 lb. Caramunich III (Weyerman 55L)
1/4 lb. Acid Malt

3/4 oz. Sorachi Ace (14.7% AAU) @ 60 min, 1 1/4 oz. @ 20 min, and 1 oz. @ Flameout

-Mashed at 154 F for 60 minutes. Double batch sparged with 4 gallons each after collecting 5 gallons first runnings.
-Aerated 60 seconds with oxygen stone.
-Fermented in chamber at 80 F.

9/27/13: Moved inside at 65F ambient.

10/19/13: Racked both to secondary. SG: 1.004, fermented dryer than intended. Will add some malto-dextrin to feed the brett/pedio.

  • Batch 1 got 3 cups of Brett C. starter into secondary.
  • Batch 2 got smack pack of pedio and 3 cups of Brett C. starter.
10/23/19: Pelicles formed on both.
1/17/14: Batch 1 w/ Brett C only: pH = 4.12. SG: 1.002. Typical bright tropical Brett C. aromatics with pineapple dominant, slightly tart. Planning to bottle this sometime this week to open up some space for other batches.