Belgian Dubbel with Cherries – Tasting

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Well.  It seems I’ve managed to produce a largely clean (i.e. non-Sour) beer in the time it normally takes to produce a full-on aged and soured beer.

But look at it…doesn’t it look pretty?

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This was supposed to be last year’s Christmas beer…but it’s sort of ended up being this year’s potential Christmas beer.

Here’s the original post and recipe: https://yeastismybitch.com/2015/10/01/deck-the-halls-with-festive-bollocks-a-christmas-belgian-dubbel-with-cherries/

As I said in the post, I was hoping it’d only sit for a couple of weeks on the fruit, but it seemed so happy and looked like it was having another ferment so I put it into two demijohns under airlock and forgot about it.

I bottled it a few weeks ago (a year later) and now it’s time to taste…

As I said previously, it’s a nice colour with a good running bead.  I got the carbonation smack-on this time.

The nose is largely neutral, clean smelling but with some trace of fruit.

The body is thin, and we’re not exactly in complexity-central with the taste.  The finish is fairly dry and there’s some fruit – but it’s not sweet fruit, it’s fermented out fruit.

It’s not particularly sour as such, but there is some tartness – and that’s coming directly from the sour cherries, so it’s a malic acid (think crab apple sharpness) sour contribution rather than any microbial action – and that malic acid might also be contributing to the overall dryness.

I can’t discern any Brett character, so what we’ve got here is probably an aged dry fruit beer…a style that I seem to have invented, only for it to fall immediately into obscurity.

I’m in two minds about whether I like it or not.  I can’t quite work out whether the malic acid is too much, or if it’s a bit “something and nothing”.  I’ll keep a few bottles back and see how it goes…another year can’t hurt, can it?

Next time I try this: I’ll ferment the base beer cleanly, then bung in fruit and a culture of lacto and some interesting bacteria to do the job properly.

Keep your eyes peeled for that one…

In the meantime, I’ll let my taste-testers deliver the final verdict…

PS: The un-fruited Belgian that this beer is based on is still going strong – which is code for still having bottles of it left; big corked bottles too.  I tried one the other week and it’s not bad at all, despite my initial misgivings.  So there’s a lesson for us all…age your Belgians for a year or so in the bottle and see how they change.  Same for Saisons: I have one coming up on two years in the bottle – I’m looking forward to trying one of those at Christmas…

Cider Day 2016

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Why am I doing this?  I’m not even really that keen on cider…but I know a lot of people (including my nearest and dearest) who are…

I live next door to a farm that has a reasonably-sized orchard and my neighbours are more than happy for me to take away the windfalls.

So I did – a whole two wheelbarrows-full.

Next I popped to Hops and Vines in Witney to hire a scratter and cider press from the ever-cheerful and ever-helpful Archie and Jenny.

As it was a weekday in the midst of the school holidays we set up a production line: the kids washing the apples in a bucket, Eve halving them and me scratting and putting the occasional turn on the cider press.

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We probably only had a couple of hours in total to do our pressing, so it was wash, hack, scrat and press as quickly as we possibly could; and, looking at the wheelbarrow – full of not entirely squeezed-dry pomace – we had left afterwards, I’m sure we could have forced a fair few more litres out.

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But, we ended up 21 or so litres – and that’s probably about enough for me, Eve and a few “bribeable” colleagues and public officals*

(*I lied about the public officials…there’s laws about bribing those sort of people for Chrissakes…)

In all it took about a half-hour to clean-up, get the stuff back to Archie and Jenny and the juice into the fermenter…

So all of that sounded rather jolly didn’t it?  Hack, scrat, squeeze and then ferment – how easy is that?

Not very, that’s how…

Prepare yourself for heartache that has been the last 10 days:

I moved the fermenter full of juice to the spare room, and after letting it settle for a bit, stuck in 3 level teaspoons of Campden powder, sloshed the lot about and put it under airlock.

The idea being that the Campden powder (Sodium Metabisulpate) should kill off the wild yeasts and bacteria so that I could get a reliable ferment from a packet of cider yeast…or so the plan was.

After two days the sulphur dioxide produced by the Campden powder should have been largely gone, so I pitched a packet of Gervin G13 cider yeast – taking care to rehydrate it with warm (but cooled from boiling) water from the kettle.  Once the yeast was creamy and well-hydrated I just dumped the lot in and left it to it’s own devices.

Unfortunately it’s main device over the next two days was to do precisely eff-all.  Despite me rousing it every six hours, it still did nothing.

Alarmed by it’s lack of acticivity I added some pectolase (I’d like my cider clear, I think) and waited a few hours while the juice dropped clear, and then – after deciding that the sulphiting might have killed the Gervin cider yeast -I added some re-hydrated Lalvin Champagne yeast.

In the next two days – and despite regular rousing – it again did precisely sod-all.

I even added a little yeast nutrient and moved it to the warmth of the airing cupboard to try and gee things up a bit…

…nothing, nowt, zip, nada.

After speaking to Archie and Jenny again they gave me a consolation packet of Mangrove Jack cider yeast – which I made into a starter with some juice from the fermenter, mixed 50/50 with boiled and cooled water.

I waited for the starter to get foamy and then dumped that in. Archie also suggested maybe some oxygen was required, so in went the sanitised stainless airstone and 30 seconds of pure oxygen was bubbled through the fermenter.

Two days later and I wasn’t exactly at high krausen, I was more at a sort of “high scum” with an occasional bubble of CO2 from the yeast sediment at the bottom of the fermenter.

Something was happening…albeit very slowly.

A day later and there was a thick and creamy krausen on the surface with some tantalising, but infrequent, bubbling.

Sunday morning the krausen had dropped and was replaced by some rather more violent activity: a swirling hell-storm of a ferment, with streams of bubbles whirling around in the now-turbid apple juice.

The surface of the juice resembled champagne in a saucer-glass with a vigorous effervescense dancing on the surface.

As each bubble burst it sent forth a fine mist of liquid – which hung like a thick fog under the glass of the carboy.

Now I’m worried that it’s gone slightly too crazy and we’ll be in fusel alcohol city, but there’s no malt in it, it’s just apple juice and the packet of yeast says it’s fine to ferment anywhere between 12 and 28c (I wish I had that temperature band for beers!)…I guess we’ll just have to see what comes out at the end.

At this rate I suspect it’ll be done in a couple of days…and then it’ll need at least two weeks for the acetaldehyde to be cleared up by the yeast and the whole lot will need to drop clear.

The take-aways?  God, I don’t know: Be patient? Oxygenate two days after sulphiting? Don’t make cider again unless you’ve got a strong mental outlook?

This whole think makes me realize how comfortable I’ve got with fermenting beer…I haven’t had one exercise and prey on my mind as much as this bloody cider…

Should I try wine next? Am I really that much of a glutton for punishment?

Cider updates will follow…

Hops and Vines: http://www.hopsandvineshomebrew.co.uk/

Inadvertent LAMBIC Berliner Weisse (Mini Mash)

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After my first taste of Berliner Kindl Weisse, I’ve been lusting after a gorgeously tart Berliner Weisse for a while now and have been promising myself a crack at brewing one.

Well I’ve just managed to get one going:

Here’s the recipe:

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Trouble is, it’s a little more involved than the standard mash, boil and bung in the yeast routine – to start with I did a mini mash on the stove top (I’ve no idea what I’d do with 23 L of Berliner Weisse?) with the mash rests as follows:

15mins 54c
60mins 68c

5mins 76c

When I sparged, I needed to ensure that there’d be enough wort to fill a demijohn almost completely – air is our enemy here…oh did I mention that I’d be souring this bad boy with Lactobacillus?

…and, because I’m as tight as a gnat’s chuff, I’m going to be doing the souring with Probiotic “healthy gut” Lactobacillus Plantarum tablets.

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Yeah, you heard that right: Mmmm-hmm, deal with it girlfriend.

Rather than forking out six or seven quid a pop for a single-use WL/WY lactobacillus culture in a test tube, I’m just going to crack open a couple of these Swanson Pro-biotics “healthy gut” tablets into some cooled and boiled water to re-hydrate and then pitch the whole lot into the wort.

Each tablet supposedly contains 10 beellion viable cells, and I apparently need 20 beellion for a gallon of wort, so two will do nicely.

(BTW the tablets are seven quid for 30 – so I can do lots more of soured beer with the other 28 or so.  OR I can make a starter and make even more!)

Brewing on the cheap AND supporting my bowels, you’ve gotta like that.

The common consensus is that you can expect about 24 – 36 hours for the souring to happen…but it’s standard practice to use a smidge (3ml or so in my case) of lactic acid in the wort after you’ve sparged to get it down to 4.5 pH – which should stop any unpleasant bacteria taking hold in the meantime…

You can use a pH meter or pH strips to check for acidity – both of these seem largely hopeless when I tested.  I think, on reflection, I probably trusted the strips more…

Once it’s soured to an acceptable level (and that’ll be pleasantly acidic, rather than strip the enamel from your teeth acidity) I’ll get the lot into a pan and re-boil for half-an hour, adding the hops to 8 IBUs, etc. and then bunging in a clean ale yeast to ferment it to a finish – as I would for a normal beer.

God this brewing lark is giddily exciting sometimes…

STOP THE PRESS:

So it’s a couple of days later, now.

The Lacto has been taking it’s time souring the wort – despite my best efforts: swirling up the all-too-flocculant sediment and keeping the whole lot over 25c if I can.

Last night, it tasted as if we were finally getting there: the wort was still sweet, but getting a pleasant, if subtle, acidity to it…

Then this morning I noticed a Krausen!  I mean a high krausen with a right old load of brown yeast on the top and bubbles in the airlock and everything.  That wasn’t supposed to happen…I haven’t put any hops in it yet, let alone any yeast!

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I mean, I did briefly boil it for ten minutes prior to pitching the Probiotics and that was only to “sanitize” it…

After freaking out about it when I first found it this morning, I thought about boiling it all quickly and adding the hops and all that; but I’d no idea how much alcohol would boil off and what it would do the taste…so in the end I’ve decided to just leave it to do it’s thing.

It smells and tastes fine* and I suppose it’s accepted practice to brew Berliner Weisse under a no-boil procedure: because of the eventual acidity it shouldn’t need the preservative power of hops, and the style isn’t hop-forward in any sense, I might just get away with it.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

(*I shouldn’t have tasted it at all really: tasting is a big no-no when fermenting with unknown wild cultures – at least in the first few days – heaven knows what could be growing growing in there…a fact I remembered slightly after taking the first sip…)

In any case, I’ve now moved the whole thing to a cooler area of the house to try and keep the yeast from chucking out hot fusel alcohols in the first few days.  What happens next is anyone’s guess.  I suppose there’s two possible outcomes to this whole business:

1) I end up with a gacky, smelly thing that I’ll have to pour down the sink and afterwards, scrub the demijohn ’til my fingers bleed

or

2) I get a tart and interesting Berliner Weiss, in fact a LAMBIC BERLINER WEISSE.  Yeah, take that and smoke it in your Briars, Hipsters!

I may also get an interesting Lacto/Brett/Brewers house culture that I can clutter up the fridge with…  Happy days.

http://www.swansonvitamins.com/swanson-probiotics-l-plantarum-inner-bowel-support-30-veg-drcaps  (They’re available in the UK…)

UPDATE No. 1

Well.  I tasted this beer in primary (10 or so days gone)  and it’s gloriously tart; and, amazingly, it doesn’t have any off-flavours at all.  I’ll just let it finish off and get it into some bottles and let you all know what it ends up like.

And because I’m me -and it’s such a quick way to make beer- I mashed in again the day before yesterday: this time it was a single infusion mash of 68C  for sixty minutes, with a mash-out of 76C.

For the grain bill I used 300g of wheat malt, 300g of Pilsner malt and 300g of Maris Otter.  I did the same routine of re-hydrating the contents of the Swanson’s gut tablets and pitching that in after a ten minute boil, cool-down and pH adjustment to 4.6

Then, guess what?

Less than 48 hours later and it was merrily fermenting – just like the other one.

It’s no fluke, and despite my tongue-in-cheek statements, it’s not a Lambic.  Something’s going on, here’s my current top conspiracy theories:

  1. Somehow there’s yeast on some of my equipment that is contaminating the wort.  Starsan just won’t kill yeast.  A fact that I usually love it for!
  2. The Swanson’s pills have some yeast in them…doubtful, the ingredients don’t mention yeast at all.
  3. I really do have a resident microbial flora (yeast in particular).  I do actually live next door to an orchard and it is Autumn, after all…
  4. The Lactobacillus Plantarum in the Swanson’s pills have found themselves in a situation where they can act in a heterofermentative way: i.e. they can produce lactic acid AND alcohol.  More info here: https://foodsafety.foodscience.cornell.edu/sites/foodsafety.foodscience.cornell.edu/files/shared/documents/CU-DFScience-Notes-Dairy-Cultures-HomoHeteroferm-10-08.pdf

Either way, as long as the beer ends up finished and clean-tasting, I couldn’t really give a toss.

I’ve saved myself a couple of sachets of S04!

These two beers are evolving – so I will fill in more detail as I have it…

Home-Grown Cascade Hoppy Pale Ale

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Well.  Let’s hope it’s hoppy, anyway…

The taste I took when transferring to the fermenter was quite assertively bitter, in fact probably a bit more bitter than I really intended…

Here’s the recipe for starters:

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You’ll notice that I used two 50g bags of home grown cascade…and right about the twenty-minutes-left-to-go point was where things began to unravel a bit…

In hindsight, I probably should have done another centennial addition here instead of using the home-grown cascades (I bought the centennial from Rob at the Malt Miller, and I know that they were 11.2% AA, whereas I had no idea at all what the cascades were…)

Twenty minutes of boiling is plenty of time to extract additional unexpected bitterness, especially when you’re using hops with a completely unknown alpha acid content…and maybe 25g was quite a lot when you’re not sure what they will contribute.

I’ve felt for a while now that some of my beers were good in the aroma department but tended to lack a little in the taste…so that twenty-minute addition was meant to address that.

Mind you, the hops smelt good and resinous from the freezer, so who knows: a ferment, a couple of weeks conditioning and a potential 6.5% ABV may get it to come right…assuming the yeast can wrestle it down to 1010 or so…

All in all it was one of my best brew days; no mess and a quick clean-up meant that I had a solid 1060 OG wort into the carboy, all oxygenated and yeast pitched; everything cleaned and dried, and me drinking a cup of tea by 10.30pm.

I used S04, because I heard somewhere (probably via Mike Tonsmiere on his Mad Fermentationist blog) that some English-style yeasts help to accentuate hop character.

If all else fails and it’s not quite where I want after a week or so, I can dry hop with more centennials or add some grapefruit zest, or maybe even add both…mmm, a grapefruit IPA…