Sunday, April 8, 2012

Chocolate Rye Lager

Back in mid-February I made the journey down to LA to visit an old friend and while there, we headed over to the Bruery to sample some of their offerings.  Alright, the real reason I went down was to pick up my 2011 Bruery Reserve Society beers, but I sound much less like an insanely beer-obsessed nerd if I play the friend card before the beer.  Oh well, a spade’s a spade I suppose.  Anyway, while there, we tried a number of their on-tap beers and one that really surprised me was their Chocosaurus Rye.  This collaboration brew with the guys at Bootlegger’s is a dark rye lager that they then aged for a bit on cacao nibs and vanilla beans.  Honestly, the description sounded more like a mess than a masterpiece to me, but they pulled it off and I was impressed with how well the chocolate melded with the rye (probably due to the slight vanilla in there and the low roast character).  Since I wanted to build up a large volume of lager yeast for my next iteration of Polecat Porter, this seemed like a fun beer for replication.

Developing the recipe for this beer was fairly simple since there’s quite a bit of information in a video that they made on brew-day.  It’s difficult to tell whether they mention “base and Munich malt” or “base of Munich”, but regardless, I’m 10 steps ahead of starting completely blind.  Aside from the grist, the only real deviation that I made from their mentioned recipe is the yeast.  While it sounds like they use a German lager strain, I wanted to re-purpose the yeast for my Polecat Porter and since I’ve used Bohemian for that in the past, I decided that I’d start with it for this beer.

While I’m confident that the base will turn out decently given the amount of information they’ve reported, aging the beer on cacao nibs will be a bit of a gamble.  My last foray with nibs, a chocolate pumpkin porter that I brewed years ago, might possibly be the worst beer I’ve ever brewed and I haven’t been too excited to play with them ever since.  I did make the mistake of aging the beer on raw nibs, and probably for too long as well (a month and a half), which resulted in a harsh bitterness that wasn’t present before the nib addition.  This time, after researching various methodologies and talking to friends about their failures and successes with the nibs, I plan to use roasted nibs from a local chocolatier (Theo), presoak them in a bit of vodka as a vehicle for extracting some of the non-water soluble flavor and aroma compounds, and aging the beer on the nibs for a short period of only 3-7 days.    Hopefully using this method will impart the natural bitter-sweet chocolate flavor that I’m looking for and by sampling daily, I’ll be able to transfer the beer off the nibs before any negative flavors start to develop.

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 6
Total Grain (Lbs): 16.75
Actual OG: 1.067
Final Gravity: 1.015
Anticipated SRM:  36
Anticipated IBUs:   25
Wort Boil Time:  60

Grain Bill
30.2% - 4.75 lbs Breiss Rye Malt
28.6% - 4.50 lbs Weyermann Munich Type 2
27.0% - 4.25 lbs Gambrinus 2-Row
7.9% - 1.25 lbs Flaked Oats
6.3% - 1.0 lb Breiss Midnight Wheat
1.0 lb Rice Hulls

40 grams Styrian Goldings (pellets, 5.2% AA) @ 45 minutes
4 oz. Theo Organic Roasted Cacao Nibs @ secondary for 3-7 days
1 Tahitian Vanilla Bean (Split) @ secondary for 3-7 days

Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager

Water Profile and Additions
Charcoal filtered Seattle Water
Mash Additions: 0.5 g/g Calcium Chloride
HLT Additions: 0.1 ml/g Phosphoric Acid (0.75ml)
Boil Additions: 1 g/g Calcium Chloride and 0.35g/g Epsom Salt

Mash Schedule
90 minute rest at 146°
15 minute mash out rest at 168°
Sparged with 170° water


3/1/12 – Added two packets of Wyeast 2124 to 2.5L of starter wort and placed on stirplate at 54°.  After 36 hours, another 1.5L of wort was added.  36 hours later, started was placed in fridge to crash cool and drop the yeast.

3/11/12 – Brewed solo.

Doughed in at 153° and mash came to rest at 147°.  Made mineral additions and mash pH came in at 5.16 and HLT at 5.26.

90 minute mash and a long sparge.  Collected 5.25 gallons of 1.082 wort with final runnings stopping at 1.046.  Topped up to about 7.3 gallons. 

Boiled for 60 minutes (post break) and since only 1 hop addition, I used a hop sack.  Finished with 6.25 gallons of 1.067 wort.

Chilled down to 48° and let rest for about a half hour.  Decanted yeast starter and added about a quart of wort from the kettle.  Placed both yeast and carboy in fermentation chamber at 47° and let rest for 30 minutes. 

Oxygenated for 90 seconds and then pitched in yeast.  Set fermentation chamber at 49°.

4/1/12 – Sampled and gravity down to 1.0155 so I bumped up temp to 58° for a diactyl rest.

4//4/12 - Crash cooled to 33°

4/712 - Racked over and onto 4oz, by weight, of Theo Cacao nibs (which had been soaking in Bend Distillery's Crater Lake Vodka for 24 hours...just enough to cover the nibs) and 3/4 Tahitian vanilla bean (split and seeded...and also had been soaking in 5ml of Vodka for 2 hours).  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sangiovese Flanders Red

Nearly a year and a half ago, I brewed up a fairly standard Flanders Red.  Having never brewed one before, I started with Jamil’s recipe and modified the grain percentages based on my preference for a few of the malts.  Since it’s fairly common for homebrewed beers to lack the desired, intense level of acidity when they undergo a primary fermentation with a basic saccharomyces strain of yeast, I pitched in the Roeselare mix right from day 1 hoping that without having to compete against a primary strain of yeast, the bacteria can replicate faster and in the end, yield a more highly acidic ale. 

Since the Flanders Red style is really the only one where it’s acceptable to have moderately high levels of acetic acid present, it’s common for homebrewers to try to replicate this by using a wooden oak dowel in the neck of the carboy.  In theory, the contact surface-to-volume ratio is supposed to be similar to that of the Foudres that Rodenbach uses and the permeable oak is said to allow a similar transfusion of oxygen into the beer.  This all seems somewhat gimmicky to me and although I’ve tried a few that employed this technique, I’ve never been impressed enough with the results to go through the trouble of using it myself.  Instead, I plan on cheating a bit.  While the main batch of beer has been fermenting and maturing in a standard carboy with bung and airlock, I kept about a quart in a separate vessel covered only with tinfoil.  With the excessive levels of oxygen present, the acetobacter should be having a field day and basically turning the small amount into malt vinegar.  When the time is right, I’ll be able to blend this back into the main batch until I reach my desired level of acetic acid. 

After 15 months of aging, the beer was developing nicely but still lacked both the lactic punch and complexity that I was hoping for.  I probably could have let it continue on its own, but I decided that I’d experiment with this batch and age it on some fresh Sangiovese grapes from Walla Walla, Washington.  While domestic versions of this grape tend to lean more towards the fruity side than those of Tuscany, the Washington state Sangiovese grapes are known for their spicy, tart cherry flavors with supporting background notes of tobacco, all of which seem like highly complementary flavors to a Flanders Red.  Additionally, although the grapes themselves have high levels of acidity, adding the sugar-laden fruit to a batch of beer with a high level of bacteria and wild yeast should help to amplify the overall acidity of the batch in a relatively short order.

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 6
Total Grain (Lbs): 14
Actual OG: 1.059
Final Gravity: 1.006
Anticipated SRM: 13
Anticipated IBUs: 15
Wort Boil Time (Mins): 90

Grain Bill
43.0% - 6.0 lbs Vienna Malt
21.5% - 3.0 lbs Munich Malt
21.5% - 3.0 lbs Pilsner Malt
4.5% - 10 oz. CaraMunich 40
3.6% - ½ lb Special B
3.6% - ½ lb Wheat Malt
2.2% - 5 oz. Aromatic Malt

33 grams Liberty (pellets, 3.0% AA) @ 90 minutes

Wyeast 3763 Roeselare Blend
Cantillon dregs starter & East Coast Yeast brett blend #9 (Added at 15 months along with grapes)

Water Profile and Additions
Charcoal filtered Seattle Water
Mash Additions: 0.25 g/g Chalk, 0.6 g/g Calcium Chloride, 0.25 g/g Epsom Salt, 0.5 g/g Baking Soda, and 0.2 g/g Salt
HLT Additions: 1.2 g/g Calcium Chloride, 0.25 g/g Epsom Salt, 0.5 g/g Baking Soda, and 0.2 g/g Salt

Mash Schedule
60 minutes @ 155°
15 minute mash out rest @ 168°
Sparged with 170° water


11/6/2010 – Brewed with Blake.

Apparently I didn’t have my water adjustment methodology down back then based on all the additions I made…both to the mash and sparge tanks.

Collected 7 gallons of 1.051 wort and topped off to 7.5 gallons.  Boiled 90 minutes and then chilled down to 65 degrees.  Ended with 6 gallons of 1.059 wort.

Did not oxygenate and pitched in straight Roselare pack.  Fermented at 66 degrees.

12/5/2011 - Racked off yeast cake and into secondary (keg w/ airlock) along with ½ oz of French Med + oak stave.  Placed down in my basement where depending on the season, temp shifts between 58 and 70.

11/5/2011 -  De-stemmed 10lbs of fresh Sangiovese grapes.  Vacuum sealed and placed in Freezer.

1/25/2012 -   Defrosted grapes and mashed into carboy.  Flushed with CO2 and then racked over Flanders Red.  Added about 1 cup and a half of a starter made from the dregs of various Cantillon beers as well as a bit of the East Coast Yeast blend #9.  Left down in basement with current temp of 59°.
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