Thursday, July 26, 2012

Vermischt Pale

Sunday Morning Kolsch?
"Vermischt Pale"

This Sunday I am planning on brewing up my first Kolsch.  I haven't spent much time brewing super light, lager in color, beers during my time as a brewer.  I have nothing against them but for some reason I have not been that into it.  Last year I got on this kick of brewing cream ales and really enjoyed that.  I would generally brew them on the hottest day possible and try to couple it with having people overs, games of Washer Toss, and lots and lots of homebrew.  They were low energy brews with a small grain bill and few hop additions.  Plus, I had someone who was able to supply me with Spotted Cow for there is a beer worth drinking on hot day.  Granted, we only get 10 or 12 days like that a year up here in Vermont but it is the thought that counts right?  I am the first to admit that a brew day with festivities and drinking can get away from you.  I forgot who said this but someone once said; "Pride before a fall and beer before a f-ed up mash."  That may be a little extreme but I think you get what I am saying.

This brew day is going to be different!  Mainly b/c I am super excited about the yeast.  The recipe is fairly straight forward and simple but the real star of this show is going to be the East Coast Yeasts Kolschbier strain (ECY21).  I recently have had a string of good luck when picking up Al's yeasty delights.  Love2Brew is a shop based out of New Jersey that Al also delivers to.  It was a bit of well kept secret there for a while but the cat is out of the bag already so go forth ye followers of Yeast of Burden and ECY!  Go forth and order your yeast.  I would wait a while though with temperatures climbing higher and higher the chance of accidental activation is great.  Love2Brew has managed to have the yeast on my door step (in an awaiting cooler I keep out for the UPS guy) always in less than 24 hours from it being shipped out of the warehouse.  I like that. A lot.  Is is because I want to ensure maximum viability from my yeast or is it because getting some of Al's yeast is like Christmas?  Well, little from column A and a little from column B.  Mostly column B.

Back to my point:  Sometimes brewing is something you do because you want to make an entire day of it:  Big grain bill, lots of transferring of water and wort, lots of hops, lots of timers going off, lots of missed hop additions, etc.  Sometimes you want something straight forward, to the point, and that leaves you with a better than drinkable end product.  This is what I am going for on Sunday....quality and simplicity.  This will likely be a 100% German Pilsner grain bill and I will likely use only Tradition or Hersbrucker hops.

Since I have had the Kolschbier strain in the fridge for a little bit I will be making a starter tonight to get it going strong by Sunday morning.  According to Al, one should make a starter if the yeast is over a month old, the gravity is over 1.065 (which it will certainly not be), or you are pitching into over 5/6 gallons.  I generally collect about 5.75 or 6 gallons into primary to ensure 5.5 in secondary and in the keg and the yeast is a tad over a month old so it seems like a starter is in order.  I'll make up about a liter starter that weighs in at about 1.035.  Because I am starting the starter so close to brew day, I will not likely cold crash and decant the liquid off the yeast cake.


Well, things ended up going a bit "different" as zero hour approached.  While watching the Olympics on Friday and Saturday night I decided to go for the gold and try something very different than the recipe I had planned.  I had some of my favorite American hops in the fridge and I thought I would do a bit of a free form hop schedule.  I also decided to add a bit of Vienna malt to the grain bill for a bit of color in the cheeks so to speak.  What I ended  up mashing in with was something that was likely going to end up being a bit of German Pale Ale with some very American late hop additions.

Why did I decide to do this?  The very opposite of what I was writing about a mere few paragraphs ago...well because I became inspired!  Isn't that what really motivates us as homebrewers and beer lovers?  It is for me, that is for sure.  While watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics I found myself really appreciating my European roots.  I am primarily French but I have some Welsh and Scottish mixed in for spice.  I then began thinking to myself that I should add something to this Kolsch to make it a bit more "melting potish".  This beer doesn't need to impress a judge or anything and at the end of the day we need to brew things that we want to sit down with in our favorite spot in the yard, house, lake, woods, whatever and enjoy what we are drinking.  I LOVE a tall glass of cold, crisp, and clear Kolsch.  I also love very late hopped Pale Ales...well...why not add two of my favorite hops to the end of the boil so I can appreciate every aspect of what I just mentioned?  I scribbled out some things on my brew day planning sheet and BLAMMO it was going to happen.  That is the joy of making your own rules, you can change them whenever you feel so inclined.  Ok, on to the brew day.

The brew day started off normal, I had put together everything the night before so I could get up, make my wife breakfast, make some coffee, double check my gear, and rock.  Problem one occured...I left my brew kettle lid at my friend Don's house post Harpale Ale.  Went there..picked up.  No worries!  Time to crush the grains!  I love my grain mill, it is a standard Barley Crusher that has never let me down.  It has a couple features that are very helpful...namely that it has a handle that can be used to attach a drill and blast through your grist in no time at all AND a handle to hand crush your grains when you forget your drill at that same friends house from the previous brew day.  Guess what we ended up doing?  Crushing by hand.  Luckily, my wife's brother Andrew was there to help out and learn about all grain so he got to do it.  He is also stronger than me.  Luckily it was only 10 pounds and only took 5 minutes or so.  That mill was a wonderful investment.

I wanted to try my new false bottom for my Blichmann 10 Gallon Pot for this brew so I planned to stick to a more traditional multi step mash for this.  Again, this in complete contrast to what I set out to do...simplify.  Oh well, it worked beautifully so no worries, eh?

Before I get into the notes I want to again say how much fun this recipe was to develop.  I had my sights set on something very by the book and  because I saw something that inspired me, I was able to take that emotion and zeal back to the drawing board, check my supply of this's and that's, and try something new.  Already as I await fermentation to begin I am pleased with this was fun to develop, fun to brew, and fun to write about.  Brewing is a process and we, as homebrewers, are free to really play with it and if your practices are sound and well thought out you are going to end up with something good...with some work you will end up with something memorable.

PS--> Vermischt means "mixed, blended, miscellaneous"...very fitting.

Recipe, Notes, & Details

9 lbs German Pils
1 lb Vienna

Multi Step Mash:
122 F for 20 min
149 F for 30 min
158 F for 30 min
170 F for 10 min

75 minutes

1 oz Tradition @ 60 
1 oz German Hersbrucker @ 30
1.5 oz Centennial @ 2
1.5 oz Columbus @ 0

Yeast & Adjuncts:
East Coast Yeast ECY21.  3/4 liter starter on stir plate. Not decanted.
Pitched at 64 degrees.
Pre Boil Gravity: 1.041
Original Gravity: 1.047
Final Gravity:
Apparent Attenuation: 75-78%
Actual attenuation:

Pre Boil: 1.041
Pitched at: 1.047
Collected: 7 gallons in boil kettle.
Final volume in primary: 5.75 gallons

Aerated for 60 seconds with pure oxygen

7/29/12- Brewed with Andrew. Rocky start with brew day. Had to hand crush grains.  Multi step mash went well.  One needs to stir constantly when heating mash up to next step with this particular false bottom...if not, you could easily overshoot your next step. Pitched yeast at 64 degrees.  Glad that it has been cool and raining lately or else I wouldn't have been able to get it down that cool.  In cold room of house, at 62 currently.

B/C of multi step mash, I had to sparge into my boil kettle and collect in my cooler mash tun and then transfer into my boil kettle.  A bit cumbeersome but added another layer of filtering that will be good for this beer.

7/29/12- Checked carboy around midnight and was fermenting nicely with large krausen.

8/8/2012- Gravity @ 1.012.  Aroma: a bit of sulphur, very subtle. Also a tiny bit of fruitiness from the American hops at the end of the boil.  Really surprising though how the ECY21 Kolschbier yeast really took center stage even given that I added 2 ounces of prominent American hops at flameout and during the chilling process.  The color is where it should be...yellow.  I just need the yeast to flocculate out.  I know I seem like a broken record here but my fridge is out...I am working on it though...temp controller on the way to convert my smaller chest freezer with soon.

8/11/2012- Racked to secondary. Gravity at 1.010.  Let sit outdoors overnight when temps got down into the high 40s.  Yeast flocculated out nicely.  Not really much different than above tasting notes.  Still coming along nicely.  Will do this beer well to hang out in secondary in a cooler area of the house for a couple of week.

9/3/2012- Bottled.  Gravity at 1.010.  This beer did very well with an extended secondary in a cooler area of the house.  Most notably is the color development.  Was glad to see it clear up and get a bit more yellow and more of what I expected from the grist.  The yeast really has continued to take center stage and ever come through over the late addition American hops.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Harpale Ale

Harpale Ale; 10 Gallon Split Batch
And a yard sale to boot!

Let me start off by saying that during every step of this brew day I was completely sad I did not have my camera with me. (I will add some related photos for flavor)  For some reason, this was one of those magical days of brewing when everything seemed to be perfect.  The weather was wicked hot, I was brewing with a friend, and there was a new beer at the bar up the street for Don and I to try post brew day.  Sounds great, eh?  Well, it was.

It wasn't just the brewing that made it so great, it was the atmosphere of the day.  For the past couple months of our pregnancy my wonderful wife Katherine has been on bed rest due to some complications.  She is fine but she cannot move around too much or lift anything heavier than her water bottle.  Think of it like this;  we pitched the yeast, things are fermenting fine, BUT, we need to make sure fermentation is complete and attenuation levels are high enough for the baby to flocculate out. That makes sense to me, the doctors on the other hand don't seem to get it.  Regardless, Katherine was there too.  We have her set up in her little yard recliner so she can be off of her feet and laying back.  Believe me when I say that this has been a life saver for keeping our sanity levels during the last couple months.  So whenever we can get out of the house and go somewhere else for an entire day, it is a marvelous thing for her.  It brings back a sense of normalcy to our lives.

Don and I knew we were going to brew this day and he knew he was going to brew up two kits from Northern Brewer...I believe one was an Inn Keeper and one was the Shining Star Pale Ale.  I haven't had the Inn Keeper yet but the Shining Star Kit is quite good and Don is dialing it in nicely.  This is his 3rd go round with this kit and it goes fast when it is kegged.  Me on the other hand, I didn't know.  Of late I have somehow acquired a lot of this's and that's in my brew room.  The biggest and most useful item is my first share from the Malt of the Month Club from Valley Malt in Hadley, Massachusetts.  Think of it as a Brewers Supported Agriculture (modeled after traditional CSA shares) but for malted barley and other types of specialty malts grown all over New England and then malted in Hadley. It is a wonderful operation ran by two wonderful people.  If you ever have the chance to brew with their grains or support their craft, I highly recommend it.  My first share was a 50 lbs sack of 2 row, 5 lbs of malted spelt (maybe 10 lovibond), and a few pounds of crystal spelt (maybe 40 or 60 lovibond).  More on the spelt in a later post.  The Mad Fermentationist has a good post on one of his experiences with their malt here.

When I purchased this share back in early winter I knew it would force me to approach brewing in a new way.  I would need to, as much as possible, brew with what I had.  Much like the southern racing and rabbit hunting expression, "Run what you brung."  I was really looking forward to stepping away from kits and moving to a more R&D approach to beers that I know I love to drink and beers that I think I might like to drink.  It also served as a way for me to feel like I was a part of something important going on in Massachusetts.  Katherine and I have a piece of land down there on her parents farm and we will be moving there one day to do our homesteading thing and any connections we can have to the land down there is great while we still live here in VT.  We are down in Mass whenever possible working to clear the land in preparation for ground breaking one day soon.  We even took down an old maple sugaring shack but left the stone walls and my hope is to one day have this be my dedicated brew day.  Another dream of mine is to one day cultivate barley for Valley Malt and know that my efforts lead to even more beer than I could ever produce myself on the home brew level. Terroir in beer is something I believe in whole heatedly...the spirit of the place and time can come through in so many ways.  And most of those ways won't show up on a score sheet or in your tasting notes. Through my adventures in homebrewing I am always amazed at the different communities that spin off b/c of brewing.  This one is special to me b/c it is rooted, as I am, in agriculture and working with your hands.  Hats off to you Valley Malt.

I put together this recipe based on what I like in a Pale Ale and b/c I have brewed it before and will be able to taste the way the two yeasts add to the final product along with any differences Valley Malts 2 Row will add to the mix.  I chose to brew up 10 gallons b/c I had a pack of 1272 American Ale II sitting around that I smacked on a whim to force myself to use it and b/c I had been building up a starter of WLP644 Brett Brux Trois for a couple weeks.  I have been very excited to use this strain and have spent  a lot of time talking with The Mad Fermenationist's Michael Tonsmeire about it. He is great and his blog is even better.  Read it.  I backed off on the hops a bit b/c I wanted to let the 644 shine through in one batch and b/c 1272 is much frutier than its subdued brother 1056.  What the 1272 lacked post primary and secondary fermentation I figured I could make up with some good ol fashioned keg hopping...which is slated to be Simcoe and or Amarillo. 

Recipe, Details, & Notes

Brewed on 7/14/12 with Don.

Grain Bill:
18 lbs Valley Malt 2-Row
1 lb Caramel 60
3 lbs Munich 10
1 poundish Belgian Biscuit

60 min at 153

2 oz Columbus @ 60
2 oz Amarillo @ 10
1 oz Amarillo @ 0
2 oz Simcoe @ 0

Yeasts and Adjuncts:
5 gallons got non decanted 1 liter starter of 1272
6 gallons got non decanted 1.5 liter starter of WLP644 and fresh dregs from Russian River and Sierra Nevada collaboration Brux.
7/23/12- added dregs from another bottle of Brux.

Pre boil 1.040 at 13 gallons.
Original Gravity: 1.049

Collected 13 gallons

Aerated both batches with 60 seconds pure oxygen.

7/14/12-  Brew day went well.  Challenges were revolving around height for gravity transfer during sparging and cooling the wort.  Ended up having to sparge into the mash tun and into a sanitized bottling bucket and then slowly transferring the wort to the 15 gallon brew kettle.  Because of this, the sparge took much longer than expected but enabled the wort to be almost at boil by the time the 13 gallons were collected.  This was nice.  The wort was absolutely gorgeous!  I wish I pictures to was darker than expected, maybe from the Valley Malt, given that it was only 1 lb of 60 in there and half poundish of biscuit.

The WLP644 batch began fermenting within 1.5 / 2 hours.  Very vigorous.  Had to transfer both carboys home in the car.  That is always an experience in Vermont.  Our roads leave something to be desired, that is unless you like lots of bumps, pot holes, and cracks.  Just Vermont's way of helping me aerate the wort again...that terroir I was talking about right? 

7/18/12- Pulled a sample from each carboy to see how things were going.
1272 batch was down to 1.012.  Aroma was that of coriander or some sort of similar spice.  Fruity, citrusy.  Not dank at all, much more fresh fruit on the nose and taste.

644 batch down to 1.018.  I expected it to be a tad lower given the intensity of the fermentation.  I had to add a blow off tub by midnight of the brew day.  Aroma had some herbs to it....thyme and or rosemary is what Katherine got on the nose. I was more along the lines of that and juicy fruit esque aromas.

7/23/12- More Brux dregs into the 644.

7/25/12- 644 still going strong, picked up a bit since last week too.  Temperatures in the house are warm and the 1272 has a LOT of yeast in suspension as well as a small krausen still on top.  I would normally try to cold crash the yeast out of suspension (if it was done of course) in the 1272 but my keg fridge recently broke.  BUMMER.  I will be checking gravity again soon and will update.

8/6/2012- Transferred both beers out of their respective primary fermenters today.  I would have liked to have transferred the batch with 1272 our about a week earlier but due to fermentation fridge being down I gave it more time in hopes that more yeast would flocculate out.  While it wasn't completely there it was MUCH better than it would have been had I done it a week previous.

1272 Version- Gravity at 1.011. Appearance; again, surprised at how clear it turned out given that temps were high. Very orange and caramel color.  Deep, more of an IPA color than I was going for with this batch. Was hoping for a lighter orange/marmalade color.  Aroma; changed since last tasting. Last tasting revealed more fresh fruit/citrus.  Still citrusy but now more fruit and spice dominating the nose. Will be a great mix when keg hopped with simcoe.  Taste; very citrusy on the front end with a nice bitter finish. Smooth.

644 Version- Gravity at 1.009 (approx 82% attenuation!). Transferred directly into the keg to reduce oxygenation.

Appearance; same deal as the previous but cloudier.  I love the look of this beer. Somehow, the cloudiness adds to the flavor and aroma of the beer.  Aroma; citrusy, solid American hop backbone. Some Christmas spices.  More peachy and mangos than the original pineapple nose. Hard to distinguish the hops from the yeast contributions. Deep citrus.  Thinking this will be great once keg hopped. Taste; nice and tart in the cheeks. Not much bitterness on the back end of the taste. Love the tartness with it's nice dry finish.  I am glad I kegged when I did as I did not want it to dry out too much.  May bottle a few of these johnnies and store for the future!

Side by side...slight difference in color.

8/14/2012- Dry hopped the 1272 version with 1 oz Simcoe.

8/16/2012- Bottled the 1272 version. Gravity at 1.011.  Had some issues with my 5 year old "Black Beauty" bottle capper.  Decided to keep it as a spare capper once I get myself a more reliable red barron capper.

8/29/2012- Keg hopped the Brett version with 2 ounces of Simcoe and 1 ounce of Amarillo

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Saison de Posey

Saison de' Posey; Dandelion Saison Split Batch

One of the things I absolutely love about brewing the same beer multiple times is that I am able to play with certain aspects of the beer in order to get it just where I want it.  I fell in love with this particular recipe a couple of years ago and brew it whenever the weather is right or a limited edition yeast is available that may spice things up a bit with it.  

The day seemed like the perfect day to brew a saison.  The dandelion heads were up, the sun was beating down on us, I had just finished building my own cornhole set, and our friends wanted to come over and hang out during the brew day.  My close friend Don is another avid brewer and we frequently brew together and keep the other company during brew days. My wife was also repotting our house plants and repotting the tomatoes and onions from our grow light area in the house.  216 onions and 75 tomato plants!  As you can see, it was a busy day.

As this was a split batch I had some yeast decisions to make as to what would happen to the two 3 gallon batches. I decided to go with WLP 550 Belgian Ale Yeast strain for the primary on the entire 6 gallons.  I have used this strain for a couple of different brews and have always been very happy with it.  This particular beer does very well with numerous strains but b/c of the projected temperature and my desire to not have a completely bone dry saison I went with it instead of the Wyeast 3711 strain.  Both are great I just wanted to have a slightly less fruity profile on the beer at the end of primary fermentation and also leave a bit of something for the Brett to chew on in secondary.  3711's apparent attenuation is slightly higher when I can get it to act properly.

The other decision I made was to add dandelions to the boil.  This was in part due to not being able to go to Hill Farmstead and help pick dandelions like I had previously planned on doing for Vera Mae, his dandelion saison.  (Shaun's are added during the mash I believe)  Not being too familiar with adding dandelions I just really wanted to add them more ceremoniously than anything else.  I hoped that they would add a bit to the color and potentially to the aroma/taste as I added them at 0 minutes and during the chill while whirlpooling.  The one thing I did not see coming was how much of a pain it would be to transfer into the carboy since I did not bag the dandelion addition.  I have a 1/2 inch valve but it still clogged up a few times and I ended up with 6-10 errant dandelion heads in the fermenter.  My wife said they added character...what kind of character?  Just plain ol character.  Something that I tend to forget exists.

A note on the corn hole match.  Don and I completely destroyed my wife and his fiancĂ©.  Granted, we may have taken it more seriously and made up rules as we played...but just adds character right?

Recipe, Details, & Notes

 Grain Bill:
9 lbs Belgian Pilsner Malt
.5 lbs Golden Naked Oats
.5 lbs Acidulated Malt
.75 Belgian Aromatic

1.5 qts per gallon for mash
Sacch rest: 146 F for 60 min
No mash out rest.

.5 oz Styrian Goldings as First Wort Hop
.5 oz Columbus at 60 min
1.5 oz Styrian Goldings at 0 min

Yeast and Adjuncts:
Primary fermentation of batch was done with 1.5 liter starter of WLP 550; Belgian Ale Yeast

6 quarts dandelion heads added @ 3qts @ 0 min & 3qts during chill @ approx 180 degrees.

3 gallons were racked into secondary with 1 vial of WLP644 Brett Brux Trois.

8 ounces of fresh cloudberry honey from New Foundland was added into the 3 gallons with brett.

Dregs from Jolly Pumpkin Saison Baudelaire iO added to 3 gallon batch with brett & honey

Brewed on 5/19/12 with Don.

5/18 & 19/12- Gathered lots of dandelions from the yard.  I got big ones, small ones, and medium ones.  Some that were beginning to bud and some that were at their peak.  I did not get any that seemed old or wilty as they were more bitter.  Cut the stems off as close to the heads as possible as the stems and leaves are quite bitter. 

5/22/12- Did an initial tasting and testing to see how things were progressing.  My aim was to not only taste it but to see how much work the yeast had done already as my other vial of WLP644 needed something to go on.  The yeast had done a surprising amount of work.  It was already down to about 1.009 after three vigorous days of fermentation. Decided to add the cloudberry honey along the way at some point once split due to the low gravity already.

Color also was lighter than usual with this beer.  Dandelion contribution due to pollen and the heads?  Poor color utilization?  Could tell that the flavor they imparted was lightly bitter and also a tad grassy.  Not really vegetal but light and grassy.  Fun flavor for sure that played well with spicy yeast characteristics.

5/27/12- Racked 3 gallons into 3 gallon carboy along with vial of WLP644 and racked the remainder into keg.  Gravity was at 1.009.

5/28/12-  Added 8 ounces of the cloudberry honey.  Did not take another gravity reading post addition.

6/10/12- Fermentation has been going on for a couple of days.  Lots of tight bubbles from the brett, no krausen or pellicle formed.

6/24/12- Added dregs from Jolly Pumpkin Saison Baudelaire iO.  That was a hibiscus, rose petal, and rose hip saison that was open fermented and had some wonderful bretty/funky things happening with it....let's hope for the best with this.

7/2/12- Gravity at 1.004.  No more BIG honey on the front end in either the nose or taste.  Spicy and slight honey hint on the nose.  Peppery.  Acidic, slight funk, and very dry.  Clearing up quite amazingly.  Pellicle on surface; very thin.

7/23/12- Still at 1.004.  Pellicle still present, still thin however.  Hints of alcohol in the back end of the taste.  Very sweet floral on the nose;  ripe fruit.  Mango and pineapple in the nose.  Crystal clear.

Talked with the guys over at Surly on a whim via Facebook and they recommended leaving it on the brett for 6-8 months.  I won't likely taste this one again as there isn't a lot and every ounce counts!

Kegged Version was also quite good.  The dandelion-esque flavor I perceived quickly faded and I was left with 3 gallons of a great standby Saison that quickly was kicked.

8/6/2012- Added dregs from Russian River Sanctification

8/25/2012- Gravity at 1.004.  Bottled with priming sugar...1.8 ounces.  Aroma very much reminded me of yellow fruit or juicy fruit.  There was a bit of spice in there as well.  Hints of alcohol as this is a pretty strong beer.  The beers is a beautiful golden yellow.  It is only slightly cloudy.  Taste is tart on the cheeks at first but quickly leaves.  Dry beer. Has a nice warm brett finish. get lots of fruit; mango, peach, and juicy fruit.  Do not really get much of the cloudberry honey anymore.  Very excited to see how this beer turns out when carbonated.

Bretty Claus & The Elf

Bretty Claus & The Elf

For my first blog, I would like to take y'all back in time to a brew day a couple months ago.  This particular brew day has taken me on the fun journey into the world of aging beers and Brettanomyces:

My wife and I are having a baby boy this October.  To say that this will alter our lives in ways we cannot even begin to imagine is certainly an understatement.  Some may think of this as scary, others may think of it as wonderful, and some may go running into the hills.  Me, I like to ponder and plan how to organize my brewing around it.

I remember the night that we found out we were pregnant.  It was a very crisp, cold, and still night in Vermont.  I was drinking a Lambic.  As they news of the pregnancy settled and the tears of joy dried up I came back to my Lambic and began thinking that this was surely a sign to begin making sour beers and experimenting with aging, oak, Brettanomyces, split batches, and the whole works.  My wife, and fellow foodie and beer nerd, was now on hiatus from libations and would need something waiting for her when she emerged on the other end of the pregnancy.  By the time my favorite tulip glass was empty I had determined, quite mater of factly, that I was doing this for her.  Or me.  It is still debatable I suppose.

When brewing beer, generally, I tend to think about what I want to drink and what had been inspiring me at my local watering hole lately.  This time around I forced myself out of that box and began thinking about when I would be drinking this beer and which beer would fit with that particular time.  I had a few things in mind for this beer before it even had a style, I knew that I wanted it A.) To be BIG, B.) To be as inky black as possible, C.) To try a parti-gyle for the first time, D.) To be consumed around Christmas, and E.) To be an experiment with oak chips, homemade Virginia rye whiskey, and Brettanomyces Claussenii.

When the dust settled I decided to brew up a big burly Porter that would turn into two very different beers.  The first runnings, aptly named Bretty Claus, would be what I would put most of my attention and research to and the second runnings, The Elf, would be a great session beer I would keg up and enjoy with friends fairly quickly.

Recipe, Details, & Notes:

Brewed 4/21/2012.  Brewed solo as wife was in Portland at Coffee Conference and brewing partner had to bail last minute for other important non beer related matters.
Rahr 2 Row: 19 lbs
English Choco Malt: 3 lbs
Fawcett Black Malt: 1 lb
Fawcett Dark Crystal 1: 1lb

 Mash and Boil Details:
Bretty Claus:
·         152 F for 60 min Sacch Rest
·         168 F 15 min Mash Out
·         Collected 9ish gallons of 1.072 wort
·         60 min boil
·         Aerated heavily for 45 seconds with oxygen

·         153 F for 45 minutes (while the Bretty Claus boiled)
·         Collected 5.75 gallons of wort.  Collected into kettle and let sit covered for remainder of Bretty Claus boil; only have one burner).
·         60 minute boil
·         No data on pre boil gravity
·         Solid shaking before pitching yeast

Yeast & Adjuncts:
Bretty Claus:
·         Primary: 1.5 liters Wyeast 1056 ( Or another neutral yeast strain such as White Labs 001) starter into each carboy.  Starter was going quite aggressively and didn't want to cold crash it and decant in case the extra volume was needed.
·         4/27/12: Racked to secondary and pitched vial of WLP 644 Brettanomyces Claussenii
·         4/27/12: 2 oz French Medium Toast Oak Cubes that had been soaking in Rye moonshine for a couple months; on whim added the liquid as well. 
·         6/7/12: Dregs from 3 Jolly Pumpkin Madrugada Obscura dregs.
   6/25/12: Dregs from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan White & Artisan Golden

·The Elf:
·         Wyeast 1332

Bretty Claus
·         1 oz Summit @ 60
·         1 oz Fuggles @ 30

The Elf
·         1 oz Simcoe @ 60
·         1 oz Columbus @ 15
·         1.5 oz Simcoe dry hop in keg for 24 hrs

Original Gravity:
1.091 for Bretty Claus
1.036 for the Elf

Final Gravity:
Bretty Claus: Anticipated 1.008
The Elf: 1.009


Bretty Claus
·         4/21/12- super inky black…blocked out the sun at pre boil tasting
o   Very aggressive and rapid fermentation
·         4/24/12- Gravity at 1.022
·         4/27/12- Combined into single carboy; gravity 1.017
o   Added adjuncts and pitched Brett
o   Very alcoholic and roasty.  Dry.  Afterburn of alcohol.  Coffee.  Reminded me of fresh roasted whole coffee beans.
·         6/30/12- Pellicle and secondary fermentation began ramping up
·         7/18/12- Dominant alcohol burn and taste gone!  Very funky, tart, and beginning to pick up some sourness.  Only the faintest hint of coffee/roast.  Gravity: 1.010.  Picked up the JP Obscura aroma for sure.

8/6/2012- Added dregs of Russian River Consecration

   9/1/2012- Had a bit of ECY01 BugFarm slurry leftover from pitching into my Sour Brown (Fletcher).  Dumped it right on in there.

The Elf
·         4/26/12- Racked to secondary; Gravity 1.008
o   Delightful.  Much darker than anticipated.  Almost inky black but when held to light almost tobacco colored.  Beautiful.  Hints of roastyness, but screams coffee.
o   Made tinctures to determine if should dry hop in keg with coffee or Simcoe.  Made decision to dry hop in keg with Simcoe.  Lucky enough to score the Simcoe from Matty O over at Fiddle Head Brewery in Shelburne, Vermont.
·         5/8/12- Kegged with Simcoe for 24 hours. Gravity 1.008
·         5/15/12- Wonderful beer.  Simcoe came through and blended with the now more subdued coffee notes.  Beautiful very lightly and thin tan head.  Almost an egg nog color to it.  Taste is much heavier on the tongue than expected for such a small beer. This beer went very fast.

More to come on the Bretty Claus as it develops.  I do not plan on touching it again until Thanksgiving.  From there I will decide how to proceed; whether that be more aging or bottling in the smaller 375 ml corkable bottles and then aging for a bit longer.  Here’s to having a baby boy this fall and a big oak aged Imperial Porter this winter!  Cheers!