Lambic Brew Day Recap

Brew Haven, my local home brew club, decided that as a club we were going to start a long term lambic project this spring.  Essentially, members of the club would independently brew a batch of lambic that we will age a year.  Sometime next spring, we will get together as a group to sample and blend and see what kind of awesomeness we could create.

The plan was to due a traditional turbid mash and let the batch cool naturally overnight to be inoculated with local wild yeast.  In the morning, it goes into a carboy and stashed away for a year.  I love lambics and other sours, so I was really excited for this project.

Personally, I have never performed a turbid mash so I spent quite a bit of time researching the method and preparing ahead of time.  I found an awesome article on Brew United that I decided to follow in terms of recipe and process to make my life as easy as possible for my first go at this.  Here are all the details:

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
5 gal 180 min 8.8 IBUs 3.1 SRM 1.046 1.010 4.6 %

Fermentables

Name Amount %
Pilsen (BestMälz) 5.5 lbs 61.11
Wheat, Unmalted (GWM) 3.5 lbs 38.89

Hops

Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Nugget (Aged) 1 oz 180 min Boil Leaf 2

Mash

Step Temperature Time
Mash Step 113°F 10 min
Mash Step 136°F 5 min
Remove 1.25 Quart 136°F 0 min
Mash Step 150°F 30 min
Remove 4.5 Quart 150°F 0 min
Mash Step 162°F 20 min
Return wort 167°F 20 min

I started bright and early, bringing 5 gallons of strike water to 144F.  I’m using my old setup for this brew as using a 20 gallon pot and kettle seemed like a bit of overkill.

I took 2.7 quarts of the 144F water and added it to my 9 pounds of grain and mixed essentially what resembled oatmeal at this point.  This step was right at 113 like the recipe called for and I let it sit here for 20 minutes.  While at this rest, I brought the rest of the strike water to a boil.

At the end of 20 minutes, I added 4.5 quarts more water to the mash which raised the temperature to 136.  After 5 minutes, I drained 1.25 quarts from the mash.

I immediately added 6.5 quarts of water and brought the mash up to 150.  I took the runnings I had just drained and put them in a small pot on my camp stove to keep around 180F.

After 30 minutes at 150, I drained another 4.5 quarts and added it to the small pot on the camp stove to sit at 180.

I added another 5.5 quarts of simmering water and brought the mash to 162 for 20 minutes.  At the end of the 20 minutes, I returned the 5.75 quarts of 180 wort back to the mash to raise it to it’s final rest of 167 for another 20 minutes.

After a volrauf, I started draining the wort from the mash tun.  I did a batch sparge using 190F water .  After doing that, I ended up with about 8.25 gallons in my boil kettle.  When that reached a boil, I added an ounce of aged nugget hops I had picked up a while back.  These hops remained in the kettle for the entire 3 hour boil.

Since it was an extremely long boil, I figured I would be productive during that time and mashed in a 10 gallon batch of my house gose just after the 3 hour boil began.  More about that in a later post.

At the end of the boil, I transferred the wort back into my mash tun.  I have read that a lot of brewers will typically just leave the wort in the kettle to cool overnight.  I decided to take advantage of the cooler’s insulation hoping cooling the wort at a slightly slower rate.

The next morning, I transferred the wort into a sanitized fermenter to begin it’s year long journey.  One big observation that I did not take into account was the amount of extra evaporation that occurred during the cooling window.  When I refilled the mash tun, I thought I had 4.75 gallons.  In the morning I only had 4.  I’m guessing there was some extra evaporation when the wort was still at a very warm temperature.  I also won’t discount the fact that I could have misread the mark when I observed that 4.75 gallons.

All was not lost though as I did end up with a gravity of 1.055 when it went into the carboy.  This was .009 higher than calculated by Beersmith when I did the 5 gallon recipe.  That puts me right around a 75% efficiency, which I was very happy with for my first time with this process.

After 72 hours, I already had some visible activity.

Now we wait.  I tucked the carboy into the back corner of my brewing closet and I’ll keep an eye on it.  It’s going to be a long year.  Hopefully it all turns into a great beer.

ExBeeriment: Open vs Closed Fermentation

I have been fascinated by the concept of open fermentation for quite some time now.  I’ve read plenty and watched every video on YouTube I could find.  Going with an open fermenter should produce a different, more complex ester profile.  I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while now, so figured why not make the dive into true exBeerimentation by brewing a split batch, half in a normally sealed bucket and half in a bucket with the lid off while primary fermentation took place.

PURPOSE

To determine if open fermentation produces a different flavor profile compared to that of closed fermentation.

METHOD

For this exBeeriment, I decided a simple Hefeweizen recipe with a very active yeast would be best.

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
10 gal 90 min 12.2 IBUs 3.5 SRM 1.047 1.010 4.9 %

Fermentables

Name Amount %
Pilsen (BestMälz) 9 lbs 50
Wheat - Red Malt (Briess) 9 lbs 50

Hops

Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Hallertau (2014) 1.5 oz 60 min Boil Pellet 4

Miscs

Name Amount Time Use Type
Chalk 13.49 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Baking Soda 4.62 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Epsom Salt (MgSO4) 2.18 g 60 min Mash Water Agent

Yeast

Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
Weihenstephan Weizen (3068) Wyeast Labs 75% 64°F - 75°F

Mash

Step Temperature Time
Acid Rest 113°F 15 min
Saccharification 151°F 60 min
Mash Out 168°F 10 min

My goal was to keep everything the same across the beers except for one bucket being open while one was closed.  I brewed this as a no sparge batch following the mash schedule above and then transferred into my 20 gallon kettle.  I completed a 90 minute boil, adding the sole hop addition at 60 minutes.  To chill, I connected my Jaded CFC going back into the whirlpool port of the kettle so I knew the entire batch was at a uniform temperature.  I then filled the 2 fermenters to the same level and brought them to my fermentation chamber in the basement.  I took gravity readings of both, hitting my predicted OG of 1.047 right on the nose.  I then gave them the same number of vigorous shakes followed by pitched an independent Wyeast 3068 pack into each one.  Both packs had the same manufacture date and were activated at the same time at the beginning of the brew day.  To add some protection, I pumped a layer of CO2 into the headspace of the open fermenter.  In an effort to be uniform, I did the same to the closed fermenter.

Just before 7:00 PM, everything was set and ready to go.  Both fermenters were in my chamber, which I kept the lid open for observation.  I set the chamber to 62 degrees for primary fermentation, using a small container of water as my ambient temperature control so the chamber would not react to either fermenter.

12 Hours after the yeast pitch, the open fermenter showed no visible activity.  On the closed, the airlock was bubbling slightly.

At the 24 hour mark, there was a visible white krausen on the open fermenter and the closed was bubbling away.

At the 36 hour mark, there was a nice foamy krausen on the open and the airlock of the closed appeared to have taken on some wort.  I’ve used this yeast before, but this surprised me as I had 3 gallons of headspace for a 5 gallon batch.  I’ll admit, this left me a bit worried that the open might eventually overflow the bucket.

There wasn’t too much of a change to the look of the krausen for the next 24 hours, at least not with my visual checks every few hours.  It did seem like the krausen was slowly starting to lower back into the beer so I decided I would transfer at the 72 hour mark into identical 5 gallon Big Mouth Bubbler fermenters to complete the fermentation.  The gravity of the open was 1.016 at this point while the closed was 1.015.

Being the tech geek that I am, you may have noticed that there was a GoPro mounted above my fermenter.  This was because I was very curious to watch the nature of what the krausen does during fermentation but sitting there and watching it for 72 hours straight just wasn’t feasible.  So instead, I set the GoPro to take a still every 60 seconds for the entire duration of the open fermentation process.  I compiled that all into a time lapse video which I now present from your enjoyment.

I treated both fermenters the same from this point forward.  Both were sealed with an airlock as without the active layer of krausen, the open beer would be open to infection.  Over the next 3 days, I slowly ramped up the temperature from 62 to 68 to finish fermentation.  Once the chamber hit 68, I let it stay there for another 8 days before kegging.  At the time of kegging, the open batch was down to 1.011 and the closed was at 1.009.  I set them in my keezer for 24 hours before connecting CO2 so it could slow carb over the course of 2 weeks.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

I brought samples of the 2 beers to my local club meeting tonight.  Each member was given 2 samples of the open fermented beer and one sample of the closed fermented beer.  All samples were given in different color opaque cups.  I rotated which color cup had the different beer in it.   A total of 22 people participated in the sampling and 7 were able to correctly distinguish the different beer successfully.   12 individual participants would have been required to pick out the unique beer to achieve statistical significance (p<0.05).  Since only 7 were able to do so (p=0.638) this would suggest that could not reliably distinguish the 2 beers fermented in this manner.

Closed on left, Open on right

Before informing each tester whether that had picked the correct sample, I asked them whether they preferred the unique sample or the duplicate samples.  Of the 7 that were able to identify the unique beer correctly, all 7 said that they preferred the unique beer which was the closed fermented version.  The comments I got on the samples were interesting to me.  Several of the people that correctly identified the unique sample claimed it had a better malt character.  Several others noticed more pronounced characteristics from the 3068 yeast strain.

Quite honestly, I was a little shocked by the results of this.  I sampled these beers several times over the past few weeks and the difference between the two is noticeable to me.  My preference is also for the closed fermented.  I may conduct this exBeeriment again down the road but changing the shape/size of the open fermenter to see if that has anything to do with a taster’s ability to identify the unique sample.

Please make sure to share your thoughts.  I’d love to hear feedback on my process and any experience you may have with similar fermentations.

 

Flanders Barrel Project

So last year, 4 of us got together to do a collaboration.  We decided to brew a Flanders Red Ale and let it sit in a 55 gallon barrel we bought from a local winery.  We each brewed 15 gallons of the original recipe, let it ferment clean and then got together to fill the barrel.  We filled the barrel on June 30, 2016 with our clean beer and then immediately pitched a 1 BBL of ECY02 Flemish Ale along with the dregs from several sours we had shared that night.

It’s been sitting for quite some time and we recently determined that it’s time to take a pull and bottle.  Instead of draining the entire barrel, we are going to treat this with the solera method where we take out part of the volume and replace it with fresh wort to continue aging.  I’ll take more about that process in the coming weeks as I have a 15 gallon solera of a golden sour ready for a pull as well.  For now, I wanted to talk about the brew day.

For starters, here is the recipe I used for my share of the replacement volume:

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
10 gal 60 min 15.9 IBUs 13.5 SRM 1.054 1.014 5.3 %

Fermentables

Name Amount %
Pilsen (BestMälz) 9 lbs 42.35
Vienna (BestMälz) 9 lbs 42.35
Caramel Malt - 80L (Cargill) 1 lbs 4.71
Caravienne Malt 1 lbs 4.71
Biscuit Malt 12 oz 3.53
Special B Malt 8 oz 2.35

Hops

Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Nugget (Aged) 4 oz 60 min Boil Leaf 2.3

Miscs

Name Amount Time Use Type
Salt 13.72 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) 10.71 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Epsom Salt (MgSO4) 7.51 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Baking Soda 5.69 g 60 min Mash Water Agent

Yeast

Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
American Ale (1056) Wyeast Labs 75% 60°F - 72°F

Mash

Step Temperature Time
Saccharification 154°F 60 min
Mash Out 168°F 10 min

This was an exciting batch for me for several reasons.  First, I love sours and while this project has been in the back of my mind, I cannot wait to have a glass of it.  Second, I got to play with a bunch of new toys.  Just last week, I received both my 20 Gallon SS Brewtech BME Kettle and my Jaded CFC (on the same day no less!).  I love reading about and trying new tech so even the unboxing was exciting for me:

I’ve had the 20 Gallon SS Brewtech Infusion Mash Tun for quite some time now.  I have been really impressed by the quality of products they have put out and the BME kettle does not disappoint.  I spent almost a week playing with the kettle and reorganizing my setup to incorporate it and the new chiller (reviews of each coming at some point).

I’m glad I did as I had nearly a flawless brew day, my only snafu coming halfway through chilling when I completely lost the print on my pump.  The lines were all full and nothing was moving at all.  I cycled the pumps a few times, nothing.  I have a second pump, so I tried unbolting the head and moving it to the other pump, still nothing.  Now I start to panic as it’s getting to be close to midnight (I didn’t mash in until about 8:00 PM) and I’m tired.  I carefully put the second pump back together and moved all the hoses to it figuring maybe it was a problem inside the pump head itself, still nothing.

Thoroughly frustrated I finally took a look at the kettle instead of the pump.  One of the really nice features of the kettle is a rotating racking arm.  I had it turned 90 degrees from when I was whirl pooling.  What I didn’t think about was the floating bags of whole leaf hops I was using.  I didn’t want to just throw them loosely into the boil and my stainless steel hop spider I have been using for a while wasn’t deep enough to submerge the hops in the new kettle, so I put them in several hop bags.  As the level of the kettle dropped, one of the bags came to rest on the end of the arm completely blocking the flow.  A quick stir of the pot and I was back in business.  I finished transfering to my Sankey fermenter, pitched the yeast, cleaned up and called it a night.  Lesson learned and I guarantee I won’t make that mistake again.

I can’t wait until we all have our replacement volumes ready.  I’m really excited to try this beer.

So I started a yeast bank…

I don’t know about all of you, but I love yeast.  There are so many different strains out there that I want to try and I’m always looking at different manufacturers and what they are putting out.  The biggest problem with yeast is that it is by far the most expensive ingredient in most recipes.  Sure you can save money by building up a proper starter, but spending $7.00 or more every batch for fresh yeast can get old real quick.

I finally said enough is enough and took the leap to start my own personal yeast bank.  I spent a whole bunch of time researching the process and found some very good information on the subject, so I decided it would be best to document my process here.  Here is what you will need to get going with your own yeast bank:

  • Pressure cooker to be used as an autoclave
  • 15 mL glass vials
  • glycerine
  • Autoclavable pipette (I use a stainless steel turkey baster)
  • Glass beaker to hold equipment in the autoclave
  • Flask for building starters
  • Star San (of course)

For most of my brews these days, I typically build a yeast starter.  If I want to bank that particular strain, I will overbuild the starter so there are plenty of extra healthy cells.  I cold crash the starter the night before the brew day which allows me to decant it and have a healthy slurry of yeast cells.  I typically will harvest the yeast I will be banking prior to pitching the starter.

You can’t just put the yeast sample in a freezer by itself as the yeast cells will get damaged due to the water around them crystallizing that may puncture the yeast cell walls and most likely kill the yeast.  To prevent this, you can dilute the sample with glycerine.  I start off my putting 2-3 mL of food grade glycerine in each of my vials.  I keep a stash of disposable pipets around for other tasks, so I found one extremely useful to fill the vials, but you could very easily pour to do the same.  You don’t need to worry about sanitation just yet as these vials will be sterilized in your pressure cooker.

Next, I loosely cap the vials and place them in my pressure cooker.  I use pyrex flasks the keep them upright and out of the water.  You will also want to place whatever you are going to use to extract the yeast in as well.  In my case, this is a stainless steel turkey baster.  I don’t put the bulb in (I’ll hit it with Star San later) as I’m not sure it can take the heat without melting.  The pressure cooker can reach internal temperatures of around 250 degrees which will kill any bacteria inside.  It’s the best way to guarantee everything has been properly sterilized.  Once everything is in, I seal the pressure cooker and after getting up to temp, let it run for 15 minutes.

Once the pressure cooker has done it’s thing, I let it cool for a bit.  I take a sheet tray and line it with paper towels.  I then give the towels a nice coating of Star San from my spray bottle.  The goal is to create as sanitary of an environment as possible.  I carefully remove everything from the pressure cooker and set it on the towels.  The beakers that I used to hold the vials now work great as a stand to hold my turkey baster (don’t forget to sanitize the bulb before reassembling.

Very carefully, use the turkey baster to remove some of the yeast slurry from the bottom of your flask.  Fill each vial to about the 80% mark, cap and give them a good shake to mix the glycerine throughout the sample.  Make sure to have your vials uncapped only while filling as you want to reduce their exposure to potential contaminants.  Repeat this process for all the vials you would like to fill.

 

It is very important that you label your sample so that you know what is what.  Things that I would definitely include are:

  • Yeast Strain
  • Generation
  • Date Harvested

I use my trustee Dymo labeler to attach labels to each lid.  In the case of my system, “WY1028-1A” designates that this is Sample A of a first generation strain of Wyeast 1028 London Ale.  The rest of the batch has designations of “1B”, “1C”, etc.

Now don’t just drop these into the freezer.  First refrigerate them for 24-48 hours as this can almost double your yeast viability.  When ready to freeze, you don’t want to put them directly in the freezer either.  I use a small cooler lined with ice packs to store my yeast inside my freezer. The cooler and ice packs are actually essential for keeping the frozen yeast at a relatively constant temperature while in the freezer. This becomes especially important if you have a self-defrosting freezer: the defrost cycle will warm the fridge and potentially thaw and re-freeze the yeast repeatedly, which could kill them.  One thing to remember is that prior to going in the cooler, make sure to give each vial a good shake as it’s contents will have settled while in the refrigerator.

That’s all there is to it.  The important thing to remember is that you need a few extra days ahead of your brew if you’d like to use one of these strains.  You’ll want to gently thaw the sample in the fridge overnight before pitching into a small starter.  Once that ferments out, you should be able to pitch that starter into a larger starter as if it was a fresh pack of yeast.  I’d also highly recommend sampling your starter prior to pitching to make sure it smells and tastes normal.  You definitely want to find out about any kind of infection before pitching into a full batch of beer.