Thursday, January 13, 2011

Belgian Dubbel Brewday

The goal of this project was to experiment with both style and yeast; we brewed a 10 gallon batch on Jeff Fortney’s system, and split the beer to try two different yeasts. We ended up quite a bit low on the OG, so we’ve already decided to brew a second version to run on the yeast cake of the first batch. We’re gonna double up on that dubbel. Word to that.

80. Belgian Dubbel (brewed with Jeff Fortney)
14 lbs. Castle Pils
6 lbs. Weyerman Dark Munich
1.5 lbs. Dingemans Cara 45 (Caramunich)
1 lb. Dingemans Biscuit
1 lb. Dingemans Aromatic
1 lb. Dingemans Cara 8 (Carapils)
1 lb. Dingemans Special B
2 oz. Dingemans Belgian Chocolate

Mashed w/ 8 gallons of RO water (plus chemical additions)
@128° F for 30 minutes
@144° F for 30 minutes
@158° F for 30 minutes
@166° F for 10 minutes

Batch sparged w/8 gallons of RO water (plus chemical additions) @168° F

Added to brew kettle, brought to a boil (90 minute), and added:
w/60 to go: 2.5 oz. Styrian Golding pellet 5.2% AA

w/15 to go: 2 Whirlfloc tablets

w/10 to go: ½ oz. Tettnang pellet 4.5% AA

w/5 to go: 1 lb. Belgian Dark Candi Syrup & 1 lb. Belgian Dark Candi sugar

@ removal from heat: ½ oz. Tettnang pellet 4.5% AA

Chilled to 58° F and split into two 5 gallons batches; I pitched White Labs WLP550, while Jeff pitched Wyeast 3787

Brewed: 1/13/2011 @ 58° F; slow rise to 66° F
Secondary: 2/10/2011 @ 1.016
Bottled: 2/23/2011

OG: 1.057
FG: 1.016 w/ 4.5 oz. table sugar @ 61° F; slightly under 5 gallons

Tasting Notes (10/22/11): It has been a while since I tried a bottle of this, so I guess it is time to type up some notes and see where it is at. Pouring a crystal clear orange-copper, this Belgian Dubbel has a tan head than dissipates slowly, although the active, bright carbonation bleeding off the beer keeps a heavy ring around the beer, as well as a decent sized skiff across the top. As well, a couple of swirls rouses a good head. The nose is Belgian yeast esters mixed with candy malt sweetness and dark fruit; there is also some creaminess, toastiness, and light earthiness. Flavors start rich and sweet; there are toffee and caramel malt flavors along with toast and bread. In the middle, fruit emerges—there is raisin and dried fruit, plus maybe a touch of cherry as the beer turns toward the finish, which is clean and lightly bitter. The body is sweet but dry; the carbonation rounds the mouthfeel, but also cleans it, leaving a light raisin taste as it disappears. The body is a bit light (we were well below the gravity on this one; hence the second version a week later), but the Dubbel flavors are there. We’ll have to settle for calling this a Belgian Single—it is good, and has a touch of that Belgian malt chewiness, but it needs a bit more to sink your teeth into to create the full experience. Woe is me—I’ll have to dispose of the rest.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

448. Bruery Humulus Session

Sometimes, dreams do come true. But any dream that you want to come true—that you really really really want to bring to fruition—is gonna also require some hard work. Like this one. So let me set the scene...I’m in Los Angeles, doing that academic literature thing I do to finance my more fruitful and enjoyable hi-jinx, like, well, beer. Looming close by, close enough to taunt me (and taunt me it did), is the Bruery. For many, a potentially interesting place to visit, but nothing worth getting worked up over. Not for this guy, however. I like me some funky esoteric beers. Add a solid dose of Belgian influence, and you had me at hello. And that hello came from the Bruery. My problem: I’m in L.A., and they are in Placentia, which wouldn’t mean much to me either, unless you’re like me and had already researched and discovered the dearth of effective and useful public transportation between the the two locales. Yes, that was me with the cyber-stalking and the trying to find the secret path to enlightenment that won’t cost me that $100+ cab ride I so know I’ll be taking if I can’t discover any other viable options. After all, 30 miles is 30 miles. Unless it is in L.A., when it becomes like 287. Plus traffic. Today, Sunday, is my best option, as the train making up the bulk of the trip doesn’t normally return from the Fullerton stop back to L.A. much past the opening hours of the tasting room on Friday and Saturday. And if I’m going, I’m going. Being that it is my last day in L.A., I’ve also checked out and have my luggage with me. Classy, I know, but you’ll forgive me: I travel light. So I take a subway to the train station for a 3o minute ride south and west (at least I think) on the Orange line to Fullerton, where I catch a cab the last five or six miles. Sure, I could have finished off the trip by bus and kept it real, but another transfer and an additional hour and a half sounds like a sucker’s bet. I like epic adventures and all, but I don’t need to overdo it. And sure, the train is pretty much a one-way trip, but since I am flying out tonight, I scheduled my Shuttle Express pickup at the Bruery instead of the hotel. That last part was sheer genius. Go on, admit it. I’m guessing you’re wishing you’d thought of that one, hmmm? But I digress...

My plan worked flawlessly. I hit the Bruery at a little after 1 pm. Closing time is 6 pm. Let the festivities begin. Ordering a sampler gets you 2 oz. tastes, plus an awesome Bruery snifter glass. They were pouring nine beers, so I got down to work: in order, I tried 7 Grain Saison, Humulus Session, Saison de Lente (last year’s, and out of the bottle), Loakal Red, Saison Rue, Mischief, Rugbrød, and 3 French Hens. After the sampling, I opted for the Humulus Session to start out the next round of full beer drinking. Let’s just say that this is a beer I could easily drink all night: it was super fresh and hoppy with a light dry malt body. The touch of sweetness in the front gave way to solid hop flavor in the middle and finish, while the lighter body was an excellent vehicle for the Simcoe and Centennial hop flavors—they worked hand in hand to create a delicious drinking experience. This type of beer—the low alcohol complex session beer—is something that the American craft beer scene needs a whole crapload more of, and Humulus Session is by far the best example I’ve come across yet. Next up was the Loakal Red, which, as I texted to a couple of people in my giddy beer-geek euphoria, “is a mother-fuckin’ oak bomb. Dag.” The hops, malt, and oak create a complex marriage of sweetness (malt) and dryness (hops and oak) that taunts your palate. Dag is right.

Can you say new anniversary beer?

In my excitement to tell my tale, I’ve left out two important points to my story thus far: first, the Bruery provides food for their tasting room by inviting a rotating number of food trucks to park out back. Today’s food option was the Bacon Mania truck, and since I knew I’d be getting into my cups, right about the time I ordered the Humulus Session, I also ordered some lamb, beef, and bacon sliders from the server who was gracious enough the walk around and take orders inside. Second, the Bruery’s Reserve Society Membership Initiation was last night, which means that last night was the the night of super-fancy beer. And, luckily for me, that today is the day of leftover fancy beer. At this point, I also start talking to the couple seated next to me. It turns out that he works in one of the food trucks in the rotation outside. And likes the sours. Ah, a man after my own heart. He asks me if I’ve tried the Bert Zuurman. I give him a quizzical look, and he points to the small chalk sign that, in my initial school-girl giddiness, I had missed. Bert Zuurman, is described as a Rugbrod soured with lingonberries. Damn. Can you guess what my third beer was? Ah, the sour murky goodness.

Since the couple I was talking to knew the bartenders, they got the scoop on other fancy beers lurking around—they got a sample of Old Richland, which, via their generous benevolence, means I got to sample it as well. The sweetest words I have ever heard in English passed from this man’s lips as I poured some of his sample into my glass: “No, no. Pour yourself some more. I don’t need all of that.” Seriously? I’m not certain, but I think you can get sainted for that type of behavior. And if you can’t, I’m going to go on record and say that that is truly a crime of biblical proportions. I also heard about the Cigar City/Bruery Collaboration (which at that point, neither I, nor anyone I knew, had even heard of—trust me, I asked) that is now known as Marrón Acidifié (as posted on the Bruery blog on January 12). Not that I am connected enough to score a bottle, but I do like being among the first to know. After all, it happens so rarely to me...

Sadly, my new friends had to take off, although since it was approaching 5:30, it also meant I had to at least pretend to motivate for my upcoming trip to the airport. After I purchased a couple of t-shirts, just when I thought it couldn’t get ANY better, the Bert Zuurman keg cashed, and a keg of Oude Tart went up. So that’s how I closed out my evening at the Bruery Tasting Room. Stupendous.

When the Shuttle Express pulled up, they poured my into my seat, and I contemplated the back of my eyelids all the way to the airport. Once on the plane, I was asleep before we were airborne. Let’s just say that was the most painless red-eye flight I ever experienced. And for the record, I chose the Humulus Session as the beer of the day over all the other potential choices because it represents American craft brewing at its best: it is both accessible and complex at the same time. If craft beer is going to transform the way Americans drink, if people are really looking for the type of beer that will convert macro drinkers while respecting the traditions of craft brewing, they need look no further. I’ve already found myself pining for this beer, mostly because there is nothing really like it out there. So thanks to the Bruery for doing what it is you do, and making me feel like a rock star, even if only for a few hours.

From the day’s beer list and information sheet: Humulus Session: “A delicious session ale brewed and dry-hopped with Simcoe & Centennial hops, this light & refreshing beer is perfect for those late Santa Ana winds.”
ABV: 4.5%
IBU: 35

I love it when a plan comes together...Oh yeah, and previous beers from the Bruery include 3 French Hens, Saison de Lente, Rugbrød, Hottenroth, Orchard White and Saison Rue.


Monday, January 3, 2011

447. Stillwater Artisanal Stateside Saison

Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales is another of the gypsy brewers making their presence felt in brewing circles; he operates out of Baltimore, MD. If you read this, Brian, any advice for how to get in on the whole gypsy brewer thing? While the description of the beer on the label provides a boatload of sanctimonious verbiage, the beer itself is actually pretty good once you get past the emptiness of the rhetoric. Don’t take this the wrong way, but if your beer isn’t “naturally brewed,” then how would you brew it? And how precisely does one brew and then ferment a beer? Isn’t that the same damn thing? Am I missing something here? After all, it would seem that you’ve set a pretty low bar if the requirements for “showcasing...the best attributes of modern-day craft brewing” are reduced to “naturally” brewing and “then ferment[ing]” your beer. Because if that is your only claim to brewing excellence, then you’re in real trouble. Let’s dial down that advertising prose a notch, tiger. Oh, and this is our first beer from Stillwater; here’s hoping we can find some more, because while I’m hating on the verbiage, I’m loving on the beverage.

Stateside Saison pours a hazy golden straw with an abundant white head that took up about ninety percent of the glass; while initially a bit over-carbonated, it settled down to a creamy covering that laced the glass decently. The hazy color allows you to see the fine white bubbles of the beer, which creates a nice visual effect. The nose has a perfume-y fruitiness—there is banana, pear, and apple—along with an abundance of perfume-y esters and a few spicy phenols. There is not much hoppiness in the nose, with the exception of a slight mustiness that could be hop derived. Flavors start sweet and dry with a touch of cracker/biscuit malt flavor; the middle is lightly bitter and juicy—sort of the standard fair for saisons—that also features the fruitiness of the nose. Stateside Saison finishes with a dry spiciness that lingers pleasantly on the palate—it is both gentle and unobtrusive. The mouthfeel is dry, lightly chalky, and yet silky—I’d guess this is either Wyeast 3711, the White Labs equivalent, or something else very very close—with a bright, effervescent carbonation that helps build the silky smooth components of the mouthfeel. There is perhaps a touch too much body left in the beer, but this would be splitting hairs. As saisons go, this is easy and enjoyable drinking; besides the atrocity of the over-inflated and unnecessary descriptions of the beer, this one is worth looking for.

From the bottle: “Stateside Saison pays homage to old world tradition while celebrating new world innovation. Naturally brewed with the finest European malts & fresh aromatic hops from the United States & New Zealand. It’s then fermented using a classic farmhouse ale yeast and bottle conditioned to enhance stability. The outcome is a beer of unique design and exquisite taste, showcasing some of the best attributes of modern-day craft brewing.”

From Beer News (February 5, 2010): “Stillwater Ales, founded by Brian Strumke, is a new startup based in Baltimore, Maryland. Strumke is making his beer hands-on with some of the equipment over at Dog Brewing. The first beer to hit the tanks is Stillwater Stateside Saison.”

ABV: 6.8%

Oh, and how precisely does New Zealand fit into the whole Stateside Saison new world innovation?