Sunday, September 29, 2013

574. Triton Fieldhouse Wheat

The cyclo-cross season is upon us. Which means that for the next three months, my Sundays will involve driving to other cities for bike racing. The upside to all that driving? Hitting new breweries in the town de jour of the day. Today is Indianapolis, and Triton Brewing, which is located in a huge-ass building nestled amongst what appears to be the remnants of an old Army base—the buildings in the area certainly all give off that vibe. We tried several of the beers on draft, including Rail Splitter IPA, but I went with the non-traditional beer because, well, I liked it better. The common theme amongst all the beers we tried were that they were cold, clean, and carbonated. Amen to that, brothers.

Fieldhouse Wheat pours a brilliantly clear yellow with a creamy white head; you could see the bright carbonation streaming up the side of the glass in small, tight bubbles. The nose is a mix of bread dough and lemon bitterness, while flavors open with a dry cracker malt character followed by gummy wheatiness and hop bitterness in the middle. In the finish, there is lemon zest and a clean mineral bitterness. The light body is clean with bright carbonation. This beer is in the same vein as Three Floyd’s Gumballhead in regards to American Wheat beers, although this one is cleaner and lighter on the palate. And there’s that word again: clean. Which really sums up all the beers we had at Triton. Still, this beer could easily pass as an ultra-light APA, and it was both very approachable and easy drinking. Nice job, Triton.

From the website: “An American Wheat Ale the way it’s supposed to be. Crisp and refreshing, golden in color with a white head, the Fieldhouse Wheat is moderately hopped with Falconer’s Flight hops for a thoroughly friendly experience.”

ABV: 5.4%
IBU: 25
Hops: Falconer’s Flight


Friday, September 27, 2013

573. Chris Wyatt’s English Sour Brown Something-Or-Other

Chris described this beer as an English Brown Ale fermented with Fuller’s yeast to which he added Roeselare, and let age for seven months. For someone
This look says it all,
doesn't it?
normally so attached to style—and British style at that—this is an interesting departure. For example, just today he was complaining about the “dreadful” nature of American 2-row. So the combination of British and Belgian seems, from my perspective, worth noting. Hence my naming of the beer. Mixing and matching styles, Chris? For shame! I will also admit to some Schadenfreude contemplating the struggle Chris went through to let this beer age as long as he did. After all, while I can’t speak definitively about his character, when it comes to aging beer, Chris Wyatt is not a patient man. So in Chris Wyatt years, seven months is like four decades or something. Sorry, I couldn’t find the right app to make the exact calculations, and had to do it by hand.

English Sour Brown Something-Or-Other pours a rustic orange copper with a thin wispy white head that is ephemeral at best. Still, there is active carbonation, with small, tiny bubbles streaming up the sides of the glass. In the nose, there is brown malt, graininess, cereal (like Cheerios), and a hint of lactic acid, followed by an earthy mustiness mixed with dark stone fruit aromatics—cherries and figs, mainly. The latter part kind of reminds me of the smell of my grandparents’ house from my childhood. I also get a hint of something spicy verging on adhesive in the background—the ol’ classic dirty band-aid coming to the party. The beer opens with malt, specifically cereal and bread dough flavors, and a slight vinous fruit slickness that gives the beer a thin feel on the palate. It brightens and sharpens as it runs into the middle, with a combined light lactic tang and a brettanomyces gaminess to it—it is just short of funky. There is more fruit in the middle, albeit a more rounded, brighter fruitiness that pairs well with the wild yeast flavors. This leads to a bright candy lactic twang in the finish (which I like), followed by some grain huskiness and astringency that lingers, along with flavors from the darker grains (which I don’t like). The initial thin mouthfeel gives way to more substance in the second half of the beer, and the lactic bite makes up for the minimal carbonation—it provides the bite and crispness the beer needs to finish effectively. The lingering graininess and astringency gums up an otherwise enjoyable beer—the dark grain flavors don’t sit well with some of the other components of the beer, giving a sharper, rough edge to the slight acetic acid flavors that linger longest on the palate. The strengths of the beer—its soft subtlety of Flanders Red/Oud Bruin characteristics—are counteracted by the stronger, more overpowering finish. You should try this beer again, Chris, but cut the chocolate and roast malt (is there biscuit malt as well?) and replace it with something like dark Munich or Special B to give the beer a softer malt profile that will better balance the finish. Or, in other words, keep it subtle, but make the malt bill more Belgian.

From one of Chris’s rambling Facebook posts: “Lactic and funky with nice body and no bitterness.”


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rockit Cup Brett Trois IPA Brewday

Finally, more exciting Rockit Cup action! This beer is a slightly revised version of Michael Tonsmeire’s 100% Brett Trois IPA. The Trois version got pitched on the not quite finished yeast cake from last week’s Brett Likewise Brewday, so it took almost instantaneously—I think it passed high krausen in under 36 hours. The custersianus was a bit slowly getting underway as the mason jar of yeast had been sitting around for about a month and a half, but once it started it went like gangbusters as well. Hopefully I can get both into the bottle for the October Rockit Cup!

158. Rockit Cup Brett Trois IPA
9 lbs. Breiss 2-row
2 lbs. Breiss White Wheat
½ lb. Breiss Carapils
½ lb. Weyermann Acidulated

Mash @ 153° F for 60 minutes w/ 3 ¾ gallons RO water & 4 g. gypsum; collected 2 ½ gallons @ 1.082
Batch sparge @ 167° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 4 ¼ gallons @ 1.030

Collected 6 ¾ gallons; topped off to 7 gallons, brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go: 1 oz. Columbus pellet 13.9% AA

w/5 to go: 1 oz. Citra pellet 12.5% AA
½ oz. Cascade pellet 7.3% AA
½ oz. Centennial pellet 8.7% AA

w/0 to go: 1 oz. Citra pellet 12.5% AA
1 oz. Cascade pellet 7.3% AA
1 oz. Centennial pellet 8.7% AA

Let stand for 20 minutes, chilled, and racked onto:
158a. yeast cake from 157a. WLP644 B. bruxellensis Trois
Primary: 9/24/2013
Secondary: 9/30/2013 @ 1.006; dry hop w/ 1 oz. Citra, ½ oz. Cascade, and ½ oz. Centennial
Bottled: 10/4/2013

OG: 1.056
FG: 1.006

158b. mason jar from 148a. ECY19 B. custersianus
Primary: 9/24/2013
Secondary: 9/30/2013 @ 1.008; dry hop w/ 1 oz. Citra, ½ oz. Cascade, and ½ oz. Centennial
Bottled: 10/4/2013

OG: 1.056
FG: 1.004

Tasting Notes (10/10/2013): This might be one of the fasted beers I’ve ever turned: 10 days to the bottle, and 15 days to the glass. And this is a Brettanomyces beer no less. Still, the big yeast pitch for each did its work, although I’m also planning on drinking this beer quickly so as to prevent dangerous side effects. Like bottle bombs. The custersianus version in the picture is less carbonated than the Trois version because it was the last bottle, and thus had some extra head space. I pulled the last bottles for this tasting because I’m saving the good bottles for when I try it again in a couple of weeks.

Brett Trois IPA: Pours a hazy straw with a creamy white head that has decent retention, and the beer laces the glass rather nicely. The nose is citrus and tropical fruit—lemon, orange, ripe mango, and pineapple—with a touch of both earthiness and grassiness. Flavors are bright and refreshing: malt sweetness that gives way to orange and ripe pineapple, followed by a clean mineral bitterness mixed with the classic Centennial twang in the middle. The finish is juicy sweet with lots of lemon and lemon zest; there are hints of spicy bitterness and a touch of musty earth, but these flavors pair well with the others. The body is thin, but the creamy, rounded carbonation builds mouthfeel and body. This beer is bright and refreshing; there is a touch of lingering gaminess via the Brett, but this adds positively to the overall impression of the beer. While my allegiance to custersianus makes this hard to say, at this point, the Trois version is a better beer.

Brett Custersianus IPA: Like the other version, it pours a hazy straw with a thin white head; the bottle I had last night was equally carbonated to the Trois version, so I’ll chalk it up to the extra head space in this bottle. The nose is bright and aggressively ripe tropical fruit—mango, papaya, and pineapple—while the earthiness and grassiness found in the other version is absent. The fruit sweetness is equally ramped up in the body as well: it opens with mango and pineapple in the front, while the hop bitterness in the middle is comparatively subdued. It is most certainly there, but the juicy sweetness is as well, both carrying on into the orange and lemon finish. There is lingering bitterness, but it is cleaner and lighter than in the Trois version, although lower levels of the gaminess do come through. Like with the Trois version, the body is thin, but there is a rounded, creamy mouthfeel assisted by the carbonation. While this version has a lower FG, it is sweeter, gummier, and less hoppy than the Trois version. I do like this beer, but the Trois version is the better beer.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

DAI Oktoberfest 2013 Beer Judging

Oh my. Success can beget many a problem for a beer judging competition, and today was a case in point. Last year, this competition was an easy, quick point. This year? I think I judged around 40 beers. Seriously. Before lunch I had judged eighteen beers: two flights of nine, including Oktoberfest and Light Lagers, while after lunch I got smaller flights of American Brown Ales, Scottish and Irish, and English Brown Ales. Oh, and IPAs—I wouldn’t want to forget the surprise last flight of the day. Then I did two mini-BOS flights to determine overall winners, one for a category I did not initially judge. And I think I am missing something along the way as well—there was some other third mini-BOS along the way as well. The afternoon was, needless to say, something of a blur via the sheer volume of beers I judged.

Other than the volume of labor, the competition ran smoothly, however. Highlights include a delicious lunch—mac and cheese sprinkled with bacon, and pulled beef (or pork) sandwiches—sorry, I was more focused on the intake of food to offset the pending chaos of excessive beer judging. My favorite beer of the day was either the Imperial IPA that won the IPA flight or the American Brown Ale that also won the American Ale category. The American Brown was also the only beer that myself and my fellow judge disagreed on during the initial judging—I’m glad I fought to push it on. I’d include the overall results, but they haven’t been posted yet, as the award ceremony is this coming Saturday, September 28th. I’ll try to remember to update this once the places are posted. Update: results are posted here.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

572. Hopfenstark Station 55 Saison

Quebecoise beer is in the house. And drinking this beer out of a Unibroue glass should get me some solid street cred. After all, how often do I get to think about two different Quebec breweries in one evening? While I can’t speak for this guy, for me the answer is not nearly enough. Hopfenstark is located in L’Assomption, Quebec; this is our first beer from them, and only our fourth from Canada, which seems, well, almost a crime itself. Please forgive us.

Station 55 pours a hazy golden straw with a thin but persistent white head that laces the glass nicely. In the nose there is a juicy citrus mixed with a mineral bitterness; the front is floral and orange, followed by hints of earthy mustiness. Flavors match the nose—there is a soft delicate hint of candy from the Pilsner malt in the front before the hop bitterness takes over, accompanied by orange and lemon zest in the middle. As the citrus fades, a mineral bitterness comes to the forefront, ending clean with a pleasant lingering bitterness. The body is dry with a touch of doughy malt, with the dryness exacerbated by the hop bitterness; coupled with the spritzy carbonation, the beer is light and lively on the palate. The bitterness might be a bit much for the style—at least from a more traditional perspective—but it suits my vision of a saison perfectly. Thus, while this is from Quebec, I’m pretty much going to point to a larger North American craft beer influence and call it good. After all, as it says on the label, “Hopfenstark brews beers of diverse origin and adapts them to a contemporary society that is open and has a thirst for discovery.” Which is the most Quebecoise come American comment I’ve ever heard—I think Hopefenstark is channeling a poor man’s Greg Koch here. Regardless, this is a solid saison, and we’ll be checking out more of Hopfenstark’s beers in the near future. 

From the bottle: “Belgian-style Saison: slightly bitter and dry pale beer with citrusy hops aroma and typical Belgian saison yeast ester.”

From the Hopfenstark website: “La Saison Station 55 est une bière rousse à l'aspect voilée, au goût prononcé de malt, d'épices et de houblons qui rappellent les agrumes doublé d'une amertume en finale. La 55 se veut un hybride entre une bière belge de terroir et une IPA de type américaine. Elle s'incrit dans le renouveau brassicole en Belgique.”

ABV: 7.0%


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Brett Likewise Brewday

More in the way of the fantastic experiment that continues to clutter my dining room with numerous smaller experiments all centered around a common theme. I’ll shortly be turning the second round of this experiment, which will undoubtedly produce more of the same. Here’s to long term brewing projects that take on a life of their own.

157. Brett Likewise
8 lbs. MFB Pilsen
2 lbs. Best Malz Spelt
1 lb. Weyermann Acidulated

Mash @ 151° F for 90 minutes w/ 3 ½ gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 2 ¼ gallons @ 1.082
Batch sparge @ 175° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water; collected 4 gallons @ 1.024

Collected 6 ¼ gallons; topped off to 7 gallons, brought to a boil (90 minutes), & added:
w/90 to go: 1 oz. Millenium leaf 16.6% AA

w/10 to go: 1 oz. Millenium leaf 16.6% AA

Chilled and racked onto:
157a. yeast cake from 144a. WLP644 B. bruxellensis Trois
Primary: 9/17/2013

OG: 1.054

157b. yeast cake from 144b. Wyeast 5122 B. bruxellensis
Primary: 9/17/2013

OG: 1.054

Tasting Notes:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Dayton DRAFT Brewfest 2013 Beer Judging

Ah, the home club competition. Where I have to take on an organizational role, and can’t just roll in, judge beer, and roll out. I like that latter option so much more than having to clean up after the unwashed hoards have left the building. But, no, I have to keep agreeing to play the role of Cellar master. Dumbass.

Overall entries were up this year; I didn’t remember to count the entries from out of town judges at the time, but we ended up somewhere in the neighborhood of 255 as a final count. Give or take. Which is a nice increase from the previous three years (168 in 2012, 214 in 2011, and 186 in 2010). As is my wont, I self-righteously claimed all of the second entries from Jule Rastikis—all except his entry in 23A, Coal B’ Tappin’ The Maple, which won the flight and was awarded Best of Dayton. Deservedly so—I had that beer last year, and was already coveting this year’s version. Stupid winning. Other highlights from the day include Frank Barickman getting second place in IPAs for the second year running. I did forget to grab his second bottle to drink during the competition as I did last year, but I can’t always be perfect. The Rockit Cup sponsored a plaque this year, so congratulations to Dan Lechner for winning Scottish & Irish Ales. As well, watching the Gordon Strong show during the BOS is always a delight for the Twitter-perfect one-liners doled out like free bread, like the beer he described as smelling like a stripper. My beers fared moderately: my fresh hop beer and saison were treated with the due diligence of beers only moderate in their production, while the brett blend I entered in category 23 (138a, by the way) got second to that dang Rastikis fellow. Double foiled!

Thanks to all of the out of town judges who made time to help us out. I’m happy to reciprocate when the time comes. Oh, and the final results are here. Go team!


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Flanders Red Brewday

In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda tells Luke “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.” I think this is an apt description for beer brewing as well, specifically once you begin brewing sour beers. Having immersed myself full-scale into the realm of sour, I might as well accept that my destiny is to be dominated by the wild and the unpredictable. A fate worth having, might I add. And I have the carboys to document it. Any-who, this is my most recent sortie into the land of bugs and deliciousness. I’ll be reporting back in about a year.

153. Flanders Red
6 lbs. MFB Aromatic 
5 lbs. MFB Vienna
1 lb. Weyermann Light Munich
1 lb. Breiss White Wheat
½ lb. Dingemans Special B

Mash @ 155° F for 90 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 2 ½ gallons @ 1.088
Batch sparge @ 169° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 4 gallons @ 1.032

Collected 6 ½ gallons; topped off to 7 gallons, brought to a boil (90 minutes), & added:
w/90 to go: 1 ½ oz. UK EKG leaf 5.41% AA

Chilled and pitched ECY02 Flemish Ale & ¾ oz. Hungarian oak cubes (house toast)

Primary: 9/10/2013 @ 70° F
Bottled: 1/24/2015; ½ kegged for Brew Ha Ha (1/31/2015) and other half bottled w/1.75 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.064
FG: 1.008

P.S. I know the numbers aren’t in order. Deal.

Tasting Notes (2/28/2015): Flanders Red pours a crystal clear brown with plenty of orange and red accents; the thin white head put in an appearance, and then became a floating skiff across the top of the beer. In the nose, there is lactic tartness mixed with a slight tannic oak, followed by cherry and plum fruit aromas and candy and cracker malt aromas. There is just a hint of acetic acid, but it is very much to the back. Flavors open with intense, fresh fruit—cherry, plum, and currant—and bright lactic acidity. There is some malt sweetness and residual mouthfeel in the middle: it is thankfully missing that thinness of body that tends to ruin otherwise delicious examples of the style. The finish is slightly mineral-like, accompanied by a tannic bite mixed with fruit sweetness that lingers on the tongue. I am also getting a slight flush on my cheeks now that I am halfway through the beer, which I appreciate. The beer is bright and crisp on the palate, even with the medium to low carbonation—the acidity and fruit flavors brighten and sharpen the beer in a refreshing and enjoyable manner—although there is a touch of alcohol warmth as the beer warms. All in all, I am quite pleased with this beer, especially having been in the bottle only a month. I am also pretty certain I will shortly be upset that I gave half of this beer away. I’d call it sour grapes, but that might be too bad of a pun for even me.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

571. Anchorage/Mikkeller AK Alive! Alaskan Wild Ale

Not a lot of information available on this beer out there on the internet. Mikkeller’s web page features Euro-trash glam shots, but very little real beer information. I get it—you’re edgy and shit. But can you tell me something about the beers, please? Pictures of Klaus and his Star Wars fixation really only provide a creepy late 80’s New Wave meets Williamsburg hipster culture vibe that makes me sad I bought your beer. Anchorage Brewing Company’s website wasn’t that  helpful, either, but there was a lot less douche-baggery to sort through to find out there was nothing. Anyway, our second beer from Anchorage Brewing, our first being Galaxy White IPA w/ Brett, and our fourth from Mikkeller, including Simcoe Single Hop IPA (back in the day), Rauch Geek Breakfast, and the Stillwater/Mikkeller collaboration, Our Side

AK Alive! pours a cloudy orange copper with a creamy off-white head and lots of tiny white streaming bubbles in the glass. The nose is an earthy musty funk bordering on goat-y and/or horseblanket; there are oxidized paper hints, but they appear more a product of the Brettanomyces-derived yeast aromatics than via any actual oxidation in the beer itself. Flavors start with a hint of residual malt sweetness before the funky flavors take over, with a spicy earth tang that borders on evergreen; there is a flash of Belgian candy sweetness in the middle, followed by a healthy dose of what I would describe as the classic Brettanomyces bruxellensis dry musty cracker bite running from somewhere in the middle on into the finish, although this is B. bruxellensis on steroids. As the beer warms, young tannic oak flavors make an appearance as well. The body itself is dry—crackery dry, papery dry, or whatever descriptor you’d use to highlight the driest of the dry bodies. The initial flash of sweetness thus provides a nice counterpoint the dry dry body, balancing the beer as a whole, buoyed also by the spritzy bright carbonation. There is some lingering astringency along with some alcohol warmth in the finish that leaves a slightly unpleasant taste sitting on the back of the tongue; it is difficult to ascertain whether the resulting flavors are hop- or yeast-derived. The astringency does increase as the beer warms, although not enough to make me stop drinking the beer; it is merely enough to get me to point it out to all you readers out there. As well, this could be related to the ABV of the beer: at 8%, it is pushing the envelope for something that is going to end up clocking somewhere around 1.000-1.004 FG. The lack of residual body in such a big beer (and young beer, might I add, which contributes) brings both the astringent and alcohol flavors to the forefront in ways that would probably not be as evident after being aged for a year or two. Another possible contender for the lingering astringent bite is the young tannic oak flavors that emerged as the beer warmed. In all likelihood, most of these factors contributed something to finish. Still, an enjoyable and interesting beer; I was hoping to find more about its production when I was poking around the internet, as I’d be interested to hear about the production process of this beer: was this an open or spontaneous fermentation (implied by the “Alive” in the name), an inoculated fermentation (adding cultured wild yeast, or having wild yeast already established in fermentation vessels, like barrels; potentially implied in the “Wild Ale” designation, although this would technically fit both options), or a mix somewhere between the two? I didn’t expect a definitive answer, but I expected more than bupkis. Well, there was this, but otherwise beer rating sites and the likes. Oh well.

ABV: 8%

P.S. I dumped the dregs of this beer into one of the two extra starters I made on Sunday. Just sayin’.


Monday, September 2, 2013

The Great Brett Yeast Experiment II

A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to stumble across Eureka Brewing’s post looking for collaborators for the joint BBA/EBY Brettanomyces yeast experiment. Since I already headed down that rabbit hole myself six months ago with my own Great Brett Yeast Experiment I, I decided I should continue influencing my house character towards, well, delicious. So I signed up. Sadly, I didn’t have the resources to handle all 20 yeasts, so I picked what I could handle. On Saturday, I got a packet of eight small vials containing the Brettanomyces isolates from Sam’s collection:

EBY002 (B. dreifonteinii I)
EBY005 (B. cantillon I)
EBY008 (B. cantillon II)
EBY009 (B. cantillon III)
EBY010 (B. cantillon IV)
EBY019 (B. cucurbita I)
EBY035 (B. cucurbita II)
EBY038 (B. cantillon VIII)

As Sam notes, the names of the different yeasts do not represent current taxonomic nomenclature, but rather the source of each yeast he isolated. Undoubtedly, many are the same. But I’m willing to take that chance in the name of science. And delicious beer.

To prepare the starters, I boiled 200 g. of Breiss Pilsen DME in 2000 ml. of RO water, chilled the wort, and then divided it into 10 sanitized mason jars (I made two extra to simplify the math as well as to give me two extra starters I can use for the dregs of beers I'll be drinking later this week; check back if you’re really that desperate to know). I then sanitized the outside of each vial, added the vial to a starter, and sealed the jar. Now for the waiting. Once things start happening, I can plan to step the starters up, and then get ready to brew two gallon batches of each strain. Hopefully I’ll have enough carboys cleaned out by that point. If not, I can always buy more.