Archive for August, 2012

Home Brewing Questions: Mango Brett Saison

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

There are great brewing resources at everyone’s fingertips. Still there are many conversations, emails, and private discussions about home brewing that never make it to a forum to be used by others.

I have been fortunate that Michael Tonsmeire, over at The Mad Fermentationist, is patient with all my questions. His sharing of knowledge has been invaluable as I have pursued Brett home brewed beers. The amount of information he has shared in the last year could fill a small book (is that in pages or dimensions). Instead of keeping all this information for myself, I have decided to put them on Sips in an attempt to help fellow home brewers with similar questions. It will also solidify my knowledge as I regurgitate it here. Before I ask Mike a question, I do scour the web for information, usually tuning to him when I have conflicting or suspect information. I trust his opinion but don’t want to abuse it. For those legal eagles, Mike gave me his seal of approval in duplicating our correspondences in part or whole.

The latest line of questions has come in the form of my desire to brew a Mango Brett Saison. The recipe is set (will share when I get a chance) but during the process I asked Mike several questions. I started off on the topic of the amount of fruit, how to handle, and followed up a bit later on the yeast.

  • Aug 10th, 2012, Topic: Mangos (fruit and how to use in a beer)
  • Me: I am thinking of a mango saison. Adding about 4 – 5# to secondary. At this point I am thinking of cutting up the mangos, boiling them for 10 – 15 minutes in some wort that I keep from brew day off to the side. Cooling that down, throwing into a better bottle (for ease of working with it) and then racking on top of it. Assume to leave it on them for a good week. Thoughts?
  • Mike: I tend to do raw/frozen fruit, in my experience boiling just destroys too much of the fresh character of the fruit. Never used mangos, but I had a great sour a friend from Florida brewed with local fruit.
  • Follow up:
  • Me: Being frozed, does that sanitize the fruit? Do I have to worry about sanitation?
  • Mike: Freezing does not kill the microbes. However, if you sanitize what you are using to peel and cut up the fruit I wouldn’t worry about it. After primary fermentation is complete the low pH and alcohol of the beer will provide some protection as well. If you are worried you can give the fruit a quick dip in Star-San, I did this in w papaya pale ale with good results.

This line of thought can be carried through with most any fruit. This will be my first work with home brewing and fruit of any kind. Now it is time for the yeast.

  • Aug 20th, 2012, Topic: Saison yeast and Brett, when to add.
  • Me:1. Pitching Brett after primary with the Mangos. Will there be enough sugars and/or stuff tor the Brett to eat to get character? 2. Pitch the Brett along with the Saison yeast, which I pitch up to 84 degrees. Will that have a bad effect on the Brett because of the temp? 3. Pitch only Brett, adding the Mangos after a month or two and a week before bottling? I guess each one will produce distinct characters, but I am more curious about #1 and 2 and the amount of character and type from the Brett.
  • Mike: 1. Brett can survive on all sort of compounds, no worries there. It will make its character, but it may take some time.
    2. Depends on the strain. Some are great at high temps (White Labs Brett C), while others will make terrible phenolics. Just like ale yeast, there is a huge range. 3. It depends what your goal is. I think 100% Brett with fruit could be really good. I’m really digging the tropical character of my 100% Brett White Labs Trois IPA, might be good with the Mango. Primary with Brett tends to be mellower than secondary with Brett.

Hopefully other home brewers find this useful. I will be placing new conversations on here as well as going through some of the old conversations that have some good content. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: More than 5,000 years ago, the Chinese discovered how to make silk from silkworm cocoons. For about 3,000 years, the Chinese kept this discovery a secret. Because poor people could not afford real silk, they tried to make other cloth look silky. Women would beat on cotton with sticks to soften the fibers. Then they rubbed it against a big stone to make it shiny. The shiny cotton was called “chintz.” Because chintz was a cheaper copy of silk, calling something “chintzy” means it is cheap and not of good quality.

2012 Hop Plants

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

centennial and mt hood hops

Plane and simple: the hop garden has been for shit. I haven’t been ignoring updating on the progress, there just hasn’t been much progress. To say it has been a roller coaster year for the hops means there are up AND downs. There is no such fun to be had in the garden.

I have three plants: one third year, one second year, and one first year. I will talk about each plant separately as each one has a story.

Centennial, which is the hop plants on the left in the picture, has struggled at best. Last year, it was by far my best hop plant. This year it hasn’t made i past eight feet. It never had a good growing spurt, never had a strong week, and seemed to lag behind from the start of the warm weather.

Mount hood, in the same picture is the hop on the right. Much better than last year. The bines were thicker, stronger, and grew better. That makes it sound wonderful, but it wasn’t. It reached a maximum height of 12 feet, give or take, and had a strong spell in late June. Better than the Centennial but nothing to be proud of.

home grown cascade hop

Cascade is the first year midget to the left. The single bine is lucky if it hits two feet in height. This was a rhizome that Chuck gave to me, months after it was promised. 🙂 When I went to his house to pick up, Mr. Green Thumb was ignoring his hop garden (which is in the 18 plant range), the rhizome was dug up, encased in very dry, hot dirt. It didn’t look like it was happy. I knew that I was in for an uphill battle with this plant. I know hops are hardy but I am amazed how well this one has hung on.

There are a ton of factors for the bad year which all center around weather. It started out hot way back in March, which allowed the plants to get a early start. Unfortunately, the frosts in April nipped the tips, creating a period of almost 60 days in which my hops stopped growing and eventually started with new shoots. It took until late May, almost June before the new shoots were back to the level from late March. I thought at that point they would take off but they never did. Even though hot, I watered the plants each days, sometimes in the morning and evening. I did take a vacation in early July which saw each plant have the longest bine snapped by bad weather (at according to the local kid I paid to kill my plants). Mid to late July brought on the Japanese beetles that feasted on the leaves, which, from what I understand, shouldn’t really affect the plant.

home grown centennial hops

The Centennial and Mt. Hood plants will produce hops this year but I will be lucky to get a half pound between them; I thinking closer to four ounces is realistic. The Cascade hasn’t had the strength to even throw up one flower. At least I know they will come back next year, allowing me to try again. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: Orchids are grown from seed so small that it would take thirty thousand to weigh as much as one grain of wheat.

Brett Backspin Belgian Pale Ale Tasting

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

brettanomyces backspin belgian pale ale

Just like the past few tasting, a tasting of Brett Backspin Belgian Pale Ale has been a long time coming. Brewed back in February of this year, Brett Backspin sat in the carboy for two months and now has been bottled for three months. This was the first beer that I fermented a beer 100% on Brett. I asked a bunch of questions and read a lot of information (typical of my logical self, drives me nuts that I never “wing” something) before this endeavor. The hardest part is wondering what is going in the carboy while waiting, what seems to be an eternity, for the beer to finish.

Some things I noticed:

  • I used a started which allowed the Brett to get off to a good start within 24 hours of pitching the yeast.
  • There was a nice inch of krausen during high fermentation.
  • The beer finished very clean, probably do to the long bright tank period that was needed to allow the yeast to finish.

Look: Clear accents the golden hue with a pure white lacing that doesn’t have depth or staying power. Lacing is sporadic, mildly dotting the glass throughout.

Aroma: Delicate. Complex. Gentle white wine permeates along with pleasing yet docile pear accent. Laid back grain scents add a backbone to the aroma.

Taste: The white wine (green grape but w/ alcohol maybe) greets first, stemming from the nose. Carries throughout the beer. Pear picks it up a notch, creating more of balancing act. Fragile. Grains again show here.

Drinkability: Light body without a question. Carbonation adds a nice elegance to the beer. One of the few times I have dialed it in well.

Overall: The Brett is there but not as pronounced as I would have liked. But as I continue mull this beer over, maybe that isn’t a bad thing. A delicate, yet complex beer has its place. The body is very light. After hearing an interview with Chad Yakobson, I might have to throw some oats in the next batch to hold up the body. That said, this is one light, easy drinking beer.

The next steps here (including some research) will be to determine how to ramp up the Brett profile of the beer. I have to determine if under-pitching the yeast will do, if using one generation old Brett will add more aroma and flavor, if a higher temperature would allow the Brett to be more distinct, if a longer bright tank time is more important to the overall beer than being in the bottle, or if some combination is best. I will definitely only change one thing at a time, so this might take some time before I know the correct combination (more Brett beer to sample, yes!). Enjoy!

Useless Fact: More Monopoly money is printed in a year than real money throughout the world.