I'm doing it. I'm making the jump. I'm finally going to go all grain.
I'm going to do tiny batches. I'm going to start out by doing one gallon batches.
One gallon? Why so small? You ask....
It's New Year's Eve. I'm off from work and home with the kids. Which means, obviously, that I finally have time - albeit ever-distracted, easily interrupted time - to bottle my saison.
Brewed two months before Christmas, it sat in primary for three weeks and in secondary until today. At nearly ten weeks that's the longest (not including the Old Ale) I've ever left a brew in fermentation before bottling. And if the taste I had this afternoon is any indication, the beer is just fine thank you very much. It's crisp and complex with that distinctive saison taste. It's bitter with perhaps a hint of tartness and dry as hell. (Though I'm not sure Hell is actually dry.)
The color, too, is spot on. It's hazy gold, like a child's drawing of the sun is how I'd categorize it....
Wither the saison? you may ask.
It's in my basement. I haven't gotten around to bottling it yet. Which led me to consider conditioning time for this beer. Which led me to worry (something I do well) that in my cool basement the saison is going to, basically be lagered, and may end up too “clean”. Which led me to research conditioning times. Which somewhat allayed my fears about it being in the secondary too long.
This will be a big saison. I'm estimating my a.b.v. at a massive 8.6%. Far bigger than the style range so there's a chance this will be on the hot side.
I figure I can let it condition longer to cool off, so to speak, and allow some yeast esters and wildness to push aside some of the fusel alcohol aspects....
With Christopher Wood's South Carolina yeast strain jump started and pitched into my wild saison I was eager to see how fermentation would go. I assumed the yeast starter was going to result in a vigorous, I daresay, explosive fermentation, with krausen bursting out of the airlock.
In anticipation of what I hoped would be a beautiful mess of a fermentation, I prepared a tidy blow-off bucket and sat back to enjoy the show.
At Chris's suggestion I kept the primary fermenter in a warm room. He'd mentioned that the strain could tolerate, “the high end of (the) temperature (range) to let the yeast phenolics come through.”...
I made my first ever yeast starter last week in anticipation of my saison brew over the weekend. It was Chris's suggestion that I create a starter for his yeast strain and I was curious to try one.
It was far simpler to do than I imagined. In fact all it involved, really, was dumping the contents of the yeast vial into a jug full of wort.
In practice, it was a touch more involved than that. But not much.
With a little help from a friend, I was directed to a website with a yeast calculator....
Just a quick word to say that the brew day for the collaborative saison with Christopher Wood's yeast, slated for October 10, was pushed back by two weeks due to my crazy schedule and time off to attend a wedding last weekend.
Yeast is resting comfortably in cold storage and I'll be getting a yeast starter (my first ever!) going this week to 'wake it up'. Scheduled brew date is this Friday ... we'll see if it happens.
I'll be posting about all of that in the near future.
Charlie and I were antsy to get our Old Ale off the oak and into bottles. (And Charlie's wife was eager to get our sixtel out of their bedroom). We considered aging the beer for longer but having tasted it recently, we'd noticed that the harsh, tannic, woodiness, apparent after a month or so, had receded. The beer was far more palatable. The malt notes were fairly rich and the depth of flavor was coming into its own.
Time to bottle.
This was the first time I'd ever bottled with someone who wasn't my daughter. So it was somewhat alarming to learn that there's another way of adding priming sugar to a batch than the one I've been using for more than a decade.
Let me explain. When I started brewing, I used an old racking cane, fed through one of those orange two-holed nipple thingys secured to the top of the carboy....
The collaboration continues. The serendipitous meeting months ago between me and fellow Brew Your Own blogger, Christopher Wood, has led to a cross-coastal collaboration, a multi-State mash-up, an interstate integration of ingredients – okay, I'll stop now – and the wild yeast, wild hop brew is on!
Mr. Wood, maven of microbiology, is sending a strain my way. He's also sending South Carolinian hops. The yeast is one of his favorite wild strains, which I'll let him detail in his blog. I'm supplying the malt, the brew house (home sweet home) and I may throw in some of my neighbor's hops to continue the wild theme.
We're brewing on my equipment, which means extract with grains. I haven't brewed extract in a while so it will be good to return to my set up and my kitchen.
The star here and the real wild card (if you'll pardon the pun) is the wild yeast. So we've chosen a style to showcase it. We're brewing a saison in an attempt to see what the yeast brings to the party. The style originated on farms in the southern Belgium region of Wallonia. Brewing farmhouse ales served a dual purpose for farmers. The beer itself provided refreshment for summer seasonal workers called saisonniers. And the brewing process created spent grain, which would have provided feed for livestock during the winter months....
Whatever happened to that old ale that I brewed way back when? Whatever happened to me, for that matter? It’s been months since I posted and months since I brewed beer. But, I haven’t been completely idle. In fact, my collaborative old ale spent its summer vacation aging on oak, and is still doing so as I type.
As for me, I took the summer off from brewing at home. A little break to recharge the brewing brain cells.
Last you heard from me, the old ale that my neighbor Charlie and I brewed was done and in the fermenter. Since then, it’s been tasted, transferred to secondary, tasted again, oaked and tasted again. And still it’s aging over at Charlie’s pad in his climate-controlled cellar (read: his air conditioned bedroom).
But let’s go back to May, shall we? Following our lovely evening brew, fermentation kicked off with vigor. We let it ride for a good while because, well, it’s not called ‘old ale’ for nothing. This is a beer we were planning to take our time with, meaning months. We left it in primary for three weeks and then tasted it and took a gravity reading, which was down to 1.018 from 1.080. That meant our alcohol-by-volume was above 8%. That is, right about where we were hoping it would end up....
My neighbor and I brewed together recently. The recipe we followed was a three-way collaboration between me, my neighbor Charlie and Vault Brewing's Mark Thomas. We put our heads together on an all-grain recipe for an Old Ale. We came up with a fairly simple grain bill for six gallons that we'd brew on Charlie's set up.
Simple is good. For one, I've only ever brewed an all-grain batch once before (and that was with a group of people and there was a lot of a sampling of other beers involved and, well, you know how that goes). And, more to the point, sometimes simple is all you need. The finest pilsners and pale ales, to name two styles, commonly rely on a bare minimum of ingredients yet yield world class brews.
Also, the temptation with homebrewing (and brewing, in general) is toward complicating things. The theory seems to be that more is always better. But more grain types and more hops in your recipe don't always mean better beer. In the case of something like an Old Ale, the idea, or ours at least, was to strip away the complications, to reduce the number of variables and focus on making a simple, yet complex tasting ale.
To that end, we used mostly pale malt, with a small percentage of crystal malt for color....