Nov 302012

I decided to be a little creative when making my most recent lager yeast starter. I am going to be co-brewing an 11 gallon batch of German pils, and this requires a 2 gallon starter using my starter system. It seems like a waste of beer to just dump 2 gallons of starter down the drain, so I decided to make a low gravity beer as my starter instead. I have been meaning to make a berlinerweisse for a while now, and this seemed like the perfect excuse to try it.

A berliner weisse is a low alcohol, clean, sour German beer. The low alcohol is perfect for making a starter – the yeast won’t be overwhelmed by a lot of sugars and alcohol. Berliner weisses are also lightly hopped at 2-3 IBU, so there are little hops to impair the health of the yeast. And this is a clean German beer, so I can get away with using a German lager yeast instead of the German ale yeast. The only tricky part is the souring.
Souring a beer can be achieved a number of ways. You can cheat, and add lactic acid post fermentation. A substantial amount of acidulated malt in the mash will also sour a beer. However, authentic souring of the beer comes from fermenting with lactobacillus. This, too, can be achieved a couple ways. The simplest method is to co-pitch pure cultures of lactobacillus and yeast. In addition to limiting the control of sourness, a major disadvantage of this method is that lactobacillus will be coming in contact with all of your fermentation equipment. I find that a more controlled and cleaner approach to producing a sour beer is by performing a sour mash. The wort is soured prior to boiling by one of two methods: 1) mashing and cooling to around 100F, tossing in a handful of unmilled grain, and leaving it for several days, 2) after mashing and sparging, cooling the drained wort to about 100F and adding a handful of grain, leaving the wort to sour for a few days. The lactobacillus present on the unmilled grain will begin fermenting, thereby producing lactic acid. Alternatively, a pure culture of lactobacillus can be pitched into the wort instead of unmilled grain. The latter method provides better control over souring the wort, as you don’t have to worry about other bugs present on the grains potentially infecting the beer. After souring by whatever method, the wort is boiled to kill off the bacteria and yeast is pitched. The level of lactic acid can easily be controlled by tasting the wort throughout souring process, and boiling it once the desired level of acidity is achieved.
For souring this beer, I opted to do a sour mash by soured the wort for a few days, followed by boiling. This will keep bugs out of my system and give me clean yeast for the pils. I opted to forgo using a pure lactobacillus culture, and instead made a sour starter as detailed in Funk With Less Fuss from the March/April 2011 issue of Zymurgy, like I did for my Elysian Ale. In short, I added a handful of unmilled grain to 1 quart of sugar water (1.032) and kept at room temperature for 4 days. Very simple.
For the wort, I skipped the all-grain brewing for this one, and just used wheat LME and DME. I added 3.3 lb LME and 1 lb DME to 3.5 gallons of water, and boiled for a couple minutes to sanitize. I added this to a sanitized cooler, and added a gallon of cold water to drop the temperature to about 100F. I then added the sour starter to the wort. To inhibit the growth of acetobacter and other aerobic bugs, and to promote the growth of the lactobacillus, I purged the cooler with a blanket of CO2. You could also just put a layer of plastic wrap on the surface of the wort, similar to how sauerkraut is made. I wrapped the cooler in sleeping bags to further insulate it. Over the next couple days I added boiling water to raise the temperature to stay in the 90s. However, since this was kept in my basement, my attempts to keep the temperatures constantly high were not very successful. In all, the wort soured for six days. It smelled very acetic and lactic. It reminded me of sauerkraut – not very pleasant for a beer. But, all this will be cleaned up by the yeast.
After souring I drained the wort (5.5 gal) from the cooler, I heated the wort and added enough DME to bring the gravity up to 1.033. I boiled the wort, and added 2.9% AA Hersbrucker for 30 min to yield ~3 IBUs. I pitched a 1 L starter of WLP838 Southern German Lager Yeast, and fermented in the low 60s F.
After a week, I transferred the beer to a keg, and harvested my yeast. I counted my yeast cells, and had just the right amount of yeast for an 11-gallon batch of 1.052 wort for lagering.
And the beer turned out great as well. It’s light and tart, with a slightly malty, but lactic nose. There is no hop aroma or flavor. What remains of the malt sweetness is balanced by the acidity. This is a perfect lite beer clocking in a 3% ABV. Perhaps I will play around with adding some fruit juices to it and roll out a raspberry, cranberry, peach, or whatever berliner weisse for next summer.
All in all I killed two birds with one stone. I generated the yeast I needed for a subsequent pilsner, and got a tasty berliner weisse in the process. I think I may have to make a habit of doing more starters this way in the future.
Nov 012012

I have been contemplating taming wild yeast. What I mean is I want to isolate clonal strains of wild yeast, be it S. cerevisiae or Brettanomyces species. By far the latter is more intriguing, as there are hundreds of S. cerevisiae strains available. To begin taming Brett stains I need two things: a source and a medium to specifically select Brett versus S. cerevisiae. Well, maybe a third thing – patience, as this is going to get tedious.

In regards to the source, I’ll figure that out later. More importantly, I need a selective medium to isolate non-S. cerevisiae yeast.  Scouring the internet, I found several selective and differential media. The differential media use chemicals to either enhance the barnyard/funk smell of Brett (p-coumaric acid being converted to 4-ethyl-phenol) or change the color of the colony (metabolism of bromocresol green). I’m not interested in differentiating yeast, so I narrowed my options to selective media. There are three major selective media: copper sulfate, lysine, and cycloheximide. I opted for copper sulfate because it’s super cheap, and you don’t need a lot of it.
Base Medium
For my base agar medium, I will be using a modified MYPG. It’s “modified” due to my limited access to yeast extract. Basically I’m using expired YPD agar from the lab, cutting the quantity by three-quarters. This yields 0.25% yeast extract, 0.5% dextrose, and 0.5% agar. I then add dextrose to yield 1%, agar to yield 1.5%, and malt extract to yield 0.3% Here’s a comparison of MYPG and my modified medium:
0.3% malt extract
0.3% malt extract
0.3% yeast extract
0.25% yeast extract
1% dextrose
1% dextrose
0.5% peptone
0.5% peptone
1.5% agar
1.5% agar
Copper Sulfate
There are some discrepancies between various individuals who have reported using copper sulfate as the selective agent when growing Brett. The amount used by van der Aa Kuhle and Jespersen (Int J Food Microbiol 43.
205-213, 1998) was 195 ppm. Chad Yakobson at brettanomycesproject.com used 1200 ppm, and Jason at sciencebrewer.com used 312 ppm. I decided to try two concentrations to see what grows – 195 ppm and 390 ppm. My stock solution of copper sulfate was 1.95% w/v CuSO4·5H2­O dissolved in water, so I added 0 μl, 250μl (195 ppm), or 500 μl (390 ppm) of copper sulfate solution to 25 ml of melted agar per plate.

My control for S. cerevisiae inhibition was Wyeast 3522, and my test yeast mixture was the dregs of Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere.  I chose Wyeast 3522 (WLP550) because that is the primary yeast strain used to ferment Bam Biere.

The Test
I scraped my glycerol stock of Wyeast 3522 and resuspended in 50μl water. I added 10μl to plates and streaked for isolation. Similarly, I added 10μl of Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere to the plates and streaked for isolation.  These were incubated at 30°C for several days to a week.
The Wyeast 3522 and the S. cerevisiae in the Jolly Pumpkin dregs grew within 2 days.  At that point I saw a lot of colonies on the MYPG plates, with less on the 195 ppm plate.

3522 0 ppm CuSO4

3522 195 ppm CuSO4

3522 390 ppm CuSO4

Jolly Pumpkin 0 ppm CuSO4

Jolly Pumpkin 195 ppm CuSO4

Jolly Pumpkin 390 ppm CuSO4

There were no colonies on the 390 ppm plates.  I kept the latter plates at 30°C for several more days, and finally something (s) grew on the Jolly Pumpkin plate, but not the Wyeast 3522 plate.  I was concerned that what grew out was bacterial in origin, as there is no antibiotic on the plate to suppress bacteria.  I picked a couple Jolly Pumpkin colonies, and analyzed them under the microscope, and they were indeed yeast, not bacteria (not shown).

So what’s next?  Now I’ve got to figure out what source I’m going to use to isolate these wild yeast strains, and then get some time to start taming them.
Oct 112012

So I decided to try my hand at a partigyle brew, and I figured what better style to do this with than an English brown ale and a mild ale. I’ve been meaning to do this for a few years now, but never sat down to actually calculate a recipe. I sat down with my brown ale recipe (Nutty Brown Dog) and my mild recipe (Muddy Paws Mild), and tried to figure out the commonalities between them so I could formulate a common recipe to brew them both. They both had Maris Otter and chocolate malt, so that part was easy. The crystal malts weren’t too dissimilar – crystal 80 and Special B versus crystal 60 and crystal 120. But the brown ale has special roast and amber malt, while the mild has mild malt and aromatic malt.

Nutty Brown Dog
Muddy Paws Mild
9 lb
Maris Otter
3 lb
Maris Otter
8 oz
Crystal Malt 80
2 lb
Mild Malt
8 oz
Special Roast
1 lb
Crystal Malt 60
8 oz
Amber Malt
8 oz
Aromatic Malt
4 oz
Chocolate Malt
4 oz
Crystal Malt 120
3 oz
Special B Malt
3 oz
Chocolate Malt

I weighed my options, and in the end I decided to base this recipe off of the mild ale.

To formulate my recipe, I assumed I would obtain 65% of my sugar in the first runnings and 35% in the second runnings. I’ve been analyzing the gravity of my first and second runnings for a few years now, and I typically see 2:1 ratio of the gravity between the first and second runnings. I batch sparge, so I figured this would be predictable of a partigyle. These numbers are similar to those reported by Randy Mosher in Brewing Techniques where he says to expect ~58% of the sugar in the first runnings, and ~42% in the second runnings. I formulated my recipe for an 11 gallon batch assuming 70% efficiency:

9lb Maris Otter
5lb Mild Malt
2lb Crystal Malt 60
8 oz Crystal Malt 120
6 oz Chocolate Malt
1lb Aromatic Malt
OG: 1.042
SRM: 19.6

Given the 65%:35% ratio of first and second runnings, that translates into the following for each:

First Runnings (Brown Ale)
Second Runnings (Mild)
5.85 lb
Maris Otter
3.15 lb
Maris Otter
3.25 lb
Mild Malt
1.75 lb
Mild Malt
1.3 lb
Crystal Malt 60
0.7 lb
Crystal Malt 60
5.2 oz
Crystal Malt 120
2.8 oz
Crystal Malt 120
3.9 oz
Chocolate Malt
2.1 oz
Chocolate Malt
0.65 lb
Aromatic Malt
0.35 lb
Aromatic Malt
0.5 oz
Challenger 8.3% (60 min)
0.5 oz
Kent Golding 5.5% (FWH)
0.5 oz
Kent Golding 5.5 %(60 min)
0.5 oz
Kent Golding 5.5% (15 min)
0.5 oz
Kent Golding 5.5% (0 min)
The recipe seems all well and good, so onto brewday.
Everything went according to schedule, I hit my mash temps, and drained my first running. Instead of obtaining the predicted theoretical gravity for 1.050 in the 6 gallons obtained, I obtained a gravity of 1.060. I sparged with 6 gallons of water, and obtained a gravity of 1.021 instead of the theoretical 1.027. So my sugar ratio was 74%:26%, and my overall efficiency was 73%. I decided to continue brewing with these worts, and then blend them after boiling to obtain to reduce the gravity of the first runnings and increase the gravity of the second runnings. To keep the same BU:GU ratio the same for the increased gravity of the first runnings, I added an additional 0.25 oz Centennial (9.7%) at 60 minutes.
After boiling, the gravity of the first runnings 1.068, and the gravity of the second runnings was 1.023. I calculated that I could take 1 gallon from the first runnings and add it to 4.5 gallons of the second runnings, and 1 gallon of the second runnings and add it to 4.5 gallons of the first runnings to obtain 1.060 and 1.031 for the first and second runnings, respectively. In actuality I obtained 1.057 and 1.032, which was close enough. I pitched WLP002 into each, and let everything ferment.
In the end, the brown ale turned out pretty good. It’s a little bit too nutty for me. It reminds me of hazelnuts, which I’m not a fan of. But the caramel flavors are nice, and the medium, almost creamy mouth feel is what I was looking for. I think the nutty character of the mild malt is adding to the nutty flavors of the chocolate malt, which is too much for me. Next time I’ll cut out the chocolate malt.
The mild did not turn out so well. The light mouth feel is nice, and I really like the maltiness. However, there is a really ashy taste that I can get over. My guess is that it is from the chocolate malt. Perhaps my sparge pH was too high, or I left the sparge water on the mash for too long. Whatever the reason, it is not what I was looking for. Next time I will monitor the sparge pH, and adjust accordingly. Also, I think I’ll blend the first and second runnings prior to boiling to adjust the gravities.
Overall, I think things went pretty well, and I learned a lot about partigyle brewing. It’s definitely an easy two for one brew day.
May 112011

I’m always behind on my entries, so here’s a wrap up of the sour cherry ale.

I named it Elysian Cherry Ale, and technically it’s a soured cherry Belgian pale ale.

After primary fermentation (which was quite vigorous), the final gravity was 1.014.  I added 1 Lb of cherry juice concentration, which brought it up to 1.022.  After a week of secondary fermentation, the gravity was 1.016.  I transferred that to a corny keg, and it was force carbonated for a week at about 2.5 vol CO2.

It was then entered into the BUZZ Iron Brewer where it ranked 4th out of fourty-some.  The top ten beers then competed in a public tasting where it tied for 2nd.  All in all, not too bad.

The flavor was quite unique I think.  There is a lot of cherry flavor and aroma, with a slight puckering tartness.  It was described as being a little soda-like.  Personally I found it enjoyable.  I’m definitely going to give it another go, but I’ll do a secondary fermentation with Brett, I think.

Mar 162011

I got my wort for the Iron Brewer from Iron Hill on Friday Mar 11.  The SG was 1.058, and it was all domestic 2-row.

In short, here’s the recipe:

Iron Hill Wort (2 row)   5 gallons
CaraMunich I 1lb 5oz
Aromatic Malt 11 oz

2.5 oz East Kent Goldings (4.8% AA) – 60 min

Starting gravity = 1.050
Calculated IBUs = 31
Calculated SRM = 8.3

I want to sour this beer, so what I did was make a sour starter on Tuesday.  I made 1 quart of sugar water (SG = 1.032).  I added a handful of 2 row to it, and incubated at room temp.
On Friday, I transfered the wort to a cooler, and cooled to about 100F.  Then I added the sour starter, and closed it up.  Incubated for about 1.5 days, then drained the wort.  It was a bit sour, with an aroma reminiscent of sauerkraut.  It tastes pretty good.

Partial mash:
I heat 2 quarts of water up to 160F and added the following grains.  Incubated at 150F for 30 min.
CaraMunich I 1lb 5oz
Aromatic Malt 11 oz
Drained and sparged with 2 quarts water.  Added to wort.

I brought the wort to a boil and added 2.5 oz East Kent Goldings (4.8% AA)
Boiled for 60 minutes, and then chilled
Transfered to fermenter
Topped off to 5.5 gallons with water

The next morning I pitched Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes

Feb 052011

Today, I’m going to start a Cherry Melomel. I’ll first ferment 5 gallons of orange blossom honey. Then I’ll rack it to secondary with cherry juice concentrate. Pretty simple – here’s the recipe.

15 lb Dutch Gold orange blossom honey
Dissolve in water to yield 5 gallons total.
Pitch 1.75 packs of D47 yeast.
Aug 212010

Wow, I’m actually caught up on my notes.  Last night I brewed “Nutty Brown Dog”.  It’s been over two years since I made that.  I’ve been disappointed in the beer for a while.  I really liked the first recipe I came up with for it, so I’m going back to that one.  The only changes are that I’ll change the crystal 120 to crystal 80, and change up the hops a little bit.  I really wanted to go with East Kent Golding hops the whole way through, but there weren’t any available.  Here’s the recipe:

Maris Otter Pale Malt      9 lbs
Crystal 80 Malt           0.5 lbs
Special Roast             0.5 lbs
Amber Malt                0.5 lbs
Chocolate Malt          0.25 lbs
Special B Malt               3 oz

0.75 oz First Gold (8% AA) – 60 min
0.25 oz First Gold (8% AA) – 20 min
1 oz Fuggle (4% AA) – 5 min

Starting Gravity: 1.053
Efficiency: 72%
Calculated SRM: 23.5
Calculated IBU: 26.53

Mashed at 156F for 1 hour with 1.25 qt water per lb grain. Collected 3 gal wort, batch sparged with 3 gal water at 168F. Boiled for a total of 1 h.
Chilled wort, transferred equal volumes to plastic food-grade buckets, and aerated by shaking for 5 min.
Pitched Wyeast 1098.  Started fermenting at 76F.

Aug 212010

I had Jolly Pumpkin’s Bam Bier a bit ago, and I loved it.  It’s a great low-alcohol beer with tons of flavor, and a nice subtle sourness.  I highly recommend buying this if you ever see it.  So, I was inspired to try something similar.  The style is along the lines of a low gravity saison, but with wild yeast and bacteria in the fermentation.  I listened to the “Can You Brew It?” podcast for details on the Bam Bier recipe.  Here was my plan: brew a 1.045 saison-ish beer.  Ferment 5 gallons with a saison yeast, and then throw some Bam Bier dregs into a half gallon to ferment separately.  Then when fermentation is complete, the two would be blended and allow to ferment of a bit longer.  Here’s the recipe:

Wildbriar Ale – Brewed July 24, 2010

2-Row Pale Malt     4 lbs
Pilsner Malt           3 lbs
Wheat Malt           1 lbs
Flaked Barley      0.5 lbs
Crystal 80        0.25 lbs

1 oz Spalt (5% AA) – 60 min
0.2 oz Cluster (7% AA) – 45 min
0.5 Hallertauer (3.2% AA) – 15 min
0.5 Hallertauer (3.2% AA) – flame-out

Starting Gravity: 1.045
Efficiency: 77%
Calculated SRM: 3.5
Calculated IBU: 26.85

Mashed at 148F for 1.5 hour with 1.5 qt water per lb grain. Collected 3.2 gal wort, batch sparged with 3 gal water at 168F. Boiled for a total of 1.5 h.
Chilled wort, transferred equal volumes to plastic food-grade buckets, and aerated by shaking for 5 min.
Transferred 0.5 gallon of wort to a 1 gall on jar.  Pitched 1 ml of a glycerol stock of dregs from a Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bier.

To the other 5 gallons, pitched Wyeast 3724.  Started fermenting at 76F.  Raised temperature to 85-90F for one week.  The gravity dropped to 1.004!  This is going to be super dry.
After another week, the 0.5 gallon fermentation seemed to be finishing up, so added that to the other 5 gallons.  Now it’s been sitting since then, and looks like it’s still fermenting.  I think this is going to be bone dry when it’s done.
Aug 142010

OK, it’s been a while.  Between moving, removing a fallen tree, generally taking care of a one-year-old, and working, it’s been hard to find extra time.  

Here’s the questionnaire we presented to the homebrew club a few months ago regarding the English ale yeast strains.  In short, everyone could taste differences in all beers.  Some strains were more popular than others.  It is interesting that 1768 is a very polarizing strain.  Some loved it, some hated it.  Overall, it was an educational, but labor intensive, experiment.  Given the differences between all of these yeasts, I highly recommend comparing different strains when formulating recipes.  Comparing eight at a time is not practical (or advisable), but pick two or three and compare the results.  Picking one strain every another won’t make or break your recipe, but I guarantee it will make the difference between a good beer and a great beer.

Could you taste differences among the samples?
Yes (24)   No (0)
Everyone could taste differences
How did you expect the samples to compare?
Very Similar (7)    Somewhat Similar (13)   Not Similar (2)

How did the samples actually compare?

Very Similar (2)    Somewhat Similar (16)   Not Similar (5)
Most people expected the samples to taste somewhat similar and found that they did.  There was a general shift from Very Similar towards Not Similar after tasting the ale.

Which sample did you enjoy the most?
1026(3) 1028(3) 1098(2) 1099(3) 1275(2) 1768(3) 1882(4) 1968(4)
Nothing substantial here.  This looks like a fairly uniform response with all yeast strains finding favor.

Which sample did you enjoy the least?
1026(5) 1028(0) 1098(2) 1099(4) 1275(1) 1768(8) 1882(2) 1968(1)
Two stains stood out on this question; 1028 was notable for no one finding it objectionable.  Over one-third of the respondents chose 1768 at the least enjoyable ale.
Which sample produced the best Special Bitter?
1026(2) 1028(1) 1098(1) 1099(3) 1275(3) 1768(6) 1882(0) 1968(4)
1768 was chosen by 30% of the tasters as producing the best Special Bitter.  This is notable especially considering that over one third of the tasters disliked the 1786 ale in the preceding question.  1882 is notable in that none of the tasters indicated that it made the best special bitter.
Which sample produced the worst Special Bitter?
1026(4) 1028(1) 1098(0) 1099(3) 1275(1) 1768(8) 1882(2) 1968(2)
Once again the tasters indicated a strong reaction to 1768.  It was selected to produce the worst Special Bitter as well as produce the best.  Over one-third of the responses indicated that 1768 produces the worst Special Bitter.  1098 was not found objectionable by anyone.
Which yeast strain are you most interested in brewing with?
1026(5) 1028(2) 1098(0) 1099(4) 1275(2) 1768(3) 1882(5) 1968(3)
The most noteworthy response was that no one indicated that they were interested in brewing with 1098
Which yeast strain are you least interested in brewing with?
1026(6) 1028(0) 1098(0) 1099(4) 1275(1) 1768(8) 1882(2) 1968(2)
Many members of the group indicated that they were not interested in brewing with 1026 and 1768.

Both 1768 and 1026 seemed to produce strong responses throughout the tasting questionnaire.  1028 and 1098 are significant in that no one indicated that they were least interested in brewing with them.
Apr 272010
Bottled all beers on Sunday (4/25). Added ~1.6 oz dextrose to each, to give us a final CO2 volume of about 1.8. Got an average of 30 bottles from each. The only problem we had was forgetting to add the sugar to the 1028, which we had to pour back into the bottling keg, prime, and rebottle. Other than that, it went pretty well. We got to taste them all side by side, and each was quite different. I’ll post an official tasting once they are done carbonating.
Here is the final wrap up of the fermentation from Mark:
April 5: Thermostat set to 68F
April 8: Roused yeast (since several strains are very flocculant)
April 11: Moved fermentors to house – 72F – for diacetyl rest, also recommended for several strains
April 11-25: Roused yeast daily
Here are the final gravities and percent attenuation:
1026 – 1.011 77%
1028 – 1.010 79%
1098 – 1.012 74%
1099 – 1.012 74%
1275 – 1.010 79%
1768 – 1.014 70%
1882 – 1.011 77%
1968 – 1.012 74%