Friday, 29 March 2013

Yeast Exchange

Important Note:

As of August 15th, 2013 I will no longer update this post as new yeasts are added to my yeast bank.  A full list of available yeasts, as well as information on how I share these strains, is now located on a dedicated yeast exchange page.

While no one seems to comment on my blog, a few people have sent me emails, several of which have asked about trading or buying yeast from our bank.  As most of the banked yeasts are from commercial sources I am hesitant to sell them, but I am open to trade.  Below the fold you will find a complete list of our yeasts, and I will do my best to keep this list updated. As always, the update list can be found over at the London Homebrewers Guild webpage.

I use a simple and cheap system for sharing yeasts, the details of which can be found here.  If you have yeasts which you would like to exchange but lack the capacity to prepare these mailers yourself, e-mail me and I will be more than happy to send you some prepared mailers that you can then use to send me yeast in return.

Requests can be set emailed to "suigenerisbrewing {ampersal} gmail {period} com", with the stuff between the curly brackets replaced with the correct symbol off the keyboard.  As a spam control, the subject line must start with the following, including the square brackets:

Emails lacking the above text in the subject line are automatically sent to the trash.  The yeast list can be found below the fold...

Tasting Notes: Hopsteader

A Pint of
The Hopsteader has been kegged, is fully carbonated, and I've been enjoying it for a few weeks.  I was looking forward to this beer, as it utilized a new (to me) method called 'hop bursting'; the use of large doses of hops near the end of the boil, in place of the more common 90 or 60 minute bitterness addition.  By 'large dose', I'm talking 2-3X that is normal for a recipe - in this case 128g (5oz) not counting dry hops!  The bitterness provided by this method is supposed to be more mellow, and of course, it comes along with big hop aroma and flavour.  This was boosted by the addition of another 42g (1.5oz) of dry hops.

The beer finished close to the expected gravity - 1.016, quite close to the expected 1.014, giving this beer a healthy 6.1% alcohol.  After a week in the primary it was transfered to a secondary, along with 42g of Cascade hops.  Two weeks later it was kegged, and allowed to carbonate for 1 day at 20PSI, and then at serving pressure (12PSI) until ready (about 1 week).  Despite being kegged, it has changed a lot over the past 2-3 weeks, so I've waited for it to settle down before writing this review.  The first few glasses were a big disappointment; the beer had an unpleasant, almost vegetable-like taste, presumably brought on by the high dose of hops.  But, with every day, this dropped away leaving an ever more pleasant beer.  More below the fold...

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Introduction to Hunting Wild Yeasts

My interest in brewing has been life-long; I remember helping my grandfather to make schnapps and applejack when I was a little kid.  As soon as I was legally able to (that's all I'll admit to here) I began homebrewing beer.  At the same time I began my undergraduate degree in Cellular, Molecular and Microbial Biology, leading to a early fusion of my education and hobbies. By the age of 20 I had engaged in a series of experiments to evolve brewing strains (discussed extensively in this thread, over at homebrewtalk). At the same time I began brewing sour & wild beers.

I then made the choice (no comment on whether it was a good one or not) to do a PhD, and thus entered a 7 year period where I was constantly moving and never sure where I'd be 6 months into the future (followed by another 4 years of the same whilst post-doc'ing). Over successive moves I lost my library of "custom yeasts", but not the passion and interest in developing my own strains & wild brewing.

This interest was rekindled last year, after I joined the London Homebrewers Build, my local brew club.  Within the first two meetings I had run into a couple of people interested in brewing with wild yeast. These (beer fueled) discussions led to what I think is a unique project  - we aim to capture, purify and characterize a range of local wild yeasts, with the hopes of developing a strain (or two, or three) suitable for brewing.

This is the introductory post in what will be a series cataloguing this process.  Below the fold is an outline of the strategy and some resources we are using.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Son of Gnarley - a Parti gyle

I am in dire straights - the hopsteadder is kegged, but the merlins mild is gone and the Q3 is being held for the next club meeting. Meaning my supply of beer is not upto demand.  To make things worse, the brew planned for this weekend - Gnarly Roots Barleywine - won't be ready for bottling for 8 to 12 months.  What is a brewer to do?

The answer - I hope - lies in the fact that my brewing setup is not capable of fully utilizing the 5kg pof grain being used in the Gnarly Roots.  As such, after sparging, there should be usable sugar left in the grain.  I can then re-sparge - as in parti gyle - the grain and produce a second, weaker beer.  This is a traditional way of brewing, where the brewer sparges the grain leftover from a bigger batch of beer, to produce a second (and sometimes third) batch of weaker beer.

The problem with this brew is that I need to wing it on brew day - I have no way of knowing in advance what the gravity of the second beer will be, meaning I'll have to calculate my hop additions on the fly.  Moreover, I'm using leftover hops for the whole batch (Hallertau, Cascade, Nugget & Northern Brewer), and the american ale yeast used for the Gnalry Roots, so I'm not exactly going to be on-style for any beer style.  Finally, my wife tried to throw out some honey that had crystallized -  I saved it, so there is ~300 ml of honey to add to the brew as well.

So what am I making?  Lets call it the Son of Gnarly Canadian Bitter.  Why Canadian?  Cause it's being brewed here...

Go big, or go home (Gnarly Roots Barley Wine)

Tentative Label
One of the downsides of a career as a scientist is you spend a lot of the early part of your career in temporary positions. For the past 12 years I've never known if I still be living/working where I was 6 months in the future. I've finally reached a point in my career where that is no longer the case, meaning I can finally re-start brewing beers that require multi-year commitments - i.e. barleywines and sour beers.

It has been over 8 years since my last batch of either of these two lascivious beer styles, despite them being among my favourites.  It is time to end the drought - and since I'm also approaching my 20th year as a home brewer (December 6th 2016 is the day), I want to make something that I can use to celebrate the vicennia of my homebrewing hobby (plus, enjoy a few bottle of between now and then).

Since this is a big beer event, I need a big beer - so I'm making a sour barleywine.  As in, combining my two favourite kinds of beer into one hellofa brew.

This recipe is based on a recipe from Charlie Papazian's "Homebrewers Companion".  For years I've wanted to brew his Gnarly Roots Barley Wine; a classical American-style barleywine that is fermented with a normal ale yeast, and then soured with Brettanomyces bruxellensis &  Brettanomyces  lambicus. Coming in at ~12% alcohol, and requiring nearly a year to ferment, this recipe should produce a complex, wine-like beverage with the unique phenoic flavours and aromas imparted by brettanomyces yeasts.

I've staid nearly true to Charlie P's recipe - aside from altering the bittering hop from Erocia to Chinook, and upping the portion of the beer brewed all-grain (its too big a recipe to do a 100% all-grain brew using my setup).  This beer should fulfil my cravings for both a barleywine and a sour.  Recipe and brew-day noted are below the fold.

Craft Brew Review - 4 great beers.

Because I homebrew I rarely have purchased beer in the house.  But every once in a while the well runs dry & I'm forced to make a beer-run to the local(and usually poorly stocked) LCBO.  Having recently run out of Merlins Mild, and with the Hopsteader still carbonating, it was time for one of my rare beer runs.  The secret to a good beer run is to bring my wife - while she doesn't like beer, she somehow has this magical ability to find the rare gems among the LCBOs usually meagre offerings.  As per usual, she hit a home run and found me four excellent beers:

The IPAs:

Hops and Robbers by Double Trouble Brewing
Boneshaker IPA by Amsterdam Brewery

The Pale Ales:

Crazy Canuck by Great Lakes Brewery

Reviews below the fold...

Monday, 11 March 2013

Video: Budget Yeast Starter System

A few weeks ago I posted a video & blog post on how to take yeast from a yeast bank and grow it upto amounts that can be used to start a 20L/5 US gallon batch of beer.  However, that video used equipment that not all brewers have - namely, a stir-plate and flask.  Not all brewers will want to make the investment into these items - especially if new to the hobby.

Luckily, there is a way for them to step-up yeast with zero investment - all you need is an empty 2L soda bottle and a funnel.  The only downsides to this method are a) you produce ~30% less yeast per step, and b) you must remember to manually oxygenate the yeast several times each day.

Important Note: The numbers and stages of this starter are based on the amount of yeast brewers receive when they get yeast from my yeast bank.  If you are starting with a wyeast smack-pack or white labs tube the process is slightly different; instructions for this can be found at the end of this post.

Below the fold you will find a couple of tables to help you determine how many steps, and what step sizes, you need to produce the number of yeast you require.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Surprisingly Not Bad (Q3 Tasting Notes)

A half-pint of Q3
So my grocery store challenge beer - named Q3 (q-cubed; Quinoxic Quaffable Quinoa), has been kegged for two weeks and is ready for a first sampling.  The official 'unveiling' to my brew club is still three weeks away, but I had a half-bottle left and wanted to be sure I wasn't poisoning my fellow homebrewers.

This does not smell at all like a beer - not that I expected it too.  Because this was brewed without hops, there is no hop aroma; nor is there much of the maltiness you would expect.  Much to my delight, there also was not the strong lactic acid odour I was expecting, due to the lactic acid fermentation that occurred during malting.

So what does this smell like - much as you'd expect from the recipe.  The aroma is not strong, but anise and sage are the predominant notes.  The combination is citrusy, reminding me a little of a orange liquor.  Honey is detectable in the back-notes, providing a bit of sweetnesss to the aroma.

This beer has a nice golden-coppery colour, and is cloudy like a hefeweizen.  The beer pours with a thin, short-lived head (this will hopefully improve with age).  In the glass, this looks more like a sparkling wine or cider than a beer, as the bottom of the glass gets layered with a thin films of bubbles while little accumulates on top.  The little bit of head that forms is comprised of larger, coarser bubbles than would be normal for beer.

The flavour of this brew is surprising - not at all the barely palatable beverage I was expecting. The flavour is mild and easy-on-the-tongue.  Honey and anise are the major flavours, although small amounts of sage come through.  These are layered over a unique flavour that I can only assume comes from the quinoa - almost a weak nuttiness or bread-like flavour.  The yeast don't seem to have imparted much of a fingerprint on the beer - none of the flavours I would associate with yeast (esters, diacetyl, etc) are apparent - unless they are part of the spicy/fruity flavours imparted by the sage & anise.

The mouthfeel of this 'beer' is most un-beerlike.  It is very thin - similar to a cider or mead - but was expected given the low finishing gravity of the beer (1.006).  The carbonation is much finer & more effervescent than a beer, producing a sensation more akin to a champaign, cider or sparkling mead.

Overall, I'm not entirely sure I made a beer - this is not an overtly beer-like concoction.  But it is not unpleasant - in fact, if it wasn't so much work & so damned expensive, this would make a nice summer drink to enjoy on the dock while watching the sunset - with ice.