Thursday, 23 May 2013

Tasting Notes: Stupid is as Stupid Does

So the Stupid is as Stupid Does (a munich/citra SMaSH) is kegged and in the glass. Despite the fact that on brew day every thing that could have gone wrong, went wrong, the beer turned out OK. OK, but not great.

The beer started at 1.035 (instead of the expected 1.054) and finished at 1.005, for an alcohol content of 3.9%. I didn't compensate for this low OG, and kept my hopping as planned, leading to a beer with 25IBUs (instead of 22), leading to a BU:GU of 0.71 (instead of the planned 0.40). Given this beer was built around a munich dunkel style, the bitterness was going to be high - more like a pilsner - but well within tolerable levels. A lot of hops went into flavour and aroma additions, providing a lot of citra character.

I had read that citra, when used as a bittering hop, can produce a rough bitterness. This is certainty the case, although in my opinion, the effect is magnified by the high BU:GU of this beer. The harsher bitterness aside, this is a pleasant beer.

Update: Since I'm bottling most of this for an exchange with others participating in the London HomeBrewers SMaSH, I made the label to the left to celebrate the 'success' of this brew...

More below the fold.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Brew Day - Summer Lemon Hefeweizen

Trying a new arrangement in the
Today I'm brewing a summer wheat. Hefeweizen aficionados will want to turn away now - I'm committing the unforgivable sin of brewing it with lemon (traditionally, hefeweizen is served without the lemon slice so often found in American wheats).

The beer itself is a mix of German and US style hefeweizen - a typical German grain/hop bill, with lots of pilsner malt and hallertauer hops, but fermented with a less estery US hefeweizen yeast. And yes, a lemon's worth of zest & juice goes into the batch.

Recipe & Brewday Below the Fold...

Friday, 17 May 2013

Book Review: Wild Brews: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition

A few weeks ago I came across an old chapters gift card which still had some money on it, so I bought a few brewing books. The first of these (For the Love of Hops) I reviewed last week. I've now worked my way through through the second book - Wild Brews: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition by Jeff Sparrow.

Wild Brews.
Styles Introduction: 4/5
History of Belgian Brewing: 5/5
Coverage of Wild/Sour Beer Styles: 4/5
Wild Fermentation & Organisms: 5/5
Blending & Other Advanced Topics: 4/5
Homebrewing Procedures: 5/5
Overall: 4.4/5

This is one of the better brewing books I've read in a while. Maybe not quite as good as Designing Great Beers, but it is a very, very, very close second. This book covers the unique 'wild' (or sour) beer styles of Belgium, and does an amazing job of covering every aspect of these styles of beers that you could ever want to know. This book open with a history of sour beers, covering everything from the roots of sour brewing (10,000 years old!), to the development of modern methods, to the abandonment of those methods by all but a few Belgian brewers, and their new adoption in a handful of craft brewers around the world. This is followed by a 'drinking guide' of the major producers products. After this, the book goes into a hard-core look the organisms and chemistry of a wild ferment, and finishes by dedicating the final third of the book to a discussion of how wild brewing can be done by the homebrewer.

If you brew sours, or are even vaguely interested in them, this book belongs on your bookshelf.

More Below the Fold...

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Identifying Wild Yeast Part Deux

So my first go at identifying wild yeast using ITS sequencing did not work as well as I had hoped. Of course, after setting up the system I learned that the method I was using was best for non-yeast fungi, rather than for yeast. Luckily one of my few readers, Sam - author of eurekabrewing - came to the rescue with a few papers showing better ways to do it.

So I've revamped the plan and will use a slight variation of my old method. Previously I was trying to sequence the regions of the genome between pieces of the ribosome (full explanation of the method and what a ribosome is can be found here). Instead, I'm going to sequence part of the 26s portion of the ribosome (26S rRNA). The specific part I'm amplifying has been used successfully to identify yeast in the past, including the very species of yeast we're likely to find in a wild brew1-3.

As always, the meat is below the fold...

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Yeast: Species,Strains and Variability

A dendogram showing the genetic/evolutionary relationship
between various species of yeasts. From Reference 1.
So last night I met with the London Homebrewers president, and we planned out something special. I'm not going to say more here - but lets just say once this new project gets rolling it'll blow my blog (and the activities it covers) out of the water.

But, as part of the meeting, our discussion turned to questions like 'what is Brett', 'how does a strain of Brett (or lacto, etc) compare to a yeast strain', etc. In other words, what is the difference between wyeast 1056, 1084 & 2001 (American Ale, Irish Ale and Plisner Urquell respectively), and how does that compare to Brettanomyces bruxellensis or lambicus?

Before going into the details, a brief note on how science organizes species. We organize based on genetic/evolutionary similarity - i.e. if we had two strains that were genetically similar, and one less genetically similar, we would cluster the more similar species together. An example of this can be seen in the attached image - Saccharomyces cerevisiae (top of image) is grouped separate from the Dekkara/Brettanomyces yeasts, while the the Dekkara/Brettanomyces are clustered together The numbers on the lines indicate the relative amount of genetic differences between species, so we can say that Saccharomyces is slightly more similar to Hansenispora occidentalis (71+75 = 146 units of difference) than it is to Brett. bruxellensis (100 + 51 + 100 = 251 units). This mapping allows us to group organisms based on similarity, giving us the ability to separate organisms into strains, species, genera, and higher taxonomical orders. But yeast - being the nightmares of taxonomists - don't play nice...

As always, details below the fold.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Book Review: For The Love of Hops - The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops

A few weeks ago I came across an old Chapters gift card I got for xmas 3 or 4 years ago, and much to my delight it had a balance remaining on it! What was I to do with my new-found wealth? Buy brewing books, of course!  This is the first of two book reviews that should appear this month.

For the Love of Hops.
Hop History: 5/5
Modern Hop Development: 5/5
Bitterness Chemistry: 3/5
Aroma Chemistry: 5/5
Commercial Use: 5/5
Homebrew Use: 2/5
Recipes: 3/5
Overall: 4.0/5

Despite being sold in the homebrewing section of the book store, this book doesn't really belong there. Advice specific to homebrewers is found in a handful of side-boxes scattered throughout the book, but by-and-large this book is orientated at professional brewers. In fact, had I known in advance what this book was about in advance I probably would not have bought it.

And that would have been a mistake - this book is a must-read for any brewer interested in any aspect of hops. While the book is written largely from the perspective of craft brewers, the information in it is of great interest & use to the home-brewer. Full review below the fold.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Stupid is as Stupid Does . . . A SMaSH Beer

Using a decoction to fix screw-up # 2
Its brew day again; a mere 7 days since last time.  The saison is fermenting along fine, the sour barleywine is growing a pellicle, the hopsteader is gone, and the son of gnarly is almost out.  So my beer is either gone, is nearly gone, or is a long ways away from being done.  What is a brewer to do?  Brew another long-ageing beer!

OK, that's dumb, but this beer is part of a group-brew with other members of the London Homebrewers Guild.  This time, we're doing SMaSH beers - Single Malt and Single Hop.  It is exactly what it sounds like - you brew a beer using nothing but a base malt and a single hop.  In our case, we drew a malt and a hop out of a hat . . . I drew Munich malt & Citra hops.

I decided to brew a bastardized Munich Dunkel; instead of classical European hops there would be Citra; in place of classical lager yeasts there would be a steam-beer like yeast (WLP810, San Francisco).  This is a half-batch using a single-step mash; should have been an easy brew day.  I had tentatively named this "MC SMaSH".  Yes, that's corny as hell, but MC = Munich Citra, and I've been listening to a lot of my old beastie boys albums lately...

And then brew day arrived and everything began going wrong:
  1. Lost the cat (he suck out of the garage, and down the street).  In chasing him I thought I had over-heater the strike water,
  2. Started the mash, then realized my strike water was just over mash temp (66C), not strike temp (75C).  Undershot the desired 66.7C mash temp by nearly 10C.
  3. Decocted twice to get back upto mash temp; burnt the second decoction.
  4. Mash runoff gravity was poor - 1.028 instead of 1.041
  5. OG was 1.035, not 1.054
So, without further ado, let me present the aptly re-named "Stupid is as Stupid Does".

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Yeast Identification Test

A short while ago I wrote a post on a fairly technical method to identify wild (and not-so-wild) yeast. This method relies on sequencing a short piece of the yeasts genome; this sequence is then used to ID the yeast. In this article I am going through an example of this method, aiming to demonstrate the operation of this methods. Sadly, we have no official wild yeasts in this example, but we do have a few strains of Brett as well as a yeast sample from a batch of beer that may or may not have been contaminated. Specifically, I am testing:
  • Wyeast 1084 (Irish ale); a run-of-the-mill Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain of yeast.
  • White Labs Brettanomyces lambicus
  • White Labs Brettanomyces bruxellensis
  • A mystery yeast from my Guilds president - its either White Labs Yorkshire Square, or a yeast which contaminated his latest brew.
Details below the fold...