Monday, 17 November 2014

Serial Feeding

In my review of "Brewing Engineering" by Steven Deeds I mentioned that I had an issue with a recommendation of his that amounted to using serial feedings to get a single tube of yeast upto pitchable amounts without using a starter. This led to some discussion with Dennis of Life Fermented asking why serial feeding is bad and how it differs from sugar additions in Belgian brewing traditions. I began an answer to this question, and quickly hit the character limit for a comment. So here's the answer in full.

Just to provide a little more background, the procedure the author was recommending was to hold back a portion of your wort, such that you are pitching a tube of white labs/wyeast yeast into an appropriate volume of wort for the cell count. At a later timepoint you then add the remainder of the wort, under the (likely correct) assumption that you now have sufficient yeast for the batch.

The issue with this comes down to a few things - what drives yeast cell division (and thus, production of some off-flavours), how yeasts change to a changing fermentation environment, and how yeast process fermentables.

More below the fold...

Friday, 14 November 2014

Documentary - Straight-up: The Issue of Alcohol in Ontario

This video is probably not of much interest to many of my readers. But for those of you in Ontario, its worth the hour of your life needed to go through it.

This video, originally streamed on Mom & Hops, is the product of a kickstarter campaign by Peter Lenardon and A.J. Wykes, and explores the alcohol distribution system here in Ontario and how it is gamed to ensure that new market entrants - e.g. local craft brewers - have the smallest chance of success.

The video features interviews with a number of Ontario brewers, discussing how the existing system which limits their ability to distribute (while not imposing the same limits on the big brewers) negatively impacts their ability to grow, reach their customers, and compete with the big brewers.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Book Review: Brewing Engineering

A two years or so ago I began a series of review articles on the various books in my brewing library. I had meant that to be a continuing series, but somehow it all got away from me and I now find myself with over a years worth of accumulated books and not a single word written about any of them.

I've been nudged out of my reviewing funk by Steven Deeds, author of Brewing Engineering, asking I do a review of the new edition (2nd edition) of his book. Free PDF in hand (yes, my services come cheap) I agreed to embark in my first review in over a year and a half...

This book takes a very different approach to its audience than most brewing books. One complaint I've made about a number of brewing books is that they aim at a very large audience - often to the detriment of the book. For example, Jamil's book "Yeast" targeted both home & commercial brewers, leaving both with too few details in some places and extraneous details elsewhere. From the point of view of a publisher this approach makes sense - the larger the audience the better the commercial success - but often the reader is left wanting more in some places and less in others. One pleasure of this book is that it is targeted squarely at the experienced home brewer - space is not wasted on "common knowledge" items (terminology, brewing process, ingredient characters, etc), nor is space spent on issue only of interest to commercial brewers with hectolitre tanks.

The data-heads out there will appreciate the more systematic approach to the presentation of graphs & data - e.g. giving R2 values for data fitting - and I really appreciated the mathematical approaches taken in some sections. Most of the time this approach works, but there are some cases where the author assumes a level of knowledge beyond what most experienced home brewers would have, leaving even the target audience (and admittedly, scientists such as myself) a little lost. There are also a few sections that are erroneous, or where the author repeats common misconceptions. But these sections are outweighed by the otherwise great information and unique information found between the pages of this book.

I'd also add that this is the first book to my knowledge which does a detailed analysis and description of brew-in-a-bag, which is an ever more popular way of brewing. Overall this is a good book - but one which you won't want to add to your shelf until you've moved past basic brewing and are moving onto a more advanced and technical approach to your hobby.

As always, more below the fold.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

A tale of two beers

This is the first in a series of articles I am working on about deigning, brewing and cellering vintage (long-aging) beers. By long ageing I mean a year minimum, with the upper ceiling ranging upwards of a few decades. This opening post is a bit of my history with vintage beers and an example of two of my more "recent" vintage brews. Future articles will look at how these beers age, how to design and brew them, and culminate with a long-planned recipe and brewday for a beer that I hope I will enjoy for a decade or more.

I have long enjoyed vintage beers, by which I mean beers aged for years before consumption. My first experience with these beers was an accident. My first barley wine was not conceived under the best of circumstances - I was more interested in the alcohol content than the finer aspects of the style. As was the norm in the 1990's the beer was under-pitched and fermented too warm, leading to a hot and overly estery beer that was unpalatable. Embarrassed, I hid these away in my parents basement where they were out-of-sight. Three or four years later, while helping my parents move, I found the missing cases of beer. On a lark I drank a bottle. In place of the fusel heat and esters were hints of sherry and toffee, dried fruits and wine. And so began a love of vintage beers.

Since that day I've made a point of aging a few bottles of any strong beer (over 8%) to see how they turn out over 8 to 18 months, and once or twice a year brew a batch of beer explicitly for laying down for some long ageing. "Recently" (March and October 2013) I brewed two such batches, and to open my mini-series on vintage beers I thought I would describe how these two particular beers have changed over time.

The beers:

Gnarly Roots Barley Wine
Brewed: March 2013
Age: 1 year, 7 months
% Alcohol: 12.8%
IBUs: 100 IBU
Other: Secondaried with Brett
42 (Belgian Dark Strong)
Brewed: October 2013
Age: 13 months
% Alcohol: 8.2%
IBUs: 26 IBU
Other: Brewed with homemade candi

Remainder of the post is below the fold...