Off Flavor Fun, Herbal Brew on #IPADay, and Beer Celebrity

Tuesday night I went to Tenaya Creek to do an off flavor kit with Luis from Hooked On Hops, the Tenaya brew crew, & my homeboy Ben (a fellow SNAFUer). It was a lot of fun and it left me feeling pretty confident for the tasting portion of my Cicerone re-take next week.

BIG thanks to everyone involved for putting that together. The Tenaya guys were marvelous hosts & I need to find excuses to go drink beer with them in their brewery more often.

I’m still not confident that my palette is sharp enough to be an accomplished BJCP judge, but I can tell I’m getting much better at tasting beer in general. All my practice is paying off! 😛

In other news, I can now say I’ve brewed with herbs. I’ve actually been looking into spices & herbs a little lately, but I was not quite fully prepared for last night’s brew. My buddy Reggie showed up with a ton of herbs. Well, a pound. Far too much for a 5 gallon batch. I could immediately tell I was going to need to try to be the voice of reason in this endeavor.

First off, I threw together a relatively mellow grain bill earlier in the day with the hopes of having a little malty backbone to stand up to whatever lunacy may come its way: 40% 2row, 23% white wheat, 13% Maris Otter (leftovers from another batch), 10% organic Munich, 7% rye, 7% honey. The rye was there for a little body in case we added Brett. The honey was added by the mad herber.

The recipe was originally designed to be around 6.5% and I was planning on using more of the White Labs 585 Belgian Saison III. Instead we ended up with a starting gravity of 1.074 which will likely put us in the 8% range, not factoring in the other pound of honey Reggie wants to add in secondary. Our yeast choice morphed to a combo of a starter-less vial of White Labs 570 Belgian Golden Ale & a twice stepped up batch of White Labs 645 Brett C.

In general, I’m quite curious to see how Brett acts in situations like this. There are certain expectations for Brett when it’s the primary or secondary yeast involved, but it’s going in with a (likely) bigger army than its faster acting competitor. Obviously we will not get a remotely clean look at this interaction because of all the other donkeyness going on.

The donkeyness started when we made tea out of each of the herbs in coffee cups. I was aware of wormwood‘s presence in absinthe but didn’t really give tasting the tea much thought. I’m a brewer. I taste my ingredients and try to figure out how they’ll work in my beer.

After tasting each of the herbal teas I went out to hit the next temperature level in our step mash. That was when I noticed I wasn’t quite right. I’d only had one beer. What the hell?

It wasn’t terribly serious, but I was definitely feeling a little blurry. Great. I’m sure John Palmer recommends psychotropic herb sampling while brewing. That’ll be the new chapter in the updated version of How To Brew.

So anyway, the rest of the brewing went fine. I suppose. We got 6 gallons of likely disaster. We dumped in a pound of honey. We added strange herbal tea. We went and drank IPAs for IPA Day. We’re hoping for the best. 🙂

To add to the fun, I did not decant the Brett C starter because there was still a pellicle & truthfully I wasn’t sure a little starter wort was going to matter. Anyway, in goes the Brett & then I smell the flask. I was expecting slightly funky with maybe a little fruit. Instead it smelled like sweaty sloppy joes. Really really meaty. I don’t know Brett C well enough to know if something was wrong. Oh well. I guess we can always throw more herbs in.

Haha. I just read the herb skullcap can be used to treat alcoholism. What a wonderful ingredient for a beer!

In other news, I made a $19 fermentation chamber/swamp cooler for my upcoming English IPAs. 

It’s a 50gal container from Walmart and will fit 2 buckets & a 5gal glass carboy. It’s not the prettiest, but I think it should work fairly well. I’ll report back on its effectiveness.

I’ll leave you good people with my celebrity appearance in a Tenaya Creek Facebook ad:

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2 thoughts on “Off Flavor Fun, Herbal Brew on #IPADay, and Beer Celebrity

    • The container worked great. Won most of my homebrewing awards by fermenting the first week or more in a setup like that. Just traded out frozen water bottles a couple times a day.

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