Relentless & Aftershock Bring The Funk

Hello fellow heroes!

Once again it has been far too long, but I have exciting details about our first beer!

I mentioned in my last post that we had been experimenting with a 100% Brett kettle-soured Gose. Well now, I’m happy to report we made 10 bbls (310 gallons) of that bad boy!

The entire funk fiasco originated from a conversation I was having with my buddy Joe Flores, recent GABF Bronze winner and Head Brewer of Aftershock Brewing. I asked if he was interested in brewing something together or wanted to collaboratively funkify a beer he had done before, and he suggested his Gose.

Until that day, I hadn’t really considered taking a stab at putting my own spin on the style. Our water is already pretty salty and I’m a little burned out on coriander. But the gears started turning and over the course of a few emails, We Can’t Stop Here! 100% Brett Gose was born. Here’s a clip from Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas for those of you that aren’t the voracious fans of that movie that Joe & I are.

We fired up our Gose on a grain bill of 50% Rahr Pils, 40% Rahr Red Wheat, & 10% Gambrinus Light Munich. Starting gravity was 1.048 and using Omega Lacto Blend we soured to 3.21 pH overnight. We boiled the next day and hopped with 7 IBUs of Lemondrop at 60 minutes. Small additions of Hawaiian Alaea red sea salt and coriander were included, but we weren’t looking for those to be focal points of the beer.

We ended up deciding to ferment at 72 degrees in fairly neutral red wine barrels on 5 different Bretts and Brett blends:

Barrel 1: White Labs Brett Brux Vrai – I’ve never worked with the BSI Drei strain and was excited to try out the new White Labs version; especially after finding out that Brett Brux Trois was not actually Brett. The beer is still in the barrel, but the latest tasting notes are some really nice fruity notes including stone fruit and faint strawberry. It’s certainly hard to completely differentiate between possible wine and Brett contributions.

Barrel 2: Giga Yeast Sweet Flemish – We found this strain to be pretty ready to rock and the Giga guys were great to work with. Interestingly, it had some pretty big fresh cut green apple flavors to it for a while. As it nears 3 months in the barrel, it seems to be morphing towards more grape skin and light funk flavors. That could certainly be the barrel contributing more. We may play around with some wine must in this one.

Barrel 3: Yeast Bay Lochristi Blend – This gorgeous blend was the highlight of our pilot batch, and it shined again for the real thing. It gives off such a fun mix of light fruit, funk, and its own acidity that really can give a kettle sour unbelievable complexity. We pulled this barrel last week and served some at Backyard Bottleshop in Murrieta, CA for their anniversary events this week. We had a great time partying with them and we’ve been really grateful to hear all the kind words (and see the good ratings) for our first release.

Barrel 4: Yeast Bay Brussels Blend – I expected this to be a pretty funky, beer geek only affair and it’s certainly on the right track. The nose is really complex and is starting to get very geuze-like. There’s some mousy funk lingering, but it’s good enough that we debated releasing this one first instead. I’m really excited to see the finished product.

Barrel 5: Yeast Bay Amalgamation Blend – This is the only barrel we pitched with Brett that we had already grown up from subsequent brews. I’ve found this blend to be pretty reliably loaded with funky peach and mandarin orange and some background white winey notes. Early on it seemed like we underpitched it a little, as sulfur and rotten egg were overpowering the notes I’ve come to know and love. They’re just finally fading out, leaving a pretty interestingly funk-forward beer. I can’t guarantee a “pull date” on this one, but it will be fun whenever it comes out. Possibly with some citrus fruit.

This wouldn’t be a typical post for me if I weren’t also sharing my excitement with what else we have coming down the pipeline!

First is an Imperial Oatmeal Amber wort fermenting solely on the Yeast Bay Lochristi Blend. We emptied Barrel 3 for local Gose consumption and went ahead and loaded up another weird project. This too was an Aftershock & Relentless production.

We also have an incredibly potent Tequila barrel filled with 100% Brett Imperial Spelt Gose. I decided to blend White Labs Vrai & Yeast Bay Lochristi Blend, based on the flavors we were getting from the Gose. Unless we blend this bad boy down, you’ll be too focused on the margarita in your glass to know it’s Brett at all. I do expect it to be popular for us and clock in around 10.5%. We also will field any and all billion dollar offers to take it global! In that vein, I found this Modern Times post funny.

Believe it or not, we brewed another beer with Aftershock. This time we did an Imperial Saison and sparged over flaked oats. (Big thanks to Flat Tail for sharing that technique.) Being super hip brewers and all we’re also trying to get the trend of #Mashies started:

20151118_094103

We split that brew into 2 barrels. The first, a fairly mellow and lightly leaky Tequila barrel. We co-pitched Yeast Bay Saison Blend 2 and East Coast Brett Custersianus. On day 3 we added 5.5 lbs of blue agave nectar as well. We’re expecting weird and fruity things.

The second barrel was supposed to be another Tequila, but we quickly found out it was not fit for service and it’s being tended to accordingly:

20151117_160413

Instead we filled a neutral red wine barrel and pitched 21 strains of Brett, including East Coast Dirty Dozen, White Labs Brett L & Vrai, Yeast Bay Lochristi & Brussels, etc. This is all the Brett letting us know that it’s here for the party:

20151120_103817

At this point that barrel is technically some sort of strange Imperial 100% Brett Wild Ale that may or may not get moved into a Tequila or Corn Whiskey barrel. Not to mention it also got 5.5 lbs of agave nectar. Stay tuned, as the direction of beers and the whims of your beloved cellarman are unpredictable.

Also stay tuned for the big Relentless Grand Opening and being able to try all 5 versions of the Gose at once! (Update: The Grand Opening is January 30th!) We’ll have a bunch of other fun goodies including big citrusy IPAs and unique takes on Saison and Oatmeal Stout. Plus, you’ll be able to party with this animal all night:

IMG_1197

Finally, big thanks to the Milk The Funk group on Facebook. I’m continually learning new things and absorbing useful information from the fine funky folks there. I highly recommend it if you find anything that you just read interesting.

Time to cook some steaks and crack something sour. Stay thirsty my friends!

 

 

Refuge Gone Wild 2: The Long Overdue Update

Hello again heroes & friends!

Since we’re starting a new year, I thought it might be nice to share more developments regarding all the fun and funky endeavors we have happening at Refuge. I still can’t believe my last update was 6 months ago. Time keeps flying. Anyway, here’s our current funk inventory in all its humble quarantined glory:

funk program

First in funk news, it appears a good number of Refuge’s local fans got to enjoy our Batch 2 anniversary beer as well as Batch 2 with strawberries & Yeast Bay Lochristi Brettanomyces blend recently.

The base beer for our 2nd anniversary was our Refugee Tripel with Viognier grape must, aged in red wine barrels. The so-called Batch 2 Berry version (which has the red wax instead of black) still resides in a red wine barrel, due to the solera technique I’ve been experimenting with, and it gets funkier by the day.

batch2brett

The first limited release of bottles sold out the night of the anniversary party, but we still have a keg of the beer on tap at the brewery. As I mentioned, we’ve been trying out a sour beer technique called solera, where you pull only some beer from the barrel and top it back up with fresh beer. In this case, all 3 times that I’ve pulled either a quarter or half of the barrel, I’ve also added more and more fresh pureed strawberries.

It has been fun to watch the flavors as they’ve changed, with the current version on draft having been pulled 2 months ago, the now sold-out bottled version having been pulled 3 weeks ago, and the next keg on deck to go on tap being a part of the 3rd pull a couple days ago. The latest version seems to be getting more and more barrel character and what was once big strawberry shortcake in the nose appears to be morphing towards spicy vanilla tannins & tangy lemon zest notes. In a perfect world, I’d be giving this beer a little more time between pulls, but you guys keep drinking it all!

The most recent pull from the barrel allowed us to top it back up with the base beer, some basic Tripel, & a funky blend of 3 experimental 5 gallon trials that I’ve dubbed ‘Funkapotamus’. That mix contains both the Lochristi Brett blend and White Labs Brett Clausenii, not to mention potential wild yeasts from the added fruits in the trial batches. I’m really excited to pull a keg or two off of the barrel in a couple months (hopefully) and see where things are headed. If it’s anything like the beers in Funkapotamus, it’ll be fruitier and more acidic.

If you’ve been into the brewery lately, you know we’ve started serving more and more funky beers on our barrel-aged reserve taps as well.

ReservesBoard

It’s now not unusual for us to have 3 to 5 Brett influenced beers on tap at any time, not to mention any small experimental 5 gallon batches I might sneak on. It certainly doesn’t hurt that I can funk & fruit beers fairly quickly in rather neutral barrels, versus the aging and barrel needs of our bourbon barrel program.

We currently have 5 Brettanomyces beers on tap. Besides the Batch 2 Berry, we have Bretter Off Red, a Merlot barrel version of our Rampart Red with Brett B Trois, the Lochristi blend, & Brett C. The result after 9 months of barrel aging is a very wine-like creation with big floral and funky Brett notes in the nose and plenty of barrel character right behind it.

We also have Life of Lemons and The Razz Fairy. The base beer is the same for both and I’m using a similar single barrel solera technique in this one as I am in the anniversary beer. The beer is white wine barrel aged Citra Saison with Yeast Bay Beersel Brett blend, Meyer lemon zest, and more recently it has also included raspberries. The raspberries were added after the initial 2 keg pull of Life of Lemons, and more were added after the recent pull of a keg of The Razz Fairy. Here’s The Razz Fairy barrel on the left, still going strong and hungry for more raspberries:

citra+oracle

The other offering currently on tap, that I strongly suspect has a Brett Brux variation in it, is Old Soul. We did not intentionally funkify this particular barrel of Refugee Tripel. We just let it age for 14 months in a pinot noir barrel with plums, pluots, & blueberries added over the last couple months (once Brett character became apparent). Old Soul has been a hit with most of the staff thanks to its smorgasbord of intensely interesting flavors and I’m excited to work with more blueberries (and hopefully pinot barrels) in the future.

That covers what’s on tap, but if you know me you know I’m far more excited about what we have in the works!

As I mentioned above, we still have barrels going of the Batch 2 Berry and the Life of Lemons (that has morphed into The Razz Fairy with the addition of raspberries).

We also have:

– 2 wine barrels of Paint The Town Brown inoculated with White Labs Lacto D & Yeast Bay Amalgamation Brett blend. They’ve been rocking out for about 4 months now and it’s really interesting to taste how different the two are right now.

– 2 wine barrels of Session Citra Saison. One has Yeast Bay Brussels Brett blend, strawberries and Cara Cara oranges. It was delightfully tangy and funky before the fruit went in. The other has Yeast Bay Lochristi Brett blend, White Labs Brett Clausenii, raspberries, and blackberries. Both have healthy pellicles going and I suspect I’ll be pulling a keg or two of one of them soon. One of the aforementioned pellicles:

pellicle fun

– 2 wine barrels of Citra Saison. One has White Labs Brett Brux, passion fruit, and Temecula Ugly tangerines. The other is the same minus the passion fruit. So far Temecula Uglies have shown a fair bit of promise as far as interesting local fruit to add.

– 1 wine barrel of Oracle, an abbey ale with Juniper berries. I recently added plums and Wyeast Brett Lambicus to this (hoping to incorporate some of that sour cherry pie flavor they describe).

– 1 Heaven Hill Corn Whiskey barrel of our IPA of the Day (hopped with Summer, Columbus, & Palisade) with White Labs Brett Clausenii, Temecula Uglies, apricots, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, & plums. This barrel has been quite interesting to sample over the last 4+ months. The IPA already had big white grape and peachy flavors and the whiskey barrel character keeps getting heavier. The last time I tasted it, it was hard to tell there was much fruit or Brett in the mix.

As a result, it has become the recent fruit dumping ground for any pureed fruit that I can’t fit in its intended barrel(s). Usually I’ll top up my barrels every couple of months to make up for evaporation, but in this case we just keep feeding the head space more strange fruit. I have no idea where this particular ride is headed, but whenever we decide to pull Fruit Salad IPA out it should be fun.

In general, I’m getting to play around quite a bit now with single barrels in hopes of finding combinations that can be ramped up, somewhat repeated and bottled. Fruit Salad Brett Corn Whiskey IPA aside of course.

Also, I thought I’d share a couple of Brett pellicle pictures. This one’s just getting going:

peliicle beginning

And this is Yeast Bay Lochristi after 5 months:

Lochristi Pellicle

I also want to take this opportunity to wish a number of my co-workers that have moved on continued success. A toast to you Brett Harwood, as you continue your career at a little known brewery called Ballast Point:

toast to brett

To Jared & Katie, it was awesome rocking out with you guys and I hope our paths cross again soon. Minnesota is cold btw:

jared yeast party

san diego event

And a way overdue shout out to The Manimal, my first Assistant Cellarman man crush, David Leal. In the words of Tupac, Temecula Ain’t Hard To Find:

daveEvent

 

Finally, I want to say a GIGANTIC thanks to Jay Goodwin, of The Rare Barrel, and The Brewing Network. Jay has started a new show with the BN, called the Sour Hour, and the interviews with other sour producers (not to mention Jay’s info) have been a great resource for a newly funked out cellarman like myself. Keep up the good work Jay!

This hero is out!

Refuge Gone Wild: Fun With Brettanomyces!

Hi fellow heroes!

My apologies for the long absence. I have a tendency to get very wrapped up in my work when my work includes fun, funk & barrels.

Today I want to get everybody up to speed on what we’ve been doing at Refuge with Brettanomyces because we’re really excited to be a part of the new wave of American Wild Ales.

 freebird art

Our first foray into the world of Brett beers was Free Bird, a beer pre-determined to pour for our second Summer Nights event on June 21st. I will admit it was rather nerve-racking to promise a potentially slow-fermenting (funky) beer within a 6 week window, but you don’t start making Brett beers unless you like to live dangerously to begin with.

The barrel chosen was a wine barrel that had previously imparted very little character and produced very neutral beer. While that wasn’t great for a lot of what we were doing with our barrel program, it worked just fine for Brett beer.

Free Bird started as simply a barrel fermented 100% WLP 644 Brett B Trois version of our flagship beer, Blood Orange Wit. We filled the barrel right off the brewhouse with wort and let the beer ferment predominantly in our storage space, as there are always concerns of cross-contamination with such a super-attenuating yeast (that can eat wood proteins).

brett note

In this case the term ‘burn’ just means immerse everything in 180 degree water so we limit our chances of ‘clean’ beers getting extra funky flavors and attenuation from Brett.

So with caution Free Bird proceeded. I was a proud father. I photographed some of his first CO2 bubbles:

freebird bubbling

And when he was kegged:

kegging freebird

And finally his first pint:

freebird pint

Along the way Free Bird morphed from a strictly Brett version of our Blood Orange Wit, to include a 5 gallon batch of 100% WLP 645 Brett C Wit & some pineapples and grapefruit blended in for good measure.

I also made a 5 gallon batch of 100% WLP 650 Brett B Wit and that ended up being its own entity with blood oranges and limes, called What The Funk?

The really fun thing about all of this was that we added the Brett C Wit & fruit to a new barrel and transferred all but 5 or so gallons of the Free Bird onto that. We then immediately re-filled the initial barrel full of Brett B Trois with the wort from an Illusion Belgian IPA brew. That new enterprise, now called Delusion, was rocking right away the next morning:

delusion krausen

I’ve never seen a Brett B Trois fermentation take off that fast, but then again this was my first time re-pitching it. At any rate, we dry hopped Delusion with a healthy amount of Galaxy, Columbus, & Centennial and we’re all enjoying its bouquet of danky bubblegum and slightly funky melon notes.

Rest assured funk fans, there’s more in the works. Some upcoming projects include:

– 5 gallons of Refugee Tripel with limes & mangoes on Yeast Bay’s Beersel Brett blend.

– 100% Brett B Trois version of our awesome Shelter 9 IPA dry hopped big with some fun things that may include El Dorado, Mosaic, Huell Melon, etc. This will be released at the August 16th Summer Nights event.

– Sauvignon Blanc barrel aged Citra Saison with kumquats on the Yeast Bay’s Lochristi Brett blend.

– White wine barrel aged Imperial Saison with strawberries and cherries on WLP 645 Brett C.

– All sorts of permutations and experiments using new strains and blends like the ones The Yeast Bay is offering.

I also want to mention, since it will get dragged into Brett territory here and there, that our Citra Saison should be out and about on draft pretty soon. I was so excited to see it pouring at one of my favorite watering holes, Public House, that I took a picture:

citra on public house menu

While we’re veering from the path of funk I should also mention that we were really excited to take 3 medals at this year’s San Diego International Beer Festival!

103871sd fair awards

Finally, I want to say a big thanks to The Mad Fermentationist, Michael Tonsmeire, for always being helpful and assuring me I wouldn’t have to worry about too much oxygen pick up if I fermented Free Bird in a barrel. There’s some beer that’ll be getting bottled and sent your way buddy!

Jester King, as always, deserves a shout out too as they always open their brains for picking about many things farmhouse. They should be expecting beermail too!

That’s all for now. If you find yourself in Southern California, come and drink all this funk so we can make more!

Working @UBottleIt and Brewing Like Crazy!

Hello friends!

I’m sure some of you are aware that I just worked my first week at my favorite homebrew store in the world, U Bottle It! I can’t tell you how happy I am to work with Gary and Heather every day. Not to mention the warm and fuzzy feeling it gives me to hook you fine folks of Las Vegas up with your winemaking & homebrewing needs.

Five gallon partial mash kits (designed and assembled by yours truly) for an Oktoberfest as well as a Pumpkin Spice Ale are now available on the shelves and hopefully I’ll get our Holiday Ale & ‘Grant’s Saison’ kits finished up tomorrow.

I’ve never taken much notice of any dry yeasts, but Lallemand’s Belle Saison looks quite interesting and I’ll definitely fire it up on the ‘Grant’s Saison’ kit in the coming weeks.

Above all else though, I really want to express my gratitude towards Gary & Heather at U Bottle It for welcoming me with open arms and wish my good friend Tom Harwood the best of luck in his new position as Assistant Brewer at Big Dog’s. I look forward to drinking a Big Dog’s Rye IPA very soon. 😉

The beauty of working at a homebrew store is that I’m getting a great opportunity to live and breathe homebrewing again. In the last month I’ve brewed 3 Helles lagers, a Russian Imperial Stout, & my Purring Kitten Session IPA. You’d think a beer that did as well as Purring Kitten would’ve been on the agenda sooner, but I was waiting for the seasonal WLP006 Bedford yeast to be available again. And I’d been a little busy. Or something like that.

Anyway, I thought I’d share some info on my latest brews:

Helles 7/28

–          I used the recipe from Brewing Classic Styles.

–          Mashed around 150-151 with 75% RO & 25% Brita filtered & boiled Vegas city water. Sparge was all RO. Salts added were 7g CaCl, 4g Epsom salt, & 2mL lactic acid.

–          I used 1.3oz of German Hallertau for bittering to 19.2 IBU.

–          My gravity came in at 15 plato (1.061) and my efficiency was 88% so this bad boy could easily be  1% ABV or more above the style guidelines.

–          I also set the timer incorrectly on my phone for my first hop addition and ended up boiling considerably longer than 90 minutes. The result being that I think my color is a little too dark.

–          I brewed spur of the minute so didn’t have a starter of the WLP838 made up. Therefore (because Jamil says pitch big for lagers), I pitched 2 vials of WLP838, 1 of WLP833, & 1 of WLP830.

–          Finally, this was my first time using my freezer & Johnson controller in this temperature range so the first few days it was getting as low as 44 until I got it a little better dialed in. Now it floats at 49-54.

Helles 8/4

–          I used the same water profile, grain bill, and mash temp as the previous for comparability.

–          Of course this meant I was going to end up with another 15 plato beer if I got similar efficiency. Of course I got 88% again.

–          I bittered with 0.7oz of Motueka for 18.9 IBU because my Hallertau smelled a little passed its prime.

–          I pitched WLP830 that I took directly from the fermenter of Big Dog’s Pinscher Imperial Pilsner. I pitched a pretty healthy amount and could smell considerable hop aroma from Pinscher.

Helles 8/15

–          Knowing that I was getting pretty high efficiencies helped me to design this beer a little better. I got 85% efficiency and ended up with a 1.050 beer. This might actually be a real Helles!

–          I used 86.8% Pilsner, 7.9% Vienna, & 5.3% Munich and mashed at around 150.

–          The mash and sparge water were all RO and 8g CaCl, 7g Epsom salt, & 2mL lactic acid were added.

–          I hopped with 0.8oz German Opal for 18.1 IBU and threw in the remaining 0.2oz at 5 minutes.

–          Once again I was without starter so I put together a Franken-Lager blend of WLP802, WLP820, WLP833, & WLP862.

Here’s Helles 8/15 cranking away:

promising helles

Russian Imperial Stout 8/19

–          I did this as a ‘demo brew’ for my friends Sean & Andie last Monday and this was my first stout.

–          The grain bill was 77.1% Maris Otter, 8.6% Roasted Barley, 5.7% Special B, 3% Caramunich, 2.9% Pale Chocolate, & 2.8% Chocolate Malt.

–          I bittered with German Polaris for 63.7 IBUs, flavored with Meridian for 7 IBUs, & used 1.5oz Polaris at Flameout. I got such interesting minty ice candy flavors from Polaris the last time around, so I’m hoping those turn out well in a stout.

–          I mashed around 154 and built the water to resemble Dublin’s. The mash was 25% filtered Brita, 75% RO with 1.5g Gypsum, 0.5g Cacl, & 7g Chalk added.

–          I ended up pitching 3 aging vials of WLP090 San Diego Super & 2 vials of WLP001.

Purring Kitten Session IPA 8/23

–          I made a few changes on this re-brew. I was mashing at 151 but found out 15 minutes in that my probe thermometer was reading 3-4 degrees low. I heated to actual 151.

–          I kept the salt additions similar to the last go round but did a 90 minute boil instead of 60.

–          I used all RO and added 5.5g Gypsum, 3.5g CaCl, 8g Epsom salt, & 4g Chalk.

–          My grain bill was 64.7% 2row, 14.7% Goldpils Vienna, 5.9% Flaked Wheat, 5.2% C-40, 3.6% C-60, 2.9% Aromatic, & 2.9% Carapils.

–          My starting gravity was 1.048 versus 1.044 last time. I also spilt the batch on WLP006 Bedford (which I used last time) and WLP002 English Ale.

–          I substituted Chinook for Centennial in the recipe and upped my flameout additions.

–          I also found my probe thermometer untrustworthy with lower temps as my big bucket of water and fermentation was actually running 4-5 degrees cooler than I was being told. Therefore the Session IPAs started pretty low and the Russian Imperial Stout was fermented on the cool end of its desired range instead of the high end.

Here’s my magical bucket of water, frozen water bottles, & fermenting beers:

high tech fermentation

As per usual, it’ll be interesting to see how everything turns out. I should mention that I have been drinking my year old Farmhouse Oktoberfest (on WLP670 American Farmhouse) lately and it has some really interesting funky citrusy Brett notes to it. I can barely tell it ever started as a rich malty beer because now it drinks a little thin with a chewy almost ropey Brett finish.

I should also mention that hopes of heroicness have been revived! I went through the BJCP style guidelines today and picked a style from each of the 23 categories that I would like to brew. That set a lot of wheels in motion but the first recipe resulting from that exercise was a Smoked Dubbel for category 22B Smoked Beer as well as a 16E Belgian Specialty entry (possibly with some Brett B).

My other brews in the works are: a Berliner Weiss, a Belgian IPA using WLP400 Wit yeast and Mosaic & Pacifica hops (because the cask I did of dry hopped Wit at Big Dog’s smelled so awesome), a re-brew of my Sink Spoon Brett Rye IPA (that I will send bottles of to Joseph), & my French Bulldog Rye IPA on Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast. Just because I’m no longer with Big Dog’s doesn’t mean I can’t brew the beer I had on deck!

I know, I know. A lot of 16E Belgian Specialty and 23 Specialty. I’m making weird stuff as per usual. My general tastes in beer and desire to innovate will probably mean I re-punch those categories award-wise a fair amount (hopefully).

Finally, for anybody who has been doubting my assistant brewer’s work ethic and helpfulness, here’s a picture of her watering a plant while we were brewing:

watering plants

Alright, I’m off to hunt for more fermentation space on Craigslist. Be well and ferment clean my friends!

My First Week @BigDogsBrewing and Other Homebrewing Fun

Hello brewing friends! I thought it might be nice to post an update on how my first 3 days of working at Big Dogs have been, not to mention my other brewing misadventures.

First I must include that today’s liquid inspiration is Sierra Nevada & Russian River’s Brux. This is my 3rd time having it and the last 2 times this ‘domesticated wild ale’ has been pretty nice. I was driven to try it again by comments made on the most recent Brewing Network Sunday Session. While they were answering a listener’s question I found out the primary yeast is Wyeast 3711 French Saison (also known as one of my absolute favorites) and it’s bottled with Brett B & Safbrew T58 (a spicy Belgian-style dry yeast). Not only did knowing all of the above warrant another crack at it, but I’d imagine it’s not the worst beer in the world to harvest dregs from. At any rate, it’s a lovely beer and worth the $16 to give it a try.

This week I worked roughly three 7 hour days in the brewery at Big Dogs and let me say that so far it has been a pleasure. Everybody has been very friendly and willing to help. Sam, the Packaging Director, gets a special shout out for having infinite patience with me as I get my bearings.

Monday was all out keg cleaning day. Thankfully, Big Dogs has a wonderful automated machine so the real trick is just listening for the cleaning cycle to be done while you’re cleaning other things (like the tops of kegs). This task can be slightly more difficult when your head brewer decides he’s going to jam out on his drum set for 20 minutes, but it’s all good in the hood. You can’t have a keg parade without a band.

I didn’t count the number of kegs I ran through, but I pretty much hit it hard from 9am to 3pm without stopping for lunch. We did blow a hose off and shoot caustic cleaning solution everywhere before I got started, which I thought was a fitting introduction to the brewing world. I’ve found that we use some pretty nasty chemicals on the professional side and caution is the name of the game.

On Tuesday morning I tried to assist Sam with filtering the Leglifter Light, which mostly involved peppering him with questions and occasionally closing a valve or two. Below are our various filters.

The rest of the day was filled with odds and ends things like cleaning out the mill room, moving some kegs in cold storage, other random cleaning, etc.

Wednesday was when the powers that be decided to sick me on cleaning the bar’s draught lines. Not only did I unhook serving tanks and push cleaning & sanitizing solution through all the lines, but they also had me break down all the Perlick faucets and scrub the gunk out of them. Breaking down & scrubbing the faucets made me laugh because that was the filmed demonstration on the Cicerone exam. Needless to say, I could up my score on that portion of the test considerably now.

I managed to get through cleaning the lines on 3 of the 8 serving tanks and then it was time to ‘grain out’, also known as the special bonding (and back building) rendezvous between Assistant Brewer and mash tun. I’ve found Big Dogs to have the most enjoyable mash tun for graining out (of the 3 I’ve done) because it doesn’t have any rakes in the way. They also have the nicest tools for getting the job done. I wouldn’t trade their hoe for the world.

Anyway, the batch I was graining out was Balls Of Holly which I’m told is a local favorite in the way of holiday seasonals. All the dates that went into the mash (by way of the open grant) weren’t nearly as bad to get out as I expected them to be. All in all, it was a good day. Oh, and I got insta-trained on the forklift (AKA The Hop Dog 500). The Hop Dog can be a little temperamental about how its wheels are pointed and its steering can get a little loose, but I could tell that we’ll be friends. We’ll quite likely cause some minor damage together from time to time, but no sense crying over unspilled milk.

As for my homebrewing, I’ve decided to launch 2 R&D projects that will hopefully someday be on tap at Big Dogs. I mentioned Dank Dog – the heavy Columbus Saison in my last post, but I’ve also decided to develop Clean Dog IPA (a lighter fruity answer to Big Dogs Dirty Dog IPA). The rough draft recipe for Dank Dog has been drawn up (50% 2-row, 25% pilsner, 12.5% vienna, 8.3% rye, 4.2% honey malt) and now I’m just waiting for the hops (Liberty & Columbus) to show up from Yakima Valley Hops. I also need to figure out how I’m going to ferment the beer warm enough.

Clean Dog IPA, on the other hand, got brewed today in its first iteration. The grain bill is 73% 2-row, 17.4% Vienna, 4.4% Carapils, 3.5% Crystal 15, and 1.7% Crystal 40. The hops are US Magnum for bittering, Liberty & Bravo for flavor and Bravo & Centennial at flameout. Given that the color came out rather dark & my efficiency was supposedly 58%, I’m wondering if the mill at the homebrew store wasn’t set quite right. I’ll have to investigate in the coming days.

My other recent brewing endeavor was a Pumpkin Saison at Clyde’s place on his badass Sabco.

He gets the lion’s share of the credit if the beer turns out incredible, but we did use my huge surplus of UK Pearl malt as the base. I believe he got the recipe and tips for dealing with the pumpkin on this Brewing Network Sunday Session. Putting the roasted pumpkin in a bag seemed to be the way to go.

Well, that’s all for now. Be well and prosper and of course come by and say hi if you find yourself in the Big Dogs neighborhood.

Proost y’all.

I Can Be Your Hero Baby! 4 Awards + 2nd in Best of Show!

Big news guys! Big news indeed! I took one 1st, one 2nd, & two 3rd place awards in the recent SNAFU Memorial Competition. My winning entry in Category 23 Specialty went on to win 2nd in the Best Of Show judging as well! Not bad for a 3.5% Session IPA!

First and foremost I want to say a BIG BIG thank you to my girlfriend who allows our modest apartment to look like a homebrewing bomb went off in it at all times. If you’ve seen a few of the pictures I’ve posted, you know what I mean.

Also, much love to my brewer from another mother Weston Barkley. Not only is he Joseph James’ latest and greatest Assistant Brewer, but he’s also been a huge positive influence on my brewing these last 6 months. Weston & I are pictured below appreciating the finer things in life.

Besides being a bottom, Weston is also an accomplished homebrewer. His 5 awards this weekend put his total into the ‘Dude Let Somebody Else Win Stuff’ classification. Weston & I are supposed to whip up a Raspberry Saison soon for Joseph James to pour at the Montelago Festival on 11/10 (where the ridiculous Polaris DIPA will be flowing), so I am naturally excited. You can’t spell anything in my wheelhouse without farmhouse!

In other news, my homeboy Clyde & I knocked out a heavily hopped Pacific Jade showcase beer yesterday on his awesome Sabco system.

We used Jamil’s Pale Ale with Crystal recipe but got 90% brewhouse efficiency instead of his default 70%, so we have 12 gallons of slightly under-bittered Pacific Jade IPA running right now. The debate now is if 5.6oz of gorgeous Pacific Jade is enough for dry hopping. Regardless, it was a lot of fun to see ye olde Brew Magic in action and I look forward to tasting our first collaborative beer!

Now for the rundown of Saturday 10/20’s SNAFU Memorial Heroic award winners:

1st Place in Category 23 Specialty Beer (and 2nd in Best Of Show) – Purring Kitten Session IPA – Link to recipe I based grain bill & IBU levels on & link to recipe for Purring Kitten itself.

Purring Kitten is an effort I’m very proud of and will soon try to replicate. 2nd out of 160 something entries is a result I’m rather happy with. Dave Otto of Big Dogs, coming off a Silver win at GABF, declared it good but registered his complaints about its lacking ethanol content. That bastard. 🙂

2nd Place in Category 16 Belgian & French Ale for 16C Saison – Feisty Farmhand – Recipe here

While I personally haven’t been blown away by WLP 585 Belgian Saison 3, people have been a fan of this beer. Although, the awards and a recent post by The Mad Fermentationist have me contemplating giving that strain another look.

3rd Place in Category 16 Belgian & French Ale for 16E Belgian Specialty Ale – Sluggish Farmhand – Recipe same as ye olde Feisty one

Hilariously enough, the split batch of Saison De Starter & Saison De Vial that I made a while back became Feisty & Sluggish Farmhand. Sluggish was the side with no starter & I bottled it about a month later than Feisty. I entered both because I’d capped out on entry fees and I wasn’t sure if a Saison with all that late & dry hopping would fly in the 16C Saison category if the judge was a strict traditionalist. On top of all that, Feisty & Sluggish were judged by separate 2 person panels & competed against each other in the mini Best Of Show for the category (of 17 entries).

Honorable Mention in Category 16 Belgian & French Ale for 16E Belgian Specialty Ale – Hay Gurl – Recipe here

Here’s where I really started laughing. Hay Gurl scored well enough for an Honorable Mention and would’ve placed 3rd without the Farmhand saison twins goofing around in there. Admittedly, Hay Gurl is taking an interesting turn now. The Brett tastes a little different from your standard Brett B & besides eating up all the hop aromas it’s also kicking off some chewy meat qualities.

3rd Place in Category 14 IPA for 14A English IPA Burton Hop Party

This was absolutely mind blowing to a hero such as myself. Out of 22 entries, Burton Hop Party placed 3rd. Mind you, this is a beer I don’t particularly enjoy drinking. It seems very muddled, it has some Citra at flameout & in the dry hop, & the finish seems a little off. I got 5 sips in and poured it out about a half hour ago. I plan to re-punch the Category 14 hole. I’m not sure this one was terribly well-deserved. Regardless, it was based on Jamil’s English IPA recipe and I think that’s an even bigger winner if you follow his hop schedule, yeast choice, and all around good advice. I did not and I got a pretty ribbon. Silly stuff.

Just to sum up, I’ve crossed Categories 14, 16, & 23 off the list. These are arguably my best categories, but I’m confident the other 20 ain’t no thing. I definitely need a chest freezer to continue my reign of homebrewing terror.

At any rate, I’m sure more beer shenanigans are just around the corner and I’ll be sure to report them as they come. I’m cracking open a Joseph James Hop Box Imperial IPA right now and intend to enjoy it.

Proost y’all.

I Love @greenflashbrew Rayon Vert and Recipes For Good Saisons and Session IPA

Hi brewing brothers and sisters!

I’m writing this with 2 whistling airlocks serenading me, which I’d bet most of you agree is a beautiful thing. Anyway, I was working on a (still incomplete) piece for Hooked On Hops the other day about the coming wave of Brett beers and couldn’t quite remember the exact beer that got me interested in Brettanomyces. Today it hit me. Meet Rayon Vert!

Today I found Green Flash Rayon Vert had made its way to town and that gorgeous little 4 pack of goodness jogged my memory. Rayon Vert appears to be Green Flash doing its version of Orval: a fairly straightforward Belgian Pale bottled with Brett. Of course I prefer Rayon Vert because it was my first love, but also because its hopping is a little fruitier & base probably just a touch lighter. Rest assured Orval, your (fairly thick) bowling pin bottle will always be my first choice in a bar fight.

All of that segues (amazingly I knew how to spell that) into yesterday’s double brew day. After a strong 2 hours of post SNAFU meeting sleep I arose and brewed the second coming of my first beer on the White Labs 670 American Farmhouse strain (Hay Gurl) to bring the world Hay Gurl 2: My Boyfriend Brett Is Back. Labeling someday will be a nightmare.

Besides that, anybody that follows my brewing at all knows re-brewing any batch is almost unheard of. I’m too busy bouncing around from one Platinum strain to the next with the latest hops etc etc. I’m a big ball of brewing creativity which results in the occasional amazing beer, a lot of mediocre beer, & a fair amount of back-to-the-drawing-board beer.

But what can I say? I’m a sucker for fruity hops, saison yeast with Brett, & people enjoying my creations. That sums up Hay Gurl. RECIPE HERE. Also, yes…I do wish I’d have given the beer a slightly less ridiculous name that didn’t involve a Ryan Gosling reference.

But beyond that, getting to taste Rayon Vert nearly a year after my first encounter makes it clear that I’m striving to brew a fruitier hoppier version of my first love. While my beer knowledge & brewing abilities have probably quadrupled, I realize I’m unconsciously trying to tweak an ‘old’ favorite. The less romantic version of that story is that I love hoppy Belgians, fairly clean malt bills, & Brett. Of course I’m trying to combine all of the above.

At any rate, I shot for more sessionable (OG 1.052) with a bigger hop addition at flameout for Hay Gurl Deuce. (You may recall that Hay Gurl aka the 48% efficiency batch was originally going to be more on the sessionable side, but a broken hydrometer made me think it was less than banging.) Anyway, the aroma of my last 4oz of Citra wasn’t as killer as usual, but the Simcoe is still holding its shooting arm in the air on account of how baller it is. So yep yep, Hay Gurl 2 is off and running. It’s actually trying to blow off its lid 2 feet away from me. Good times.

My second batch of the doubleheader was the brainchild of myself, Aaron from The HopHead Report & Luis from Hooked On Hops. Everybody seemed interested in a lighter bodied Double IPA using my newly acquired pile of 21% AA Polaris hops, so I went ahead and whipped something up (using Jamil’s DIPA base recipe). Hopefully it’s yummy and we all agree it should be proudly poured at the Montelago Beerfest on 11/10. At 284 IBU with a hop that big and danky, I’m just excited to try it period. Worst case I’ll age half the batch on Brett and throw the other half at passing motorists in Ziplock bags. 🙂

Besides Hay Gurl, I have 10 other entries in this Saturday’s SNAFU competition. I have 2 others that have enough promise to share the recipes for. The Saison De Starter side of my 585 experiment (recipe here) turned out to be fairly popular and my Purring Kitten Session IPA #1 (recipe here) on White Labs 006 Bedford has earned high praise so far as well.

Wish me luck in the big competition this weekend! I’ll be judging Friday & Saturday and since I failed to enter a beer in EVERY single category, they’ll likely put me to good use. As always, feel free to ask for any help or guidance on the Cicerone test.

Proost y’all!