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!

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.

German Hefs and Oktoberfests

Hello fellow heroes! I’m just finishing up sampling 8 Oktoberfest-style beers so the knowledge I shall drop shall be slightly altered. Fun, but altered.

First I want my loving fans to know that I’m still waiting to hear back on the brewpub gig, which is having some interesting effects on my brewing. It has me holding off on acquiring a chest freezer & other upgrades, but it has me brewing more in case these are my last homebrew batches for a while. It also has me working on German Hefs because supposedly the DE filter will be the toughest thing to master in the brewpub setting and an unfiltered beer would be first on deck.

Taking all that into account, I brewed a hef on Monday. After listening to Jamil talk about how to nail a hef, I did a decoction and I’m trying to run it at around 62 in my new ghetto Walmart swamp cooler. The recipe was 53/47 White Wheat to German Pils and I used Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephaner with no starter. The swamp cooler is usually about 60-61 when I check it in the morning & drops to between 54-57 when I drop a couple frozen water jugs in. On my next batch, I might add one at a time to see if I can keep the floor temp of the swamp water a little warmer.

Also, lately I’ve been brewing with RO water and then adding gypsum, calcium chloride etc to build the water profile I want. I realized right before I was going to fire up ye olde burner that I’d been Firestone Walkering my last few brews AKA IPAs (100ppm Calcium, 100ppm Sulfate) but wasn’t ready to build water for a hef. Based on info from The Mad Fermentationist & using this spreadsheet I went with a 2 to 1 Chloride to Sulfate ratio and ended up with 83ppm Calcium, 108ppm Chloride, & 54ppm Sulfate. I’d have added Epsom salt for a little Magnesium if I’d have had some on hand. I thought those numbers were fairly on point with the historical brewing water of Germany, but it turns out that ratio was reversed in Munich & Dortmund. Anyway, it’ll be fun to see how it turns out.

I’ll be listening to Brew Strong episodes tonight and tomorrow to get a feel for what water adjustments I want to do for tomorrow’s batch of hef.

In other news, my feline assistant enjoys the swamp cooler and whistling airlock & Jamil’s hef episode has both fairly spotty audio quality & a funny story about Justin’s friends puking in a limo (at the beginning).

So given my renewed interest in German hefs, I tasted some commercial examples:

Weihenstephaner – 98 on Beer Advocate – Hits me as a big vanilla banana. Silky smooth. Has crowd pleaser written all over it. Clove becomes more present as it warms. Hint of bitterness & lingering carbonation on finish. Great beer. I tried it first because I’m supposedly using its yeast for my hef.

Schneider Weisse – 89 on Beer Advocate – Darker than the last beer. Finish goes a little iffy. More bitter. Finish has some bready/toasty/smoke flavors. Seems off. I’m not entirely sure that the trip to America wasn’t rather unkind to this bottle.

Ayinger – 92 on Beer Advocate – Very light in color. Mostly clove flavors. A touch of spicy hop. Clove, slightly bready, a little banana in finish. Good hef. No complaints here.

Paulaner – 91 on Beer Advocate – Shade darker, probably has some Munich. Finish is a little bready/toasty/bitter. Picked up a little clove & not much banana.

Konig Ludwig – 84 on Beer Advocate – Typical hef flavors are present but very mellow. Has a touch of clove, probably a little Munich malt. Graham cracker in nose. Reminds me of an American hef.

All in all I’m quite excited to hear that Wyeast 3068/White Labs 300 is Weihenstephaner’s yeast strain. I think that if I can nail the fermentation temps on a pretty simple base recipe, I’ll have an award winning hef that I love.

In other news, somehow yesterday I dreamed up a saison version of an Oktoberfest. I understand that Oktoberfest is a lager, but the idea was to use the Okto base recipe with a saison yeast & possibly some Brett.

Of course I had to taste 8 different Oktoberfests before important brewing decisions could be made!

I decided to taste all 8 & make notes before I consulted the BJCP guidelines. I wanted to form my own impressions based on my own preferences, before assessing which was doing its category the most justice.

Ayinger – 88 on Beer Advocate – Bready malt in nose, Germany-ness to it. Nose reminds me of an alt. Finish a touch bitter & smoky. Would like a tad softer & rounder finish with a little more residual sweetness. Improved as it warmed up. The style guidelines do indicate the finish should be on the dry side.

Spaten – 80 on Beer Advocate – Green bottle. Awesome. Finish has a little skunk to it. Not a ton of maltyness. Skunk overrides. Why does anybody use green bottles?

Gordon Biersch – 82 on Beer Advocate – Different profile than previous two. Feels like flavor wave drops off too quickly. Malt flees the scene & noble hops leave a long finish.

Shiner – 77 on Beer Advocate – A little bit more in my wheelhouse. Malty breadiness hangs on throughout. Little toast. Finish is rounder with a little noble hop. In the interests of full disclosure, this & Real Ale’s Oktoberfest were my first introductions to the style.

Stevens Point – 80 on Beer Advocate – Malt is less rich. Crisp clean finish. Very drinkable beer but it feels like they played it pretty safe.

Samuel Adams – 83 on Beer Advocate – Usually Sam’s beers are too malty for me. This style should be a softball. But no, the malt seems a little understated. Very clean with nothing offensive. The flavor profile could be a good amount richer for my taste.

Hofbrau Munchen – 76 on Beer Advocate – Woah! Very light! Apparently some domestic versions can be golden & like a strong Helles. This is way different from the others & it’s a little skunked from its green bottle. It drinks like a slightly richer pilsner. I thought this was mislabeled until I looked at the style guidelines.

Widmer – 78 on Beer Advocate – There’s something different about its malt profile. There’s a strange light fruit ester in the nose (which is not to style). Pretty drinkable, but not super clean & possibly has some off flavors.

So after all this tasting (while making 3 yeast starters) I’ve concluded I’d like my Oktoberfest to be a little richer, with very low hop bitterness. Above all I want to drink something that seems like somebody set out to make a rich malty beer. Not a hedged safe play easy guzzler.

Now with that knowledge, I need to marry that with my Farm-toberfest idea. I’ve chosen White Labs 670 American Farmhouse (a combo of saison & Brett) for this beer-bauchery. Given that I didn’t like the dry finishes of some of the beers, I’ll probably mash quite high to try and leave some residual sweetness. I’ll also use an extremely light hand on any hop flavor additions, as I wasn’t sure the noble hops were adding anything good whenever I could detect them.

Other than that, I just have a few random items to report. The SNAFU Memorial Competition is in a couple months & I’m starting to try and plan out what to brew to win ‘Best Use of Hops’ & ‘Best Big Beer’. I might be too late in the game to whip up some things for the big beer, but using a ton of delicious hops is always in my wheelhouse.

Yesterday I dry hopped most of the beers hanging out in the beer tower.

Lime Saison, Rufus, NZ Union Jack, Saison 3’s, Am Farmhouse, & Brett Rye IPA. All those bad boys got their first or second wave of dry hops. A lot of Nelson Sauvin involved of course. They should all turn out pretty well, assuming I have the time to bottle & keg them.

I was thinking Wild Dubbel might be a little more tame. Turns out I was wrong. I have 4-5 honey mangoes that are cut up and hanging out in the back of my freezer. Wild dubbel just might get some delicious fruit to play with too.

I still had yeast starters of WLP650 Brett B & WLP653 Brett L sitting around, so I decided to combine those and give them some new starter wort to chew on. I tasted their old starter worts too.

Brett B 650 – Heavy nail polish in aroma. Flavor hints at something else & then gets nail polished out.

Brett L 653 – Strange meaty/smoky aroma I can’t quite put my finger on. Has an umami-ness to it. The flavor profile is slightly more mellow but more meat with a touch of sweaty horse.

Can’t wait to team these awesome flavor profiles up! 😛

Alright, that wraps up this episode of heroicness.

Proost y’all.