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!

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.

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:

My Lime Saison

Once upon a time I absolutely nailed this beer. It was an awesome beer. People drank it like Bud Light Lime but it was a beautiful little craft beer. Killer citrusy aroma, the lime zest in the end of the boil played nicely with all the hops, and life was good.

The problem was the version I really liked was on White Labs 566 Belgian Saison II, which was a seasonal offering at the time. My sanitation at the time was iffy and I used a ton of late hops so I didn’t re-use the yeast. Plus re-brewing ANY batch, no matter how good, was usually unheard of for me. I always wanted to do something new.

Since then I’ve taken a few more shots at it with mixed results. BeerSmith lost a number of my recipes (with all the brewing notes) during the move here, so I’ve been digging through old notebooks deciphering chicken scratch.

Anyway, on 6/10 I gave it another try using one of the versions I had of this recipe floating around. Six brave & generous limes sacrificed their zest for the boil. I used a good amount of Motueka (lemon-lime aroma) for flavor and Motueka, Galaxy, & Pacific Jade for aroma. (Previously successful attempt was Motueka, Palisade, & Citra.)

On 6/20 I dry hopped with Galaxy & Pacific Jade. On 6/26 I needed its bucket so I transferred it to a glass carboy. I tasted it after transfer and wasn’t in love with it. I was a little worried there may have been some residual PBW cleaner or something. Whatever. I have Thug Life tatted on my carboy and shizzle.

On 7/3 I sampled it again and decided it was probably fine from a safe-to-drink stand point, but it wasn’t blowing my mind. At that point I added some WLP 644 Brett B Trois because I was bottling a couple batches with that yeast and why the hell not.

That brings us to today. For some reason I’m toying with the idea of doing some strange Imperial Shandy IPA debacle of a beer and my mind drifted to physically putting limes in this beer.

I sampled ye olde Lime Saison again and while it had a nice aroma & the flavor profile had mellowed a little, I still decided a couple limes wouldn’t hurt.

I did a little research on Homebrewtalk & listened to Jamil’s show on fruit beers. I was worried about wild yeast on the peel sneaking in, so I used Jamil’s idea to dunk the (uncut) limes in boiling water – just for a minute. Then I cut 2 limes up into pieces small enough to fit and dropped them on in. I was initially going to go with 4 limes, but Jamil does make the excellent point on occasion that adding is easier than subtracting in this arena.

At any rate, limes are floating around in my strange Saison-Brett-fruit endeavor now. The gravity hasn’t changed since adding the Brett, so maybe the limes will help it get its act together.

No matter what the result, I’ll be moving on from this debacle and taking another crack at it soon. I’ll probably streamline the grain bill and I’ll need to track down some Citra. The good batch had somewhere in the neighborhood of 3oz at flameout.

Alright, time for bed. I got brunch plans with my lady and then SNAFU is having a Q&A at U Bottle It at 1pm. Come one come all.

Proost y’all.

New Zealand Hops, Bottling, and My Brett Collection

Big news! I received a box of New Zealand hops from Farmhouse Brewing Supply today! Better yet, four of the varieties were hops I’ve never used/smelled or even chewed on!

Of course I thought it would be fun to bust them open and record my initial impressions, then look up the descriptors for each & smell them again to see if I could pick those things out.

Riwaka 5.2% AA – Got a little spice followed by fruity. A little grassy with a very present citrusy watermelon note. It’s described as a big grapefruity citrus ride. I may be identifying that big note as watermelon-like. Riwaka seems like a very intriguing little hop.

Wakatu 7% AA – Starts a little earthy/musty then goes big artificial cherry. I’m very excited about this hop. Its descriptors are rounded floral with hints of lime. I’d still lean more towards cherry, but an awesome hop nonetheless. Can’t wait to use it!

Southern Cross  12.7% AA – They use this hop in Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere. Hits me mostly grassy with a little unidentifiable fruit. Supposed to be citrus and spice but I’m getting more grass/earth and I’m not blown away by it.

Topaz 16.4% AA – I get a hint of peacheyness followed by slightly dank grassy notes. Descriptors are earthy and lychee. I’ve never had lychee that I know of. Mostly get earthy/grassy. Should be fine for bittering.

Other than burying my poor nose in crazy new NZ hops, I bottled 3 batches in the last 2 days. Cleaning & sanitizing all those bottles in my kitchen sink is not my favorite thing in the world but it did give me a chance to catch up on a decent amount of Brewing Network Sunday Sessions. I have to get a chest freezer & more kegging equipment sooner or later though. Just to preserve my sanity.

All 3 batches were decent or better at the time of bottling. The 6/23 Tripel was nothing mind-blowing from the bucket. Tasted a little grainy. I’m hoping it develops a little in the bottle. The 6/14 Dubbel had promise. A little burnt raisin aroma. Looking forward to that carbing up. The 6/27 Nelson Sauvin Pale was pretty nice. Firm bitterness and plenty of hoppyness. A little cloudy from all the late & dry hopping, but pleasant out of the bucket. So far I’m thinking a touch more crystal/sweetness could be nice, but the point of the beer was a clean canvass to experience the marvelous Nelson hop. In that category I did not disappoint!

I’m still tinkering with names for all 3 beers. My lovely girlfriend wasn’t too impressed with my initial naming efforts. Dubbel For Nothing earned a blank stare. Raisin The Roof is being reserved for a future effort with raisins. The Tripel seemed a little bland so it may spend its days known as The Agnostic.

My other mission of the day was getting all 3 year-round Brett strains (B, C, L) from White Labs stepped up and/or into starters. I’m not entirely sure what Bretted out experiment I’ll pursue in the coming weeks just yet. I’m still shaping a plan to use all 3 as 100% Brett fermentations on the same base recipe. Feel free to comment on what style of grain bill you’d lean towards, dear readers.

Brett B had quite a turpentine-esque aroma and Brett C is looking especially fun. I’d be worried if it weren’t Brett. And even still I’m a little worried.

Speaking of fun with Brett, I checked in on Sink Spoon Rye IPA today as well. Sink Spoon is the 100% Brett batch on WLP644 Brett B Trois that I brewed with Joe 12 days ago. The gravity is down to 1.020 at room temp and there is definitely some delightful funk in the aroma. No sign of sink-related bacteria acting wild.

That’s all this mild-mannered homebrewer has to report for now. I’ll probably tinker around with a recipe for a New Zealand hopped version of Union Jack IPA tonight. One can never have too many IPAs.

Alright, I’m out. Be well y’all. 🙂