Fun with Water, Farmhouse Oktoberfest and Lime Saison Update

Howdy my brewing brothers and sisters. Since my last post I’ve brewed a couple batches & continued to expand my knowledge & efforts in the field of water building.

If you’ve followed my brewing at all, you’ve noticed I have a tendency to start trying things and then I double back for proper schooling. Water building certainly has not been an exception. My 8/20 Hef had a Residual Alkalinity of -58 with a Chloride:Sulfate ratio of 2:1. Perhaps a little aggressive on the chlorides. My 8/24 Hef had a Residual Alkalinity of -80 with a Chloride:Sulfate ratio of 0.89:1. A little more reasonable. It appears Residual Alkalinity values that low are acceptable for rather light beers, although they might be coming in a touch hot.

Anyway, I built water for my 8/27 Farmhouse Oktoberfest and had a RA of -60 with a Chloride:Sulfate ratio of 1:1. I based my water building off of an online water profile I found for the city of Munich (75ppm Calcium, 120 Sulfate, 18 Magnesium, 2 Sodium, 60 Chloride). I upped the chlorides to shoot for a little maltier interpretation of the style. All was well. My RA looked low for the color of the beer, but I was ballparking Munich’s water. However, today I ran into Munich’s water profile for Oktoberfest in John Palmer’s How To Brew and he indicates the sulfates are 10ppm & chlorides are 2ppm.

Needless to say, my water is way out of the ballpark if those are more accurate numbers. Even my chloride:sulfate ratio is way off. Oh well, we’ll see how it turns out. I did a small single decoction mash on an Oktoberfest base recipe (a modified version of Jamil’s in Brewing Classic Styles) that’s running on White Labs 670 AKA saison yeast with brettanomyces. I’m not sure with all those other factors that my water building attempt will be the biggest issue. At least Farmtoberfest dresses stylishly.

Regardless, my water knowledge is growing appreciably. I listened to (and took notes) on the first 3 Brew Strong water shows. I’ve listened to the 4th part with the Q&A, but I don’t take notes or retain things quite as well on the treadmill.

I have also taken a look at the Vegas water profile & filled its values into this water spreadsheet for your using pleasure. At first glance it appears that Vegas water is best suited for rather bitter beers that are pale-amber-copper colored. These deductions are based on a Chloride:Sulfate ratio of 0.41 & a Residual Alkalinity of 64. John Palmer says a ratio 0-0.5 puts you in very bitter beer territory & a RA of 0-120 puts you in that color range.

My other news to report is that a sampling of the 6/10 Lime Saison went down quite favorably with one of the Mikes that assisted in last night’s brewing. It had a little spice, a little fruit, & the lime is present but not overpowering. I added 2oz of Motueka dry hops almost a week ago and I dare say that bad boy might be ready for bottling.

Alright, time to squeeze in a quick workout & then go do a little grilling and beer pairing. 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.