10.31.2013

Jesker King on Saison's...taken directly from their blog!

***This is a post that came directly from Jester Kings blog.  The Title below has the link to their website if you'd like to learn more about what JK is doing!  About the post below...I couldn't agree more, and I couldn't have said it better!

On Farmhouse Ales, Our Fermentations & Authenticity

4 hours ago

On the label of every 750ml bottle of beer we make it states, “Jester King is an authentic farmhouse brewery located in the beautiful Texas Hill Country on the outskirts of Austin.” This is a statement we take very seriously, and we are constantly looking to breath more life into it. While we’ve embraced naturally occurring, wild microorganisms in our oak barrel fermentations since we opened in 2010, up until this past summer, our primary fermentations in staineless steel tanks were conducted with pure culture brewer’s yeast, specifically the French Saison strain. This is no longer the case. All of our fermentations now incorporate a diverse blend of microorganisms consisting of dozens of different types of yeast and bacteria. We’ve harvested naturally occurring wild yeast from the flora at our brewery and blended it with various types of Saccharomyces yeast, Brettanomyces yeast, and lactic acid producing bacteria to ferment all of our beer.


Wild yeast harvest experiment with flora from our land

We made this change to impart a greater degree of complexity, authenticity, and hopefully enjoyment to our beers. We’ve become somewhat troubled by the fact that beer we commercially refer to as “farmhouse ale” was fermented with pure culture brewer’s yeast. From everything we’ve been able to discern, this was not how these beers were fermented historically. In fact, all beer was once fermented at least in part with wild yeasts prior to the discovery, isolation, and widespread adoption of pure culture brewer’s yeast that helped give rise to the modern beer making practices we know today. This is not to denigrate pure culture fermentation, which has done wonders for consistency and quality control, and has been responsible for countless numbers of excellent beers. However, we agree with 20th century Belgian brewing scientist Marc H. Van Laer, who posits that the rise of pure culture fermentation has in some ways taken something away from beer making:

“It is certain that the introduction of pure yeasts into industrial fermentation does not constitute the crowning achievement of a system that is henceforth immutable. It seems, for example, that if the application of the pure cultures method has improved the average quality of the beer, if it has decreased the chances of infection, it has given us beer with less character than before.”

Due to the historical absence of pure culture fermentation in the making of farmhouse ales, each farmhouse brewery most certainly would have had its own unique house character and produced beer with a sense of place. To some extent, we lament the fact that our previous pure culture fermentations with French Saison yeast resulted in beers that did not exhibit a sense of place to the degree we would like to see. We’ve come to subscribe wholeheartedly to the description of farmhouse ales (in this case saison in particular) given by Belgian brewer Yvan de Baets of Brasserie de la Senne, as contained in Phil Markowski’s Farmhouse Ales:

“A saison must therefore be low in alcohol (in the modern — and Belgian — sense of the word in any case), around 4.5 to 6.5%. It must be highly attenuated (90 to 95% on average, if not more, as apparent attenuation) and dry. It must also be either sour or very bitter (with a bitterness obtained by the use of a massive amount of hops low in alpha acid). It shouldn’t in any case be smooth. If spices are used, it must be with the utmost moderation. A saison is not by any means a spice soup. Ideally, it should be fermented, at least partially, by wild yeasts as well as by cultured varieties. An authentic saison has a small “wild” side, rustic, indefinable, far from the clean aspect of certain engineered beers of today. In one word, it must have extraordinary character.”

On a practical level, the “either sour or very bitter” divide that De Baets describes is one we’ve latched onto. As previously mentioned, all of our fermentations now incorporate a variety of yeasts and lactic acid bacteria. For various beers such Le Petit Prince, Noble King, and Mad Meg, we use a large dose of organic noble hops to keep the bacteria in check. For other beers, we use much smaller doses of hops in order to allow a healthier environment for bacteria to impart acidity to the beer. We also now see a greater degree of attenuation in our beer with virtually all of the fermentable sugar being consumed. All of our fermentations are now reaching “super-attenuation” with finishing gravities of 1.000. Finally, the flavors and aromas from fermentation with wild microorgansims are apparent in all our beers.

Right below where it states “Jester King is an authentic farmhouse brewery…” on our labels, it states, “We brew what we like, drink what we want, and offer the rest to those who share our tastes.” While we are very excited about this change in the way we ferment our beer, we understand that not everyone will embrace it. We hope however that they can appreciate why we are compelled to make this change.

9.27.2013

Grapes, Grapes, the magical fruit!

Ever since trying  Cantillons Vingneronne - Lambic aged on Grapes about a year ago (holy crap you have to get a taste of this stuff), I knew I needed to somehow make an attempt at something similar. Being that I have 5 or 6 Lambic or Flanders or Wild Saison, or American Wild Ales aging at any given time I knew I'd have the opportunity to grab a couple gallons of my Wild beer to age on grapes.   The hard part was finding some grapes as I live in Minnesota...Nordeast Mpls...that's what's up.   I had heard that sometimes local home brew stores will get shipped whole grapes from Cali, but upon further investigation, both Northern Brewer, stopped doing that this year because it wasn't profitable for them.and Midwest you can get buckets, but the weird thing is that the whole grapes are sent to you already crushes, with Yeast pitched in the bucket already.  That just wouldn't do for my situation.  So, being that I'm all about local ingredients, and unprocessed things, and organic whenever possible I started looking for a local alternative.  Well, just my luck, it turns out that the U of M has an exceptional breeding program and Grape growing program specifically designed around producing grape varieties that are cold hardy to be grown for eating, and to be used at wineries in cold hardy regions!  On top of that, one of the main guys Peter Hemstad involved with the grape breeding program also owns a local winery, St. Croix Vineyards.  I reached out to Peter in the Spring because I had heard about a free tasting he does of over 70 varieties (don't quote me on that I think it's more then 70) of grapes during harvest season at the MN Arboretum.   Like most people that are extremely passionate about the things that they do, Peter was more then happy to talk to me about the local grape varieties that he has spend the good part of his life breeding, cultivating, analyzing, eating, turning into wine, etc.   In our conversation he mentioned that he owns St. Croix Vineyards, and that I should stop out to try his wines.  The conversation then turned to my desire to age some of my Wild Ales on local grapes similar to what Cantillon has done.   He was intrigued enough to talk to me about it, although he didn't hesitate to ask "why would you want to put my grapes in a beer that has already been "spoiled"."   Now, he was just kidding to some degree, but at the same point, Brettanomyces is the devil to most Vintners.  When a winery detects Brett in their Wine it is typically a lost cause at that point, and the typical detector is a Band-Aide type aroma.  Not good, not good at all.  I our conversation we talk about some specific grape varieties he will have available and their characteristics.

  • Frontenac - (Plum, Berry, Cherries)
  • Frontenac Gris - (Peach, Tropical Fruit, adds body)
  • La Crescent - (Aromatic, Peach , Citrus, Pineapple, Tropical Fruit)
  • Marquette (Cherry, black pepper, complex)
  • Brianna (grapefruit, pineapple)

Fast forward to last weekend which was the start of their harvest season at St. Croix Vineyards and I made my way to put in a 4 hour shift at the vineyard to harvest some grapes.   Now, harvesting grapes can be a tedious process.   Some grapes are under developed and pinkish and extremely acid, those don't make the cuts, their are also many grapes that have been burst, and ants, and bees are all over them just sucking in the sweet goodness.   A 4-hour shift was kinda long so make sure you are down if you decide to help them out.   In my shift we picked Marechal Foch grapes, and they were in small clusters.  That's the key word that we used..."this is a beautiful cluster!"  That meant, all of the grapes are in tact and I don't have to do much work.   Anywho...it was a great experience. Part of the deal at SCV is that if you help out for 4 hours, they will give you two bottles of wine.   Instead I asked, how many pounds of grapes go into 1 bottle, (4-5 lbs.)

  • 5 lbs of Frontenac Gris (pr. Gree)

 (Peach, Tropical Fruit, adds body

  • 5 lbs of Marquette

 (Cherry, black pepper, complex)

  • 2 lbs of Un-named U of M experimental grapes 

(apparently although they taste beautiful, they didn't produce enough large clusters of grapes to justify mass production as a cold hardy variety.   I have 2 lbs of a grape variety that you will never ever be able to get, see, or try, other then the beer that I age then in! )

Hell Yeah!  Locally grown grapes for adding to my Wild Beers!  According to a video I saw about Cantillons grape beers, they use appr. 2 lbs per gallon of whole grapes, so that's where I'm going to start.    Planning on tasting some of my Lambic style beers to figure out which ones will complement these grapes the best and let them shine.   I'm thinking 2 gallons of Lambic on Frontenac Gris, 2 gallons of Lambic on Marquette, and 1 gallon of Lambic on Unnamed grape variety!  

Needless to say, I have a new found respect for grapes, and wine, and terroir, and especially wine.   I'm gonna go out and get a bottle or 12 today!

"Our winery doesn't run unless there is Summit in the fridge.  We make wine, and when we make wine, we drink beer!" - Peter Hemstad quoting someone else that works at SCV.

******Spaced reserved to give updates and tastings on my beers that I age on these grapes.*******


9.26.2013

Nothing better then bottling your first ever Barrel aged Sour beer!



We were lucky enough to have this beer turn out amazing!   It literally tastes like liquid gold and for a RR - Temptation clone, it tastes very close to the real thing!   Click on the image above to go to the original recipe, or click HERE.

The Great Brett Experiment is about to begin! (has already begun)


So.... I really like Brettanomyces, and in many ways it's the "unknown" about Brett that I really love.  It's the artist in me that enjoys using Wild yeast and not the scientist.  When most people think of Brett they think of flavors and aroma's of cheese, horse-blanket, wet dog, etc and some people really enjoy those flavors in their beer.   In my quest to understand this wild yeast I've come across some examples that have huge fruit characteristics and are described as passion fruit, pineapple, strawberry, stone fruits, and pie cherries.   I really enjoy the fruity strains of Brett as opposed to the funky strains and it's these fruity Brett stains that I lean towards utilizing in my beers.   It's to that artistic end that I decided to join a scientific project dubbed The Great Brett Experiment.


The Great Brett Experiment is the brain child of a mad scientist in Switzerland with a yeast blog called Eureka Brewing but also is a home brewer that him and his brother call Blackwell Brewery.   Back to the experiment....The experiment is based on understanding the flavors, aroma, and fermentation characteristics of Brett strains that Sam has isolated from various commercial bottles.   Some bottles of Cantillon have had up-to 4 or 5 different Brett strains.   He shipped me 20 different varieties of Brett in these tiny little vials...see picture on the bottom of the post.   Unfortunately 3 of the varieties didn't make the long transport from Switzerland so I'll be doing 17 different varieties.  (Keep in mind that a few of these 17 varieties may be the same strain, just from different breweries, or they may have been the same at one point, and are now mutated and are now a unique strain.)

I'm hoping to find additional Brett strains that have those amazing unique fruity flavors that only certain strains of Brettanomyces can provide.  We'll then be able to mapped those strains as either great 100% fermenting strains, or great strains for complementing Saccharomyces strains in mixed fermentation (ex.  Saison Brett!)

I'll take these small samples and build them up until I have enough to 100% ferment a half gallon.   Here is my plan taken from Jeffrey Crane's blog Beers Bikes & Adventure

Recipe:
I created a simple recipe that I thought would be interesting enough for us to enjoy the taste of the beer, but not too complex to distract us from the yeast derived flavors. For the recipe, I added some wheat to help with mouthfeel (protein) and long term food source (long chain carbohydrates). Then a small percentage of acid malt was added to give the Brett strains some lactic acid to convert and to also lower the pH for the mash and Brett fermentation.

Logistics:
Sam will be sending the yeast in 1.5 mL vials (mostly to help with international shipping costs). These will need to be built up. I've read that you should build up about 10x each step. I'm planning to brew wit hall 20 strains at once. My goal is to have 20 - .5 gal trials going all at once - here is how I plan to do that.

First Starter Step -  15 ml (~.5 oz)
15 ml Sterile Centrifuge tubes (~$15 and great for saving dregs)

Second Starter Step - 150 ml (~5 oz). Here are my ideas:
250 ml flask w stopper/airlock or foil (laboratory way), but expensive
12 oz beer bottles w stopper or foil (pretty cheap, but the stoppers/airlocks would be pricey)
12 oz water bottles w 1/8" blow-off tubing sealed into cap or foil (cheap)

Main Batch - 1.5 l (~50 oz) - maybe a bit more to get 4 beers worth
64 oz growlers w stopper/airlocks (homebrewer friends have extras - especially with CA laws)
2 liter water bottles w 1/8" blow-off tubing sealed into cap

Evaluation:
We wanted to make sure we standardized the evaluation of the strains. We thought it was best to taste at Month 1 (uncarbonated at bottling), Month 2, Month 6, 1 Year.  I have created a Brettanomyces Evaluation Scoresheet (based on the AHA Scoresheet). We will compile the tasting notes, scores and sour/funk ratings.

Brettanomyces Evaluation ScoreSheet (pdf)







8.26.2013

Homebrew Competition with two (2) specialty categories. American Wild Ale and 100% Brett

It's that time of year again where the Nordeast Brewers Alliance put on our 2nd annual Nordeast Big River Homebrew competition.
Click Here to Register

Check out our Chop N Brew promotional video here by our good friend Chip Walton


Like last year we have two specialty categories for America Wild and 100% Brett!  I'm gonna throw this out there right now because I know that a lot of Wild ale brewers are anti-BJCP judging competitions and I was the same way.  My Wild Ales, and 100% bretts didn't fit into any BJCP category.  Well, that is why we created our specialty categories.   We, the uber funk freaks of america (and the universe for that matter) are inspired by these wild beers, whether they be 100% fermented with brett, or whether there was a mixed fermentation of some kind.   I personally love Brett IPA's, and Saison Bretts, and Stout Bretts, etc, as well as barrel aged beers that have souring bacteria like Pedioccocus, or lactobacillus.   We are a unique band of brewers and we don't have a lot of outlets to understand how our beer compares to others.  I highly encourage you to have our carefully selected BCJP judges sample your Wild beers!   Make sure that you give a solid description of the base beer, whether it was aged on oak, or fruit, and whether it was fermented with bacteria.   This information is considered by the judges before tasting and then they will give honest feedback on if you achieve what you were going for and if there are any off flavors.   Now keep in mind, if you brewed a Lambic too-style, then compete it as a Lambic, but, if you brewed a Sour Dark Saison with Brett aged on Currants, then that would probably be best in the American Wild category.   If you brewed a 100% brett fermented beer like I do quite frequently....please submit that to the 100% Brett category with a description of the base beer! Rant over.... now let's see how you're Wild shit stacks up to all the rest!

A couple of things that you should know about our competition:

  1. Only Beer!  No cider, no mead.
  2. Two specialty categories (American Wild and 100% Brett)
  3. Half of our profits will go to the East Side Neighborhood Services to their community programs.



A little bit about what is going on with the club.
Our club in Minneapolis, the NBA, has been growing in numbers that are pretty exciting (85+ members). On any given month we have 30-40+ members show up to our club meetings.   The last couple of months have been focused on Hops as July was our Single Hop experiment where we sampled 30 different single hop beers side by side.  The wort was produced at North Gate Brewing in Mpls and then we all boiled our wort separately with our hop of choice.   That was a ridiculously fun experiment and we can't wait to do it again next year.    Then in August we had hop specialist (guru) Charlie Rohwer who told us that Brewers Gold is the mother of all high alpha hops and that pretty much every high alpha hop today is a derivative, or has genealogy linked to Brewers Gold!  Pretty cool.   Charlie looked at all of the hops we did in our tasting and talked to us about its lineage which was just a crazy amount madness because he know it all by hear, he wasn't even looking at notes.

Our club will be at the State Fair helping out in the Land of 10,000 beers station in early September.  Also in late September to early October we will be emptying our Red Wine barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout and filling it back up with a Barley Wine!

Cheers!


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