I came across this little gem as I've been streaming San Diego Radio for the past week or so getting ready for my work trip to San Diego. Luckily it's an extend-o trip as the work portion is during the week and I'll be staying through the weekend with my brother who is moving from North Park to Encinitas this week...Pizza Port visit is definitely in my near future! I love me some Pizza Port: Mongo DIPA!
Last Thursday I had a few friends stop by to help with my Flanders Red Ale blending session. I decided that it was time to get some of my Flanders beer into bottles. They'll continue to evolve, sour, get funky in the bottle but we need the yeast cake for an upcoming Wine Barrel Sour Beer project that my homebrew club is doing. With that, and the NHC coming up, I decided that it would be a good time to try and blend together some of what I have to put in bottles. Here is the process we took and the results!
First Sample: First things first…We sampled all of the beers to be blended to get a base line and to decide on how to blend them.
First Sample: First things first…We sampled all of the beers to be blended to get a base line and to decide on how to blend them.
· Flanders V.1 (15 months Old) –Aroma of caramel, cherries, brett, and tart acidity. Thin body, bretty, oaky, a little sweet, acidic, yet lacked an acid “bite”. PH 3.9
· Flanders V.2 (8 months Young) – Red in color (auburn). Aroma is more tart smelling but also of caramel, cherries, and brett funk. Less funk in the aroma. The flavor has more body and depth, it also has more acidity and dark malt flavors that work well. PH. 3.6
· Flanders V.1 (15 months Old with Cherries) : 1.25 lbs Cherries/Gallon -Extremely Cloudy. Aroma of vanilla(oak), cherry and tart. Lots going on in the flavor. Well rounded the start is bretty (funky and cherry flavors) with the middle leaning towards caramel and vanilla. The cherries seem to pop out more in the end of the flavor but it didn’t taste like extract, or in your face, but more just like fresh cherries (very subtle). The tart cherries are definitely different then the cherry that the brett gives off. Very interesting and pleasant. This has much more body then the other two versions but I expect that to drop once I fine the pectin out with gelatin when I transfer to it’s 4th vessel off the cherries before bottling. Should be bottle as a separate Kriek beer. PH 3.7/3.8
***An interesting thing to note was the high PH of the older (1st generation Roeselare blend pitch) compared to the PH of the younger version that was pitched onto the yeast cake of the first version. Even though it is 7-8 months younger, it’s acidity level is already significantly higher which would confirm the notion that subsequent pitch’s of Wyeast Roeselare blend create increasingly acid beer.
Blends that we tried
· Blend 1: 2/3 new to 1/3 old – Lactic acid, a bit of acetic on the end. Light body and maybe missing a bit of body in the middle. Cherries, vanilla, oak, tart, sweet, caramel. The oakyness (vanilla), brett, and cherry from the old version is cut down nicely by the newer unoaked version. The acidity, body, and caramel malt of the new version help balance it out very nicely.
· Blend 2: ½ old to ½ new - More body then the 2/3 –1/3 version but didn’t have the acidity we wanted.
· Blend 3: ½ new, ¼ old, and ¼ old w. cherries - This we felt had the balance with the start, middle, and finish, but we felt the flavors were muddled a bit. The other blends were crisp, and this one was very much muddled for some reason. It tasted really good because the cherry, vanilla complements the beer, but the consensus was that it didn’t work as well as the other blends. The cherry beer is amazing and unique on it’s own and it should be bottled that way.
The Final Blend – 6 gallons (24 quarts)
The blend that I ended up going with was a bit different then the 2/3 new, 1/3 old that we'd decided upon. Andrew had said that the middle lacked depth, which was why we had tried to add some of the cherry version. When I sipped on Rodenbach Grand Cru (as our baseline) it had a depth of roast, and dark malts that permeated the middle of the sip and brings the entire beer together. I realized that adding a small portion of my extremely dark roasty 100% brett beer might be exactly what this blend needed. My blend also was lacking a tiny bit of acid bite that I wanted. My blend was sitting at a PH of 3.7 and I wanted it a tad bit lower. I ended up adding 20 ml of 88% lactic acid solution. This brought the PH down to 3.4/3.5 which is about exactly where I want it to be. I know that it is cheating a bit, but, I also know that Russian River and many other breweries have extremely old acid beer hanging around for just such occasion to add acidity to a blend.
· Flanders (8 months) - 16 quarts = 66.6%
· Flanders (15 months) - 7 quarts = 29.2%
· Bongo Brett (1 month) - 1 quart = 4.2%
· + 20 ml Lactic Acid
· 3.4-3.5 ph
Bottling time –
I carbonated this to 2.45 volumes of Co2 with 4.73 ounces of corn sugar with the beer at 61 degrees. Depending on how "still" the beers are this may end up slightly lower then 2.45 volumes, even as low as 2 volumes of Co2.
I'm extremely excited to have 6 gallons of this bottled! I imagine opening a bottle of this 2-3 year from now and being extremely happy!
The Bonus Round:
Don and I both did Brett L/ Brett C experiments. He did 100% Brett, and I did Brett Saison’s with Wyeast French Saison 3711.
· 100% Brett L- Musty aroma, very clean tasting, a bit thin in the middle, and some funky brett on the end.
· Saison Brett L – Funky cheesy aroma mixed with some fruit. Flavors is very phenolic and fruity with loads of citrus in the middle. Finish’s really dry.
· 100% Brett C – Very clean aroma, flavors is very similar to the brett lambicus but and the end is slightly fruity and citrusy. Very, very clean. Could easily use this yeast for an IPA.
· Saison Brett C –Extremely fruity in the nose. Hits you with tons of pineapple in the middle. Very dry.
Good Lookin Out:
I wanted to give a shoot out to Chip Walton, Don Osborn, Andrew Nesbitt, and Kevin Swenson for helping out with the blending. Don had the original idea to blend 2/3 new and 1/3 old. It was Andrew that mentioned that the middle of that blend was missing some body and prompted us to add some of the cherry portion. We didn’t use that version but it was his insight that got me to thinking of adding a small portion of Bonga Brett to help out with the middle. Chip and Kevin helped out as well. Chip was by far the most organized labeling all of his glasses and not drinking all of the blends right away so he could go back to them, which was helpful. Kevin coined the term Funky Cunt accidentally while drunkardly stumbling through his words.
A little over a year ago myself and my buddy Nathan started a homebrew club in NE Mpls. It's now referred to as the Nordeast Brewers Alliance. We did a complete over haul of the organization and structure in 2012 and are extremely happy with the turn out at our Monthly meetings! We routinely have around 15-20 people show up monthly. Last year we'd be happy to have a handful. But now we have a montly education topic, beer sampling (with critique and feedback), and special events, group projects, membership cards, and all kinds of fun stuff in the works.
One of the projects that I'm heading up is our Wine Barrel / Sour beer project. We are almost to the point of getting this barrel filled up, but before I get to the details of that, I thought I'd let you'all in on my research before I get to the juicy details.
Let's start first with trying to acquire a used Wine barrel in Minnesota. Here is the thought process, considerations, and steps I took.
FINDING A USED WINE BARREL -
1. Contact local wineries - In Minnesota, the few wineries we have use their barrels basically until they can't hold water anymore and don't age all of their wine in barrels anyways. This did not turn out anything and I called every single one in the state. (You may have different results depending on the number of wineries in your region)
2. Talk to companies that sell them as rain barrels to hippies (like me). Two places that I know of:
- Barrel Depot in Shakopee: This place seems to be run by some nice gals in Shakopee. They were always very nice to me, informative, and willing to work with me on the type of barrel I wanted. They had very resonable prices. $100 - $150 / barrel depending on a few factors. They also said that they could get 30 gallon barrels which I was seriously considering because at the time I started researching I was looking for myself, and to put in my basement.
- By the Barrel in Minneapolis: This place seems to be run by some guys in North Minneapolis and I picture them living in a place like mine with a garage and yard full of huge 60 gallon wine barrels! These guys are very helpful as well. They aren't able to get smaller then 60 gallon barrels but they are very cool and willing to talk and give you advice. I was going to by a barrel from them since they are so close to my house and eventually I may still but a few factors came into the decision to go with the barrel that I now currently have in my basement.
That barrel that you see in the picture above is the one that we are going to be using for the Nordeast Brewers Alliance Funky Barrel Sour beer experiment. This barrel we acquired from someone who had acquired it from Town Hall brewery. It is a barrel that originally was used for a Honey Wine by Minnestalgia. Town Hall used it to age some Belgian Pale Ale called Thunderstruck even though it has a plate on the side that says it was used for Eye of the Storm. Apparently that was it's original intent, but Town Hall ended up using French Oak for Eye of the Storm. Now it's in my basement. Mike Hoops from Town Hall was kind enough to call me back and give me all kinds of information about this particular barrel and he refered to it as "one of the pretty American Oak barrels". It is a damn good lookin barrel!
WHAT TO DO NOW THAT I HAVE A BARREL-(how to prepare for long term aging of beer)
This is where I leaned heavily on help from fellow sour beer fanatics who hang out on the burgundian babble belt homebrew forum. Any question you have regarding sour beer should absolutely hit this forum if you want sage advice! Check out the Babble Belt if you like Belgian Beers and want to get better at making them!
Soo...after months, we got our hands onto this barrel!
The general idea behind using wine barrels to age sour beer is that you don't want them to ever be empty. Having an empty barrel allows Acetobactor to take hold of the barrel which is the same bacteria that helps make Vinegar. The best policy is to get a barrel that has been just recently emptied (within hours or even minutes).
Since I had a barrel that had been sitting empty I did a bit of research to figure out my best steps to get this barrel ready for use. Not only do I not want to waste my homebrew clubs time and money by making an undrinkable beer, but I also selfishly really want to make an amazing Sour beer because I fucking love drinking sour beer!
Before HWB (Honey Wine Barrel) made it to my basement it had sat outside in the Summer full of water at a friend of a friends house. Then it sat empty for a good 2-3 months in the late Fall and Winter. One of the fears is that mold will take hold. It doesn't appear to have!!!!
Here has been my process so far to take this barrel from possibly moldy and full of acetobactor to a habitable environment to make beautiful, artisinal, sour beer in the classic Flanders Style!
1. Left it outside in the fridged winter for a few weeks prepping my basement for it and making space for it.
2. Learning the dimensions so that I can make sure it will fit through all of my door ways. American Oak barrels are typically 24" - 26" at their Widest point and French Oak are either 26.5" or 29".
3. Building a Barrel Rack - 4x4's and casters
4. Buying Sulfur sticks
5. Borrowed a Power Washer
6. Washing and Prepping it for beer.
Here's a run down of what I did. Me and Kevin brought it to my basement about two week ago. We pulled the bung out and at first it smelled like cheeses....Ahh Ohh. Then upon further sniffing it smelled of sweet honey wine! It literally smelled like honey! I constructed a simple barrel rack out of left over 4 x 4 treated fence post. I placed it on the rack. Then I filled the barrel up with 60 gallon of hot 130 degree water fully expecting it to gush out all over the basement floor. Nope...it's a perfectly fine barrel that holds water still! Yes!!!! Then, I drained it with my March Pump, and power washed it with 140 degree water. This was to try and get rid of any mold or crusty lees that may have been on the sides or bottom of the barrel. The hot water should kill some of the nasties maybe as well but probably not. I drained that and a little bit of crusty char did come out. Rinsed it with cold water as you don't want to leave it steaming hot as the bacteria and critters like that environment. I let it drain and dry out a bit and then I burned half a sulfur stick in it. This sulfur should kill any unwanted bacteria and keep the acetobactor at bay!
This is where we are at now! It's sitting in my basement waiting for our crew to decide on a recipe!
If you have any ideas on what we should fill up a Honey Wine Barrel with, or what you think would work well with this barrel let me know. I'm thinking more of a Blonde Sour Beer even though my initial idea was to go straight Flanders Red!
Also, if you have expertise in barrel aging, working with barrels, created sour beers in barrels, or any kind of barrel maintenance information pertaining to using them for beer.....I want to talk to you. Please reach out to me as I need all the help I can get!