Apollo Hops - Need to get me some of these hops!

I need to get me some Apollo hops.  They sound amazing.  Dank, Orange, Citrus, Pine, tons of oil, and super high AA%!  I think I'll get me some of these!  Sounds like Amarillo on crack!

I recently heard about these hops because I had listened to a  podcast on The Brewing Network show Can You Brew It  where Jamil and crew breakdown a homebrewers beer called "The Dankness".  What initially interested me was the fact that they were going to talk about scaling up a homebrew recipe created by Nathan Smith to a recipe for commercial production.  This has been of particular interest to me because I've been wondering about hop utilization and how that will change (presumably increase) on a larger scale.  While their podcast fell a bit short in that, they did talk about these Apollo hops that I think I'll need to be using in my next version of The Chronic.  

On a side note of my hop utilization questions.   I ended up getting a pretty decent answer to this question.   Last week I attended a "Technical Tour" put on at Harriet Brewing by Owner/Headbrewer Jason Soward.  This was the first technical tour at Harriet and since Jason was a homebrewer-turned-Pro I figured he'd have a lot of answers to the few questions I have left about professional brewing operations.    Obviously one of my biggest concerns is scaling up a recipe.   On the tour I think I asked 10 times more questions then anybody else...but hey...I needed clarification...and that's what I do...ask questions (I am in sales).   Jason has a 10 hectoliter(8.5 bbl) bavarian brewhouse and he said that the hop utilization didn't change too dramatically from his homebrewing set up (keggle system).  If anything, he said his hop utilization increased 5-10%.  This was much less then I had imagined.  My research on larger systems had come up with people saying that they get 3 times more hop utilization going from a homebrew to a 15 bbl system (which didn't make sense in my mind).   Another thing I learned was how to do a decoction mash on a professional style brew house as Jason explained his process to me in depth!  It basically requires the monster of all brewing pumps! 

I also wanted to say that I was extremely impressed with Jason as the tour went along.  He was extremely technical and could rift back and forth from subject to subject with ease.  You could tell that he knows his shit inside and out and I'm extremely excited for Harriet's continued success.  I know that he will be around for a long time and that is a great thing for Minneapolis!    If you haven't tried any Harriet beers, SEEK THEM OUT!


pLambic - Turbid Mash brewing!

“The lambic family are not everybody’s glass of beer, but no one with a keen interest in alcoholic drink would find them anything less than fascinating. In their “wildness” and unpredictability, these are exciting brews. At their best, they are the meeting point between beer and wine. At their worst, they offer a taste of history.”  quote by Michael Jackson (the beer hunter/writer)

I did it!  I finally brewed a Lambic style beer!  The majority of people have never tried nor even heard of a Lambic.  This is because the style is practically extinct.  There are a handful of breweries in the Lambic(Lembeek) region of Belgium which is the only region that you can actually brew a beer of this style and call it a Lambic.  It's kind of like how you can't call Sparkling wine made in California Champagne.  To be called Champagne it needs to be from that region of France.  This style is essentially being resurrected by homebrewers and and a handful of US micro-breweries who have patients enough to age beer for 2+ years and then eventually blend the aged beer with younger beer.

There are a lot of crazy weird practices for making a traditional Lambic beer that go against everything I've learned about brewing.
  1. Turbid mash (purpose is to create wort that normal brewing yeast has trouble fermenting on it's own so that that various Brett and Bacteria have something to chew on over the long fermentation)
  2. Hot sparge (over 170 degrees) to extract tannins(?)
  3. Super long boil
  4. Usage of old aged hops
  5. Traditionally left out to cool overnight in a cool ship so that it takes on wild yeast and bacteria.
  6. Fermented in an old wine barrel that harbors yeast, and bacteria
  7. Left in primary fermentation on the dead yeast for 2-3 years. (dead yeast is food for the funk!)
  8. Finished beer is typically blended with younger less sour versions or aged on various fruits.

malt & fermentables

Malt or Fermentable
Belgian Pils
Wheat, Unmalted (Wheat Berries)


Original Gravity
Final Gravity
5° SRM
Mash Efficiency
hops(three year old Celeia hops)
240 mins

I'm extremely excited about this yeast.   I acquired it from Princeton Homebrew Supply where the owner Joe Bair has hooked up with a bona fide yeast wranglers named Al Buck.  Here is Al Buck, talking about the yeast he cultures.
ECY01 BugFarm 5 - Lambic Blend
A large complex blend of cultures to emulate sour beers such as lambic style ales. Over time displays a citrus sourness and large barnyard profile. Contains yeast (S. cerevisiae and S. fermentati), several Brettanomyces strains, Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. The BugFarm blend changes every year and can be added at any stage of fermentation. Now producing Bugfarm 5 for 2011 (includes a newcomer – Brettanomyces nanus & naardenensis). Also, B. lambicus/Dekkera bruxellensis known to produce citric acid.

Turbid Mash -
Here is the process I went through for doing the Turbid Mash.  I found that the most comprehensive information on traditional Lambic production was written by Jim Liddel here who based his turbid mash schedule on the way Cantillon still brews their fantastic beer today. I also referenced The Mad Fermentationist blog who put together a great step by step Turbid Mash brew day with pictures!

I simply followed these 8 steps and used about every pot and pan I had in my house! The good news is that I hit all of my temperatures within 1 or 2 degrees!  

1.) In kettle #1 add water at 144 F(62 C) to the crushed grain to achieve a temperature of 113 F (45 C) (about 2.4 quarts of water). Mix grain and water thoroughly and allow to rest at 113 F for 10 minutes. This amount of water is enough to just wet all the grain and flour. The mash needs to be stirred very well to make sure all the grain is wetted and no clumps of flour are present. Total time for this step is about 20 minutes, with the temperature rest included.

2.) Next, add 3.5-4.5 quarts boiling water (212 F)(100 C) to the mash to bring the temperature to 136 F (58 C). Do this over the course of 5 minutes making sure to mix thoroughly. Allow the mash to rest for 5 minutes at this temperature. Remove about a quart of liquid from the mash and add to kettle #2 and heat to 176 F (80 C). It will take about 3.5 quarts of water to raise the temperature to 136 F and you will end up with a very soupy mash with plenty of excess liquid. The liquid taken off should have the appearance of milk. Once heated it will clear up and large particles of hot break will form.

3.) Add 5-6 quarts water at 212 F (100 C) to the mash over the course of 10 minutes to bring the temperature to 150 F (65 C), again with constant mixing. It will take about 5 quarts of water to achieve this temperature. Allow the mash to rest for 30 minutes at 150 F (65 C). At this point the mash will be very soupy and the liquid much less milky in appearance.

4.) Next remove 4 quarts of liquid from kettle #1 and add to kettle #2. Continue to heat kettle #2 at 176 F (80 C). The liquid removed from kettle #1 will be very cloudy but not quite as milky as the liquid previously removed.

5.) Add 5 quarts of water 212 F (100 C)water to kettle #1 to bring the temperature to 162 F (72 C) and allow to remain at 162 F for 20 minutes. Again it will take about 5 quarts of water to reach the rest temperature. The mash should be very thin and soupy with a great deal of small particulate matter in the liquid portion of the mash.

6.) After the 20 minute rest the liquid in kettle #1 is run off and brought to a boil in a 3rd kettle (#3). Enough of the liquid in kettle #2, at 176 F, is added back to the mash in kettle #1 to bring the mash to a temperature of ~167 F (75 C). The mash is allowed to rest at 167 F for 20 minutes. Any liquid left in kettle #2 can be added to the previously collected run off in kettle #3. It will take most all the liquid in kettle #2 (~1.25 gallons) to raise the temp of the mash to 167 F.

7.) After 20 minutes the wort in kettle #1 is recirculated to clarify it and the sparging with 185 F (85 C) water is begun. Sparge until run off gravity has dropped to less than 1.008 and boil it with the previous run off from kettle #1. Boil the wort, now in kettle #3, until the volume is reduced to ~ 5 gallons.

8.) As the wort begins to boil it is hopped with approximately 4 ounces of aged hops as described in the Hops section. With all the water additions and sparging you will end up with about 9 gallons of wort. Total boiling time to reduce this volume to 5 gallons depends on your system.  It took me 4 hours to boil from 11 gallons to 5.5 gallons.

****My advice, have a trusty thermometer and a bunch of pots full of boiling water and you should be fine! There were a couple of instances where I had to add an extra few quarts of boiling water to bring the temp up to where I wanted it!
****Also, double check the day before you brew to make sure you have enough Propane! 
I plan on adding 1-1 1/2 oz o f French Oak cubes soon after the initial fermentation is done.   In about 8-12 months I'll sample the beer and most likely take a portion of it into another vessel and add 4 lbs of Wisconsin cranberries that I have in my freezer!  I'm hoping to have something similar to New Glarus - Cranbic at some point, but less sweet. 

I'll update this post as I see it progress over the next couple of years!  Should be drinking this one by 11/8/2013! 

1.29.12 - Sampled this with Kevin.  It smelled barnyardy.  Taste was just simply gross.   It tastes very similar to my Flanders Ale when it was young.   That Flanders is tasting amazing now at 1 year old.  

4.16.12 - Just read that New Glarus used 1200 lbs of cranberries for a 160 Barrel batch of Cranbic.  That's the equivalent of 4.13 lbs of cranberries per gallon of beer.  For a 5 gallon batch that's 0.25 lbs of Cranberries!

5.18.12 - Added 1/2 ounce Medium Toast French Cubes.


Wild Cider + French Saison yeast

For years now I've wanted to get myself some cider to ferment and turn into hard cider.   I'd always heard that getting pasteurized cider just doesn't do the trick.  See the pasteurization process requires you bring the cider to a temp above 170 degrees which also alters the flavor slightly.   In MN and most of the US it's illegal to sell unpasteurized Cider do to health concerns.  Unpastuerized cider contains bacteria, yeast, and potentially mold.

I decided that I was going to try and get my hands on some unpastuerized cider this year and so I called up Pepin Heights and they told me that I could drop off a bucket and they'd fill it up the next time they press apples.  That just wasn't gonna happen as Pepin is too far away and I'm just not that dedicated to doing this.   Then the next week I got an email from a member of the MN homebrew Club, Jonathan Beckel,  who was doing a group buy from a local orchard.  When all was said and done I believe he picked up some 150-200 gallons of cider of which I took home 5 gallons!  

Distribution was set to be at Barley John's this Saturday during the national "Teach a Friend to Brew day"!   It was a great event.  I brought my boy down there (Leo) and we hung out for a while. 

I believe Al Boyce was brewing one of the batch's, a Russian Imperial Stout.   I'd never met him so it was interesting to talk to him a bit, look at his recipe and ask him a few questions about barrel aging. He informed me about the "two thumbs" rule when doing a barrel aging project.   When multiple people contribute beer, everyone samples it and gives either a thumbs up or a thumbs down.  Two thumbs down and you're contribution didn't make the cut for the barrel!

I also ran into Don Osborn whom I've corresponded over e-mail a couple times but had never met.  His video "Easy All-Grain Brewing - Batch Sparge Method" was what inspired me to take the jump from extract to all-grain brewing some 2+ Years ago!  I sampled his Fresh Hop IPA (with his Homegrown hops) as well as a cider (2010).   Both were fantastic!  He gave me some good advice on my cider that I took.   I had planned on using 4 lbs of brown sugar, and he said that would be pretty extreme as his was 9% and he used 2 lbs of brown sugar.   He also back sweetened his with 3 cans of frozen Apple Juice concentrate.  Being that his was about exactly how I'd want mine to taste, I'll probably try and replicate what Don O done did!

For making cider you have so many options with yeast as well as process.   Here are some of the what I was considering.

What yeast should I use?
  • Leave it alone and let the natural yeast that is already in the cider go wild?  Jonathan Beckel did this to 5 gallons last year and said that it fermented beautifully and that it had the most body and natural apple flavor out of all of his batch's.  I think he had something like 35 gallons last year!
  • Ferment with a clean wine yeast.  Cuvee?  Not sure, but any LHBS will usually recommend the same wine yeast strain.  This will produce a very clean cider that ferments almost completely and is tolerant to fermenting in a wide range of temps.  (you can't go wrong)
  • Ferment with a beer yeast. I know Crispin uses a bunch of different varieties of beer yeast for various products.
  • Ferment with some Funk (Brett C. would probably be really tasty!)
Do I want use camden tablets first to kill any wild yeast or bacteria that may be in the Cider before I pitch some yeast?
  • Yes, this would be the safest route, but you have to let it sit for 24 hours before pitching yeast then and what if the camden tablets aren't 100% effective?
  • No, brewers yeast is so strong that it will out compete any other yeast and the alcohol will kill all of the other yeast and bacteria first...so no worries.
Do I want to add sugar?  If so what kind of sugar?  How strong will it be?

Cider -

  • 5 gallons of freshly pressed unpastuerized Apple Cider -(update on types of apples and orchard to come)
  • 1 lb. of dark brown sugar
  • 1 lb. of brown sugar
  • Pitched it with Wyeast 3711 French Saison (I thought that this may complement the Apple because it's fruity and spicy)
  • Wild yeast and bacteria should be out worked by the yeast I pitched but I didn't use a camden tablet to hopefully retain some of the rusticness of it!
  • ABV - Should be somewhere in the 9% range although I didn't take any readings
  • I'll age this for at least 6 months until spring and most likely keep it on tap for my wife and friends that can't handle fantastically flavorful malty, bitter or funky beers!
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