Still brewing, still learning

So right now I have another attempt at a my Jump Cannon Saison furiously bubbling away at a balmy 25°C, third times the charm! This time I have dialed the bitterness right back by reducing both the boiling hops and the dried orange peel additions. I've also just added 40g of Southern Cross hops, mid fermentation, to try out this new method of dry hopping which supposedly adds bright juicy flavors without adding noticeable bitterness. I hoping that the peppery notes of the hops plays up the spicy nature of the rye so that I end up with a light and refreshing beer that still has some complex interplay between the hops, malt and yeast. The yeast this time is the Belgian Saison I from White Labs, and they are absolutely loving the warmer fermentation temperature. I'm not sure how long I will keep it above 20°C for but I would like a drier beer so as long as it keeps bubbling I'll it nice and cozy.

This time round with bottling I will drop the priming right down to about 3 to 4 g/L (depending on my FG) because the last two batches have been extremely over carbonated, to the point where a friend even suggested I rename the beer "Foam Cannon". Apparently this blend of yeast has a tendency to stall at medium temperatures, leaving behind plenty of residual sugars that they happily munch on once bottled, leading to a very foamy mess a few months later. Alternatively I might just throw in some more yeast when I transfer it to the secondary fermenter so just clean up anything left behind. I've not had much luck with re-pitching in the past but it is a cheap and easy precaution to take none the less.

With winter setting in next in the line up will be my Einstein Lager and I'm not planning to make many changes as I'm am really happy with how the last batch turned out, so this will be a lesson in repeated ability!

Lessons Learnt

This experiment in brewing has always been an iterative process for me. Try something, check what works, make some changes, try again. Different grains, different hops, different yeast, different temperatures, different timing – all to create different recipes and styles. Some have worked, some not so much, but each brew has taught me a little more about the process of making a good beer as a whole. Some of those lessons should have been obvious:

1)      No, you can’t just dump all your hops in at the beginning of the boil and hope for the best – it wont, it will be a horrible bitter, grassy mess.

2)      Don’t bottle too early, especially when using wild yeast – those buggers just don’t know when to stop.

3)      Head retention is good. Carbonation is good. High head retention plus high carbonation is double plus ungood.

4)      Patience is golden – everything tastes different after a month or two.

5)      It’s damn near impossible to form an unbiased opinion about your own beer – but blind tasting with friends is an excellent way to get feedback.

6)      To err is human – check everything, twice, especially o-rings.

7)      It’s not an off-flavor, it’s a feature - see 5)

8)      Yeast are finicky, except when they’re not.

9)       Some flavors taste really great together, until they are fermented.

10)      Always have a plan - it helps later when figuring out where you went wrong.

Darwin's Beard!

With all of my brews I like to try something new, a new technique a new style or a new ingredient. Tonight I am doing all three.  It’s one thing to do tons of research, to do everything by the book and follow someone else’s recipe – and way that will absolutely get you results, most of the time, but I prefer to just jump in, get my hands dirty and try different things. I learn more that way and even if it means my beer ends up off style I still end up with something uniquely mine.

This month’s brew will be a Witbier, a new style for me, inspired by the classics like Hoegaarden and Blue Moon.  To start with I’ll be including some oats in the mash, just a couple of hundred grams or so, to give it a bit of creamyness. I haven’t had much luck with oats in the past, but that’s probably because I’ve overdone it. I’ll also be acidifying the mash with a little citric acid, this should help reduce the bitterness by inhibiting any tannins coming from the malt as well as adding a little citrus bite.

The Belgium Wit beers are well known for their spicy, orange flavors, so I’ll be adding a pinch of coriander (just 3 grams, as I really don’t want it to be overpowering) and 30g of dried orange peel. Depending on how this brew turns out I might play with adding some fresh orange zest as well in following batches.

As this is a wheat beer I don’t want to get too crazy with the hop editions, so apart from the pre-hopped extract I’ll just add an additional 100g of citra at the end. I’ve had a lot of good success with citra in the past, it gives a nice fresh lemony aroma, which should match this brew quite nicely.

For the yeast I’ll just be using a fairly simply Bavarian blend (Wyeast 3056) rather than a Belgian strain because I don’t want too many phenolic or estery characters coming through. I’ll also try collecting this yeast after fermentation is complete for use in future projects, so again I’d prefer a more versatile strain.

This is, of course, just the plan for tonight, let’s see how things go – tasting notes to follow!

It's alive!

So, it appears I have started a website, please excuse the mess.

I'll be adding to this site in the same way I brew, semi regularly but with no guarantee of quality.

And just like with brewing, running this site will be a joyful mix of trial and error asI figure out what the hell I am doing.