Brew Day! Atlantarctica Belgian Tripel White IPA

That’s right, a Belgian Tripel White IPA… don’t be scared.  We had a gorgeous Saturday here and a great brew day.  As usual Brian and I were in the brewhouse but we had the help of another friend that shared some awesome info with us.  It’s always great to have another brewer join you and share their knowledge.  I like comparing processes and seeing the different paths others take to get to the end result, any time I’ve had another brewer help out I always find a tweak or two to add to or improve our process.   BTW… this brew is live on Fermo-O-Vision if you’d like to take a look.

Atlantarctica Info Sheet

Atlantarctica Info Sheet

If you saw my last post on Synesthesia Saison you know that brew was my personal side project, this one is 100% Brian’s.  I helped him in the “research” phase of the project where we tried several witbiers and white IPA’s to note characteristics we liked and didn’t like.  Best of Show went to Houblon Chouffe and the best American White IPA was Sweetwater Whiplash, we promise there was no loca favoritism here, it’s a very solid white IPA.  The Atlantarctica recipe is loosely based on those two beers, or rather inspired by them.  Brian chose a basic pilsner malt as the base, a heavy dose of wheat, a bit of flaked oats and a pound of soft Belgian white candi sugar.  The hop bill includes Cascade, El Dorado, Centennial Mosaic and Amarillo – with 4 1/2 oz in the boil and another 3 oz that will be used to dry hop.

The brew day overall ran very well.  We had to re-run our first sparge as the runoff was way too fast and emptied the MLT in about 1 minute, but other than that we were pretty spot on.  Mash temps were solid and we hit 1.077 OG with a target of 1.078 – can’t argue with that.  We’re consistently hitting 65% efficiency on our brews now and it’s time to dial that up, we just picked up a Monster Mill MM-2 so hopefully getting control of our crush will help with that.

I hope that fish doesn't eat all our grains.

I hope that fish doesn’t eat all our grains.

One big improvement we made on this brew was with our yeast starter.  I’ve been making starters for a while now however just found out that my method may not have been producing enough cells for many of our beers.   Especially if the original yeast is getting close to it’s “best by” date.  I’ve used the online calculators to figure cell counts but it looks like I didn’t know how to read that info properly.  I did a step-up starter on this one after checking out this very helpful post at Billy Brews.  Fermentation started up quickly and aggressively, hopefully all those extra cells will be beneficial.  According to Brian, this one could take 3 weeks to finish up completely, we’ll have to leave this one alone for a weekend while we go to Hunahpu Day.  Did I mention we’re going to Hunahpu Day???

Pitching Yeasties

Pitching Yeasties

And now we wait

And now we wait

Corking and caging our first Belgian brew

We weren’t sure we’d pull through at times but both Brian and I managed to survive the 2 massive blizzards that hit Atlanta in as many weeks.  Brian sat in is fancy-pants condo and, literally and figuratively, looked down on the frozen people of Atlanta.  I just stayed in the house and occasionally poked my head out to see if the roads had thawed.  In the middle of the storm I made tuna salad without realizing I was out of relish, I didn’t even have any pickles I could chop up.  It was terrible.  Fortunately I had plenty of milk and bread and eggs, because after watching the news apparently these are the items every house needs to survive the apocalypse.  My local grocery store was also sold out of toilet paper, I don’t even want to know what the hell my neighbors were doing during the storms.  Fortunately by Saturday we’d thawed out and were able to get back to work in the brewhouse.  This weekend we bottled our Synesthesia Saison and did “research” on White IPA’s and Witbiers for a future brewday.

Synesthesia Saison

Synesthesia Saison

Brian and I typically work together on our brews.  We bounce ideas off each other, talk about malt and hop bills, beer body, etc.  However this saison was my pet project.  I mentioned in another post that I really put a lot into the recipe and process for this beer.  Brian stepped aside on the planning of this one then jumped in on brew day to make it happen.  I wanted this to be as Belgian as possible, including Belgian beer bottles with corks and cages, so we got a Portuguese floor corker, some Belgian bottles (holy crap these things can be expensive), corks, and cages and we were ready to make magic.  Corking and caging was much easier than I thought it would be based on the videos and articles I found online about the process.  Perhaps in a future post I’ll go more in depth with the process I used… once I make sure I don’t end up with a bunch of corks and cages flying around the house.  In the pic below the base of my corker may look odd, I used a Pyrex dish inverted on the base as a spacer to help the shorter 375ml bottles fit the corker, worked like a charm.

Floor corking the night away.

Floor corking the night away.

I was pretty happy with the way the bottling and labels on this brew turned out.  I’ve got high hopes for this beer, I guess I’ll see in a couple weeks if it comes through for me.  I hope it does as I’ve blindly entered it into an upcoming homebrew competition.  It’s gonna be a winner, I can feel it.

Next up we’ll be using all that knowledge we gained from our research on white IPA’s and witbiers to brew something along those lines.  This one is Brian’s child though, so I’ll stay out of the way until brew day.  I’m a bit scared as Brian is absolutely nuts when it comes to designing beer recipes, so there’s no telling what we’ll end up with.   One of his ideas yesterday was Raison de Raisin Saison.  I mocked him for the idea, as I do with all of his ideas whether or not they are good, but now I want to brew a raisin saison.  Looks like it’s time to get back on the research.

Brewing Belgians – Saison brew day

I really like saisons.  I say I’m passionate about them but others have used the word obsessed… whatever.

Several months ago I decided I wanted to brew a saison but rather than jumping into it and brewing away all willy nilly, I researched saisons like crazy.  I drank as many as I could find and made a spreadsheet with notes on color, carbonation, aroma, flavors.  Then I took that sheet and I wrote to the brewers of my favorites and told them what I liked about their beers and asked them for tips on brewing mine.  As a side note, there are certain breweries that are very friendly and helpful to homebrewers, New Holland Monkey King is one of my favorite saisons and they not only replied to my email but we chatted a bit (via email) to help me fine tune my process.  I talked to local commercial brewers and asked for their advice to achieve what I wanted in my beer and I emailed White Labs to ask for tips on the way to best get what I wanted out of the yeast I chose to use (WLP566) and they were glad to share some advice with me.  See?  Passionate.

I forgot to get pictures of the process prior to fermentation so instead here is a picture of a Tactical Goat.

I forgot to get pictures of the process prior to fermentation so instead here is a picture of a Tactical Goat.

After a ton of research I finally found what I wanted to brew and this weekend we brewed it up.  I’ve noticed that my favorite saisons seem to be more fruit forward with phenolics in the background, rather than the other way around.  It turns out I’m also a fan of wheated saisons, many of my favorites have a touch of wheat in them.  My final recipe included Pilsen malt, some white wheat and Belgian candi syrup with Hallertau Hersbrucker, Saaz and my personal favorite hops, Mosaic.  We’ve dubbed this one Synesthesia Saison and we were going to use the tagline Taste the Rainbow, but I think that’s being used already.

We mashed the grains at 148° for 75 minutes then did a double batch sparge at 168°, this one had a 2 hour boil to carmelize the sugars a touch for both color and flavor.  Hops were added at first wort, 60 minutes and flameout, the Belgian candi syrup was also added at flameout.  We put 5 1/2 gallons in the carboy and pitched our yeast starter then capped it up and into the fermentation chamber with it.  Within 12 hours this thing was spinning like crazy.  A nice, fast, aggressive fermentation.  I’m really excited to see how this one turns out.

On a geekier note, after seeing a post on a homebrew forum where someone else did this I added a wireless IP video camera (I got a Tenvis JPT3815W) to the fermentation chamber so I can watch it from the comfort of my easy chair.  It’s pretty awesome.  Right now I can only view it from my network, since my router is being a pain about letting me have access to my ports, but I plan to get this online where anyone can see it.

Fermentation Creeper Cam

Fermentation Creeper Cam

In case you’re a saison fan as well, here are my favorites.

Tim D’s Top 5 Saisons
1) New Holland Monkey King
2) Stillwater Cellar Door
3) Goose Island Sofie (2012)
4) Stillwater Stateside Saison
5) Dupont Saison Cuvee Dry Hopping.

Racking, tasting and testing.

We’re feeling some withdraws over here at tMHBC.  We haven’t actually brewed in about a month now and it’s starting to stress us out.  We’ve had plenty of other stuff to keep us busy but as of this weekend our beer pipeline is running dry.  We do have some meads fermenting, but we’re still a few months away on all of those.  We need to brew soon before Brian does something crazy… er.

The lack of actual brewing sure doesn’t mean we’ve not been busy.  Last weekend we bottled our Kiwi Kaleidoscope IIPA (which we’re pretty sure is going to be awful) and this weekend we racked over 5 gallons of our Pirate Pancake Syrup mead to secondary so it can start clearing up.  This was started on 09/28 so we’re just short of 3 months into fermentation.   The samples from this were excellent, I think this is going to be a fantastic mead.  We’re also planning another batch of this using blood oranges that we’ve dubbed Sailor’s Warning, I’m really starting to enjoy meads.

5 gallons of delicious Pirate Pancake Syrup

5 gallons of delicious Pirate Pancake Syrup

We sampled some of our Nutstalgia – Coconut this weekend and it was pretty good.  The aroma is awesome, roasty and nutty with a nice coconut fragrance, and the taste is much the same but nothing “amazing”…  just decent.  So far we’ve sampled the plain, black cardamom and coconut versions of this and my favorite has been the plain brown ale.  It’s a very solid, above average brown ale in my opinion.

Nutstalgia Coconut Brown Ale

Nutstalgia Coconut Brown Ale

Other weekend bottling of a Brickwarmer Holiday Red Ale, a kit brew from Northern Brewer that was done for a friend’s wife as a gift to him for Christmas, and testing out our fermentation chamber to see if it can successfully hold high temps for brewing Belgians.  So far it’s been holding a 5-gallon carboy of water at 90°F for 3 days so looks like we should be good.  I imagine the chamber is sealed well enough that once it’s up to temp it doesn’t have to work that hard to hold it there.  Provided temps continue to hold well we’ll brew a saison after the first of the year, I’m still researching and formulating the recipe right now.  I think we’ll slide in one more brew day after Christmas and before the saison.  Brian’s been researching some sessionable IPA’s and we’ll likely brew that and our Sailor’s Warning this weekend.

I hope everyone reading this has a very Merry Christmas and an awesomely prosperous and Happy New Year!

Some things just don’t work out.

We’re not scared to try crazy stuff here at Mostly Harmless.  Brian may be a bit more adventurous than I am though, that fool wants to throw anything up in beer.  And he gets his damn ideas at 2:00 AM so I’m all trying to sleep and that fool’s texting me with, “What do you think of a catfish, baklava and raisin pale lacto IPA stout fermented with Champagne yeast?????”  What’s up with that?

Some of the more strange ideas aside we do manage to brainstorm up some pretty awesome stuff, at least conceptually.  As mentioned in another post we have some spruce tips in the freezer right now that will find their way into a beer soonlyish.  We were also out hiking a couple weeks ago and came across a lot of honeysuckle, of course we started thinking about how we could brew with it.  Maybe in a hefeweizen?  Perhaps in a Belgian ale?  Do we boil it in the wort, make an extract or make a ‘tea’ and then added it to the brew.  So man questions that we have absolutely no idea what the answers are.  After a bit of discussion we decided to try to make an extract out of the honeysuckles and keep that until we decided what to brew.  A bit of Googling suggested a simple method to make an extract – simply add X amount of vodka to X amount of honeysuckles and wait two weeks, shaking the concoction each day.

Fresh Honeysuckle

Fresh Honeysuckle

This method sucks… a lot.  After only a few hours the honeysuckles had turned brown and become mushy.  Within a couple days the ‘extract’ had turned dark brown.  At the 1 week mark we took the lid off the jar and gave it a sniff, the delightful fragrance of honeysuckles mixed with rotten lettuce nearly jumped through our sinuses.  Whoah.  “Well, maybe it tastes OK?  You know extracts are strong and sometimes pretty pungent full strength.”, I said as I dipped my finger into the liquid.  Umm, no… it was nasty.  So Brian chimed in saying maybe it was too strong and needed to be diluted.  I nodded in agreement and poured some into his glass of water, offering it to him to taste, he declined.  So, for science, I tasted it.  “Wow, that’s actually pretty good, tastes like sweet honeysuckle!”, I lied as I handed him the glass.  He took a sip and spit it into the sink.  Somehow it seems we managed to use honeysuckle and vodka to produce a rather convincing imitation extract of onions and beaver pelts.  If you know anyone in the market for such a thing have them hit us up.

Rotten, nasty and stinky Honeysuckle

Rotten, nasty and stinky Honeysuckle

Oh well, you can’t win them all.  We may revisit honeysuckle brewing in the future but for now we’re planning on some sweet, sweet lemonade and a smoked-coconut marshmallow stout to hit the fermenters soon.

OH YEAH!  On another note our Wife Beater ESB is drinking very easily now, we’re quite impressed with it.  We poured Brian’s wife a sample last night and told her it was a beer a friend sent me from out of state.  She said it was very good and had a sort of champagne effervescence.  I could see that description due to the light carbonation.  We’ve also let a few of the Atlanta area beer nerds try it and reviews have been positive as well.  Yay, Us!