Getting Funky with a Brett Saison

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted here so I’ll start with an update of the past few months.  It’s been busy and we’ve only been able to brew 3 beers so far this year, we’ve really got to step it up.  We entered a couple homebrew competitions and our Synesthesia Pêche took 2nd for its category in one of them.  Our 2nd year Centennial hops are coming in really nicely, hopefully we’ll get some cones this year.  In a couple of weeks we’ll be serving a beer we brewed with Burnt Hickory Brewery (Chocolate Coffee Porter with Raspberries) at their 3rd Anniversary Party, if you’re in the Atlanta area come on out and join us.

Brew Dog Boo rocking her medal for Synesthesia Pêche

Brew Dog Boo rocking her medal for Synesthesia Pêche

Now that we’re all caught up let’s get on with our latest brew, Synesthesia American.  If you’ve followed us for a while you know we brew a lot of saisons, we’ve had very good results with them and gosh darn it, we like them.  With Synesthesia American we took our standard Synesthesia Saison recipe and switched out the yeast to WLP670, an American Farmhouse strain with Brett.  This one will take 4-6 months (from what I’ve read) to reach its potential and should produce a moderate funkiness.  I wanted to test this recipe brewing the beer exactly as we have in the past and only changing the yeast.  Our base recipe had a whirlpool hop addition and we kept it in there although it may not do much for the finished beer due to the extended aging.  We recently opened a bottle of our first batch that was 14 months old and it aged extremely well.

This will get fermented up to 85°F for a couple of weeks then we’ll move it off the trub and into an upstairs closet for 3-4 months.  After that we’ll bottle-condition, I look forward to seeing how this one changes over time.  I’ve never been the most patient brewer but have to say that seeing positive results on past beers make it a bit easier to wait things out, it also helps to have a few in the pipeline to quench your thirst while you wait.

Action Shot! Synesthesia American boiling away

Action Shot! Synesthesia American boiling away

UPDATES AND TASTING NOTES

05/06/15 | Transferred to secondary, purged with CO2.

06/10/15 | Just short of 2 months since brew day.  Gravity at 1.004.  Flavor is a fruity saison with (maybe?) a very light funkiness.

06/27/15 | Bottled.  Gravity was still at 1.004.  Huge pellicle on top, no sign of pellicle on 06/10.  Starting to develop some of that Brett funk.

Pellicle on a Brett Saison

Pellicle on a Brett Saison

TASTING NOTES

09/07/15 | At just over 4 months old this beer really started to hit its stride.  Good amount of funk and very fruity with flavors of pineapple and mango.  It recently took 2nd for the Belgian Specialty Ale category at the New South Brew Off.

I’ve seen a lot lately about the love for green bottles for funky beers to allow some lightstruck character.  I bottled some of this in brown bottles and some in green bottles to compare the two.  Early tasting shows a distinct difference with the green bottles being noted as having an herbal quality.  I took one 750ml bottle of brown and one of green and placed them on a shelf that gets only indirect light, I’m going to leave them there for 6 months then try each one side-by-side to note the character differences.

Winner!  Synesthesia American took Silver for category at the 2015 New South Brew Off

Winner! Synesthesia American took Silver for category at the 2015 New South Brew Off

“Ryesponsibale Collaboration” – A session IPA

Maybe we could call it RC?  Or by it’s full legal name The Mostly Harmless Brewing Co.’s Ryesponsibale Collaboration Session IPA, Esq.  We’re gonna need a bigger label.

We dropped some dry hop action into this one earlier this week (1 oz Crystal / .5 oz Centennial / .5 oz Ahtanum) and it’s cold crashing right now.  It’s got an amazing hop aroma and a pronounced, but smooth, bitterness.  We finished up at 1.010 which landed us at 4.8% ABV, a bit higher than our target of 4.2% but we used our grain mill for the first time and pulled a bit more efficiency than we estimated.  Oh well, 4.8% is still pretty sessionable IMO.

If you missed the back story on this beer check it out here.  In short, we collaborated with some friends around the country and we’re each brewing the same recipe and then we’ll share the beers we brewed to compare them.  Should be a fun experiment.  OK, I guess that pretty much is the back story, no need to click that link now.

Our Centennial hop farming is coming along nicely as well despite brew dog Boo’s efforts to dig up the hop bed.  We’ve discussed that this is unacceptable and I’m sure she’ll behave now.  I can’t wait til these get long enough to start climbing and producing cones.

Centennial hops start to shoot up!

Centennial hops start to shoot up!

 

Session Rye IPA Brewday and Hop Farming Update

Since Saturday was National Homebrew Day / Big Brew Day we pretty much had to brew some beer.  Mother Nature looked upon us most favorably and the weather was absolutely perfect for hanging outside and brewing.  A few friends joined us and enjoyed a day of brewing, drinking, eating and smoking cigars – not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

For this brew we collaborated with several friends on the brew.  We’re all going to brew the beer then send a couple bottles to each other to see the differences we each get.  We’re pretty widely distributed (GA, OH, FL, TX and MO) so it will be interesting to see the differences we get from this recipe.  We’ve wanted to do a session beer for a while and this was a good chance to make it a bit more fun.  The recipe is based off of Denny Conn’s Wry Smile IPA tweaked to a target of 4.2% ABV and 61 IBU.  This was our first brew milling our own grains and we got a bit more gravity than expected.  We hit 1.047 with a target of 1.042, looks like our actual ABV on this one will land around 4.8%, still sessionable IMO.

We’ll check the gravity this weekend and see how it’s coming along.  This one will probably have to stay in the fermenter for a few weeks as I have to go out of town the weekend of the 17th, hopefully we’ll get it kegged up on the 24th.

Not a long video, but here’s a little Instagram snippet from the brewday.

Our hops are coming in nicely.  It took them a while to break the surface but they’re growing an inch or so each day now.  We’ve got 6 shoots that I can find with a couple of them much more aggressive than the others.  I wish they’d hurry the heck up.

Hop Sprout - 05/02/14

Hop Sprout – 05/02/14

 

Hop Sprout - 05/06/14

Hop Sprout – 05/06/14

First Year Hop Growing – Part 2

Finally!  The hops are in the ground and the supports are re-strung for the hops to climb.  I added some mulch to the top to keep everything moist and minimize erosion.  The bed has been well saturated with some Miracle Gro fertilizer and I hope to see the shoots breaking free very soon.

In my first post on our attempt at hop farming I mentioned that the twine that was recommended to us (tomato twine) by the guy at Home Depot just wasn’t going to make the cut.  It was very weak and brittle and broke with very little force.  I took to Googling to see what was a good choice and found several people recommending jute twine.  I ended up using 5-ply jute twine that is rated at 108 lbs.  One of the Amazon reviewers noted that he’d used it for 20′ runs to grow hops and another said they’d used it to hang planter baskets, sounds like this should be perfect.  We also added a piece of angle iron and an L-brace to support the center post.  I didn’t drive the post in the ground as I wanted the full 8′ for the hops to climb (since many of them can grow 20′ or more) so I only supported it by anchoring the upright post to the center brace, and that was a bit shaky.  We drove about 1′ of a 2′ piece of angle iron into the ground and then anchored it to the upright post, seems pretty strong now.

So now we wait.  I hate waiting.

Centennial Hop Rhizomes

Centennial Hop Rhizomes

Happy Birthday to the ground!

Happy Birthday to the ground!

Hob bed planted and new twine added

Hob bed planted and new twine added

From Garden to Glass (Hopefully). First Year Hop Growing.

A Home for Hops

Hop trellis built!  Under the watchful eye of our supervisor. brew dog Boo.

 

We. Are. Farmers.  Bum, buh dum dum, bum bum bum.

Well at least we hope to be.  tMHBC has decided to try our hand at growing some hops.  We laid the foundation yesterday and built a raise bed to plant the rhizomes in.  The soil still needs a bit of prepping and there’s a good chance we need to swap out the twine we used for the bines to climb.  The guy at Home Depot recommended some stuff called tomato twine but it seems fairly brittle and as Brian mentioned as he was perching on the top of the ladder to loop it through the supports, it may not hold the weight of the plants.  After swapping out the twine I’ll mix some fertilizer into the soil, plant the bines and covering them with a nice protective blanket of mulch.  We’ll keep you posted on how things go.

P to the S: I know hops are toxic for dogs.  So far Boo has shown no interest in hops when I’ve let her sniff them, but I’ll still keep an eye on her around the plants.

 

Seibel Institute Sensory Seminar – Tasting off flavors in beer

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a tasting seminar and go through the Seibel Institute’s Comprehensive Sensory Training Kit.  The kit contains vials of the chemical compounds that sometimes get into our beer and impart flavors and aromas.  Some are desirable and some are most definitely not desirable… unless you’re trying to make a beer with notes of fecal matter and vomit.

Time to test our senses

Time to test our senses

The kit itself contains 24 vials of pre-measured “standards” representing some of the most common or important flavors and aromas in beer.  The seminar was led by Jamison Jackson, a flavor chemist from Coca Cola.  We used a popular commercial beer known for it’s neutral flavor as our “reference beer” and as a base for the compounds.  Many of them were very faint, and will definitely take practice to discern.  Some were very in your face and once you know what they are you’d be hard pressed to miss them in the future.  It was interesting to note that certain people really picked up on some flavors and aromas that others didn’t but that was flipped for other flavors and aromas.

Seibel Institute's Comprehensive Sensory Training Kit

Seibel Institute – Comprehensive Sensory Training Kit

Here’s a run down of the flavors covered in the kit and my notes on them.  I’ll list the descriptors we were given of each next to the compound name and then give my notes on what I got out of them.  If we didn’t taste one I’ll just list the descriptors and a note that I did not try that one.

Acetaldehyde (Descriptors: Green Apple, Bruised Apple, Latex Paint, Cut Grass)
– Aroma: Faint apple
– Flavor: Unsweetened green apple, grassiness notice in the throat
– Possible Sources: Incomplete fermentation, bacterial contamination, leeching from packaging in PET bottles.  Found in Budweiser.

Acetic Acid (Descriptors: Vinegar, Acidic, Sour)
– Aroma: Salt and vinegar potato chips
– Flavor: Vinegary, sour
– Possible Sources: Naturally produced during fermentation, can be imparted by wild yeasts, bacterial consumption of sugars

Almond / Benzaldehyde (Descriptors: Almond, Cherry, Amaretto, Marzipan)
– Aroma: Almond biscotti and faint cherry
– Flavor: Very faint almond
– Possible Sources: Beer has been stored too long, carryover from other products on bottling lines.  Flavor is easily detectable in Sam Adams Cherry Wheat.

Bitter / Iso-Alpha Acids (Descriptors: Bitter, Quinine)
– Aroma: None
– Flavor: Tonic water, bitterness (like hops with zero aroma or flavor)
– Possible Sources:  Hops adding during boiling, hop extracts.  Over concentration can produce negative results.
– Light can react with Iso-Alpha Acids and Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) to produce skunky odor/flavor in beer.

Butyric (Descriptors: Rancid, Putrid)
– Aroma:  Vomit, definitely vomit. (Butyric acid is one of the main compounds in vomit.)
– Flavor: Rotten meat?
– Possible Sources: Bacteria during wort production or in sugar syrups.  Bacteria in packaging.  Easily confused with Isovaleric Acid.

Caprylic (Descriptors: Goaty, Waxy, Tallowy)
– Aroma: Crayons, unscented candle wax
– Flavor: Like taking a sip of a box of Crayolas.
– Mouthfeel: Waxy, slick. (Not all compounds added a noticeable mouthfeel.)
– Possible Sources: Aging beer during conditioning, produced by yeast autolysis.

DMS / Dimethyl Sulfide (Sweet Corn, Tomato Sauce, Vegetable)
– Aroma: Light vegetable
– Flavor: Light vegetable, corn? (This one was hard for me to pick out.) Rolling Rock is an example of a beer with DMS.
– Possible Sources:  Major source is s-methylmethionone (SMM).  SMM is produced during germination and kilning of malting barley.
– Comments: Two-Row barley produces much less SMM than six-row in the malting process.  SMM is converted to DMS from heating malted grain.  DMS can be greatly reduced using a vigorous boil, however it is important to coil the wort quickly so it does not continue to produce DMS.  Approximately half of the SDMS

Diacetyl (Descriptors: Buttery, Creamy, Butterscotch, Milky)
– Aroma: Unpopped microwave popcorn
– Flavor: Buttery popcorn
– Possible Sources: Natural part of the fermentation process.  Fermenting at low temperatures (such as lagering) can cause Diacetyl, raising temps allows the yeast to consume the diacetyl, this is called a Diacetyl Rest.

Earthy / 2-Ethyl Fenchol (Descriptors: Wet Soil, Dirt)
– Aroma: Like opening a bag of potting soil
– Flavor: A big cup of potting soil
– Possible Sources:  Contamination of water and via migration through packaging by the chemical 2-Ethyl Fenchol.  Normally imparted via tainted groundwater but can also come from post-packaging storage in damp cellars where microbes in the walls of the cellars produce 2-Ethyl Fenchol that migrates through semi-porous packaging into the beer.

Ethyl Acetate (Descriptors: Nail Polish, Acetone, Estery)
– Aroma: Like a nail salon, Acrylic?
– Flavor: Slight flavor or nail polish
– Possible Sources: Natural part of the fermentation process, can be imparted by wild yeasts.  Present in all beer but high-concentrations are undesirable.

Ethyl Hexanoate (Descriptors: Apple, Estery, Anise)
– Aroma: Apple, fruity, perfumey/floral? (Reminded me of a strip club. Don’t judge me.)
– Flavor: Fruit, flowers, anise
– Possible Sources: Produced by yeasts during fermentation.  Can make up a significant part of the character of certain beers but is generally undesirable and high concentrations.

Geraniol (Descriptors: Rose-like, floral)
– Aroma: Citronella, definitely.
– Flavor: Citronella
– Possible Sources: Imparted via hops, important component of hop oil.  Concentration is determined by the type of hop, boil conditions and fermentation conditions.

Grainy / Isobutryaldehyde (Descriptors: Grainy, Green Malt)
– Aroma: Grainy
– Flavor: Faint raw graininess
– Possible Sources: Can be from grains that have not been stored long enough but can be controlled by sparging and wort boiling practices.
– I had a hard time detecting this one but a couple others said this was the most dominant flavor of the night.

Hefeweizen (Descriptors: See Spicy / Eugenol and Isoamyl Acetate)
– We didn’t try this one.

Indole (Descriptors: Farmyard, Fecal, Jasmine)
– Aroma: Smell like a porta potty or RV toilet, a mix of waste and that sanitizer used in those toilets.
– Flavor: Same as aroma, like an RV toilet or porta potty
– Possible Sources: Contamination from coliform bacteria during fermentation, use of adjunct sugar syrups that have been spoiled with bacteria.  DMS is often present with Indole.

Infection (Descriptor: See Diacetyl and Acetic Acid)
– We didn’t try this one

Isoamyl Acetate (Descriptors: Banana, Fruity, Peary, Estery)
– Aroma: Banana Laffy Taffy
– Flavor: Banana Laffy Taffy, without a doubt.
– Possible Sources: Naturally produced by yeast during fermentation.  Can be desirable but will have serious impact at higher levels.  Found in lagers and German wheats.

Isovaleric (Descriptors: Putrid, Cheesy, Sweaty, Old Hops)
– Aroma: Dirty feet, parmesan cheese (very strong)
– Flavor: Very sweaty and cheesy
– Possible Sources: Use of degraded or old hops, excessively high hopping rates.  Can be produced by brettanomyces.

Lactic (Descriptors: Sour milk, Yogurt)
– Aroma: Just like it says… sour milk
– Flavor: Hint of sour milk
– Possible Sources: Contamination by lactobacillus bacteria.

Mercaptan / Ethanethiol (Descriptors: Rotten Vegetables, Drains, Natural Gas)
– Aroma: None?
– Flavor: Perhaps a bit of rotten veg?  Could be contaminant from previous sample.
– Possible Sources: Formed by yeast during fermentation.  High concentrations can be caused by yeast autolysis (or cell death) during maturation of the beer.  Mercaptan is added to propane and natural gas to help detect leaks.
– It was noted from the host that he feels this could have been a bad sample as the aroma should have been more pronounced.

Metallic / Ferrous Sulfate (Descriptors: Inky, Blood, Tin)
– Aroma: Blood, metallic
– Flavor: Blood, pennies… I said PENNIES.
– Possible Sources: Contact with poor quality metal or pipework, can promote stale or oxidized flavors.

Papery / Trans-2-Nonenal (Descriptors: Cardboard, Oxidized)
– Aroma: Not much.
– Flavor: Cardboard, paper
– Possible Sources: Oxidation, usually occurring during storage of finished beer.  Packaging and temperature can have a big impact on this.  Can also be imparted during boil due to pH changes in the wort and the production of Trans-2-Nonenal.  The production of Trans-2-Nonenal is complex and not fully understood.

Spicy / Eugenol (Descriptors: Clove, Allspice)
– Aroma: Phenolic spices
– Flavor: Same.  Clove and allspice as described.
– Possible Sources: Produced during the aging of beers as phenolic compounds.  Desirable in certain Belgian styles but undesirable in others, such as pale lagers.

Vanilla / Vanillin (Descriptors: Ice Cream, Custard, Cream Soda)
– Aroma: Like opening a cream soda
– Flavor: Like drinking a cream soda
– Mouthfeel: Smooth, creamy
– Possible Sources: Produced by the breakdown of barley cell wall materials or phenolic flavor components during aging.

I really enjoyed this seminar and feel like I learned a lot.  I met some other great brewers and a few of us went out for dinner and beers and more tech talk after the seminar.  I highly recommend any brewer or beer enthusiast to take this course if you have a chance.

Look at my awesome beer label.

A couple weeks ago we brewed a pseudo-clone of Founder’s All Day IPA.  You know how movies that are total bullshit will say something like, “inspired by actual events.”?  Well that’s what this beer is, except for the bullshit part… we hope.  We still need to dry hop it but I took gravity today and we’re done fermenting and we nailed a very sessionable 4.0% ABV with this one.  It smells great and it tastes awesome, I can’t wait to try it after dry hopping, carbing, etc.  This was Brian’s recipe, and since his last creation ended up being a soy sauce IPA I’m pretty glad to see this one seems to be coming along nicely.

But this post isn’t about the beer, it’s about the label.  Which is awesome.  Brian and collaborate on the labels and both of us throw in ideas and I usually do the photoshopping.  Sometimes we have similar ideas, and sometimes we don’t.  This time we were 180° apart.  I was thinking of a simple shot of an IPA glass on a table with the view looking out through a rainy window pane… because something like that is in line with my Photoshop abilities.  But no, not Brian, he’s all like, “I think we (he meant me) need to do something like this (insert Singin’ In The Rain movie poster) for our label.  Maybe replace the heads with hop cones?”  OK, Brian… fine…. I’ll give it a shot.  I thought I was going to get off easy with a stupid beer in a window, pfft.

But I have to say, I like the results.  That was a pretty good idea he had there – and it helped me to continue to develop my Photoshop skillz.  It’s not perfect, but it is pretty sweet.  We’ll post more info on Rainy Day IPA when it’s done, I may have to wait for a rainy day to try one.

Singin' in the Rainy Day IPA

Singin’ in the Rainy Day IPA

And for comparison, the original movie poster…

Singin' in the Rain

Singin’ in the Rain