Making More Mead – Bottling Day

After our initial success with Pirate Pancake Syrup Brian and I realized that we are naturally gifted mazers and decided we needed to make 42 more batches immediately.  This revelation came to us last fall so we set to work getting batches in carboys until my closets were full of sweet honey water.  Since we’d already mastered basic mead we decided to get adventurous and make an acerglyn (mead made with honey and maple); a blueberry, lavender and vanilla melomel (mead with fruit); another batch of Pirate Pancake Syrup; and a variant of PPS we dubbed Sailor’s Warning which we made with blood oranges.

Blueberry Berserker and Sailor's Warning

Blueberry Berserker and Sailor’s Warning

We allowed the meads to age for several months before doing anything with them, once they had cleared nicely we transferred them into a secondary to remove some trub and help us get a clearer product into out bottles.  On our first bottling of PPS we got things stirred up a bit and had some sediment in the bottom of a few bottles, this hasn’t effected the mead yet but over time it can be undesirable.  Last weekend (after about 8 months aging) we sampled the meads and decided our blueberry mead, Blueberry Berserker, and Sailor’s Warning were ready to bottle.

Sailor's Warning just before bottling

Sailor’s Warning just before bottling

Sailor's Warning mead all bottled up

Sailor’s Warning mead all bottled up

Blueberry Berserker mead all bottled up

Blueberry Berserker mead all bottled up

We chose to put these in wine bottles and cork them as the color and clarity is fantastic and brown bottles just don’t do them justice.  Blueberry Berserker is deep violet and bursting with blueberry with nice vanilla notes and a hint of lavender.  Sailor’s Warning is clear and golden, surprisingly lacking the red tint we expected from the blood oranges however the oranges were not as red as I’ve had them before, we’ll have to make another batch to perfect this one.  This one is very sweet with a lot of citrus and spice, especially cinnamon.  It’s very nice but is best in very small servings such as a cordial.  We’ll likely try a different yeast next time to see if we can dry it out a bit more.

Overall we’ve been very happy with our meads and can’t wait to make some more.

A nice pour of Sailor's Warning

A nice pour of Sailor’s Warning

 

 

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.

We Made More Mead!

Due to the overwhelming popularity of our Pirate Pancake Syrup we decided to make some more mead this weekend.  I hate to admit it but I think PPS was probably the best thing we’ve made so far, that was some good mead.  It was also very “Limited Edition” since we only made 1 gallon.  So we’re hoarding it like crazy, we gotta stretch these few bottles out at least 4 months until the next batch is done.  I’m not making any promises that’s going to happen.

We also decided to whip up a 1 gallon batch of Acerglyn, a honey-maple mead.  We don’t know what the hell we’re doing here, but that’s never stopped us before, so we used 44 oz of honey, 12 oz of Maple sizzurp and a vanilla bean and pitched some wine yeast on it.  Further reading on the subject of mead making shows a lot of people add some acid blend to their meads to help balance the mead and give it crispness or tannins to increase body.   I’m going to leave this one as is and see what we get out of it.

In Goes the Honey

In goes the honey…

Pirate Pancake Syrup V2 and Acerglyn

Pirate Pancake Syrup V2 and Acerglyn

Don’t worry though, we haven’t abandoned beer!  We also brewed a batch of a top secret pale ale we’re calling Codename: Ohio, we’ll share more info on that one later.  Our fresh hop Simcoe IPA is coming along nicely as well and I just added 4 oz of hops to the carboy to dry hop for 5 days.  That bad boy will go in bottles or a keg this weekend.  MMmmm… hops.

This beer totally got Simcoed.

This beer totally got Simcoed.