Harvesting Wild Yeast

Wild Yeast 01 & 02

About two months ago I began experimenting with harvesting wild yeast from different areas in my house.  Since most of my beers are fermented in the basement where our Westland Distillery whiskey barrel resides (and because we inoculated it with commercial wild yeasts and bottle dregs after our clean stout was finished) I decided to try to catch some yeast from the basement.  The process is rather simple, though unpredictable, and so far I’ve been successful with two separate batches — successful meaning I’ve definitely caught some bugs and there doesn’t appear to be any mold or off flavors present at this point.

Wild Yeast 01After Gregory and I finished sparging for the chanterelle mushroom beer, we had about 64oz of wort left over.  Instead of just dumping the wort, I let it cool to room temperature and put it into a stock pot which I covered with a grain bag and left in my basement over night.  The next morning I funneled the wort into a gallon growler, added an airlock, and waited to see what happened.  In about a week’s time, I noticed that a Brettanomyces pellicle had begun to form.  I waited another week then made up a starter wort and fed the bugs I caught, taking the opportunity to smell the yeast: mango- and pineapple-like tropical fruit notes with some light barnyard funk is what emerged.  I have been monitoring and feeding the batch roughly every two weeks ever since, cold crashing and decanting when necessary, and Gregory and I plan to use it in our turbid mash lambic-style ale which we plan to barrel ferment.  It has been exciting to witness the different phases the yeast has gone through since it’s initial capture: a few weeks after the first feeding, it was offering more standard Belgian yeast notes; now it has become fairly complex with hints of fruit, a more profound funkiness, and light Belgian-like phenolics.

Wild Yeast 02 UpstairsThe second batch is from upstairs in my kitchen.  After we finished sparging for our Baltic porter, we had about 32oz of wort left (prior to the addition of the cold steeped specialty malts which were added at the end of our boil) and I followed the same process as above, keeping it on top of a cabinet for the night.  Once again I definitely caught some bugs, and it is my hope that this batch will be more representative of the wild yeast down here on Alki beach since I do not ferment any beers in my kitchen.  So far this yeast seems milder in intensity with a light fruitiness reminiscent of stone fruit and a very faint funk in the background.  It will be interesting to see how both of these catches mature and change over time.

Merry Christmas, It’s Endless Stout!

Barrel 04Way back in late January of 2014 Gregory, our co-worker Matt, and I brewed an American Stout of moderate strength to be aged in a used whiskey barrel from local distillery Westland Distillery.  Each of us brewed roughly 18 gallons of beer to fill the 53 gallon barrel and each of us decided to create different versions of the brew after it was done barrel aging.  Nearly a year later, I have finally finished with my fourth and final version of the stout which is a soured version.  This post will review all four of my interpretations and I’ll post the original base recipe that spent approximately 5.5 months in the barrel.

First, we’ll start with the regular old whiskey barrel aged American Stout: we all agreed on a base beer recipe and tweaked it slightly with each subsequent brewing based on our results.  Disappointed with efficiency on some of the batches, our final batch incorporated some DME in order to boost the gravity of the overall brew.  The end result was a beer between 6% – 6.5% ABV that was a little overwhelmed by the boozy notes and the wood tannins that the remaining whiskey and barrel imparted.

Feeling that this framework would be able to take on some other flavors which might wed well with the barrel characteristics, I decided on my next two renditions simultaneously.

My second version saw strong cold-brewed lavender coffee, and Madagascar vanilla beans added to the base beer.  The lavender coffee was purchased from Pelindaba Lavender on Friday Harbor and was added at bottling, whereas the vanilla beans were found at Metropolitan Market and were used as a week long “dry-hop” prior to packaging.  This version turned out the best in my opinion and has been dubbed The Friday Harbourbon Barrel Aged Stout.

The third adaptation I made saw pie cherries, organic cacao nibs, and Madagascar vanilla beans added to the base beer.  I pasteurized the cherries the same way I did for The Cherry Ghost and the beer sat on all of these ingredients for two extra weeks before bottling.  The cherries are the most prevalent flavor component and they add a slight tartness to the beer without turning it into a true sour ale.

The fourth and final version is a soured version that I just bottled on December 17th 2014.  This rendition was kind of an afterthought as we had about 5 gallons of stout left over from our last barrel top-off batch.  It was just sitting in a carboy when Gregory, Matt, Derek (another friend and co-worker), & I decided to brew a Flanders Red Ale to age next in the whiskey barrel.  After the first of those batches was complete, I added the yeast cake from the Flanders Red Ale which utilized Wyeast 3763 Roeselare Blend and let it undergo a long secondary fermentation in which I also added the bottle dregs from Girardin Gueuze 1882, and the yeast cake from an English Mild that Gregory and I fermented with Wyeast 1318 London Ale III & White Labs WLP645 Brettanomyces Claussenii.  The resulting beer has a moderate tartness and a pleasant funkiness; I’ll elaborate more once it has carbonated and can be properly tasted.

Here is the recipe for my last edition of the base beer:

Roesalare StoutWestland Distillery Whiskey Barrel Aged American Stout

Recipe Specifics

Batch Size (Gal): 5.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 13.76
Anticipated OG: 1.069
Anticipated SRM: 43.0
Anticipated IBU: 31.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain

74% – 10.31 Lbs. Marris Otter Pale (UK)
05% – 0.75 Lbs. Flaked Rye
05% – 0.75 Lbs. Golden Naked Oats (UK)
04% – 0.60 Lbs. Midnight Wheat
03% – 0.45 Lbs. Crystal 70L
02% – 0.30 Lbs. Black Patent
02% – 0.30 Lbs. Chocolate Rye
02% – 0.30 Lbs. Chocolate Wheat

Hops

0.50 oz. Columbus (Pellet, 15.0% AA) @ 60 min.
1.00 0z. Perle (Pellet, 7.8% AA) @ 15 min.

Extras

1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.

Yeast

Ferementis Safale US-05

Water Profile

Seattle
1.00 tsp Calcium Chloride
1.00 tsp Gypsum

Mash Schedule

Single Infusion  – 60 min @ 156F

Notes

Brewed 02.17.14

02.17.14 – Chilled wort to 65F before pitching rehydrated yeast.

02.19.14 –  Vigorous fermentation, temperature holding steady @ 60-65F.

03.03.14 – Transferred to whiskey barrel for conditioning.

07.21.14 – Transferred stout out of barrel and began different renditions.

Tasting Notes

Regular version: Lots of whiskey flavor on the front end that tends to mask the base beer; finishes dry with some noticeable wood tannins from the barrel.  This beer has mellowed over time with the whiskey flavor blending better with the base beer; still lots of barrel character but hints of bittersweet chocolate and cola have asserted themselves.

Lavender Coffee Vanilla Bean version: Although lavender coffee was used, the lavender notes are subtle while the roast from the coffee is bold.  It has aged well and the flavors meld into the whiskey character nicely.  Very subtle hints of vanilla on the drying finish.  Drinks better now (7 months later) than it did when first bottled.

Cherry Chocolate Vanilla Bean version: This one tends to come off as more sweet than the other versions.  Its viscous and mouth-coating with the cherries lending a slight tang to the finish.  The chocolate flavors from the cacao nibs are subdued; its slightly nutty.  Vanilla could be more apparent.

Sour version (non-barrel aged): This turned out rather well for the afterthought experiment that it was.  There’s lots of body and sweetness to this one which could be from the top off batch containing all of the DME we used (which would mean it wasn’t converted properly) which I rather like since it becomes fairly sour on the finish.  It has notes of tropical fruit and some restrained funk on the finish.

Calculated OG: 1.060
Calculated FG: 1.015
Approx. ABV: 5.9%

Kaberne Fran Sour Pale Ale

Cab Franc SourIn late September Gregory and I started talking about doing a new sour ale.  Based on the success of his Chenin Blanc grape sour pale and with the annual Mountain Homebrew & Wine Supply grape crush on the horizon, we started discussing brewing a sour to showcase a red wine grape.  Lately I have been gravitating toward the firm tannins and notes of leather, tobacco, pepper and earth found in many French and American Cabernet Francs (if you stumble upon a bottle of Watermill’s 2010 Cab Franc snatch it up, it’s impeccable).  It may come as a surprise to those who know me well (since I’m usually imbibing a beer of some style), but I am also a fan of great wine and worked intensively around Italian wine for three years shortly after I moved to Seattle.  So with little deliberation, we put in our order for 25 Lbs. of eastern Washington Cabernet Franc grapes.

We split the grapes in half and used 12-13 Lbs. in the creation of this sour and we used the remaining grapes in our Kaberne Fran Rye Saison.  This beer is almost two months into an approximately year long process, so check back as I will be updating this post periodically and documenting the progress.  Below is our recipe and process:

Cab Franc GrapesKaberne Fran Sour Pale Ale

Recipe Specifics

Batch Size (Gal): 5.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 13.75
Anticipated OG: 1.069
Anticipated SRM: 4.0
Anticipated IBU: 14.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Grain

80% – 11.0 Lbs. Belgian 2-Row Pilsner
07% – 1.0 Lbs. U.S. Vienna
05% – .75 Lbs. U.S. Munich – Dark 20L
07% – 1.0 Lbs. U.S. Wheat

Hops

0.35 oz. Magnum (Pellet, 13.0% AA) @ 90 min.

Extras

1.00 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
12.50 Lbs. Cabernet Franc grapes

Yeast

Wyeast 3763 Roeselare Ale Blend (starter)
Yeast cake from homebrew Framboise (Roeselare + The Lost Abbey Red Poppy bottle dregs)
The Ale Apothecary Rum Barrel & White Peach La Tache bottle dregs

Water Profile

Seattle
1.00 tsp Calcium Chloride
1.00 tsp Gypsum

Mash Schedule

Single Infusion – 60 min @ 155F

Notes

09.29.14 – Made a stir-plate 2L starter with 1 Wyeast 3763 smack pack.  Brewtoad suggests 260 billion cells to ferment 5.5 gal.  Cold crashed and decanted morning of brew day.

Brewed 10.01.14 with Gregory

10.01.14 – Chilled wort to 65F before pitching yeast starter.

10.03.14 –  Steady fermentation and holding steady at 63-65F.

10.18.14 — Transferred to secondary fermentor and added yeast cake from Gregory’s Framboise.

11.19.14 — After 32 days in secondary on the grapes, we transferred to a tertiary fermentor and added the bottle dregs from The Ale Apothecary’s Rum Barrel & White Peach La Tache.

04.??.15 — At some point in April 2015 we pulled a sample and noticed some diacetyl notes present so we pitched the brett slurry from a funky pale ale we brewed with The Yeast Bay’s Funktown Pale blend with the hopes that the brett would clean up the beer.

02.11.16 — Sampled from carboy and happy to note that the brett devoured the diacetyl.  Very sour and big acidity.  Grape juice and cherry notes.  Took final gravity reading, transferred to bottling bucket, added champagne yeast and corn sugar for 2.2 volumes of CO2 and bottled the entire batch.

Tasting Notes — 02.18.17 (bottle pour)

Lovely burnished red-orange color and well clarified.  Perfect spritz of carbonation with a white head that dissipates quickly.  Great horse blanket-funk brettanomyces esters dominate the nose with hints of straw, red fruit, and tobacco in the background.  No diacetyl detected.  Deep red grape juice and cherry notes on the front of the palate with a hint of alcohol.  Delicious, assertive black pepper flavor from the Cab Franc grapes in the middle with a round, velvety acidity and gripping tannins bringing this beer to a drying, leathery finish.  Moderate brettanomyces funk melds with notes of oranges and firm lactic acid tartness akin to citric acid which lingers and dries out with delicate notes of booze.  Very red wine-like!

Calculated OG: 1.074
Calculated FG: 1.006
Approx. ABV: 8.9%

Transfer Day

Three Beers 01

Three Beers 03Yesterday Gregory and I transferred three different beers that have been working for some time now — (from left to right) 100% Brettanomyces fermented IPA, Cabernet Franc grape rye saison, & Cabernet Franc grape sour pale ale.  I also transferred the Chanterelle Belgian Strong into secondary and added the mushrooms today.  I’ll get individual posts and recipes for the three brews we transferred yesterday up very soon!

 

The Cherry Ghost – Cherry & Kumquat Berliner Weisse

CKB 04“A sour wort Berliner weisse aged 8 weeks on cherries and kumquats with a ghost of an ABV.”

Berliner weisse is a classic tart German wheat ale that is traditionally fermented with a mixed culture of top-fermenting yeasts and lactobacillus.  Examples of the style can range from mildly tart to bracingly sour with firm acidity and notes of lemon and other citrus fruits.  In Berlin it is available “straight” but is often served with sweet raspberry or woodruff syrups to blunt the acidity and sourness.  At only about 3-4% alcohol by volume this beverage proves to be an excellent thirst quencher and has become quite popular during the summer months in the U.S.A.

There are different methods of souring a berliner weisse, each with its own involved process and merits.  Briefly, you can pitch pure strain lactobacillus, or lacto with an additional yeast culture; or you can do a sour mash with pitched yeast, or a sour mash with pitched yeast and additional lacto.  If you’d like to read more in depth about these methods, Derek Dellinger has done a great job of explaining them on his Homebrew and Beer Blog, Bear Flavored.  Additionally, you can conduct a normal mash and pull some or all of the wort, pitch your lacto starter at this point and perform a sour wort.

The base for this berliner weisse is extremely minimal.  Gregory and I decided to do a four day sour wort with a lactobacillus starter made from yogurt followed by a 15 minute boil after which we pitched Wyeast 1007 German Ale along with Wyeast 5112 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis.

CKB 03

As the tag line that begins this post suggests, not everything went as planned for this brew.  Although some might consider 3-4% a ghost of an ABV already, the base beer only ended up being about 1%!  How did this happen, you ask?  Well I have a few theories though I’d love to hear others if you’ve got them.  First of all, while hot holding the sour wort at around 100F for the four days, it began to ferment creating some alcohol that would later be boiled off (since we only boiled for 15 minutes to kill the lacto/other bacteria I’m unsure if this had much of an affect on the finished product).  Additionally, I forego a starter for the German Ale yeast (this was brewed at a time before I always made a starter) and assume that the PH was too low, disrupting the ale yeast’s fermentation.

Regardless of the reasons for the lower than usual ABV, the beer went through a 16 day primary fermentation followed by a 56 day secondary on cherries and kumquats.  In addition to the final refreshing brew tasting fantastic, the “sessional” aspect of this already session style beer allowed it to be entered into Xbrew — the Mount Si Brewing Society’s annual homebrew competition that accepts session and imperial versions of each traditional BJCP style.  I am honored that this little beer took the silver medal in the fruit beer category.  I plan to brew this recipe again although I haven’t determined which souring method I’ll experiment with.  The recipe is as follows:

Cherry Ghost Berliner Weisse

Recipe Specifics

Batch Size (Gal): 5.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.2
Anticipated OG: 1.047
Anticipated SRM: 2.0
Anticipated IBU: 6.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%
Wort Boil Time: 15 Minutes

Grain

43% – 3.6 Lbs. Belgian 2-Row Pilsner
43% – 3.6 Lbs. White Wheat
12% – 1.0 Lbs. Acidulated Malt

Hops

0.50 oz. US Cascade (Pellet, 7.0% AA) @ 15 min.
1.00 0z. Columbus (Pellet, 15.0% AA) @ 3 day dry hop.
0.40 oz. Galaxy (Pellet, 14.2% AA) @ 3 day dry hop.
0.25 oz. Amarillo (Pellet, 9.3% AA) @ 3 day dry hop.

Extras

1.00 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
9.00 Lbs. Pie cherries
2.00 Lbs. Kumquats
0.50 Lbs. Rainier Cherries
0.50 Lbs. Red Cherries

Yeast

Wyeast 5112 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis
Wyeast 1007 German Ale

Water Profile

Seattle
1.00 tsp Calcium Chloride
1.00 tsp Gypsum

Mash Schedule

Single Infusion – 60 min @ 150F

Notes

04.05.14 – Made a lactobacillus starter from yogurt (but didn’t give it enough time to culture up)

Mash & sour wort 04.07.14 with Gregory

04.07.14 – Hot held wort @ 100F for 4 days

04.09.14 – Temp drop to 80F, pulled some wort, brought it to boil and added back into water cooler mash tun to raise wort back to 100F

04.10.14 – Noticed signs of lacto fermentation

04.11.14 –  Brought wort to boil for 15 minutes to kill lacto/other bacteria

04.11.14 – Chilled wort to 65F before pitching German Ale yeast and Brett.

04.27.14 – Pasteurized 9.0 Lbs. frozen pie cherries by adding them to water and raising to 165F, used StarSan on 2.0 Lbs. kumquats

04.27.14 – Transferred beer to secondary and added the fruits

06.09.14 – Added 0.5 Lbs. Rainier cherries & 0.5 Lbs. red cherries

06.20.14 – Transferred beer into bottling bucket and dry hopped for 3 days

06.23.14 – Bottled Berliner weisse with 6.2 oz. corn sugar @ 3.45 volumes of CO2

Tasting Notes

Great summer quencher — light and crisp with a slight mineral note announcing itself after the tart finish.  The fruit is spot on; big sour cherry flavors and some citrus from the kumquats.  It actually seems that the kumquats have become more apparent over time.  I’m excited to make this one again.

Calculated OG: 1.014
Calculated FG: 1.006
Approx. ABV: 1.05%