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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sour Barrel Ale Project: Update 1

Transferring the beer to the barrel
Two weeks after the initial brewday for the Sour Barrel Ale Project, I headed back over to Shawn's house to help him transfer 65 plus gallons of beer into the used wine barrel.  50 gallons came from the beast of a fermenter we had built out of a water drum. The other 15 had been fermented in 3 5 gallon buckets to allow us to top off the 65 gallon wine barrel.  After brewday the project became known as the Sour Seven as it took seven of us to brew it up.

A few details on the barrel that I didn't originally cover.  Shawn got it (and its sister) from Hogshead Wine.  It's a pretty old barrel and has seen a lot of use with primarily red wines.  To clean and seal Shawn filled it up with sanitizer and kept it filled to keep it sealed. 

To fill the barrel we re-plumbed Shawn's pump attaching one end with a racking cane.  We started by filling the barrel with the 15 side gallons and about 3 odd gallons of a Brettanomyces (bruxellensis and claussenii) starter Shawn had been working on since brew day.  Once everything was emptied we popped the top of the beast and started transferring it.  In total it took us over 45 minutes to fill the barrel.  Not wanting to fill the barrel completely to the top we were left with around 7 gallons of yeast and trub of which we collected 2 gallons into 2 sanitized gallon jugs.  Collecting the slurry took some thinking but in the end we scoop it out with a sanitized cereal container.

The gravity for the 50 gallon batch ended up around 1.013 with the gravity of the 15 gallons and brett starter being high enough to bring the total up to 1.017 when we pulled a sample from the filled barrel.  In addition to the brett starter Shawn also put together a sour starter that he'll let sour for the next couple of months before using it to top off the barrel.



Thursday, May 3, 2012

BaseCamp Dessert aka Bourbon-Vanilla

Breakfast on the Left
Dessert on the Right
Clear shift in color
Over the weekend I kegged up my two beers that started their lives as a split batch of porter.  They started this journey back in March as a 10 gallon batch of porter brewed specifically for SCHF.  Right out of the gate the Breakfast version of the beers I've been calling my BaseCamp series got over a pound of maple syrup but it wasn't until secondary that the other beer, name Dessert, started its story.

As I mentioned last time the base grain bill was inspired by Denny Conn's Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter, Dessert represents a slight variation on that original beer.  The beer started this process when I added 4 vanilla beans (the processing of which I botched) to secondary and set it aside to age and meld flavors.

After several weeks in secondary it was time to keg it up and finish the process.  During transfer I tasted some of the vanilla porter that it had become along the way, frankly I was blown away by how much I enjoyed it.  The vanilla was up front and a part of the beer but not in an overpowering way.  When I do this beer again I need to be careful on how I handle the bean remembering that the bulk of the vanilla guts went down the drain in the first attempt. 

Needed to get it transferred quick
so I transferred the at the same
time using two sets of equipment
When I came to add the bourbon I reviewed some notes of Denny's and found he used around 10 ml of bourbon per pint of beer.  For five gallons this came out to be was 400 ml or 13.52 oz which I rounded to 14oz.  For the bourbon I sent my wife to the store to pick some up for me, she came home with some Makers Mark.  This differs from the Jim Beam Black Bourbon that Denny uses but I've used it before and it's Eric from AHP's favorite brand.

I've been tasting the final blend over the last few days as I've been carbonating it and I've been digging the flavor balance.  I recently read an article by Denny "Recipe Formulation: A Road Map to Good Beer" in the latest issue of Zymurgy.  In it he details the process on how he created the recipe for this beer.  It started as his attempt to replicate the flavors he was getting from barrel aged beers without it touching a barrel.  I can see this when I taste the beer but would shy away from saying it's completely successful.  Then again this is my version not his so it could be an unfair judgement. Never-less it's a pretty damn tasty beer.

Now the update I know you've been waiting for - BaseCamp Breakfast aka Maple-Bacon-Coffee!  When we left this beer I had jammed a pound of oven cooked bacon into the secondary fermenter to dry bacon my beer.  3 weeks later the beer had taken on a slight bacon-ness in both flavor and aroma. At the time I'd been worried about getting the bacon out of the fermenter, fortunately the beer had broken down the bacon and it slid right out.  To finish the beer off I added coffee and a very slight amount of liquid smoke.  For the coffee I had to change to a different method as I lacked the time to to a cold extraction.  For a quick coffee boost I asked Bonnie to pick me up some espresso from Starbucks that I tossed straight in the keg.  Taste wise it is ok but long term I will still lean towards cold extracted coffee for beers that will be around longer then a weekend.

If you're hitting up Southern California Homebrew Fest this weekend try to stop on by both the Brewcommune and AHP Brewclub booths to sample both versions of BaseCamp Series 1.



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