Monday, December 13, 2010

Nemesis Quad

We all have beers that have flat out beaten us. I'm not talking just slightly less than great beers. Beers that have truly failed, even on a singular component. Just a completely fatal and unrecoverable (as far as initial intentions go) flaw that just gnaws at you at the swing and ...whiff... miss of the initial concept.

These are usually higher gravity beers the beer that has been me certainly falls in that camp: A quad with a very large portion of D2 syrup that resulted in an underattenuated mess. Great fermentation character, bready malty with that complexly stewed prune, almost roasty figginess. And a beer-ruining cloying ~1.035ish sweetness.

Jason tried the same recipe at home, with nearly identical technique and pulled up lame in the same FG ballpark. Thankfully, he didn't chuck his either, and it has spent the better part of the summer and fall making amends with the now available year round Wyeast Roselare blend. Tasted it a week ago, and its got the makings of a sour beast, I can't wait to see where this one ends up. It was so damn delicious, we just forgot to stick it in the hydrometer jar for a reading before it disappeared from our glasses. I've been ultra patient, trusting that its just too early now to even think about it, now that it has the grapes on it.

Anyhow, Jason, Luc and I set out one early morning in October to make right what went oh-so-wrong a few years ago.
That recipe was based on an approximation of the St. Bernadus Abt 12, which purportedly has a very heavy dose of this specialty dark candi syrup, which I'm trying to figure out a way to cook up at home. That cooked sugar, combined with some refined beet sugar combined for ~20% of the fermentables, in order to ensure a properly dry finish. um, right.

In that go-around, I made all the now-obvious mistakes that hindered that goal: less than optimal pitching rate, went with aquarium pump + airstone aeration and not oxygenation and lack of fermentation temperature control.

As my shipment of pils malt was late arriving from the recent mail order, and runs to the homebrew shop are really limited as of late with daddy responsibilities, we sacrificed some of that class pils character and went with some American 2 row as the base grain, so we could just brew some ale.
The tube of Chimay yeast had gotten off to a running start in an ample amount of 1.040 starter wort, and had been spinning round in the stirstarter for 36 hours before pitching.
The D2 was unfortunately in that not-quite-there-yet shipment too, so an across the street run to Trader Joe's for some turbinado was the lame duck sub. Before we started, we thumbed through Brew Like a Monk, and found we had now settled on a close approximation of an included classic recipe, so we felt confident while we weren't going to get to see how far down we could attenuate the prior recipe, we would still end up with a solid beer to ponder the true re-brew.

I did want to bump the IBUs up a touch from the prior batch, perhaps as a knee jerk reaction to compensate from the memory-sticky too-sweet finish, so 3oz of whole leaf Willamette made its way in to a hop sack for a 60minute addition.

As we'll often do, while we wait for the wort to come to a boil, J and I popped some solid bottles, but not before we were sure the little man had what he needed.
The first was a 750ml of 2.5 year old chimay grand reserve, in a study of the malt and yeast profile that was intended from this brew day.
And, if you've been around the house at all, you'll know that one nice bottle can sometimes lead to the popping of another.
And perhaps another after that.

Unfortunately, the cooing baby and hubris induced visions of an already vanquished quad brewday convinced me that we had it all under control, until I turned back to the lauter to realize, we had collected too much wort, and diluted a full 20 points below intended gravity! I could only shake my head, foolishly foiled. Oh well, at least that means there'll be just more of this not-quite-quad BSDA.
Fermentation started at 62F, held for 24hours after krausen appeared (sometime that night, pitched late afternoon). Raised to 74F ambient over the next 2 days, then blanketed in fleece to up to 77F for 1 week. Conditioned for an additional 2, then enough cane sugar to bottle to 4 volumes. FG to a respectable 1.016F.

Corked and caged.
Quad 2010
Belgian Dark Strong Ale

Type: All Grain

Date: 10/11/2010

Batch Size: 5.50 gal

Brewer: Jason
Boil Size: 6.30 galAsst Brewer: JC
Boil Time: 60 minEquipment: My Equipment
Taste Rating(out of 50):35.0Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00
Taste Notes:


AmountItemType% or IBU
14 lbsPale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)Grain63.64 %
3 lbsMunich Malt (9.0 SRM)Grain13.64 %
1 lbsCaramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM)Grain4.55 %
1 lbsCaravienne Malt (22.0 SRM)Grain4.55 %
1 lbsWheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM)Grain4.55 %
8.0 ozCaramel/Crystal Malt - 75L (75.0 SRM)Grain2.27 %
3.00 ozWilliamette [5.50 %] (60 min)Hops33.4 IBU
1 lbs 8.0 ozTurbinado (10.0 SRM)Sugar6.82 %
2 PkgsAbbey Ale (White Labs #WLP530)Yeast-Ale

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.113 SG

Measured Original Gravity: 1.092 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.026 SGMeasured Final Gravity: 1.016 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol:11.52 %Actual Alcohol by Vol: 9.97 %
Bitterness: 33.4 IBUCalories: 425 cal/pint
Est Color: 20.5 SRMColor:

Mash Profile

Mash Name: Single Infusion, Light BodyTotal Grain Weight: 20.50 lb
Sparge Water: 0.00 galGrain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature:168.0 FTunTemperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSEMash PH: 5.4 PH

Single Infusion, Light Body
Step TimeNameDescriptionStep Temp
75 minMash InAdd 25.63 qt of water at 161.4 F150.0 F
10 minMash OutAdd 16.40 qt of water at 200.2 F168.0 F

Mash Notes: Simple single infusion mash for use with most modern well modified grains (about 95% of the time).


collected too much wort.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Quad + Cuvee de Tetreault: Cabernet Sauv grapes in to the mix

A bit earlier this fall, 5 Gallons of frozen grapes arrived from Midwest supplies, just as the Fall2010 winemaking season was in full swing. I was looking for an interesting fruit addition to give some depth to some of my bigger/darker sours, and I found a really cool option with inspiring commercial precedents (such as this and to a lesser degree, this.)

I pulled the trigger, not on freshly harvested grapes or even current season frozen must. I went with the surprisingly still available (as of Dec 2010) $50 deal on 2007 Cabernet grapes from Napa (picked and crushed on my birthday!). These high brix, huge flavor and tannin grapes from the worldclass americal viticultural area were intended for dark sours already slowly churning away. I would normally eschew pre-processed and the downright old for a fresh/recently harvested version, but, given the consideration of cost (at $200+ for fresh equivalent), I wasn't overly concerned about an erosion of quality given the high sugar content (~23.3Brix) and I'm sure they were stably frozen from harvest to delivery.

Popping the lid showed me no overt signs of freezer burn, even though there was a little more headspace in the bucket than I expected. There was a rubber gasket seal and some tear away plastic that ensured this bucket wouldn't leak, but we all know the oxygen permeability of HDPE. But still...5 gallons of whole frozen napa cab grapes for ~$75? A no-brainer. Jump on it, if you haven't yet and its still available. I'd love to compare notes down the road.
Despite my endorsement, I did feel a twinge of guilt (that continues to nag at me) at the extravagance of the cross country shipping, and ridiculous amounts of styrofoam that was needed to keep them frozen.
I'll prefer in the future to focus on and mostly stick to the best of what the new england regional AVAs have to offer, as there's plenty of the more local and equally high quality options to explore. No, this is not laughable. While the long, warm and dry seasons in the west coast valleys drives the best out of the deep and dark reds, the moderation of the Atlantic coastal climes seems to make the much hardier rootstock of the whites (and earthy Cabernet Franc) truly sing. I'll go so far to say that some of the best methode champenoise sparkling wines I've ever had, come from a sleeper winery in Westport, Massachusetts (snap up all of the Maximilian, should you come across it).

So, I quickly discovered that 5 gallons of cab grapes is alot. ALOT.

After 5lbs of the crushed and mostly thawed grapes went in to the quad rescue attempt and 3.5lbs in to 4 gallons of the Cuvee (6 gallons remain without fruit addition, for now), I still have about 4 gallons of fruit left. I guiltily freezer-bagged up the remaining grapes, and hogged even more of the already hops-choked freezer.

The quad has been souring with the bugs for a descent amount of time now and any activity had slowed to a near crawl. I overfilled the carboy, and after a week, the re-activated microbes were pushing CO2, grapes skins and yeast up through the airlock (and continued to do so for ~1.5 months).

The cuvee was still quite young when the grapes were added (pellicle hadn't even fallen yet), so, despite my better judgement, I added the fruit much earlier than is likely optimal (would prefer than multiple brett strains, lacto + pedio would be favored over the sacch, and a later addition achieves that; sacch tends to lose viability faster than the others).

Only (lots) of time will tell, so I'm looking forward to my first tastes of these in about a year.
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