Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Trillium Brewing blog moving

As vaguely referenced in past posts, we have had increasingly burgeoning aspirations to take Trillium more seriously and see if we can make it in to a bigger part of our lives. Over the past ~2 years, we have been busy preparing ourselves for the moments that are upon us now. Esther and I have never been people to limit ourselves to one major life event, so in addition to her building her own business, having our first child, and moving to a new place (that's suspiciously close to a nice place we'd love to be able to buy our own beers one day), we also signed a lease on a 2300SF space in Fort Point in January.
This is probably not particularly new news for those that have found us over on twitter and/or facebook. We've even given a few sneak peeks at the interior of the space, and shared our excitement about the first few shoots of (unofficial) BSA barley grass leaping from the Concord, MA spring soil. Of course, as the fall weather sinks in, we are reminded this all happened well before we had a good appreciation for just how long the 1st building application, community hearing, zoning variance hearing, first facade/design review, second facade/design review and 2nd building permit application processes were going to take--going on 10 months now!

Other than the need to rally some support (which has been truly humbling) for the community hearing, we've tried to stay pretty quiet here. Of course, we've been pretty busy preparing Trillium behind the scenes. Loads of test batches and recipe formulation work that left my laptop keyboard a bit lupulin stained from time to time.
Kevin, Kaity and I cranked out the bones of the website ...but we have held off launching it (until right...now!), because we've been waiting for our building permit from the city. Well, I'm sorry to say we don't have that piece of paper in our hot little hands as of today, but I'm confident we are pretty close.

That, plus I figure the 7mo+ of silence here has gone on for far too long to be fair to those that have been regular readers over the past few years. The good news is that its while we are retiring the homebrewing blog, it'll take up new life here.

We've been giving away so much beer, that 5-10 gallon batches brewed up in a condo kitchen with an even less powerful electric kitchen range just didn't make sense any more. I'm not really a gear head, but experiencing the slumbrew lab was fairly emasculating.

So, that brings us to this past weekend, where a yet-again humbling experience was had when we took our own Trillium Laboratories brewing set up for a test drive. We landed on the Blichmann top tier based system to crank out ~20 gallon batches at Greentown.

Brilliant, kind and inspiring group of people. Honest, too. As one of the engineers strolling by noted as I was struggling to slide Plate C in to Slot 48, "Oh, its like the Ikea equivalent for homebrewing, right?" Yes, complete with the 8 hour assembly time and day after embarrassingly sore hamstrings.

Anyhow, we needed to prepare a bit before the first brew day. One of the very generous greentown companies helped us design, build and dialed in the thermoelectric powered temperature control system for the conical fermenter. Some turbo yeast and about $20 worth of table sugar and continuous data logging made me very confident we would have the all too critical tight temperature control over our ferments.

In the preceding week, I had mentioned to a few friends that we were finally going to fire it up, and we had another humbling show of support. And so glad they did, because there was loads of trouble shooting to tackle that anyone should expect on the first run of any system, homebrew scale or otherwise.
Once we did fire up the burner to heat the strike water, things went amazingly smooth. So much so, that the group even took a few moments to indulge the brewer to drone on about the beers he brought to toast the group (a wild variant of the trillium saison, black currant aged cuvee de tetreault)
Really enjoyed the convenience and efficiency of some higher end equipment (triclamps instead of barbed fittings, counter flow chiller instead of immersion...but yeah, mostly the propane vs electric burner).
So, Esther, Luc and I raise a glass to Jason, Ross, Mitch, Heather, Sorin, Mike, Chris and everyone at Greentown for their generosity and enthusiastic participation. Really feeling the Innovation District love. Also feeling simultaneously guilty and jealous that you are now dealing with the distraction of 20 gallons of Fort Point fermenting away just steps (arm's reach for Ross!) from your workspace! Promise the first keg is all yours, guys.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Brewing sugar experiments: Part 2

EDIT 09Feb2012

For some more advanced thinking/experiments w/ DIY candi sugar on par with commercially produced stuff, check out the post on over at Ryan Brews.


Its been a bit tedious making all these sugars and only doing forced ferments with them...I really am kind of skittish to a entire batch to the experimental sugars, without knowing more. Though others report nice results, I needed a little more empirical data about fermentability.

The first round was like running in to a brick wall...none fermented at all with beer or bread yeasts. Ultimately, I attribute the lack of fermentability to the temps running too high, creating a very high percentage of caramel and maillard compounds.

I did save a bit of the stuff to see what would happen if I let the house bug blend run wild. Knowing how slowly they can work with anything but simpler sugars, I gave it 2.5 months to ferment out.
Sugar 1 (tartaric acid, 300F x 3) SG: 1.050 FG: 1.014 (71%AA)
Sugar 2 (tartaric acid, DME, 300F x 3) SG: 1.052 FG: 1.030 (41%AA)
Sugar 3 (Yeast Engergizer, 300F x 2) SG: 1.060 FG: 1.058 (3% AA)

...side note, did get some mold growth on Sugar 2, I would expect that drove down the FG a little more than the intended bugs alone would have on their own.

So, the data suggested that with more nitrogren in the cooked sugar, and resultant maillard compounds, results in reduced fermentability, even with the enzymatically superior wild bugs.
Before having these results, I decided to modify a single variable (temperature) to see if I could improve the fermentability, but retain the rich complex flavors found in the D2 syrup. Same quantities as Sugar 3 from the first round, but cooking steps reduced to the following:

B2, Sugar 1: 255F, 245F SG: 1.068 FG: 1.028 (57%)
B2, Sugar 2: 265F, 255F, 245F SG: 1.066 FG: 1.040 (38%)
Significant improvement in fermentability, but I also noticed that the flavor and aroma compounds didn't approach the levels of Sugar 3 from Batch 1. They were pretty similar to one another, actually, and somewhere between the amber and regular dark syrup from Dark Candi. Also noted, after about 1.5 weeks of storage, sugar crystals began to form in Sugar 1 (the more fermentable of the 2),
I did perform a control this time to clean up the results a little more (water + sugar + tartaric acid + just enough heat to dissolve the sugar). Cooled, diluted to 1.040. Fermented to 0.990 (126%AA).
I do have an as yet unfounded theory that the D2 (and perhaps the other darker syrups) are really just various combinations of some smaller percentage of very dark (thus, unfermentable) maillard syrup that's created from cooking unrefined beet sugars and a higher percentages of very lightly cooked inverted sugar (100% fermentable) to get the targeted flavor, color and fermentability profile.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Yeast hunting: 1st taste

Luc was asleep, and without the necessary specificity, I suggested in a hesitant but casual tone, 'Hey, you guys want to try some beers?'. The usual affirmatives shot around the room, so I pulled out the bottles that I had been pretty leery about trying. Yes, the first tasting of beers fermented with wild bugs collected in Connecticut.
Esther, Jason, Brendan and I huddled around some ominous looking fliptops and a smattering of BJCP scoresheets. The group was ready to try the latest from Trillium...and then I had to break the news "These are probably going to be the worst beers you've ever had in your life."

them: "Is this going to make me sick...or worse?"
me: "Uh, no...nothing 'bad' can live in beer. Uh...I think."

I thought it best if I just excerpted some notes from the session:

"Astringent. Raw wort. Really bad."


"Unfermented wort."

"Hairspray, celery."

"I don't want to try any more of these."

"Faint Muskiness. Acetone."

"Really gross."

"Even worse."

"Aquanet. Celery...in a really bad way"

"Malty molasses, unfermented...grosser."

Now I really didn't have much in the way of hope to hit it out of the park w/ my first collection of wild yeast, given it was likely still too early in the yeast collection season, and I likely way underpitched. I did think that I would get some alcohol tolerant strains, given the action in the sample vials. The near still 'beer' and raw sugars that were still present told me otherwise.

Now, the base beer wasn't brewed with a lot of effort or the best ingredients...I really had intended the first batch to be a propagation step, with which I would pitch on to their respective yeast cakes. OG of 1.040 w/ old liquid dark malt extract taking up space in our fridge for the last 3 (4?) years, a 30 minute boil and some old low alpha hops (to ~10IBUs). So, I forewarned...gave the expectation that it would be a pretty bad beer, not only for this reason, but mostly for the fact that that microbes used to ferment them were a total crapshoot.

Here's the very bright bit of sun peeking through the clouds ...these were all notes from the last 3 of the 4 bottles, but here are some selected notes from the tasting team from first bottle (the yeast sample collected from the Chardonnay grapes):

"Fruity, faint wood astringency...just a touch bright"

"Crystal clear, rusty red"

"Slight roast, lactic (maybe just the faintest whiff of acetic)"

"Weak flanders red"

"Dry, thin, well carbonated. A bit of barnyard, but overall very clean. Alcohol?"

"Clean snap finish. Dry."

"Weak, but sessionable. No hop flavor."

"Slight astringency, tartness, fruity...but needs more of everything."

"Weak to start and finish, but really great potential. Needs more character."

"Slight sour lingers on the tongue, bright, clean finish."

"Auburn, crystal clear. Thick beautiful head, falls slowly to a 1 inch persistent head."

"Potential to be a 'new england red'"

So, while the first bottle set up the expectations that were unreachable for the rest, I was surprised to find that even one of these samples yielded an even moderately alcohol tolerant strain of sacchromyces (too clean to be brett, I think).

Yeast from the dregs were saved and are intended for a more earnestly brewed beer.

Any microbiologists out there want to help me to isolate various yeast and bacteria strains?

jc (at) trilliumbrewing (dot) com

Monday, January 31, 2011

Ashley's Peaches

~3lbs of thawed native yellow peaches from Ashley's Peaches (~1/2 mile from my parent's house in Acushnet, MA) were crushed and added to a better bottle. 3 gallons of the golden strong sour base was racked on it, December 2010.

When you can get them, these are by far the best peaches I've eaten in my life. I don't care if its marked 'organic' or 'local'...the grocery store stuff is picked when they are rock hard, so if they ever ripen to sweetness, the flesh is usually mealy, grainy bland crap. I don't even bother at this point.

Ashley's are full on real peaches, as they were intended and should be. Ripened on perfectly pruned trees that have been thinned to enhance sun exposure, ripening and full flavor. They'll leave a few leaves on the stem of the fruit, a perfect visual garnish to the sun blushed drupes. The skin can be easily pulled away from the flesh if you can't handle the fuzzyness. When you cut in to them, the juice just drops out (you're going to want that juice), and the very red sugar rich flesh that's close to the pit falls away easily from the stone.

Time and time again in the late summer, I get to re-live childhood, each time you slurp-bite in to an Ashley's peach as you bow over the sink, with the juice dripping down your hands and forearms. This isn't my first rodeo, so I know to roll my sleeves up past my elbows, if I'm wearing them.
Ashley's only puts out pristine product, and only the pristine. They are ready to eat either immediately, or the next day. A third day is pushing it. Every single peach is hand selected and put out for sale, and the locals know to arrive early, so you don't have your hopes dashed by the 'Sold out for today' chalkboard sign that often makes an appearance as early as 11AM. As I'm now an out of towner, part of me wishes they'd give me not-quite-ripe fruit to take home for my beer...the bugs won't mind the wait. But, as a fellow artisan, I wholly understand there is only one way to make your wares available...only when you know they are ready.

So, taking a cue from Ashley's, this beer will stay with the peaches until I don't see positive pressure on the airlock + 3 months.

Golden American Farmhouse

Quite often on my trips over to Europe, there's the hope to find one-oh please let there be at least one- really good beer to help soften the landing after an upside down day of red eye flights, GPS navigated foreign highways, and game-face-on meetings. Duvel almost always fits that bill. I've turned many a colleague on to this alternative to Stella, so it certainly fits that craft beer gateway designation of accessibility. It also has earned its reputation, many times over, for giving crushing hangovers. But for its fair complexion and the unassuming 330ml squat bottle, you can easily down a couple, or even 3 if there's a wait for a table before dinner has even started, only to be met the next morning with the Devil's pitchfork squarely planted in that throbbing nerve that's holding your right eyeball in place.

So, I've learned, very much the hard way, to take it slow. Let the glass in front of me warm a bit and not just do what you'd otherwise be inclined to do - just get after it and slug it down. I've even gotten the colleagues to tolerate, if not enjoy, the process to create the classic, the near unrivaled head that forms when you pour it down the middle in to a matching laser etched glass.

Of course, the beer that created the style is (well, feels) painfully simple to the complexity seeking (geeking) homebrewer-"just" pils, sugar, styrian and saaz to ~30IBUs, duvel yeast w/ the proper fermentation and lagering schedule, bottle condition to big CO2 volumes. There's really no sense in trying to clone this (or other) beers, as you can grab bottles in so many places around here. Of course the simplicity of the recipes belies the exacting nature to successly hit the mark. I think of this beer as a process and fermentation-first beer; no room to hide behind layers of roasted and crystal malts, mounds of masking hop resins.

I felt like exploring the realm of a belgian golden strong with the tenets of duvel yeast, loads of white sugar (6lbs in a 10 gallon batch), base pils malt, but add some push-pull to the easy going grist with some softness of wheat malt and that full spicy feel that you can get from rye. Long, cool mash to help with fermentability. Up the bitterness a bit to match the more-ness of the not just pils grain bill, and good amount of late additions with Styrians and Saaz to keep the impression of an attempt to keep it in the family. Decidedly American influence from the Amarillo. Dry hop with a touch more of each...is this becoming a belgian golden farmhouse IPA?

Reference/influence: this and this.

Brewed on 12/4/2010, 1 liter starter stepped to 5000ml w/ 1.040 wort. First use of the comically sized 5000ml Erlenmyer (which actually has 6500ml total volume).
Started fermentation at 62F, held low 60s for 36hrs, then free rise to mid-70s. Finished very dry to 1.006, ~9.4%abv. No protein floc aids...but even after 2 weeks in primary, this beer looked almost milky with proteins in suspension. Despite turbidity, kept on schedule and dry hopped for 7 days, then racked 1/2 batch to keg to lager 42F, 20PSI (~3vols), 1/2 to bottles. Not milky any more, but permanent haze after 1.5 months of lagering.

Substantial head formation, retention, lacing. Tight protein pillow persists through the quaff. The commercial counterpart still has me beat, however. Clouded, pale orange. Appearance is darker than SRM due to the cloudyness? Amarillo nose, spicy Duvel phenols. Hoppy! Amarillo muscles out the other, more polite hops. But, you know what...I don't want it to be an IPA stacked on top of a Duvel. A firm coarse bitterness is OK, but need to give way to the grainy-ness and yeast metabolites. Rye fullness to the palate despite high-ish carbonation. Wheat cushion keeps it from being too spritzy even when right out of the bottle.

But...uh-oh...the bite of higher alcohols rear their ugly heads. Burn at the back of the nose/throat is screaming at me "I AM A HANGOVER IN A GLASS" ...not in that subtle whispering way that you ignore when you have a Duvel in your glass.

Bitterness is firm and cleansing, to snap back the fusels on your breath... but you hesitate to go back for another whack. As it warms, it actually becomes more pleasant. The hops become more apparent/masking the fusels. Spice and duvel yeast show up well and the rusticity of the grains sit on your tongue with the bittering hops. But you still need to pay the fusel toll. Likely culprit: not enough O2 (aerated, didn't O2 inject). I'll shove these bottles to the back of the cellar, take another look in a few months. Wonder if it'd ever drop bright.

I know this one is closer than its drinking now. Still a bit of a guess w/ the fusels muddying the impression, I have expectations for major tweaks on the next go:
  • though it feels wrong for a farmhouse beer, whirlfloc
  • O2 inject (duh)
  • amarillo bittering addition change to northern brewer (for rustic woodiness)
  • pull back on late hop additions by 1/2
  • eliminate dry hop

Golden Farmhouse
Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Type: All Grain

Date: 12/4/2010

Batch Size: 11.00 gal

Brewer: JC
Boil Size: 13.25 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 90 min Equipment: My Equipment
Taste Rating(out of 50): 35.0 Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00
Taste Notes:


Amount Item Type % or IBU
20 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 68.97 %
2 lbs Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 6.90 %
1 lbs Rye Malt (4.7 SRM) Grain 3.45 %
0.50 oz Amarillo [9.10 %] (Dry Hop 7 days) Hops -
0.50 oz Saaz [5.00 %] (Dry Hop 7 days) Hops -
0.50 oz Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] (Dry Hop 7 days) Hops -
2.50 oz Amarillo [9.10 %] (60 min) Hops 31.2 IBU
1.50 oz Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] (20 min) Hops 6.7 IBU
1.50 oz Amarillo [9.10 %] (20 min) Hops 11.3 IBU
1.50 oz Saaz [5.00 %] (20 min) Hops 6.2 IBU
6 lbs Sugar, Table (Sucrose) (1.0 SRM) Sugar 20.69 %
1 Pkgs Belgian Golden Ale (White Labs #WLP570) [Starter 5000 ml] Yeast-Ale

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.078 SG

Measured Original Gravity: 1.078 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.017 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.006 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 8.03 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 9.42 %
Bitterness: 55.5 IBU Calories: 352 cal/pint
Est Color: 4.5 SRM Color:

Mash Profile

Mash Name: Single Infusion, Light Body Total Grain Weight: 23.00 lb
Sparge Water: 4.22 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F TunTemperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.4 PH

Single Infusion, Light Body
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
75 min Mash In Add 28.75 qt of water at 159.1 F 148.0 F
10 min Mash Out Add 18.40 qt of water at 203.8 F 168.0 F

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