Showing posts with label ph. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ph. Show all posts

Friday, 28 August 2015

Sour Beer At The Irish Craft Beer Fest

I don't normally do beer reviews, but I decided to make an exception as these brews are available right now for you to try in the RDS.

First up we have Sour Brown Ale from Blacks of Kinsale. This is a batch of their Jester Brown Ale which has had a mixed sour culture from White Labs added to it in secondary. Jester is an exciting new British hop from Charles Faram's breeding programme which makes either version of the beer worth trying in themselves. The soured version is only ever so slightly sour as Sam Black, the brewer and owner, told me. The mixed culture was only added three weeks ago, so this is definitely one for keeping and letting the sourness develop. It's ever so slightly acetic on the nose, but not in a bad way. Worth trying, and if you can take away some in a growler and let is age.

Next up is Beann Gulban from White Hag. I sourced some wine barrels a while back and Joe Kearns, the head brewer in White Hag took two of them. Joe has blended a very acidic batch with a less acidic one, and has been aged the blend in one of these barrels. The uniqueness doesn't stop there though. Beann Gulban has no hops at all (yes you read that right), instead it has a huge amount of heather flowers added to primary and when the conditions (pH and gravity) are right Joe pitches the yeast. All the sourness is coming from the heather, and it is definitely lactic in nature, with the oak adding an extra dimension, a truly wonderful beer.

Joe also brought along the very acidic batch in a corny keg for "special guests", whoever that could be ;) This is proper hardcore Beann Gulban the way I like it, and being honest I personally prefer it, but it may be too tart for others.

I made my way over to Kinnegar's stand and had a good chat with Rick Lahart about his latest creation, Geuzberry. The wort was pasteurised and then kettle soured with yoghurt probiotics and fermented out with a neutral yeast, and for a final twist there are locally grown gooseberries added. It's like a strong (ABV-wise) Berliner weisse, and is properly tart. Just like Berliners of old, Rick offers a variety of sweet syrups which can be mixed in to take the edge off, but says himself that he prefers it straight up. I didn't try the syrups but I can see why Rick likes it: again a beautiful beer. If you can't make it to the RDS this is also available in bottles in good off-licences but won't hang around long.

So this this is a snapshot of the Irish sour beer scene as of August 2015. It's great to see the number of sour and less conventional beers increasing as the market becomes more open to new ideas. We're not quite Belgium yet, but we're heading in the right direction.

Foot note: Not beer related, but Blacks have also become a licensed distiller, bought a still, and are producing spirits in small quantities. I sampled their poteen and decided I'd procure a bottle as it's top notch stuff. Very limited availability (there were only a handful of bottles left) so I'm sure it'll become collectable.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Lambic 2.1

After the lambic barrel of 2014 was emptied I decided I wouldn't get involved in the re-filling. This was for a number of reasons, but the most relevant one to this blog is that I already brewed to this formula and used this barrel so I know what to expect from it. Been there, done that, so to speak, without wanting to sound crude. While I'm very happy with the results from that barrel I have always felt it could have had more bite. I don't recall seeing any pH meters on the brew day, but the finished beer only clocked 4.2 on the pH scale a year later. While the beer compares very favourably on the whole, the acid deficiency is clear when commercial examples are compared, which often have a pH of less than 3.5. In Classic Beer Styles 3: Lambic, Jean Xavier Guinard typifies "hard" lambic as having a pH around 3.4 and "soft" as 3.9. (page 36) and the European Union has declared the highest pH to be considered lambic as 3.9. So ignoring geographical origin that beer was not a lambic by other established standards.

I also understand the mashing process a bit better having done a bit more reading and talking to people at Toer de Geuze, so I have refined the procedure somewhat. A couple of things that seem to be missing from a lot of texts is an explanation for the small bit of barley malt that is added to the wheat during gelatinisation. There are conflicting reasons cited for this but some say it's to perform a mash of sorts to help make the gelatinisation of the wheat starches easier. Also there is no need to boil the wheat, it just needs to be kept above its gelatinisation temperature. Anyone who looks at a turbid mash schedule, which is what the genuine lambic breweries in Belgium do will notice that there is no cereal mash and at no point is the wheat boiled. For the reason I've changed some of the steps, simplifying and speeding up the process a bit:

The original quantities gave a water to grain ratio of about 3:1. This is in the regular ale brewing range but from experience I can say that with that much wheat both the mash and sparge are close to sticking point. My new step of adding 3L of boiling water to the gelatinisation pot after the 30 minute gelatinisation rest the "strike" water thins to a ratio of 3.6:1 in the mashtun while also helping to raise the temperature of the pot contents to "strike" temperature. This keeps the mash thin enough not to stick but lots of stirring is still required to aid conversion.

For 20L, revised:

1. Add 2kg wheat + 0.6kg malt to a pot with 15L water and heat to around 62°C
2. Bring to gentle boil for 30 mins
2. NEW: Hold at ~62°C for 30 minutes
3. Let cool to normal strike temp for your gear, plus 3 or 4°C (as you want to mash at 70°C)
3. Add 3L of boiling water to the pot. Apply heat and raise temperature of the pot contents to 3 or 4°C above normal strike temperature (to 80°C in my case).
4. Use as strike water and add to the remaining 2.4kg malt in the mash tun.
5. Hold at 70°C for 2 hours.
6. Sparge with 92°C water until 26L collected.
7. Boil for 2 hours, add 3-7 IBU shitty hops at 120 mins.
8. Collect around 20L in the fermenter.

I have done this procedure twice now (and lambic 2.0.1 twice), and not being restricted to a barrel has allowed me to experiment with different configurations, especially with regard to yeast. The first two were brewed to the 2.0.1 schedule and have WLP-645 grown up from dregs of a Framboise given to me by Nigel Comerford. As of 18 June 2015 these have fermented out, but have not produced a pellicle, three months in. Both done to the 2.1 schedule were actually done as a double brew, and split into 2 x 20L batches. Both were fermented out with a neutral ale yeast before having dregs added: the first had the dregs from the 2014 lambic barrel added, the second had the dregs from Boon Mariage Parfait. Two months later both smell fantastic, though the Mariage Parfait is edging it. Both are showing signs of pellicle development too.

Since I wrote this I had refined the process even more and will blog about it after my next brew. I'm going to call it 3.0 as it's different enough to warrant it. Stay tuned!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

2014 Harvest Cider with Davy Uprichard

I've been a fan of Tempted? Cider since I first tasted it at the Irish Craft Beer & Cider Festival in the RDS in September 2012. I was working for GrĂ¡inne and Tim on the Metalman stand at the festival, which was just a few stands down from Tempted?, and the man behind it (literally), Davy Uprichard. So over the course of the festival I got talking to him. Davy had been a horticulturist in search of something new, he explained to me at the time. He said to me that he had told his wife Jan he wanted to buy a motorbike or a cidery, but he couldn't decide which. Jan was hoping for the motorbike. Davy's accent sounds to me a lot like Matthew's and Declan's, i.e. nordie. I'm still trying to figure out the differences between them.

Sourcing the juice - Davy to the rescue!

Best part of a metric tonne
Fast forward to summer 2014. Apples are on the trees, reminding me that cider time is coming again. I bought apple juice from a couple of places in 2012 and 2013 but was never happy with the finished product, so for 2014 I decided I was going to go to a professional cider maker for my juice, and no better man than Davy. I asked Davy would he oblige me and he said he would. I told him I wanted a finished product that would be not too dissimilar to his dry cider and at the same time I contacted a few people I knew would be interested in buying in. A deal was done and Davy delivered almost a metric tonne of juice to Leixlip in early November, the exact blend of which was:

And additionally:
  • PH adjusted to 3.6 with malic acid (to kill microbes.)
  • Sulphited to 50ppm.
  • Specific gravity of 1.0465, expected to finish at 6.36% ABV

I personally got 3 x 20 litres drums myself, one with no sulphites to let ferment on the natural yeast, the second sulphited and Young's Cider Yeast added, and the third sulphited and Danstar Nottingham Ale Yeast added.
L-R: 2L of home made apple juice concentrate, 20L juice, 9L corny, 30L pot

Back Sweetening

Cologran: don't do it
Fast forward again to March 2015 and with the weather getting warmer I'm reminded it's time to bottle the cider, starting with the drum that fermented on its own yeast (Davy had recommended racking off the lees around the start of the new year; I didn't, my bad, but it doesn't seem the worse for it). It's slightly hazy and not too tart. This could easily be drank flat, as in scrumpy, a style I'm not a huge fan of. In previous years I tried leaving the cider unsweetened but found it was too tannic and hard to drink (with the exception of cider I made from a variety native to Leixlip, more on that later). Sweetening with Cologran, (a 10:1 blend of sodium cyclamate and saccharin) from Lidl was even worse, giving it a sickly sweet and completely artificial flavour.

Making Concentrate (for Back Sweetening)

With this in mind I planned ahead when I first took delivery of the juice by taking off 4 litres, freezing it, and then letting 2 litres slowly thaw. i.e. freeze concentration. The base cider was ~1.046 whereas the concentrate I had just made came in at 1.084. This would allow me to back sweeten with the original juice, without diluting the ABV too much.

The only issue with this approach is that if left to their own devices the remaining yeast in the concentrate and/or the fermented cider would end up fermenting out the sugars in the concentrate, thereby negating the point of back sweetening in the first place, while also risking "bottle bombs". Pasteurising is the only solution to this and while unusual for the amateur it's not too difficult to do at home.

Over the course of the year I took the gravities of some commercial ciders.......
  • Old Rosie: 1.008
  • Orpens Irish Apple Cider: 1.012
  • Bulmers/Magners: 1.020
  • Stella Cidre:1.022
.....and found my tastes are around the Orpens level of sweetness, 1.012.

In order to sweeten and pasteurise using the tools available to me, namely a 9 litre Cornelius keg and a 30 litre pot to warm it in, I used the dilution tool in Beersmith to calculate the required volumes:
1.2L of concentrate @ 1.084 + 7L of cider @ 0.998 = 8.2L of sweetened cider @ 1.012
To work out ABV I'd have 7 litres of 6.36% with 1.2 litres of 0%, so.....
7/8.2 x 6.36 =  5.42% ABV
...which is still quite respectable. To measure such precise amounts into the corny was easy, just weigh the corny as it was being filled, assuming each litre weighs around 1 kg, which is close enough.


Hot bath: target mid 60s
Once the juice was mixed up in the corny, next step was to drop the corny into a bath of hot water on the cooker. I preheated about 10 or 12 litres of water to around 67-68°C in a 30 litre pot with a dinner plate at the bottom to stop the rubber on the corny from being burnt, and dropped the corny in with the pressure relief valve removed. This allowed me to put a thermocouple into the juice and as my meter has two inputs I put the second one in the water. This caused the temperature of the water to drop to maybe 58-60°C as the cider in the corny started to absorb the heat. I kept the gas on full, never allowing the water to heat above about 68°C, as this is the absolute maximum temperature I wanted the cider to go to, the logic being the cider cannot heat any more than the water. Once both had equalised I replaced the pressure relief valve in the corny to keep all that goodness locked in. From here on I would only need to keep an eye on the temperature of the water as both temperatures had equalised. I regulated the gas and kept the temperature around 65°C over the next 30 to 40 minutes. Once that was done out the corny came and went into the freezer to cool enough to be carbonated.

Force carbonating the Sodastream way

I've always thought it literally a waste of time force carbonating the slow way, i.e. letting the corny sit there on gas over two weeks while waiting for the pressure to equalise. Anyone with a Sodastream knows that you can force carbonate practically instantly, and if you have a pressure gauge that you'd use for spunding you can do it pretty accurately too. The method I use, inspired by Sodastream and proven by others, just involves setting the regulator to 40 PSI and gassing the corny while shaking it. Then I disconnect the gas and leave it to settle for an hour or so. When it has settled I bleed off the excess gas, connect the pressure gauge to the gas post and gentle rock the corny till the pressure in the headspace equalises with the liquid. Measuring this pressure (with the gauge for spunding) and the temperature, then using a chart I can accurately calculate the volume of dissolved CO2. (I admit I didn't think of this method of measuring; I picked up on it when I saw it being done in an episode of Brew Masters)

Corny hooked up to gas

Pressure set to 40 PSI - time to rock

Check:7.5 PSI @ 2°C = 2.2 vols

Having grown up on Bulmers I tend to like cider fizzy, and that really means 2.2 volumes of CO2 or even more.

The proof's in the (cider) pudding

Best. Cider. Ever.
So what did this turn out like? In a nutshell, amazing. By far the best non-commercial cider I've had and very close to rivialing the best of Irish. But it's not perfect. While 1.012 is probably about the right sweetness for my tastes, a consequence of sweetening with concentrate is that it is very appley. Gone are the tannins and bitterness from previous years that negatively impacted on the user experience, which is a good thing. I think the next blend I might back sweeten with a little less concentrate (I only have around a half litre left) and see how it goes. Stay tuned!

The future

I spoke to Davy recently at the St. Patrick's Irish Beer & Whiskey Festival in the RDS and floated the idea of single varietal juice presses past him, and he was very enthusiastic about the idea. Looking forward to 2015's cider already :)

Cheers Davy!

Update #1

23/03/15 Final 4.7 litres of naturally fermented juice is now blended with 0.9 litres (my son had the other 0.1!) of Aldi 1.045 apple juice, and is being pasteurised as I type. Resulting blend should be about 1.007 with an ABV of about 5.3%
24/03/15 Very decent, also recommended. Noticeably less appley than the concentrate version. Quite close to some craft Irish ciders I've had.

Update #2

14/04/15 I'm on to the second drum of cider which fermented with Nottingham ale yeast. It has dropped clearer but has slightly more tannins than the naturally fermented juice. I think I prefer the naturally fermented stuff as it seems rounder.
15/04/15 I have added one litre of Tesco Cherry juice drink (made from concentrate) to eight litres of this cider, pasteurised and carbonated in the normal way. The Tesco juice was 1.048 starting out so the resulting mixture was 1.007 or thereabouts. It's also quite drinkable and is going down well with the ladies, and is getting the thumbs up from my 19-year old daughter!

The man himself. Davy in the Ulster Hall 2012