HBS Blogger Chris Corcoran
Every few months it is important to review the previous posts. I brew everything I post here but normally I get the blog post out prior to being able to sample my work. Sometimes I want to update you on my experiences, sometimes I notice an error after the post has been published.
Quite a few guys in my brew club brewed up this recipe using a variety of souring techniques. One added lactic acid to the keg, one pitched lactobacilious before pitching yeast, one guy pitched the lactobacillious with the yeast. While I really like a no boil sour mash method for the added complexity it’s always a gamble on how it turns out. My most recent batch picked up a lot more Acetobacter (an acetic acid producing bacteria, think vinegar) than I wanted. All methods of souring worked well. One friend used lactobacillios at the same time as the yeast and found it didn’t sour as quickly as he wanted. The commercial blends available recommend waiting for 3 or more months to develop sourness. He went ahead and did a small sour mash, blended it back into the finished beer and then split the batch and put half on apricots and half on raspberries. I sampled the apricot sour last night and it’s pretty darn good! The tartness in Berliner Weisse lends itself well to many of the common fruits found in brewing. Lastly, make sure you use a good pilsner malt. American 2 row malt just doesn’t have enough body to stand up to the sourness.
I got my barrel form Homebrewstuff.com and immediately wanted to start barrel aging….what I didn’t realize was that I was going to need a few more items. The barrel has a smaller opening than standard carboys. This means you’ll need to be ready with an airlock stopper that is much smaller than normal, a #2 driller stopper. Not expensive but necessary. What is nice about this is that a #2 fits beer bottles, I foresee some small batch experiments in my future where I ferment a tiny batch split between bottles each with different yeasts. The other thing you’ll need is a way to get the beer out. I normally use an auto-siphon when racking out of a carboy, but the opening was too small. I had to rummage around and find an old racking cane and tubing. My first batch was in the barrel 3 weeks. I was afraid I had left in there too long but it turned out great. It is likely the batch could have sat in the barrel another few weeks even. As I write this I am gearing up for a second barrel batch, Belgian Dubbel with molasses and brown sugar.
I brewed the recipe I posted but modified it just a bit. I used my recipe plus 1 lb. Midnight Wheat and 1 lb flaked barley. I brewed a pot of coffee (very dark local roast) and included a vanilla bean in the coffee pot. Then I added the coffee directly to the keg and racked my beer on top of it. What I got was a very smooth, creamy, dark, full bodied vanilla coffee beer. Very tasty!! So tasty that the keg was empty in under a week due to the number of friends stopping by….
My spice beer turned out great! Is there room for improvement? Of course. It was a little thin bodied so next time I’ll mash a bit higher temp, maybe as high as 154 degrees F. Also, I was listening to the Brewing Network, a great home brew focused podcast, and they covered spice beers pretty in depth. One of the guests talked about brewing a pumpkin pie saison. I think I’m going to have to try this soon!
Recently the folks over at White Labs discussed saison yeast. They highly recommend aerating wort much more than usual when fermenting with saison yeast. In addition, I find it very helpful to let the beer sit at its final fermentation temp, usually around 80 degrees F, for an additional 2 or 3 weeks. This helps ensure complete attenuation as well as letting the bitterness mellow out a bit. The spicy and fruity flavors can clash with the bitterness when this beer is young.