Rye Table Saison

Inspired by Kevin’s post on his Belgian session brew, I thought I should post one of my own. A few weeks back, I brewed up a beer I thought would be an American Rye. The ingredients of interest were rye (obviously), a Columbus-like hop called Zeus (the Z in the CTZ family) and Fermentis’ Safbrew T-58 yeast. I expected all of these ingredients to blend well, as they each have a peppery/spicy flavor. I’ve read that the T-58 is a Belgian strain, with an estery profile best suited for saisons or Belgian specialty ales. I used it in an IPAbbey clone I did over the summer, which fermented in the mid to high 70s. The beer was fantastic, but I felt it had almost no Belgian character. At the time, I wrote the yeast off as being too neutral for Belgian beers. In retrospect, I may have just missed the yeast contribution in all of the hops (3oz at the end of the boil and another 3oz for dry hopping). I had an extra packet of T-58 in the fridge and a bit of the 2008 Zeus crop in the freezer that needed to be used up. So, I decided to test the T-58 yeast once more, using it as an American wheat/rye yeast. My theory was if the peppery flavor came through at all, it would complement the rye and Zeus hops nicely. I also threw in a touch of crystal 120L malt. I’ve not really noticed myself, but I’ve read that 120L crystal gives, in addition to a dark fruit flavor, a slight smoky, pipe tobacco aroma to beers. Seemed like a nice touch. Lastly, I added a bit of sugar to dry it out and get the hops come through more.

The day I brewed this, it was a very last minute decision. I didn’t have much time – basically, I did it while my wife was out shopping! I did this as an extract batch with specialty grains and cut the boil back to 20 minutes. Since extract is already converted and boiled by the manufacturer, it really only needs to be boiled to sanitize it. The drawback to short boils is a loss of hop utilization, but since I was shooting for relatively low IBUs and I was trying to use up old hops with high alpha levels, this really wasn’t an issue.

I should also point out that I do not know if the rye in this recipe was just rye grain or Wyeremann’s rye malt. The label at the homebrew store just said “rye” and when I asked about it, the guy at the store had no idea what it was. I guess you could use either  – just expect higher gravity and less haze with the malted stuff. For what it’s worth, in the recipe below I treated the rye as if it were malted, steeping it at a temp it could convert at for 20 minutes, then “sparging.”

I think I set a record with this batch: steep, boil, cool and cleanup in something like 2 hours! Not bad. Anyway, here is the recipe:

3.3 lbs Breiss wheat malt extract
3 lbs Rye
1.5 lb Briess light DME
4 oz organic cane sugar
2 oz Crystal 120L

.65 oz Zeus hops (16.4% AA) – 20 minutes
.5 oz Zeus (16.4% AA) – 10 minutes
.5 oz Zeus (16.4% AA) – 0 minutes

Fermentis SafBrew T-58

OG 1.049, FG 1.012, IBU 28  SRM 6.4 ABV~5%

Bring 5.5 gallons of water up to 154. Steep the rye and crystal malt for 20 minutes. Bring up to 170, then gently pour water from your kettle over the steeping grains a few times to wash off any sugars. DO NOT SQUEEZE YOUR SACK of grains. I believe it’s been said before on this blog, squeezing your sack is never a good idea. Remove the grain and bring to boil. Add the extracts and sugar and boil for 20 minutes. Add the hops at times above. Chill to 65 and ferment at 68 for about 2 weeks.

Though this came out much different than I expected, I was pleasantly surprised. The yeast really gave the beer a noticeable Belgian character, much more so than the last time I used it. Perhaps the colder temperatures brought out more flavor, though that seems contradictory to typical yeast behavior (especially Belgian yeast). Anyway, it came out tasting like a really refreshing “table saison” – a farmhouse ale with lower alcohol content than the traditional style. Very balanced, yet evident spicy hop flavor. The estery yeast and black pepper flavors from the rye complemented each other very nicely, giving the beer a good amount of complexity. At the same time, the wheat gave it a refreshingly light finish. The crystal malt added a nice golden-orange hue and there was some light haze in the body, which cleared significantly as I got closer the bottom of the keg. Along with the low ABV, the balance in the body from the mix of barley, wheat and rye made this really easy to drink.

I will definitely be brewing this one again when the weather gets warmer. This will make for a great spring/summer session beer.

Belgian Mild

I love beer, but getting drunk can sometimes lead to less than stellar situations.  Believe me, a nice buzz is rather pleasant, but getting snoozy, surly, or immensely lazy because you’ve consumed too much can be a downer.  Not to mention, higher alcohol beer has considerably more calories – problematic for any of us seeking to shed a few pounds.

Having grown somewhat tired of brewing 6-8% IPA after IPA after IPA, I’ve decided to spend more time focusing on brewing Session Beers.  The Session Beer Project defines a session beer as 4.5% ABV or lower, but yet still flavorful and balanced.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a local bar and 75% of the taps are 7+ % by volume!

I’m deeming my most recently tapped beer as a “Belgian Mild.”  I was aiming for something along the lines of an English Mild, but with a Belgian twist – a beer that has a similar flavor profile to an Abbey Dubbel, at half the alcohol.

Note:  I brew far more than I can personally consume.  I welcome anyone in the area who wants a try this or any of my other homebrew to ping me and you can gladly have some.

Belgian Mild

Malt Bill

  • US 2-Row Malt (6#, 65%)
  • German Dark Munich Malt (1#, 11%)
  • Belgian Special B (12oz, 8%)
  • US Aromatic Malt (8oz, 5%)
  • German CaraMunich II (8oz, 5%)
  • German Melanoidin Malt (8oz, 5%)
  • Maltodextrin (8oz)


  • German Tettnang (1oz, 3% AA, 60m)
  • German Hallertauer Hersbrucker (.6oz, 3.8% AA, 60m)

Mash: Single Step Infusion at 158 dF
Boil: 60 minutes
Target Wort volume post-boil: 6 gallons
Target Original Gravity: 1.039, assuming 70% efficiency (I actually ended up hitting 80%)
20 IBU, 15 SRM

For fermentation, I decided to go with Wyeast 3942 (Belgian Wheat) because it was the lowest-attenuating of Wyeast’s Belgian strains.  One of the problems with trying to do session beers is that they tend to finish at too low of a final gravity, leading to a lack of body.  I am trying to combat that by not over-attenuating, and by using a larger percentage of specialty malts (which have a lower extraction rate.)

This ended up finishing at 1.013 (a shade under 70% attenuation) which turned out to be great.  The beer is full bodied and malty but not overly sweet, with slight raisin and bready overtones.  I feel as though the yeast strain contributed a little too much in the way of bubblegum esters though.  In the future, I’d probably use a slightly different strain – possibly Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey, and compensate for the increased attenuation with a slightly higher mash temperature (160.)

Overall, I think this is my favorite homebrew to date!

If you are into the idea of session beers, check out Lew Bryson’s Session Beer Project blog, or High and Mighty, a vegan-owned brewery on the East Coast.

Organic Lambic

Drinking traditional lambic always seems to result in me saying “I’d like to brew one of these some day.” The complicated turbid mash and the very long aging have kept me from actually trying.  After reading Jeff Sparrow’s book Wild Brews: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition I couldn’t put it off any longer. I finally broke down and brewed one.

To brew a lambic you have to change the way you think about brewing. Just about every part of the process violates a common brewing rule. The grist is typically made up of a large amount of unmalted grain – usually about 30% unmalted wheat. The idea behind this is the unmalted grain will leave unconverted starches in your beer, which the microorganisms (namely, Brettanomyces) will survive on throughout the long aging process. The mash schedule commonly used breaks down proteins to ensure you get that large amount of starch from the wheat. Sparge water is typically near boiling, with little concern about stripping tannins off of the grain. Hops are only used for preservatives and should be low-alpha and aged (never fresh). Finally, lambics are intentionally inoculated with the very same microorganisms we typically work so hard to keep out. Then the waiting begins.. at least a year for an unblended lambic and up to three years for a gueuze.

So, here is my recipe:


7 lbs.  Gambrinus Organic Pilsner Malt
4.5 lbs. Organic  flaked wheat

2 oz Organic Belgian Saaz (2.1 % AA) [2006 crop. Got these from the close out section on the 7 Bridges website, but they appear to be sold out]

Yeast: Wyeast 3278 Belgian Lambic Blend + dregs from an organic berliner I did with Wyeast 3763 Roselare Blend and the dregs of a Boon Kriek + dregs of Cuvee de Castleton

OG:1.058 FG: ? (should get pretty low) IBU:~5 SRM:3.9

I tried to stick to as many of the traditional methods as I could, beginning with the mash schedule. I did not, technically, do a turbid mash, but I followed the suggestions for a shortcut from Frank Boon, via Ryan Brews. Here was the schedule:

  • Dough in @ 86 with 3 gallons of water.
  • Collect about 1.5 gallons wort and bring that to a boil.

  • Meanwhile, dough in again with another 3 gallons to get mash up to 113 ( I added 118 degree water, based on calculation from this site. Hit it spot on.) Rest 15 minutes.
  • Bring up to 122 and rest for another 15 minutes.
  • Add boiling wort back to mash to bring up to 149. Rest for 45 minutes.
  • Here, I’ve read you should bring the mash up to 158 for another 30 minutes. I actually ended up higher in the previous step  (154), so I just kept it at that temp for an hour.
  • Bring up to 168 for mashout (I actually might have skipped this)
  • Collect wort, then sparge with 4.5 gallons of 190 degree water.

I had outstanding efficiency (89%) and ended up with about 7.5 gallons of wort. Boiled for 30 minutes, added the hops, then boiled for another 75 minutes. Chilled to 65, transfered about 5 gallons to a glass carboy and pitched yeast.

It took about two days to show any signs of life, but once it got going a healthy fermentation has been going strong. It’s been fermenting between 66 and 68 for the past two weeks. A film called a pellicle should form soon,which will protect the beer from oxygen/mold as the brett eats through the rest of the dextrins and starches. I will probably bottle a few after a year and keep the rest going for the next two years to blend into a gueuze. Hoping to make the fall lambic an annual tradition.

Yay for us

[Sorry in advance for the mild bragging.]

I recently had 3 beers place in the local Philly homebrew competition, HOPS BOPS.

Results here.

My hoppy tripel – an American-hopped Belgian Tripel (inspired by Captain Lawrence Xtra Gold and Stone Vertical Epic 080808) managed 3rd place in the Belgian/French category (submitted as a Belgian Specialty Ale.)  The Barleywine that Brett & I brewed last fall in Albany (and painstakingly cared for by Brett) – based on a recipe for Great Divide Old Ruffian, finished 3rd in the Strong Ales category.  And the Russian Imperial Stout (based on Stone’s IRS, our favorite beer) that Brett and I brewed last December – a beer that faired miserably in the last comp I entered it in (massive points off for lactic/acidity, which neither myself nor any other people I have given bottles to have detected) finished 2nd in the Stout category.  So, yay for us.  It’s always nice to get some validation from people who are trained to judge beer.  This is my 2nd year with success in the HOPS BOPS comp – last year my Hop Hammer (based on Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, from Brewing Classic Styles) took 3rd in IPAs, and Saisjon, a heavily spiced saison-esque beer took 2nd in Belgian/French.

Anyhow.. I figured this would be a nice opportunity to post a recipe for my hoppy tripel

American Tripel

  • 15 lbs German Pilsner Malt
  • 4 oz German Melanoidon Malt
  • 2.5 lbs Organic Fair Trade Cane Sugar
  • 1 oz Simcoe Whole Leaf [12.9% AA] (30)
  • 1 oz Amarillo Whole Leaf [9.3% AA] (15)
  • 1 oz Crystal Whole Leaf [3.5% AA] (5)
  • 1 oz Amarillo Whole Leaf [93% AA] (0)
  • 1 oz Simcoe (DH)
  • 1 oz Amarillo (DH)
  • WLP530 Abbey Ale Yeast

Infusion Mash at 150.  90 minute boil. Original Gravity: 1.081, Final Gravity: 1.009, 9.7% ABV.  Dry Hopped in keg for 10 days before transferring to a fresh keg.  I like to use nylon paint strainer mesh bags for dry hopping in, weighted with some heavy stainless steel nuts.  I try to do as much conditioning as possible in kegs, because it is so easy to do CO2-driven transfers after the fact, limiting exposure to oxygen.  Be sure to make a big starter to make sure this attenuates fully… if it does not dry out enough, it is going to be rather unpalatable.  I highly recommend the Mr Malty Pitching Rate Calculator!  For this beer, I used the yeast cake from a much lower gravity beer I had brewed – a [semi-failed] attempt at a Wisconsin Belgian Red clone.

Oatmeal Stout

Portsmouth Brewing Company is best known for its Russian Imperial Stout, Kate the Great. Last summer, I was fortunate enough to be en route to a camp site in Maine when Kate was on tap and was able to stop in for a few pints. No doubt, Kate is amazing, but perhaps overlooked is Portsmouth’s Oatmeal Stout. During the visit to the brewery it was on cask. Outstanding. I couldn’t put my finger on just what made it so unique, but I later found a clone recipe in BYO that gave me some insight. The recipe calls for a high temperature mash, Irish ale yeast and steel-cut oats (also known as Irish oatmeal). The steel-cut oats are added during the boil. This is a bit unusual, but makes sense given the hardness of the raw oats. A unique twist I needed to try at home.  I decided to do this one all organic to enter into the National Organic Brewing Challenge. I made one change to the original recipe. Although I do have organic Chinook hops (what the recipe calls for) growing in my garden, they were not ready on brewing day. In their place, I used last year’s Centennials from the garden. Also, I toasted the steel-cut oats in the oven for about 10 minutes to give them more flavor and aroma. Otherwise, the recipe was made as instructed.


11.00 lb Munton’s British Organic Pale Ale Barley Malt
1.00 lb Briess Organic Caramel 60 L Malt
1.00 lb Organic Flaked Oats
0.80 lb Briess Organic Roasted Barley
0.20 lb Briess Organic Chocolate Malt
0.20 lb Briess Organic Black Malt

.50 lb toasted Organic Steel-cut oats (45 mins left in boil)

Hops: 1.5 oz Centennial (~8.5% AA, 90 mins)

Yeast: Wyeast 1084 Irish ale yeast (1 quart starter made with Eden barley malt syrup)

Other: 1 teaspoon gypsum added to mash

OG: 1.054 FG: 1.015 IBU:44 SRM:33.2

[Note: I had pretty poor efficiency on this. Probably due to all of the dark malts and unmalted oats. Adjusting your water more than I have may help keep the ph where it needs to be and improve your efficiency.]

Mash the grains at 160 for 1 hour. Add hops and steel-cut oats (in a grain sack) to the boil at times indicated above. Cool to 65. Let it climb to 68 over the next day and keep at that temp until complete (about 2 weeks).

I think it came out very nice. Lots of roastyness, a pleasant fullness in the body from the oatmeal and a good amount of sweetness. More than one person who has tried it said it reminds them of a fuller-bodied Guinness. Makes sense – roasty Irish stout. Just hope it’s not going to take me out of the style. Judging was yesterday – I’ll report back soon.

Indonesian Rice Tamales & Asian Romaine Spring Rolls

Anytime I reach for The Millennium Cookbook I know it’s going to be a long day in the kitchen. For this reason, it has been one of the least used cookbooks in the collection Jaime and I have amassed over the years. With the last recipe I made coming out pretty good without too much trouble, I picked it up again. This time, the recipes I picked out were a bit more complicated. Jaime thought I was crazy to even attempt these, but suffered through the cooking with me and enjoyed the results.

For a starter, we tried to make Asian Romaine Spring Rolls with Sesame-Lime Dressing. We used mango instead of papaya  (just because it’s far better) and oranges in place of kumquats (not available). Also, we were in the kitchen for probably four hours before we remembered the lotus root garnish, so that was skipped. The results were not so much “rolls” as they appear in the picture in the book. It was more like a really delicious salad made into some sort of burrito. If you are going to make this recipe,  just make it into a salad and save yourself the trouble of even trying the rolls.

For the main course,  Indonesian Rice Tamales with Carrot-Lemongrass Sauce and Caramelized Pineapple Salsa. These were pretty much made as the recipe instructed. The “fermented” black beans we used were found in the Asian market. They were labeled as “5 Spice Black Beans,” despite having only 3 spices and no mention of being fermented. Not 100% sure they were the same thing, but they definitely had a fermented, miso-like taste and seemed to do the trick. If you can’t find them, you could probably use miso. The construction of the tamales was quite a bit of work:

Very tasty stuff. I was a little skeptical about the carrot sauce, but we followed through and it worked very well. Probably the best piece was the Caramelized Pineapple Salsa. DO NOT skip this. If you’re going through the trouble to make this meal, go all out.  Make the effort – you won’t regret it. The flavors were all over the place – earthy sweet carrots, slightly spicy and tropical favors coming from the salsa and wonderful toasty sesame-lime flavors in the tamales. So what to drink with this? Wandering through the the local beer store, Jaime spotted this. The lime blossoms and Belgian spices seemed a perfect match.  I think it was an awesome complement to the meal, but probably a little weird on its own. It has some of the traditional Belgian strong ale spicy, phenolic flavor that I am not a huge fan of, but it has a lighter body and a more complex fruity flavor than similar Belgian ales. Overall, I think this all came together incredibly well.

Quick and easy Hoppin’ John

Way back in the early days of my vegan life, I picked up a copy of a “vegan cooking zine” called Please Don’t Feed the Bears. I don’t recall where I got the first copy, but it was one of very few cookbooks I had at the time and I used it constantly.  With it, I basically learned to cook. I’ll never forget the time I tried to make falafel from it, not knowing a “clove” of garlic is different than a bulb of garlic. What a mess. Anyway, soon after getting the first issue I was at a conference at Penn State and ran into the author, Brad Misanthropic, who was selling the second issue of the zine. I told him how great I thought the first issue was, so he gave me a copy of the second. More than a decade later, I still go back to that zine – usually for one recipe, Hoppin’ John.

I’ve made a few minor modifications to the recipe, mainly subbing “tofu or seitan” with a vegan chorizo called “Soyrizo.”

I can usually find the soyrizo in the produce section of the local supermarket. For the beer, I used Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I wanted to make this recipe simple and SN pale is a great beer that nearly everyone has access to. One other change I made for this recipe was inspired by the Hoppin’ John recipe on the can of black-eyed peas I used. The recipe suggested adding mustard greens as a garnish, so I added a bunch for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Here is the recipe, using canned beans instead of dried for simplicity:

2 15.5 oz cans black-eyed peas, drained
1 c uncooked white rice
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (I never add this, but its in the originial recipe)
1 package Soyrizo
2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
2 c water
1 c beer of your choice
1 bunch of mustard greens, chopped

In a large sauce pan, saute the onions and green pepper (if using) in oil for 5 minutes. Add Soyrizo and saute for another 5 minutes or until onions are almost clear. Add rice and stir to coat. Add drained black-eyed peas, spices, water and beer. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Stir, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add mustard greens and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from the stove and let sit for 10 minutes. Keep in mind, this makes a lot.

I’ve made this recipe many times, but this is the first with SN pale and mustard greens. I think it added a nice bittersweet flavor and I would definitely use them again. The greens also gave it more texture, so it’s not just a pile of mushy starch and protein. The slight southern spice from the food was perfect for the citrusy hop flavors in the pale ale. If you want to spice it up more (and I suggest you do), throw in some of your favorite hot sauce  and/or some Dinosaur Cajun Foreplay.

I’ve also made this in the slow cooker, which made it even easier. Just be sure NOT to add the onions to the slow cooker. For some reason, they just don’t do well in there and create a horrible flavor that will be overwhelming. Saute the onion in a frying pan for a few minutes, then toss it in at the end. When I made it in the slow cooker, I used an Aventinus clone I brewed for the beer. It came out hearty and more stick-to-your-ribs, stew-like, with a peppery flavor. I brought it to a barley wine and imperial stout tasting in the winter, so it went nicely.

Overall, simple, relatively cheap and very tasty. Enjoy.

The Great Potoo

Back in February, my wife and I left the tundra of Albany and took a vacation in Costa Rica. For most of the trip, we stayed at Cashew Hill Jungle Cottages in the very veg-friendly town of Puerto Viejo. The food was excellent and plentiful. Wendy, one of the owners of Cashew Hill, is a long time vegan and at least one other guest was also vegan. Their advice helped us choose among the many food options in and around town. For better or for worse, most of C.R. does not have the infrastructure we in the U.S. are accustomed to. The novelty of roads and an electric grid has barely worn off for most of the natives, so don’t go expecting to stock your cabinets with 365 deals from Whole Foods Market. Nonetheless, in large part thanks to Wendy at Cashew Hill, you can find soy milk at the local grocery store in Puerto Viejo and locally made tofu and tempeh is available in town. Also, Veronica of Veronica’s Place, a small vegetarian café situated in Veronica’s car port, makes her own seitan.  Most of the meals out  involved Gallo Pinto, a traditional Tico rice and bean dish, and generous portions of fresh “exotic” (to us anyway) fruit. Since we were on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, several meals involved really tasty jerk sauce or coconut curry. The beer selection was dominated by Heineken and fizzy yellow beers made by Cerveceria. The best beer available was Bavaria Dark, a Munich Dunkel. Good enough to hold me over, but boring enough to make me appreciate the micro-brewed cerveza available back home.

Two things that keep Costa Rica’s economy running are coffee and chocolate. Unfortunately, the sad reality is most of the cash crops grown in Costa Rica are stripped out by enormous agribusinesses, leaving behind pollution and exploited impoverished communities. Fortunately, not everyone is trying to F things up for this beautiful place. There are a number of businesses and organizations working with local farmers to promote environmentally sensitive organic farming and sustainable, community-empowering trade policies. In Puerto Viejo, we had breakfast at a place called Mighty Rivers, one such organization trying to make a difference. Part of Mighty Rivers is a “Coffee Factory,” where fair trade organic coffee and cocoa is roasted and sold as Caribean organic coffee and chocolate. I picked up a pound of whole cocoa beans and a block of bakers chocolate.  Crucial ingredients for a homebrew recipe I had thought up while relaxing in the hammock in our cottage. The cocoa, along with some old Dean Beans Italian Espresso seemed like a nice touch to an organic Imperial Porter, which I named The Great Potoo after a crazy red-eyed bird local to C.R. From our cottage, we heard the eerie cries of the Potoo in the middle of the night and wondered what the hell was about to attack us. Evil.

So a few weeks back, Kevin came up to Albany and helped brew up the porter, along with my friend Reed. Here is the recipe I came up with, using all organic grains from Northern Brewer.

14.00 lb  2-Row Malt
2.00 lb  Munich Malt
1.50 lb Caramel 60L Malt
1.00 lb Organic Quick Oats (added to the recipe last minute – see below)
.50 lb Chocolate Malt

1 oz Chinook (08 crop from my garden) 90 min
.5 oz Organic German Saphir pellets (4% AA) 15 min

2 packs Safale US-04

2.5 oz bakers chocolate (15 mins)
3 oz Dean’s Beans coarsely ground espresso beans (flame out)

1.5 oz Cocoa beans (secondary)

I attempted to Mash at 154 with 4.3 gallons of water, but it was a bit lower – maybe 152. That quickly cooled down to around 150 before we could get boiling water into the mash to bring it back up. To add some body I lost with the lower mash temp, I added a pound of quick oats I had on hand. Mashed for about an hour, then sparged and collected about 7.75 gallons of wort. I hit the gravity I estimated I would end up with, based on the shitty efficiency I keep getting (65%, which is, sadly,  good for me).  Pre-boil gravity 1.059. After a 2.5 hour boil, I ended up with 5 gallons of 1.082 wort. I tried to melt the bakers chocolate with some hot wort, before adding it to the kettle. It did not melt completely, but I expected the rest to liquefy in the last 15 minutes of the boil. Turned out to be a huge mess, as most of the chocolate did not melt and just gunked up the kettle with a waxy chocolate coating.

Fermentation was a little warm, despite the room temperature being in the low 60s. It started at about 68 and climbed up to about 70 – 72 for a day or two before finally dropping down to 66 for the last few days of fermentation. When I transfered to secondary, my gravity was 1.012, which is about .10 points lower than expected. Way over attenuated, hot tasting, and thin boddied. Not sure how this will come out. The color is off too – almost brown ale color. I would normally add black patent, but NB did not have any organic. Maybe more chocoalate malt could have helped with that.

Anyway, I removed the skins from 1.5 oz of cocoa beans, crushed them into nibs with a coffee grinder and added to the secondary.

I’ll keep it on the cocoa nibs for about two weeks and see how it tastes. I may brew up another full-bodied robust porter to blend with this to cut out the boozyness and give it more body. Just not sure if I want 10 gallons of heavy porter going into the summer.

Wit Minus Minus Tasting Notes

Here’s a stab at tasting the Gluten Free wit I talk about here.

Poured at room temperature into a pint glass.

Appearance: Golden color – should be a tad paler to be closer to a true wit.  I swirled the bottom of the bottle (these were bottle conditioned) to add a douse of yeast to my pour.  A couple of inches of foam built up but disappate rapidly.  The head is not even remotely close to what a normal barley or wheat-based beer produces – these are fluffy with large bubbles that pop easily.  Within seconds there is nothing visible except for scant bubbly lacing on the outer rim at the liquid level.

Aroma:  orange, orange, and more orange.  Kind of smells like the crappy orange juice from concentrate you’d find at a crappy hotel continental breakfast.  I clearly went overboard with the orange marmalade on this one.

Mouthfeel: Carbonate does not persist.  This is a real bummer.  I can see how sorghum is not a simple drop-in replacement for malted barley extract.  No head retention and funny behaving carbonation.  This has been in the bottle for around a month now, so it has had plenty of time to carb up.  A true wit would be refreshingly carbonic here.

Taste: Too orangey.  Way too orangey.  I feared that I overdid the chamomile and coriander, but those are dwarfed by the orange here.  Sucks.  I think it kind of ruins the experience.  The orange tastes mildly syrupy too, even though the fermentation left a fairly low amount of residual sugars (1.012 FG – within the range for this style.)  Slightly sour tang to each sip (something I was warned amount with sorghum.)  Aftertaste is not so clean.  For comparison’s sake, last night after my Fishtown Beer Runners 5.5 mile run, I had a Long Trail Belgian White, which was the most coriander-filled beer I have ever had – but the finish was immensely clean and refreshing – leading me to want to take another sip each time.  This beer?  Not so much.

Overall:  Eh.  I won’t dump this pint, but it is probably my weakest beer since the plastic debacles I experienced early on (before I learned about chloramines and how abundant they are in Philly water… and how much yeast love to feast on them, creating some vicious off-flavors.)  Too syrupy and too undercarbonated to truly enjoy it.  Personally reminds me of the unauthenticness/artificial-ness I get from a Blue Moon.  Beth seemed to like it, as did Brett and Jaime, but the true test will be Keith, whom this beer was designed for and whom I can always count on to give me unbiased critiques of my beer.

What I would change in the future:

  • Much less orange marmalade.  Probably 1/3 of the amount I used.
  • Some more buckwheat flour.  Beer was not hazy enough until I swirled the yeast in.
  • Use Brewferm Blanch yeast instead of Safale T-58.  No complaints about the yeast flavor, but I think this flocculated a little too well.
  • Force carbonate it with co2.  Not sure if the yeast just was not healthy enough from the sorghum, or what, but I expected a more carbonated final product.  Force carbonating with co2 is pretty foolproof.
  • Figure out how to get better head retention.  I used 8 oz of maltodextrin here but that was not enough.  Adding GF quick oats or oatmeal would be helpful, but I am pretty sure they need to be converted with a base malt – which won’t exactly work here.