Nelson S’ in the Funk

The fauna has been more noteworthy than the flora since my last post, as the plants seem focussed on green growth rather than new flowers. Highlights from running have been an early morning barn owl, a handful of handsome and self-assured foxes in their prime and the occasional roe buck. Roe make an exciting change to the herds of fallow that it seems are more numerous than livestock locally. I’ve seen herds of 50 on a number of occasions. We saw a fox cub on the drive for a couple of days. I think there’s been an earth for a couple of years near that spot but we never see the vixen and our chickens are left well alone. Yellow hammers are maging themselves known, darting out of the roadside hedges ahead of me. Their song is part of my soundtrack to a lazy hazy summer evening so it’s a pleasure to see them.


Plant wise, cow parsley dominate the roadsides and buttercups have taken over the meadows. Some hawthorn – May Flower – are still going strong. Getting off the London train to a fresh evening breeze full of their scent reaffirms my love of home. The bluebells are fading and the wild garlic flowers have gone. Nothing worth picking for yeast propagation at the moment. Red campion are now much bigger plants. I wondered about picking cow parsley, the elderflower is just starting to come out and guelder rose might be an option. Also, I’ve seen the first signs of blackberry flowers.

The flasks of wild apple, garden apple and broom and the tubes of woodruff and hawthorn were stepped up in size on the 9th May to 500ml flasks and 250ml flasks respectively. Some hops were added to the malt extract for 20min boil to achieve 10IBU to inhibit some bacteria and see what difference it would make.

Wild apple were both fruity and cidery so were combined. Garden Apple 1 had a pellicle and yeasty, eatery notes. Garden Apple 2 had an aroma of red apple ester. Dandelion was indistinct. After 24 hours the Wild Apple had developed a krausen before the other samples, but two smaller flasks had combined for this and so the yeast probably had a higher cell count. After 72 hours there was some activity from both garden apples but little activity from the dandelion.

Of the hawthorn tubes, two smelled of cheese (maybe isovaleric acid) and were binned, two were clean but indistinct and formed flask labelled Hawthorn 1. Two were fruitier, more cherry-like and went into flask Labelled Hawthorn 2. After 24 hours a krausen had formed on both.

Of the woodruff plastic tubes, two had mould with black spots and were discarded, all smelled strongly of woodruff and all bar one had a pellicle. Two woodruff flasks were made. The stronger pellicles were put into Woodruff 2. After 72 hours there was some activity.

After a week in tubes all the broom smelt of broom, two of the rowan tubes were smelling off, so binned, and the remaining four smelt of flowers. All were bubbling.

I mentioned previously that I was asked to brew for a friends wedding. Had a disaster with the Vienna lager. At some point, probably bottling, it got gusher yeast. Only had it a couple of times before so gutted to get it now. Drinkable but not wedding worthy. The session APA was great so all was not lost and I made some labels for it by carving rubber stamps.

22 May was brew day for the Wild Apple, Garden Apples and the Dandelion. The Wild Apple flask had finished fermenting the quickest, had floculated and cleared. There was a fruity saison-like smell to it. With a pH of 3.4 and a gravity of 1.009 I deemed it safe to taste. It had a light saison taste, slightly tart, dry, cider-like and possibly a touch astringent. Garden Apple 2 had apparently stopped fermenting and floculated but this was easily disturbed. It’s smell was not so clean and a bit funky. The gravity was 1.038 and the pH was 3.9. Garden Apple 1 hadn’t cleared and was still fermenting and there were some signs of a pellicle. The gravity was 1.018 and the pH was 3.1. It had a fruity, spicy aroma and and a clean fruity taste. Dandelion was cloudy and still fermenting. It had a slightly pink film on top (is that bad?!). The gravity was 1.020 and the pH was 3.1. It had a phenolic aroma and a perfumed, floral taste.

For the base beer I though that Nelson Sauvin hops with their fruity, wine-like character would complement the apple yeast aromas. I followed the 8-wired Nelson Sauvin Saison recipe from Euan Ferguson’s book, “Craft Brew”. The level of attenuation predicted in the recipe seems a bit extreme so the finished beer will probably be nearer 6% than 7% and I have reduced the hops to achieve 35IBU so as not to overpower the wild yeast aromas, I hope. I appreciate this level of hopping may inhibit some microbes but I wanted to experiment and produce a range of beers. The recipe was:

OG:1.056     FG:1.010     ABV:6.0     SRM:7     IBU:35     20litre batch

59% Pilsner malt
23% Maris Otter
8% wheat malt
4% flaked wheat
4% Caramalt (15L)
2% acid malt

25g Nelson Sauvin (AA 12.7%) first wort
50g Nelson Sauvin 0mins
25g Motueka 0mins

Mash at 64deg C for 60mins, boil for 60mins

Once cooled and aerated the wort was split into 4 demijohns and the Wild Apple, Garden Apple 1, Garden Apple 2 and Dandelion were added. After 12 hours Garden Apple 1 was very active. After 24 hours all were active and, with the exception of Garden Apple 2, had shot through their air locks.

A total of 8 fermenters are now bubbling!

2 litres of spare wort were used to step up starters. Hawthorn 1 and 2 were both very clear having stopped fermenting quickly. The smell was clean with notes of plum or other stone fruits. They were stepped up from 250ml to 500ml starters with 1.045 gravity wort and 30IBU from the Nelson Sauvin although the previous starter that was not all poured away would have diluted this. Both Woodruff had a thick cap and furry mould so were dumped. They smelt mouldy, mushroomy and dank. I had not been very attentive with these samples and maybe could have removed the first signs of mould. Rowan and broom were stepped up to 250ml with a gravity of 1.040. Of the Rowan three were spicy and earthy and stepped up. One had a black spotted pellicle, smelt of nail polish and, although not furry, was dumped. Of the broom three had aromas of pea, flower, perfume and quite medicinal. These were stepped up to Broom 1. One that was similar but not so clean was dumped. Two had a pellicle and an almond note along with the pea aroma. These were stepped up to Broom 2.

Because I had dumped the woodruff I had two flasks of starter wort remaining. I added a heaped teaspoon of sour dough culture to both to see what would happen as a possible side project. The sourdough culture is 17 months old and called Sven. He’s had one son, Svenson, who lives with a colleague. My colleague. Sourdough cultures don’t have colleagues; that would be anthropomorphic and ridiculous.

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