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Over the winter I’ve been brewing a series of darker beers to age for next winter. These have included Flanders Red, Oud Bruin, Stock Ale and Old Ale. The second two were brewed to top up the first two when I racked them off the primary yeast cake, using low hopped portions of the wort. I’ve also brewed them to reuse my wild yeast blends. The Flanders Red was split and half was fermented with traditional commercial yeast and half fermented with wildflower yeast Blend 2. The Oud Bruin was also split with half fermented on the commercial yeast cake from the Flanders Red and the other half fermented with Blend 3 wild yeast. The stock ale was fermented with Sussex yeast in the primary and Brettanomyces Clausenii in the secondary. The Old Ale was then intended to use all three wild yeast blends (Blend 1, Blend 2 and Blend 3 from 2017) and therefore act as a yeast bank.

I brewed the Old Ale on 14 April. It ended up being another marathon brew day with back to back brews starting at 3pm and finishing at 3am… The first brew was a trial run for my cousin’s wedding this summer; a pale, sessionable, ale with shed loads of locally grown English Chinook and American west coast yeast. The second brew was the Old Ale and I wanted to make a better job of brewing a strong ale after winging it with the Stock Ale and not achieving the desired volume. It went pretty well but my mash tun is too small for that quantity of grain so I struggled to get it up to the desired mash temperature. I tried draining off portions and heating them up in a saucepan, which raised the temperature to 66 deg C but not 68 deg C as intended. The recipe’s below:

OG:1.078 ABV:8.6% SRM: 34 IBU: 50

61% Maris Otter
32% Munich Malt
2% Carafa 1
3.5% crystal malt (30L)
1.5% dark crystal malt (120L)

Mash at 68 deg C for 60mins. Boil for 150 mins.

I sparged 25 litres and split this, using 6.5 Litres for the Oud Bruin top-up and and 18.5 litres for the Old Ale. The Oud Bruin top-up was boiled for 1 1/2 hours with Bullion hops to 10IBU. The Old Ale was boiled for 2 hours with equal weights of Bullion hops at the start of the boil and 30 mins from the end of boil. After racking, the gravity was only 1.072 so it was put back in the kettle and boiled for a further 30mins (150 mins in total).

The Oud Bruins were both tasting nice still slightly sweet with mellow smokiness from the cherry wood smoked malt. The commercial yeast portion had a pH 4.3 and the Blend 3 portion was at pH 4.4 so not very acidic yet; hopefully that will go lower with time. The gravities were 1.010 and 1.008 respectively. Both were chestnut brown.

11.5 litres of Old Ale was racked onto the wild yeast blend of blends. After 24 hours fermentation started in earnest, shooting through the airlock.

About 2 litres of wort remained once the carboy were filled; a mixture of Old Ale and the Oud Bruin top-up. This was used as starters to feed Blends 1, 2 and 3 for a future pale ale.

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I now feel I’ve come full circle. The wild cultures from 2017 are now house cultures for 2018 and will continue to be experimented with. The seasons have passed by and spring has arrived again. It’s been a slow, cold start for a few weeks primroses were the only flower, uncontested. Then wood anenomes slowly gathered momentum. But in the last week much of the flora and fauna has woken up. This included the birds and subsequently me. The dawn chorus woke me up at 5:30 the other day but it was worth listening to.

An area of woodland near the house was cleared last year. It needed doing but it left a stark scar. Now, however, it is being reclaimed. Plant that I haven’t seen there before are taking over: primrose, wood sorrel, violets, garlic mustard and wavy bitter cress. This motivated me to collect my first wild flower yeast captures of 2018. I realise I looked pretty weird out in the woods at 2230, head torch on, carrying a stainless steel bowl full of 18 centrifuge tubes and a pair of tweezers…. a possible error was to use the same tweezers for each flower so cross contaminating the samples.

 

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Last year I didn’t generate much sourness. This is mainly do to over hopping the brews but I though I would try an experiment to optimise lactobacillus production. I took 6 samples of each flower and half the centrifuge tubes were treated like last year – filled 2/3 full with 1.035 gravity wort, aerated and left at room temperature. The work was unhopped pale malt extract. The other 9 tubes were filled a little more, not aerated and then places in a thermos flask water bath at just under 40 deg C. I will leave them for a few days as if sour worting before allowing to cool to room temperature and aerating. Maybe this won’t work because it is not a pure lactobacillus culture and the high temperature may encourage off flavours or other bacteria – no harm in trying though. I also read somewhere that ground dwelling plants have stronger lactobacillus cultures, which is why cabbages lactoferment so easily. We shall see.

 

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