Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Rust op Twist - Imperial Stout

Rust op twist is Danish for "Relax After Work,"  now how perfect a name is that for a Caribbean Stout!  I lived in St. Croix, and it was one of the great periods of my life.  Just simple living, with an abundance of beautiful weather, rum, poker and good times!  Let's bring back a little taste of that epic era in this next brew shall we?  Sold!

Cruzan sugar mill on the Plantation named, "Rust Op Twist"
Drinking my first big brew of 17 Gage, The Ole Russian Bitch, I realized just how much I love this style and need to get more in the hopper.  Man, is it delicious.  There's something about this big black beauty that I cant help but want to explore further.

In this episode I am thinking of bucking the trend a little, and going with my my long lost love, Rum, instead of Bourbon. That said, keep it local right!  So I'm going to use a little Cape Cod flavor from Truro Vineyards.  Twenty Boat Spiced Rum.  Their top dog Brewer turned Vintner turned Distiller Dave is a fermentation machine!  In his first year of distilling he hooked a top award for their spiced rum!  So, how could I not incorporate this into my brew?  Your right, I must.

I'm thinking a medium-bodied, bold, complex, balanced campfire "mostly" dry Stout.  Not huge, but something that is a one and done (maybe two). It'll fall into my "balanced beer" category requiring a careful marriage of roast and chocolate notes, coconut flavor and a nice "aha" moment from the Rum and oak.

The first obvious choice is going to be Marris Otter for the canvas to this portrait.  Let's transition the pallet from the base to the accents with C80 and C120.  I dont want to use any low Crystals as I will get that sweetness from the Rum.  Lastly, I'll add complexity, and authenticity, from the Molasses (oh yes, you cant go Caribbean style without Molasses!).  For more on this here is a great synopsis on simple sugar brewing.

As it is a Stout we must put in our requisite amounts of roasted barley.  In this case I referenced my dry stout from early last year and my Imperial Stout as well. I enjoyed the balance of roast character in both, albeit I felt the roast was a little too acrid at 8% in the dry stout, but that aged out in 8 weeks time and this beer has more balancing malts.

After writing the above I landed with a recipe that called for a pound of roasted malt.  I took this idea to the Extreme Beer Fest in Boston and sought the advice of a Lost Abbey Brewer whose name I did not record....per his suggestion I cut the roast to half a pound.  In his opinion any more than that in any kind of Stout will transition the malt's perception from that dark, slightly bitter, coffee-ish-like glory to ashy and acrid.  As we read above, this was the case in my Dry Stout.  What I learned here is a reinforced concept of perception.  With roasted malt you can have more balancing attributes to the beer like residual sweetness, etc, but there is a point where the happy side of roast malt will give way to ashy/acrid, and in a 5G batch that happens around a pound.  So, new rule of thumb, for 5G batches if you want ashy, head to a pound plus, you want roasty, stick to half a pound of roasted malt to start and dial in from there.   Sooo...lets go with that!

Moving on!

A nice, smooth chocolate character just makes me happy, so I will add in enough for a chocolate "note," but I dont want enough to have to put it in the name, so lets keep this restrained below 5%.  It would just so happen that my boys at Devil's Purse had a sack of milled M.O. for me and they donated a sack of English Chocolate malt to the club.  Kismet.

Lastly, the coconut..OH, I didnt mention the toasted cocnut?  Well, there;s going to be toasted coconut.  After some research in the usual places I discovered efolks have had issues with the oils from the toasted coconut jacking uo ohead retention.  A process I will emply to mitigate this is to toast the coconut and then lay it out on paper towels in a thin layer and dab dry then cover with paper towel to soak up as much of the oil as possible.  I do not want to "cook," the coconut and am targeting the toasted quality of the ingredient, so I plan to add it post fermentation. No need to scrub out those beautiful toasty notes in fermentation.

One thread on quantity can  I enjoyed can be found here

Let's begin.

5G batch

OG - 1.072
FG - 1016
ABV - 7.5%
SRM - black
BUGU target - .3ish (Overly cautious here to not add too much in terms of bittering.  The chocolate malt and roast will also be providing bittering.  The sum of the parts is what we are drinking, so all must be accounted for.)

Marris O - 10 lbs (60%)
2-row (finishing a sack) - 3 lbs (18%)
Chocolate - .5 lbs (3%)
Roasted Barley - .5 lbs (3%)
C80 - .5 lbs (3%)
C120 - .5 lbs (3%)
Molasses - 1 lbs (6%)
Carapils - .5 lbs (3%)
Toasted Coconut (secondary) - 1 lbs

Hops - 1 oz Fuggle (4.5%) at 60

Yeast - I have a mixed culture of Cal Ale (001) and Dry English (007).  Yes, that just might attenuate this puppy on down.  Will warm up entire 250ml slurry.

Process: It's as easy as 1,2,3!

1. Mash 154 for 60, the yeast will attenuate this plenty, so lets leave a little backbone for the oak and toasted coconut..  Boil 90 minutes. Chill, aerate and pitch mixed culture.

2. Soak light toast oak in Cape Cod's Twenty Boat Spiced Rum for at least a week then add and leave in secondary to taste.  Pull the oak and continue.  I am a huge fan of layering flavors in this way.

3. One pound of shredded, UNSWEETENED coconut, toasted, "de-oiled," and tossed in two weeks before kegging.  Carb, and enjoy!  If you have nitro, you are my hero!

Brew Day - 4/8/15

6G to 167. Hit 146 and added a gallon of boiling water - 154.  Preboil - 1062. Added 1 oz Fuggles at 60. Molasses is in.  Warmed up yeast 250 ml (target pitch rate) in 350 ml chilled wort (not ideal, should have used second runnings earlier or just made a starter yesterday.  Boiled hard and am low on volume and high on OG (1083).  Diluted with half gallon boiled RO. Hit 1075 OG, done. Pitched at 62, lots of aeration.
4/10/15 - not around to check till now.  Look like Krausen was higher earlier, but still a 5/5 fermentation at 61.  
4/15 - came home with Baby Marcelle yesterday!  Life is so sweet!  Talk about Rust Op Twist!  So the airlock blew off and I couldn't care less, I have a daughter!  Racked to a bucket and tossed her (the beer, not my daughter) into 75 degree bath. Tasted fine, at 1026.

4/22/15 - out of bath, still 11brix - 1024.  Calling it terminal.  250ml slurry was under pitch and may not have been enough healthy yeast.  Tastes great, so I'm gonna roll with it.
4/25/15 - light toast oak spiral to rum

4/30/15 - spiral to hopper.
5/15 - brix - 10.8. molasses is nice, rum is coming through slightly, with light warming, but i may up the ante with a shot of the wooded rum to bring it!  Oak is coming through more as woody than oaky/vanilla so far.

5/25 - added 1 lbs toasted, shredded coconut (sweetened). Tasted immediately after and the character I wanted was there! Left for 1 hour and pulled the coconut...can't believe it. Aroma, flavor, it's all there. Also added 1 oz rum.

7/12/15 - its been a journey to here. The SWEETened coconut was a big misstep.   Made the brew a sweet stout.  No good, must be unsweetened.  From here the beer was out of balance for my taste, just too sweet.  Have it a month, no change.  Then we had a little bow and I upped the ante for a friend by adding a little of the Oaked rum - bingo!   Cut the Sweetness, Brought Out the wood and the molasses shines.  It's awesome. 

Next time  just use non-sweetened coconut, and instead of brewing with molasses, just brew the base beer, oak the rum  then add the oaked rum to the beer.  Also, dump the carapils, go with wheat

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Brett Caison

Awhile ago I did an interview with award winning homebrewer Keith Ciani on staggered fermentation, it rocked my socks off.  As a homebrewer I have watched my journey ever evolve as my "tool kit," was reshaped (by Crooked Stave), smashed apart (by Devil's Purse brewer, Mike's Stout Saison Brett), and rebuilt again (still working that through). Whether it's mixed cultures, tertiary fermentation profiles, blending, cross-style brewing, staggered malt additions, seasonal/historical brewing or caramelizing raisins in brown sugar, my brewer's mind is constantly trying to unwrap itself from the constraints of style and delve into the never ending abyss of perception.

The interview focused on how a staggered fermentation can lend to getting the character you wish from one yeast, yet the attenuation of another.  So I thought to myself, how would this apply to flavor profiles, and my first thought was of my old friend Brett. What I came up with is to follow.

My plan is to make a Brett-Saison, but instead of going the "funk," route, I am going to use the yeast character of a "100% Brett fermentation profile" to compliment the profile of a Saison fermentation.  Saison 565 may not be the best choice for this and I'm sure to find myself doing this more down the road with other strains, in fact, I must, but for now the high ester Saison characters of 565 will due fine.  Couple that with the tropical fruit/tangerine of Brett C and I think we may have a winning combo!

A small caveat, Brett C is "usually," not really considered a "primary fermenter," although I was happy to find other wild and crazy brewers testing the waters; For instance, fellow beer writer Derek Dellinger.  With that settled, it is Spring, the season of Saison (apropos), and being that Brett C's character as a primary fermenter includes words like tangerine, I am easily sold.

Let's Begin


OG - 1051
FG - 1005ish
ABV - 6.1%
BUGU - .25 - .5

American Pilsner - 8 lbs
White Wheat - 1 lbs
Carapils - .5 lbs
Acidulated - .5 lbs

Mash - 152

This grist and mash were engineered with three end goals in mind, body, alignment with the citrus flavors,  yeast esters, and quick turnaround time.  First, the wheat and carapils will add perceived body to a beer that will attenuate highly.  Second, the acid will compliment those citrus flavors, bringing the acidity of the beer up (or the pH down) to our mind's perceived acidity of a citrus fruit.  Read more on this concept here and scroll down to the section labeled "Acidity."  In turning the beer quickly, I don't need to mash ultra high as I would with a beer I intend to age with Brett, but I do want some portion of additional dextrins to continue to add to my perceived mouthfeel, so 152 it is.  Middle of the road.  As a side note, Mike Tonsmeire also notes the presence of lactic acid is a catalyst to the fruity ester ethyl lactate:
"I added a half pound of acid malt after starch conversion to provide some lactic acid for the Brett to create the fruity ester ethyl lactate." 

Fermentation Profile (the whole shibang): Split batch possibility (No fermenters left! Ran with the staggered pitch)
1. Staggered Pitch Saison third gen slurry, then Brett C.
2. Mixed culture.  Both pitched at the same time.

I built up a vial of Brett C in 3 steps over a period of a month and stored at room temp per the suggestion of Chad Y in his interview at the BN.  I tossed that slurry into a 250ml starter at 1040 with very little nutrient (he actually says none is needed, I just couldnt help myself), and stepped that to 2L after 5 days then let that run for 5 more days.  In the meantime, I simply brewed and pitched slurry from my Rye Saison which went to my  cool fermentation Saison at 70 degrees.  As soon as I have airlock activity I'll pitch the starter of Brett.  No aeration is needed at this stage as the Brett will be happy to ferment in an anaerobic environment, then off to a warm water bath of at least 80 degrees.

This process will allow for the Saison to get a head start on ester production and then the Brett will have plenty of sugars (near a full fermentation) in a truly anaerobic environment hopefully leaving us with a dry, tropical fruit/tangerine Saison that has all its flavors derived from the yeast!

Challenger (or Santium) at 5 targeting .5 BUGU.  Mike and Matt from Devil's Purse kindly donated a pound of each to the Brew Farm Group, perfect.   I was thinking Nelson may be a good choice here too, complimenting the fruit.  Layer aroma with floral, or compliment with fruit?  I'd bet a winner either way!  Bottom line, this is a yeast-centric beer, let's keep our eyes on the prize.


Split the batch to two 3G carboys and pitch the Saison and Brett at the same time in one and stagger the pitch per this article in the other.  A Triangle Test is a great way to see if you have created a measureable difference.

Pre-Brew Day

Initial Brett C build
11/10/14 - Brett C vial that was kept on shelf to 500ml 1040 starter on stir plate. and no nutrient. Kept at room temperature room for 8 days.

11/18/14 - Stepped up to 1300 ml and back on stir plate.  Smelled great, looked great!

12/3/14 - off stir plate and split to three 400ml boiled jars.  Stored at room temp per Chad Y. Resulted in thick 50ml slurry.

Brett C rebuild:
3/26/15: Took two beautiful 50ml slurries to 250ml 1040 wort with a little nutrient on stir plate at 67.
3/31/15 - Stepped - adding 1750ml of 1040 with smidge of nutrient, CaCl, Gypsum and baking soda to RO water. Result 2L total volume.
4/1/15 - high krausen, white foamy head.

Brew Day: 4/4/15 w/MoBigs

Strike - 4G at 162 - landed at 151. 60 min mash. 90 minute boil.  OG - 1048.  Pitched 3rd gen Saison slurry, 200ml (it's all there was) at 70 degrees @ 1730.  MrMalty would say this is 50% of target pitch.

D1 - 4/5/15 - 0900. Krausen had formed and beer was jammin.  Pitched entire 2L starter and placed fermenter in 80 degree water bath.  Aquarium heater set to max to 1keep above 80.
D4 - krausen dropped and airlock activity down to 1/5.  Taste is on a good path.  Brix - 5.2.  1.003!  Sooo, that may explain the big reduction in airlock activity. That's a heckuva 84 hour party!
4/10/15 - 1/5 - 80 degrees.
4/15/15 - moved to room temp (65-67)
4/25/15 - racks 1G to 1.5lbs fresh diced rhubarb
5/15 - bottled with sugar tabs
7/13/15 - this is an epic base beer for so many fun brews!  Pale straw. Dry. A very light saison citrus and spice in the aroma which seems to be getting eaten up as the beer progresses!  Far more Saison esters 6 weeks ago.  Carb is still increasing. Solid body, very light an epically quaffable.  The Brett character of the primary ferment is very subtle on the fruit.  Highly complimentary.   I love this beer and see many iterations...Next time try upping the acid malt to 1lb and/or a straight mixed culture.