Friday, May 15, 2015

Brewing With Fruit and a Rhubarb-Strawberry Saison turned Belgian Wit

Lindsay recently came to me and wanted to come up with a brew for Ethan's wedding.  I love the idea of being involved in this way for a fellow homebrewer and am all-in to be of service.  I know Ethan likes fun, complex and sometimes "odd," beers, so after watching the rhubarb Saison episode of Chop and Brew I knew there was something there that had to be explored.

The original concept Lindsay came up with was "light and spritzy."  Being that it's a wedding we don't want to go "big," and lastly, we want to engineer this brew to allow the rhubarb and strawberry to come through, but be  forward of balanced with the malt, yet balanced with the yeast character and each other.  No small task to get right, let alone on the first go.

The crux of this brew (if you can target just one) is that rhubarb and strawberry are very different fruits that will bring with them very unique process/handling needs and acids.  As a result I think it would be best to split the batch and work both in as they would be on their own, then blend.

It could be argued that carbing the beers first then blending is the way to go, because the carbonation (the bubbles) will bring out the aroma of these fruits and accentuate the acids differently, so blending ahead of time may (or may not), render the best product.

Upon further reading I am going to speculate that the rhubarb will be bringing the big guns on the acid side of the equation, while the strawberry will be at the head of the class for aroma.  One more reason why blending is definitely the way to go.

Commentary from the original brewer on Chop and Brew was he wished he had added more than 1lb of Wheat to his 1045 OG base beer.  They critiqued the beer to be "slightly low" on the overall mouthfeel, and he felt this would help boost that character.  This is well noted but I'm going to take a different approach.

First, the base beer.  Light and spritzy, low alcohol (we will be boosting this slightly with sugar from the fruit), but enough of a backbone to hold up the rhubarb. These fruits add acid, but lets help that a bit with a touch of acidulated malt (see below on the importance of this addition).  


6G batch

OG - 1042 (pre-fruit), 1048 post fruit (see below)
FG - 1010
IBU - to balance (20)
Final ABV est - 5%
SRM - 3

8.5 lbs - Pilsner (American)
12 oz - Wheat malt
8 oz (5%) - Acidulated Malt (at 60 minutes into mash and for 20 minutes)
(nope, no sugar in this Saison.  The acid will give a perception of dryness and I can easily see us going overboard.)

Hops - normally I'd go with a Styrian or an EKG for a basic Saison, but because I want the fruit to shine I'm gonna hit it with Warrior.  I am not targeting any hop character and this will accomplish that goal, reduce hop matter and just give me the bitterness I need to get the base beer ready for the fruit.  This is a fruit/yeast-centric beer.  Focus there.

Mash 152 (The acids are going to create a perception of "thinness/dryness," so I am going to speculate that a low mash temp could accentuate the acids too much.  We need a canvas to paint this acidic picture on. So, let's go bigger (for a Saison), with 152.  The hope is the added residual dextrins from the high mash temp to balance the acids we will be adding.  On to the acids. 

Now, as I read the articles you'll discover below, I came to find an interesting correlation.  Acid and perception.   When we eat fruit we expect a certain level of acidity, its what we know.  Put that in your back pocket and consider this.  Fruit has more acid (a lower pH) than beer.  So, when you add the fruit to your beer, and drink it, you are "perceiving" that fruit at a higher pH than your brain would expect!  As a result your brain gets a mixed message..Brain says, "Its raspberry, but it's a weird raspberry," which results in a miss, a disconnect, a sub-par product, a beer that was almost awesome.  Fruit beer, fail!

Ah ha!  So, if you want your mind and your beer to line up, you may want to add acid to your beer (lower the pH), in order to get the beer to better align with the fruit you are adding.  How much?  Your taste buds and your brain must decide.  In proving that point, Lambics are the most popular "fruit beers" in the world, and with the bacteria used, you inherently get additional acids. Result, you better align the pH of the beer with that of the fruit, hence, Fruit Beer - Win!

Conclusion, I will add acidulated malt to the grist in light of this discovery.  I don't want to over do it, so lets see what Weyerman has to say about their acidulated malt.

  • For mash pH adjustments, 1% add to grist decreases pH by .1
  • For wort souring, 8% is ideal for a Berliner Weisse
  • Do not exceed 10%

With that in mind I won't go above 10%, and because I am blending at the end I dont need to go for the max of 10% because I can always increase the rhubarb ratio over the strawberry to get the sourness/tart character I seek.  So, lets just nudge the brew along on the souring attributes with 5%.  Of course, if you dont have enough acidic beer to blend from the main batch, you could always have an acidic beer waiting in the wings to blend in, like my Berliner Weisse.  

That said, let's move onto the fruit and see what we can learn.

First off, I found a great write up on the Rhubarb by the Mad Fermentationist (not surprising), so if you want to learn about the science of the rhubarb, have a click. Rhubarb Berliner Weisse

Referencing the ever wonderful resource known as we find these articles:

Equation of Note: How much OG is added by any given amount of fruit

SG = [Wfruit X (Psugar/100) X 45]/Vbeer
SG = Gravity points to add 
W= weight of fruit in pounds
45 - is an assumed constant explained here. "The number 45 is the extract potential — in gravity points per pound per gallon — of simple sugars (such as fructose, glucose and sucrose)."
V = Volume of beer in gallons

Starting off points for additions by weight:
Strong Flavored Fruit (raspberry) - .5 lbs/G
Normal Fruit (Peach, Cherry) - up to 2 lbs/G

As far as the amount of sugar in fruit, I found this table which I think is by far the most brewer friendly.

Sugar as % of Fruit - just reference the first row.

Optional Techniques
  • Mash - only with pumpkins
  • Boil - be aware that fruits high in pectin will haze the beer, and boiling rinds will draw out undesirable off-flavors
More desirable technique
  • Steeping by BYO
    • "When steeping fruit in hot wort, you should allow at least a half-hour to extract as much fruit flavor and sugar as possible. Swirl the fruit bag or stir the wort every five minutes or so to disperse fruit-derived sugars and fruit flavors into the wort. Since steeping involves shorter contact times than other methods of fruit use, you should increase the amount of fruit used by at least 15–20 percent.
      For fruit concentrates, purées and juices, simply add the fruit product after the boil but before the wort is cooled below 160° F. Then, finish your brew as you normally would."
Most desirable technique
  • Secondary - The BYO resource is far to good to do anything but copy and paste with my compliments:
    • For most fruits, the best time to add them is in secondary fermentation. When added at this time, the fruits are not subjected to heat, their flavors do not end up tasting cooked and their aromas are not lost. The drawback, of course, is that adding fruits in the secondary fermenter runs the risk of contaminating the beer. However, green beer generally has enough alcohol and a pH low enough to discourage the growth of contaminating organisms.
      For fresh fruits, remove the stems, leaves and pits or seeds. Wash the fruit thoroughly. If you want, you can use commercial produce-washing products such as Fit, although this isn’t necessary. You should reduce the fruit to small pieces by one of several methods: Mash the fruit with a potato masher, chop it with a food processor or cut it up with a knife. Place the fruit in your secondary fermenter and siphon beer on top of it. It is also important that the fermenter is sealed tightly.  If air can get in, microorganisms can grow on the top of the floating fruit. (This is what happened to my ill-fated cherry beer.) It is usually best to use a large bucket — one with some headspace — as a secondary fermenter, as some foaming may occur when the yeast begins working on the fruit sugars.
      One way to minimize the risk of contamination from fresh fruits is to take a page from the winemakers’ handbook and sterilize the fruit with sulfur dioxide. Winemakers do not sterilize their “wort” by boiling it. They sterilize their “must” by treating it with SO2 (often in the form of Campden tablets). To sterilize a “mini-must,” mush your fruit into a slurry in a sanitized bucket. Add enough water so that it’s basically a thick liquid. Add one crushed Campden tablet for every gallon of your “mini-must” and let sit, loosely covered, overnight. During this time the SO2 will kill any microorganism in the “mini-must,” then diffuse away. The SO2 also acts as an antioxidant, preventing browning of the fruit. The next day, add the now-sanitized “mini-must” to your fermenter.
      Adding fruits during secondary fermentation increases the volume of the brew, but some of this volume is lost when beer is racked from the remaining fruit solids. You can plan for this by making less volume of your base beer, but making it somewhat more concentrated. The degree you need to change your base beer depends, of course, on how much fruit you plan to add. (Alternately, you can choose to simply not worry about it and end up with a couple extra beers in your batch.)
      To add concentrates, purées or juices to your secondary fermentation, begin racking the base beer to the secondary fermenter. Slowly pour the fruit into the secondary fermenter as the beer is racked so that the fruit and beer mix well. You may want to stir with a sterilized spoon.
      The beer can be left in contact with the fruit for varying amounts of time. One week is long enough to extract most of the fruit flavors, but not prolong the batch interminably. If you want to get the most out of your fruit, let it sit longer. Keep in mind, however, that flavor extraction decreases over time. Letting the fruit sit for two weeks will not give you twice as much fruit flavor as letting it sit for one week.
      After secondary fermentation with the fruit, siphon the beer away from the fruit solids into a keg or bottling bucket. You may want to use a sanitized kitchen strainer to remove floating fruit solids before racking. Bottle or keg the beer as you usually do.
And let's put it all together.

Im going to do a 6G split batch of Strawberry and Rhubarb: Starting OG - 1042
Strawberry OG add for 3G batch:  {6lbs X (5.8/100) X 45}/3 = 5.2
Rhubarb OG add for 3G batch: {4.5lbs X (1.1/100) x 45}/3 = .75
Total OG add by fruit = ~6 gravity points

Final Expected OG - 1048ish


Day Prior to Brew

Make starter dependent on the fermentation temps you can achieve.  Warmer less, cooler more.

Brew Day Caveats:

Brew water: Target a dark malty beer to add buffering for fermentation and backbone for the acid to play off of.

Mash: Add acid malt after 60 minutes and let sit on mash for 20.

24 hours before racking
Macerate fruit in separate cleaned and sanitized glass bowls, add water to create thick mixture and add 1 crushed campden tablet to each.  Cover.

Rack the beer on top of the fruit and swirl.  Purge the space before and after.  Replace airlock and let sit for 7 days max. (MFermentationist left his rhubarb on his BW for 2.5 months!  So don't sweat it if you go over).  Taste the rhubarb daily and be ready to rack off when it hits the sour you're looking for, the stuff is potent.  Plus, you have the acidulated malt in there so be careful.  Expect the rhubarb to bring the sour, and the strawberry to bring the aroma.   Blend and condition.

Brew day (Saison yeast is sold out....Audible!!!)

2tsp baking soda, 1.5 Cacl and gypsum.

Mash - 147, 90 minutes

Acidulated up to 12oz
Added 1lb wheat DME
90 minute boil. 
OG - 1055
Pitched two vials expired belgian wit at 70.  Kept at room temp.  Plenty aeration. 
Long lag phase - 24 hours plus.  Moving now.

5/15 - brix 7.  shows 1017.  Taste is mellow, wheaty, slightly malty, Belgian character is low to medium.  Lactic didnt really push through, but is probably there in the perceived dryness i ma getting, nonetheless, this beer will mellow out the rhubarb, not match it which was the idea...But, its a start. A good base beer for the planned fruit adds.  Go 4G at 2lbs/G rhubarb and 2lbs strawberry in 1G to blend back.  Cook the rhubarb first!!!

5/20 - 2lbs cut strawberry and 1tbl sugar quick boil added to 1G.  5.5lbs rhubarb, cleaned cut and quick boiled with 1 cup water and 2'tbl sugar to 4G.

5/25/15 - nice tart character on the rhubarb, nice sweet character on the strawberry accompanied by beautiful strawberry aroma racking both to tertiary in glass carboy
6/3 - kegged
6/10 - added some red food coloring for wedding day effect and delivered to brewer ethan.  Looks like a pink version of heaven.  Tastes beautiful.   Light, semidry, a little lacking on strawberry aroma, but the rhubarb is perfect in this beer. As a whole wouldn't change much (perhaps go full 10% on acid malt) before adjusting process as described below.  The base beer is balanced and lays a great foundation for this Mix of fruit.  Love the crispness of pilsner malt here.

To do again, all rhubarb to main secondary, then 1-2lbs fresh strawberry the keg for aroma.  Rhubarb on taste, strawberry on aroma, winning combo for aNY style  wheat or saison. 

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