It’s almost February, and since coming back from Chile (a few more reviews are yet to come!), I’ve already brewed three times. When I first started homebrewing, I referenced a bunch of beer blogs as sources for recipes, and while I’m grateful for the start those gave me, I’ve kind of decided that no one but myself really cares about the details of the recipes I’m brewing, so I’m not going to bother with the effort that is required in being terribly systematic about posting the recipe, review, and collating it all on a separate recipes page. Apologies if anyone actually was looking for that; but to be fair all my specialty malts are homemade and as such most of the recipes are un-replicable anyway. Mostly, I just prefer to read style profiles and reference books for inspiration.
But, it’s still nice to write about what I’ve been brewing in narrative form at least. A couple weeks ago I brewed a double mash (as always) that I split into a wild saison called Three Years’ End and my personal Sisyphean beer, Honey Sage Tripel. Three Years’ End is inspired because we’re here in Bolivia on a three year contract, which will end just under a year from now, so I wanted to brew something particularly special to celebrate when we leave, taking into account a triple theme. Gimmicky, yes, but I think it should turn out well. It has three malts (pilsner, vienna, crystal 15L), three sugar adjuncts (honey, homemade candy syrup, and turbinado/raw sugar), three starches added into the boil for the brett to eat up later (wheat starch, corn grits, and yucca starch), three hops (Cluster, Palisade, and Saaz), and three yeasts (T-58 for 3 days, Wyeast 3724 Saison for 3 weeks, and Brettanomyces Clausenii for 3 months). The Honey Sage Tripel is based on the Honey Sage Seasonal kit from Brooklyn Brewshop that was, I think, the second beer I brewed, and possibly my favorite. I’ve tried replicating with no success at least three times, but this one seems promising.
Last week was the Plurinational State holiday here in Bolivia, and I took the opportunity to try my first turbid mash and brew 8 L of lambic wort. I’ll do this again in May or so and then in August, and throughout the year I’ll blend it in a few ways to end up with an unblended Lambic, Gueuze, Faro, and fruited Lambic (obviously all young, but I’m working on a time limit). Today I racked the wort from the primary fermentation on S-33 to two 5L fermenters that have yeast cakes for Roesalare blend and Brett C. The Roesalare fermenter was recently vacated by a Dubbel that had been sitting on it for a couple months, and the Brett C fermenter housed a SMaSH beer made with pilsner and Columbus hops–it smells like pineapples and pine and I can’t wait to open a bottle of it. As always, thanks to Jeff at Bikes Beer and Adventures for sending those to me!
This past Friday I brewed 5 gallons of wheat wine wort with a recent brewing friend, Pablo at his (stellar) setup. We used Brain Sparging on Brewing’s wheat wine recipe as our starting point, but with some chocolate malt thrown in for another dimension. We also bottled and mini-kegged 5 gallons of Gose (I suspect he has a legitimate claim to brewing the first Gose ever in Bolivia). Back in December, we’d tried to brew 10 gallons of a Duvel clone, but something went horribly awry with our conversion and extraction, and we ended up with a wort that was around 1.060 instead of 1.080. We cut some corners and didn’t bother to cool it quickly, came back the next day and it was obviously infected–but, we pitched the Wyeast 1344 yeast to see what happened anyway. Yesterday we bottled a couple gallons of it and put the rest in secondary, and it’s utterly delicious. I finally tried Duvel while I was in Chile, and while it was a great beer, I can’t say I understand the universal acclaim; tripels and golden strongs are some of my favorite styles, but I failed to see why Duvel gets that extra bit of love. Granted, Chile’s pretty far from Belgium, so I’ll say that freshness and storage are factors to consider. Nonetheless, when we sampled our “failed” brew yesterday, it smelled of an aromatic perry and was a real revelation in flavor. Intriguing.
Finally, I’ve gone through most of the wheat beers I brewed early on in summer, and the results of the sour mash have received nearly universal acclaim. The Motoyoe Berliner Weisse has gotten lots of rave reviews: fresh it was a bit smoother and the fruit really came out, with a month in the bottle there was some tartness to round out the flavor. It’s counterpart, the Honeyed Chamomile Wit tastes like pure vanilla cookies. The Sour Saison Blanche tasted a lot like the clean Saison Blanche, but again, one month and it suddenly brightens up with some tartness to round out the flavor. So, a 10 hour sour mash gives you just enough acidity to brighten the flavor. Good to keep in mind.
I almost forgot to mention this, but in December I brewed a batch of Belgian pale ale wort boiled with lavender and thyme that was first fermented on T-58, and then half was bottled along with an infusion made from dried coffee berry skins (you can buy it in all the markets here and people make a tea out of it–when infused at less than 80 C, it tastes like slightly overaged Chardonnay), and the other half had saison yeast added to it to yield a Saison de Provence. I’ve found that when I run my saison yeast nice and hot (i.e. up to 34+ C), it tends towards lemon pepper, so those ought to pair with thyme and lavender. We’ll see.
Looking ahead, in the next few weeks I hope to brew a few things. First, I’m craving something chocolatey, so I think I’ll try something porter-like (although it’s still smack in the middle of summer), and then I need to clear out some hops, so I think I’ll try a pale ale that loads on the late boil additions, with most bittering hops around 30 minutes. And then, some friends’ grape vines have finally yielded, so I have an idea in mind for that I’ll get to soon as well.