Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Belgian Rye Recipe and Brett Project

In January of 2009, we produced a very simple Belgian Rye that was well received.  Because we were not as efficient as planned, we only ended up with 7 gallons (shooting for 10).  2 of those gallons have been aging with with added brettanomyces.  While it looks like a science project, we are finally ready to complete the experiment 9 months later.

The initial batch was our first use of Belgian Ale yeast, so in order to learn what impact it would have, we targeted a very basic malt profile allowing the yeast to be the main contributor to the final result.  The rye portion was added to add just a slight complexity to the body.

Grain bill:
22 lbs. Pilsner malt
2.0 lbs. Rye malt
Mash temp of 150 for 60 min
2.0 oz Sterling AAU 5% at 60 min
1.0 oz of Styrian AAU 6% at 20 min

Since we only ended up with 7 gallons, we combined two yeasts:  Belgian Golden and Belgian Ale.  5 gallons was fermented, bottled and delicious.  For the 2 gallons set aside, we added brettanomyces C.  "Brett" is a slow reacting yeast-like bacteria that creates sourness and a barnyard aroma in aged beers.  It is naturally occurring in some wild yeasts or used wine barrels.  Bad in wine, great in beer!  At this writing, we're 9 months into this experiment and the picture shows what the top of the wort looks like.  The cells form a pellicle (the white crust) that ultimately protect the beer from all that air in the head space.  However, brett does like oxygen (unlike yeast) after initial stages of fermentation.

Labor Day 2009 was brew day for this next batch.  We had gorgeous weather and if you look closely at the far right on the trellis, you'll see our Centennial hop vine that should be ready by October (nothing yet though).   For some reason, his name is Jimmies which makes no sense at all considering the flowering hops are female and so is (are?) the two-headed baby referenced.  If either of us have a two headed child, it will get a single pluralized name.

The goal was to get about 8 gallons of the exact same recipe.  5 gallons will go through the fermentation process normally and the other 3 gallons will be added to the creature pictured above.  The fresh beer will be combined with the old in the secondary.  We have high hopes for the results considering it will be close to a year before the project proves itself.  In any case, we'll still get 5 gallons of a great Belgian Rye.

We're used to 5 gallon batches and have it almost down to a science (there is always improvement) in terms of process.  10 gallons, everything is a bit slower since there is more of everything to deal with.  We adjusted well this time, hit all our temperatures, no stuck sparge and had a good Original Gravity of 1.065.

After 10 days of primary fermentation, we added added the 2 gallons pictured above to about 2.5 gallons of new beer.  The remaining 5 gallons will be put through its normal paces to become a repeat of the previous recipe.

A note on the 6 month old beer, it smelled fantastic.  The very few sips showed intense tartness as well as the barnyard smell.  It should lend an excellent profile to the final product.  Fingers crossed since the entire project will take close to one year.  We'll update this post in about a month (2 weeks of secondary fermentation and 2 weeks for bottle conditioning).