Sunday, March 21, 2010

Barrel warm-up, Accomplice!

Per the previous update, we're soon on the hook to create 30 gallons of something and that 30 gallons is going to be aged.  So what is the recipe that we're willing to commit this volume and time investment?  Logic dictates that this one should come from something already successful in our wheelhouse.  A huge version of Stupid Flanders fits that scenario and we've done the math to make that happen if that's the way to go.

We wanted a second option, more of standard brown ale.  In researching recipes, we stumbled across a recipe for Jolly Pumpkin's "La Roja" on BYO.  We'll call this a guideline more than a recipe since
Ron Jeffries, artisan in chief at the brewery, did just the bare minimum to let us in on his secrets.  There is plenty of ambiguity in the recipe and that's fine with us.  Our interpretation is below and what we do outside the grain bill is all us anyway.  To hear Ron speak (and also get cornered into real answers :)) check out this great interview.  The first ambiguity is in the base malt since he only offers that it's a 'blend' of pilsner and pale.  We went with the ratio below thinking that pale has a little more legs than the pils for aging.

Grain bill (5 gal):
5.0 lbs Maris Otter
3.0 lbs Domestic Pilsner
1.0 lbs Munich (light)
0.8 lbs Crystal 120L
0.1 lbs Black Patent

Hop schedule:
1.0 oz Domestic Saaz plugs (60 min)
1.0 oz Domestic Saaz plugs (30 min)

Kettle additions:
1.0 lb dextrose at 50 min into boil

Yeast (Primary):  Edinburgh Ale yeast (1 qt starter 24 hours prior)
Yeast (Secondary):  Ramped up 1 qt dregs from:
- 2 bottles Orval
- 1 bottle Russian River Supplication
- 1 bottle  Giradin Gueuze 1882
- 1 bottle Jolly Pumpkin Bier de Mars
- 1 bottle Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca

Mash Temp:  152 F
O.G.:  1.055

Hitting the primary, all our numbers looked good.  Based on how active the starter was, this guy should be in the attenuation phase within 6 hours.  Buying such a tiny amount of black patent malt didn't even register on the scale (meaning "free") but the color it contributed was beautiful.

The bugs here are going to be a complete gamble (scroll up to see the mix) and we're in full-on experimentation mode.

The third element of all Jolly Pumpkin beers is barrel aging which is where this is all leading to since we're planning our own barrel.  We had a bunch of chips that were used in the bourbon edition of Variations of a Theme series.  The bourbon character is all but gone and with that went the majority of the tannins imparted by the oak.  We are essentially working with a homebrew version of a 'used' barrel.  To get it even farther from the bourbon, the chips were soaked in zinfandel then dried.  At this moment the, now twice used, oak chips are soaking in a Pinot Noir from Esterlina in Philo (a must visit).  This should leave us with great acidity and almost no oak.

Last thing, "Accomplice!" is the lead track on a DHB proprietor's demo recording, die Fistery.  You shall like it and we hope to like this brew.

Update 03/27:  No really visible attenuation in the first 48 hours.  Very odd considering we've used this yeast a few times and had a really active starter going in.  Can't really point to a reason for this as all of our standard yeast care factors looked good (temps, aeration, active starter).  With seemingly nothing to lose, we pitched the built up dregs from Supplication, Orval, Gueze and Jolly Pumpkin.  This was two days into primary fermentation.  This did not increase or decrease the visible attenuation.  Having said all this, a gravity check 7 days in and we're down to 1.015 which makes no sense to us, but we'll take it!  Going to give this one at least a few more days before racking to the secondary with pinot noir soaked oak.

Update 05/15:  About a month and a half in and we're already getting pellicule formation on the surface of the secondary.  That bug cocktail seems to be working very well so far.