Posts Tagged ‘brettanomyces’

Furthermore Thermo Refur

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

This is quite possibly the strangest beer made by an American microbrewery (and I realize how bold of a statement that is), yet it maintains cohesiveness and drinkability. The sages of Spring Green Furthermore Beer produce something they call Thermo Refur. It has plenty of malt and loads of hops. (Not so odd.) They’ve added Brettanomyces wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria. (Okay, a pedestrian eccentricity.) Also black pepper. (Getting stranger…) Did I mention beets as well? Dwight Schrute would be so proud.

2009-12-10-thermorefurEverything I’ve heard has been to give the Refur plenty of air and time. This article over at the Madison Beer Review about Thermo Refur goes into great detail on the role temperature plays in sensory perception. This bottle (from January) has been poured, let’s let it breathe for a minute.

The Refur is ruby, an almost purple-colored brown which hearkens strongly to the beets within. Very active on the pour, it generates plenty of head, a creamy tan. Some of this lasts. The nose is initially very light, with a bit of a dark fruity character that comes across as plums and fruitcake. Some spices accompany this, giving it a clean, cool, peppery aroma. As it warms the fruit turns into pie cherries. Some dusty barnyard aroma is found hiding there.

A rich assortment of dark fruit flavors is revealed at first. Raisins, cherries, plums, and dates are joined by a vinous character. The pepper comes through, too, paired with the hop bitterness to leave a refreshing palate. A hint of sour comes out more and more with air and warmth. The fruit on the tongue opens up as well, revealing raspberries and a just a hint of cough-syrup cherry. A vinegar character grows over time. The carbonation is extremely lively but not at all sharp.

Thermo Refur is quite odd in design. If beer is made with four ingredients, three of the four are weird in this beer. Weird microorganisms: the usual yeast, plus some wild, and bacteria, too. Weird spices: hops but also black pepper. Weird fermentables: beets with the malt. Many breweries nowadays are content to simply throw strange things in a pot and let it go. Furthermore has gone fifteen steps further, crafting an opus of flavor. Despite the nontraditional ingredients this has a somehow familiar flavor. Strange and at the same time sensational.

+Furthermore Thermo Refur

3.8 (4-8-7-4-15)

Sour Week: Cantillon Iris

Monday, August 10th, 2009

To kick things off I’m having a bottle of Iris from the Brussels brewery-museum Cantillon. This is a spontaneously fermented beer in the style of lambic. However it is not a lambic because it uses fresh hops (lambic uses aged hops to avoid hop bitterness and aroma) and all barley malt (lambic uses a good percentage of unmalted wheat).Cantillon Iris Iris is dry hopped just before bottling as well. It is for these reasons brewer Jean-Pierre Van Roy calls it his ‘extreme’ beer. I brought this bottle (brewed 2005, bottled 22 March 2007) back from my visit to the Cantillon brewery, and it’s the last one I have from there.

As soon as I popped the cap the cork started inching its way out of the bottle. The pour formed a generous head for such a still beer, proof of the high levels of proteins and tannins present; however, without lively carbonation it was doomed to fall quickly. Iris is a wonderfully hazy goldenrod with head the color of cream. The nose is quite strong: very fruity, with a persistent earthiness and notes of barnyard. The fruit is a little citric with some apple, and the barnyard is hay and horse blanket. A clean and spicy noble hop aroma abounds (I won’t say that again for a week). This complexity makes me wonder why there aren’t more hoppy sours. As a rule I don’t give perfect scores but this nose is worth ten points.

The taste is at once tart and bitter, with hints of fruit, all in all reminding me of rhubarb. The tip of my tongue is almost knocked out, but the intensity quickly subsides. There are but moments of spicy and herbal hop flavor before the barn doors open. A collection of horse and goat finds the middle and back of my tongue. Some malt character is present. There is just a hint of sweetness, perhaps from the fruit flavor.

++Cantillon Iris

4.5 (4-10-8-4-19)

Hitachino Nest Beer XH

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

From the Kiuchi Brewery in Ibaraki prefecture, Japan, I have a bottle of the Hitachino Nest Beer XH. This is a strong ale that they have matured in shochu (distilled sake) casks. These oak casks have imparted not only the rich character of this Japanese rice liquor but also passed on the little critters that were living in the wood. Because of this process XH is quite a complex beer.

The Nest XH pours an opal tawny (or burnt orange) shade that begs you just to look. Its head, the color of peach, is thick, creamy, and persistent. The nose is simply incredible. The first thing that stands out is the notable effect of Brettanomyces, no doubt prior residents of the wood this beer was aged in. The Brett gives it an old ale aroma, dry and musty, strongly reminiscent of Orval, the great Trappist ale. Hitachino Nest Beer XHI detect some strange fruit, almost like raspberries but not quite. There is just a hint of maltiness that comes through as a somewhat bready caramel aroma. Almost smells like a gueuze, almost like a dubbel, almost like a barleywine. Regular readers should know I’m an aroma fiend, and this beer really satisfies.

Now to let it in. As XH hits the tip of the tongue it is striking how mild and how mellow the flavor is. I can hardly taste anything until it rolls through the middle of my mouth with a musty, somewhat alcoholic punch. The character of the shochu comes out in force, the strong character of sake complemented by plums and raspberries. As it moves back I can taste more of the malt: medium-done toast, caramel, husk, and perhaps some molasses. It is at first apparently dry, but soon develops a caramel sweetness that lingers and balances the stronger flavors quite well. The body is full and creamy, perhaps even a little too much, as it is approaching cloying.

The look and nose of this beer is simply divine so it is hard for the taste to match up. Yet, the XH does a very good job keeping my interest with its complex flavor derived from aging in liquor-soaked, microbiologically fertile wood. Without a doubt a serious contender with the best offerings from Europe and North America. This one deserves the rare second thumb up, which, as my brother points out, requires that you put down your beer.

++ Hitachino Nest Beer XH

4.0 (5-9-7-3-16)

Millstream Beer and Chocolate Tasting

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Millstream Beer and Chocolate PairingYesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Beer and Chocolate Tasting put on by Millstream Brewing Company. This event paired chocolates from the Chocolate Haus in Amana with eight radical one-off beers. Six of them were brewed by Millstream brewer Bill Heinrich, with one offering from Millstream’s sales guy Dan Carpenter as well as a coffee porter brewed by head brewer Chris Priebe. The event was coordinated by Nick Snavely. Tickets sold out over a week ahead of time and the place was packed the whole time. The impression I got from people is that everyone was very impressed with the beers, and the chocolate pairings were quite fun. I took tasting notes but forgot to write down process information so let’s see what I can remember.

The first beer I had was the Czech Pilsner. Made with loads of Czech Saaz hops, this one is a well executed Bohemian style pilsner. It’s a crystal clear straw with some white head. The hop aroma is very grassy and earthy, and behind it I notice just a bit of a corniness. The flavor is massively grassy, with a lingering bitterness on the middle of my tongue. It is deep, earthy, and herbal. There is a hint of sweetness, perhaps some dimethyl sulfide.

The pils was the only beer that seriously follows any style conventions. Most of them have a Belgian character; Belgian styles are pretty loosely defined as it is. Bill was not afraid to take liberties to ensure the brews were interesting, further complicating things. Many of the beers were made with a strain of Brettanomyces wild yeast, which develops different characteristics depending on how it is used. Most of these were fermented with usual brewing yeast Saccaromyces and then aged on the Brett, giving a berry-like fruity flavor and aroma as well as a noticeable funk.

Next up the Saisonnier Gran Cru. This was actually fermented with Brett only, except for a shot of ale yeast to help it along when it was being sluggish. When Brettanomyces is used for primary fermentation, it tends to behave alot more like the normal Saccaromyces. It does dry the beer out a little more, leaving a dry, dusty flavor accented by the funkiness.

The Saisonnier pours a milky straw color, with some creamy off-white head. The aroma is delicate and elusive, featuring light fruit (raspberries) as well as some funk (wet pavement?). The taste is dry, with a somewhat zoological funkiness. A bit of malt flavor breaks through. Despite being so dry there is a bit of a cloying sensation, as well as a lingering bitterness. The nose is fantastic but the flavor doesn’t quite match up.

The sign describing the beer officially named Dan’s Barleywine had a telltale note on the back. The reminder to the server read “Dan’s Awesomeness”, and that’s not too far off. Blended from two-year and three-year batches, the barleywine poured a deep dark sienna, lightly hazy, with persistent creamy head. It also leaves a little reminder on the inside of the glass. The rich, round aroma is a treat: chocolate caramels (so good), coffee, and hazelnuts. Despite the intensity of the aroma and alcohol, the flavor is light and balanced. Major coffee flavor dominates, with a roast and caramel malt character that reminds me of burnt cookies. Both malty and pleasantly bitter, “Awesomeness” is thick and coats your mouth. Do yourself a favor and ask Dan for a bottle.

Moving on to the Belgian-Style Tripel. This golden ale was made with the strain of yeast normally reserved for Bavarian hefes: generator of strong banana esters and clove phenols. This gives the Tripel a serious banana aroma, somewhat sweet, with hints of clove and black pepper. There is barely a tinge informing you of the level of alcohol. The flavor is very malty, with a big bready, biscuity taste. It is somewhat sweet with a rich, round alcohol warming sensation. Noticeable as well are banana and clove flavors. The thick coating feeling probably derives from the fact that this tripel is not as carbonated as many. Despite the use of wheat and Bavarian weizen yeast, this beer is most definitely a tripel, and a well executed one at that.

The Belgian Quad is a good example of the use of Brett to age. It is a cloudy deep dark brown with some tan head. The aroma is lightly sweet and strongly fruity of raspberries and mango, with just a bit of banana. The flavor is strongly alcoholic: somewhat sharp, almost medicinal berries. There is a bit of lingering bitterness and a thick, cloying sensation. A somewhat similar beer, the Wheat Wine is a cloudy unearthly red with almost no head. The aroma is lightly fruity, with a bit of wood and funk; the flavor roughly alcoholic, with some berries. A strong bitterness is simple and harsh.

Head brewer Chris Priebe brewed up a batch of Sumatra English Porter with real Sumatra coffee. It pours somewhat clear, a dark russet wtih some cheesy off-white head. The aroma is very light, with only a bit of roast malt and some caramel. The flavor is dry and roasty, with a strong rich roast coffee presence that lasts. Hint of an earthy hop flavor balance, and a coffee astringency lingers a bit.

By far the most impressive beer available was the so-called Wheat Stout. I can’t say enough good things about this beer. Made with Templeton Rye whiskey and plenty of roast and wheat malts and fermented with weizen yeast, this beer is simply impressive.

First off it is utterly black. There is just a hint of a creamy copper head. The nose is rich and playful, with a roast aroma that tickles the nose. The whiskey comes through quite well: malt, rye, and some notes of alcohols. There is also a serious banana and clove character. A taste is heaven. It is all too easy to overdo it on a whiskey addition, ruining the beer. Here the Templeton is perfectly balanced with the other flavors. The roast comes through first, followed quickly by the rye. There is a bit of astringent bitterness. This beer is thick and chewy. It is delicious. A tour de force.

++Millstream Wheat Stout

4.4 (5-9-8-4-18)

+Millstream Czech Pilsner

3.3 (3-6-7-4-13)

+Millstream Saisonnier Gran Cru

3.5 (4-8-6-3-14)

+Millstream Dan’s Barleywine

4.0 (4-9-7-4-16)

+Millstream Belgian-Style Tripel

3.5 (4-7-7-3-14)

+/-Millstream Belgian Quadrupel

3.1 (3-8-5-3-12)

+/-Millstream Wheat Wine

2.5 (2-6-4-3-10)

+/-Millstream Sumatra English Porter

3.0 (3-5-7-3-12)

Bottle an Alt, Drink a Bitter

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

Tonight I bottled my altbier. “Alt” means old and that is relative to lager, the “new” style. Alt is a North German beer, originating in Düsseldorf. It, along with Kölsch, is one of the few remaining German ale styles.

An altbier is amber to brown with more hop flavor and bitterness than any other German style. There is still a balance between malt and hops, though. Fruity character from the ale yeast is present, but it is relatively clean and crisp due to extended aging.

I made mine a dopplesticke. In German “doppel” means double and “sticke” means secret, as in a secret recipe. This is the strongest altbier a brewery makes. It should be strong and sweet but also quite bitter. It is usually dry hopped as well.

When I opened the fermenter I noticed a layer of something growing on top. I’m pretty sure it’s not mold.

Here’s what I think happened. On the day I transferred the alt to the fermenter to age in, I was also working on my Oud Bruin. Description of that project in full will have to wait for another post, but suffice it to say I am aging that one with Brett, which tends to form a pellicle. I must have gotten just a little cross contamination, enough for the Brett to build up a bit in the almost two months this alt’s been lagering.

Anyway it still tastes great so I’m bottling it and hoping for the best. Recipe below.

The immortal words of Charlie Papazian, to all homebrewers nervous about that next batch: “Relax. Don’t Worry. Have a Homebrew.” In that spirit I will try one of the last bottles of my last batch, Flood Water Bitter. I brewed this way back on June 14, the first day the Iowa River flooded over the bridge to my house.

It pours a very hazy mahogany with a creamy tan head. There is a light fruity nose, some caramel, and a little metallic tinge. The flavor at first seems sweet, then quickly dry and a strongly bitter. A spicy, slightly earthy hop flavor is present throughout. Flavors and bitterness linger.

I have a couple bottles left so let me know if you want one.

Double Plus Secret – Doppelsticke (for 5.5 gallons)

8 lbs Munich malt
4 lbs Pilsner malt
1 lb CaraMunich 60L
1 lb CaraPils Dextrin malt
4 oz Chocolate malt

I wasn’t lazy and so I did a double decoction mash.

Protein rest: 25 min @ 122F
α-amylase rest: 15 min @ 150F
β-amylase rest: 30 min @ 154F

I did an 80 minute boil. Hop additions:

1.25 oz Mt. Hood (5.2% aa) @ 80 min
1 oz Mt. Hood @ 60 min
2 oz Glacier dry-hopped in the secondary

The original gravity was 1.068 and the final gravity 1.008, making the alcohol about 8%.

+Flood Water Bitter – Special Bitter (for 5.5 gallons)

RateBeer: 3.1 (3-6-7-3-12)

4 lbs Pilsner malt
2 lbs Munich malt
2 lbs Wheat malt
1 lb CaraMunich 60L
12 oz Caramel 120L

1.5 oz Northern Brewer @ 60 min
0.5m oz Mt. Hood @ 15 min