March 21, 2014

For Homebrew Geeks Only

Anybody that knows me, knows that I’m a geeky science guy at heart. I can’t give quick, easy answers. When I received the following e-mail with a question about the lambic recipe included in my latest Zymurgy article, I could help but give the background behind my response. I’m posting it here in case anyone else has the same question…and because it took a long time to write.
I’m hoping to make my first lambic this weekend and I thought the faux lambic recipe didn’t look too difficult – I’m not quite ready to tackle the full on turbid mash technique yet, and the faux lambic seems like an eaiser mash routine. However, I noticed the recipe didn’t include any actual mash temps – just infusion water temperatures. Could you tell me what the actual mash rest temperatures are? I appreciate it!
And my response:

So there are basically two times that you mash (the technique described in the recipe is essentially an American Double Mash). The first one where you’re just adding a little bit of malt to the wheat berries and then the second, full batch mash.

For the first mash, the intent is to borrow some of the malt’s inherent enzymes to break down the wheat berry’s sugars. This is necessary because the wheat berries have not be been malted (i.e. germinated) to activate any of these enzymes. In case you’re not familiar with amylase enzymes here is a quick rundown. Alpha and beta amylase enzymes are created in the barley during the malting process. The job of these enzymes is to strip fermentable sugar from the malt. However, these enzymes can only do their work at specific temperatures, which is why we mash; to hold a temperature and allow them to do their work. The two enzymes do their work differently; the alpha pulling it off in large, long-chained chunks and the beta, smaller, more bite-sized portions. This is important as you’ll see below.

In the first mash, without the malt, the wheat berries could sit at mash temp all day and do nothing. In the recipe I call out for a 166F mash temperature, which sounds way high I know. However, this is crucial because at this temperature you are essentially only activating the alpha amylase enzyme, and almost none of the beta amylase enzyme. If you’re a geeky graphical guy like me, I included a chart below that shows this wonderfully. This is important because you want the sugars pulled from the wheat to be the biggest, longest-chained sugars possible.

This is because of the veracity of brettanomyces, which will slowly eat everything in its path. By making large wheat sugars, brett will still leave some scraps behind. These scraps help the beer to sustain a satisfying full mouthfeel over the years and is the difference between thin watery lambic, and the authentic stuff.

In the second mash, the goal is essentially the same, you want to to be somewhere between 159F and 166F. It’s not terribly important, but just somwhere in that alpha-heavy zone. In retrospect, I should have just put the mash temp in there, but I just wrote it the way I brewed it I guess.

So that is the long, drawn out answer. The short answer is 166F for the first mash, and 158F-166F for the second mash. I apologize if you knew most of this, but I have a hard time giving an answer without explaining the reasoning!

On a side note, I might recommend a different yeast route than the Roselare blend. For the last batch that I brewed, I instead used a starter made from Crooked Stave’s Hop Savant, and then pitched packets of wyeast pedio and lacto. The esters that Crooked Stave is getting out of their brett strains are incredible; they have a distinctly tropical fruit vibe, and I’ve been blown away by the results. I don’t think Hop Savant is still out, but I believe they use the same strain in their Batch 60 which should still be available at the taproom. Even if you go the Roselare route, I’d still buy this beer (bonus, it’s delicious) and pour the dregs in the fermenter. I would not use Surrette or Vielle, as they are fairly phenol-forward and I worry that it may result in some plastic-y flavors down the road.


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March 16, 2014

Deschutes Abyss Complete Vertical Tasting Notes

Overall the thing that blew me away by this vertical was the complete lack of oxidation. Even the first batch, 2006, was relatively free of oxidative effects. This is a good and bad thing. Personally, I like a little oxidation. It adds sherry/port, dried fruit, and a bevy of other effects. On the other hand, it was fantastic to taste a BA imperial stout without negative stale oxidation too.

Bottom Line: I love this beer with 4-5 years on it. The roast and booziness has mellowed, but there is still an impressive roast malt character and body along with some vintage flavors.

Deschutes Abyss Complete Vertical: 2006-2013

Deschutes Abyss Complete Vertical: 2006-2013

Tasting notes below:

2013: Coffee grounds, caramel malts and a somewhat harsh booziness. Light vanilla oak presence that stayed constant throughout the entire vertical. Astringent roasted finish.

2012: The fullest bodied of the bunch. chewy black licorice, cheap rum and bittersweet chocolate.

2011:  Still a bit fusel-y, but starting to show some vintage flavors. Raisins, black chocolate and spiced rum.  The fullest bodied and sweetest of the bunch. Astringent roasted finish almost totally gone.

2010:  Sweet cuban coffee, brown sugar, and port. Less sweet and more integrated than the 2011.

2009: Most bottles of this vintage were infected and this was no different, however, it was substantially less than most we’ve experienced. Was much drier with a distinctive red wine quality. Still chocolatey, but not near as sweet. Was some folks favorite, but I found it too dry to allow it best qualities to shine through.

2008: Belgian chocolate, raspberries and oak-induced vanilla and coconut. Perfectly balance of sweetness. Amazing.

2007:  More roasted than the 08, presenting more of a coffee flavor. Caramel and vanilla, but overall a subdued bottle.

2006: Very coffee forward and bitter. The same flavors as previous years, (chocolate, caramel, sherry, etc) are present, but muted. Comes across a bit flat.

barrel aged imperial stout vintage

Abyss 2013: This young’in has a ways to go


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March 16, 2014

Deschutes Reserve Series Tasting

On Saturday I attending a tasting hosted by Jonah Edwards that covered the entire series of the Deschutes Reserve beers. This includes Abyss, Dissident, Black Butte, Jubel, and their handful of one-offs (Stoic, Green Monster, Class of 88, etc). It was an epic day and I did my scholarly best to take tasting notes. I’ll post them over the next few days.

Oh and did I mention the food? There were Abyss Cupcakes, Dissident Pate, and Chainbreaker Queso. Absolutely killer to say the least.

I’ll be publishing my tasting notes on the individual verticals in subsequent posts. Get excited!

Jonah made this pate. Literally made the gelatin topping out of Dissident. Possibly my favorite tasting experience of the day. It was that good.

Jonah made this pate. Literally made the gelatin topping out of Dissident. Possibly my favorite tasting experience of the day. It was that good.

Chocolate Cupcakes with frosting made from Abyss butter.

Chocolate Cupcakes with frosting made from Abyss butter.

The 7th Inning Stetch. The Abyss lineup in the back.

The 7th Inning Stetch. The Abyss lineup in the back.

The closers, the entire Black Butte vertical

The closers, the entire Black Butte vertical

So delicious, and so necessary…





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March 15, 2014

Vintage Beer Porn

I’m finally getting around to moving some photos off our camera, and thought I’d post a few from Bill Young’s epic New Years Eve Vintage Beer Party. Most bottles were courtesy of the ever generous Jonah Edwards.

Bottle of 1902 Bass Corker King's Ale

Blackberry Jam, blackstrap, tobacco, leather, and raisins. Utterly outstanding.

Courage Russian Imperial Stout

Tobacco, Smoke, mushrooms, and molasses. Drinkable, but over the hill.

Vintage JW Lee's Barleywine

Held up remarkably well. marmalade, honey and sherry. Notes of cellar must. Still like a bit younger (10-15 years)


bottles of vintage beer

A small glimpse of the offering’s at Bill Young’s NYE Party


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March 10, 2014

Vintage Beer Book Release Party!

So the time has finally come for the release of my 148-page tome, Vintage Beer! I’m super excited, and pumped to share the spotlight with my technical editor, Chad Yakobson, who graciously offered to host the event at his brewery, Crooked Stave. Make it out if you can!

Patrick Dawson Vintage Beer Book

Do it Doug!

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