Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saison #1

My dad has a way of describing jobs around the house by how many beers he needs to drink to get the job done. Cleaning the p-trap in the kitchen sink would be a one beer job. Building a garden box for my mom would probably be a two beer job. Farmers in Belgium 150 years ago felt the same way. Not having much farm work to do in the winter time, they brewed beer, a style called Saison. It was meant to be a low alcohol easy drinking beer to give to the farmhands to refresh them in the hard hot summers.

It is also probably my favorite style of beer to brew. Because it was brewed on every farm, every farmer had his own recipes, typically using whatever ingredients he had on his own farm. This made for some massive diversity, to the point where there is no real standard bearer beer for the style. Brewers know when they're drinking one, but no two are alike. Like the guy at the home brew shop said to the this weekend: "Get the right yeast, throw a bunch of crap in your mash tun, and let it rip!"

Saison #1

Rahr Premium Pilsner- 8 lbs
Sauer Malt- 5 oz
CaraFoam- 5 oz
CaraVienne- 5 oz

Wilammette- 1 oz- 60 minutes
French Streisspalt- 2 oz- 14 minutes

Wyeast Saison 3724- 1000 ml yeast starter- pitched off the stir plate

148 single infusion with a 1 gallon decoction mash out

Gravity- Target/Actual/Final/ABV

Saison yeasts are typically very high attenuators, so my aim with the grain bill and mash is to make something that will finish dry. This is the first of a couple Saison's I'm going to do, so I decided this one should be light in color (more of a classic Saison), with small amounts of character malts. The next one will be darker, less classic, and more dependent on darker base and character malts. I wanted an unobtrusive bitterness to balance the grain, so I went with Willamette. The Streisspalt flavor charge is more of the sort of thing you would expect to find in a classic recipe, something a farmer in Wallonia might have growing in a far off corner of his farm. They were unlike any hops I've used before. They didn't have that greeny freshness you find with American hops, but more of a solid spice aroma coming off of them.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Makin' it up

My beers recently have had one common thread running through the recipe: the brew store didn't have have what I was looking for, so I made it up there in front of the sacks of grain, reusing the yeast, and whatever hops happen to be left over in the freezer. This week's beer was supposed to be a stout, but the brew store I visited in Lansing, Michigan had everything I needed and more except for roasted barley. I haven't been brewing a long time, but everything I've read about stout is that without roasted barley, you have something that would be called something other than stout.

I've done a lot of pale ales this summer, mostly because it's pretty easy to come up with a recipe on the spot, but I feel like it's something I'm getting decent at. And again, of all I've read, beer nerds say that if you can't brew a good pale ale, you aren't yet brewing good beer. So, while standing there at the Red Salamander (again, good beer store, minus the roasted barley), I decided on another pale ale.

Pappy Pale Ale

2 Row Pale Malt- 7 pounds
20L Crystal- 8 ounces
80L Crystal- 8 ounces
Roasted Barley- 8 ounces

Nugget- .5 ounces- 60 minutes
Nugget- 1 ounce- 15 minutes
Nugget- .5 ounces- Knockout

Yeast Sludge from the previous two batches

Mash Schedule-
149/167- hot water infusions

Gravity- Target/Actual/Final/ABV

The highlight of this brew day was undoubtedly getting to brew with my dad. This is, after all LaVoy Boys Brewing, and this was the first opportunity that there have been multiple LaVoy's at a brewing session. In principal my dad was treating it as a chance to see a more experienced brewer brew, and I was treating it as a chance to show off a little, but really we both wanted to brew up some beer as father and son. It was miserably hot (90 in the shade, probably closer to 105 next to the burner), but it was probably my funnest brew session ever.

The beer itself: straight up pale ale. Two row. Two types of Crystal malt (because as Randy Mosher says: when one malt would be good, two would be better), and a decent amount of the leftover roasted barley. Nugget hops are pretty high alpha acid, so I think a subtle roastiness will give it a nice backbone.

I have no idea if my readings were accurate at all, as my dad pointed out that I took the sample with the crud from the yeast cake, so I was probably closer to the 1.046 that I had targeted than I thought.

Next up, I'm going to do a couple of Saisons, as I've been itching to brew one. I think I'll probably order a lot of my stuff online to be sure I can do what I want. Then will be the yearly sour beers, one with fruit. Then some darker ales. I can't wait.