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Sunday, 31 August 2014

BIAB #8 - Rye Saison

One of my self-objective brewing goals for this year was to start enter a beer into competition. After some glowing feedback from my peers on my last few brews I was feeling confident and, as if a quest direct from the brew gods themselves - Thornbridge, BrewUK and Waitrose announced the Great British Homebrew Challenge, with the winning beer brewed by Thornbridge and sold in Waitrose stores. The prize wasn't great, but the potential glory was huge!

I immediately got my thinking cap on and began formulating a recipe. I have had some success with my last couple of brews using a Vienna malt base, but I want to spice it up a bit and I had been looking to brew with rye for a while so I decided now was as good a time as any. Hop wise, I had a half a kilo of Citra that was just screaming out to be used, and recalling some useful advice from Shane of Cheshire Brewhouse, Willamette is a great hop to bring out the flavours of other hops. I’m already a fan of Willamette, with it’s berry aroma and I figured it would play nicely with the citrus notes and the spice of the rye, but it would need some real quantities to stand out against the might of Citra. I decided that pellets were the way forward and put it down on my shopping list. As for the yeast, I wanted this beer to be different and as I was currently enjoying my last beer, a Sorachi Saison, I chose to go with another Saison (plus it’s the weather for it). I was unsure whether it would work with a rye heavy malt base, but I guess one of the joys of home brewing is in the finding out.

Whilst concocting the recipe I took careful consideration of the style and ABV of my brew. With the judging is taking place in August I decided that a refreshing flavour would be more suitable to summertime beer. Looking at the categories it’s quite apparent what Thornbridge and Waitrose are looking for, so I ruled out any big or far-out beers, with the aim to hit something around the 4% mark. A rye saison met both of those criteria, so it was full steam ahead.

Despite having excellent results with Danstar’s Belle Saison yeast, I chose to go for a vial of Whitelab’s Saison WLP565 yeast, the first time I’ve used a wet yeast but I wanted only the best for this champion brew. The Whitelabs website did mention that it can be a bit temperamental, with reports of stalled fermentations, but hey, I was up for the challenge.

On brew day everything went according to plan, with the exception of a missed addition - 200g of malt which was hidden from view. However, this actually worked in my favour as the final beer ended up bang on 4%. Thankfully this time around I had no thermometer mishaps, so didn’t need to fall back to my numerous backups. Furthermore, after struggling to cool the wort down on my last brew with my existing copper coil I took some advice from Twitter folk and spread out the coil a little to increase the surface area, and I also managed to widen the diameter of the coil which in turn shortened the height, meaning that it was now it was mostly submerged. 

With the wort cooled to around the 20 degree mark, I transferred it to my new heavy duty FV, which I had been looking forward to getting some use out of. I threw in the vial of yeast, put the dual locking lids on and waited for things to happen. After around 12 hours the yeast was starting to kick in and the temperature naturally increased to around the 23 degree mark. A day later the temperature was starting to drop, so I grabbed a gravity sample, it looked as if it had stalled at 1.020, just as other brewers had experienced. Out of all the solutions to kickstart fermentation the easiest was to simply ramp up the temperature, so I upped my temp controller to 27°C and waited expectantly. This worked a treat, after a day the gravity had dropped a few points and a further 24 hours later it had totally fermented out. I turned off the temperature controller and left it conditioning a few days. 

Despite having chucked in quite a lot of Willamette during the boil it was struggling to really make an impact next to the Citra, so as a rash decision I decided to dry hop with some more pellets. Not a wise move! The hop matter stayed suspended in the beer, even when it had cooled to an ambient temperature, but without any means to cold crash there wasn’t a lot I could do. Upon further inspection it looked like the majority of matter had settled out, there was just a layer suspended near the surface, meaning everything underneath was quite clear. So I just went ahead and bottled it, a few pesky flakes still managed to sneak in there and I lost around 2 litres, but it’s nothing a few days in the fridge won’t resolve.

I did have a diacetyl scare due to my impatience to taste my wares, but a few weeks later that buttery taste had completely gone, leaving the fresh citrus saison notes to take centre stage. Despite it not being a particularly bad brew, I just didn't feel overly confident about it, then you’ve got to be in it to win it, so I entered it regardless! Obviously I didn't win, that honour went to my brewing buddy from Macc Homebrew - Graham Nelson. At least I've struck one thing off my brew year’s resolution list.

Fermentables...
 NameType   EBC PercentageAmount
ViennaGrain5.980 %3 Kg
Rye MaltGrain6.918.67 %700 g
Torrified WheatGrain3.91.33 %50 g

Hops...
 Name AA% Amount Use Time
Citra11.1%100 gBoil10 mins
Willamette (pellet)7.1%10 gBoil10 mins
Willamette (pellet)7.1%50 gBoil0 mins
Willamette (pellet)7.1%40 gDry Hop0 mins

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Winner, Winner, Vienna IPA Dinner...

Well well, Thornbridge, Waitrose and BrewUK have announced the winner of the Great British Homebrew Challenge 2014, and whilst slightly disappointed it wasn't myself (I wasn't feeling very confident anyway), the winner was actually Graham Nelson (aka @arrowsails) from our very own homebrew club in Macclesfield with his Vienna IPA! You can read a bit about Graham and his winning beer over on the Telegraph. Massive congratulations to Graham and all the category winners! Can't wait to taste the winning batch at next club meet, and not to mention the finished product when it hits shelves in Waitrose stores across the country in October.

We may be a small band of brewers, but we have some talent! If you fancy coming joining us at the club we meet every last Tuesday of the month at 7:30PM in Red Willow bar in Macclesfield.