Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Brew Day: Bonus Brown (American Brown Ale)

I find yeast to be a particularly interesting topic in the world of brewing. Many brewers exclusively use a generic ale yeast like Chico be it Safale S05, Wyeast 1056, or White Labs 001, and do not give yeast a second thought. Many brewers just want the yeast to stay our of the way so the flavor from the malt and the hops can take the spotlight. Some brewers like Bell's and Harpoon have house strains that they use. Bone Up Brewing opened in Everett in 2016; they brew American styles, but with a Belgian yeast.

Up in Portland, some of the older craft brewers like Geary's are "Ringwood breweries" that exclusively use Ringwood Ale yeast. Geary's in particular has never bought a fresh pitch of Ringwood. They have repitched the same yeast from batch to batch for over thirty years. In that time their yeast may have evolved and mutated. I always got a cleaner taste with less diacetyl from Geary's beers as opposed to say Shipyard Export.

As a homebrewer, I enjoy experimenting with different yeast stains. Whenever I buy liquid yeast I try to harvest extra yeast from my starter. Last summer while I was busily brewing my US of IPA brews, and beers for Ales over ALS, I neglected to label a couple of my jars. The gars sat in the fridge for a period of months and Jennie was tired of looking at them.

Mystery yeast!

While I was trying to figure out what kind of beer I should brew with the second runnings of Wee Heavy I had an idea, why not just throw all of the yeast in a batch and see what happens? It felt crazy enough to work. These are all strains I've used before and loved. Why not use them together and try to make something unique? If it works I can keep using it like Geary's has used the same yeast for as long as it has.

One of the jars was labeled 1187, that would be Ringwood likely harvested from my yeast starter for Age of Sail. One jar I am fairly certain was 1318 from my 2016 Summer Somewhere. The other jar could be 1272. The other possibility is that it is The Yeast Bay's Vermont Ale. I froze some of the yeast back in 2014. When I tried to build it up last summer the fermentation wasn't that active so I bought fresh yeast for my NE IPA Haze for Daze. I may have saved that slurry also. I also dug around and found an older jar that was labeled 1318. If nothing else I have learned my lesson about organization.

Boiling my second runnings.

After conducting two boils for the Wee Heavy, I was anxious to get this over with. I ran the risk of tripping a circuit and boiled with two burners on the stove. I only added hops to the main kettle, while boiling the smaller pot just long enough to sterilize the wort. At the end of the main boil I blended the beer from the smaller pot back into the main kettle. The idea was to help cool the main wort while again sterilizing the wort from the smaller pot in the near-boiling kettle.

Given how old these jars were, I made a yeast starter and harvested a pint of my new blend. I decided to keep the recipe for my bonus beer fairly simple with one hop addition at 60 minuted and one at 10 minutes. After pitching my starter fermentation took off fairly quickly.

Beer is hazy, makes me think there's some VT Ale
yeast in there. 
With a double brew day looming, I pulled a sample to see if I could get an idea what kind of flavor my mystery blend would bring. The first samples tasted bitter and almost phenolic. I didn't trust it to pitch in another beer. I ended up buying new yeast for my double brew day. 

A few days later on my double brew day, I racked the beer to a secondary to free up a primary fermenter. I was hoping some time in the carboy would mellow what I thought was an acrid beer. Before going through the effort of racking I gave the beer another taste to see if it was salvageable, and I was pleasantly surprised!

There were lots of esters in there. It is clear the blend is mostly English. The beer was quite hazy which makes me think there is Conan in the blend. The hop flavor was accentuated which is another hallmark of Conan. Even with two small hop additions, the hop flavor really shone through. At the same time, the beer didn't feel too dry which is something I have experienced in the past when brewing with Conan.

I think my blended yeast will be perfect for a New England IPA. I'll be sure to use it in the next one I brew.

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