Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Belgian Base to Play With

One of the things that makes brewing sour beers harder than Saccro styles is the time factor.  It's a little scary thinking that the beer that you're brewing one day won't be right (or even palatable) for years to come.  My experiences with aging meads and barleywines have been successful in the past, but I always just bottled them and set them aside.  The sours take up carboy space and that's harder to get comfortable with.

I've always been a big believer in planning far ahead and making beer in excess (for all the right reasons). I've gotten into the habit of thinking about my next beer immediately after I finish a brew day.  So I spent some time thinking about some possible base recipes for my next sour beer and decided to borrow the Belgian Pale Ale recipe shared by Jeff at Bikes, Beer and Adventures.  I made some minor adjustments, using a different yeast strain and changing up the grain bill a bit.  I still have so much to learn about brewing sours that it seemed like a good way to go.  Jeff uses it with some apparent success and I'm hoping to do the same.

I scaled the recipe up to seven gallons so that I would have 5 gallons in a traditional carboy and another two gallons for dregs beers (#3 and #4), like before.  The brew day went smoothly, with Lewy helping out (and ditching work) as has become customary.  I mashed at 152 degrees F for a solid hour and ended up hitting my gravity and volumes perfectly and was really happy with the color as it came out of the chiller.  Here's what I plan to do with the wort:

Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueze and Orval bottle dregs
5 Gallons

Pitch Antwerp Ale Yeast (WLP510) and then consider dosing with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis at some point during secondary fermentation or when conditioning.  The amount of time that it ends up aging depends on how I use the Brett, I suppose.

Dregs #3

Pitch the bottle dregs from a 350 ml bottle of Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueze and let it ferment out and age for as long as necessary (whatever that means-I don't really know yet). 

Dregs #4

Pitch the bottle dregs from a 350 ml bottle of Orval and do the same as above.

Regardless and perhaps in spite of the outcome, the experiment continues.  Waiting is an exercise in patience and patience is a virtue, right?  I never really saw myself as particularly virtuous, but I'm happy to wait. 


Monday, December 12, 2011

A Beer Lullaby

My son Ben is two, and he is starting to assert himself.  While I encourage the growth of his personality and want him to seek independence, that order of self-awareness comes with a side dish of defiance that can be hard to swallow as a parent.  He's old enough to understand what I say (Stop riding the dog!" or "Don't put your finger there, just let me finish changing your diaper"), but not to the point where consequences are significant.  I guess I never realized that Time Out doesn't work unless you have a way to make the person stay there.

One of the most reliably contentious moments between us happens at bedtime.  I imagine (hopefully) that something similar occurs in most households with single digit age children.  The basic tenets are the same for most families, I think.  Parents want the kids to go to sleep so they can do anything but clean up messes, answer questions and mediate conflicts.  The kids want to stay awake where all the action is.  Invariably, the nighttime routine becomes increasingly complicated as parent and child vie for precious minutes, with a variety of techniques being employed on both sides (stalling, threats, fits, flat out lies, coddling, bargaining, etc.).

Kiddie potty on the left, dregs beers on the right. 

The other night I was 25 minutes into Ben's night time routine and I was starting to lose it.  My wife Erin and I have somehow wordlessly agreed that she lays with him while I tell our daughter, Claire, a story.  Then, when she says goodnight for the final time and closes his door, I intercept him each time he gets up crying and turns on the light to try and open the door and leave his room.  Sometimes he'll get up once, but usually it takes me 4+ attempts to get him to stay in bed and eventually fall asleep.  This night, I had been basically standing at his door or forcing him to lay down while he screamed for close to a half hour.  I had gone into his room for the tenth or eleventh time and decided to give in and lay with him.  As I was laying there humming to him I heard a gurgling sound.  I piqued my ears to hear it again and sure enough, 30 seconds later the gurgle vibrated my eardrums.  I couldn't help but smile as I rubbed Ben's back and willed him to sleep.  I've been fermenting my two dregs beers on a high shelf in his closet-it was the only place in the house that something (kids, temperature, dog, movement) wouldn't disturb them.  Their check valves were calling back and forth to one another, singing a calming lullaby to me, and reminding me to step away from the ledge and relax.  By the time these thoughts had finished forming in my mind, Ben was asleep.  I crept out quietly and closed the door, not wanting to disturb the uncommon peace that had formed within