For the first time in months we have nothing fermenting, so I thought I would take the opportunity to reflect a bit on our progress thus far and what’s coming down the pike:
The Summer Saison and the Brown Porter are both in bottles and should be carbed in a few weeks’ time. I suspect the latter will be ready to drink sooner than the former. I don’t like my Porters overly carbed and the dry-hop character should have a nice freshness to it, so hopefully we can enjoy this one in another 2 weeks. When we bottled, I noticed a bit of a tang akin to what we got in the Extra Pale Ale clone. I am hoping that this is my imagination or else dissipates — final judgment will come during the tasting notes. As previously posted, this was our first attempt at using a swamp cooler and I am wondering if perhaps I was fermenting at too high a temperature. Next time I will keep the water closer to the 60 – 62F range. This was also our first use of WLP002, which is known to be extremely flocculant and can drop out early. Despite multiple attempts to rouse the yeast, I was only able to get the final gravity down to about 1.017 or so. In hindsight, I think I should have pitched a packet of Nottingham to clean up any residual sugars. As it is, I will chalk it up to rookie mistakes. The dry-hopping did go well and imparted a subtle Fuggle aroma to the beer, which is not altogether out of character (I didn’t want it to have the nose of an IPA — just a soft hop note). I took the liberty of having a glass of the beer from the bottle of the carboy, which had tons of whole leaf hops in it — Man, was it great! It left me wanting to do another brown porter, but this time doubling the hops. There is, of course, another option, courtesy of our friends at Dogfish Head:
The Saison will no doubt benefit from a bit more time in the bottle and, I suspect, be ready in another month or so. I had a taste after one week (couldn’t wait) and it was already surprisingly carbonated; however, there are a lot of flavors that will need to mellow out and blend together. While I will wait to give proper tasting notes, I will say that this beer had a fair amount of banana esters up front, with a whole lot of clove and spiciness to follow it up. It has a beautiful hazy orange color and I am so looking forward to cracking open the first proper bottle in due time. For the next round of Saison-brewing, I may look into corking in Champagne bottles to give an authentic presentation. I love Belgian ales and look forward to brewing more and more of them. I also look forward to trying out a number of different yeast strains, finding one that I like, and ultimately developing a “house strain”.
This leads me to my next topic: The move to All Grain (AG). There are many reasons to get into brewing and there is no doubt that you can make beautiful beers using extract. For a lot of folks, there is really no need to move over to AG brewing. There is afterall a sizable increase in gear, tools, knowledge, time, etc., that goes into AG. However, the appeal of AG to me is in further understanding the process of brewing, including the conversion of starches, the role of mash temperatures, different mash techniques, etc; having more control over ingredients and recipes; and generally having more of an opportunity to be creative with my beer. For me, the move to AG is inevitable and will hopefully take place soon. In the meantime, however, I will continue to hone my skills in the fundamentals (fermentation temperatures, pitching rates, sanitation, etc.) and look forward to making new mistakes to learn from.
Next up: the Imperial Black Rye IPA kit from AHS, which we should be brewing next week!