Tuesday, September 8, 2015

American Farmhouse Ale - Brewday & Recipe

Brewery: Old North Brewing
Style: American Wild Ale / Mixed Fermentation Sour Beer
Date Brewed: 09.07.2015

This is my first attempt at brewing one of my very favorite styles - the slightly tart, funky Farmhouse Ale. I've brewed several clean Farmhouse Ales, and done some fermentations with oddball yeasts, but this is my first time deliberately infecting my wort with lactic acid bacteria (LAB). 

The recipe for this beer was completely on the fly. I realized that my local home-brew store was closing in less than an hour and I wasn't going to be able to get in before my Labor Day brew day. So I ran in sans recipe and threw together a quick saison grain bill. It is close to my old favorite saison grain bill, but I wish it had about a pound more rye malt in it. The torrified wheat is for head retention. I also decided to add 5 IBUs of Willamette (a hop hiding in my freezer since I brewed a Belgian abbey beer at the end of last year) to give myself just a little protection against major spoilage-causing bacteria.

I followed most of the best-practices I've developed for my system over the last year, including a simple batch spare, frequently stirring the mash, and preheating the mash tun with about a gallon of boiling water. This let me hit my target mash temperature spot on with only a few seconds of stirring.

The only glitch I ran into was that I added too much lactic acid, and dropped the mash pH all the way to 5.0! I sprinkled a bit of baking soda in to counteract this mistake, and the mash pH settled at 5.4 within the first 10 minutes of the 75 minute mash. Thankful that my water has such a low residual alkalinity.

In addition to the Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces in WLP670, I pitched the dregs of Prairie Artisan Ale's Americana, a really great American farmhouse, conditioned with Brett and dry-hopped. I'm hoping that the extra biodiversity helps create some extra layers of complexity and funk. I avoided pitching any sour farmhouse ales (even though that is what I was shooting for) to try and avoid accidentally picking up some Pediococcus. I want to keep the turn-around for this beer down to 4-6 months and avoid the extended aging Pedio fermentations require to hit their stride (that is coming up soon, stay tuned).

Instead, I got the souring organisms from the grains themselves. I made a 1 L starter of unhooked 1.038 gravity wort in a 2 L erlenmeyer flask and pitched in a cup of 2-row pale malt. This sat on a heating pad for 2 days, and smelled like strong greek yogurt or sour cream when I pitched in into my wort. This got a 5 hour head start on the rest of the yeasts, so I'm hoping it turns out a subtle acidity. I want tart, not melt-yo-face.

I dropped the pH of the wort to 4.4 before pitching the LAB in the hopes of slowing down the proteolytic activity of the Lactobacillus and keep the bacteria from breaking down all of the head-causing proteins in the wort. For more information see here.

Batch Size: 5.5 gallons into fermentor (6.60 gallons overall)
Measured OG: 1.048
Anticipated IBUs: 5
Anticipated SRM: 3.8
Actual Brewhouse Efficiency: 85.1%
Boil Time: 90 mins

75% [7.5#] - Pilsner Malt
10% [1#] - Rye Malt
10% [1#] - Munich I 
5% [0.5#] - Torrified Wheat

1.43 AAU [0.26 oz, 5.5%] - Willamette @ 60 mins (5 IBUs)
Dry Hop - ?

1 Whirlfloc tablets @ 15 mins
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 mins

WLP670 - American Farmhouse Blend
1 L starter of Lactobacillus cultured from 2-row malt

Bottle Dregs from Prairie Artisan Ales Americana Batch 1

Winston Salem, NC municipal water treated with 1/2 of a potassium metabisulfite tab and brewing salts added to achieve the following ion content:
48.8 ppm Calcium, 13.9 ppm Magnesium, 104.0 ppm Sulfate, 33.7 ppm Sodium, 55.3 ppm Chloride, and an alkalinity of 47.3 ppm Bicarbonate

This was my attempt to approximate the Saison water profile given in Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski.

Mash water treated with 6 mL of 88% Lactic Acid to achieve mash pH of 5.4Sparge water treated with 0.5 mL of 88% Lactic Acid to achieve pH of 5.4


Saccharification Rest - 15.70 qt @ 148 F for 75 minutes
Mash Out - 8.00 qt @ 212 F to raise grain bed to 165 F for 10 minutes
Drain Mash/Lauter Tun and Batch Sparge with 3.82 gallons @ 170 F

Fermented at room temperature: approximately 72 F.


09.05.2015 - Flushed a sanitized 2L Erlenmeyer flask with CO2. Added 1 L of 1.038 starter wort (unhooked) and 1 cup of uncrushed 2-row grain. Capped with an airlock. Placed on a heating pad set on low.

09.07.2015 - Brew Day. Overshot mash pH to 5.0. Added 1/4 tsp more Baking Soda to raise mash pH to 5.4. Stirred mash every 15 minutes to maximize efficiency. After boil, chilled to 100 F and dropped the wort pH to a pH of 4.4 using 88% lactic acid. Pitched starter of lactic acid bacteria. Placed in fermentation chamber to slowly drop to 68 F over the next 5 hours. Removed from fermentation chamber and pitched WLP670 and bottle dregs.

09.21.2015 - Two weeks out I decided to take my first sample. pH has dropped to 4.0 and gravity is down to 1.003. No pellicle has formed and signs of visible fermentation have disappeared. Aromatically the sample has some pilsen grainy-ness and a subtle lemon aroma. Hits the palate with some juiciness from the lactic acid, and a bit of belgian farmhouse earthiness. Not much else going on with this beer so far, not that I expected a ton. Time to settle down for a long wait.

10.07.2015 - One month out. The brett character is just starting to show up  as a subtle strawberry flavor that goes really nicely with the lactic tartness of this beer. It's really starting to develop nicely, and I'm starting to get really excited about where this beer is going. I rescued a vial of WLP645 Brettanomyces claussenii from my local home-brew store's bin of old vials, and pitched that in too. There should still be enough active cells going in there to make a difference in the beer. I'm hoping that the Brett c. together with the Americana dregs and whatever species of Brett is in the WLP670 combine forces to bring a nice blanket of funk. I won't be disappointed if the claussenii brings some nice fruity pineapple aromas to the show.

10.12.2015 - Pitched some dregs from Green Bench's Saison De Banc Vert for good measure. 

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