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Update on Mowing Mt. Ranier Cherry Citra Ale: Infection!

This is what infection looks like...damn it.

This is what infection looks like…damn it.

Well, I have my first confirmed infected beer. After racking the Mowing Mt. Ranier Cherry-Citra Ale, I noticed some patches on the surface the next day. Then, the following day, there was a complete film (a.k.a. “Pellicle”) covering the surface. I confirmed that it was on the small blackberry batch, as well.

What caused the infection? I don’t know. A fruit fly touching the beer during racking? A microscopic particle drifting in? Cherries weren’t properly sanitized? Sloppiness when transferring wort from kettle to fermenter? No way to know really. From what I understand, there are a few possible outcomes. I could put it in an out of the way place and let it go for a couple of years and hope that the infection is Brettanomyces strain and would slowly transform my beer into a mindblowing sour beer. It could be an acetobacter (commonly from fruit flies) that would basically turn the beer into vinegar. It could be something yucky than would just turn the beer into something disgusting. Finally, I could go ahead and try to siphon from under the pellicle and bottle the beer ASAP and cross my fingers. The eventual outcome could still be nasty, or it could be good initially and go downhill. Or it could get better with age. Again…no way to tell in advance. So, I’m going to bottle it. The next step, after that, will be replacing my siphon and tubing and bleaching the Hell out of my carboy and bottling bucket, and hoping to salvage them. Some say it should all be thrown away or only be used for sour beers. Others say bleaching works.

I was almost out of 12 oz bottles, but I have some 22 oz “bombers”, so I went ahead and bottled the little blackberry batch into 2 of those and one 12 oz. The beer seemed to taste okay still. Luckily, a brewer friend had a couple of cases of bottles that she gave to me…saving me a trip to the supply store and about $35 for 2 cases of bottles! So, bottling will be my project tonight. I’ll update later….

***Okay…it’s later. I bleached all my utensils and the bottling bucket, rinsed well and then sanitized again with Starsan. The bottles, I soaked in Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda solution, rinsed well, and then sanitized with Starsan.I went transferred the beer to the bottling bucket with 3oz sugar dissolved in hot Culligan water. I collected 4 gallons to bottle. I tried to stop well before any of the stuff from the pellicle got too low. As the volume in the carboy dropped, the pellicle coated the sides.

The clarity and color were nice though...dang it!

The clarity and color were nice though…dang it!

Volume drops, pellicle coats sides.

Volume drops, pellicle coats sides.

I went through the bottling process and got 42 bottles (12oz). The beer is clear, the color is nice, the flavor is good. If it weren’t for the infection, I would have been really happy at this point! It is depressing though that the few bottles I did yesterday from the little blackberry variant were cloudy at the bottom and may have had some stuff floating at the top. It could be that it just had more crap in the smaller bucket and I wasn’t as careful getting it into the bottles. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the main batch. I had intended to go light on the priming sugar, but I overestimated how much beer I would collect; so it turns out that I added the amount of sugar that would have been recommended anyway…though I was shooting for 2.2 atmospheres, which is a little under. I will have to watch for overcarbing.

Update 9/10/15: Refrigerated a bottle all day and opened it last night. Not carbed enough. I’m not sure it’s good enough to save, but I’ll give it a couple more weeks.

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Racking to Tertiary: Mowing Mt. Ranier

Racking to tertiary for clearing.

Racking to tertiary for clearing.

Looks like the Mowing Mt. Ranier Ale, Cherry-Citra “lawnmower beer” is done with secondary fermentation and dry hopping. I let it go a couple of extra days, just in case, because the cherries in secondary DID restart fermentation.

Secondary-fermented red cherries...giving up flavor and color.

Secondary-fermented red cherries…giving up flavor and color.

Once the small amount of krausen worked itself out, much of it precipitated to the bottom, just leaving the cherries floating. (Note: my little 1/2 gallon blackberry recipe looks good, too and I racked it as well. Not as much color imparted by the blackberries, but the flavor is interesting…good.)

After settling under refrigeration, the blackberry sample.

After settling under refrigeration, the blackberry sample.

Racked my little blackberry batch, too.

Racked my little blackberry batch, too.

The red cherries did impart some color that I would not have gotten if I had used all Mt. Ranier cherries; however, it IS a nice color. I removed a sample for tasting and to get an SG reading. The color, as I said, is nice. The flavor has pronounced cherry and citra, without being sweet or heavy.

Transferred back to clean carboy to clear for a couple of days.

Transferred back to clean carboy to clear for a couple of days.

Sample of Mowing Mt. Ranier Cherry-Citra Ale

Sample of Mowing Mt. Ranier Cherry-Citra Ale

The SG got down to 1.007, so the alcohol should be 4.73% ABV. That’s actually a little lower than the recipe estimated, but I’m actually very happy with that.

I cleaned and sanitized a bottling bucket and racked into it. I dumped the cherries, hops bag, and the small amount of trub that made it through the last racking. I washed, rinsed, and sanitized the carboy again and transferred the beer back into it. Looks good…pretty clear. I’ll give it a couple of days to settle and then it should be good to bottle.

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Racking to Secondary: Mowing Mt. Ranier

 

Ready to rack to secondary

Ready to rack to secondary

A few days ago, I did a specific gravity test on the Mowing Mt. Ranier Ale with Cherries. It was down to 1.009 (the anticipated was 1.008) and hadn’t shown signs of activity in several days. To be safe, I waited a few more days before racking. I had some time this morning, so I went ahead and got it done. I removed the stems and pits from some regular red cherries and weighed out a pound.

One pound of pitted cherries, stems removed.

One pound of pitted cherries, stems removed.

I was not able to find Ranier cherries locally anymore and my brother in-law canceled an order for dried ones when I warned him not to get ones processed with sunflower oil. Unfortunately, that’s what he had ordered. So, I have decided to finish the beer with the regular, fresh, red cherries. I sanitized them in StarSan, since I didn’t have time to soak them in vodka and freeze them. I also have a small experimental batch that is just about a 1/2 gallon after racking. I have sanitized a pint of frozen blackberries and added them to that little batch.

Frozen blackberries for the little experimental batch.

Frozen blackberries for the little experimental batch.

After racking the main batch, I cleaned the carboy, sanitized it, and transferred the beer back into it, onto the cherries.

Racking

Racking

Sanitizing the carboy.

Sanitizing the carboy.

Cherries in secondary.

Cherries in secondary.

1/2 oz Citra hops pellets for dry hop addition.

1/2 oz Citra hops pellets for dry hop addition.

I have what appears to be right at 5 gallons. To this, I added a dry hop addition of 1/2 oz Citra hops pellets that I contained in a little sanitized fine mesh bag. Dropped that in and put the airlock back in place. There is a possibility that the yeast, suspended in the beer, could start fermentation back up with the sugar in the cherries. Ideally, the batch will be done in five days. If it takes longer, that’s okay. I’ll let it be ready when it’s ready. So far, everything looks and smells good. There isn’t a lot of cherry flavor, but I’m not looking for cherry soda. The cherries added to secondary should give me what I’m going for.

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Brew Day! Mowing Ranier

The set-up. Mashing in and maintaining temp with a blanket and a "space blanket".

The set-up. Mashing in and maintaining temp with a blanket and a “space blanket”.

 

It took awhile to get organized this morning, but eventually, I got started. I began with 6.25 gallons of strike water heated to 149F…but it overshot a little. After I added the grains, the water came down to 150.8, but that’s okay. The mash went for 60 minutes. I checked it at 30 minutes and it was still 150.6F.

Next, I raised the temperature to 170F and did a mash-out for a few minutes and then did my usual rigged sparge with 2 gallons of water at 170F.

My McGyver sparge set-up.

My McGyver sparge set-up.

That put my boil at about 7 gallons. The pre-boil specific gravity reading was 1.035…a little lower that expected. Looking at my grain, I don’t think the brew shop double-milled the grain for “brew in a bag” (BIAB), as I requested and it looks like my efficiency is suffering for it.

After the sparge...looks like a pretty coarse crush.

After the sparge…looks like a pretty coarse crush.

I’m not really hung up on the ABV, though. It’s supposed to be a “lawn mower” style beer anyway; this the name. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it means a beer suitable for after mowing the lawn. Lighter body, lower alcohol, refreshing. Plus this one has Mt. Ranier Cherries (I had to add a few regular ones to make up a pound), stems removed, pitted.

Mostly Mt Ranier cherries, stemmed and pitted.

Mostly Mt Ranier cherries, stemmed and pitted.

When I move it to secondary fermentation, I’ll be adding about a pound (minus a couple samples!) of dried Mt Ranier cherries. Have to make sure to get ones NOT processed with sunflower, or any other, oil.

So, after the sparge, I started the boil. I did remove about a gallon of wort to reduce the chance of boil-over. Once the boil was going, I added the first 1/2 oz of Citra hops. After 15 minutes, I added back the excess wort. I did get one small boil-over, but I reacted quickly and didn’t really lose much at all. After 45 minutes, I added the next 1/2 oz of Citra hops and 1 teaspoon of Irish Moss (to facilitate clearing). At 55 minutes, I added another 1/2 oz of Citra hops (the last hops addition will be a dry hop in secondary). At 3 minutes, I added the cherries.

Just about done with the boil.

Just about done with the boil.

Then it was time to use the wort chiller. Unfortunately, with the temps in the mid nineties daily, the water temp coming from the hose is 80F+. I was only able to get the wort down to about 84F. So, I brought the wort inside and transferred it to a carboy. Unfortunately, again, it’s difficult to transfer from a stock pot to a carboy…especially with cherries in the wort! I did sanitize everything, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there was no contamination. I used a stainless steel Kitchenaid mixing bowl and a rigged paper cup funnel to dip and pour the wort into the carboy. I could really use a brew kettle with a valve/spout. I wound up with about 5-1/2 gallons of wort in the carboy and about 3/4 gallon in a separate, small fermentation bucket. I think I’ll use the extra for a blackberry experiment.

I let the wort sit for awhile to cool a little more and then added the US-05 yeast. I sprinkled enough on the small batch to cover the top and the rest went into the carboy. I’m afraid the temp was still around 80-81F…thought I killed the yeast. But, the yeast survived! The next morning, there was good action going on.

It's alive! It's alive!

It’s alive! It’s alive!

There is a possibility, at the higher temperatures, that some “fruity esters” will develop. They’re considered undesirable in most beers, but in a fruit beer, may be okay. If they do develop…meh. Maybe they’ll compliment the cherries. I’m not sure I would pick them out, anyway. Oh, and after I finished and cleaned everything up, I made two batches of spent  grain dog treats. That should last awhile…it’s over 3 pounds. The rest of the  used grain is feeding my compost bin.

Spent grain.

Spent grain.

Spent grain doggie treat dough, patted out and cut...ready for oven.

Spent grain doggie treat dough, patted out and cut…ready for oven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four bags of doggie treats, about 12 to 13 ounces each.

Four bags of doggie treats, about 12 to 13 ounces each.

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Day 141 Bottling Cherry Belle Saison

Cherry Belle Saison

Cherry Belle Saison

I made a rookie mistake this morning. I got all set up to bottle a small batch and I started filling the bottles without having added any priming sugar. D’oh! So, I quickly cleaned and sanitized a 2 gallon fermentation bucket, consulted Northern Brewer’s priming sugar calculator and got on with the little task of priming. The calculator recommended 1.33 oz (using corn sugar) for a 1 gallon batch at 78F. I have a history of over-carbing, and this was recommended at 3.2 volumes of CO2 for a saison style, so I went with 1.25 oz. Not a big reduction…nothing to do but wait and see how it turns out.

Oops...started bottling without priming sugar! Put it in reverse!

Oops…started bottling without priming sugar! Put it in reverse!

I added the priming sugar to about 8 oz warm water to dissolve and added it to the bucket. I poured the bottles I had filled onto the sugar mixture and then racked the balance of the beer onto it and mixed it well. I rinsed and sanitized the bottles and started over with the bottling. I was able to fill 11 bottles with just enough left over for a small sip to taste.

Yielded 11 bottles.

Yielded 11 bottles.

The color imparted by the cherries is beautiful…love it! The aroma is definitely cherry and there’s a little alcohol there. As for the flavor, there’s good cherry there. At this point, however, I’m not getting any of the bittering from the Citra hops and no saison character from the yeast. I’m going to give this 2 months to bottle condition though, so I’m hoping some more complexity develops.  I’m second guessing myself now on the decision not to dry hop this little batch. Ah well, relax, it’s just home brew beer, right? At the worst, it will be a fizzy alcoholic cherry drink.

Yesterday, I racked the main batch of Citra Belle Saison to secondary with a dry hop bag containing one ounce of Citra hops pellets. I love the smell of these when you cut open the packet! Wow!

Racking to secondary.

Racking to secondary.

DSC05272

 

Anyway, I didn’t get a chance to write it up, but everything went smoothly. I decided to take a shot at harvesting a second round of Belle Saison yeast, just to see how it does. I only saved one jar…just play with.

Washing yeast. Decanted yeast to a small jar after it settled.

Washing yeast. Decanted yeast to a small jar after it settled.

The Citra Belle Saison will get about 5 days on the hops before bottling, so may be bottling Saturday.

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Day 140 Pasteurizing Tepache, Bottling Ginger Beer, Racking Cherry Belle Saison

Pasteurizing.

Pasteurizing.

 

I decided to go ahead and pasteurize the Peach-Pineapple Tepache. The test bottle was pretty hard. The sample I tasted was lightly carbonated, but I didn’t want to take a chance of overcarbing. I filled my pressure canner body, with the false bottom, with hot water. I used the bottles to be pasteurized as a measure of how much water to use. This served an additional purpose: warmed the bottles a little before pasteurization. I removed the bottles and put the pot on the stove. I brought the water up to 180F and removed the pot from the heat, placed the bottles in, partially covered with the lid, and set a timer for ten minutes.

Lid mostly covering the bottles.

Lid mostly covering the bottles.

Bottles in, off heat, at 180F

Bottles in, off heat, at 180F

When time was up, I removed the bottles to a towel on the counter to cool.

Pasteurized bottles, cooling.

Pasteurized bottles, cooling.

My next project was to bottle the non-alcoholic ginger beer.

Strained ginger beer (non-alcoholic)

Strained ginger beer (non-alcoholic)

I strained the solids out through a cheesecloth and the used a siphon and bottle wand to fill cleaned/sanitized bottles and capped them. They will need to carb for at least 24 hours and then be pasteurized.I believe this batch is too sweet, but I followed the recipe. I put the ginger and spices back into the fermentation bucket. Since they only sat for 24 hours, I feel like there is more flavor to give. So, I’m making a “second runnings” ginger beer that I am going to allow to ferment and produce alcohol.

"Second Runnings"

“Second Runnings”

I added 4 cups of water and measured the OG at 1.062. I may reduce the sugar a little in future batches.  Anyway, I put the bucket back on the heating pad and wrapped it in the Space Blanket.

Next, I got a quart of Culligan bottled water and boiled it for ten minutes and, while it was boiling, I siphoned the the Cherry Belle Citra Saison into a 1 gallon glass carboy for a tertiary stage, leaving behind the cherries and a little sediment.

Secondary leftovers from the Cherry Belle Citra Saison

Secondary leftovers from the Cherry Belle Citra Saison

The color is really nice and the cherry flavor is good. I think this will benefit from a little aging. After the boiled water chilled in the refrigerator, I topped off the saison to a gallon. It didn’t take the whole quart…maybe a pint. I’ll let this settle for a couple of days and then bottle it.

Racked Cherry Belle Citra Saison, before top-off.

Racked Cherry Belle Citra Saison, before top-off.

As for the main batch of Belle Citra Saison, I did an SG check and it was 1.000 at 83F. That’s 1.003, corrected for temperature. This should be ready to rack to secondary any time. When I do rack it, I’ll be dry hopping with an ounce of citra pellets.

Main Belle Citra Saison hydrometer sample.

Main Belle Citra Saison hydrometer sample.

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Day 139 Making Ginger Beer, Bottling Tepache, Checking Cherry Belle Citra Saison

Bottled Peach-Pineapple Tepache and a soda bottle to judge carbonation.

Bottled Peach-Pineapple Tepache and a soda bottle to judge carbonation.

Tonight, I knocked out a couple little projects and checked up on one. My micro batch of Cherry Belle Citra Saison has a pretty color from the cherries and I think they’ve given up all they really have to offer. I’m going to rack this brew to tertiary tomorrow to settle for a few days before bottling.

A peek at micro batch Cherry Belle Citra Saison.

A peek at micro batch Cherry Belle Citra Saison.

I went ahead and strained my peach-pineapple tepache…it had a bubbly pellicle covering the surface. I siphoned out from under the surface and through a few layers of cheesecloth. I’m not sure it was necessary, but I feel good about it. The flavor is really nice. It’s sweet and tangy and the spice is coming through nicely.

Peach-Pineapple Tepache sample...sweet. tangy, spiced...good stuff!

Peach-Pineapple Tepache sample…sweet. tangy, spiced…good stuff!

The SG is 1.041 and I feel like it’s time for bottling. So I got that done and filled a soda bottle for carb testing. If it goes like I’m anticipating, I should be pasteurizing Monday morning (about 36 hours).

My other project for tonight was peeling a pound of fresh ginger,

A pound of fresh ginger, skin scraped off.

A pound of fresh ginger, skin scraped off.

 

shredding it in the food processor,

DSC05243

Shredded fresh ginger.

and starting a non-alcoholic ginger beer for my brother in-law who is from Trinidad. I’m using a recipe from a cookbook he brought from Trinidad and it looks very similar to tepache, except it uses freshly grated ginger instead of pineapple skins. Here is the recipe:

Ginger Beer

1 lb fresh ginger, skin scraped off with a spoon, grated

8 cups water

Juice and zest from 1 lime

4 cups granulated sugar

1 stick cinnamon

4 to 6 cloves, whole

Directions: (I have adapted for my bottling procedure) Combine all ingredients in a 2 gallon fermentation bucket and stir to start sugar dissolving.

Ingredients in the fermentation bucket.

Ingredients in the fermentation bucket.

Seal lid and install an airlock. Place in direct sunlight for 1 day. (We are having rain, so I’m putting the bucket on a heating pad overnight and most of tomorrow.) Next day, strain. I assume that this would become alcoholic, if I allowed it to ferment longer, but that’s not the plan for this batch. Sweeten to taste, if necessary. Bottle. (I’m going to top off to a gallon with fresh bottled water to extend the batch a little.) Fill a soda bottle to use for judging carbonation progress. It should take a day or two. Pasteurize and store in a cool, dark place and refrigerate before opening. (Open over a sink or outside just to be safe!)

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Day 137 English Ale Yeast Starter, Updates on Tepache, Citrus Saisons

Decided to go ahead and pick a yeast that I got when I took the SouthYeast class and grow it by making a starter. I picked the WLP028 English Ale Yeast because it is recommended for Scottish/Scotch Ales and ciders…both of which I would like to do soon. Unfortunately, since the crab apple trees on our community property have all been destroyed ***STEAM***

Cutting down the crab apple trees...crap!

Cutting down the crab apple trees…crap!

So pissed.

So pissed.

I’m going to have to go ask a neighbor if I can pick from his tree, in exchange for some jelly or cider.  Aaaanyway, got the starter going.

I moved the Peach-Pineapple Tepache outside to get some sun for a few hours. It is fermenting, but obviously needs another day or two before I strain it.

Fermenting! Peach-Pineapple Tepache.

Fermenting! Peach-Pineapple Tepache.

The Citra Belle Saison is still getting some airlock action and there’s no rush. It’s still in primary fermentation; about 6 gallons. I’ll probably lose almost a gallon when I rack it, due to the fairly thick layer of trub. The Cherry Belle Saison is also fermenting again in secondary fermentation on the vodka soaked cherries, but not aggressively at all. I’m actually surprised that the natural sugar in the cherries didn’t kick up a stronger secondary. Again, no rush, but I’m kind of intrigued by this little one gallon micro batch!

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Day 135 Micro-Batch Cherry Belle Saison

Micro Batch Citra Saison

Micro Batch Citra Saison

I currently have a Citra Saison batch in a 6 gallon carboy going through primary fermentation. When I brewed that batch last Monday, I wound up with an extra gallon. I decided to process that in a 1 gallon carboy and create a “Micro Batch” of Citra Saison with vodka soaked cherries. Since this batch is made using a Belle Saison yeast that I harvested from my Hi-Nelson Saison w/Hibiscus. I’m calling the micro batch “Cherry Belle Saison”. The full batch was hopped at 30 minutes and 10 minutes with Citra hops. The big carboy isn’t ready to rack yet, but will get dry hopped with Citra when it’s time.

Both carboys on the heating pad and with the Space Blanket open.

Both carboys on the heating pad and with the Space Blanket open.

This micro batch will not be dry hopped…I’m thinking that the dry hop would be too much to let the cherry flavor come through. Also, hop flavor fades over time and I think I may age the micro batch a little longer than the main batch…maybe 4 or 5 months. I’m anticipating getting about 9 bottles out of this batch and I’ll probably taste one after about a month, so I should have 8 bottles to age.

This carboy was looking pretty clear and it doesn’t really need to wait for the big batch. Plus, I’m pretty sure that the natural sugar from the cherries is going to restart the fermentation process, so I didn’t really have to make sure that it was completely done with primary fermentation. Finishing secondary and a brief tertiary stage will be important for this one.

The cherries, 1 pound, were soaked in about 1/2 cup of vodka and kept in the freezer since Monday.

Frozen cherries with vodka

Frozen cherries with vodka

I added those to a two gallon fermentation bucket with the vodka, and racked the small carboy of saison onto them.

racking onto the cherries and vodka in the 2 gallon bucket.

racking onto the cherries and vodka in the 2 gallon bucket.

The I sealed the bucket and added an airlock. I put the bucket back on the heating pad and Space Blanket wrap with the big batch and I’m done for tonight, except for the clean-up.

I got a hydrometer sample from the bottom of the 1 gallon carboy and checked it. It was 1.003 at 84F, so, corrected for temperature variation with the hydrometer, it comes out to 1.006 SG.  I’ve stuck the sample in the fridge to cold crash, so I can check the clarity and flavor later. The clarity looked pretty good before I racked it. After racking, I’m just under a gallon. DSC05204

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Day 133 Brew Day! Citra Saison with Harvested Yeast Starter

Setting up for brewing

Setting up for brewing

This was an uncharacteristic brew day for me. I usually don’t brew on weekdays. Certainly not Mondays. But the starter I had hoped to pitch in a Citra Saison pushed me back a day. I have never harvested yeast and never made a starter before now and I was afraid that the starter was going to be too weak. I worked out a boost for the starter (see previous post) and moved the brew back a day.

After I got everything all set up and ready to go, I got my BIAB (Brew In A Bag) in place and heated my strike water, 6 gallons.  The goal was 150F…water went to 154F and I mashed in. The water only dropped 1/2 degree though. I turned off the heat and made a run for ice. When I returned, the temp was 150.2F. Over the next 45 minutes, I tried my best to maintain the target temperature of 150F; however, it was probably more consistently in the 153F range.

After the BIAB (Boil In A Bag) steep and "sparge"

After the BIAB (Boil In A Bag) steep and “sparge”

Here is where I will talk about my changes to the original recipe that I found online. First of all, I decided to do Pale Malt 2 row, instead of Pilsner. Two reasons: sale on Pale and 60 minute boil instead of 90 minute. (Some recommend Pilsner boil for 90 to reduce chance of off flavors.) Next, I added 1 teaspoon of Irish Moss at 15 minutes left in the boil to aid clarity. I also realized that I had forgotten to buy 1 pound of Belgian Clear Candi Syrup…made a run to the closest brew shop, only to find that they are closed on Mondays. Aaaargh! So, I substituted a pound of raw North Carolina honey, instead (at 10 minutes left in the boil). I am also planning on adding a dry hop step to secondary. The recipe calls for Citra hops to be added 1/2 oz at 30 minutes and 1/2 oz at 10 minutes left in the boil. I am a big Citra fan, so I am going to add an ounce in secondary.

Okay, back to the procedures: After the 1 hour mash in, I did my usual “tea bag” style dunking and draining of the bag, using a large pizza screen over the pot for support. I then set up a bottling bucket with 2 gallons of sparge water at about 150F and used the spigot with some hose on it to do an improvised sparge. I’ve used this method that, as far as I know, I made up, a few times and I think it helps a little. This left me with a rather full kettle, so the boil was a challenge and had to be monitored pretty carefully.

The pizza screen was helpful in the tea bag style sparging and in helping keep bugs and debris out.

The pizza screen was helpful in the tea bag style sparging and in helping keep bugs and debris out.

I set timers for my additions and all of that went well. Did my usual ice bath chill and managed to get the temperature of the wort down to about 90F, pretty quickly…good temperature for Belle Saison yeast.

Now, I wanted to use my glass carboy for primary fermentation, so I could have a visual on activity. The problem is getting 7 gallons of wort from a stock pot into a heavy glass 6 gallon carboy using a funnel. I struggled and spilled a bit, trying to figure out a grip and pouring into a small target that filled quickly. I could see that wasn’t going to cut it, so I poured about 3/4 of the wort into the bottling bucket I had used for the sparging, and then went through the spigot and hose into the carboy. Obviously, I was going to have too much wort, so, rather than toss it, I grabbed and sanitized a one gallon carboy and put the rest of the wort into it.

I used my oxygen tank to oxygenate the big carboy for two minutes and the little one for one minute. Between the refractometer reading of 1.048 and the hydrometer reading, corrected for temperature to 1.044, I’m  going to estimate 1.046 OG.* Rather than try to decant my yeast starter, I decided to swirl the flask to mix it well and pitch the whole thing…guesstimating some for the smaller batch. The starter wort used pale DME (Dry Malt Extract), so it shouldn’t hurt the flavor of the beer. The recipe doesn’t give a projected FG, but Belle Saison is pretty aggressive, so I’m betting on around 1.002 for the big batch. So, maybe a 5.78% ABV? I would be happy with that.

Here's the volume of wort I wound up with.

Here’s the volume of wort I wound up with and my flask of starter yeast.

I have no clue what to expect for the one gallon batch, because I’m going to add one pound of fresh cherries to secondary fermentation, rather than dry hopping it, and the sugar in the cherries will surely kick fermentation back into gear. I currently have the whole cherries in the freezer with some vodka. When it comes time to rack the small batch, I’ll crush the cherries into the vodka a little to release some juice and add it all. I’ll probably use a 2 gallon bucket that I use for ciders to do the small batch secondary, so I have a wide opening with which to work.

The recipe calls for a week each for both primary and secondary; however, my Hi-Nelson Saison needed a little over two weeks for primary and then a week for secondary. And the small batch may go longer in secondary. I’ll probably even rack the small batch to a tertiary stage to clarify once it’s off the fruit. Probably back into a glass carboy again so I can judge the clarity.

The big question mark is whether my yeast starter was going to work. The yeast was pitched at 3:15 p.m. and the carboys were set on a heating pad, on the lowest setting. At 6:30, there was no activity evident and the glass felt pretty cool.

Carboys on the heating pad.

Carboys on the heating pad. (Beside some Hi-Nelson Saison with Hibiscus and some Diet Root Beer (Truvia)

I upped the heating pad to medium and wrapped the carboys in a “Space Blanket”. By 9:30 p.m., they were both chugging along in the airlocks…not violently, but good, frequent bubbles every second or two. Success!!! Woo hoo!!!

Heating pad AND Space Blanket...now we're chugging!

Heating pad AND Space Blanket…now we’re chugging!

I cold crashed the hydrometer sample just to see what it looks like and how it tastes at this stage. Obviously malty and sweet at this point, but it seems like it will be nice and clean, light bitterness and the hops should shine through on the main batch and the Belle Saison should add a little spice and funk. The little cherry batch should be really interesting!

Hydrometer sample, cold crashed and easier to get a read. And a taste for evaluation.

Hydrometer sample, cold crashed and easier to get a read. And a taste for evaluation.

*I also let this sample come to room temperature and took another hydrometer reading. at 74.2F and 1.046, adjusted to 1.047, so that will be my new OG to go with. I read the hydrometer with no contacts or glasses and it was much easier to get a good read, so I feel confident with that figure. (An additional refractometer reading, of course, calls it 1.048, so…whatever!) Could be around 6% ABV…anywhere in that  5.75 to 6.05% range is close enough.

For the original version of the recipe, go to this link or cut and paste into your browser:

http://www.danielshomebrew.blogspot.com/2014/01/citra-saison.html

Always give credit where due!

Update: Okay…the following morning, the airlocks were fouled. I quickly set up blow offs and the yeast is going at it, big time! Definitely had enough yeast!

 

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