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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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Interlude: Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

While I’m waiting for the next step in my home brew cider odyssey, I am indulging in a single bottle of Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale. While I am not the beer gourmand that I once was (meaning I used to drink a lot more beer), I do appreciate a good craft brew.

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Here’s where I spill the beans about my beer epiphany. In the Summer of 1983, I took a 6 week trip to Germany with my future wife. We stayed with her parents, who were living in Stuttgart for a couple of years. Up to that point, my experience with beer was pretty limited and basically was your typical binge and purge college experiences with Miller Beer. And then I arrived in Germany. West Germany, at the time. The regional beer was Dinkel Acker and my first one was a revelation in unpasteurized flavor and hops.

Eventually, I learned that there were, in addition to the regional beers, local beers that were specific to even the smallest town. I also learned that a 1/2 liter beer in one town, was NOT necessarily the same in the next town over. Where I am from, there was a limit of about 5% alcohol in beer. One could drive to a neighboring state and purchase beer with a slightly higher alcohol level, but none of it was particularly good. In Germany, the beer did not have a standard alcohol percentage . It varied from beer to beer, without warning! Sometimes I could drink a liter and have a small buzz; while other times, I would a 1/2 liter and have a serious buzz going! And it all TASTED GOOD!!!

My understanding is that it wasn’t until 1978 that Jimmy Carter signed the law that allowed legal home brewing. Is that widely known?! I’m no Jimmy Carter fan, but he DID have one major accomplishment as President! By 1983, the “micro-brew” phenomenon was still in its infancy in the United States. After only 6 short weeks traveling West Germany and visiting surrounding countries, I returned to the United States and, at some point, bought a six back of Miller Beer. I almost did the comedy classic “spewing of the beverage” when I took my first swig. Had someone switched my beer with a bottle of dog urine?!  I couldn’t drink it! (Sorry, Miller Beer.)

Over time, as budget permitted, I would seek out imported beer that was, while pasteurized, still very good. Eventually, the micro-brews started taking off. Home brewers were finding a new audience and stepping up. Soon, even the beer giants started offering some more flavorful beers. I did settle into a regular domestic that was okay and affordable and I drank plenty of it. Then, the doctor said that needed to stop! So now, I rarely have any alcohol and never more than one serving. But could that serving be more worthwhile? Well, craft brews are numerous now, but they can be pricey. What could be more affordable? One look at the internet and you will see that home brewing is still VERY popular and there are people who are seriously absorbed by it!  After an initial investment of about $100 to $150 though, basic brewing really isn’t too hard and the actual ingredients make home brewed beer fairly inexpensive. (I’m hoping my town will have a brew shop soon! Until then, I’ll drive the 15 miles or so to get my supplies.) I was actually pretty happy without alcohol; however, an abundance of crabapples has led me down the path to brewing. (I have all the jelly and crabapple butter I need for the next year.)

While out and about today, I came across the Weyerbacher Pumpkin Ale, brewed in Easton, Pennsylvania. Since I just cooked up several quarts of pumpkin puree and have been reading a bunch of brewing forums lately, it caught my eye. So, while I am far from a gourmet who is qualified to critique someone else’s product, I do know what I like.

At $3 per bottle, it's all about quality, not quantity.

At $3 per bottle, it’s all about quality, not quantity.

Technical points aside, since I wouldn’t know what I was talking about; I like this Weyerbacher Ale.

It’s a little bitter, but not overpoweringly so. It’s a pretty color and has a nice aroma. I guess I get the spices a little, but they aren’t assertive. I don’t know if actual pumpkin was used in the process, but I get the overall idea.

Nice color on the Pumpkin Ale.

Nice color on the Pumpkin Ale.

Did that sound pretentious enough? Well, at $3 per bottle, I felt obligated. Anyway, this ale is something I would like to replicate sometime in the future with a brew of my own, just a little less bitter. Okay…enough for tonight. I think I’ll drink the other half of my beer and hit the sack. (My tolerance has really dropped over the last few years!)

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