After my fourth try to ferment a Saison using Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison, I’ve finally succeeded. The yeast has a reputation for fermenting down to about 1.030 and stalling, requiring a finishing yeast to get it down into the dry saison range. It also likes warm temperatures – I’ve even tried fermenting in my summertime garage to make it work to no avail. Heating blankets, no bueno. So then I read Gordon Strong’s “Brewing Better Beer”, a book I highly recommend, and learned the yeast is likely descended from red wine yeast and does not like pressure at all. Two process tweaks and I’m measuring final gravity at 1.009 with no stalls, the first is covering the carboy with loosely crumpled aluminum foil secured with a rubber band to minimize pressure buildup in the carboy. The second tweak is use of an aquarium pump set for 84 degrees in a water bath to maintain a constant, slightly elevated temperature. The second tweak is going to come in handy when SWAMBO does her Zinfandel, a wine that likes warm fermentation.
In the aforementioned book, Strong mentions two qualities that make a good brewer, or for that matter, anything else. The first is to understand what matters and focus your attention accordingly. In our world, that means if your sanitation is not good, no amount of water tweaking will improve your beer. The first principle in brewing, as in just about anything, is to know what’s important. To me, what’s important is to get harshness out of my beers so most of my process changes are designed around that. I focus my energies on good fermentation control, clean wort into the fermenter, first-wort hopping and using only chloride salts to add calcium. The second principle is know your control points and what actions to take. Strong and I share an engineering background. When running a process, you can’t always control what’s happening but you can control – take action – at certain points to ensure successful completion of the process. That’s the principle at work. Know where a control is appropriate, measure and take action. Your beer will improve.
Got two additions to the brewery yesterday. After many problems holding temperature in my 10-gallon Rubbermaid cooler I replaced it with the same size in Igloo. Will test to see how well it holds temperature this coming weekend. This bit of gear counts as a “tweak”. I was getting good beers with decent body but am hoping for a bit more control. Second addition was a high-pressure tank full of oxygen. Just the welding-grade stuff but with that and the Big Oxygen System from William’s Brewing, I should take some of the guesswork out of oxygenating wort. The most difficult part apart from the price tag – the tank and gas cost nearly $100 – was getting to the welding supply store when they were open. I honestly don’t know how hobby welders get their supplies: The store closes at 4:30!
This year our annual peach trek to Palisade, CO was a bit more involved than usual. We had our daughter and grandchildren, all of whom moved in with us about the time I went radio silent last year, with us in a suite at a bed and breakfast. It sounds swankier than it is. Sharing a bathroom with two women and a two-year old…. Okay, don’t want to offend any female readers so I’ll leave it at that.
The general purpose of this annual trek, aside from the absolutely gorgeous produce we can pick up out there that was on the vine the day before, is wine. Which brings us back on topic. We’re sad to report one of our favorite wineries, Reeder Mesa, is hanging it up. Once Doug has sold out of his current stock he’s done. That, after taking the gold medal at the Mesa County Fair, best of show for his Tempranillo. Doug is very good at what he does. He makes the best wine in the Grand Valley. It will be a shame to see him go. Otherwise we got quite a bit of wine for the year but while we’re on the vino, a shout out to She Who Always Must Be Obeyed (SWAMBO). She tied for first place in the Italian Red Wine category in the Colorado State Fair, took first place for the same wine and second place for her Riesling in the Adams County Fair and the red took reserve grand champion in that category. Congrats, dear!
The beer part of the Palisade trip was a little disappointing. I have a friend who works at the Colorado Agricultural Research Station there and she offered to let me pick some of her hops. I was enthusiastic about the idea until I realized first, I have no good way of drying them quickly enough, that is, before we returned home, and second, I don’t have time this week to make a fresh-hop batch. Bummer. Maybe next year, if they have excess I can snag some of them and find a dehydrator on Craig’s List beforehand, I can score some good, fresh hops.
A shout out to Cory, former head brewer at the Dillon Dam Brewery. He’s set up his own place in the old Village Inn in Silverthorne, CO and we finally stopped in. Good brews and a good-natured brewer! I got to sample some of his upcoming ideas, an IPA with a fruit-punch nose (in a good way, via the hops) and a wheat beer, not a Wit, with some orange peel. Visit the Brewery Bakery if you have a chance, it’s worth the stop.
After a fairly long hiatus, I’m back. I won’t go into why I was away so long, suffice it to say life started massively getting in the way about last September. Things are better now here at Casa Nosy, there’s time to reflect and write so I will resume this chronology of my brewing and share my lessons learned.
A preview of what’s to come:
– Nearly a year’s worth of lessons-learned. Hopefully I can save you a mistake or two.
– Nearly a year’s worth of brewing. New styles, new recipes, new philosophies of brewing.
– A new philosophy of brewing.
– A program for learning to brew that could save a lot of missteps and marginal batches of beer.
The first lesson learned is not to let life get in the way. Easier said than done when you’re trying to protect a daughter from an abusive ex-husband and you’re raising the grandkids. Perhaps a better way of stating it is there are things that are more important than brewing including protecting daughter, raising grandkids, etc. As that part fades with time, having a rewarding hobby like brewing is sanity maintenance, not to mention it results in beer a substance that can also serve as a coping mechanism. Not that I didn’t brew! I became reacquainted with extract brewing and learned some tricks that can make it a part of any brew regime. Using some small batches, I dialed in some recipes I’ve wanted to brew for a long time. I learned much about tasting beer, making it less harsh, water, hopping, all of which I intend to share. I experienced the disappointment of the first competition I’ve entered without winning anything, unless you count an honorable mention. And I watched my wife win a reserve grand championship with a wine we made here at home from a wine kit.
I’ll apologize once again for being remiss and hope to have you back as we resume our journy through the joys of zymurgy and through consuming the products of the art and science.