mark cook [email@example.com]
Hello Sierra Nevada! I saw the post on the AHA website and figured "what the hey", I'll ask a question.
I recently submitted entries to the AHA national competition, 3 of which have made it to the second round. My concerns are regarding judges comments as to the "mouthfeel" and body of all of my entries. I've recently tried a few commercial beers that feel almost like I've taken a bite out of a piece of bread.....How do I go about getting that perception with my beers?
Thanks for your time and consideration. Mark
Mark, mouthfeel comes from added dextrins and other unfermentable sugars. You can try a variety of ways of adding sugars. Add additional caramel malts, Munich malt, raise mash temperatures, or add oats or some other grains.
Moises Gonzalez [firstname.lastname@example.org]
I am new to Homebrewing. I have brewed about 4 batches in the past 5 months. All my past brews were from extract recipes. Now i am working on my 5 batch and want to experiment. I am planning on brewing a chile amber ale. I was wondering if you could help me in making this happen. I been reading a few things about it but i am still confused a bit. Some recipes recommend adding it after the fermentation activity dies down, others recommend adding chiles in the bottles and some during the boil. I know that brewing is all about experimenting and there are many ways one can make a beer, but i was wondering what you recommend is the best way to make a Chile beer.
Moises, I would add any chili addition post-fermentation. Think of it as a dry-hop…adding chili during the “hot side” would volatilize the compounds and drive off aroma. If you are using chilies on the hot-side of Calcutta, you will want to de-seed and de-rib the chilies.
Alan Marks [email@example.com]
Here’s my question about bottle conditioning:
If I want to both filter my fermented beer brilliantly clear, then add priming sugar and fresh yeast, how can I tell how much yeast to dose it with when I do not have a lab set-up to count the little critters?
Is there a way to standardize this to bottle a typical 5 gallon batch?
Thanks, and I hope to see you at beer camp someday!
2603 SW Villa West Dr
Topeka, KS 66614
Alan, there is no great way to do this without a lab setup, but there are a number of ways to come close. If you chill-proof your beer in secondary (drop it do 34-36 degrees for three days) prime with dextrose and you SHOULD be left with enough yeast in suspension to bottle condition. We personally think brilliant beers are overrated…cloudy is the new clear!
Michael K [firstname.lastname@example.org]
With today's highly modified base malts, is there a reason to continue to do step mashing?
I have always done a single infusion mash when I brew at home. It has always worked for me and is easy to do when batch sparging. Lately though I have been attempting to perfect my process and try my hand at creating beer similar to commercial beers. I pick a unique flavor and try to mimic that flavor in my beer. My latest attempt was a black IPA. I brewed using a single infusion mash and it turned out well. Hoppy with a slight malt background. After tasting it next to the commercial counterpart I could tell a real difference in the beers. The commercial beer had a much deeper flavor profile than my beer did. I know that it could be one of many different attributes but one thing came to mind was my mashing technique. I couldn't help but wonder if the depth of flavor the commercial beer had could be contributed to the mashing process. Because I've always heard that today's malts are so highly modified, they only require a single infusion mash, I've always done a single infusion mash. But could the flavor profile be enhanced through different mashing techniques like step mashing?
Mike, we use single-infusion mashing for nearly all of our beers. I think the depth of malt complexity has very little to do with step mashing or decoction techniques…We would recommend concentrating on building a more complex grist bill rather worrying about mash techniques. Try using more Munich malts or Pilsner malt and different types of roast malts in combination. By the way…batch sparging is for suckers!
Scott Barbanel [email@example.com]
After enjoying your 30th Anniversary Brewer's Reserve Grand Cru I was intrigued by the thought of blending beers to create something that is greater than the sum of its constituents, so to speak. I am in the planning stages of a blending program so the timing for the "Ask Sierra Nevada's Experts" is perfect!
When you develop recipes for a new beer is there consideration given to possible blending it in the future? What traits do you look for in a base beer that identifies it as a blend candidate or is it more just tossing some things together and to see what you get? Do you tweak a base beer if you are brewing a batch destined for blending? Is it important to keep the finishing and, if applicable, dry hops the same across the beers being blended? Do you consider the grain bills of the possible base beers when identifying blend candidates and if so, what are focusing on? Clearly the only way to understand this topic is by doing it but any guidance you can provide will certainly accelerate my learning curve.
Thanks and cheers!
Scott, there are different blends for different beers and each produce different results. Almost all of our commercial bottle beers have been blended for consistency. We’ll take Pale Ale brewed across a variety of days and blend those beers together so that each batch day-after-day and year-after-year is as consistent as possible.
What you’re asking about, though, is taking multiple beers and blending them together to create something new. First things first, we determine what we want the final flavor profile to be. We’ll take a fermenter sample of each beer and do rough blends to taste in flasks and get a baseline idea of what the finished product will be. Then we’ll adjust as necessary.
In the case of the Grand Cru, we had the concept of blending Pale Ale, Celebration and Barrel-aged Bigfoot. We had Bigfoot aging in bourbon barrels for nearly a year, so that was a known quantity, and we always have Pale Ale in the system, so we knew what that would be like as well. In our concept talks, we had a target ABV in mind which immediately limited the quantities of each beer used in the blend (If we’re shooting for a 9% beer, and we take X portion of 10% beer and blend it with Y portion of 5.6% beer we get 9% alcohol.) In doing this basic math, it became clear pretty quickly that the blend either had to be mostly BA Bigfoot, or we had to adjust something else down the line. We took our usual Celebration recipe and bumped the gravity and hopping levels to make a slightly “super” Celebration and used that in the final blend. The specs and proportions were identical, just a bit bigger. So in this case we did have a special beer in mind for blending. This beer was unusual for us, because it was based on concept well before the actual production. The beers were dry-hopped as they normally would be before the blend.
Nick and Em [firstname.lastname@example.org]
With summer comming around i would like to attempt infusing a beer with mango/pineapple. A couple questions about this;
1. I see loads of wheat beers used for the grain profile...Is this pretty much the base for most fruit beers?
2. I dont want to hit it too hard with the "tropical" tone so should i stay away from a yeast that has banana, clove undertones or would this compliment it without sending it over the top??
3. see above question but now insert citra hops...too much? I'm not looking for a drink you'd find in a Bahamas resort, just something with a session drinkability but respectable homebrew flavor.
Thanks in advance,
Nakiah, wheat malt is not necessary, but it tends to be a lighter grist. Go with a light beer…blond ale…etc. You’d want a lighter base for adding fruit.
2.I wouldn’t use a banana or clove heavy yeast…That could compete with the fruit flavor. Try something neutral Cali-ale yeast or something of the like.
3.) for fruit infusions, try freezing the fruit and adding into secondary. We’ve found that it retains a fresher more vibrant flavor…also, you can use a variety of hops to add to the tropical vibe. Try out Nelson Sauvin, (coconut character), Citra, (tropical fruit), Sorachi Ace (papaya). We’re not big fruit guys, so we say…skip the fruit, and rock the hops!
Frey, Chris (C.P.) [email@example.com]
I have been a homebrewer for 15+ years and 300+ batches, and I am always learning something new…
My standard process includes a transfer from the primary fermentation vessel to the secondary. I use glass carboys almost exclusively.
I follow a meticulous sanitation regime when I transfer, and do what I can to ensure minimal/no aeration during the transfer process.
However, as of late some of the most respected names in homebrewing are saying it is completely unnecessary to transfer to secondary’s. Perhaps because I am a creature of habit, I continue to transfer. But I also do this because:
• I see the beer clear up within a day of the transfer.
• I feel better about transferring off of the dead yeast and cold break.
• I personally do not like seeing the nasty yeast spooge (highly technical yet evocative term, no?) dried out above the beer (pure aesthetics, I know).
• If I cannot bottle when fermentation is 100% finished, I feel less concerned about waiting another week before my schedule allows me to bottle.
So, I am seeking your opinion. For a beer that might ferment 3-4 weeks, do any of my reasons resonate, or am I just old school and wasting my time and risking my beer?
Chris P. Frey
Chris, we’re old school too. Rack the beer off the yeast to avoid autolysis and leave the brothy dead-yeast flavor to the naysayers. BTW…in future, try to avoid using the word spooge it offends my delicate sensibilities. Also, yeast cells are asexual…no spooge necessary.
Thomas Ocque [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Wow! I have been wanting to ask this question the last two years.
Thanks! I love The SN Estate Beer. I know that all the raw ingredients are grown and tended to on the SN property. I too have been wanting to maximize my own Organic/Homegrown hops each fall.
Question(s): What is the easiest way to determine when homegrown fresh hops are ready for the boil? For Fresh Hop Beers, what is the best way to account for the large mass of hop material in a boil/dry hopping since these hops are not dried? Do you follow a formula for the amount of wort/fermented beer that is soaked up?
Your hop research/experience would be a great resource to all homebrewers that are also into hop growing and fresh hop usage.
Thank you and I look forward to your response(s),
Tom, you want your dry matter content to be around 25% before harvesting. Buy a cheap food dehydrator and a scale that can measure 100 cones. Weigh the cones, dry them overnight, and weigh them the next day to find out how much dry matter is in the cones remaining on the bine. Err on the long side.
You will absorb 4-5 times the weight of the hop when you add it to the fermenter. Hops are like little flowery sponges, they love to soak up beer. plan for the loss and you’ll be alright. By the way, Golden Ticket Baltic Porter was a damn tasty beer!
What's the difference, if any, between "Black IPA" and "Robust Porter" or "American Stout"?
Thomas, the difference here, is all about degrees. These three are styles that tend to shift and move over any set-in-concrete guideline. Our understanding of the styles is this:
A Black IPA (or Cascadian whatever) should have the body and mouthfeel of a typical IPA, just darker in color. The roasty, toasty, character of a porter should be kept at a minimum. Think Schwarzbier just in ale form. Look toward Carafa or Sinamar for color rather than chocolate or black malts. Black IPA is all about the hops. Just like a “pale” IPA.
Robust Porter is a bit more fuzzy. Essentially this is a strong porter with a hit of black patent malt for a deep roastiness. This is different from stout, in our opinion, because it doesn’t feature the roasted, ashy astringency of roasted barley. The hopping can be pretty variable…(BJCP says 22-35) but in our experience tend to be on the lower side of that scale. This beer is more about the malt than the hops.
American Stout is a strongish stout featuring a bit of black malt as well as a noticeable amount of roasted barley character. The body and mouthfeel can vary and the beer can range from sweetish-do medium drty but always features a healthy dose of citrusy and piney American hops (hence American stout). This differs from Black IPA because of the roasted barley character and from Robust Porter by coffee-like flavors of roasted barley. This beer is big but balanced with noticeable roasted malt flavor, and also noticeable hoppiness.
Kevin Teel [email@example.com]
I am concerned about a yeast starter. I have prepared a 1200ml starter of Wyeast 1056 (~1.040, using LME and R.O. water) I am using a stirplate and 2000 ml flask. It has been stirring for about 12 hours (approx. 64 degrees), but I am not seeing any foaming. I am concerned that I done something to the original yeast. I was very careful with sanitation of the flask, smack pack etc.
Should I see foaming like I would in the fermentor?
Thanks for your time.
Kevin, you will not see much fermentation activity within the propagation cycle. Under any circumstance, you wouldn’t see a big krausen, but there would be some definite yeast activity or at least an increase in turbidity. Give it another 12 hours and if still nothing, you might be out of luck. You can always take a gravity reading and see if it is, in fact, fermenting but that adds another risk of contamination, and given your small volume might negate the starter to begin with. Sometimes yeast is just stubborn and doesn’t want to take off…sometimes it’s best just to give it a burial at sea, cut your losses, and start over.
Tom Money [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Does Sierra Nevada do homebrew size batches for research ? If so, how do you upscale from small batch to large batch brewing. I am particularly interested in understanding hop utilization going from small to large batchs. Thanks Tom
Tom, we do smaller sized brews, but we don’t do homebrew sized batches. In 2004 we added a 10 BBL pilot brewery to our campus that is built to the exact same specs as our main 200BBL production brewhouse. The shape of the kettles, the heating system, the layout are all very similar so that we can get a better estimate of how a beer will taste when scaled up by 20 times.
As for hop utilization, we brew a test batch on the small system, and then use that as a basis for determining the rate of hopping on the large system. Our hop utilization in the pilot brewery is a little higher than our main brewhouse by about 3%.