May 19, 2013

Cider Fermentation Panel: Tasting

I met with the guys at Leidel's orchard agian last weekend to check in on the wild cider fermentation experiments.  We took gravity readings and sampled each batch.  Here are the results:
  1. Brett drie (BSI) - 1.000
    - orange peal, citrus, tropical fruit, pineapple, tingling feeling on the sides of the tongue. 
  2. Brett custersianus - 0.999
    - lemonade like citrus, cherry, white wine, flavor not intense, but pleasant.  slightly watery.
  3. Brett nanus - 0.998
    - overripe/rotting fruit, cheesy, not pleasant. 
  4. Brett lambicus (wyeast) - 0.995
    - grassy/woody, watery flavor, tingly.
  5. Brett bruxellensis (wyeast) - 0.999
    - hay and floral funk with sweet nectarine. 
  6. Brett claussenii (WL) - 0.998
    - light citrus, watery, yeasty.
  7. Brett fantome (ECY) - 0.998
    - hay funk, green apple tartness, tingly.
  8. Saccharomyces paradoxus - 0.998
    - buttery Chardonnay, candy sweetness.
  9. Brett blend (drie, claussenii, fantome, ECY05) - 0.998
    - light citrus
  10. Brett blend and oenococcus - 0.995
    - as compared to #9, less tart and more alcoholic.  less flavor.  watery.
  11. Brett blend with maltodextrin addition - 0.996
    - as compared to #9, smooth/creamy feel and more flavorful.
We didn't bottle as this was the only gravity reading I have and don't know what the FG will be for any of these.  Normally you might think 1.000 is a safe number, but having batches at 0.995 makes me cautious.

The base cider we used was intentionally a neutral and lacking flavor.  This allowed us to more easily pick out the flavor of the yeast only.  As you can see from the Brett fantome batch, we could taste a green apple flavor and know that it wasn't from the base cider, but rather the yeast.   So while this was beneficial, I think its important to note that the base cider wasn't very flavorful and led to some batches tasting "watery".  This might be better stated "the yeast strain didn't produce a very large amount of flavor".  With a different base cider blend, these may still be viable strains for producing tasty cider.

It was very interesting to feel this tingling sensation on the sides of my tongue from some batches.  I have no idea what that is and have never experienced it before.  Future batches are required to see if this is something brett does in cider.

Batches #10 and #11 are worth talking about more.  While we were experiencing some palette fatigue, it was easy to compare them against #9 and see the impact from the addition of oenococcus and maltodextrin in cider.  Quite simply, oenococcus wrecked the brett fermentation while maltodextrin enhanced it.  I was skeptical that maltodextrin would do anything as I knew the brett would eat it away, but it does seem to have helped both the mouthfeel and the flavor.

The favorite batches were drie, custersianus, bruxellensis, fantome and paradoxus.  I already feel like I want to revisit some of these strains, so I am going to hold off final judgement until I taste these a few times.  Also, I'm looking forward to tasting them once carbonated, but it will be a few weeks before I have another chance to get up there and bottle.

May 9, 2013

Foraged Farmhouse

Its been nearly 10 months since I started the "minimalist lambic".  I've tasted it here and there, and unsurprisingly the beer is fairly simple.  The main flavors I get from it are barnyard funk, bitterness, and lemon rind acidity.  The barnyard flavor isn't the horse-blanket funk, but rather a softer more earthy/floral barnyard.  It reminds me more of the funk you get from brett farmhouse beers.

With that in mind, I had decided that I should run with the earthy/floral flavor and add some dandelions.  Its not my personal favorite, but thought it could add some complexity and make a nice summer sour beer for my wife.  When I went out to pick some dandelions, I noticed maple flowers blooming above me.  I had been told just the night before that these are edible, so I decided to try some.  Turns out they are pretty good.  I picked two varieties; Sugar Maple and Norway Maple.  Ironically, the Norway Maple flowers are much sweeter than the Sugar Maple's.

Sugar Maple flowers.

Norway Maple flowers.

Eating them raw is fine, but I had no idea how they would translate into a beer.  I decided to take a pinch of each and make a tea with them to get an idea of how strong the flavors would be.

Teas made with maple flowers and dandelions.
I found I preferred the flavor of the Norway maple flowers the most, but they both make pretty good tea.  I sorted out and added about 2 cups of Norway maple flowers, 1 cup of Sugar maple flowers.  The dandelion tea seemed to be a bit vegetal, which I attributed to the green bottom of the flower, so cut that part off of each and added 1/2 cup of dandelion flowers (petals?).

Bowl of ingredients ready to be added to the beer.
I also decided to add 4oz (~1 cup) of dried cranberries.  I'm not looking to pick up cranberry flavor in the end, but rather just a soft fruity note.  Also I thought it would help the color of the beer.

I'm thinking I'll give these about a month to infuse with the beer and then it'll be ready for bottling.  With any luck, it will be a nice summer beer.
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