Process Experiment: Hop Bursting vs Hop Standing

While hop standing is not necessarily a new practice, it has been getting a lot of hype from the homebrewing community. For the purposes of this article I am defining and using the terms as follows:

Hop Standing/Whirlpooling: The practice of adding a significant portion of late hops at flameout or after flameout potentially at a temperature lower than hop oil flashpoints.

Hop Bursting: The process of obtaining all or nearly all of your IBUs from late hop additions.

One thing that has always struck me about homebrewers is how much we seek to emulate professional brewers in our practices. Many experiments completed by homebrewers have shown that what holds true for professional brewers likely doesn’t translate to our small scale. This brings me to what I had long consider the largely unnecessary process of homebrewers using hopstand/whirlpools because professional brewers do it. Internet lore on this topic (and backed by actual science), states that when hops are steeped lower than the flashpoint of certain oils you are extracting better or different flavor compounds that make a better hop experience. And, after all, don’t we all want a lot more hops in our lives 🙂 ?

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Process Experiment: Can you Ferment a Sour Beer and a Clean Beer Side by Side?

As previously noted in my sour beer post, I love sour beer. After brewing my first sour, and doing a little sample, I was freaking stoked! I could not believe that I had produced something even remotely similar to the sours I’ve enjoyed over the years. With the knowledge that I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy this beer for another 6-8 months, I figured it was time to brew more sour beers so I would have a steady supply sometime in the future. I didn’t want to sacrifice my fermentation chamber for another three weeks at 80 degrees to get 5-10 gallons of beer that would be ready a year from now. Searching the internet I found mixed results on whether or not you can ferment sour and clean beer in the same chamber, let alone at the same time. Since no definitive answer could found I decided this should be my next process experiment. Around the time of deciding to brew this I was listening to a lot of Jamil’s old shows on the brewing network, and, became really interested in trying the Roeselare blend from wyeast. After deciding to try this blend, I settled on the recipe from the first sour, and chose to do a 10 gallon split batch between WY3763 and a normal Trappist ale. The Trappist ale would be fermented side-by-side with the sour and subsequently entered into the NHC to determine if BJCP judges noted this beer as having any off flavors consistent with cross contamination. Also, with the high FG, I decided to use the Trappist ale to top off my sour which would eventually be transferred to a Hungarian oak barrel for aging.

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Hop Experiment: Hallertau Blanc vs HBC 438 vs Mandarina (ECY28 Kellerbier)

For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled reading descriptons of hop flavor/aromas. It’s no secret that smell and taste are extremely subjective, but the liberal use of words that many people don’t have a frame of reference for can be downright frustrating when building hops into a recipe. Catpiss, dank, resinous, fruity, piney, lemony, lemongrass stalk, grass, weed, stone fruit, currants, and the list goes to infinity. I’ll easily concede that there isn’t a more realistic or effective way for us to convey attributes about beer to each other. However, it can be very difficult to read profiles on hops and translate flavors to  the final beer. Looking through my recipes it’s quite easy to pinpoint the hops I’m comfortable with and not many others. One thing I’ve done that has been helpful is utilizing the hop aroma/flavor chart. Tracking my experiences with hops numerically has been a great way to quantify why I like certain flavors and what the cause of that flavor/aroma might be. With the explosion of flavorful hops in the past few years I’ve been remiss by not experimenting more and expanding my brewing knowledge by incorporating new hops into my routine. We harp on process and repeat-ability so much as homebrewers, but sometimes we just need to try something different and see where the flavor takes us (maybe I’m learning some from Jeef).

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Yeast Experiment: ECY01 Bug Farm vs INIS913 Brett Barrel Yeast III & WLP645 Brettanomyces Clausenii (Belgain Golden Sour #1)

Recently, I was lucky enough to try a beer I had been trying to get my hands on for years, Pliny the Younger. Denver usually receives a couple kegs which are served at events, but I had never been able to make it to one. This year, Parry’s Pizza got a keg, so a friend and I woke up super early and stood in line to ensure we got to try this impossible to find beer. While we were waiting for Younger we were able to have a couple Russian River sours that I hadn’t had in a while, and was instantly reminded why Russian River is the best! The complexity of there sours is world class, I’ve been lucky enough to have a few Cantillon lambics, and can say that Russian River is right there with them. Sitting there waiting for Younger, we were inspired to craft our own Temptation.

Also, recently, I had been lucky enough to get a vial of East Coast Yeast’s (ECY) annual Bug Farm blend. Having never brewed with ECY before, I did a few internet searches and could tell they had a decent cult following and pretty rave reviews. Though the specific strains used in Bug Farm are not disclosed, the description from the website sounds like a blend which would create a great lambic style sour. With my inspiration to make a beer similar to RR’s Temptation, I settled on The Mad Fermentationist’s Temption clone as a starting point in building my recipe. I had been very interested in 100% brett fermentation as well and thought this would be a good split batch comparison to really dial in which flavors in a sour are brett versus bacteria. In Colorado we’re lucky enough to have a great new company called Inland Island Yeast (INIS) which claims to sell 200 billion cell pitches and sells some interesting strains. Their INIS913: Brett Barrel Yeast III is apparently directly from Crooked Stave (CS) and is the CS house brett. Reading the white labs website it seems that their brett c strain would be a great addition to add some pineapple character.

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Process Comparison: Fermenting in a PET Carboy vs Corny Keg

Homebrewers go through many steps to eliminate post fermentation oxidation of their beer. One of the ways that’s commonly expounded is to flush kegs/bottles with CO2 prior to racking. While I don’t regularly do this due to sheer laziness, I have recently been looking for ways minimize oxidation post-fermentation in an easy practical manner. One such method that had been intriguing me for some time now was fermenting in corny kegs. I had heard about corny keg fermentation on older brew strong episodes in which JZ and Palmer poo-pooed this practice due to the shape of the keg not being ideal for the yeast. I didn’t really think about it much more. I first noticed corny keg fermentation in use in a brulosophy article on pressurized fermentation by Greg Foster. While I had no real interest in pressurizing my fermentations, fermenting in a corny keg would mean one could simply ferment, hook up to CO2, and rack into a purged corny keg for serving. Ultimately this would mean the beer would never have to touch oxygen after the first CO2 expelled from fermentation blanketed the beer. Also, this would mean no lifting carboys onto a raised surface for a gravity transfer, no risking glass shards (for those who use glass regularly), etc. There are of course draw backs to fermenting in a corny, the smaller volume means that 5 gallon batches may need to be sized down slightly. However, with liberal use of fermcap-S, maybe not that drastically. Before diving headlong into fermenting in a corny keg I needed to do a side-by-side batch and have them served blindly to me in order to confirm whether or not I was ready to ditch the carboys.

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Extract Experiment 1: Does Late Addition of Extract Make a Difference?

When I first began brewing, I brewed steeped grain/extract beers that never quite tasted like I thought beer should taste. Many online forums attribute this to the “extract twang.” While I don’t necessarily prescribe to this school of thought, given the fact that Ray Daniels book gives many examples of award winning extract beer, I quickly made the switch to all grain. I can unequivocally state that my beer has improved immensely since those early brews. However, was this due to the all-grain switch, or, could this have been because I started pitching an “appropriate” amount of yeast, oxygenating the wort, better temperature control, etc?

A simple search of late extract addition yields various claims of “no extract twang” to “better hop utilization” and everything in between. While i’m somewhat skeptical of these claims, I think a comparison experiment will help to provide more solid information in this debate.

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Yeast Experiment: The Yeast Bay Midwestern Ale Yeast vs WLP002 English Ale Yeast

Having been to both England and the Midwest of America one can’t help but notice many striking similarities between the two. Outside of London, most of England feels fairly blue collar. They love their footbal teams, and enjoy a great pint after work. I also tend to think that beer culture in both countries is actually much more similar than we as Americans like to admit. In England, beer drinkers are passionate about telling you which beers are worth drinking, and what is garbage. You could almost call them beer snobs. Of course, anyone who’s browsed beeradvocate or any of the homebrew forums will note that Americans are quite adept in that skill as well. Americans and Britians are both ale drinkers, and, seem to prefer the pale ale above most beer. Given our country’s heritage, when I imagine early home brewing in the US, I think that it was probably something of a rudimentary understanding of British brewing practices in the 70s and 80s due mainly to availability. I also believe that many of the original house styles and strains from craft breweries during that time would have descended from British styles (with the exception of alt, wheat, and lagers) for reasons of availability of source ingredients, as well as push back to macro breweries, most of which emulate German brewing practices.

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