Saturday, March 30, 2013

Russian Imperial Stout Comparison

I like North Coast's 'Old Rasputin' Russian imperial stout. It's a good representation of the style that isn't crazy alcoholic and allows for easy consumption. So, when I developed the recipe for my RIS I kept Old Rasputin in mind and focused on big roastiness with balanced drinkability.

I use 85% domestic 2-row and a mix of roasted and Munich malt for the remainder of the grist. I don't use any caramel malt in this brew but shoot for straight forward roasted flavor. The bittering is about a 1 to .75 ratio with a 60, 15 and 1 minute additions that imparts a small amount of citrus/pine from a charge of centennial hops.

Russian Imperial Stouts
Although this beer is extremely young (8 weeks) I couldn't wait to sit down with friend and The Beer Company owner Antonio to do a taste comparison with Old Rasputin. Our focus was to evaluate the differences between the two beers and come to a consensus on improvements needed for future batches.

In the pictures attached, my stout is in the plain glass and Rasputin is in the Delirium glass. As you can see the beers are remarkably similar in head color and retention as both dropped down to a dense and viscous layer that remained that way until the end of the sample.
The mouthfeel was slightly different in that my beer was full and round and the Rasputin felt more resinous and thin but with more carbonation.

My beer has a predominant chocolate presence along with the typical roastiness and some earthy qualities compared to Rasputins up front coffee, caramel and even though both beers come in at 9% abv the Rasputin's alcohol presence is evident, very different from mine in this way. It is also more bitter by I would guess 6-8 ibu's.

Overall I'm pleased with my RIS with it's robust chocolate and coffee qualities but there are a couple small changes I will make on the next batch beginning with higher ibu's and just a touch of crystal #60 for some caramel taste as a minor player.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Two Factors For Better Attenuation

I enjoy my beers on the dry side and regularly use well attenuating yeast to ferment with for the most part. My go-to's are Safale US05, and Whitelabs Wlp001 and Wlp500, but on occasion I will still end up with beer that is under-attenuated as the yeast leaves behind unfermented sugars when it drops out of solution and goes dormant.

I scratch my head confused and frustrated by these results after feeling like I made sure I did everything right. My fermentation temperatures were within the optimum range and consistent and the wort was well aerated. I'm convinced that all of my brewing practices were perfect for a complete conversion only to be disappointed when the yeast wasn't able to complete its task. But there were a couple lessons that I had not learned yet and they needed to be addressed.

Two main reasons that under attenuation occurs that I wasn't considering with the seriousness that it deserved was the accuracy of my mash temperature and the level of my mash ph.

The importance of strike temperature
I often took a careless approach to the important effects of mashing at either too high or too low a temperature which can either limit the effectiveness of one of the essential enzymes and or denature and stop other enzymes from effectively breaking down starches into simple sugar molecule chains, something the yeast is relying on us as brewers to execute well, for their ease of metabolism.

I am now very careful about getting my mash temperature to within a degree or two at the beginning of the mashing time. My strike water temperature for the grain to water ratio that I use is 166-168f. which leaves me with a consistent rest temperature of 149-151f. Knowing this, I can achieve a slightly more fermentable wort by lowering my strike temperature by a couple degrees or raising the temp. for a slightly less fermentable wort. But I still regularly confirm a proper mash temperature after thoroughly mixing in the grist. I do this by comparing my mash tun thermometer for accuracy on occasion to make sure I'm getting proper readings. This is achieved by taking the temperature of the mash with another thermometer, one that I know is accurate. I stab down into the mash from above, moving around to different areas of the grist, I then compare this reading with the built in thermometer, essentially getting a consensus from the two readings.

The importance of mash ph.
The other factor that effects yeast and one in which I paid little attention is mash ph. A mash ph. that is alkaline or above the optimum 5.2 to 5.7 range will again effectively leave you with long chains of sugar in the wort as the beta amylase enzymes work best is an acidic environment. An alkaline environment limits this enzyme activity thus leaving the yeast with a difficult time of metabolizing.
When brewing with hard water, relying on the grain bill to lower the mash ph. may not be enough and so other steps must be taken. A couple simple solutions would be to dilute the brewing liquor with distilled or reverse osmosis filtered water essentially softening the water, adding calcium in the form of gypsum and/or adding acid to the mash.

A dry beer ready to be drunk
The importance of these two influences in starch conversion should not be overlooked and if you are finding that your beers are coming in with low attenuation, should be considered as primary factors to investigate.

Now that I carefully manage these two areas during my brewing session I have been able to consistently achieve proper attenuation from my yeast and effectively manage the outcome of the remaining sugars depending on the style of beer I want. Cheers!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cerveza Cortezana Review

I'm spending a lot of time brewing beer and trying to keep up with the growing demand for Dos Aves here in San Miguel but on occasion I have time to sit back and enjoy some of the other Mexican beers that are available.
Two of my most recent samplings were from a brewery in Toluca, Mexico called Cortezana and I tasted them both at The Beer Company.
I started with the lighter one, a beer that I guessed at regarding the style since the label gave no indication of what I was about to drink. It is light gold or yellow and murky with a white thin head and low carbonation. The beer has a large phenolic taste of clove and all-spice and unfortunately a little vinegar at the end. Although this beer is light and crisp the acetobactor element detracts from my fully enjoying it. The body is light along with a low 4.4% abv. I could only guess that this beer is an attempt at a German style hefeweizen but has some elements of a hybrid yeast. Maybe a combination or blend of Whitelabs wlp300 and the Belgian wlp500 yeast. I was unable to get any more information about this beer from their facebook page. (Interesting side note: Most businesses in Mexico use a facebook page instead of  a website. Most likely because of the cost and ease of use.)
The second beer that I sampled by this company was a stout and the style is clearly stated on the bottle label. Actually, it's not printed on the front, but is clearly noted on the back label. In any case, this is a dark and again murky beer with bits of sediment and yeast clumps floating about even after a careful pour. This beer also had a quickly diminishing head and low carbonation. A light aroma of coffee and roasted grain.
The flavor was clean aside from the flavor of yeast and a moderate taste of coffee and cocoa with a slight lingering roast bite. On the bland side but fairly drinkable if you're looking for a single serving.
To conclude, I haven't found an artisenal beer that I really like, that is, a micro brewery here in Mexico. Minerva, Tempus and T.J.'s provide some consistently enjoyable middle of the road styles that I'll often resort. I recently had a Cerveceria Primus' Tempus alt that was very good and a good representation of the style. The one small brewery that I really like and that as it turns out has their beers contract brewed at Minerva is La Chingoneria . Each beer I've tried by them have been excellent and naturally, there are non to be found anywhere in San Miguel.

If you know where I can get a bottle, let me know cause I'm dying of thirst for a great Mexican micro brew. Besides Cerveceria Dos Aves of course.


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