Something of a basic ‘bitsa’ made up from odds and ends of inventory in order to test the reuse of yeast saved from Twisty Listy last week. This is the first brew where I’ve not followed somebody else’s recipe, so I’m calling it Thirst Scratch, as in “first attempt from nothing”.
We had some friends over last night to help us taste Thirst Scratch using a formal triangle test: each participant received three opaque plastic cups containing two samples, and then had to guess which two were the same before awarding points for aroma, taste, and feel.
Our two friends correctly identified which of their drinks was the odd one out, and when they expressed a preference for taste they chose the DH variant. They also chose DH in preference based on aroma, but it had to be pointed out that one of the two variants wasn’t going to be as strong as the other, without which this difference may not have been noticed.
The results from this test mirror my own thoughts based on the samples I’ve enjoyed from both kegs over the past week or so; DH has a slightly more complex taste and definitely more aroma, but that’s not to say HFR is unpleasant at all, just … different. One of the drivers behind HFR is the ability to add finishing hops while limiting exposure to oxygen – in theory – so I guess the experiment may yield different results were it to be conducted several weeks or moths later. Must make a mental note to do that with the bottled stock.
Finishing hops were added two days ago, time to get this into a couple of kegs and some bottles! I used my original bottling cane throughout, filling one 5 litre mini keg followed by as many bottles as I could, then repeating the process for the other variant. Managed to package 15 bottles in total;
7 black crown caps of dry-hopped ale, and
8 silver crown caps using Hot French Randall.
The dry-hopped ale went first and looked as well as smelled like you’d expect, but the HFR variant had practically no aroma at all, and when I tasted some it reminded me of a traditional bitter rather than a pale ale. To be fair it was warm, young and not carbonated, but I was hoping for some more hoppiness right from the outset. I had a quick taste of the dry-hopped variant too, but that was from the slops bucket where I’d primed the racking cane, so there may have been a trace of sanitiser mixing things up. Still, I’m almost tempted to say it tasted better than HFR, but that would be unfair.
The bottles are now up in the server room digesting the 5 ml of dextrose that was added during bottling, along with a pre- and post-fill blast of CO2 from the line, because why not. Let’s give them a week in the warm before turfing them out to the garage for conditioning.
Both kegs meanwhile are in the beer fridge, temperature somewhere between 5 and 7 degrees, pressure cranked to 13 PSI since I’ve also got Twisty Listy in there and want to enjoy that without a foam party on each pour.
I heard about a technique referred to as Hot French Randall a while back and wanted to give it a go, so what better candidate than the American Pale I was brewing with my first batch of harvested yeast?
My dedicated stainless steel cafetière had arrived a couple of weeks previously and Thirst Scratch was coming up for dry hopping, so I decided to split the hops into two equal portions and do the same with the brew, once I’d removed it from the refrigerator where it’s been cold-crashing for a few days. It actually went pretty well with only two hiccups.
The final dose of hops consisted of 25g Citra and 25g Falconer’s Flight, which I’d mixed together and sealed in a vacuum bag when I was weighing out the ingredients right at the start. Today I released the vacuum and gave the bag a good shake, but can’t be 100% sure that the two 25g batches I divided it into each contain exactly the same ratio of both hop types.
There’s a small chance of contamination from the new cafetière because the design features an inaccessible void in the lid which can nevertheless gather water, and it did so during cleaning. I noticed some black sludgy substance on the shaft as I was about to seal in the hops, and decided to wipe it off with some fresh kitchen roll, knowing it won’t be 100% sanitary but having to bow to the lesser of two evils or junk the experiment.
As tests go it won’t be totally clinical anyway because I didn’t add a cafetière of water to the half of the beer which remained in the bucket it was cold-crashed in (so the other half will be slightly more diluted) and I didn’t rack the ‘standard’ dry-hopped treatment to a fresh bucket, which means it’s still sitting in whatever it dropped during crashing.
Both vessels are now in the brewery at ambient temperatures of around 17.5℃ and as they’d finished fermenting I don’t expect their contents to be much above that. The traditionally dry-hopped bucket is a 25 litre plastic FV, the HFR treatment sits in my 10 litre SS Brewtech bucket, which was filled via the bottom spigot using a racking cane after being roughly purged of oxygen via a blast of CO2 from the top.
This brew was originally started as a low-cost experiment to see if I could do something with WLP001yeast harvested from Twisty Listy, and judging by the way it’s been fermenting these past 13 days that seems to have worked well, so now my thoughts turn to the next steps.
I’ve decided to split the batch, and dry-hop one half the traditional way in a regular bucket as opposed to a conical so as to get maximum exposure to the hop pellets instead of compacting them into small footprint. The other half will be exposed to the HFR method, or Hot French Randall. More on that later.
First it’s time to cold-crash so that I can get virtually all the yeast to drop out, and I’m doing this for two reasons; I want to harvest the yeast so that I can try this particular strain of WLP001 a third time, and I want the half of the experiment which will be traditionally cold-crashed to have as little yeast as possible. I heard somewhere that yeast interacts with the hops in a negative way (not just by venting hop oils along with any CO2 produced) and I haven’t tried it this way around before, so it’s worth a shot.
Having racked from the SS Brewtech conical bucket to a regular plastic bucket I fitted it with Bag Thing (recently revived with some duct tape after the tube came loose) and put her in the brew fridge, Inkbird set at 4 ℃. Meanwhile I used the turkey baster to remove the last dregs of beer from between the conical’s dip tube and the top of the yeast cake, before spooning some gorgeous, clean yeast into a sanitised glass jar, previously home to 453g of Manx honey. The jar filled in no time and there were probably another two jars left behind in the fermenter, which is pretty amazing considering that I originally received this yeast as two sachets of mayonnaise and had already used that to brew 22 litres of amazing IPA. If only hops could be persuaded to reproduce like that …
A final note on the state of the brew so far, and I must say that I was surprised at the darkness and the clarity, if to the aroma. There’s a definite umami quality to the nose, something between nuttiness and yeastiness, as well as a thin film that stays behind when the beer is swirled in a glass. I’m putting this down to the simply ridiculous amount of yeast that was in the bottom of the FV – over 3 lb – and I’m tempted to say that the yeast may not have fully finished clearing up after itself. I’ve had the filminess (and, to a lesser degree, the yeasty taste) in other brews which turned out fine, so I’m not worried. Cold-crashing will do its thing, and the hops are sure to mask whatever’s left over.
In terms of alcohol, in 13 days we’ve gone from 1.045 to 1.012 which equates to 4.3% ABV against Brewfather’s expected 5.0%, so not quite there yet. Those values are as measured using my traditional hydrometer – if we go by Tilt then we’re looking at 1.007 from 1.041, giving 4.5%. Also a bit short of the mark. Should I have left this in the FV longer? According to recipe I was supposed to dry-hop yesterday but we had a late night on the shooting range, and besides, I wanted to try cold-crashing and harvesting that yeast, so I figured an extra day wouldn’t have hurt. Going forward maybe I should have taken a manual gravity sample and based on the outcome waited a bit longer, but hey, it’s a learning curve.
After giving her a couple of days in the cold (aiming for 4 ℃) I’ll split the batch for traditional dry-hopping and HFR, with each half filling a 5 litre keg and, hopefully, around 10 x 500 ml bottles.
Checking in on First Scratch last thing tonight, saw there was some foam in the airlock. Thinking this was the beginnings of a delayed spew-out I removed the airlock and replaced it with a section of silicone tubing ending in a cup of sanitiser – perfect impromptu blow-off tube.
It carried on farting in brief bursts for a minute or two, then fell silent. We watched the silent seconds pass in building terror like any proud parent, until after half a tense minute or two of nothing a sudden burst filled the tube with Krausen and the beaker with froth. It’s alive … allieeeeveh!! Already I’m starting to like this particular yeast, and will make an effort to save it, setting it loose on future brews like a proud shepherd ferries his flock to new pastures.
Although there was some airlock activity within the hour of pitching my recycled yeast slurry last night I wasn’t going to start jumping to conclusions and declare this experiment a success, but the sight of a bubbling airlock this morning left little room for doubt: my ‘pet’ yeast was happy in its new home!
I’m wringing this almost exactly 24 hours after pitching what started out as two sachets of WLP001, and not only is the airlock doing its thing but I’m also seeing some very positive feedback from my Tilt Pro: SG 1.023 / 2.9% ABV, 20.8 ℃. That’s a little warm for WLP001 and it’s been even warmer throughout today, but there’s nothing more I can do since I have the SS Brewtech Bucket (25 litre size – a new vessel on its first outing) on the windowsill with the blinds down and windows fully open. The room’s at 16 ℃, the interior of the FV is pushing 21. Crazy.
With lockdown #3 now over I’ve been scouring the shops in search of a new keg fridge, and once I get that sorted I’ll be able to restore the current keg fridge to its intended purpose of keeping fermentation vessels in check. Not long now, my little yeasty friend.
My first all-grain brew to my own recipe was conceived less than 24 hours ago when I decided that I needed to try reusing the yeast slurry that I saved from Twisty Listy last week. I couldn’t save that for the upcoming Yeti imperial stout because the style is too different, so I thought I’d do a quick & dirty pale ale from whatever’s left in the inventory once Yeti’s ingredients have all been earmarked. As usual I’m too late in the day to write this up fully now that I’ve cleaned everything (to be fair I only started at 14:00) so I’m pasting the brew day notes in verbatim below and will tidy it up tomorrow.
One Week Later
Well, I guess ‘tomorrow’ is more elastic than initially thought. Truth be told I’ve been trying to post-rationalise some sense into the weird loss of wort but I just can’t figure it out. On my last brew I had to add 4 litres of water to the fermenter to get back up to my target post-boil volume. On this occasion I seemed to be 3.5 litres short after sparging, but I after topping that up I decided to add another 1.5 litres, because I wasn’t happy with the (again) short sparge and because I took a guess and felt that 5 extra litres in total would put me in the ballpark for my pre-boil gravity, adding some welcome volume while staying inside the kettle’s limits. That bit was right and I’m just one point short at 1.043, with post-boil being three points short at 1.045. I’m not too concerned with either of those, but I need to sit down properly one day and try to figure out why I’m always about 3-4 litres off my target volume after mashing. Maybe a side-by-side comparison of my adjusted hardware profile against the B40 default in Brewfather is the place to start.