Friday, November 26, 2010

Swedish brewing radio needs your support!

The Swedish brewing radio is a project run by two homebrewers who have invested a lot of time and money in this great service towards swedish homebrewers. As the traffic on the site has exceeded their wildest dreams, they now need your support to keep the project running. Interested? Have a look at and click on the donation button! I did.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fermenteezer, sorachi saison and tripel

It's been a while since my last post. The family keeps me busy these days, so finding time to blog is not always easy. However, I am writing now, and will start off by telling about my fermenteezer, or fermentation freezer.

I had been thinking about controlling my fermentation temperature for a while, but until I really knew what I wanted I used a 50 l bucket filled with water. In the water was a aquarium heating element to control the temperature, and my 30 l fermentation bucket was floating in the big bucket. Pretty good system, but it only allows heating. Worthless for cold crashing and lager brewing, or when the ambient temperature is too high. Finally, after reading through a lot of post on American, Dutch, Belgian and Swedish forums (being a polyglot has its advantages...) I knew what I wanted. For the fermentation chamber a wanted a box freezer. Fridges don't go low enough (how else am I going to lager my Duvel clone, if I can't reach -3 °C?), and upright freezers don't fit a bucket. The box freezer I bought is rather small (the car also has to fit in the garage) and fits 1 30l bucket or 2 25 liter water containers.
For controlling the temperature I wanted to use a thermostat that can steer both cooling and heating. I also wanted to control the temperature accurately. The TC-10 from Forttex fulfilled all of these criteria. For heating I used a hair dryer. Luckily the cheapest I could find also had the lowest wattage. After all, I don’t want to grill my beer...
This is how it looks: a fermentation freezer steered by a TC-10.

The beer then... I have designed a few recipes, but unfortunately I haven't had time to brew them yet. As belgoträffen, a local competition for Belgian style beers, is approaching it was about time to get going. This is why I will brew not less then 2 beers this week. First I will brew a saison with sorachi ace hops, 20 liter on my own gear. Later this week I will brew the 2010 version of my tripel on the club's braumeister. 2 brews I'm really looking forward to. I am really curious about the sorachi hops. They are suppose to give a nice lemon zest/lemongrass aroma to the beer. I hope it will not be like biting in a lemon. To be on the safe side I'll use some styrian goldings too.
The tripel was the 2009 success story. I was quite proud of it myself, and it scored the highest of my beers on the Swedish championships. Taking the comments of the jury into consideration I will now slightly modify the recipe, control my fermentation temperature and brew enough for both belgoträffen and the Swedish championships. Also the yeast is slightly different, Instead of wyeast 3787 I will now use a starter from a single colony of Westmalle yeast, directly from the source.

Will I brew a price beast? Not sure... but as long as I like it, I'll find people willing to help me emptying the keg.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I finally own a magnetic stirplate. It was about time. As I usually use yeast from my yeast bank, starters can get quite big without a stirplate.Take my last beer for example. Without a stirplate, I would need 3.5 l starter, with a stirplate 1.3. Not only are smaller starters easier, they are also cheaper, you need less malt extract. Commercial stirplates tend to be quite expensive, as they are made to stir big volumes on a daily base. For my purposes, I decided a home-made version would be good enough. So, I went to the local electronics store and bought a box, a 12V fan, a few rare earth magnets, a contact and a potentiometer. All together less then 250 Swedish kronor (25€, 35$). Maybe not as durable as a commercial stirplat, but it works. Here's the result stirring a 100 ml starter, but it's capable of stirring starters up to 1 liter.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hop analysis: alpha and beta acids

First of all I want to thank all of you who visit this blog. More than 1000 visits! And of course a special thanks to my follower (you know who you are!), the repeated visitors and my 4 fans on facebook. I'm glad so many beer geeks have found the way to my blog. Now to the subject of today.
We recently bought some hops from a wholesale retailer in Belgium to sell to the members of our homebrew club. Unfortunately the retailer is not the best communicator. First it took several months for him to send the order, then he didn't inform us about the alpha acid content of the hops. He didn't even reply to my mail. It looks like we have to find another retailer next time... Fortunately, I work in a research lab and have access to a spectrophotometer. So I did it myself!
The method for determining alpha and beta acids in hops I found here. As this might be interesting for some of you, I took some photos.
First I pulverized the pellets with a pestle in a mortar. Whole pellets are to dense and would never allow the acids to be extracted from the hops.

For extraction of the oil containing alpha and beta acids toluene is used. After some time looking I found it in a paint store where it is sold a a paint thinner.

After weighing in the hops, I added the toluene and extracted the oils for 30 minutes.

After diluting the samples and control i methanol I read the absorbances at 275 nm, 325nm and 375 nm. Because I wanted to get an idea of the background absorbance by the solvents, I also run a scan of the control. As you can see, down to 275 nm the background is rather low, but at lower wavelengths the absorbance quickly increases.

Finally I did the math and found the Saaz and Styrian goldings to have about 2% AA. The Magnum and Northern brewer about 11%. I guess I'll have to do a test brew to find out if it fits. One more reason to brew!

Monday, August 9, 2010

How my quadrupel turned into an oud bruin

This week I tasted a bottle of a quadrupel I brewed 2 months ago, and was surprised to discover a slight sourness. Not bad at all, it tasted a bit like Rodenbach, or Oerbier. However, it was not supposed to be there, which makes it an infection. I suppose this is what can happen if you brew during summer. I put a drop of the dregs under the microscope and found it to be a pediococcus infection. Luckily the taste is realy nice, so I won't pour it down the drain. Below a picture of the dregs:

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Brett of Cochonette

This spring I isolated yeast from Cochonette, an amber beer brewed by Brasserie à vapeur. I noticed, when drinking the beer, that there was something funky going on. Not surprisingly, because brasserie à vapeur is an artisanal brewery and their brewing technique is much lika it was 100 years ago. So, yeasterday I was refreshing my yeast bank and came across the vial of Cochonette yeast. I still wasn't sure what caused the funky sourness in the beer (lactic acid bacteria, brett?) so I decided to have a look under the microscope. I haven't been able to take pictures yet, but from the look of it, this beer was heavily "infected" with brettanomyces. Looks like I will have to isolate single colonies... Oh well, that just increases my yeast bank with one more strain: the Brett of Cochonette!

Edit 21/7: Picture!

The small round cells are Saccharomyces, the smaller and slimmer ones the Brett. As I said, more Brett then Saccharomyces...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Introducing project Hanssens

Now that I successfully hav isolated a Saccharomyces and a Brettanomyces strain from Orval, it is time to go wild. A few weeks ago, I drank a Hanssens oude geuze. I saved the dregs and poured some DME wort on to bow some life into this wild dormant soup. After a day, the dregs had come to life and were happily producing CO2. I will now plate out this mini starter and hope to get some nice colonies. By making a starter I should have favored the growth of Saccharomices strains, so theoretically thay should show up first on my plate. After a while I also hope to get some Brett strains appearing. I also would like to get som Pedio or Lactobacillus out. For that I will use DME agar supplemented with 10 % tomato juice, some dead yeast and 2% CaCO3 to buffer te acid produced. As a teaser, here's a picture of what my mini starter looks like under a microscope. The tiny rods are most likely Lacobacillus of Pediococcus. The bigger cells look like yeast, of which the round ones look like Saccharomyces and the smaller ones Brettanomyces. To be continued...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Planning the next brewing season. Suggestions?

During the summer I will take it a bit easy. I will mainly be drinking instead of brewing. However, the recipe designer in me can't help thinking about hte next brewing season, again dominated by Belgian beer styles. Here's what I want to brew during the fall (if I manage):

  • Dubbel

  • Tripel

  • Strong golden ale

  • Lambic

  • Imperian amber wit

  • Blonde

  • 100% Brett amber ale (Brett from the Orval project

  • Strong saison with Sorachi Ace hops

The reason why I want to brew these beers is either because I brewed them before and want to improve the recipe, or because I feel the urge to experiment with hops and yeast strains. More then one of them will be split batches, with several yeasts in parallel. I really don't feel like washing 1000+ bottles, whitch is approximately what it will take to bottle all of these beers. Should I consider kegging? I don't know, in my opinion, nothing beats bottle conditioned beer!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Project Orval, the first pictures!

I have finally managed to take some pictures of some of my orval clones. On the left you can see one clone, probably Saccharomyces cerevisiae because of its rounded shape and budding daughter cell. On the right you see a clone with the working name "tiny colony" because it grew much slower on wort agar. Judging by its slow growth and its ogival shape, this is probably a brett strain. At least it's not Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Today's brewing day!

Today I will brew my (probably) last beer before the summer. A Belgian dark strong ale called "St-Trudo Abdis 12" after a monastery in Male, close to Bruges (Belgium) where I grew up. I even have a personal connection with the monastery as my childhood dentist changed career and became a nun.
It should be a nice brew with a respectable OG of around 1100. A few experimental touches: first time I brew a massive beer on the club's Speidel Braumeister, and as part of my sugar I will use molasses. The exact amount will be determined later, as I want to taste the wort after several smaller amounts of molasses. I definately don't want to make a licorice bomb!
As the mashing is automated in the braumeister, I should have plenty of time to dish-wash 7 crates of empty bottles and bottle 3 beers :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Beer tasting with my brother in law

Yesterday my brother in law invited me to taste some beers he bought. Assisted by the owners of the local beer shop, who also happen to brew (De Ranke) he came home with an impressive selection of beers: Vicardin tripel gueuze, saison de Dottignies, saison Voisin, Taras boulba, Koeketiene, Hercule and Noir de Dottignies. I liked then all, except for Taras boulba which was a bit boring. Favourites were Vicardin and Koeketiene. I have to visit my sister more often :)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Yesterday's catch

Yesterday was beer shopping day in Bruges. 2be had a lot of beers, but is very much focussed on tourists. Anyway, these are the beers I bought: Oerbier, cuvee des trolls, saison regal, saxo, pannepeut, saison 1900, hanssens oude gueuze. I was disappointed on the available saisons, but maybe I'll be able to go to de hopduvel in Ghent before heading back to Sweden.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Westvleteren blond, 8 and 12!

I just have to show off... When I arrived to Belgium a nice surprise was waiting for me in my parent's cellar. 6 bottles each of all the Westvleteren beers. My appologies for the picture quality. It was taken with my cell phone, and it's quite dark in the cellar. Good for the beer, bad for the photo :)

Friday, May 28, 2010

New zealand motueka hops

Recently I brewed a belgian blonde with motueka hops. Everybody seemed so positive about NZ hops... Anyway, it's not my cup of tea. Left me with a strange tropical aftertaste. Luckily I had a bottle of Boon oude geuze to change the taste in my mouth. Sour funk is da shit!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Beer shopping in Belgium

In 2 weeks I'll be in Belgium visiting the family. In addition to the compulsory chocolate, mayonaise based sauses, dry sausages and children DVDs (not for me) I should have some free space in the luggage for some beer. Well, I'll make some place. I'll try to book a crate of Westvleteren 12, alternatively try to by some in Café De Vrede next to the brewery. It's a nice area, so a visit to the area is never wrong. In addition I'll try to drink and buy home as many interesting beers as possible, not the least saisons, gueuzes and rare brews from tiny breweries. Maybe the new Sint-Amatus from De Struise? After all, Oostvleteren is very close to Westvleteren! My God, my mouth is already watering. If you know an interesting Belgian beer I should try while there, suggestions are welcome!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Now on facebook!

Saccharolicious is now on facebook with an RSS feed. At least that is the idea. I don't know yet if the feeding works, but the page is there! Just click on the badge in the right column.

Yeast (nerd warning)

Today I counted how many cells I have in my starters. As expected, the stir plate starter has about twice as many cells as the simple starter. As we also have a very nice microscope at work, I even took a 63x magnified picture of my Wyeast 3944 culture.
You can see 3 budding yeast cells. The mother cells are fully equiped with the vacuole clearly visible. The black and white spots are granules, the white ones being fat granules and the black ones glycogen granules. The white "moon" next to the vacuole is the nucleus of the cell.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stir plate starter

On saturday I'll be brewing a 50 liter batch of Belgian witbier(13.2 gallons for those of you living in Burma, Liberia or USA). As I have Wyeast 3944 Belgian Wit in my yeastbank, I took some yeast from a slant to propagate. Normall I brew 20 l batches, and making a 2 liter starter for that is OK. For 50 l I would need a 5 l starter, which is a lot. So, to save some money on DME and also for the sake of experiemtation, I decided to make a 2 liter stir plate starter. I have been planning to build a stir plate, but for the time being I have to borrow a stir plate from my workplace. I also borrowed a few erlenmeyer flasks. Don't have those at home either. For the sake of comparison, I have a smal starter on the side without stirring. If I have time tomorrow, I'll do a cell count and compare the two. You'll notice that one flask has a bigger volume. That is because this one has a stronger magnet allowing bigger volumes to swirl without the stir bar going bananas. I'm really curious how many more cells I'll get from the stir plate starter! Will it be worth it?

Much ado about nothing...

I told you it was impossible I had an infection in my Zotte Stella beer! Well, here are the results of the test fermentations.

It is clear that the ardennes yeast attenuates better then the Duvel yeast, so a lower FG for the Ardennes version made sense. But surprisingly, the yeast I took from my fermentation ended pretty much where the ardennes yeast ended. Much higher then the saison yeast. Conclusion: I took the right strain.How to explain the low FG then? I opened a bottle of the beer and tasted it. It tasted a bit different, but that is just because I used strange hops (New-Zealand Motueka). No sign of infection though. Puzzled, I took a new reading and guess what: 1.009! Perfectly within range. It seems that the only thing that was wrong, was my first FG reading. Problem solved: there was no problem after all!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Who pulled down my FG?

Last saturday I bottled "Zotte Stella", a belgian blonde fermented with two yeast strains in parallel buckets. Starting at 1.063, the one with Duvel yeast ended pretty much where I intended it to end, at 1.018. The other bucket, fermented with Wyeast 3522 Belgian ardennes ended up at 1.002. A bit lower then anticipated. First thought: infection! Although not impossible, I started looking for other reasons. I kind of believe I know sanitation, so there should be other reasons. Then it struck me: 3711 french saison! Could it be that I picked the wrong yeast from my bank? There is deffinately one more reason to think so: flocculation. Previous batches with Belgian Ardennes yeast flocculated like no other, while the sediment from Zotte Stella looked very non-flocculent, fitting with the saison hypothesis. So how will I confirm my hypothesis? I could wait and see what the beer will taste like, but that's not me. In addition, I'll do a mini fermentation. 20 ml of wort, inoculated with either a single colony isolated from the sediment of my fermentor, the belgian ardennes from my fermenter or the french saison strain. After 2 weeks I'll check the FG, and if the colony from my fermentor has attenuated like french saisonand not like belgian ardennes, I'll pretty much know. I hope I've brewed a saison and not an infected beer!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Urthel Hop-It yeast

A few days ago I tasted Urthel Hop-It. Some people might call it a Belgian IPA, but I prefer what the brewmaster herself calls it: a hoppy blonde. In a previous post I mentioned that I prefer balaced beers, so why should I even bother to try it? First of all, I liked the other Urthel beers I tried, secondly it is hopped with Magnum, Styrian goldings and Saaz (the last two being personal favorites) and thirdly it has live sediment so I can collect the yeast. Being brewed by a Belgian brewer, it didn't surprise me that it in fact was more of a hoppy blond than an IPA. The bitterness was higher then in most other belgian beers, but it was still balanced and it didn't make my tongue curl. The taste and aroma were, as expected, a nice blend between belgian yeast character and the nice fruitiness and spiciness of the hops.
After drinking the beer I of course saved the sediment. Luckily, I didn't plate it out immediately. I made a small 5 ml starter first, which turned out to be a good idea as it took several days to take off. I then made a streak plate and now I have a few single colonies to save for later. One more strain in the bank! Let's hop Urthel doesn't use the T-58 yeast... That would have made the whole effort rather useless :) Or a good training session.
As you can see on the picture, one colony is bigger then the others, so I saved that one as well as a normal size colony. One day I might test if there's a difference.

Monday, April 26, 2010

SM2010 - The results

The Swedish Championships in homebrewed beer 2010 (aka SM2010) were a blast! While the rest of the family enjoyed a day at Liseberg, I tasted almost half of the beers competing for the people's choice awards. As you can see in the results, the hop monsters were the clear favourites, not entirely to my surprise. I seem to be an outsider, thinking that 100 IBU is way too bitter for a beer. And I don't like Cascade hops either. Luckily, there were also some belgian-style beers that took home a medal in the people's choice, like my two favorites "Mon Dieu" (a golden stron ale treated with the champagne method) and "Bonnagaarden Syrat Vitöl" (a low alcohol belgian wit with a refreshing sourness.
Well, let's see how it went for my beers then. As I wrote earlier, I had 4 beers in the competition, and here are the results in ascending order:

  • Rivus Niger Dubbel: 32/50 (comments on DMS, alcoholic flavor, slight oxidation and lack of complexity)
  • Saison Matilda: 37/50 (slightly plastic aftertaste ans some oxidation, was probably very good but now a bit tired)
  • Slànte (Belgian scottish strong ale): 38/40 (Not enough belgian character, slightly oxidized)
  • Rivus Niger Tripel: 40/50 (nice smell, nice looks, good balance between fruit and spice. A bit too alcoholic taste, one judge found it too bitter for the style

I can only agree with the judges, they gave me a fair judgement. After all, this was the first time I brewed this styles, and I definately learned a few things. Mainly, avoid oxidation! I'm already charged to brew the new and improved versions of these wonderfully low IBU begians.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Project Orval

My yeast bank is steadily growing. Untill recently I just saved commercial yeast and yeast from bottle-conditioned beer on slants or in the freezer. But last week I started a new project: "Project Orval". Orval beer is brewed using a Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast strain in primary permentation. According to Stan Hieronymus in "Brew lika a monk" Orval uses a "yeast from the area" in secundary fermentation. This "yeast" is supposed to be a mixture of yeasts of both Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces. For a yeast enthusiast like me this is an experimental gold mine. I have streaked out the dregs of an orval bottle on a wort agar plate and picked a whole range of colonies looking different. I have seen big, small and tiny colonies. Of those I have now more then 15 clones which I plan to test (either all or some) in small scale (500 ml) fermentations using a neutral wort. This should be enough to fill one bottle from each fermentation. I will then test all bottles after a few months and see how my strains behave.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Swedish national homebrewing championship

Next weekend I will go to Göteborg for the Swedish national homebrewing championship. For this competition I entered 4 beers: a dubbel, a tripel, a saison and a Scottish stong ale-inspired belgian specialty ale. We'll see how it goes. Worst case scenario: all other beers are better then mine. Which would mean I'll have some tasty brews next saturday. Best case scenario: all other beers in te belgian category taste worse then mine and I take home a medal. Win-win situation.