As a bit of background, I've been brewing a few batches a year for at least a decade. I started out like most newbie brewers with pre-hopped extracts that were very much an exercise in dumping and stirring... the essential brewings skills I picked up back then were sanitation and not reading the directions on canned pre-hopped kits. I moved on into choosing my own hops, though using mostly extract for my base, and then picked up the technique of steeping flavorful grains in a base of extract-derived wort to freshen it up and customize it a bit (thanks to the fine folks at my local homebrew shop, who took the time to explain these processes). I've since begun to do partial mash brewing, which means that some of the sugar I'm converting into alcohol actually comes out of grain that has been warmed to the right temperature to let enzymes itside it convert its starches into sugars. My equipment only allows me about a five-pound mash, which means that I can play with about 5 pounds of grain, and have to supplement the remainder with extracts... and I'm happy at the moment with this technique.
I still mainly buy kits to brew from, though I sometimes customize them with things that make me happy. While shopping for kits recently, I happened to be browsing over at Beer beer and more beer and spotted two thing juxtaposed which got all kinds of gears in my head turning. First was their Fire in the Hole partial mash kit, and juxtaposed with it was Wyeast's Roeselare yeast blend.
Since I have really unusual tastes in beer and happen to like the quite sour Belgian styles, I knew right off that Roeselare is where Rodenbach beers are brewed, and I got excited at the thought of being able to try my hand at making an Oud Bruin of my own. Flemish sour beers are fermented in a manner that would count as irretreivably contaminated in a brewery anywhere else. There are a cocktail of yeast strains and bacteria in there that produce a very distinctive sourness. I hope Wyeast got the mix down, so that homebrewers can play with these styles. That is part of what my experiment is all about finding out.
The kit claimed to have been based on an irish red with some ad libbing by the kitmakers. Their decision to throw in some oak chips jived exactly with the Rodenbach brewing process, which involves aging their beers in oak. So, I ordered the kit and the yeast, and went at it this weekend. We'll see how it turns out.
Doing the mash is sort of like making a vat of instant oatmeal... warm but not boiling water (170F) with lots of grain stirred into it. Since somewhere online I'd seen somebody call for plain wheat flour in a mash for an Oud Bruin, I decided to augment the recipe with a cup of it to see what would happen. It sort of gelatinized on top of the grains since I didn't mix the flour and grain together before hitting them with the water. But after letting it go for 45 minutes at about 155 degrees (hooray for large quantities of wet stuff having a lot of thermal inertia!) the flour did appear to have been chewed on by the enzymes. A taste of the final wort was a bit astringent, as though the process may have gone on a bit long and taken some of the tannins out of the grain husks. Fortunately, Belgian sours benefit from a bit of astringency, and like with a wine, they should age out.
At the boiling stage, I'd decided that the kit's hop schedule would totally not jive with the style I'm trying for... it would be way too bitter if I threw in all of the high powered hops that were called for. So I dug around in my beer boxes in the basement and brought out a year old half ounce of Hallertauer, and a half ounce of Saaz. Tossed them into the boil and did a little figuring with an online hops utilization calculator to figure out if I'd need more. It turned out that I'd be at the bottom end of the style with my little ounce boiled for an hour, so a bit more might be called for. Since the kit came with some Centennials which are famously grapefruity in their aroma, I figured that a flemish sour beer might play well with that sort of flavor... so a half ounce of centennials and the remaining half ounce of Saaz went into the boil for the last eight minutes. Enough time to extract a bit of the bittering agents from the hops to up the bitterness by a couple of points, and sufficiently little time that the grapefruity aroma should not be boiled off.
Now a few days later, the yeast and beasts have been doing their thing, and my airlock has been bubbling with hoppy aromas escaping. I'm a bit concerned that even the two ounces of hops may be a bit much for this beer style... but we'll see. In a week or so, I'll toss in some of the the oak chips and let them do their thing.
I'm excited to see the results...
Edited by cdh, 26 April 2005 - 09:01 AM.