Crowned and Corked

Bottle Conditioning

This weekend a small gang of homebrewers gathered at my place to fill kegs and bottles. After four months of oak aging the barrel project was ready for bottling. As cellarman I had the fortune of sampling along the way. The barrel imparted an interesting fermented berry note that's somewhere between wine and dates. The Belgian Dark Strong has changed immensely. I wanted more specialty crystal malt and cleaner phenols. I liked its warming notes of alcohol, oak, toasted malt, and caramelized sugar. However, the beer is unique.

Tasting Notes:
9/15/2012 Brewday Wort is malty with a hop forward profile. Great gemstone brown color.

9/29/2012 Fermented wort is well balanced with some esters. The flavor is Belgian with some nuttiness and caramels. Has a spicy clove that wants to come forward. Color is medium brown with good clarity.

9/29/2012 Top-up Wort is sweet with little to no hops. Malt presence is low resembles caramelized sugar.

10/3/2012 Phenolic with moderate esters: note higher fermentation temp has attributed more Belgian phenol character (1.015 FG1 | 1.017 FG2)

10/6/2012 Blended batch into the barrel is well balanced with some muted fusels and warming. Great profile needs time to mellow. The color is lower than target.

10/25/2012 Beer is developing nicely. Alcohol warming is slightly lower. Fusels are annoyingly forward. Fresh oak nose with low oak flavor. Barrel temp holding 62F.

12/13/2012 Light fusel nose. No hop aroma with some toasted oak, vanilla and berry wine notes. Profile is more specialty ale than Belgian Dark Strong. Medium-light body. Fully fermented finish. Lacking caramel character. Color is burnished brown. Clarity is brilliant.

12/17/2012 Top-Up Wort sweet with no hop heavy caramel malt for more body.

2/2/2013 Aroma toasted malt with light oak and fermented berry. Warming phenolic with toasted crystal malt light oak and fermented grape notes. Dark brown color with great clarity.

Barrel Racking:
In preparation for racking I had constructed a "racking bulldog" using PVC plumbing. The idea is to push CO2 gas in the barrel to pressurize the head space forcing the liquid out. The design worked well when filling bottling buckets from the hose. Later we switched to keg connections and had some fun. Soda kegs were filled from the beer line out with the pressure release open allowing filling from the bottom up. Kegs with "universal poppets" provided beer showers for all. These poppets restrict flow at the disconnect causing back pressure up-stream. Imagine a rocket torpedoing from the bung spraying everyone with beer. Now repeat twice before identifying the problem. Not fun! We solved the problem with a brace then returned to bottling.

Bottle Conditioning:
In keeping with the practice of re-fermenting in Belgian bottles I prepared fresh yeast for bottling. The yeast was to reach high krausen and be pitched with priming sugar. Using a pint of thin yeast slurry and 130 grams of sugar I am shooting for 2.5 volumes of CO2 in 5 gallons of solution. I have been forewarned this could result in bottles without carbonation so I prepared three for testing (Belgian Saison III, Trappist High Gravity, Dry Wine Yeast 1116). The corks go in straight but expand like mushrooms over time. I am expecting the bottles will carbonate within a month.

Barrel Project Gravity Sample
FG 1.015 | Final Color   

Barrel Project Keg Fill Day
Before the geyser   

Keg Poppets Universal Challenger Cornelius
Soda Keg Poppets | Universal - Challenger - Cornelius   

Yeast Lees Oak Barrel Additives
Empty barrel yeast lees & oak additives   

High Krausen Priming Yeast
Bottling yeast   

Oak Barrel Belgian Bottling
JB & TC Bottling Line   

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