Orval is a beer that's a big inspiration for me and a lot of others I'm sure. It's a pillar in what used to be a very "weird" group of beers. Go back to somewhere like 2010 and there was limited information readily accessible about brettanomyces. You had to dig into forums and sometimes venture into the dark places of the internet. Go back a little further and I bet there weren't many people who had ever heard the term. I'm sure folks in the wine industry and long time sour beer producers sure knew what it was but for the regular every day craft beer fan and homebrewer, it wasn't commonplace.
But... We had Orval. Orval started showing up here in Mississippi right after the laws changed in 2012 to allow for beer over 6.2% ABV to be sold in the state. My craft beer obsession began around 2009 or so and I had Orval at some point before it showed up in the state. To this day, I always have a few bottles of this wonderfully weird beer on hand.
So why is this an inspiration? What's so great about this beer? Besides being delicious, it is many times a person's first foray into beer with brettanomyces. It also just so happens to combine two of my favorite things in the beer world... Belgian/Trappist beer and brett (brettanomyces) beer. But more than that, it's a brett beer that has been produced since 1931. I'm not positive the same process has been used but I would assume that something similar to what it produced to day has been made for a while. In a beer world filled with sours and brett beers now, that's pretty cool. (I'm sure there are other examples that have been made for a while too but I am not aware of them other than the sour beers of Belgium and maybe English stock ales but even those weren't meant to have brett in them.)
OK all that said, what does it taste like? Why do people love this beer? Well that's another interesting aspect of this one. Since it has brett and is dry hopped it changes a good bit over time. It evolves into different beers all together. Fresh it is quite bitter, has awesome floral hoppy notes with a bit of spice from the yeast and just a hint of brett character in the form of what I would describe fresh wood and citrus fruit. After about 6 months, the dry hop tends to fade and you'll get more of the Belgian yeast character that has a slight bit of acidity to it and some ripe fruits. The brett character really starts to kick up about a year in and you'll have something completely different than the beer was fresh.
So that brings us to this post. "Inspired Beer" is something I've been wanting to do for a while now. Rather than actually try to clone a beer, I'd rather take inspiration from it and make something my own with a similar process. Orval is just the first beer I wanted to write about. It's a dry hopped, brett finished, Trappist beer. So different from what the other Trappist breweries produce. Using their website, reading different books and looking over the internet, below is the recipe I've come up with using inspiration from the original.
*Side Note: There used to be a beer brewed by Green Flash called Rayon Vert that was a take on Orval. I liked that beer a lot too. It has since been discontinued by them and I drank my last bottle of that sometime in the last year or two. It was still awesome.
If you've ever been interested, you can find out a lot of how Orval is made straight from the source here.
Recipe: Orval Inspired Brewer: Gus Batch: Honestly, I've lost count and not really worried what batch number I'm on now. Date: 10-21-17
Batch Size: 6.50 gal Boil Size: 9.02 gal Post Boil Volume: 6.77 gal Estimated OG: 1.052 (actual was 1.057 efficiency needs to be corrected in BeerSmith equipment profile) Estimated Color: 6.1 SRM Estimated IBU: 30.4 IBUs Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.6 % Est Mash Efficiency: 74.6 % Boil Time: 90 Minute
Fermentables: 58.9% Pilsner Malt (Weyermann BARKE) 13.7% Pale Malt, Maris Otter (Thomas Fawcett) 10.5% Caravienne (Dingemans) 8.4% Golden Candi Syrup (added at the end of the boil) 8.4% Simplicity Blonde Belgian Candi Syrup (added at the end of the boil)
Hops: 18.9 IBUs of Warrior @ 60 min (It's what I had on hand for bittering. Originally I had Magnum plugged in) 11.5 IBUs of Tettnang @ 30 min Dry Hop with 1oz Hallertau Blanc for 7 Days Yeast: Wyeast Trappist Style Blend 3789-PC - Private Collection release for Summer 2017. A Belgian Trappist yeast strain and a strain of Brettanomyces in one pitch. Pretty sure this was made to emulate Orval even though Orval adds Brettanomyces after primary fermentation.
Mash Schedule: I found this Orval step mash here. 142F for 15 min Heat to 154F and hold for 25 min Heat to 162F and hold for 30 min Heat to 170F and hold for 10 min for mashout Sparge with 170F water
Fermentaiton Schedule: Ferment at room temperature (70-74F) until FG is achieved.
Ideally you'd probably want to use a Belgian pale ale malt but I have Maris Otter on hand so I used that. Some classic flavoring hops and I'll be using Hallertau Blanc for dry hopping. I'm interested to see how this plays with the Belgian yeast and brettanomyces. I really like this hop in Saison so we'll see how it does here.
Didn't break out the camera on this brew day so you get cell phone pics. My bad :(
This was a rather long brew day. The mash schedule was pretty step intensive but it really paid off in efficiency. My target pre boil gravity was 7.6 brix (1.030 SG) and I actually hit 8.6 brix (1.035 SG). After the 90 minute boil and adding in my sugar I ended up with 14.2 brix. I didn't use all of the Golden Candi Syrup as I was wanting to stay under 14.5 brix (1.059 SG).
Was over my target pre boil gravity and post boil. I didn't adjust with water but I'll fix my efficiency in BeerSmith.
First runnings were a beautiful amber color.
Two different Belgian Candi Syrups in this one.
After the boil I cooled the wort down to 65F with my plate chiller and pitched the Smack Pack. It wasn't extremely fresh but it did swell completely after about 4 hours.
When it reaches a stable final gravity, I'll dry hop and package this up. I'm really interested how the brett and dry hops work in this one. Be on the look out for more "Inspired Beer" posts. I've got a few ideas lined up. Let me know what beers have inspired you along the way!
10-22-17: Morning after we already had a nice krausen forming.
Doing something a little different today on the blog. In the past I've done some tasting notes for some other homebrewer's beers but I've never really done them for a commercial release. I guess this is more of a beer review/tasting notes kind of post. I thought I'd throw it in there to give some life to the blog and I'll have a little blurb at the end of the blog about what's going on and just an update of The Farmhouse Obsession.
This beer comes out of Pittman, NJ from a little brewery named Kelly Green Brewing Co. If you are a member of the Saison group or Milk the Funk on Facebook, you may already know that a very respected homebrewer named Ed Coffey (from Ales of the Riverwards) is now running a Saison and barrel aged venture for the brewery. I've had a good many of Ed's beers so far on the homebrew level and now the professional level. All of them have been great beers. What I want to do with this post is give a review and some tasting notes on a new beer they are releasing this Saturday (July 29, 2017). Ed was generous enough to send me a bottle early to give him my thoughts.
He described the beer to me just a little bit but left it where I could approach the beer pretty blind. I like that. Mostly what he told me was that it was bitter. More so than we see typically now days with where Saison brewing is. More on that later. Let's get into the beer.
Kelly Green Brewing Co. - Twelve Avenues
From the release post:
"This Bière de Coupage is comprised predominantly of fresh, hoppy Saison with a small portion of barrel aged Adit blended in at bottling, when young this beer drinks as a clean, earthy, floral, zippy little saison with a firm bitterness. But over time our house culture of wild yeast and bacteria will take over and the beer will change and evolve month to month. This is the first bottling but you can expect each batch of Twelve Avenues to be wildly different than the last but always feature a strong hop profile."
Appearance: Slightly hazy golden in color. Honestly cloudy would be a good descriptor to borrow from IPA brewing now days. Bright white head full of tiny well packed bubbles. Carbonation is streaming up the edges of the glass and there was a solid pop when I popped the cap. Very nice head retention. I had a pretty solid head throughout the first glass. Pretty nice lacing after a swirl of the glass as well. Anyway, you can tell more of the appearance from the photos, even though I'm a pretty bad photographer.
Looks great in the Saison group glass!
Aroma: Lots going on in the aroma. Notes of lemon balm, citrus zest, some light pear or white grape bordering on peach, a bit of an herbal quality in there too. There is definitely notes of the cereal grains in there but not anything sweet. Just a bit of rye aroma almost like bready notes but not overpowering or anything like that. Rye is hard to describe on the nose. It's grainy but not sweet and it can sometimes be hard to pick up at all. This balanced the prevalent hop presence nicely. Something of real note here, not any lactic sourness in the nose. Just a light touch of some fruity brettanomyces characters but not sour at all. Smells fantastic. Similar to a fresh Orval if you have had that. Or maybe XX Bitter or even some de la Senne beers I've had. The aroma finishes with just a light touch of pepper and a very mild soapiness. Not offensive soapiness at all and not astringent. I've seen this in brett beers with lots of hops or even some higher hopped beers that are really dry. If I had to describe in one line I'd say something like an American XX Bitter or a more fruity/citrusy XX Bitter. (I need to pickup another bottle of that when I see it to get a fresh comparison)
Proper glassware was used in this tasting!
Flavor: I took the first sip and I chuckled. I chuckled because it was bitter. Just like Ed had said it would be. It was bitter like some of the "old" style pale ales and even some IPAs from before the wave of juice bombs. I'm not sure what the IBUs were but there definitely are some in there. After I got over the firs sip and went back I picked up some of the flavors. Grapefruit pith and skin, light pear and peach, very faint banana maybe, and a touch of the grain flavors from the nose. There is a green/grassy flavor that I sometimes get with dry beers that have a lot of hops. Pairs very nicely with how bitter it is. When you swallow the finish is very dry and you are left with a fantastic bitterness that just lingers. It makes you want to drink more and definitely enhances the drinkability of it for me. With big bitter West Coast Style IPAs I personally don't find them so drinkable. With how dry this is, it's super refreshing. No alcohol notes at all. At 6% you don't expect to have any alcohol notes. Again, no sourness there. Just a brightness to it that I would say comes from the blending of the more acidic beer.
Mouthfeel: Great body and higher carbonation give this dry beer a medium body. Perfect for drinking in the middle of a hot Mississippi Summer.
Second pour just as lovely as the first.
Overall: This is a fantastic change of pace to the growing popularity of sour Saison. Right now, I see more acidic sour Saisons than I see hoppy, bitter versions. Don't get me wrong, I love those and I find myself in discussions pretty often about if a Saison should be sour or not. But, this was wonderful to see. I think this is a Saison lover's dream. It's also a beer I think many brewers will like. Ed mentioned that to me and I couldn't agree more. While I do think there will be others that will really like this beer (maybe some old school IPA fans) too, I do think that it will hit home with a select few.
I freaking love his labels. I believe his wife does them and she does a great job.
I'm a very big fan of this beer. I don't write this post to stoke Ed's ego or anything like that. This is an honest review and my actual tasting notes. I wanted to write it because it's something different than we are seeing right now in the beer world. There's been a shift away from bitterness it seems. People standing in line for juice bombs with little to no bitterness and more Saisons coming out every day on the sour side. While I love seeing more Saison anywhere, I'm glad to see someone producing something like this beer.
If you are anywhere near the area, I think this is a great beer to go pick up on Saturday. It's very well done and a beer worth picking up. I couldn't help but think of Amos Brown while I drank this beer. I know he's a fan of more bitter beers.
Thanks for reading this review. I know it is a bit different than what the blog has been in the past. I also know I've been slow posting this year. It's been a pretty big year so far. In March I was lucky enough to have my girlfriend become my fiancé and we'll be getting married in November. We've been working on wedding stuff and life in general has just been busy this year. I'll be brewing more soon and will have more posts then. The blog is definitely not dead and I'm still obsessed as ever!
For the first brew of Kathleen for 2017 I'm trying a lot of things and making a change to the target starting gravity. With this batch I'm going to brew 11 gallons so that I can pitch two different yeast blends and see how I like them. I've been meaning to use both of these for a while and decided I wanted to use a familiar beer with them so that I will be able to detect the differences in each of them. Since I've brewed Kathleen a good many times now, I know the ins and outs of it and what characters it typically brings forth.
One of the blends I'll be using is a special release from Bootleg Biology called Saison Parfait: New World Saison Blend. I really love the description on the website of this one. It sounds like the perfect Saison blend to me as I love the classic peppery esters from the DuPont strains on the market, but I also love the fruity aspects of some other strains like 3726. It also says this blend will leave a little body and good mouthfeel in the beer. That's something I really enjoyed when using ECY08 in the beers that I've brewed with that. At first I wasn't a fan, but after doing these beers for a while now, the added body actually helps give the beers some heft and adds to the drinkablity. When they end up so dry as mine typically do, if there isn't any body the beers will feel astringent and can actually be a chore to drink at times.
The other blend I'll be fermenting half of this brew with is the Saison Blend II from The Yeast Bay. I have been eying this one since it was released a while back and just never took the plunge to use it as I had so many things to use on hand.
"Close your eyes while drinking a beer fermented with this blend, and you'll feel like you're laying on freshly turned earth in an old citrus grove."
Doesn't that sound awesome? I can't wait to see how this blend works out. As I stated before, I enjoy a combination of peppery earthiness and some fruity qualities in my Saisons. I often rely on strains of brettanomyces or new world hops to get the fruity qualities so it will be nice to see what both of these blends will do.
Starters I made a few days before brew day.
Recipe: Kathleen Brewer: Gus Date: 4-19-17
Batch Size: 11.00 gal (I use 11 gallons to account for loss in the tubing, heat exchanger and any other places in the system) Boil Size: 13.33 gal Post Boil Volume: 11.46 gal Estimated OG: 1.044 (Actual was 1.048. Efficiency was better than I assumed) Estimated Color: 2.5 SRM Estimated IBU: 29.4 IBUs Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.6 % Est Mash Efficiency: 74.6 % Boil Time: 75 Minute
Fermentables: 72.6% Pilsner Malt (Weyermann BARKE) 10.0% Spelt Malt 10.0% Raw Wheat 7.4% Malted Oats (Thomas Fawcett)
Hops: 17.5 IBUs of EKG (or whatever I have on hand now) @ 60 min 7.4 IBUs of Amarillo @ 15 min 1.7 IBUs of EKG @ 5 min 2.7 IBUs of Amarillo @ 5 min Dry hop with Amarillo and Hallertau Blanc (this may change depending on the beers)
Mash Schedule: Temperature mash of 149F for 75 min with no mashout.
You may notice I have slightly modified the recipe to lower the OG. I am wanting to get Kathleen even more drinkable and shooting for slightly less ABV with this batch. Hop amounts changed just a bit due to what I had on hand at the time.
Like them thicky-thicks.
After the mash I began lautering and pulled the 13.3 gallons I needed for the boil. My preboil gravity was a little higher (1.040) than my target (1.036) but instead of adding water to bring it down, I just went with it. I boiled for 75 minutes and added my hops per the schedule above. The SG after the boil was 1.048. Right around where my original recipe was so I'll have to make a few changes to the grist if I want it to be lower. My efficiency is getting better with every brew day. Even this large 10 gallon batch I was better than my target.
Full boil kettle on this batch.
I ran wort through the chiller and divided the 10 gallons the best I could between the two FerMonster XLs. These are quickly becoming some of my favorite fermentation vessels. I love my Speidel still but these have a smaller footprint. Also, you can almost get two of the FerMonsters for the price of one of the Speidels.
The Yeast Bay Saison Blend II on the left and Bootleg Biology Saison Parfait on the right. This pic was 6-7 hours after pitching.
Both blends will be fermented "semi-open" at room temperature in my dining room. Right now the area is sitting around 72-74F and should be perfect to test out what these will do.
I pitched the yeast blends from the starters and covered the opening with sanitized tin foil. I press the tin foil around the top but I don't actually make an effort to seal the lid. I usually leave the tin foil on the top for 5-7 days or until fermentation signs start to fade. I've really enjoyed the results the semi-open fermentations. I do them now with pretty much all my Saison ferments as well as my British ale ferments.
I will more than likely dry hop each of these and then package the beer. Some I'll bottle fresh and unblended so I can see how the yeast blend turns out. The rest will either be blended with mature beer or maybe even blended together. I'll see what the beer tells me.
4-20-17: 6:00AM active fermentation showing on the Saison II Blend. About 20 minutes layer, visible activity with the Saison Parfait.
4-24-17: 6:00AM activity has slowed down and the krausen is falling on both beers. I removed the tin foil and added the cap and airlock.