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Old 09-10-2014, 07:58 PM   #231
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Yes, that is basically my question. What it stems from is instead of buying a used wine barrel; which is expensive, bulky and generally a pain in the arse; how much oak do I add to a carboy to simulate the barrel. You recommend 0.15 oz of boiled oak cubes (measured while they are dry) per gallon. If you mathematically calculate the barrel interior area you come up with 1.2 oz of dry cubes. If you did not boil them you'd have a New oak barrel. So to simulate exactly what you would get with the full sized used barrel you would take 1.2 oz of dry measured cubes and boil them for 10 minutes and then soak them in whatever red wine you prefer for a few months to ensure it gets deep into the wood like the real barrel. It seems like a lot of work but I can store 27 six gallon batches in carboys within my temperature controlled fermentation chambers or zero real barrels as none will fit one.

Now I am working on closing the gap between what you recommend from experience and what I would get if I bought a used wine barrel. Math says your recommendation is 1/8th the strength but I am sure there is a very good reason why.

Another way to look at it is say you brewed 59 gallons of beer in one batch. You put 53 gallons into a used wine barrel. You put the remaining six into a glass carboy that also had .15 oz of oak cubes (boiled, measured dry and soaked in the exact same wine for 6 months) per gallon - so 0.9 oz of total cubes. Would the final 59 gallons of beer taste the same six months or a year later? If so then we have an exact ratio of cubes to barrels with a method to prepare the cubes to be identical to the barrels.

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Old 09-10-2014, 08:38 PM   #232
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...how much oak do I add to a carboy to simulate the barrel.
The issue is that barrels aren't boiled for 10 minutes. They are often used for several wines over the span of a couple years before they get to a brewery. Even then many breweries use the barrels several times blending beers aged in barrels of different ages because first use wine barrels can even be too much for some beers.

There is also no reason to believe that a standard wine barrel is an ideal size for aging sour beer. Many brewers actually prefer larger barrels (less oxygen, and oak). Let your palate, rather than a formula be your guide. Oak one batch heavily and blend it in? Blend in wine to taste at bottling (just added a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to a hoppy saison etc.).
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Old 09-10-2014, 09:45 PM   #233
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That's the info that makes it click. So 0.15 oz of brand new oak cubes that are prepared by a 10 minute boil and a few months of soaking in wine would be way more powerful than the exact same surface area of used oak wine barrel.

Yes, trial and error and my palate will lead to a good answer. But that year of waiting and then finding it too strong sucks. I try everything possible to avoid frequent sampling (the oak it and forget it method).

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Old 09-10-2014, 11:56 PM   #234
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Default Hops and recipes from Mike's book

This is mostly a question for Mike, but anybody else, please chime in with other opinions etc...
I've started playing around with a few recipes from the American Sour Beer book, the Mad Fermentationalist website, and (in most cases) tweaks on some of these recipes. I've noticed that some of the beers have been a bit hoppier than my expectations, and often not in a good way. I think this is mostly due to differences in palate between Mike and I. I tend to like the aromatics from hops, but feel that the bitter elements can clash with certain beer types (especially sours, and to a lesser degree saisons- which I know should have pronounced hops flavor). However, I think something else might be going on. I've noticed that Mike tends to ferment/cellar his beers for a really long ****ing time compared to me (2-4 months compared to 6-18). I suspect that some of the astringent bitterness of the hops is fading over time in Mike's beers, but are still freshly present in mine. I know hop flavors fade over time, but is the hops fade mostly aromatic, or are there also large reductions in bitterness over time? If so, how much and/or is there anyway to predict this degradation in bitterness? This might be a better question for another forum, but since I'm working in the context of sour/brett beers, I'm posting it here. I'd really love it if my Sour American (pg 326) brewed with De Bom would debitter over time (I put in too many hops). It's already a really nice/funky sour beer, but the bitterness just throws it off balance. I'd also like to know how to adjust some of Mike's recipes in the future- i.e. should I scale back on the hops, or just make sure to age/cellar them a long ass time. Thanks in advance for any comments!

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Old 09-11-2014, 05:57 AM   #235
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Originally Posted by hirschb View Post
This is mostly a question for Mike, but anybody else, please chime in with other opinions etc...
I've started playing around with a few recipes from the American Sour Beer book, the Mad Fermentationalist website, and (in most cases) tweaks on some of these recipes. I've noticed that some of the beers have been a bit hoppier than my expectations, and often not in a good way. I think this is mostly due to differences in palate between Mike and I. I tend to like the aromatics from hops, but feel that the bitter elements can clash with certain beer types (especially sours, and to a lesser degree saisons- which I know should have pronounced hops flavor). However, I think something else might be going on. I've noticed that Mike tends to ferment/cellar his beers for a really long ****ing time compared to me (2-4 months compared to 6-18). I suspect that some of the astringent bitterness of the hops is fading over time in Mike's beers, but are still freshly present in mine. I know hop flavors fade over time, but is the hops fade mostly aromatic, or are there also large reductions in bitterness over time? If so, how much and/or is there anyway to predict this degradation in bitterness? This might be a better question for another forum, but since I'm working in the context of sour/brett beers, I'm posting it here. I'd really love it if my Sour American (pg 326) brewed with De Bom would debitter over time (I put in too many hops). It's already a really nice/funky sour beer, but the bitterness just throws it off balance. I'd also like to know how to adjust some of Mike's recipes in the future- i.e. should I scale back on the hops, or just make sure to age/cellar them a long ass time. Thanks in advance for any comments!
That's a good question, actually. I was intending on saying that bitterness does fade over time (think of a bitter barley wine after a year or two of age), but when you are working with Brett things change. I know that hop flavors/aromas are actually preserved to some degree by 100% Brett fermentations due to Brett's ability to stay alive and metabolize oxygen.

For example I have a 100% B custersianus IPA that is about 8 months old now, and the hop flavor/aroma are better than when the beer was fresh (there was a hay flavor early on and over time it is dropping out, which I think is really why the hop flavor is coming forward now). I've experienced great hop flavor coming from a few 100% Brett beers months after those flavors should have dropped out like in traditional IPA's.

Are IBU's preserved by Brett in the same manner? Or are they broken down by Brett? I want to say that exposing IBU's to 100% Brett fermentations softens the bitterness quite a bit, but I don't have enough data to back this up, and even if that was the case it might not reflect what Brett does to IBU's in mixed fermentations.
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Old 09-11-2014, 12:59 PM   #236
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This is mostly a question for Mike, but anybody else, please chime in with other opinions etc...
Most of my sours are in the 10-15 IBU range, pretty much at flavor threshold. Sour American calls for 13 IBUs (about half of the brew-day target for many Russian River sours), about the same as a hefeweizen. I'm surprised that even young the beer expresses a clashing bitterness. Certainly some of my funky (non-sour) beers have substantially more IBUs that could be very distracting for drinkers who dislike bitterness.

IBUs don't decrease in a linear fashion because different iso-alpha acids have different half lives. Originally I had info about IBU losses to aging in the book, can't remember if it ended up being cut or not? A year of aging will get you to ~75% of the original IBUs, and two years to ~60% (this would be compared to post-fermentation).

If you don't want any bitterness perception, there is no issue dropping the IBUs to 5, or even leaving hops out entirely!

While the oxygen-scavenging abilities of Brett help to preserve hop aromatics, I'm not aware of this protection extending to IBUs. The lower pH created by fermentation and the binding of hop oils to yeast cells tend to reduce the IBUs, not sure to what extent the lower pH and extended fermentation of sour beers would alter this.

This is a good reminder not to change any of the variables in a sour beer without considering what other adjustments should be made to compensate.

Hope that helps, best of luck!
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Old 09-11-2014, 07:12 PM   #237
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Yeah, the Sour American case was a ****up on my part. The other beer that was "off" was a 1/2 batch of Saison Vatour with the Mosaic/Citra/Nelson Sauv combination from your dry hopped sour recipe. I cut the M/C/NS hops in half at boil, and skipped dry hopping (so 1/4 of your M/C/NS quantities), which would have been an appropriate hops level, if one of the brett strains that I added (either Naard or Trois, I dunno which took over) hadn't made the beer too sour- cherry/strawberry-fruity. This was a case of playing around with too many variables at the same time. In the future, I think I might try to keep my sour beers in the 5-10 IBU range, and if they lack bitterness, add some dry hops as flavor appropriate.

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