This month's troubleshooter's corner included seven beers for the tasting by Drew and Bruce Brode. This is the first time when many of the brewers were asking "what's wrong with this beer" and our only answer was "nothing really".
Beer 1: Saison
The Saison's grain bill included a lot of grains including pilsner, honey malt, flaked wheat, rye, oats and barley with additions of Belgian Candi Sugar. The beer presented with a clean, less spicy nose than WLP565 but that's because it was WLP566! For a saison, this beer had a lot body and a residual sweetness. Both are out of style and the brewer was advised that they should try reducing the number of flaked body boosting grains (particular ly the combination of oats and barley). The beer also presented with a little bit of DMS (canned corn), which was probably from a 60 minute boil in a pilsner malt heavy beer. It was recommended that the boil be boosted to 90 minutes to ensure removal of the SMM precursor to DMS that is abundant in pilsner malt
Beer 2: Northern English Brown
A repeat customer! This brewer had previously had issues with very fruity and estery ferments. This Northern brown had some apple/cherry tones mixed with a bit of banana. The culprit in this case was a combination of still slightly too warm pitching temps along with the choice of a fruity yeast strain like Wyeast London III. The back end was slightly flabby and acidic from the roast. The beer was built on RO water which lead to the recommendation of a small addition of Calcium Carbonate to counteract the chocolate malts.
Beer 3: Rye Saison with Sorachi Ace
Bottle conditioned beer that's still not completely finished conditioning leaving a lighter than anticipated fizz. (The brewer was really excited to share the beer that's why!) The beer was built on Domestic 2 Row malt, 25% Rye Malt, 5% Wheat Malt. The beer has that cool mouth enveloping fruit and spice character that is distinctively Wyeast 3711 French Saison. (Incidentally, Drew's favorite Saison yeast to use with hoppy Saisons). Sorachi ace was used both as a late hop and a dry hop. The resulting beer has a big bright lemon character from the hop. Almost "Pledge" like. The beer should fully blossom when fully carbonated. The troubleshooter's advice was to watch the hop character and maybe pull back slightly if that super bright Sorachi flavor becomes a little much
Beer 4: Rye Saison
Yup, another Rye Saison. This one was a test batch of the Danstar Belle Saison strain. Simple more session able strength than the usual super bombs we see (OG. 1.054. FG. 1.010) The beer has a low, very pleasant clovey phenol scent blended with black pepper and orange. Despite the higher OG, the beer's finish was dry and the beer ended up very drinkable and balanced. This is interesting when compared the reports I've read online of the Belle Star as being a bit boring and not terribly "Saisony"
Beer 5: Leftover Berliner Weiss
Made from one of John's leftover "expired" Wyeast smack packs of Berliner Weiss Blend, this was a pale straw, lightly hazy beer with a tall crispy white head. There was a detectable note of Brettanomyces in the nose, which folks can debate the appropriate strength of, but this was fairly mild. The head collapsed fairly quickly (within bounds) and then the lactic acid took over. This was not "make you feel your fillings" intense, but the tartness was like an easy sour candy. It was noticeable and the first and last thing you'd think of the beer, but sour heads and judges would probably deride it as "too soft". For an easy no-nonsense cheap brew though - this hits the spot - no syrup required!
Beer 6: Belgian Dark Strong with Persimmons and Spices
This is our first revisited beer. When first brought in 9 months ago, it was a super spice bomb (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc) that was nearly impossible to drink with the persimmons mostly registering as a bit of sourness The beer on revisit was still spicy, but not anywhere near the same level of mouth assaulting spice that it had been previously.
The aging had softened the beer and allowed more caramel maltiness to shine through. The fading of the spices meant that the persimmon could now shine as well. The surprising part is how much persimmon was left in a beer this old. I'm used to expecting that your fruits will fade first and rapidly. Not in this case where the persimmon slowly built sip after sip into a full picture of tropical fruitiness that was both tangy and just slightly bitter from the fruit's natural tannins.
Beer 7: Stone IPA Clone
An extract only clone of SN from BYO with a really muddled and mixed fruity character. The big caramel tones were from the all extract nature of the beer (two different colors and types). The yeast used was wLP002 which gives off decidedly more English fruit character than WLP007, reputed to be fairly close to Stone's house strain. When combined with a warm ferment, the beer had a big jammy nature that collided with the Chinook and Centennial. Advice to brewer was to really control the temperatures (open air room 75-80F) and swap yeast strains.