Friday, November 16, 2012

Batch Fifty - Old Ale w/ Molasses & Spices

Different brewing companies support different milestones in different ways. Bells brewery in Kalamazoo, MI produces a special beer for every thousandth batch. Shorts Brewery in Bellaire, MI produces their Anniversary Ale with blood oranges each year. The Bruery does both producing milestone batches and anniversary ales.

I am brewing my fiftieth batch of beer now. This number includes both large and small batches. I want to celebrate this anniversary by making a beer that is a celebration of things which I love. I am going to be making a old stock ale with a base of maris otter, black strap molasses and Sri Lankan cinnamon. This beer is similar to one of my early failures The Cinnamon Treacle Old Ale. To improve it I am going to work with ingredients I am a bit more familiar with.

(please read more about me, and my beer after the break.)

More on my Fourty-Nine Other Batches:
So Fifty batches; I admit I pushed the pace a bit this past 18 months. I wanted to gain experience quickly, and have interesting and worth while content on my blog. I also wanted to start a good souring program, so I wanted a few batches of lambic to start out with. I wanted to have aged lambic to blend, so that I could be blending and learning long into the future. I also dump some failed experiments, there is nothing wrong with dumping bad beer. You don't have to drink it. My first batch was a porter kit, and I dumped it because I knew I would never drink it. I reused the bottles for my fruity berlinner. This stuff happens. Life is too short to drink bad beer.

More on Batch Fifty:
The Bruery makes a great BBA old ale for their anniversaries. It uses the solera method and I've wanted to do a solera method beer for myself for some time now. I wasn't sure how I would do it or what I would brew. I did some research and found out that styles that would work include any sour, a Russian imperial stout, a barley wine, an old ale, or a strong Belgian. I decided that I wanted to brew an old ale for my fiftieth batch and then I decided that this would give me a good start on the solera.

What is this Solera Method:
The solera method is a method by which the age of the beer continually increases by drawing off a portion of old and aged beer and adding new fresh beer to the blend. This allows blending and aging in a single vessel. I plan to achieve this in a single vessel by brewing a 3 gallon base batch and periodically adding a new batch of ale to taste. I am going to ferment and age in separate vessels to avoid dactyl  In order to emulate an aged flavor similar to beers aged in a barrel I am going to use one of my oak bungs. I am hoping to keep this going for now and long after I leave my small place.

What is an Old Ale:
The BJCP describes it thusly: an aroma that is, "malty-sweet with fruity esters, often with a complex blend of dried-fruit, vinous, caramelly, molasses, nutty, toffee, treacle, and/or other specialty malt aromas. Some alcohol and oxidative notes are acceptable, akin to those found in Sherry or Port" with a flavor that has, "medium to high malt character with a luscious malt complexity, often with nutty, caramelly and/or molasses-like flavors.", and it should appear to have a, "light amber to very dark reddish-brown color. May be almost opaque (if not, should be clear). Moderate to low cream- to light tan-colored head; may be adversely affected by alcohol and age".

The history of the style is interesting to me. As the name implies these beers are aged, they were often the blending base for other beers, or served to the connesour at full strength. Over time they picked up some barrel charicter, and infections. Additional flavors that are acceptable on top of those described above include brettanomyces bruxellensis, brettanomyces lambicus, pediococcus, lactobacillus, and oaken flavors.

I expect these flavors to develop over time naturally in my solera, but to give things a jump start I've selected a seasonal strain from wyeast. Wyeast 9097 Old Ale Blend is described as, "to bring you a bit of English brewing heritage we developed the “Old Ale” blend, including an attenuative ale strain and a brettanomyces strain, which will ferment well in dark worts and produce beers with nice fruitiness. Complex estery characters will emerge with age. Pie cherry and sourness will evolve from the Brettanomyces along with distinct horsey characteristics." This sounds like brettanomyces lambicus to me, but I am a novice brettanomyces wrangler. The combination of brittish ale yeast and brettanomyces are exactly what this style needs.

Recipe Specifications:
Boil Size: 3.5 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 3.0 gal
Estimated OG: 1.082 SG
Estimated Color: 20.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 40.0 IBUs

Recipe Ingredients: 
7.5 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) 83.3 %
9.0 oz Caramel Malt - 40L (40.0 SRM) 6.3 %
6.0 oz Caramel Malt -120L (120.0 SRM) 4.2 %
3.0 oz Special B (147.5 SRM) 2.0 %
6.0 oz Molasses (80.0 SRM)  4.2 %
1.50 oz Williamette [5.40 %] - Boil 60.0 min 40.2 IBUs
1,0 Item Ground Cinnamon Stick (Boil 5.0 mins)
1.0 pkg Wyeast Old Ale (Wylabs #9097)

Mash Schedule: Batch Sparge, Full Body
Total Grain Weight: 3 lbs
Saccharification Add 12.00 qt of water at 167.0 F 156.0 F 60 min
Mash Out Add 8.00 qt of water at 168.0 F 10 min

Brew Day:
Brew day went well. Nothing was problematic for a change. The mill worked fantastically and the grain bed was tight after only a bit of vourlafing. I can say for sure that I've gotten better at this over fifty batches. The wort smelled fantastically when I was siphoning it into the carboy. Hopefully that cinnamon comes through for the length of the life of this beer.


  1. How did it turn out? How long did you age it?


      This turned out interesting, the old ale strain and the brett doubled up to produce a crazy amount of fruit. No detectable molasses, or cinnamon though.

  2. Embarrassingly enough I haven't tried it yet. I need to transfer it into a smaller carboy soon so we'll see by month's end what it taste's like. I like to leave bretty beers alone for as long as I can stand it to emulate aging and allow them to reach their full flavor potential.