Turbid Mashing - Farmhouse Pale Ale


Introduction

As a BJCP Certified judge, I often find myself comparing commercial beers to the BJCP style guidelines, subconsciously determining my enjoyment of that beer based on how well it fits inside "the box" of the style guidelines. However, I sometimes have a beer that is brewed outside of "the box" that helps remind me that beer doesn't have to fit a style guideline to be enjoyed. Brasserie de Blaugies' La Vermontoise, a spelt Saison that uses Amarillo hops, did exactly this for me. Blaugies' nuanced yeast character combined with Amarillo's citrus-forward hop characteristics resulted in a beer that was full of new world hop flavors without overpowering the Saison yeast's profile. I have tried (and brewed) a number of beers where modern hops had been combined with Belgian-type yeasts, but found the combination to generally be somewhat harsh and clashing in many cases. This was not the case with La Vermontoise. I believe a large part of my enjoyment of this beer is a result of Blaugies' ability to create a masterful balance between hops and yeast. Feeling inspired, I decided to give the modern hops and Belgian yeast combination another try by brewing what I am going to call a turbid-mashed, Farmhouse Pale Ale.

Approach

In addition to wanting to combine "modern" hops flavors with Belgian yeast, I wanted to get some additional practice turbid mashing. Up to this point, I had only ever done a turbid mash on my annual batch of spontaneous beer. Not wanting to feel quite as rusty this upcoming coolship season, I chose to use my standard Lambic-style grain bill and turbid mashing procedure. See recipe and results from my 2017/2018 spontaneous batch HERE. Turbid mashing is a technique that is traditionally employed by brewers of Lambic. In turbid mashing, highly starchy wort is created with the intention of providing a complex food source for the microbes present in spontaneous fermentation. Unconverted starches from the mash are intentionally left in the wort to provide the spontaneous microbes a food source for up to several years after the simple sugars have been fully utilized. Turbid mashing, much like a decoction, involves removing a portion of the mash and heating in a separate vessel for a certain period of time before returning that portion back to the mash tun. However, unlike a decoction, the removed portion should be a very milky and turbid liquid that has not yet been converted. This liquid is held at or near boiling to ensure that the enzymes from the mash are denatured and conversion of the starches to sugars is prevented.
Grist is milled and ready to dough in
For a good visualization of the various vessels and steps used during a turbid mash, check out the illustration that Dave Janssen uses on his blog, Hors Categorie Brewing. The exact number of mash steps, number of turbid pulls, and rest temperatures employed can vary from brewer to brewer, but the basic concept of the turbid mash remains the same. Make highly starchy wort. Given that this is more of an old world technique, it is common for a turbid mash to involve infusions with boiling water to achieve the desired rest temperatures. Again, much like a decoction, turbid mashing pre-dated technologies such as the modern thermometer or PID controller. At a given elevation, boiling of wort occurs at a very consistent temperature. For this reason, infusing with a fixed volume of boiling water or grist allowed the old world brewer to somewhat reliably control their target rest temperature even if they did not have the means to measure the mash temperature numerically. I have tried the infusion with boiling water several times, but I currently use a HERMS brewing system, which allows me the luxury to more precisely control the rest temperatures of my mash. Also, manually transferring boiling watering is not something I particularly enjoy doing.
Turbid wort removed from mash and heated in secondary vessel
For the hops in this recipe I chose a classic American "C" hop, Cascade. Being concerned that the hop bitterness may possibly clash with the yeast character, I chose to use a heavy whirlpool addition as the only hot side hops addition and dry hop the beer over the period of a week or so. Using my go to Saison yeast, Wyeast 3726, I chose to start fermentation out slightly cooler than I typically would and leave it as an open ferment until CO2 production had slowed considerably. This was done to further ensure that the yeast character didn't clash with the hops. See my post on open fermentation using WY3726 HERE. Wrapping up my approach for this recipe into a single sentence, this beer will be mashed and boiled like a Lambic, hopped like a NEIPA, and fermented like a Saison.

Recipe Specifications

Beer Name: Farmhouse Pale Ale
Brew Date: 7/15/2018
Batch Size:  5.5gal (20.8L)
Estimated OG: 1.050
Estimated: Color: 3.3SRM
Estimated IBU: 29.3IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%
Boil Time: 180 minutes

Grain:
63.6% - 7.0lbs (3.17kg) - Belgian Pilsen (Castle Malting)
36.4% - 4.0lbs (1.81kg) - Triticale (raw, locally grown)

Hops:
Whirlpool: 30min @195°F- 4oz. Cascade [6.3%] - 34.3 IBUs
Dry Hop: @ 48hrs.- 1oz. Cascade [6.3%]
Dry Hop: @ 7 days- 1oz. Cascade [6.3%]
Dry Hop: @ 8 days- 1oz. Cascade [6.3%]
Dry Hop: @ 9 days- 0.83oz. Cascade [6.3%]

Yeast:
Wyeast 3726 Farmhouse Ale - 2L starter

Mash:
Dough In - gallons of water (1.09qts./lb. or 2.27L/kg)
Rest - 15min @ 118°F (47.7°C)
Pull - 0.75 gallons of turbid runnings
Add - 0.5 gallons of water to mash tun
Rest - 30min @ 133°F (56.1°C)
Pull - 2 gallons of turbid runnings
Add - 2 gallons of water to mash tun
Rest -  45min @ 152°F (66.6°C)
Rest -  45min @ 162°F (72.2°C)
Rest -  10min @ 172°F (77.7°C)

Sparge:
Sparge with 185°F (85°C) water

Misc:
Add to mash 8mL Lactic Acid and add to boil 4g Gypsum, 8g Calcium Chloride

Notes:
OG: 1.048 FG: 1.009 ABV: 5.12%
7/15/2018 - Set carboy in fermentation chamber at 75°F (23.89°C)
7/17/2018 - Set fermentation chamber to 80°F (26.67°C), dry hop w/ 1oz. Cascade pellets, activity had slowed a lot
7/18/2018 - Set carboy in fermentation chamber at 85°F (29.44°C)
7/22/2018 - Set fermentation chamber to 70°F (21.1°C), dry hop w/ 1oz. Cascade pellets
7/23/2018 - dry hop w/ 1oz. Cascade pellets
7/24/2018 - dry hop w/ 0.83oz. Cascade pellets
7/31/2018 - kegged and force carbonated

Results

Brew day for this beer was July 15, 2018. I performed the turbid mash as outlined in the recipe section above and was able to get close to my target OG of 1.050 by producing a 1.048 OG wort. In the past, I have had problems grossly missing my target OG for turbid mashed beers. Looking back, I blame this mostly on constantly making changes to my brewing system without understanding what effect the changes would have on my efficiency as well as just not brewing this particular recipe frequently enough. Following the 3-hour boil, I shut off the electric element and whirlpooled without chilling for 30 minutes while 4oz. of Cascade pellets steeped in the wort. At the end of the whirlpool, the wort temp was at 185F. I then began chilling with a counter flow chiller to my target pitching temp of 75°F (23.89°C). Once the wort was transferred into a cleaned and sanitized plastic carboy, the yeast was pitched and the carboy was placed in a fermentation chamber set to 75°F (23.89°C). An open fermentation was achieved by not placing an airlock on the carboy. In its place, a sanitized piece of aluminum fool was loosely placed over the neck of the carboy.
Hop cone after the 30-minute whirlpool
After 48 hours, fermentation activity had slowed considerably, so at that point I chose to ramp the temperature up to 80°F (26.67°C) and add the first dry hops. Another 24 hours later, I ramped the temperature up to 85°F (29.44°C and placed an airlock on the carboy as fermentation activity was nearly complete. I started the second, third and fourth rounds of dry hopping (per the recipe above) after a week of fermentation was complete and packaged the beer in a ball lock keg after 16 days of fermentation were complete. At that point the beer had reached a final gravity of 1.009SG, a couple points higher than I would have expected from this strain in a more typical mash and fermentation situation. I held the kegs at 30psi for 48 hours then reduced the pressure to about 13-14psi for serving.
2L starter of WY3726

Tasting Notes – Farmhouse Pale Ale (Turbid Mashed)

Aroma:
Medium phenolic spice, medium-low orange zest, low sweet cereal malt, balanced strongly towards the citrusy hops and phenolic yeast character.

Appearance:
Golden orange with a tall, off-white head that persisted very well. When young this beer was young there was moderate haze very similar to what you might expect in a NEIPA, but after a few weeks the beer began to clear up considerably.

Flavor:
Medium-high phenolic spice, medium orange zest, medium bitterness, very low and clean malt sweetness. Reminiscent of some sort of spiced orange candy. Balanced strongly towards the hops. After about a month in the keg, the hop flavor and bitterness mellowed a bit and the Saison yeast character became more forward.

Mouthfeel:
Medium body with medium-high carbonation and a silky mouthfeel. No astringency noted.

3 days after kegging
2 months after kegging

Conclusion

To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure if this recipe would produce an enjoyable beer. I had never done a turbid mash for anything other than spontaneous beers so I wasn’t sure how the extra starch and tannins extracted from the turbid mashing process would impact a cleanly fermented hoppy beer like this. Also, I had never used this hopping schedule with this yeast strain. However, I am happy to report that this beer was very enjoyable and I had to exercise restraint to let this beer reach the 2-month old mark before blowing the keg. The bitterness from the late hopping was pleasantly strong for the first few weeks in the keg, but dropped out a lot after that; letting the yeast be a little more forward in the overall balance of the beer. Even though there was a substantial body and velvety texture from the raw triticale and heavy dry hopping, the beer was balanced in a way that was refreshing and very drinkable at only 5.12%ABV. I have to assume that the turbid mash contributed to the body in some way, but believe a side-by-side experiment is required to help verify the correctness of my assumption. I will absolutely be brewing this again, but will probably try a different hop variety with future attempts, possibly something more exotic next time like Galaxy or Citra. Also, I think to keep this beer tasting more like a Pale Ale as it ages it would be helpful to add 10-20IBUs worth of hops in a standard 60-minute addition. Alternatively, it may also be pretty interesting to leave the recipe as is and ferment it with my own coolship cultures and see what sort of interesting mixed-culture Pale Ale that approach might produce.

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