Sunday, August 24, 2014

Banana Bomb exBEERiment!

I was reading this post on the /r/homebrewing subreddit and became intrigued when I came across a comment (probably still the top one in that thread) that linked to this thread regarding open fermentation for optimal production of banana esters.
Well, I can't do a side by side fermentation test because I already bottled a hefeweizen. Exact same recipe I used before, and so far as I can tell same results. Awesome balanced clove and banana from the 64-69F temps.

Instead my plan is to do the exact same brew again, but open ferment for the first few days. Since I've already brewed the exact same recipe twice and reproduced the original result, I'm fairly confident I'll be able to tell what the differences are in this exbeeriment.

The brew day went pretty smoothly. I didn't bother with pictures, because as far as brew days go it was fairly inconsequential. I used 4lbs White Wheat and 4lbs Pilsner malts. Mashed at 154, mashed out at 170 (no sparge easymode activate!). The only hop addition was 1oz Hallertau, FWH. So basically after mashing all I had to do was wait for it to boil for 90 minutes.

Chilling was a bit of an annoyance with our recent heat wave. Immersion chiller only got it down to 75, so I had to let it sit in my 20gal cooling trash can with ice packs and whatnot for a few hours to get it down to around the 68F pitching temp I was aiming for today. No big deal.

Here it is, yeast pitched (7/27/14)! To be open fermented for 72hrs.

I didn't get a lot of pictures of the krausen, but it basically looked like this from ~12hrs on. But here it is about 48hrs in:

We'll see what happens in a couple weeks! Open fermenting period complete on 7/30/14. Lid on with airlock.

Notes during the open fermentation period: It looked awesome, as you can see above. But the smell. Oh my goodness the smell. It was divine. If you like bananas, at least. My entire brew/computer/workout room was smelling like banana bread for three days.

Compared to the normal fart aroma wafting out of the airlock from WLP300 that I'm used to, this was a welcome change and I hope an indication of what is to come when it's ready to drink.

Notes after lid is on: I really wish I had taken more pictures with the lid off, but it's really just krausen, so whatever. I need to obtain more bottles, brewing 20 gallons of beer has depleted my supply! Working on that, but I've got a couple weeks so should be fine.

Bottling day tasting notes 8/10: Obviously this is still flat beer, but I can certainly taste the banana-ness coming through. It isn't as strong as I thought it might be, but it's also not carbonated yet. So we'll see!

Comparative tasting 8/23: Just short of two weeks, but this isn't a particularly strong beer (4% ABV) and having brewed this exact same Hefeweizen a couple times before with the lid on, the others were carbonated in 10-12 days anyway. Figured this one would probably work the same way, and it certainly did. Probably helps that ambient temps have been in the high 70's low 80's here for the past few weeks, but either way I'll take it.

So as previously noted I've brewed this exact recipe with a closed lid being the only difference twice now as well. With the closed lids, I always get a balance of clove and banana. It's just a deliciously balanced Hefeweizen and I have no regrets doing that.

The open fermented Hefeweizen however. Banana. Banana all the way. The difference in aroma, the difference in flavor, it's all there. Both recipes were done 100% the same way, the only difference being the lid not being on the bucket for the first 72hrs. The temperatures were the same, both used 1L starters on the same stir plate... as close to the same beer as I can reasonably make it, without the lid on the banana bomb. And it is a banana bomb.

Recap: 4lbs White Wheat, 4lbs Pilsner. 1oz Hallertau FWH, 1L starter WLP300. Open ferment 72hrs, cover for the remainder of 2 weeks. OG was 1.044 (~75% efficiency), FG 1.010 so around 4% ABV.

Conclusion: The only thing I can really say about this method is: Holy shit. It works. It works amazingly. If you like banana esters, this will do the trick. Just make sure nothing falls in while it's open fermenting and you're golden.