Monthly Archives: October 2015

Batch 12: Winter Bochet (burnt mead)

[Brewed Oct 31, 2015]   OG: 1.130  Est. FG: 1.027  ABV: 14%

It was only about a week ago I learned what a bochet was. Instantly intrigued, I planned to make one as soon as possible. I picked up what I needed during the week and it happened today.

I read a little bit on the process but preparations were minimal. I learned some things. I can tell you that while it doesn’t take very long compared to brewing a beer, there are no breaks. As soon as the honey comes to a boil, you can’t stop stirring it for more than a couple seconds at a time.

I used Fireweed honey as it lacks a lot of delicate fragrances that I’d be losing anyway during the boil. I added a stick of cinnamon halfway through the boil because it seemed like a good idea. I have never tasted a bochet, so I have no basis to go on.

This was the honey and nutrients I used. The only other things that went in were a 3″ long stick of cinnamon, Lalvin 71B-1122, and enough pre-boiled water to top things up.


I used 1/2 tsp of the superfood, and 1/4 tsp of the energizer. The 1500g of honey brings me to a calculated OG of 1.130, which is certainly on the high side. I am hoping that the yeast (Lalvin 71B-1122) will finish up around 1.025 – 1.027, which is the advertised 14% alcohol tolerance point of that yeast. That would leave me with a pretty sweet mead, but hopefully not overly so.


This shows the progression in caramelizing over about 25 minutes. It’s not very linear; it takes 10 – 15 minutes to show much change and then it darkens up fairly quick. It’s very hard to tell what the liquid’s colour is because of the incessant foaming. I cut the heat immediately after the lower right photo because I was just starting to pick up some ‘burnt’ smell. Before that it was marshmallows, leading into a very short toffee period then a touch of burning firewood smell.

I knew that at this point it is important to cool the mixture quickly. Usually this is done by adding a couple cups of hot water, which will spit and spew violently due to the super-heated temperature of the honey. I thought I was clever by opting to drop the pot into an ice bath to pre-cool the honey, but I was wrong. It immediately started sticking to the sides of the pot with incredible tenacity. Out of the ice bath it came, and I did things the way others have: add a cup of hot water and quickly cover while it freaks out for a couple seconds. Repeat until it stops freaking out, then add the balance of your water more expediently.

Since my top-up water was pretty hot itself, I cooled the whole mixture in an ice bath with constant stirring until room temperature. The liquid was darker than I had anticipated from the boil but as far as I can tell, it’s not overcooked. I am very interested to see how this turns out.


I added the re-hydrated yeast and put the airlock on. It’s now in my cellar at 62F where I’m hoping to find some activity in the coming days. Also shown is about 3/4 gallon of old ale (Buckstock) which I had bottled as well.


I will update on how its fermentation goes and how it ends up tasting. I don’t expect I’ll be bottling it until the end of the year, maybe even early next year. I plan to bottle it uncarbonated, and have already picked up 375mL clear Bordeaux bottles and cork T-caps for it because I am a massive dork.

[Oct 31, 2015] At 6 hours after pitching, activity has started. Bubble once every 4-5 seconds, some caramel colored foam building on the surface.

[Nov 1, 2015] At 20 hours, a thin krausen has fully formed (formed around the 12 – 14 hr mark) with a nice orange top and cream foam. Bubbling at around 40 bubbles per minute.


[Nov 5, 2015]   The krausen has dropped, so I topped the jug up with about 2.5 cups of boiled then cooled water, a couple spoonfuls of honey, and 1/4 tsp of yeast ‘Superfood’. No gravity reading yet.

[Nov 14, 2015] Gravity 1.078, higher than expected at 2 weeks!  Fed 1/2 tsp of superfood and 1/4 tsp of energizer boiled briefly. Smells strongly of Elmer’s wood glue, which I hope is just a product of the active fermentation!

[Nov 28, 2015] Transferred to secondary although the gravity has only dropped to about 1.059. That plasticy / wood glue smell is fading a bit. Hoping that an extended secondary will see some significant drop in SG still; I want a sweet mead but I’d like to see it in the 1.030’s. The taste is promising, despite being dessert-sweet it has nice complexity and the 10% ABV thus far is starting to balance it out somewhat.

[April 24, 2016] Bottled into 375mL clear Bordeaux bottles. Still has a bit of a glue-like note but otherwise quite nice. Likely still need some aging before it hits its stride.

[Dec 18, 2016] The glue smell has nearly completely dissipated now and the flavour is really quite nice.  I shared a bottle with a number of friends and it was a unanimous hit. Very much a dessert beverage, it remained easily in the 1.050 range. However there is just enough alcohol to help balance it out a little bit, and the marshmallow and caramel flavours work really well. It would have been better to finish a little lower and now that I’m better equipped both equipment- and knowledge-wise, I look forward to giving this another try sometime.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Batch 03: Oxford barleywine

This was a one gallon pilot batch to test out my ability to make an English barleywine that suits my tastes. Minimal bitterness and big toffee notes which would hopefully give way to more fruitiness over time.

It was both a success and a failure. It tasted great at bottling, and 4 weeks later when I opened one in haste it was simply awesome – had lots of toffee, gentle carbonation, just wonderful. Harshness kicked in as it warmed but hey, it’s a month old. Then when I opened a second one a few weeks later, disaster. Gusher. The remaining bottles are all gushers. I’m not sure what happened – i have triple checked my sugar addition and it’s right. Bottling day must have breathed new life into the yeast causing them to knock the SG down a couple more points.

Brew Date: May 24, 2015

Bottling Date: July 11, 2015


85% Maris Otter, 10% Rye, 5% Brown sugar

Hopped to 35 IBU with Fuggles @ 60 min

Mash at 158F for 65 mins, boil 150 min

Remove 2 qts and reduce until thickened, add back to boil

Fermented with WLP002 at 67F

OG: 1.100    FG: 1.027   IBU: 35



Tasting Notes: 

Nov 9, 2015: Tastes a lot more like a Belgian quad than a barleywine due to the carbonation issues (and perhaps other things). Slow gusher. Lots of red and dark fruits that are slightly cloying. Some caramel / molasses.  Has good qualities but not a great beer as is.  Interestingly, I poured it into the cylinder and shook the carbonation out, and it reads a SG of 1.018!  Almost 10 points lower than at bottling. No wonder I had to keep venting carbonation off.



Batch 02: Pappy Saison II

When my coworker and I bought our ingredients for our first stab at home brew, we bought 2 yeast packs: WYeast’s 3711 and White Lab’s 568. We used the 3711 in the first batch, and having the extra vial of yeast encouraged us to get to brewing our second batch as soon as possible. Four weeks later, we brewed the ‘Belgian version’ of Pappy.

Brew Date: April 26, 2015

Bottling Date: May 20, 2015


10.5 lbs   Pilsner malt

2 lbs   Wheat malt

1 lb   Wildflower honey

1.5 oz   Azacca @ 20 min

2.5 oz   Azacca @ 5 min

Mash @ 155F for 60 min, boil 90 min

WLP568 (Belgian Saison) – fermented at 67F

OG: 1.052  FG: 1.010  IBU: 30-ish


This brew day had a major hiccup. We noticed after the wort chiller had been running for a while that the liquid level seemed to have risen during cooling. With concern, we lifted the chiller up to find it was leaking quite profusely. We repaired the chiller and continued on but we had over a gallon of water from the backyard hose in our beer, plus it sat at around 140F for 15 minutes while we feverishly fixed the chiller. Whether this is entirely to blame for the DMS issue in this batch or not I can’t tell you, but it did have DMS. Also we mashed awfully high for the style which resulted in a pretty high FG for a saison.


Tasting Notes

[Mar 8, 2016]  Down to my last two bottles. Other than the DMS which never went away, this has otherwise developed nicely, with a puffy white head which dissipates to lacing after a few minutes, crisp body and nice yeast profile. The DMS wouldn’t be totally out of place in some lagers, but here it just doesn’t fit in. Drinkable but flawed. It took quite a few months to get to the point I was willing to drink the whole bottle though.





Batch 01: Pappy Saison

Here it is, the first batch of homebrew I made. Started all-grain with a simple saison recipe as per below. The name Pappy Saison came from the fact my very elderly cat passed away the day before brew day.

I brewed this with a friend/coworker who had a bunch of equipment from his brother’s wine making project. Turns out the pot which we thought was 7.5 gallon was only 5 gallon. So we ended up having to make a smaller volume of higher gravity wort and then diluting it with boiled and cooled water.


10 lbs    Pilsner malt

2 lbs    Wheat malt

0.5 lbs   Honey (cheap stuff)

1.25 oz Azacca @ 15 min

1.25 oz Azacca @ 5 min

2 oz Azacca dry hop

WYeast 3711 – French Saison

Mash @ 154F for 60 minutes, boil for 90 minutes

OG: 1.055 (after dilution)   IBU: 30

Fermented at 67F for 2 weeks


Brewed:  March 29, 2015

Bottled: April 12, 2015

I learned many things from this brew, as one usually does during their inaugural brew day. I learned that leaf hops loose in the boil is a major pain in the ass to deal with. I learned that expecting 70% efficiency as a noob using BIAB was not a good idea. But, to my great joy, the beer tasted like beer. It was actually getting better and better but because I was overly excited to share my first homebrew with friends, and because our lower efficiency led to a lot less beer, I drank my last bottle at 3 months in bottle. It was the best one of the bunch, too.










Buckstock Ale



Brewed: August 29th, 2015

Transferred: September 7th, 2015:  One on plain American oak cubes, one without.

Bottled: Non-oaked version: Oct 31, 2015

OG: 1.094       FG: 1.018       IBU: 36

Fermentables: Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter, Thomas Fawcett Brown malt, buckwheat honey

Hops: East Kent Goldings

Yeast: WLP005, British Ale yeast


Tasting Notes:

Oct 12, 2015: Malty, moderate buckwheat presence.

Oct 26, 2015: Added more oak cubes to oaked version, these ones soaked in Bulleit bourbon.  No tasting.

Oct 31, 2015: Bottling the un-oaked portion. On the savoury side for sure with a soy sauce note.

Nov 27, 2015: Bottled the oaked / bourbon version, dubbed Bourbon Buckstock. Tasting quite nice – big hit of bourbon flavour, nice moderate oak character. That unique maltiness from the buckwheat … the jury is still out on that one. I am optimistic that it will meld over time into something quite nice. Bottled without sugar.

Winter Ale 2015

Style: Spiced winter warmer

Brewed: September 16, 2015

Transferred: October 20, 2015

Bottled: December 1, 2015


Fermentables: Maris Otter, Rye, Pale Chocolate, Dark Crystal, flaked oats, brown sugar

Hops: East Kent Goldings (bittering only)

Yeast: White Labs 002 (2 packs)

Additions:  Cinnamon (boil 10m), Vanilla beans + Hawaiian dark rum oak cubes (secondary)

Tasting Notes:

October 20, 2015:   During transfer. Cinnamon is present but not too strong. Pretty nice chocolate flavour. Not much alcohol presence.  SG is 1.023, about right.

November 11, 2015:  Sample taken while brewing another beer. Has dried way out!  1.011. Definitely an indication that maybe using an ex-brett carboy was a bad idea. However, it doesn’t taste terribly dry.

December 1, 2015:  Bottled. Tasting decent, surprisingly low alcohol burn considering it’s now at 10% ABV. Added only 1/2 oz of sugar for 2.5 gallons as it was bottled at 42F from a week-long cold crash. Cinnamon, vanilla, rum and oak are all quite subtle.

February 3, 2016:  I had already surmised that this batch got infected and have dumped most, but kept a few bottles just to see what happens. It certainly is infected, with a bit of a tannic acidity coming through now, but surprisingly it’s kind of turning into a palatable dark sour. The lack of roast malts definitely helps. It will be interesting to see where this one goes with my couple remaining bottles. Hope I don’t end up regretting the drain pours!