Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Farmers Daughter Blending Session

Nice Labels add to the blending experience

Last November I got together with Danny over at Deeper Roots Brewing to construct a Flanders Red Style Sour beer that we brewed together on his 10 gallon system.  The recipe is very close to a traditional Flanders style sour ale.  Meanwhile on my 5 gallon system I took the spent grain and did a 5 gallon second running beer for our 1st batch of Dreg's.  We took the original 10 gallons and split the batch 50/50.  Leaving the second running batch as 4, 1 gallon Dreg batches.

Original Farmers Daughter Post.

Overview of the Original Idea.

Original Dreg Beer Post.

Since last November both Danny and I have brewed another Flanders style beer independently for this project.  His named Crumple Car and mine named Farmers Bitch (no post on that rebrew, only some pictures under the Farmers Daughter post).  I also brewed the original recipe with just WLP001 to have as a neutral base for blending.  Planning to cover all the avenues concerning flavor, acidity and aroma.

Over the last year we mostly stayed true to the original plan and kept the wort at 74 degrees ambient temperature and trying not to disturb the wort as much possible.  Danny did have a bit of luck come his way and stumbled into 20 pounds of wine grapes freshly picked from a co-workers backyard.  We decided to add 10 pounds of the wine grapes to his Farmers Daughter batch.  I'm sure this decision pushed back our timeline a little but the temptation was to much for us to handle. 

Last Saturday our experiment came to a pinnacle, blending time.  With the generous blessing of our wife's, we made last minute plans to blend the Flanders Red batches at my house.  With a ample supply of 100 ml +/- 1ml graduated cylinders, flasks varying from 2000ml to 250ml, kegs and plenty of carboys we started working on planning the 1st blend.

With five, 5 gallon carboys totaling 25 gallons of beer we might of overstepped our comfort level for a first time blender but each of us had a distinct taste profile we where looking for.  Personally, I like my sours a little more rustic, and acidic.  Danny tends to like his with more cherry and fruit notes forward in the nose.  Knowing this information, we started to create a baseline for the five batches of beer in front of us. (The batch number is our labeling of the beer, it has nothing to do with the age of the beer.)

Blue tape Batch #'s

Batch #1 - Farmers Bitch:  This was my younger Flanders Red ale, pitched on top of the original Farmers Daughter yeast cake.  Same recipe as the original batch with Danny, scaled to 5 gallons.  This was also sort of a dregs beer, with bottle dregs from Russian River and Jolly Pumpkin added.  This also had the original oak from my Dirty Gnome American Brown Sour Ale added.

Color:  13 SRM's

Final Gravity:  1.010

Highlights:   Great aroma with big cherry pie notes, complex between the sweet and the sour.  Medium high sour tartness.  Very clear, the best single batch of the 5 tasted.

Flaws:  On the thin side, leaves something to be desired midway through the tasting.  

Batch #2 - Farmers Daughter:  The original beer brewed and split with Danny from last November.  Thinking this was getting to acidic for the style, I took it off its yeast cake last June.  Cold crashing it in a keg and transferring it into a carboy.  Since that time, no active fermentation and the gravity has not dropped. 

Color:  19 SRM's

Final Gravity:  1.011

Highlights:   All of our sour came from this batch for the most part.  This beer made the back of our mouths pucker.  Very clear and dark.  I know understand why most world renowned blenders have a batch like this on hand during blending. 

Flaws:  The aroma is low to nonexistent.  On the verge of being undrinkable by itself, necessary to blend this batch.

Batch #3 - Base Flanders Red (No Bugs):  This was brewed for with the idea that we may need a base beer to back blend with.  Brewed with the same recipe as Batch #2.  This sat at room/ambient temp for about a month.

Color:  17 SRM's

Final Gravity:  1.008

Highlights:  Strangely enough, this beer finished lower gravity wise than all the order beers.  Well brewed with no sour flavors detectable.  Good amounts of fruity esters.

Flaws:  I could pick-up medium/high levels of oxygenation in this beer.  Must of been from the subpar storage over the last month. 

Batch #4 - Crumple Car:  Danny's beer, different recipe than mine.  Brewed mid April.  The most barnyard of the 5 batches.  Danny tossed in the old oak cubes from his Kate the Great clone for some added complexity.  You really could get the flavors associated with the more rustic Flanders Brown style. 

Color:  11 SRM's

Final Gravity:  1.010

Highlights:  Big Barnyard flavors.  Mild to low sourness.  This one grew on me as the night developed.  Vanilla oak flavors, somewhat dirty, and gritty (good for a sour)  Almost tasted like a brett only fermentation.

Flaws:  This beer had a small glitch in the middle of the tasting profile.  It didn't flow correctly across the sip.  This beer also had the lowest observed souring of the group. 

Batch #5 - Farmers Daughter (Danny's): Danny's original batch, brewed together with me and Batch #2 above.  He added wine grapes about 6 weeks ago.  This created a problem of clarity, or so we thought.  The upside was an awesome aroma of Dark fruit, Cherry pie and plums.

Color:  N/A to cloudy

Final Gravity:  N/A  unknown

Highlights:  Some of the best dark fruit, spicy grape and cherry pie aromas filled the nose.  The taste backed up the awesome aromas from the nose.  Very low levels of sour.  (strange, having tasted this 2 months ago is one of the reasons I brewed my base Flanders Red.)  This could of also worked as a Belgian Quad. 

Flaws:  Very cloudy from the fresh grapes.  We used a strainer on this addition. 

Time to start blending.  Knowing that Danny and have have different ideas for our perfect Flanders Red we chose to rotate blending mixes and leave enough behind to go back and taste them.  Using a wine thief and the 3 graduated cylinders above we started.  

 Blend #1:

1 Part of Batch 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

The first blend was a equal parts of all the 5 batches to create a starting point.  This had significant grape and cherry notes.  Very subdued sour flavor.  At the time we thought we nailed it and were done, only to realize later this was not a very good blend.

Blend #2:  

1 Part of 1, 3, 4
2 Part of 2
Left out 5

Overly sour, way to much acidity.  Very low to no aroma.  Now knowing that Batch #5 gave most of the aroma and Batch #2 gave most of the sour/tartness.

Blend 1, 2, and 3 on the table

Blend #3:

1.5 Part 2
1 Part 5 and 4
.5 Part 1 and 3

This one was the first blend that I really liked.  Big fruit aroma on the nose.  Good medium high sour profile.  Great color.  Danny's personal favorite blend overall.

Blend #4:

1.5 Part 1 and 5
1 Part 2 and 3
.5 Part 4

Personally, I loved this blend.  Sour cherry aroma's, clean tart taste.  A little to much lingering sweetness, but it could be overlooked as a small amount of sweetness is OK per the style guidelines. 

Blend #5:

1.5 Part 1 and 5
1 Part 2 and 4
.5 Part 3

At this time Danny and I started chasing the perfect blend after #3 and #4.  They started to go down in flavor, aroma and taste.  Blend #6 was about the same as #5 so I will skip that one.

Blend #7:

1.5 Part 1 and 5
1.25 Part 2
1 Part 3
.7 Part 4

This blend was a shot in the dark knowing that some of the Batches were giving more aroma and some were giving more taste.  Going back to blend 3 and 4 we expanded and came up with this blend.  Hands down this blend knocked it out of the park.  The level of sourness was on par with any commercial Flanders Red style beer.  With our notes, we were ready to get to blend.

Blend #7 Tasting Session Post  (Added 11/1/2012)

Now came the math, the most critical moment of the blend.  We need to take the parts and grow it into 5 gallons of delicious homebrew.  We took the easy road and decided that 1 Part would be 1000ml.  Which is 1L.  This took a little longer, but we wanted to make sure the kegs filled evenly and we wanted to watch the level of the beer in a couple of batches for the next blend.

We netted two, five gallon kegs of Batch #7.  Looking at Batch #2 (now the lowest carboy) and decided to mix up 3.5 gallons of Batch #3 next for Danny.  Next we mixed up 3 gallons of Batch #4 for me.  

Looking at the leftovers we chose to blend the leftovers of Batches 1, 2 and 4 into a keg blind.  We netted about 4 gallons of beer.  Tossing Batch #3 (the un-soured base)  My kegs will go into the chest freezer for a 2 week cold crashing.  The leftover batch will be bottled asap.  Blends 4 and 7 will be bottled at a later date and entered in the NHC.

To read Danny's Blog post on this blending check out his blog at Deeper Roots Brewing.  


  1. Excellent write up! I think you expressed the details clearly and communicated the spirit of the entire process eloquently. You really spearheaded this whole thing, getting graduated cylinders and making vessels available. I know you put a lot of thought into the process and I was happy to follow your lead. This experience presented one of the sharpest learning curves of my brewing education. Not only was it a ton of fun to do, but I think the final beers were really beautiful and balanced the way we like them. Thanks for making this happen. I can't wait to try them in finished form.

  2. Nice Detailed Write-up.

    And you guys are getting very good at your sour beer descriptions. It was fun to follow along and see how you narrowed it down.

    Let me know when I can taste some of the blends.


Thanks for Commenting, Prost!