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Ross Lunato
09/29/07 12:41 AM  
I'm done
I'm giving up on brewing Belgians and may give up brewing altogether. I'm done. I suck. Right when I thought I saw some encouragement with my last saison fermentation, tasted great coming out of the keg, a sample pulled three weeks after bottling revealed nothing but sulphur. Autolysis, I can't believe it. I'm just disgusted with the whole thing. Screw it.
Ross Lunato
09/29/07 12:50 AM  
Re: I'm done
I just tasted Al B's saison d'epeautre and can honestly say.....WOW!!! Nice goin' Al Blaugies
09/29/07 02:13 AM  
Re: I'm done
Don't give yet!!! I'm sure that during the tasting you'll pick up a lot of good info to justify pushing forward with brewing Belgians. It takes time, patience and lots of applied knowledge to create an artisinal beer.
09/29/07 07:19 AM  
Re: I'm done

If I quit every time I made crap, I'd have quit like a bazillion times. Oh wait, I've only made about 20 brews...

hmmm...okay not quite a bazillion.

But if it were easy, then it wouldn't be worth learning. anything worth doing is worth doing well...

Oh and if you do quit...can I have your equipment?


09/29/07 08:08 AM  
Re: I'm done
Dude, just when I may have finally made a dent in homebrew board spam???

Seriously, this is exactly what swaps are for. They are a bit of an online party, but its not uncommon for people to walk away with different ideas about how to make their stuff. Give it another week!!

Ross Lunato
09/29/07 08:30 AM  
Re: I'm done
I just wrote this huge post about why I'm discouraged and just deleted it...anyway, I feel a bit bad about posting about non-brewing things. Sorry Steve, please delete this thread. I'll try to carry on but damn, I'm really down right now.
09/29/07 02:33 PM  
Re: I'm done
NinaB here...wife, side-kick and homebrewer's-cheerleader to AlB.

This IS a "brewing thing" cuz everyone's got their stories. There's been plenty of cussing coming from our basement over the years (Al's Mad Scientist Brewery), plenty of tears mixed with beer-gone-bad being sent to the local sewers with proclamations similar to your initial post above.

Don't throw in the bartowel just yet. Get in on a swap - they're educational and a hoot.

Ross Lunato
09/29/07 06:58 PM  
Re: I'm done
Thanks for the words of encouragement Ryan, Cisco, Steve and Nina. Guess I'm over reacting to something that I didn't expect and really, just when I thought I was really "getting it", along comes this huge surprise. I'm still not sure what happened but I'm working on it. I just read something where Randy Mosher used to say the same thing. I feel a little better but I'm not gonna brew this weekend as I planned. Next weekend :)
09/29/07 07:22 PM  
Re: I'm done
Ross, if you REALLY want this thread to go I'll make it happen, though I personally think it has value. I can say I have had most definate ups and downs along the road. Personally, I think the downs are critical.

For years, like maybe 8 or so, I didn't enter a competition without placing. By and large I'm not real big on competeing, but I am big on supporting people I like when they go to the effort to arrange an event. So I'd compete a couple times a year. And I got to the point where I just expected at least one ribbon to arrive in the mail.

Then it happened, 2 events in a row where my ass was handed to me. I realized that the awards I had won had stopped meaning anything to me because I had no failures to balance them. All ups, no downs, the ups lost their value. A nice little ass-kicking changed that. OK, we arn't talking about competing in your case, but I think the fundimental principle is the same. I think I make good beer but sometimes I brew a couple dogs in a row. It bums me out, but sweetens the good times.

Honestly, the swap sessions are not just an on-line party, although they often take on that character. They can be a great learning experience. I have picked up a couple great tricks at swaps, cold mashing comes immediately to mind. So I think maybe postponing yourbrew session is a good idea, maybe you will be inspired in some way on the 3rd.

09/29/07 08:22 PM  
Re: I'm done
No worries Ross

Man, remember, its for fun. I just got back from the Alchemist...a little brew pub in Northern Vermont. I had never been there before. The IPA was really really good and I was thinking, I've gotta try to do something like this. I'm a long way from being able to replicate such things, but I'm sure its not impossible. Only with practice. But more importantly, its the looking forward to doing these kind of things, having fun along the way...etc...

keep it up.


Ross Lunato
09/30/07 07:31 PM  
Re: I'm done
Go ahead and leave the thread up there Steve as I'm not too proud. Also, thanks for the story of your successes and challenging times too. I have received a lot of encouragement from some great friends. One bit of advice I got from a brewer I respect tremendously is to brew other styles that are a bit more forgiving for the next couple of batches and then hit the more unforgiving styles again later. Looks like Iíve got some stouts and porters in my future.
Matt Walker (mwsf)
10/01/07 03:18 AM  
Re: I'm done
I've said the same thing more than once. Brewing good beer is hard, especially with so many phenomenal commercial beers to compare against. I go through cycles where I brew a few excellent beers, start feeling confident or even cocky, brew a couple crappy beers, get discouraged, consider quitting brewing, take a break, realize that there's a lot more to learn about brewing, start brewing again, have a few really successful batches, start feeling confident, and repeat. Each time I go through the cycle, I learn more and more. I've been doing this for 12 years and I'm sure I'll go through this cycle many more times.
Dave I
10/01/07 09:28 AM  
A Different Perspective . . .
Hey Ross, do not be afraid to try a Belgian brew that is ridiculously simple either. I have found that a simple Tripel, Dubbel, or Quadrupel with Pilsner malt, table sugar or Belgian Dark Candi Syrup (style dependent), and MAYBE CaraMunich if it is a Dubbel/Quad, can be great AND easy. Add some Corriander if you want. Single-infusion, ferment on the cool to slightly-warm side, making sure they are not getting TOO warm or cold so they do not become phenolic soups or stop fermenting all together, and done.

The point is, Belgians can be just as easy (at least when I make them ;) ) as a Stout. They can also be frustrating, flirting around with how warm/hot you can let the fermentation temps get, getting a self-taught degree in microbiology learning about Brett and Lambic strains, learning how each yeast strain works and what temperature range tastes great (for YOU) and which temperatures produce burt-tire-with-medicine notes that never fade away, trying things that sound great in theory but do not work, in addition to the normal threat of an (inintentional) infection or missing mash temps because your thermometer has unknowingly been wrong for months.

I quit brewing shortly after I stopped for probably a couple of years. I started up again a few years ago and now I am confident to the extent I know I can make excellent beer, but will also have some duds and fair-but-not-great beers every now and then. I have had a lot of duds, and only recently FAIRLY consistently put out a string of nice brews. But you have to accept that in virtually all cases you will have some misses. Just pinpoint what caused the beer not to turn out, decide whether or not you can change it next time, and go from there.

Best of luck! I hope you do not give up on Belgians. I think it might be good to have a staple brew that you know will turn out, and then do something a little out there as an experimental brew (anything from a fairly straight-forward Dubbel or Tripel to a Saison, Brett-beer, Lambic, or other farmhouse of wild brew, even a delicate Pilsner or Helles) and use the experimental brews as a way of gauging how you are coming along with the more complicated brews.


Sean White
10/01/07 12:32 PM  
Re: Don't Giv e Up
I could add my own personal screw-up stories but I'd just be echoing what has already been said.

The important thing here is, when you decide you're ready to brew again (and you will), that you go back to the root of your beer's problems and work on them specifically.

You say your beer tastes or reeks of sulpher. I'm not sure that autolysis is the conclusion you should jump to. Do some troubleshooting, read up, and try and figure out if any of the possible causes of sulpher aroma might have happened to your beer.

Also, focus down on one recipe for a while, don't be afraid to use a proven recipe, and brew it until you get it right. I've always had a problem with having an imagination greater than my current skill level. It always helps to brew to style in order to hone your brewing skills.

10/01/07 01:56 PM  
Re: I'm done
Here is a link to a trouble shooting chart to get you started.


Ross Lunato
10/01/07 09:48 PM  
Re: I'm done
First, thanks again to everyone for offering your wisdom and encouragement. I really, really appreciate it from the bottom of my brewing heart! I wish we were all local so we could meet and brew together and share stories like these and enjoy some great beers together. Maybe someday, we'll all be able to get together and have a great time! As for brewing, I will continue and will not give up just yet. I have to say, for some odd reason, I really felt like the straw just broke when I tasted this last one. I was so disgusted that I went down to the basement and started dumping kegs of homebrew that didn't taste perfect to me. My wife became very upset about all this and really tried like hell to reason and coach me. Fortunately, she did get through to me right as I was reaching for two kegs of beer that actually turned out quite well. I guess I was fed up with brews that just don't seem to turn out right and the tasting of this last saison going into the bottle was phenomenal. Like a cross between Dupont and d'erpe mere. I was absolutely thrilled! You see, I've researched the hell out of Saisons and have brewed maybe 15 or so batches of the style and really felt like I was getting close. I've been using the 3726 yeast (Farmhouse Ale) with pretty good results but it's a seasonal strain and currently unavailable so I used the 3724 for the last couple of batches with decent results. I'm not crazy about this yeast and the way you have to fry it in order to get the right flavors out of it but I figured I'd give it a go. Anyway, I've always seen home brew turn out better once it's in the bottle so imagine my surprise when I get sucker punched in the nose by a sulphur bomb!!!! I do believe I have it pinpointed, I think it was the yeast I added at bottling that did it. I pitched it when it wasn't active; that is, right out of the tube and into the brew and maybe it stressed out. I don't know what else it could be. Anyway, I just wanted all of you to know how much you have encouraged me. Thanks and Cheers!!
Ross Lunato
10/01/07 09:56 PM  
Re: I'm done

Your post sounds like me EXACTLY! I couldn't have said it any better. Thanks for sharing!

Ross Lunato
10/01/07 10:04 PM  
Re: I'm done

I absolutely believe your statement about Belgians can be simple and easy. I have actually brewed a nice lower gravity Belgian. I call it my Petite Belgian. It's a 12*P brew with a simple malt and hop bill. Single infusion, pale and refreshing. I was going for something a monk might drink on a hot day working the garden. Anyway, I designed the beer based on experience only; no recipe copying, and it turned out very well first time out of the gate. I've also brewed a really nice Belgian Pale ale that a friend said "tastes like Fat Tire except there's more quality to it". Anyway, I think you may be right about sticking with a staple brew and experiment around it for a bit. Thanks Dave.

Ross Lunato
10/01/07 10:13 PM  
Re: I'm done

Thank you for your advice. You sound like you've been down a long brewing path yourself! Going back to the root of my brewing problems.....absolutely it's fermentation. That's it, no question. One thing that I have always said is that I should stick with one yeast and really learn it. I'm constantly trying different yeasts and the one I know best though is the Farmhouse Ale yeast. Anyway, I do have a recipe that I have been working on that is very close to what I would consider a text book saison. I really just need to work out the hopping schedule a little more and get the fermentation just right. After that, I think I've got it. Also, I think one of two problems could have been this beer's doom. Either the yeast I added at bottling wasn't up to the task or it was my long, warm fermentation on the primary yeast that did it. No question, it's yeast derived as it smell like eggs, matches type of aroma. Someone said that this may age out, I don't know.

Ross Lunato
10/01/07 10:14 PM  
Re: I'm done

Thanks for the link. The chart did come in handy! I hope I can repay the favor someday.

Ross Lunato
10/01/07 10:19 PM  
Re: I'm done
I'm still getting over AlB's spelt saison. Phenomenal!
Sean White
10/02/07 12:57 PM  
Re: I'm done
I've only reyeasted using dry yeast once, but I would use a Cali strain, rehydrate, and only use a 1/4 packet at most. That should help, and it's plenty of yeast.
Al B
10/02/07 02:30 PM  
Re: I'm done
Steve wasn't kidding when he said <<Ross "give me saison or give me death" Lunato >> ;~)

I see there's WL Saison Blend out there right now. Heard good things about Brewtek Saison yeast.......and when's that WY French Saison comin' out!?!?!

Ross Lunato
10/02/07 07:22 PM  
Re: I'm done
<<I see there's WL Saison Blend out there right now. Heard good things about Brewtek Saison yeast.......and when's that WY French Saison comin' out!?!?! >>

I haven't tried the new White Labs blend yet Al. I've got four packs of the new Wyeast French Saison on order though :) I hope it's the Thierez yeast. I really dig their farmhouse ales and they ferment at "normal" temperatures.

10/03/07 08:51 AM  
Re: I'm done
just curious, why do you disdain fermenting at warmer temps if it gives you the right outcome?.....I can't wait to try the Fr Saison as well, I've got a bunch of German Saphir hops just waiting to be thrown into a hoppy farmhouse ale...
Ross Lunato
10/03/07 07:18 PM  
Re: I'm done
<<just curious, why do you disdain fermenting at warmer temps if it gives you the right outcome?.....I can't wait to try the Fr Saison as well, I've got a bunch of German Saphir hops just waiting to be thrown into a hoppy farmhouse ale...>>

Hey Ben;

I'm not against fermenting at higher temperatures but in my experience I have found that higher temps encourage fusels, bacteria growth, premature autolysis and off flavors, e.g. if fermentation is performed at higher temps (I'm talkin' 90*F) for too long, off flavors can develop.

Regarding the German Saphir hops, let us know how you make out 'cause I've got a bunch of 'em too. The aroma makes me think they would go very well in an Dark Alt or even an American Pale ale.

10/03/07 08:47 PM  
Re: I'm done
I see... for those strains that can take the temps it's usually ok though....especially if you're getting results you like....

As far as the Saphirs go...They're great... I bought a fresh lb. of pellets not too long ago....just bottled about a week ago a hoppy amber ale that had Newport hops for bittering, mt. hoods in the last 10 minutes, and a couple of ounces of saphirs after the boil....dry hopped with 2 oz. of saphir and .5 oz of magnums....and....it's delicious. They're not as aggressive as some hops can be and they provide such a nice clean flavor and aroma. Pretty floral lemony aroma when boiled. After the way they tasted in the amber I'd think they'd be perfect in a hoppy saison or belgian golden ale, a great substitute for saaz or other noble hops....I actually have a dunkelweizen I used them with in the primary as well.... a saphir dark alt or pale ale would be awesome I think. I'll update you on how the dunkel comes out and the eventual saison.

Ross Lunato
10/04/07 01:28 AM  
Re: I'm done
Man, you've got me thinking of doing an all Saphir Saison brew.....Saison de' Saphir??? :)
10/04/07 09:12 AM  
Re: I'm done
If I may be so bold dude, you are so "not done"! Last nights swap was a hoot as usual, delighted you were able to hook up from your hotel. Steve
Ross Lunato
10/04/07 10:55 PM  
Re: I'm done
Thanks Steve, I appreciate it.

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