Wednesday, September 23, 2009

End of Day four of the Moto, Disaster Strikes...

So I popped open the fermenter to give the Moto its second stir of the day, and was hit in the face with a strong smell of vinegar. Yup, lactobacillus and acetobacter reared there ugly head, and beat out our friend, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, beer yeast out for dominance in the the starter. The smell is not as strong as distilled vinegar, but it is there, and the taste is reminiscent of a Belgian Lambic, sweet, slighty sour, actually quite nice...but not Sake like at all. It's a lil disappointing, but that's okay, it was a first experiment, and I'm not out a ton of cash so it's not that bad. I think I am going to return my focus to what I'm good at, brewing beer. I've had no failures with beer so far, and it is my true love. I may revisit Sake brewing again one day, but for now, beer is calling me, and I can't deny its call...

I'll decide what type of beer I'm going to brew in a few days and post it here. I'm also going to use this blog as a beer "education" resource. I have amassed a large amount of brewing knowledge over the years, and I would love to share it with everyone!

Until Next Time


Gregg, The Yeast Master

Day Four of The Moto, all seems well

So I came home and gave the Moto a stir and all seems well. There was a sign of bubbling and the Koji enzymes seem to be liquifying the rice quite nicely. There is no strong odor of Lactobacillus or Acetobacter, the two main bacteria involved in making vinegar. A taste and smell test from a thin layer that was on the spoon after the stir is sweet, and definitely has a Sake flavor to it. My mind has been set very much at ease over the Moto process after a little research into the Moto and what it is and what is going on. It is simply a rice beer yeast starter. When brewing beer, most brewers will make what's called a starter. The starter is nothing more than a miniature batch of beer into which the vile, smack pack, or packet of dry yeast is introduced, and allowed to propagate. This process increases the amount of viable yeast cells in a given volume and also strengthens them to get them ready for the task ahead of them: converting sugars into alcohol, carbon dioxide, and a host of other chemicals we call beer and wine. The fermentations in these starters is usually not overly spectacular, as there is not a huge amount of food available for the yeast, and they will simply reproduce (asexually, how boring!), eat sugars and convert them until they sense the food stock is dwindling and then go dormant. This process can go almost unnoticed in an Erlenmeyer flask, even if you were to sit there and stare at it. This explains the flat airlock and seeming lack of huge fermentation activity at this time. The Koji are hard at work converting the starches in the small amount of rice to fermentable sugars and water, and the yeast are eating the small amount of sugars, reproducing, creating a slight amount of alcohol and going dormant, and then reactivating as the Koji break down more starches!

My mind is very much at ease now knowing this and I am really looking forward to the next stages of the Sake Brewing process, The Moromi, and the Odori, a 26 day process during which more rice, Koji, and water are added slowly and in small amounts to allow the Koji to break down each addition in to sugars and the yeast to convert those sugars into Sake! It really is a tandem operation and a great example of a symbiotic relationship!

Until next time!

Gregg, The Yeast Master

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Sake Saga Begins! Stage one. Moto!

So I started this whole Sake saga on 9/19/09. I have to say I am more than a little nervous. After soaking my Koji Rice (Rice covered in mold which converts the starch in the rice to sugars which can be fermented), rinsing and soaking the Sake Rice, and preparing all the equipment, I started steaming the Sake Rice. I discovered during this process that my steamer was not up to the task and it took quite a while to get the rice steamed. This was the first "problem". Next I added the Koji Rice and Steamed rice to the fermenter. A that point it looked like rice porridge, and very thick rice porridge at that. Now, the Koji mold is supposed to break down and liquify the rice, and turn it into moto, but I am worried that I didn't get the rice steamed enough, and that the lil mold buggers won't be able to break down the rice properly. Yesterday (Sunday) I brought the temperature down and pitched the yeast in to start fermentation. I only had one viable pack of yeast, as my feline friends, thinking the yeast packs were kitty treats ripped one pack open creating a nice mess in the kitchen. 12 hours later (Monday) I just checked the ferment and gave it its first stir. There are some signs of fermentation (nice yeasty aroma, some bubbling on the surface) and the moto is more liquidy than before, which is good. There is one fly in the ointment though. To brew sake it is necessary to used an open style fermenter with a lid, in other words a brewing bucket. I despise this type of brewing vessel but it is necessary to use it so that rice can be added and mixed by hand as the process moves forward. Overnight, the lid to the bucket became unsealed, and may or may not have allowed nasty bacteria or wild yeasts in. No bueno. As of right now, a taste test from the sanitized spoon used to stir the mash up tells me that there is alcohol present, so fermentation has occurred, but the airlock is flat with no bubbles at this point so I can't tell if the alcohol is from the initial yeast starter or is a result of fermentation from the moto itself. It smells good so far, and no vinegar smells or tastes so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

I really need to relax, and have faith in the chemistry at this point, but I always find that hard to do when brewing a new style, and this is DEFINITELY new ground for me. Starting with barely 4 cups of rice and very little liquid seems so wrong somehow, but as Charlie Papazian, the father of homebrewing says, I need to "Relax, and have a Homebrew". I don't have any homebrew at the moment, but I think I will have a nice Belgian Blonde ale, relax, and snuggle with my DVR.

Until next time...

Gregg, The Yeast Master

Friday, September 11, 2009

A New Start...

So, Here I am Blogging about Brewery Heuvalstad, my Home Brewery, that I hope to one day be a working MicroBrewery and Brew Pub. I guess I should start at the beginning. My Name is Gregg Vona and I have been brewing Beer and Mead since 2001. My good friend Jim Driggers got me started in this whole brewing thing and I have been in love with it ever since.

My first brewing experience was a batch of straight mead that started out awesome, but due to impatience and some not so good sanitation techniques turned into 5 gallons of honey vinegar. I regrouped and brewed up a Bavarian Pilsner which was a great success!! After that I was hooked!

8 years later I have brewed 6 successful brews ranging from a Blonde Ale to a Belgian Style Dubbel and I have formulated and written 12 great recipes representing different regions of the world and their styles.

Now something new has piqued my interest, Brewing Sake. The process is ancient and time honored...and time consuming! Unlike most beer styles that you simply brew, pitch the yeast and sit back and enjoy the show, Sake Brewing requires alot of hands on (literally!) work!

This Blog will document all my brewing endeavors and hopefully my transition to commercial brewing! For the next 40 days or so, my Fermenters will be dedicated to brewing Junmai Grade Premium Style Sake!

This entry is dry I will admit, but hopefully the blog will become exciting as events unfold!

For Now I will say Good Night, and Cheers!!!