Saturday, February 9, 2008

Red Pheasant Pilsner

When I was 17, I spent a year living in Germany. What followed was one of those classic stories. Boy discovers beer. Boy drinks beer. And so on. Basically, I fell in love with German Pilsners. When I first thought about brewing, a German style Pilsner was what I thought about first. Those straw colored beers are the images that pop in my head when you say the word beer.

Which is to say, the beer I brewed yesterday is the first incarnation of what will hopefully become sort of my "haus bier." It is my homage to all the delicious Warsteiners, Radebergers and Hasseroeders that I consumed back in the good old days.

The recipe:

8 pounds German Pilsner
1 pound Munich

1/2 oz. Hallertauer Hersbrucker- 60 minutes
1/2 oz. Hallertauer Hersbrucker- 45 minutes
1/2 oz. Mt. Hood- 15 minutes
1/2 oz. Mt. Hood- Knockout

This batch was pitched directly on to the yeast cake from the batch of Blue Blood Lager. I literally racked the Blue Blood, and poured this batch on top.

Final stats:
OG- 1.048
SRM- 3.5 or 4. It could end up slightly darker than I was hoping. TBD.
FG- TBD. Having pitched on to the yeast starter from Blue Blood, I had about a 3 hour lag time. This one should ferment nicely. Hopefully making up for all the other stuff that went haywire.

I tried to stay a bit closer to the "guidelines" that the style calls for than I did with the Blue Blood a few weeks ago. I was looking for a particular flavor this time. I also elected to do a step mash, due to the less modified European malts. I doughed in at 125 degrees for a 20 minute protein rest, infused hot water to bring it up to 152 for 40 minutes, and then did a decoction to get to the mash out temp. I nailed the protein rest and saccharification temperatures. The decoction worked nicely, but I missed the mash out temp by at least 8 degrees. I attribute that more to not pulling the correct amount as opposed to poor execution. It was on to the sparge.

What followed was the mother of all plugged sparges. I vorlaufed 8 quarts, and it just didn't seem to clear properly. I guess I should have known something was wrong, but I don't think there was anything I could have done about it at that point. The damage was done. I blew back up the hose like a good brewer does. Nothing. Blew again. Still nothing. And again. And again. And again. No flow.

I was basically at the point where temps were dropping in the mash tun and the hot liquor tank, and something was going to have to happen, or I was going to be dumping the entire mash into the composter. And then drinking every drop of alcohol in the house. Luckily, I remembered a post from The Daily Ikura where he had a similar problem. I took his lead and basically transferred the entire mash from the cooler to a bucket. Sure enough, about half a pound of grist had gotten underneath the false bottom, plugging it all up. Thing is, the more I think about it, the more I feel like my blowing in the hose lifted the false bottom and made it worse.

Whatever the case, I managed to get it all relatively straightened out. I'm sure things got screwed up a bit as far as efficiency is concerned, but somehow I managed to actually hit the starting gravity I had planned for to get in the fermenter. From this I think it is safe to assume that I planned on brewing like a moron.

I was much more careful about the boil this week, and brought it up to 212 slowly, thereby avoiding the wort launch that I got with the Blue Blood. The rest of the day went pretty quietly. Again, chilling in 32 degree weather is a breeze. Especially when the cold water coming out of the tap is only 40 degrees or so.

I got another education about brewing today. The decoction was much easier than I thought, although I will be more careful in the future about calculating and then pulling the right amount. I will also be adding a port to the side of my brew kettle next time. Poor Kerry nearly froze helping me pour. Also, I spilled some. There is a better way, and I'm convinced that that way is draining as opposed to pouring a heavy-ass pot into a funnel.

The main thing I learned is that this is going to take time to get working right. I have read four or five books, and blogs and forums beyond count about brewing. But there is nothing like giving something a try, keeping good notes on it, and learning from it. Technique cannot be picked up in a book.

Small bit of housekeeping: I have to give props to Brian from The Daily Ikura. If I hadn't read that post of his about transferring the mash, I don't know that I would have come up with a solution in time to save this batch. Prost, Brian!


Brian said...

They said it couldnt be done....somehow my goofy beer blog helped someone???

Nice man, I'm glad I could help!

by the way be sure to let us know how that pilsner comes will be interesting to hear your thoughts after having the real deals over in Germany.

Brian said... the way, on my way back over to your blog (which I would like to link to on mine if you dont have any objections?) I noticed your a Jethro Tull I type I just downloaded some Tull from itunes because of that...cheers!

Kevin LaVoy said...

For sure, you are more than welcome to link to my blog. I think the beer blogs are an excellent way of learning from other brewers who are really trying to innovate. Before there is a high tech, there is a low tech, and maybe not every brewer who is doing cool stuff has a blog, but a lot of them do. I would dare say there are quite a few professionals who would be interested in reading Ted's blog, for one.

Also, very cool on the Jethro Tull tip. My wife would roll her eyes, but they did some great stuff. I recommend the album Benefit.

"E" said...

Nice job Kevin, keep working on your all grain brewing. You'll get your equipment dialed in and soon enough and everything will be second nature to you. Keep trying new things you might "accidentally" find something that works just for you. I'm curious to see how your beers will turn out keep everyone posted.
Cheers everyone!