Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sherlock Kevin and the case of the frozen Vienna

I just wanted to give everyone who reads my blog a little fun update as to my doings as it relates to the fermentation of the beers I recently brewed.

The primary fermentation of the Blue Blood Lager went well, considering that I felt I had under pitched my yeast. Then I read today that some Belgian brewers purposely under pitch to promote esters. Not really what I'm looking for in a Vienna lager, but whatever. I racked it, and set the secondary fermenter in a closet in my laundry room. The idea being that the laundry room is poorly insulated, and would make a great place to lager a lager. I also took the liberty of tasting a sample. Wow. My extract beers never really tasted like beer until I cracked open a fully fermented and carbonated bottle. They always tasted a little green. But this was a revelation. I could taste the grains. I could taste and smell the hops. If this is how all grain works, I'm somehow even more hooked than I was before.

I came home two days later to find that my beer was lagering very nicely. In this particular case though, when I say lagering nicely, I mean almost frozen through. Not exactly what I had planned. Luckily I had read John Palmer's How to Brew where he relates a similar story. With a Vienna no less. The difference was, I don't force carbonate my beer. Frozen yeast tend to stop working, and when you bottle condition like me, that's a problem.

Fortune was smiling on me that day, my friends. Rather than tossing my yeast from the Blue Blood down the drain after I racked, I had pitched my next batch of wort right on the yeast cake. About the time I discovered that my beer had frozen, that batch was at full krauesen. I sanitized some equipment, and cropped some yeast off the bottom of the Pilsner, and made a sort of mini starter with it. After the Blue Blood had thawed completely, I repitched.

This should be plenty sufficient to carbonate the Blue Blood when I bottle it in a couple weeks. This is, however, where the one part of homebrewing that I don't enjoy comes into play. I won't really know if it worked for about 5 more weeks.

There is three pieces of good news in this though. The first is that neither batch is showing any signs of infection, meaning my sanitation practices are good. The second is that I was able to successfully harvest yeast from a fermenting batch. Meaning I can fix mistakes, and reduce my homebrewing costs by reusing yeast. The third thing is that the mini starter I made from harvesting the yeast from my pilsner had settled out after 24 hours, and it was really pretty. An absolutely perfect hay color yellow. I am really looking forward to cracking the first bottle of that.

1 comment:

Ted Danyluk said...

It is how all grain works. Simply wonderful.

Would you care to swap lagers?