Monday, April 21, 2008

Golden Belgian Strong Ale-Very Strong

I am a great admirer of Ted's brewing abilities, and as his was probably the first beer blog that I started reading regularly, his techniques and approaches inform my brewing a good deal. Which is to say, I rip off his ideas on a regular basis.

Yesterday's batch is a good example. I've talked in the past about my love of doing yeast starters, but I feel Ted does it one better. He brews an experimental batch of about one gallon in volume. It gives a nice amount of viable yeast, you get some beer out of it, and it's easy to try something you haven't yet. If you get stuck with ten beers that are undrinkable, it's a lot less devastating than pitching a full five gallon batch.

So I (with the help of Mike and the beer he brought over) brewed a one gallon Belgian Strong Ale, sort of a Duvel type deal. More accurately, we brewed about 3/4 of a gallon of Belgian Strong Ale (did I mention I learn a ton every time I brew?).

The recipe:

Belgian Pilsner Malt- 2 lbs.
Dextrose- .75 lbs (it was supposed to be .6, but I only noticed this just now)

Crystal- .25 oz.- 60 minutes
Crystal- .25 oz.- 15 minutes
Crystal- .25 oz.- 5 minutes

Wyeast- 1762 Belgian Abbey Ale II

I tried malt into water this time, and we more or less hit all our temperatures, which was nice. I had a revisitation of the false bottom popping up during the sparging process, which sucked, but sucked way less with a small batch than a big one. I am going to make a change to it which should solve that problem once and for all. We also hit our efficiency targets, which was a first for me.

The weirdness began at boiling time. We ended up with a little more wort than I was expecting, so I decided to boil 15 minutes longer than I had originally planned to. You know, for a little extra evaporation. I hadn't taken into consideration that I was using a kettle that was probably too big. That wasn't a problem per se, but the shallower wort + longer boil basically meant that the amount we evaporated was way more than I had planned for. This accomplished two things. One: we ended up with only 3/4 of a gallon of finished beer. Two: the gravity reading in the fermenter was 1.102 instead of 1.089 (see also the extra sugar I used). Not exactly session like.

Thankfully, I picked (read: it was the only one from my list that Brew and Grow had in stock) a yeast that is very tolerant to high amounts of alcohol, so I think this should end up tasting pretty good, without messing up my yeast for the next batch.

Thanks again to Mike for the help with brewing, as well as the excellent Weissbier from Piece. Yummy stuff.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Stonebridge Pale Ale

Today was my first ale of the year.

It was a royal pain in the ass.

That said, it was good to get back in the saddle. I also made some adjustments that did make a few things easier. As I recently said, I'm trying to do some simple recipes this spring and summer. Here was today's:

8 lbs. Pale Malt (2 row)
2 lbs. Crystal Malt (60L)

1 oz Sterling 7.0 60 min.
.5 oz. Kent Goldings (US) 4.2 15 min.
.5 oz. Kent Goldings (US) 4.2 5 min.

White labs- East Coast Ale- I secretly picked a White Labs yeast, because if you send in your used flasks, they'll send you a t-shirt or something. I figure I could used the t-shirt to keep light off the carboy when I'm racking.

Ted recently posted some stuff about how to hit your mash temps properly. I impudently said I hadn't had any issues to date by adding water to the grain, as opposed to the other way around. That sealed my fate. An analogy: the mash was supposed to be kind of like how a person at McDonalds would pour your drink for you. All ice, a little bit of pop. Mine was like they handed me the cup and I poured my Dr. Pepper myself, a little ice, and mostly pop. Which is to say, I missed my mash temp, corrected (which is to say, over-corrected), corrected again, and ended up with a pretty thin mash instead of a thick one. As I said, a royal pain in the ass. I'm sure the farting around cost me big when it came to my gravity. If I was a jerk, I'd say I planned it that way, and was shooting for a more dextrinous wort. Instead, I should be writing the follow up to Brew Like a Monk. Only mine would be Brew Like a Polack.

The rest of the day went great. I installed a bazooka screen in my kettle, and draining versus pouring not only kept a lot of my beer off my back porch, but was ridiculously easy. Also, no boil overs, and thanks to my starter, I had about a two hour lag time. I love that shit.

I certainly have some areas I need to improve on. My efficiency was atrocious. I'm not going to post it, because it's embarrassing. Needless to say, I think my mash temperature problems meant that I brewed something closer to a bitter than a pale ale. I'll drink it, but it was a little irritating. I think that, by and large, I need to be a bit more scientific as to how I'm doing things (hitting temp and gravity targets, and calibrating all my vessels so I've got a much clearer picture of what the numbers actually mean). Up until now, especially when it comes to hitting my targets, it's been kind of a shoot for volume and wait and see what happens. That's alright on my first couple of all grain brews, as I was just trying to get some of the mechanics figured out, but I should be beyond that. I guess it's just sort of a desire to brew the beer I envisioned in the first place. This is something I'll be ruminating on the the coming days. I'm going to brew this one again at least two more times this summer. It will be interesting to see what I can come up with.

Side note: lunch today consisted of beans and franks. Somehow, I feel like if you're brewing and you do not dine upon encased meats, that is an opportunity missed.