Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Double Decoction Dunkel

I brewed a Munich Dunkel once before and aside from being one of my favorite beers ever it ended up taking third place at BURP's Spirit of Free Beer.  Ever since then I've wanted to revisit the recipe with some tweaks to see if I could improve on the original but never more than after reading Brewing Better Beer by Gordon Strong.  There were so many techniques that I wanted to try to take this beer from good to great.  In fact, scientific method be damned, I threw a few changes at it.  I did my first step mash to hit a protein rest which should improve clarity, I did a decoction (two of them) to improve the malt character and get more color from the munich malt, finally instead of adding dark grains to the mash like I normally would I steeped them and added the extract part way through the boil to limit exposure to higher temperatures.

There was also another big change that did not come from the book.  In fact, if anything it flies in the face of Gordon's advice.  When I brewed this beer the first time I used lager yeast from my local Gordon Biersch brewery so that I didn't have to spend a minor fortune on yeast or deal with growing up a large culture because lagers should be fermented with more yeast than ales due to the lower fermentation temperature.  I contacted the brewer to arrange for another yeast pickup but he told me that they now use dry yeast and they don't repitch yeast as often as they did when they used liquid cultures.  In light of that, I decided to take matters into my own hands and just pick up my own dry yeast from the homebrew store.  Hopefully the extra hour or two that went into the complex mash schedule won't be negated by my yeast selection.

Onto the recipe:

10 lbs Weyermann Light Munich
4 oz Weyermann Carafa Special II *
1.25 oz German Hallertau 4.3% AA @ 60 min
.25 oz German Hallertau 4.3% AA @ 20 min
2 11.5 gram packets of saflager 34/70 dry lager yeast
Ferment at 54 degrees

* Instead of adding the dark malts to the mash like I normally would, I steeped them in 2 cups of 150 degree water.  This provided the added benefit of allowing me to precisely control how dark I wanted the beer to be.  I ended up adding only about 3/4 of the extract.

Mash Schedule:
Infuse 15 quarts of 140 degree water to hold at 131 degrees for 10 minutes for a protein rest
Infuse 5 quarts of 187 degree water to raise the mash to 144 degrees and hold for 10 more minutes.
Pull a thick 1/3 of the mash and heat in a separate pot to a boil and hold for 15 minutes.

Add boiled mash back to the main mash to raise the total mash to 158 degrees and hold for 45 minutes.
Pull a thin 1/3 of the mash and heat to a boil and hold for 10 minutes.

Add boiled mash back to the main mash to raise the temperature to 170 degrees and stop conversion.

All of this heating, holding, and mixing adds at least an hour to the total mash time but it definitely added color and I'd be shocked if it didn't add some maltiness based on the heavenly smells in my kitchen.  Normally I mash and boil outside so that I can use my propane burner but mashing on the stove was actually pretty nice and because I never had to heat more than 15 quarts I wasn't waiting forever or pushing the limits of my stoves output.  

When I was done mashing I carried the wort out back to boil it on the propane burner.  After a 60 minute boil I chilled it down to pitching temperatures, aerated with oxygen for 1 minute, and pitched my rehydrated lager yeast.

I ended up collecting 5.5 gallons of bright 1.048 wort which tasted great.  I can't wait to see how this turns out, just look at how clear that wort is!

Tasting Notes - Brown ale with smoked malt

I'm finally getting around to posting up a review of the brown ale with smoked malt.

Aroma - smoke is discernable but not overwhelming and becomes more noticable as the beer warms, biscuity maltiness, slightly metallic

Appearance - dark brown with a dense tan head hard to evaluate clarity but no obvious haze

Taste - again smoke is there, lots of rich maltiness, even some dark fruit as it warms up, some light chocolate roastiness, bitterness is balanced but beer finishes slightly sweet

Mouthfeel - carbonation is a touch high but I think that works to thin this beer out a little   I'm surprised that it only comes across as medium bodied with as much victory malt as I used

Overall Impression - I'm pretty happy with this beer.  The level of smoke is right where I wanted it to be; there but not the dominant flavor.  Just enough to get you thinking about what that taste is...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Brewing a brown ale with smoked malt

Inspired by Sierra Nevada's Tumbler I created a recipe for a brown ale full of malt flavor with a touch of smoke to dry it out.  I was hoping to create the perfect complement to the cooler weather we were expecting.  My coworker Chris who had some experience brewing at the now defunct Shenandoah Brewing Company's brew on premises program came by to lend a hand and see how I brew my beers at home and my regular brewmaster in crime Andrew came over as well.  On October 15, 2011 (yes, two months ago) we put everything in motion and brewed the recipe below.
.5 lb Briess Chocolate Malt - 350 L
.5 lb Briess Caramel - 80 L
2 lb Weyermann Smoked malt - 3 L
4 lb Briess Victory
6 lb Simpson's Golden Promise
.5 oz Warrior (16.7% AA) @ 60 min
Mashed in with 1.25 qt/lb 154 F water for 60 min
Boiled for 60 min.
Fermented at 68 F with Wyeast 1728 - Scottish Ale yeast
We ended up with 6 gallons of wort with an original gravity of 1.050 that ultimately fermented down to 1.018 before the beer was kegged on November 16, 2011.  The 64% apparent attenuation is fairly low but there is a lot of specialty malt in the recipe and the mash temperature was slightly on the high side.  When I first sat down to create the recipe I had intended to use 4 lbs of Vienna malt instead of 4 lb of Victory malt but when I was rushing through the brew shop I got my malts that start with V confused.  Victory malt is known for adding a nutty or toasty flavor and red or orange color to beers and is typically used in smaller amounts so I was nervous about how this would turn out since Vienna malt would have provided a more grainy taste and much lighter color.  To compensate for this I doubled the amount of hops I was going to use from .25 oz to .5 oz and crossed my fingers.  However, the most interesting component in the recipe was the smoked malt which I had never used before.  There are a few types of smoked malt available to brewers with the German beechwood smoked malt and the Scottish peat smoked malt being the most prevalent.  The beechwood smoked malt is much more subdued and in my opinion pleasant than the peat smoked malt.  I debated on using anywhere between 1 lb and 2 lbs in order to get just enough smoke to be noticeable without being overwhelming and ultimately went with the higher end knowing that some of the smoked beers I've had in the past are made up of almost entirely smoked malt.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Beer Review - Williams Bros Scottish Heavy

Ever since I got my scores back on my attempt at brewing a Scottish 80 shilling I've been looking for an authentic example for comparison.  Now that I've had one, I'm confident that the judges were off base but I understand why it is a challenging style to judge well because you just don't see the classic examples here in the United States without searching (hard) for them.  It also helps that a friend who entered a beer that scored lower than mine in the same category later won best of show in another competition.

Low scores aside my biggest complaint about the judging was that there were no suggestions for how to improve the beer I brewed, just observations and scores that didn't seem to reflect the observations when compared to the style guidelines.  I'll certainly remember this when I judge competitions and remember to provide the best feedback possible.

Here's my review of the Scottish Heavy from Williams Bros Brewing Co of Scotland.

Williams Bros Brewing Company - Scottish Heavy eighty shilling beer

Aroma:  loads of sweet malt reminds me of raisins, cherries, and dark rum.  There is a definite roasted character in the background

Appearance:  dense tan head of fine bubbles that lasts until the end on top of a deep amber to dark brown beer with brilliant clarity.  When held to the light the red highlights pop out.

Taste:  Nowhere near as sweet as the smell leads you to expect.  The taste is very malty but dry and the roast lingers leading to a dry finish.  There is a slight earthy hop flavor but just enough bitterness to balance it out.  

Despite the 'Best before July 2011' I thought that this beer was remarkably clean.  In fact, it was so clean and malty that it reminded me of a German Bock with a bit of roast.  My biggest surprise was that the beer wasn't as sweet as I thought it would be.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Putting the brewing back in 'On Beer and Brewing'

I can't believe the last time I brewed was in April. The kegerator has been empty for entirely too long and I've been itching to get a batch of beer going and even hurricane Irene couldn't stop this from happening.

I really liked the malt profile and the emphasis on hop flavor and aroma without overwhelming bitterness in the New World Bitter but I wanted to try upping the gravity a little bit and playing with the hop schedule and varieties so here's what I came up with.

10 lbs Simpon's Gold Promise
1 lb Weyermann Light Munich
.5 b Briess Crystal 60L

.5 oz Amarillo pellets - first wort hop
.5 oz Simcoe pellets - first wort hop
.5 oz Simcoe pellets - 60 min
1 oz Amarillo pellets - 1 min
1 oz Simcoe whole cones - 1 min

Mash for 60 min at 152F and boil for 60 min. Ferment at 65F with Wyeast 1272 - American Ale II from a 2L starter.

I nailed my target OG of 1.052 and with a bitterness on the higher end of the style guidelines this should be a pretty good competitor in the American Pale Ale category.

This beer was influenced by Gordon Strong's Brewing Better Beer which I'm just about done reading (great book, more on that later). I opted to use first wort hopping in place of a flavor hop addition. I chose the combination of Amarillo and Simcoe hops. I also paid more attention to my brewing water and mash pH. I treated my water with potassium metabisulfite to get rid of any chlorine or chloramine even though I haven't noticed any ill effects in my previous beers and I used pH strips to get an idea of what my mash pH is. I was surprised that the reading had my mash at a pH of 5 even after cooling the sample considering that the grist has no dark malts which would cause the pH to drop and most beers require some form of acid to get the pH in the acceptable pH 5 to pH 6 range. Fortunately it was in the right range but I may need to invest in a pH meter to get a truly meaningful reading. For now, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Charlottesville Brewpub Trip

I'm blessed to have a wife who fully supports my interest that borders on obsession with beer. I'm even more blessed because she went over the top and organized a trip to Charlottesville so that we could take in some semi-local beers that we don't typically have access to. I alluded to the trip with a quick post as we were heading out the door and made an empty promise of tweeting the whole thing but ended up with one lowly tweet because I was having too much fun to stop and pull out my phone.

The limo picked us up from the Red Roof Inn right on The Corner in Charlottesville and took us to our first stop at Devil's Backbone Brewing Company where Jason Oliver is cranking out some truly world-class brews and the food is top-notch as well (get the nachos with barbecued pork, or anything with the pork for that matter).

I had the full sampler so that I could try each of the 11 beers on tap and ultimately went with a full pour of Ramsey's Export Stout which was so good I picked it even on a nearly 100 degree day. There wasn't a single beer I wouldn't get a glass of and I could have stayed all day but we had places to be so it was up the road to Blue Mountain Brewery.

The patio at Blue Mountain was practically overflowing so we took a table inside and ordered a round of samplers which had each of the 6 beers that they were pouring. My favorite was the Full Nelson Pale Ale but at that point in the day I knew that a full pour was nothing but trouble which I didn't want to get into with another brewpub to visit.

So we piled into our limo and headed back to the hotel for a quick pit stop before we caught a cab
to South Street Brewery. Of course the pit stop also included an emergency photo hunt break at Mellow Mushroom where I had my first taste of DC Brau's Citizen Pale Ale which I look forward to having more of at home. The camera battery died so I don't have any pictures after Blue Mountain but that's probably for the best.

It was a great birthday present and I have no idea how Princess Beyoncee will top it next year but I can't wait.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Awesome Birthday Trip

Princess Beyoncee planned an amazing trip to Charlottesville today and we'll be visiting Devil's Backbone, Blue Mountain Brewery, and South Street Brewery via limo.

I have the growlers locked and loaded and a camera packed but I'm going to attempt to use twitter to chronicle the trip if anyone wants to follow in real time.