Cheers to spontaneity!

The other morning at the Brew Shop, I was chatting with a customer who was looking over the yeast selection. He didn’t seem to have a specific yeast in mind so I asked what he was planning to brew.

“It would be good if I had a plan,” was his reply.

Which is what it all comes back to, for many of us – plans and changing plans. I don’t know how many times, in the 26 years I have been brewing, I have started out to make one beer but ended up changing something about it mid-brew. It’s that “Oh, hmm, maybe if I just added this… or changed that…” moment.  I’d bet I’m close to 50/50 over the years. It’s not always a dramatic change, sometimes it’s because I forgot to get something and have to make a substitution (hops, most commonly), sometimes because something catches my eye and woops, in it goes…

So I was brewing this morning. My plan was to make a dark ale, all German ingredients – sort of a dark Kölsch, except hoppier. I wanted to play with a couple of the newer German hops, and they seemed to call for a little smoke and a little Carafa. As I set up the wort chiller in anticipation of kettle flame-out, I went to pour a cup of coffee (you know where this is going, right?) but alas, the pot was empty. I had some cold brew in the pantry so I poured a mug of that – just needed some caffeine. My eyes darted back and forth between the coffee and the brew kettle – same color! Change of plans – into the kettle, as I turned it off, went a pint of cold brew coffee. And the rest is history.

Black Forest Ale – 3 gallons, all-grain

Ingredients:

  • 6 lbs. Schill Kölsch malt
  • 1/2 lb. Vienna malt
  • 1/2 lb. melanoidin malt
  • 1/2 lb. Carafa III
  • 1/8 lb. rauch malt
  • 1 oz. German Blanc hop pellets (7.2% aa)
  • 1 oz. Polaris hop pellets (18.4% aa)
  • 1 oz. Mandarina Bavaria hop pellets (7.3% aa)
  • 1 pt. cold brew coffee
  • Imperial Organic G03 “Dieter” yeast
  • 1/3 cup corn sugar for priming

Procedure:

Crush grains. Mash in 18 quarts water at 155°F for 45 minutes. Runoff sweet wort (no sparge required). Bring to boil, boil 25 minutes. Add Blanc pellets, boil 15 minutes. Add Polaris pellets, boil 5 minutes and turn off heat (total boil of 45 minutes). Add cold brew and Mandarina pellets, begin chilling. Chill to 75°F, pour into primary fermenter splashing well to oxygenate. Pitch “Dieter” yeast. Ferment 10 days at 65°F, rack to secondary. Condition cooler (55°F) for ten to fifteen days. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and age three weeks.

OG: 1062

A Brewer’s Four-Pack

Is it over yet? Winter, I mean? This last day of March it is 45° here on the hill, overcast, but the sap is running the best it has so far. And we are awaiting the arrival of another nor’easter, expecting 5 – 10” of wet snow overnight. No, I didn’t take the month off from brewing, far from it. Today’s brew is actually my fifth of the month, including my annual batch of maple mead. I’ve just been lazy about writing and posting. So here, all at once, are my last four beers brewed.

March 3, 2011 – “Red 57” Irish Ale

Ingredients:

  • 1/8 lb. roasted barley
  • pinch peat-smoked malt
  • 8 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 1/2 lb. 145°L crystal malt
  • 1/2 lb. malted wheat
  • 1/4 lb. Belgian Special B malt
  • 1 oz. Challenger hop pellets (7% aa)
  • 1/2 oz. First Gold hop pellets (8% aa)
  • 1/2 oz. Bramling Cross hop pellets (5% aa)
  • White Labs Irish Ale yeast (WLP004)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming

Procedure:

Crush grains. Heat 13 quarts water to 167°F. Mash in grains and hold at 155° for 60 minutes. Heat another 15 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 25 quarts sweet wort. Bring to boil. Boil 30 minutes without hops, to develop color and caramel flavors. Add Challenger hops, boil 30 minutes. Add First Gold hops, boil 25 minutes. Add Bramling Cross hops, boil 5 more minutes (total of 60 with hops, 90 overall) and remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading and pour into a sanitized primary fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment 8 – 10 days at 65°F. Rack to secondary and age 2 – 3 weeks at 50°F. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition cool (50°F) for two weeks.

OG: 1057

IBU’s: 41

A little richer and smokier than the usual Irish Red ales (like Smithwick’s), this is a smooth dark amber ale with a lot of complexity and character.

March 10, 2011 – Fischer Amber clone

My neighbor Kevin asked me to develop this recipe for him, so this is an experiment. Fischer is a brewery in Alsace, France. Most of their brews are pretty standard european lagers. Their amber, however, seems to be closer to a British pale ale, so I decided to try this as a hybrid. British malts, German hops, Steam beer yeast, cold conditioning… throw in a reporter and a photographer doing a newpaper story on me, and you never know what will come out of the fermenter!

Ingredients:

  • 9 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 1 lb. 120°L crystal malt
  • 1/4 lb. malted wheat
  • 1 oz. Spalter hop pellets (5% aa)
  • 1 oz. Tettnanger hop pellets (3.5% aa)
  • 1 oz. Hallertauer hop pellets (3% aa)
  • White Labs San Francisco Lager yeast (WLP810)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming.

Procedure:

Crush grains. Heat 14 quarts water to 164°F. Mash in grains and hold at 152° for 60 minutes. Heat another 16 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 28 quarts sweet wort. Bring to boil. Add Spalter hops, boil 45 minutes. Add Tettnanger hops, boil 5 minutes. Add Hallertauer hops, boil 10 more minutes (total of 60) and remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading and pour into a sanitized primary fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment 8 – 10 days at 65°F. Rack to secondary and age 4 – 5 weeks at 40°F. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition cool (50°F) for six weeks.

OG: 1064

IBU’s: 28

In the end this came out just a little too dark and is probably a little hoppier than the target, but the combination of the sweet British malts and the bright spicy German hops is pretty cool.

For Kevin and others who might wish to try this as an extract-based brew, I would steep the crystal and wheat (as above) in 3 gallons of cold water to start. Bring the water up to 160°F and hold there for 30 minutes. Remove the grains, continue to heat to boiling, adding in 6 lbs. light dry malt extract or 7 lbs. light malt extract syrup. Boiling, hop and fermentation schedules would be the same.

March 17, 2011 – Cuppa Joe Golden Ale

My devious nature whispered to me, “How come all the coffee beers are stouts and porters? Couldn’t you just kill for a lighter colored beer with a strong coffee aroma and flavor?” I listened, and this is what I came up with. 

Ingredients:

  • 8 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 1/2 lb. cara-pils malt
  • 1 lb. malted wheat
  • 1/2 lb. coarsely ground coffee beans
  • 1/2 oz. Northern Brewer hop pellets (10.6% aa)
  • 1/2 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7% aa)
  • White Labs California Ale yeast (WLP001)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming 
  • 2 oz. Flavorganics® Organic Coffee Extract

Procedure:

Crush grains. Heat 14 quarts water to 164°F. Mash in grains and coffee beans and hold at 150° for 60 minutes. Heat another 15 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 26 quarts sweet wort. Bring to boil. Add Northern Brewer hops, boil 45 minutes. Add Sterling hops, boil 15 minutes (total of 60) and remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading and pour into a sanitized primary fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment 8 – 10 days at 65°F. Rack to secondary and age 2 – 3 weeks at 50°F. Prime with corn sugar, add coffee extract, bottle and condition cool (50°F) for two weeks.

OG: 1060

IBU’s: 27

Nice deep golden color, a hint of coffee in the nose and some nice coffee notes hidden among the malt sweetness and hop bitterness. I think next time I’d add more crushed coffee beans to the mash, as they really didn’t darken the brew much.

March 31, 2011 – Maple Märzen

I almost always brew at least a couple batches with maple – mashing with the sap, adding syrup to the kettle, sometimes both. Since I do make my own syrup, I have access to all the fresh sap I need for a couple of weeks. I start by concentrating the sap some (I’ll boil 6 gallons down to 3 for my mash liquor, generally), which adds a hint of smoky/woody sweetness to the wort. This brew is a more or less traditional Märzenbier – brewed (just barely!) in March and lagered in bulk all summer, I will unveil this beer in the fall, when our local brewers’ group has an Oktoberfest tasting planned.

Ingredients:

  • 8.5 lbs. Weyermann’s Bohemian Pilsner malt
  • 6 oz. cara-pils malt
  • 4 oz. 120°L crystal malt
  • 6 oz. 60°L crystal malt
  • 4 oz. melanoidin malt
  • 1 pt, grade B maple syrup
  • 1 oz. Tettnanger hop pellet pellets (3.5%)
  • 1 oz. Styrian Goldings hop pellets (4.5%)
  • 1 oz. Saaz hop pellets (4% aa)
  • White Labs Octoberfest Lager yeast (WLP820)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure:

Crush grains. Heat 14 quarts semi-concentrated maple sap to 168°F. Mash in grains and hold at 154° for 90 minutes. Heat 15 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 27 quarts sweet wort. Add syrup to kettle. Bring to boil. Boil 45 minutes without hops, to develop color and caramel flavors. Add Tettnanger hops, boil 15 minutes. Add Styrian Goldings hops, boil 15 minutes. Add Saaz hops, boil 15 more minutes (total of 45 with hops, 90 overall) and remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading and pour into a sanitized primary fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment 8 – 10 days at 65°F. Rack to secondary and age 3 – 4 months at 40°F. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition cool (50°F) for four weeks.

OG: 1080

IBU’s: 30

If you don’t have access to fresh sap but want to try something like this brew, you can always add some real syrup to the mash water – probably a pint will do the trick. I’m sure there’s a way to figure it out but the math is beyond me… And yes, this is a LOT bigger than the usual Festbier, the high gravity is a product of the sap and syrup!