Thursday, September 04, 2008

Altbier update

Tuesday night I finally racked the Altbier to kegs. I was originally planning on doing this over the long weekend but there was still some Kraeusen on one of the carboys--and I was too busy playing with my new drum set. Anyway, so I racked the two 3-gallon carboys containing the Alt fermented with WLP-029 (German ale/Kölsch) yeast and drew a sample from each carboy. The first sample had finished around 1015 (there was a decent amount of CO2 in the sample so it's probably lower). Tasting it, I was surprised at how bitter it is! I know I was generous with the hops, but this was almost IPA bitter with some citrusy edges I wasn't expecting. It actually reminded me of Uerige Alt on tap (which surprised me with its bitterness the first time I had it in Düsseldorf).

Oddly enough, the sample from the other 3-gallon carboy was a tad less bitter. I suspect one of two possible explanations: either my palate adjusted to the first sample or the bitterness of the beer varied in the keg because I left the hop bag in while draining the keg. Unfortunately I didn't keep the first sample to do a side-by-side comparison. Anyway, I'm hoping the cold conditioning will mellow out some of the harsh edges of the hops and even if it doesn't it will be a big hit with hopheads.

After racking the first keg, I moved on to the carboy that was fermented with WLP-320 (American Hefeweizen) yeast. Like the other keg, the gravity was around 1015. Visually, you could see that the yeast didn't really flocculate (as one would expect from the yeast). Taste-wise, however, it was awesome. It was much more rounded than the other keg. It wasn't as abrasively bitter and the malt profile came through wonderfully. It actually reminded me a lot of my favorite Altstadt Altbier, Im Füchschen. I added Super-Kleer KC finings to fine out the yeast and will re-rack in a few days. In the meantime, both kegs are back in the freezer and I've been dropping the temp 5°F each night (with the beer starting at 55
°F) until I hit 35°F.

I also threw my kegs of Oktoberfest into the freezer to begin lagering. Both kegs are rather phenolic (mainly clove flavor), likely due to the extended diacetyl rest at over 70 deg. I'm going to fine with gelatin to see if that helps, but I'm afraid the moral of the story here is bad planning in terms of brewing the Alt a scant two weeks after the Oktoberfest (which required me taking the kegs out of the temp-controlled freezer way earlier than I should have, as well as doing the diacetyl rest at room temp rather than 60°F). Hopefully fining and lagering will render the kegs drinkable even if they don't represent my finest brewing moment.

So that's where we're at now. Next up is our Dampfbier that we'll brew for our Novemberfest party, but we probably won't brew that until mid-October. Of course if I get antsy that might change...


Blogger Velky Al said...

Good to see people making Altbier - one of my favourite German beers, especially from the Schumacher brewery.

7:36 AM, September 08, 2008  
Blogger Hunington Sachs said...

Curious as to why you didn't use the Dusseldorf Alt strain WLP036? Also, now that some time has passed, do you still prefer the Widmer yeast over the Kolsch?

12:36 PM, October 18, 2008  
Blogger Russ said...


I used WLP036 when I brewed my very first Altbier four years ago (and at the time I had just started brewing so I wasn't really paying attention to the finer qualities of the yeast), but since then White Labs has made it a "platinum" strain that's only available in May and June. By the time I brewed my Alt in August I couldn't find the strain. Have you (or anyone else out there) ever used WLP036? How did it turn out?

6:40 AM, October 19, 2008  

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