Saturday, November 15, 2008

Brew Day: F6 Sticke Altbier and Snow Squall Christmas Ale

Let me just say right off that bat that, no, I did not brew twice today. Technically, I brewed eight gallons of my F6 Sticke Alt. However, three to four of those eight gallons are going to be aged on vanilla beans to make this year's Christmas Ale. So with that being said, here's a recap of the brew day...

Due to a morning appointment, I didn't get started until 1pm. Fortunately, things went pretty smoothly. But before I get into today, a couple things to note. First, those of you who know me know I have this thing with Sticke Altbier. Indeed, the first ribbon Leah and I won was for our Sticke when it took first place in the Specialty Beer category at the Drunk Monk Challenge in 2006. Funny thing is, since then I've learned a lot more about Altbier and I decided that the 2006 variety was not really authentic or to style. Far too many caramel/crystal and roast grains and not bitter enough. Given that I'm really, really happy with how my last batch of F5 Altbier came out, I decided I'd go back to that recipe and retool it.

Oddly enough, when I dug up the old recipe, I found it wasn't really that far off from my regular Alt recipe. For sure it had some specialty grains where my regular Alt had only a touch of Caramunich, but over all it was much closer than I remembered. As such, all I did to change the recipe was increase the Munich malt while reducing the Pils malt, substitute Caramunich III and Chocolate Wheat malt for the Crystal 60L and Belgian Chocolate malts in my old recipe, and ditch the 0.1 lb of black patent malt in my original recipe. Still not 100% compliant with Düsseldorf tradition, but then again neither is Uerige. The one other thing I did was up the hops a tad (putting it right between the IBU's for Uerige's Sticke and Doppelsticke, as the gravity of this one is right between those two beers as well).

The other thing to note is I was a little worried about the capacity of my mash tun, so at the last second I decided to scale down my recipe from 10 gallons to 8. I ended up with some room to spare so I probably could have gotten away with 10, but I may have had to go with a slightly thicker mash than the 1.5 quarts/lb. I prefer for decoction schedules.

So onto the brew day. I went with the Green Bay Rackers mash calculator at mashed in at 135°F with a target protein rest of 125°F and was right on. I pulled a 14-qt. decoction (adding 1/4 tsp. acid blend each to the mash tun and decoction) which took fifteen minutes to reach boil. After a vigorous 15-minute boil I added the decoction back to the mash tun. This initially brought the temp up over 160°F, but after stirring for five to ten minutes the temp came down to 157°F, a couple degrees higher than my target but not too crazy so I went ahead and let it rest. Forty-five minutes later the temp had only dropped 1° and my 4.5 gallons of sparge water were ready to go.

I recirculated for fifteen minutes and then proceeded to sparge. An hour and fifteen minutes later the mash tun ran dry. Unfortunately I had only collected 9.25 gallons instead of the intended 10. I've had similar problems in the past and from now on I think I'll add a gallon to the volume of sparge water recommended by Beersmith. Because of the change in volume, I scaled down my hop quantities just a tad. For bittering hops I went with German Magnum hops that caught my attention. At 13.6 AA, they're huge by German standards, but they still smelled fairly aromatic. To the 2 oz. of German Magnum hops I added 1 oz. of Northern Brewer hops at 8.5% AA. These were 60-minute additions.

At the end of my 90-minute boil, I added two ounces of Spalt hops for aroma. Chilling was fine and I pitched a 900mL starter of White Labs 029. I came in right at my target original gravity of 1069. Unfortunately, with my yield being about a gallon short I'm guessing I would've come short had I had enough sparge water. As such, I'm not about to declare I hit my target efficiency of 75%. Oh well, no biggie.

Anyway, I think that's about it. I was done in six hours which isn't too shabby. I'm really curious to see how this turns out, both with and without the vanilla. In the meantime, it looks like I'll have a busy brewing schedule coming up. I have to brew the baby beer (Dunkelweizen) by Christmas, I'd like to brew another light lager--possibly a Helles--soon (maybe January?), I'll need to brew for St. Patrick's Day in February, and by March I'll probably have to brew my Black Belgian Wit for a Chicago Composers Forum fundraiser. Hopefully I can get it all done! Hey, it sure beats working, right?


Blogger Brian said...

Both versions sound delicious..expecially the Christmas Ale. Something about an Alt with vanilla just sounds right.

Anyhow work pointing out that no you didnt brew twice in one day..that was my first thought when I read it "damn..the guy brewed twice in one day..I gotta do that one of these days".


5:53 AM, November 16, 2008  

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