Sunday, December 07, 2008

Brew day: Downdraft Helles

Yesterday Leah and I revisited the wonderful world of light lagers, brewing our first Munich Helles. My notes are somewhat sparse because I discovered shortly after mashing in that somebody threw a rock through the back window of our car. This meant spending lots of brewing time on the phone with our insurance company while trying to keep the brew day running smoothly. (Two fun facts I learned: First, I can hook up a pump to my kettle and pump sparge water into my hot liquor tank while talking on my cell phone; second, getting a new rear windshield installed on a 2007 Subaru Outback costs over $800!)

Petty vandalism aside, the brew day went pretty smoothly. I mashed in at 157° F (one degree above my target) for one hour. I was too lazy to check the pH, but given the light malts used, I decided to add 1/2 tsp. acid blend. I should also note that, in the interest of economy, I went with half Durst pils malt and half Rahr pils malt to make up the pils portion of my grain bill (and in the past I've had good experiences with Rahr pils, so I figured it was a nice compromise). I recirculated for fifteen minutes and sparged for a little over an hour. Given my past experiences, I heated up an extra gallon of sparge water and ran out literally as my mash tun went dry.

I did a nice 90-minute boil to drive off the DMS. I had hop additions at 90 minutes, 20 minutes and 5 minutes, all German Tradition hops. It's the first time I've used this particular Hallertau derivative, and they smelled nice and herbal so I hope they work. I wasn't sure if I wanted to do an addition at knock-out, so I compromised... After pumping out half of the ~11 gallons of wort, I added another ounce of hops, so I can compare the beer from the first 5+ gallons (in the 6.5-gallon carboy) to the beer from the last 5+ gallons (in the two 3-gallon carboys) to see which character I like better.

I chilled to ~53° F (I love using my plate chiller in the winter!) and pitched half of a 1-gallon starter (I decanted the top half so my beer wouldn't be 10% starter wort). I also tried WLP 838- South German Lager for the yeast this time; we'll see how it goes. After pitching I threw the carboys into my chest freezer set at 55° F. I think I can see hints of fermentation ~30 hours later. Oh, and final gravity was 1049--a couple points below my target, but then again I yielded a little more than I planned for.

In other news, I racked the Sticke Alt/Christmas beer to kegs. I also added two vanilla beans which have been steeping in vodka the past week to the Christmas beer keg. Of course I forgot to take a gravity reading.

At this point I'm thinking our next beer will likely be the baby beer Dunkel, which reminds me... I have some more Dunkel to taste and report on! Cheers!


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