Saturday, March 28, 2009

Brew day: 59° Fahrenheit Maibock

I've been wanting to brew a Maibock for at least three years. I want to say it was 2006 when I was heading to an early-season Cubs game and met some friends at the Goose Island Wrigleyville brewpub. They had an awesome Maibock on tap... nice and malty; big but drinkable; and a nice hop kick to keep it from being sweet. It was one of those brews that satisfied beer geek and novice alike. Since then, it has seemed like every spring May would roll around and I would think, "Damn! Forgot to brew that Maibock. Maybe next year..." Well, I finally remembered this time!

Most of the brew day was pretty uneventful. I wanted to get started in the morning but between sleeping in and having to run out and exchange a propane tank, I didn't end up mashing in until 12:40pm. I mashed in at 157°F, adding 3/4 tsp. acid blend. I soon realized that I measured incorrectly and had accidentally mashed in with an extra gallon of water (meaning a 1.5 instead of 1.25 qt./gal ratio). I like thicker mashes but I was only doing five gallons so mash tun space wasn't really an issue. After a 45-minute rest, I pulled a 1 1/8-gallon decoction at 1:25. I boiled it for fifteen minutes and returned it to the tun for mash-out at 1:40. Curiously, despite the fact that my mash was still at 156°F when I pulled the decoction, I only got a slight bump (~162°F) after returning the decoction. I'll chalk that one up to poor mixing when measuring the temperature.

I began to recirculate at 1:50pm and began the sparge at 2:05. I collected 6.5 gallons (or so I thought... more on that in a second) at 3:00 and reached a boil by 3:05. Given the pilsner-dominated malt base, I went with a 90-minute boil to drive off DMS, with hop additions at 20 minutes, 5 minutes and knock-out (plus Irish moss at 15 minutes).

Here's where things got weird... So my chilling set-up is as follows: a hose runs from my kettle to my March pump, which pumps through a ball valve out to the plate chiller. A final hose runs out from the chiller to my carboy, but on the end of the hose is my Thrumometer. Well, after pumping out about two gallons at around 60°F, I heard a "ker-plunk!" Yes, the Thrumometer fell off the hose and into the carboy. Guess I should use a hose clamp. I soaked it in One-Step sanitizer beforehand, so it shouldn't be a problem, but I felt pretty stupid.

Things got even weirder when my kettle ran empty with only 4.5 gallons in the carboy. What the hell? I swear I measured everything right after messing up the volume of strike water. Yeah, I did a longer-than-usual boil, and it was cold and windy (which might have contributed to a greater evaporation rate), but even at 15% per hour (the highest evaporation rate available on Beersmith) I should've ended up with 5 gallons if I collected 6.5. Well, I took a gravity reading at I was at 1085, well above my target of 1070. I did some quick math and discovered that if I diluted it with one gallon of water, I'd end up with 5.5 gallons at 1070. Perfect! So I ran out to Walgreen's, bought a gallon of water, and topped it off. I pitched a decanted 2L starter of WLP 838 South German Lager yeast (the same I used for my awesome Helles) and called it a day.

I guess all's well that ends well, right? Hopefully the fermenting Thrumometer won't be an issue and the beer will come out fine despite the dilution. If either does cause a problem, anybody within a ten-mile radius of Beverly will hear me swearing in about a month.

Oh, and a quick explanation on the name before I go. As you've probably noticed, all of our German-style beers have weather-related names. Well, I wanted something specific to May for the Maibock, but I couldn't think of any particular phenomena that I associate with late spring. So I decided to look up the average mean temperature for May in Chicago and it just happened to be 59°F (and for the record, that's average overall temperature, not average high temperature--I don't want to make Chicago sound any colder than it already is!). For any readers outside of the United States, here's a translated label:


EDIT: I guess while I'm at it, I might as well post this one too for any thermodynamicists out there:

Now that's it! I'm not making any labels in Rømer.

MORNING AFTER UPDATE: No, it's not another label. I just wanted to note that after leaving the carboy by the back door in the basement (where I'm guessing the temp was 60°F) I woke up to fermentation this morning. I subsequently moved the carboy to the chest freezer which is currently set to 55°F. I think I'll knock it down to 50°F tomorrow and bring it back up to 55° once the Kräusen starts to fall.

MORNING AFTER MORNING AFTER UPDATE: As planned, I dropped the temp down to 50°F and will keep it there until I hit a gravity of about 1035, at which point I'll bring it up to 65°F for the diacetyl rest.


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