Sunday, August 02, 2009

Brew day: Hoar Frost Oktoberfest

This weekend has been less than relaxing. I didn't get home from work on Friday until 12:15 (and that's AM, not PM). I spent yesterday running around doing everything from helping a friend move an elliptical machine to making a Toy Story-themed fish tank for my daughter. Even this morning was more hectic than usual, as our pastor is on vacation so I was asked to read the sermon (a wonderfully dry piece of academia seemingly written in the '60s--and it wasn't actually written by my pastor, so I think I can say that without offending anybody). So when I got home from church and fired up the brew kettle to brew our Hoar Frost Oktoberfest (and, if you're curious, that's hoar frost pictured above), I knew this was my one chance to relax this weekend. "Please, PLEASE don't let anything go wrong..." I thought.

Fortunately, things indeed went smoothly. (Maybe it was God's way of saying thanks for reading the sermon this morning? Or maybe it's just that He knows that five gallons of today's beer is going to the church's annual Oktoberfest party.) I filled the kettle with my strike water before I left for church, so as soon as we got home I fired 'er up (and cracked open a Metro Dynamo to boot). By noon I was mashing in (1.25 qt./gallon at 173°F). I added 1/2 tsp. acid blend (as I do for all my light-colored beers) and hit my target temp of 157°F right on the nose.

I began to recirculate at 12:55 and started running off at 1:05. By 2:20 I had collected 11.5 gallons, got things boiling. Given the large amount of Pils malt in this brew, I went with a 90-minute boil and, inspired by Miller Lite as we did with great success with our Helles, we went with three hop additions--at 90 minutes, 20 minutes and five minutes.

Of course, the mere mention of a smooth brew day guarantees SOMETHING must go wrong, and we did have a minor difficulty at the end of the day. My latest attempt to cobble back together our busted immersion chiller didn't work too well, so we essentially didn't have a pre-chiller for our plate chiller. This meant that I could only cool to around 72°F (and even for that I had to chill REALLY slowly) and thus I'm throwing everything in the chest freezer overnight before pitching the yeast. Oh, and we ended up with a final gravity of 1057 before adding the starter, which is three points below what we were shooting for. I sparged at a pretty much constant rate this time instead of my usual start slow and speed up during the sparge, so maybe that wasn't a good idea. Anyway, after adding the starter I should end up at 1055 for an original gravity.

On a side note, the chiller is going so slow that this is the first time I've finished my blog post before actually finishing the beer. Oh well...

EDIT: By 10pm all three carboys had dropped to 55°F so I decided to pitch with the chest freezer set at 50°F.


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