Saturday, March 06, 2010

Brew day: 1908 Old Ale

It seems like with most homebrewers the first thing they want to do is go big. It's like the saying goes: "Life begins at 60... 1060." However, since Leah and I gravitate towards German beers, most of our brews are relatively tame--at least as far as gravity is concerned. Rarely do we cross the 1070 threshold, and prior to adding extra fermentables (such as cherries or honey) in the secondary, I don't believe we've ever brewed a beer over 1080.

Well, that changed today. I had been thinking of brewing an old ale or barleywine for a while now, and then my buddy Mark said he too was thinking of brewing one. Perfect! Well, I've always felt that the line between old ales and barleywines (at least English-style ones) is blurred, so I decided to shoot for a target gravity of 1080, which straddles both styles. And thus, 1908 Old Ale was born.

Mark and his wife Marlowe came over to brew with us, and my good friend Lovey (who is transitioning from partial mash to all-grain) stopped by to lend a hand as well. As has been documented on this site before, our pump is sort of wonky, and it ended up giving us some problems early on. Actually, our initial problem was with the hose (I think all the repeated clamping had caused it to seal poorly, which meant it took forever to drain into our mash tun, at which point the temperature had dropped quite a bit). The end result was our initial mash-in temp at around 10:30am was 144°F instead of 154°F, so we quickly boiled a gallon of water and added it to the tun (dumping instead of draining, as you can see to the right) to get the mash temperature to around 151°F.

After that we ran into one more problem when the pump started to crap out pumping up to the hot liquor tank. Fortunately, it turns out that when you have two grown men to lift the hot liquor tank, it's really not that hard, so we were able to get things ready to sparge without too much effort.

We started recirculating at noon, and by 12:15pm we began sparging. By 1:45 we had collected 12.5 gallons and at 1:50 we reached boil and added our hops.

Shortly after boil, we had a boil-over which, in and of itself, was no big deal (after five years of brewing, I've had more boil-overs than I can remember, and since moving to brewing outside I really don't give it a second thought). However, my 85-lb. Collie mix Ogie decided he wanted to lap up the spilled wort which was under the brew kettle. Next thing I know Mark exclaims, "Oh, crap. Your dog's on fire!" Fortunately, it was just a small portion of his fur which was singed, but damn did it smell bad!

After insuring that my dog was extinguished, we went on to add 9 lb. of malt extract around 2:15 (my mash tun isn't big enough to brew ten gallons of 1080 wort, thus the extract). We added some Irish moss at 2:35 and killed the heat at 2:50. It was cold enough that chilling was a piece of cake, and by 3:10 we had collected roughly 12 gallons of wort at 66°F. Our gravity came out at 1084 and we pitched gobs of yeast slurry which was generously provided to us by Bryan Shimkos at Flossmoor Station.

Despite the complications at the beginning of the brew day and the canine immolation, the brew day went pretty smoothly overall. Afterwards we watched The Nightman Cometh Live on DVD and then headed out to Flossmoor Station for dinner. Beautiful weather, great friends, great beer and dinner at a great brewpub. What more could you ask for?

2 Comments:

Blogger Hunington said...

Like you, I generally name my beers and do my labels long before I brew the beer. But here, your brew day cries out for a re-draft: "Canine Immolation" is a great name for a huge Old Ale. Sounds extreme and yet vaguely British in that batty Englishman thing that sometimes happens with English beer and tavern names. Or take 5 gals. of the 1908 Old Ale and "supersize" it with hops or more fermentables. "Canine Immolation Ale", with a Warhol-ish flaming dog on the label.

10:45 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger Russ said...

We'll be barrel-aging (or, technically speaking, adding oak spirals to) a portion of the brew, so maybe that can be the "Canine Immolation"--which, incidentally, would pair well with your last brew as far as labels are concerned. I did think about doing some sort of "Dog on Fire" name (a reference to this episode of the Simpsons, but was too lazy.

9:14 AM, March 08, 2010  

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