Sunday, August 08, 2010

Brew day: Bear's Cage Schwarzbier

So I've sort of gotten back-logged with stuff I have to post about (like how our third child--Lillian Margaret--was born just a couple weeks ago!), and I'll get to them eventually, but the brews keep a'comin' so for now I'm just going to post about yesterday's brew day.

Today it was time to brew a Schwarzbier, a style I love but haven't brewed in four years. It was a fairly non-eventful brew day until we got to the chilling. My buddy Kevin came over to help out and learn about the brewing process, and we mashed in by 10am. We were a little low on our target mash-in temp (149°F instead of 152°F) thanks at least in part to Dorrie helping stir/add the grains (as you can see below), which meant the process took a little longer than usual. I was above my target temp in the kettle before we transferred to the mash tun, so from now on I'm going to start measuring my temp in the tun before I add the grains so I can get an idea of how much heat I'm losing in the transfer.

We mashed from 10am-11am; recirculated until around 11:20, and then did a nice long sparge until 1pm. I should note that, for this recipe, I decided to go a little crazy with the Carafa III (a whole pound for ten gallons) but kind of wussed out the night before so I decided to do half of the pound as a cap at the end of the mash. We collected a little over 12 gallons at 1048 (one point above my target), and after a 75-minute boil, it was time to chill.

That's when we ran into more problems. Armed with ten gallons of 35°F water, two blocks of ice and a new pump (you can read about my last chilling adventures here) I was confident we would be able to chill down to 50°F. I was wrong. We started running out of water after chilling only about three gallons, and because I couldn't find my icepick the new hose water we were adding was not getting much cooler. Long story short, we only chilled to around 65°F (something I could have done using hose water all along).

Then, as I am wont to do, I compounded the problem. How, you ask? Well, I had a family party to get to and I figured I'd throw the carboys in my chest freezer, drop the temp to around freezing so they cool more quickly, and then reset the thermostat to 50°F and give it overnight to hit my target temp. Well, at the last second I figured I'd speed things up even more my dropping it to 25°F. After all, I was only going to be gone a few hours and the temps couldn't drop THAT quickly, could they? Well, I think we all know the answer is yes. They were near 40°F when I checked last night.

So I set the thermostat back to 50°F before I went to bed and, when I woke up this morning, the temp had risen . . . one degree. Great. Well, I pulled the carboys out of the chest freezer all together and surprisingly they came up to 50°F in just a couple of hours. Finally, SOMETHING going right. So I just pitched the yeast slurry from our Oktoberfest, which led to one final curious observation: the slurry clumped up like Spätzle when I poured it into the wort. The yeast had been in the chest freezer overnight too so it should have been at or around 50°F, so I don't think it was temperature shock, but who knows. We'll see what happens.

So that was that. Thanks again to my buddy Kevin for his help. We're now 2/3rds done with our fall brewing trifecta! (Oktoberfest and Schwarzbier down; one last Novemberfest beer to go.)


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