Sunday, October 24, 2010

Brew Day: Snow Squall Christmas Ale

After my musings on mashing earlier in the week, I put those musings into practice yesterday as we brewed our Snow Squall Christmas Ale, which is a Doppelsticke (extra-strong Altbier) that will be spiked with vanilla. I decided to go with an step infusion mash rather than a double decoction, and did rests at 131°F and 158°F. Well, at least that was the idea.

The day got off to an inauspicious start as I seemed to encounter some issues with my Barley Crusher grain mill. As I was milling using an electric drill I suddenly felt a bit of a jolt and then the drill revved up but the mill appeared to stop milling. I dumped the grain out of the hopper, turned on the drill and everything was spinning fine. When I refilled the hopper it did the same thing after a couple minutes. From that point on I added a little grain at a time rather than filling up the entire hopper and it crushed fine. I'm still not sure what was going on but I may shoot the Barley Crusher folks an email; I hear they're good about responding to such inquiries. (As you can see below, Dorrie was happy to supervise the milling process even if it was a little loud for her.)

Once I got the grain milled, the brew day was pretty smooth, if a tad longer with the extra steps. I usually try to only employ one new procedure per brew day, but this time I added a few different wrinkles: I did an infusion step mash as noted above; I also did a mash-out (something I've never really bothered with before); I did multiple additions for my bittering hops rather than adding them all at the beginning of the boil; and I oxygenated with pure oxygen.* So first of all, the step mash... It wasn't too bad. I mashed in at 131°F at a thickness of 0.9 qt./lb. and rested for twenty minutes. It turned out twenty minutes was enough time to get another two gallons of water boiling for the next infusion. I came in a little low for the second rest (155°F instead of 158°F) but I suspect that was because I lost a few degrees during the protein rest that I didn't factor in. I did a half hour saccharafication rest.

During the saccharafication rest, I got 3.5 gallons of water boiling. I used about two gallons of that for my mash-out; the rest I added a little cold water to and used for my sparge water (since the mash was to nearly 2 qt./lb. by the end of the second infusion, I didn't need much sparge water). I also added 1/8 tsp. acid blend to my mash during the mash-out since I like to drop the pH in my sparge water, and I figured the final infusion was basically like sparge water.

I got a little impatient with my sparging and ended up collecting 6.3 gallons in only 45 minutes. I'm usually pretty slow with my sparge so that surprised me; I guess I just wasn't paying close enough attention. I then did a nice, long 90-minute boil that got me down to a little over five gallons of wort. An pre-boil refractometer reading showed I was about five gravity points low, so I cut my bittering hops to get from 70 IBU's to 65. I did four additions, at 90, 65, 55 and 45 minutes because Noonan's lager book suggests this gives a smoother, more rounded bitterness. I didn't do any late addition hops because I found I didn't have any Spalt hops and I figured it would let the vanilla come through better.

While my pre-boil gravity suggested I'd be five points low, I actually ended up three points low, at 1067 instead of 1070. I suspect this was due to a combination of fast sparging, a short sacc rest (next time I might do an actual iodine test when doing a step mash; with a simple infusion mash my rest is always at least 40 minutes because it takes me that long to heat up my sparge water), and possibly high mash pH (I didn't bother to add pH to the mash because I had an ounce and a half of dehusked Carafa III malt, but that may not have been enough to lower the pH). Anyway, three points low isn't a big deal, but seeing that mash-outs are supposed to increase your efficiency it's something I took note of.

I chilled down to about 64°F, oxygenated for sixty seconds with pure O2 and pitched the yeast slurry from our Novemberfest beer (WLP 320 yeast). Here's the awesome part: I got done around 4pm and by the time we got home from dinner at 10pm fermentation had already started!

So that was our brew day. I moved our Novemberfest beer (which I kegged this past Monday) to the garage fridge so it's now officially cold-conditioning. Oh, and speaking of Novemberfest, it's officially Nov. 13th, so if you're in the Chicago area and want to stop by just let me know and I'll hook you up with the details. Cheers!

* Technically, this isn't the first time I used pure oxygen. I borrowed a buddy's O2 setup and did an experiment with this year's Hoar Frost Oktoberfest, using pure oxygen for the 6.5 gallon carboy and aerating one 3-gallon carboy using the basic "shake the hell out of the carboy" method and the other with olive oil. They all finished at the same gravity but the olive oil sample had hints of acetaldehyde (which I also picked up in our Bear's Cage Schwarzbier which was aerated only with olive oil) which is what led me to invest in my own O2 setup.


Blogger Señor Brew™ said...

It looks like this is going to be the year without a Santa Claus, or at least the year without an Xmas beer for me. I usually make a strong Xmas lager (think spiced doppelbock) which means I needed to have it in the fermenter about six weeks ago. I might still make some sort of Xmas ale, I've got some dried cranberries and some blue agave syrup sitting on the sidelines, as well as an American ale starter chugging along right now, so we wil see what happens. Maybe we can exchange "gifts" at Christmas.

11:34 PM, October 29, 2010  

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