Sunday, August 21, 2011

Brew day: Rain Wrapped Schwarze Altbier

So... I guess it's time for my quarterly "sorry I haven't blogged much lately" opening sentence. I could rattle off the usual excuses . . . summer is busy . . . work and three kids kept me occupied . . . I'm married to the sea . . . etc. However, the simple truth is I was brewing like crazy for a while and so I haven't brewed since early July. Sure, there's been plenty of news I should've mentioned in the meantime (like how my Gose went bad or how I ended up in the Elite Eight for the Pilsner Urquell competition before the judges came to their senses and picked other people to finish in the top three), but I just never got around to it. But then I brewed yesterday, so that means time to get back on the blogging horse.

The quick and dirty update is yesterday I brewed a Schwarze Altbier ("black Altbier" for the Germanically-challenged). But since that's not a real style, I feel like I need to do some explaining. Back in May Leah and I vacationed in Germany. Part of our vacation included the obligatory stop in Düsseldorf, home to one of my favorite beer styles: Altbier. Now the term Altbier means "old beer," which refers to the fact that Altbier is one of the few surviving German ale styles after the lager revolution hit the country in the late 1800s. If somebody just says Altbier they're probably referring to Düsseldorf-style Altbier, though North German Altbiers (Kutcher Alt, Alaskan Amber) are fairly prevalent as well. There are also lesser-known Altbiers such as Münster Alt, a slightly sour ale with a generous portion of malted wheat. So "Altbier" itself is a somewhat fluid term.

Now getting back to Düsseldorf, there are four historic Altbier pubs that have been around since the 1800s. Recently, however, a new pub opened up--Kürzer Alt. I was curious to see what they would brew, and sure enough it was a traditional, Düsseldorf-style Alt (though if you look closely at the picture to the right, their tap was anything but traditional). Anyway, I was thinking that if I opened up a pub in Düsseldorf, I don't think I could compete with the traditional pubs when it comes to making a traditional Alt. Instead, I would make variations on the style as well as the traditional Altbier. And the first variation I thought of was a Schwarze Altbier--basically the Altbier version of a Schwarzbier, one of my favorite styles.

When it came to the recipe, my thought was to start with my Schwarzbier recipe and tweak it to make it Alt-like. So I started with 75% Pils/25% Munich. I had a pound of malted rye sitting around that I thought would work well so I threw that in. Then I added a pound of Carafa III (5% of the final grain bill) to get it nice and black. I discovered on the brew day that I only had 0.7lb. of Carafa but figured if it's not dark enough I'll add some Sinamar. Finally, I decided to go with 30 IBU's of bittering hops--slightly lower than a Düsseldorf Alt but the high end of the Schwarzbier bitterness range--and a generous addition of Tettnang and Saaz hops at knockout for aroma.

Not too much to report from the brew day itself. Time was of the essence yesterday so I went with a single infusion mash at 151°F. Due to some sparge water delays I ended up with a mash of just over an hour, recirculated and collected for about an hour and twenty minutes, and boiled for 75 minutes. I chilled down to about 75°F and ended up with 10.5 gallons at 1052 (a couple points above my target). I then put everything in my chest freezer to get it down to 58°F and pitched a slurry courtesy of my good friends at Metropolitan Brewing (as you can see below, my kids enjoyed hanging out with their robots while Leah got the yeast--and don't ask why my daughter is wearing a witch outfit; it's a long story).

So that was yesterday. I'm excited to see how this variation turns out, and am thinking it would be fun to do some other Alt tweaks if this one's a winner (incidentally, I do plan on brewing a Münster Alt this fall). And if it's really good, maybe I'll sell my recipe to Kürzer.


Anonymous Kevin said...

How did the Schwarze Alt come out?

9:52 PM, October 18, 2011  

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