Sunday, September 04, 2011

Brew day: F3 Münster Altbier and Gust Front Leipzig-style Wheat

Before lagers dominated the German brewing landscape, everything was ale. Over time, most of these German ale styles disappeared as people gravitated towards Pilsner, Helles, Doppelbock and the like. However, ales survived in a couple areas: the south (especially Bavaria) and the north Rhine valley. In the south, the ale of choice is Weizenbier (a/k/a Weissbier), which with its high percentage of wheat malt and its distinct tangy yeast is easily distinguished from lager. In the Rhine valley, however, the ale beer that survived is best described as a hybrid: it's fermented at ale temperatures with a rather clean top-fermenting yeast and then cold-conditioned like a lager. Since these hybrid beers still use the "old" method of ale brewing, they're generally referred to as Altbier (literally "old beer").

Two styles of Altbier are prominent today: Düsseldorf Altbier (Uerige, Metropolitan Iron Works) and North German Altbier (Kutcher Alt, Alaskan Amber). There are plenty of resources out there for folks who want to brew either of these styles. But there are other regional Altbiers that are either dying or extinct (you can read about some of them here). The only other Altbier I've come across in the U.S. is Münster Alt--Pinkus Müller can be found in Chicago at Binny's--so I figured I'd brew one for this year's all-Altbier Novemberfest.

Now, while there's plenty of info on Düsseldorf and North German Alts, there's virtually nothing on Münster Alts. Hell, I've found far more information on Gose than I have Münster Alt. But there are a couple recipes floating around that suggest 50% Pilsner, 40% wheat and 10% Munich. It should also be lightly hopped, somewhere between 15 and 25 IBU's. The biggest key, though, is that it needs to have a slight lactic tang.

As I noted in my last blog post, I brewed a Leipziger Gose a few months ago but due to a combination of neglect and bad luck it got infected and I had to dump it. I wanted to brew another one ASAP, so I decided I could do a split batch with the Münster Alt. The Gose should be at least 50% wheat, so as a compromise I elected to go with 50% wheat, 40% Pils and 10% Munich for my grain bill for both beers. As for the lactic tang, I'll have two options: I can add food-grade lactic acid to taste, or I could blend in a little of the soured Gose. I'm still not sure which I'll go with.

Before I recap the brew day, I should note that I had a couple new toys to play with today. The first is my new Blichmann burner. I initially bristled at the high price tag, but several folks assured me it's worth the money. We'll see how much more efficient it is than my old jet burner, but I can tell you it's definitely more quiet, plus I like that it's low to the ground (less chance of my idiot dog setting his tail on fire--again). I also decided to split my hose that runs from the mash tun to my kettle so that there's a second line that I can runs to a pitcher (as you can see to the left). That way, when I'm done recirculating (or when I want the check the flow rate) I can throw a couple valves and switch from filling the kettle to filling a pitcher or vice versa. It's rather simple, but makes things WAY easier for me.

For the brew day, I went with a 20-minute rest at 125°F (I like to do this with wheat or rye) and then a 45-minute sacc rest at 151°F. I collected for about an hour and a half, brought to a boil for 20 minutes, and then collected 6 gallons at ~100°F for my Gose. I pitched lactobacillus into the carboy and it's currently sitting in a water bath which stays between 100°F and 115°F.

The remainder of the kettle was hopped and boiled for another hour. I went with two additions: Warrior hops at 60 minutes and Saaz at knockout. Then I chilled and racked onto the yeast cake from our Schwarze Alt (which is done fermenting--it dropped all the way to 1.011!). As seems to be a pattern, my gravity was high (1.057 instead of the target 1.050) but my volume was low (4.75 gallons instead of 5.25). I used a half gallon to make a yeast starter for my Gose, so I added a half gallon of water to the remaining 4.25 gallons to drop the gravity down to 1.051. It's currently fermenting away in the basement chest freezer at 60°F.

I'm really curious to see how this turns out. I'll also need to decide how I want to do the lactic thing. Adding food-grade lactic acid would be easiest and most repeatable (unless I want to brew a Gose every time I brew a Münster Alt) but at the same time, if I already have a soured wort, why not take advantage of it? Stay tuned to see what I decide.