Sunday, June 24, 2012

Brew day: Cooler By The Lake Roggenkölsch

So I'm actually a full brew day behind with the blog (yesterday we brewed a Saison which I hope to post about some time this week) but this time I had a good reason... I ran into some difficulties with my last brew, a Kölsch-style ale brewed by rye which I'm calling a Roggenkölsch, and I wanted to see how it was tasting after primary before writing about it. Yesterday I kegged the Roggenkölsch (exactly two weeks after the brew day) and now it's time to do a postmortem...

As a bit of a back-story, a couple months ago I did my first direct-heated step mash, a Hefeweizen that actually combined direct heat and a decoction. The big concern I had read about with step-mashing is scorching, but generally I read that if you heat no faster than 2°F per minute scorching shouldn't be an issue. It wasn't, and the beer came out pretty amazing. With this beer, I wanted to do a beta-glucan rest because I was using over 20% rye, and for a ten-gallon batch there was no practical way to bump up from 95°F to 143°F using an infusion given the size of my mash tun, so I figured I would use direct heat again. Worked the first time, right?

Well, about ten minutes into raising the temp from 95°F to 143°F, I started to notice a very slight burnt smell. I was really hoping it was the spiciness of the rye, but I was concerned it was scorching. At that point, it was too late to do much about it, so I proceeded with the brew day. After the 20-minute beta-glucan rest, I raised the mash to 143°F for a half hour and then up to 160°F for another 15 minutes. I collected around 12.5 gallons which boiled down to 10.5 after a 90-minute boil. I ended up four gravity points above my target (1.052 instead of 1.048). I chilled and pitched at 60°F with a slurry of German ale yeast courtesy of Metropolitan Brewing (makers of the excellent Krankshaft Kölsch).

When I started to clean the mash tun, I discovered scorching on about a quarter of the bottom of the kettle. Crap. How could I have gotten scorching when I didn't have any issues with the Hefe? It took me a couple days before I realized the obvious: I only brewed five gallons with the Hefe, whereas I brewed ten gallons with the Roggenkölsch. And I think I could do 2°F/hour with a good burner, but I use my old burner for the mash, and that one has half the gas holes clogged so the heat is concentrated on about a third of the kettle. As such, I'm now thinking of getting a second Blichmann burner so that I can get even heating and hopefully direct-heat 20+ lbs. of grain efficiently without scorching.

So anyway... how did the beer actually turn out? Here's the weird thing. It doesn't taste burnt (thank goodness) but at 60°F there's a very slight smoked flavor. It almost reminds me of the Schlenkerla Helles. I actually like it quite a bit, though I'm hoping it will be more muted when carbonated and at serving temp, since it's for a friend's block party. In the meantime, I'm gonna start saving my pennies for another burner. As much as step mashes make for a longer brew day, I really think the results speak for themselves.


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