Well, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve updated my brewing log — I’ve done a lot of smaller batch brews over the past several weeks (maybe not on the small, one-gallon pico size — but smaller than five anyway) and my shelves are filling up with various home brews. Among the variety of bottles I’ve got a black belgian that I brewed in February called The Zombie Apocalypse Black Belgian, a jet black ale in the Belgian style clocking in around 11% ABV and rocking with notes of orange, dark fruit, and a prominent warming alcohol presence on the back end. It’s a delight! I also brewed up a witbier, but that bombed — it came out skunky but without any exposure to UV light…go figure. But I’ve a few others that came out quite well, too.
I brewed up an homage to our old house [we had just sold our previous house and closed in February] with an ale made with lots of chocolate malt, bitter orange peel, and a variety of other ingredients, and dubbed it Lil’ House Chocolate Surprise. The irony is that there are no chocolate notes in the flavor or nose, but lots of coffee. And when it warms up closer to 60°F, you start to pick out a little bit of the orange in there. It is pretty much awesome.
I had also brewed one of those beers, where you basically throw together a bunch of grains and see what you get — and out came Ol’ Grab Bag Strong Ale, brewed within the Strong Ale style guide as far as Original Gravity, Final Gravity, Bitterness, Color, and Alcohol By Volume were concerned. I’m sure Strong Ale purists might say it’s not, but I say it tastes good! It has deep plum and raisin notes, a warming alcohol presence, and is definitely a sipping beer.
By-in-large, I’ve switched from doing one-gallon pico batches to two- and three-gallon all-grain batches, largely because one-gallon batches generally only produce six, maybe seven bottles of beer. It’s good for wild experimentations you’re not so certain of — but if you score a hit, you don’t have much to enjoy. So I’ve found the two- and three-gallon batches to be a nice middle-ground (quite literally) to the five-gallon and one-gallon pico batches. I can also brew-in-a-bag, which is nice. It cuts down on my time substantially, and can brew from start to finish (including cleaning and prep time) in under four hours. Which is more than I can say for full five-gallon all-grain brew sessions, like the one that I did tonight.
I haven’t done a five-gallon all-grain session in years, and tonight I brewed up a five-gallon batch of Bavarian Hefeweizen using four step mashes (protein rest at 122°F, beta-amylase rest at 145°, alpha-amylase rest at 156°, and mash-out rest at 170°, followed by a batch sparge). Sure, the step mashing was a bit extreme, but we’re talking about a hefeweizen here that called for a more complex step-mash to stay relatively in-line with tradition. I started the brew day (with prep work) around 1:00 pm and didn’t finish cleaning up until around 8:30 pm. A five-gallon batch means more equipment, more things to wash, a longer ramp up to the boil, and longer cool down as well. It also didn’t help to have four different temperature rests. But it was worth it. I gave my new mashing kettle its inaugural brew today and managed to still be able to brew a five-gallon all-grain batch on the stove. Though in hind-sight, next time I’m doing the boil on the propane burner to get a better rolling boil. I didn’t get a very strong boil from our gas stove, so I won’t be surprised if that becomes one of the variables that leads to something slightly off about the beer.
But despite any shortcomings from the brew day, I nailed the target Original Gravity like a rock star, dead-on at 1.050. That felt really great to have achieved that. My mash schedule wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad. Step mashing is pretty difficult, at least from my perspective. I don’t do many of them and usually do a single-step infusion mash around 152°, or maybe 147° for 30 and then 158° for another 30-60 minutes. But generally don’t go through the complex mashing schedule like I did today. I may try a few more of these (on the three-gallon scale) to try and hone in my skills for step-mashing. And then once I’ve got that down, decoction mashing. Blam!
All this brewing, of course, is leading up to my spring tap-in party. I’ll have four beers on tap, a dry mead, and a lot of different bottled beer that we’ll be sampling as well. That will most certainly be a blast!
Well, enough out of me. Time to hit the sack. I’m dead-tired.
Cheers, my friends!