Early Bird is now bottle conditioning. After my brewday with Murphy and his so-called law I was pretty dissapointed and ready to dump this beer down the drain. I called off all extra experiments that I was going to try with this batch (no funkdafication, no bottling with maple-syrup, no oak). With much trepidation, I transfered the fermented beer to the bottling bucket and drew off a sample for the hydrometer. Much to my surprise the beer ended at 1.011 SG. I was expecting it to end lower. Still, its not the 1.016 I was hoping for but it shouldn’t be “too thin”. So not all is lost.
Flavor wise it seems to be going in the right direction. The roast level is quite nice, assertive but not astringent in any way. A nice blend of cold steeped coffee and chocolate. It was a bit hard to tell, and maybe I was hoping for it too much, but the oat malt did seem to bring some oaty flavors to the mix. In the back there was also a definite fruitiness that I assume is from the raisins but it seemed a little more cidery than it did before fermentation. You wouldn’t necessarily pick it out as raisins… at least not yet. You never know what will happen once its bottle conditioned.
To bring a little experimentation back into this brew I decided to try out a variety of bottles. It will be nice to see if the different bottle volumes really do have an impact on the beer. I also just wanted to make the chore of bottling (I really need to start kegging) go a bit faster so I only bottled up a little over one case of normal bottles and the rest of the batch went into 75cl champagne bottles, a couple 37.5cl bottles, and one Magnum! It was my first time with the Magnum and the champagne style 75cl bottles. The Magum is quite impressive and will definitely call for a label. To finish them off I had to get out my old hand-capper (as opposed to my bench capper) for the 29mm crown caps. The capper didn’t like the thicker necks of those bottles but with a little extra persuading they seemed to go on just fine. Next time I will try my hand at corking and caging those bottles.
That’s the question I was asking myself last sunday while I was brewing the first batch of Early Bird Breakfast Stout. The brewday didn’t exactly go as smoothly as I would have hoped. In fact I have never had such a bad brewing session. Even my very first all-grain brew went much better. Let’s just hope that the resulting beer will turn out well.
After milling the grain bill by hand (I can never get my drill to work with the Barley Crusher) I proceeded to dough-in, hoping for a mash temp of 68°C. Problem # 1: Stirring the mash I thought that it seemed a bit thick. After taking a reading of about 64°C I knew I had made a mistake somewhere. Normally this would not be a huge problem. A bit of quick math and heating up some extra water will bring the temp right up to 68°C. Done. Problem # 2: .. wait… why is it now at 65.5° C? By this time I was highly confused. The mash was now too thin to add more water and I didn’t want to bother with decoction mashing, so I just let it go at 65.5° C.
After the mashing problems I hoped that the rest of the day would go well. The first runnings came out of the tun smelling fantastic. There where some nice roasty toasty coffee and chocolate notes with a distinct oatmeal aroma. I was actually surprised that the oats came out so evident on the nose. Problem # 3: Sparging went well for the first 8-9 liters, but then the flow came to a stand still. The dreaded stuck sparge. Great, the brew day just got worse. After cutting into the grainbed I was able to eek out the rest of the wort to get my desired 25 liters. Problem # 4: Unfortunately the gravity reading was a bit high. Some more quick math told me that I needed 2 liters more water to get to the right SG. Thats when I realized the 2 liters I needed to add to get the correct SG was also why my mash looked so thick and the temp was so low. Yup, somehow I measured the strike water volume wrong.
The boil did go much better. In fact I was quite pleased with how the raisin addition went. With 20 minutes to go in the boil I placed the 225g of organic raisins in a steel pot and tapped off about 1 liter of boiling wort. A few minutes with a hand blender then puree was dumped back into the boil kettle. After the boil was done I cooled down the wort and ran it off into the bucket. Problem # 5: I only got out about 5 liters before the run-off siezed up. Apparently the raisin bits were blocking the flow through the copper manifold. Running off the remaining 15 liters took a long time. I had to take my brew spoon and continuously run it back and forth under the edge of the manifold like windshield wipers to clear away raisin bits. I suppose a bonus is that all the raisin bits stayed in the kettle. It was also nice to see that the black raisins were now a light brown color so I can feel confident that all the raisiny goodness was pulled out of them during the boil.
The low mash temp now meant that the beer would turn out drier than I was aiming for. To adjust for this I decided that I would use a pack of Wyeast 1968 London Ale yeast (even though I had not made a starter) which is less attenuative than the US-05 I had initially planned on using. I activated the smack pack during the mash to hopefully start to wake up the yeast before throwing them in. Problem # 6: By the time my stretched out brew day was done the smack-pack had not swelled at all. Feeling quite desperate at this point I dumped it in anyways. I waited patiently for signs of fermentation. 24 hours passed by. Worry started to set in. I waited some more. 48 hours after pitching there were still no signs of anything happening. I popped open the lid and sprinkled a pack of US-05 on top of the lifeless wort. Problem # 7: Another 24 hours later there were still no signs of action in the airlock. However, there was a faint indication of something happening through the plastic bucket. The next day at work is when I remebered that the black rubber bung in the lid isn’t air tight (thats why I normally us the red ones). A couple sheets of plastic wrap and the problem was solved. The airlock is now bubbling happily.
Thats were the story ends for now. I really hope that bottling goes well or else I may just pour this beer down the drain in spite. I still have hopes for this beer though. The hydrometer sample tasted great and the recipe still looks solid to me. If it doesn’t work out this time, or if it is way too dry, then my next brew will be a re-brew of this beer. Now let’s all pray to the beer gods.
In the last post I mentioned that I want to brew up a stout. It’s been a while since I’ve brewed a stout and the last one was a big boozy Belgian Imperial Stout fermented with Wyeast 3787 Trappist yeast (Westmalle yeast). It clocked in at almost 12%ABV. This time round I am looking for something more sessionable; something under 5%ABV.
I have some oat malt laying around and have been looking for an excuse to use it so I am going to brew up an Oatmeal Stout and substitute a portion of the flaked oats with the oat malt. Apparently Oat malt adds a lot more oat flavor than flaked oats. Some say it is too pungent but I am thinking that some real oat flavor may work out well here. This is what I am thinking of brewing:
expected OG 1.050
expected FG 1.013
30.5 IBU (rager formula)
expected color 27.3 SRM (71 EBC)
boil duration 60 minutes
I am hoping that the biscuit will lend a nice toasty edge to the oat malt. I know a lot of people like to toast their flaked oats in the oven before using but if the biscuit works out well I think this could be more consistent than toasting my oats. Since I can’t leave well enough alone I have been thinking about what other flavors would go well with the chocolate, coffee, and hopefully oatiness of this beer. Raisins immediately popped in my head. Heck, a handful of raisins is my favorite addition to a nice hot bowl of oatmeal. Together with a large cup ‘o joe and you have a satisfying breakfast! Now I just need to figure out exactly how I want to add the raisins. I could puree them with a little wort and add that to the boil during the last 10 minutes, or I could just dump some raisins into secondary. Anybody out there have any experience using raisins?
Of course I feel I have to experiment with some non-traditional fermentation. So here is the plan… I will brew the base beer and then split it between two fermenters. One fermenter (most of the batch) will get Safale S04 English ale yeast (possibly Wyeast 1968 London Ale) and the other fermenter will receive only Brettanomyces Bruxellensis. After everything has fermented I may play with blending the two and age that with some medium toast French Oak chips. Some of the two separate batches would get bottled before blending so I can compare all three and see what’s going on, but I really like the idea of a light musty, bretty oak note in the back of a nice smooth oatmeal stout.