Saturday, March 30, 2013

Strong Scotch Ale - Empirical Series 2013

"Nothing, at first view, may seem more unbounded than the thought of man, which not only escapes all human power and authority, but is not even restrained within the limits of nature and reality."


Once again, I am late getting this year's Empirical Series brewed. February, which is when I always plan to have these beers brewed, seemed to speed pass in the blink of an eye. And March almost got away from me too! Luckily, I managed to find the time the other day to get this brew done, the fifth version of this annual tradition.

This year I decided to try a Strong Scotch Ale (aka Wee Heavy) for the first time. For this strong, malty beer I decided to take the more "historical" route with the recipe. Instead of loading it up with crystal malts, I took the first gallon of first runnings and boiled it down to almost three cups. This process took about an hour in a wide shallow pot and resulted in a thick, super sweet syrup. It was really cool to watch the changes take place - especially at the end when, all of a sudden, the reduction began to foam up (as seen in the photo above). Once I saw this, I was nervous about burning the syrup, so I only let it go another couple of minutes before I pulled it off the burner. I then added this reduced wort to the main boil at about the 30 minute mark. Hopping is low for a beer of this gravity, though I targeted the higher side since I want to make sure the hops are still around after some extended aging.  I also added a pound of oats to the mash to give this beer additional body and mouthfeel. To add to the complexity, a week earlier I toasted the oats in a 350°F oven for about 30 minutes (I used some organic quick oats we had in the pantry and it worked just fine - I just kept an eye on them and stirred them up every so often).

As I have done with all the past Empirical brews, I added some non-malt sugar to help increase the gravity. This time, I used honey, thinking the delicate honey aromas and flavors would add some additional depth and richness. I really wanted to use some heather varietal honey for this, but I couldn't find any locally and thought all the online sources to be too expensive, so I went with a local wildflower honey instead. I successfully fought off the urge to add some smoked malt to the grist as I was afraid it might take over the flavor of the beer.

I'll let this one ferment for a few weeks before racking to a glass carboy for some extended aging. The plan is to bottle in a few months and then stash those bottles away until the cold weather starts to settle back in again in November.

Mons Aureus (aka David) - Empirical Series 2013
brewed on 3/29/13

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 4.00 gal
Boil Size: 6.00 gal (includes reduction of 1 gallon of first runnings)
Estimated Color: 14.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 36.8 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 73.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
OG: 1.080 SG
FG: 1.018
ABV: 8.2%

9 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter - 79.1 %
1 lbs Oats, Flaked (toasted) - 8.8 %
1 lbs Honey - 8.8 %
3.0 oz Roasted Barley (432.0 SRM) - 1.6 %
3.0 oz Acidulated Malt - 1.6 % (for proper mash pH)

18 g Challenger [8.20 %] - 60.0 min
10 g Challenger [8.20 %] - 15.0 min

Edinburgh Ale (White Labs #WLP028)

Mash Schedule
Single Infusion, 153°F, Batch Sparge

Monday, March 11, 2013

2013 Altbier

Not sure where February went. And now March is almost half over too. Luckily, I managed to find some time today to brew up this year's Altbier...a bit later than I wanted to, but better late than never.

Last year's Altbier was really quite nice...easily my best one yet. However, I felt like it needed a few things. First, it didn't have the head I thought it should have, so this time I added a protein rest to perhaps help with that. Second, I replaced the pale ale malt with more Pilsner malt, and added some Caramunich after reading some info by Kai Troester about the use of crystal malt in this style. Lastly, and this is the place I debated about the most, I went with a single hop addition of Spalter hops, giving me only approximately 30 estimated IBUs. I think this is a more traditional hopping schedule, even though the IBUs fall outside the BJCP style guidelines.

Last year I opted not to lager this beer. This year, I may not have the choice as the coolest ambient temperatures may already climb into the 50s by the time this is done fermenting (I rely completely on the various ambient temperatures of my garage and cellar, which is why I try to brew this beer earlier in the winter, when I'm reasonably certain to have cool enough temperatures).

brewed on 3/11/13

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.75 gal
Estimated Color: 11.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 32.4 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.00 %
Boil Time: 75 Minutes
OG: 1.048

4 lbs Pilsner malt - 61.0 %
2 lbs Munich Malt - 30.5 %
6.0 oz Caramunich I - 5.7 %
2.0 oz Acid Malt - 1.9 % (for mash pH)
1.0 oz Chocolate Wheat - 1.0 %

28 g Spalter [5.00 %] - 60.0 min

Dusseldorf Alt Yeast (White Labs #WLP036)

Mash Schedule
Protein Rest - 133.0 F (10 min)
Sacch. Rest - 152.0 F (40 min)
Mash out (via 10 min decoction) - 164.0 F

Water - (estimated)
Ca: 88 ppm
Mg: 1 ppm
Na: 3 ppm
Cl: 37 ppm
SO4: 156 ppm
Alkalinity (as CaCO3): 20 ppm (pre-treatment)
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