Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Roggenbier! Gesundheit!" or "Adventures in Yeast, part 2"

My most recent brew was a Roggenbier, which is a German style of rye beer.  It is supposed to be formulated very much like a Dunkelweizen (dark wheat beer) but with rye instead of wheat. I've actually never had an authentic Roggenbier, so I'm not entirely sure what to expect, but we'll see.

The brew day was also complicated by the fact that a group of documentary film makers from Cambridge Cable TV (CCTV) was here filming my every move.  Despite, or maybe because, of that, things went smoothly brewing the beer, from grinding to mashing, to lautering, to boiling, to cooling and then to pitching.

The joker in the pack was that I planned to used the left over yeast from a Hefeweizen I brewed back in June. I put it in a sanitized container in the fridge, and pitched it at the appropriate time. Luckily, I also had a spare, new, vial of WLP300 (the same yeast) just in case!

Well, "just in case" turned out to be necessary, because 24 hrs after pitching, there was NO activity in the airlock.  So, I dumped in my vial of yeast, and within a few hours it was off to the races. And then a very strange thing appeared in my carboy on day 4(see photo).  It was kind of slimy looking, and not what you would normally see for krausen, but, my club assured me that it was OK.

I checked the gravity, and it was at 1.029, and was syrupy and sweet when I tasted it. Definitely not infected!  So I keep the heat on, and let it continue.  Yesterday, after all airlock activity stopped, and it sat for a bit, I checked the gravity again, and found it was 1.026. Strange, after several more days of fermentation at 66 degrees, I expected it to drop further.  When tasting it, it was clear that it had attenuated more, as the sweetness was gone, and it was no longer syrupy in texture.  I wonder if my hydrometer is off! It actually tasted like the beer is done fermenting-a little hop presence and very slight rye bite.  But as I said earlier, I've never had a real Roggenbier, so it is hard to tell.

I am going to keg what I have and see how it goes.  The beer will debut publicly at the documentary premiere, tentatively Wednesday 2/24/2010, 7-9 PM in Cambridge. More on that when it gets closer.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Brewing Oatmeal Stout-one year later

This Sunday I stayed in on a beautiful fall day and brewed Oatmeal Stout.  This one is not destined for the Sam Adams Patriot Homebrew competition, since I'm pretty sure they wouldn't let me win twice in a row with the same beer!

I set out to duplicate the award winning recipe, but ended up changing it a bit because I ran out of two of the ingredients--that's what you get for not planning ahead!  I didn't have all the the Black Patent malt that the recipe calls for, so I made up the difference with Carafa II, which has a slightly different flavor, but we're talking about less than 1% of the grain bill, so it probably won't be noticeable. I also ws out of Dextrine Malt, so I substituted Wheat Malt since the dextrine was for head retention anyway.  Again this is a small amount, about 1.3% of the grain bill.  It shouldn't end up tremendously different from the original, but it will be interesting to taste.

The third change was less dramatic (I hope), which is that I replaced the liquid yeast in the original (White Labs WLP001) with dry yeast (Safale S05), which is essentially the same yeast.  The lag time was a bit more than I would have anticipated, but it started up OK and is fermenting strong as I write!

One of the funny things about winning the competition is that people ask me all the time if Sam Adams can't "steal" my recipe.  First, they paid me a royalty for it, so it wouldn't be stealing if they used it in a more widely distributed beer.  Second, I published the recipe in BYO magazine, so it is in the public domain now.  Third, all they would really have to do is tweak it slightly to get essentially the same flavors but with a different grain bill and it would be a different recipe.  Not that I expect them to do that, since they are honorable people, but that's all it would take.  Heck, I tweak it myself, every time I brew to attempt something different or just because I ran out of some ingredient or other.

Brewing for me is about creativity.  I have a great time trying new things and tasting the result. If I like it, then I'm happy, if I don't then I'll try again (and find someone who does like to to give the first batch to).  That's how I got rid of the first batch of Oatmeal Stout that I made--my brother in law loved it!  I hope this batch is good, but there's always another one in the queue. More on it when it comes out.