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.


  1. David, Did a smoked porter recently that would not drop past 1.028, despite lots of active yeast, including an additional pitch of active dry yeast thinking the beer was "stuck". Best I can determine is the grain bill had a good percentage darker grain and a higher mash temp that resulted in lots of non-fermentable sugars. Like your roggenbier, the porter does not have a sweet, cloying taste expected from beers that do not finish with a low gravity.

  2. Thanks Bob. Your suggestion that there was an excess of non-fermentables makes as much sense as anything I have heard yet. Still, I would expect residual sweetness, so it is a bit of a mystery. As long as the beer is good, drink away, I guess!