Wednesday, May 14, 2008

American Craft Beer Week - Homebrewing

I haven’t brewed a beer in a few months. It’s a lot more fun when there’s something sitting in the carboy and you’re keeping a steady eye on it, waiting to bottle it up and share. Situations being as they may, I was lucky enough to save a batch that i thought would be lost back in February and it turned out to be one of the better beers that I have made yet.

So i’m back in business. New brewery, different kettle, more organization, more space to maneuver. Things are looking good. I had to take a half day from work last Tuesday, so i got myself my ingredients and set out to finally make a beer that i’d designed a few months ago. It certainly wasn’t the best brew session i’ve had yet, i tried some new stuff, showed my rustiness a bit in some parts, and came out a couple of gravity points below where I’d wanted to, so this beer isn’t going to be exactly as I’d wanted it, but we’ll see what happens.

I had two major objectives when i sat down to make a recipe for this beer: Make a hoppy red ale and use rye. So a name immediately popped into my head and from a long and winding tune i could hear the words: Rye Rye Rocco, but this beer would not be made in honor of Mr. Esquandolas. My longtime friend and current Jacksonville native, Johnny Raucco is getting married in about a month or so. I’m not able to make it down there for the wedding, so I brewed this beer in tribute to him and his lovely wife to be. It’ll actually be just about ready to drink on the day they get married, so i will be sure to do so on their behalf.

Raucco’s Red Rye

3 lbs Rye
2 lbs Carared
1 lb Caramalt
3 lbs Extra light DME (late addition 39 mins into boil)

1 oz Cascade pellets for 60 min
1 oz Crystal pellets for 5 mins

Music: The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike

I’m doing a 2 oz Cascade dry hop in the secondary as well.

So i was really excited to brew and took my time sanitizing and making a 2 Liter starter with Wyeast 1084 (their Irish Ale yeast) last Monday night. Laid everything out nicely and was ready to roll for Tuesday. I’d forgotten to get muslin bags for my grains, so I had to put everything into my big nylon hop bag, which would turn out to be a problem.

I already wasn’t excited about doing this because 6 lbs of grains in one bag doesn’t lend itself to much of an equal distribution of water to grain. The stuff on top or in the middle isn’t going to reach the same temps as what's on the bottom…so i knew i’d be stirring quite a bit. Not the problem. The problem was the fact that the bag either burned or ripped in the kettle. I am assuming the force of six pounds of grain right down onto the bottom of the kettle melted two nice tears into the bag.

So now not only am i far from optimal steeping conditions for myself, now i have grain coming out of the bag everytime i stir. This would have been much better if i’d had some bags and actually been able to perform a real steep of these grains.

So that was an adventure. I pulled the bag about 10 minutes early because i didn’t want any more grains in the wort and i was concerned about the weight on the grains on bottom right against the heat source. The bag was pulled, I had to perform some straining magic to get about 2 lbs of grain out of the kettle and then i was finally ready to boil. I added a little bit of light DME and waited for my three gallons of water and sugars to get to a boil.

It came and it wasn’t the most ferocious boil i’d seen, but it was a boil nonetheless. In went the first hop addition and the hour long boil was on its way. I did my late extract addition with 21 mins to go, gave everything a nice solid stir, then dropped in the immersion chiller at about the 20 minute mark.

Crystal in at 5 and everything was fine and dandy. I’d like to use crystal more in the future. I have a feeling they’re going to get hidden a bit by the dry hop, but my wort smelled wonderful during cooling. My specialty grain issue may have marred the appearance and gravity of my beer (came out at 1.050 and I wanted 1.053), but it sure did smell nice.

My growler of starter had been eating away for about 22 hours and went into the wort hungry like….sigh…the wolf. It took a while longer to get down to pitching temperature, but i pitched at 66 degrees and had my fermenter down to about 62 by morning. My airlock was showing activity when i woke up Wednesday morning, so things got started in much less than 12 hours.

I plan to keep the fermenter as close to 62 as possible which means the temperature inside during fermentation will be right in the middle of the 1084’s recommended temps. For a yeast i’m using for the first time it seems like being right in the middle will show a lot about how the yeast performs.

So I’ll keep you posted on this thing. I was relying on that steep for a lot of the beer’s character and i wasn’t able to do that step the way i’d like to, so we’ll have to see what effect it will have on the finished beer.

I’ve already got my eyes on the next batch and it should only be a couple of weeks until the next session.


Dr Joel said...

Little update to those actually reading:

Tasted the beer and took a gravity check yesterday...1.010 and tasty.

A lot of rye character which makes me happy. I'm moving to secondary with 2 oz of cascades after work today and will be looking to bottle this thing in about a week or so.

Kevin said...

You will have to invite me over for a brew session. I certainly need to learn how. I will bring a growler or two over. Good luck with this batch.