Thursday, May 10, 2012

The PALE ALES Big Brew 2012

One of the unexpected benefits of doing business with a LHBS in your area is the affiliation they may have with local Homebrew Clubs and their members. One such benefit that I found to be a whole lot of fun and a great learning experience at the same time was the PALE ALES annual Big Brew held in celebration of the American Homebrewers Association's National Homebrew Day. The weather was cloudy but everyone's spirits were high as we setup all the brewing equipment and planned out the brewing process that would ultimately include 140 pounds of mixed grains.

Preparing The Big Brew Mash Tun
 We started heating up the strike water by 9:30 AM, we needed 55 gallons heated to 170F in order to hit our 154F mash temperature and 1.25:1 mash thickness. In order to heat that much water it took a combination of 6 brewing rigs, varying in capacity from five to fifteen gallons and constant temperature monitoring, and then we manually transferred the strike water to the mush tun. When working with very hot water there's always a chance of spilling or splashing hot water so it's not a good idea to wear sandals, sneakers or shorts to help prevent burning yourself or someone else.

Carefully Pouring In The Strike Water
During the 60 minute or so mash there was plenty of good tasting homebrew, bagels and cupcakes to sample and keep us busy as the timer ticked down closer to the lauter. We even got to help some of the brewers out of a real dilemma by draining their kegs of very tasty homebrew so they could sanitize them and use the kegs later in the brewday.

Brewing Great Beer Requires Attention To Details
After a good lengthy vorlauf the wort was running clear and the lautering began in earnest as each brewer waited patiently to have their boil pots or fermentors filled. I decided to take my portion of the wort home with me to boil on my stovetop which is how I do all of my brewing, although several other brewers decided to buddy up with brewers who had setup their brewing gear on site. As soon as my fermentor was topped off with wort I snapped on the cover and drove it a short distance to my house where I had the wort boiling in about a half hour.

Hot Wort And Cold Beer, What Else Can Be Said
   One wort, many different styles. Brewers were given a bunch of options to select from when it came to which hop additions and yeast selections they wanted to brew their wort with. For the yeast selection I decided to go with White Labs WLP007 - Dry English Ale Yeast™ and a two liter starter made the day before. For the hop additions I chose to use Columbus for bittering, Whitebread Golding Variety for flavor and East Kent Goldings for aroma. The grains, hops and yeast used in the recipe were supplied by Princeton Homebrew, the recipe itself was loosely based on an English Brown Ale style but with a bit more IBU.

Size 5.00 gallons: Estimated IBU=66, SRM=18, OG=1.077, FG=1.019, ABV=7.5%

11.50 pounds Optic Malt (Marris Otter)
01.25 pounds Crystal 40L
01.25 pounds CaraPils
00.25 pounds Carafa III

1.5 ounces Columbus pellet hops @ 60 minutes
1.5 ounces Whitebread Golding Variety (WGV) @ 15 minutes
2.0 ounces East Kent Goldings @ 2 minutes

My Actual OG Was 1.072 @ 65F
Another big benefit of the Big Brew was not having to deal with mashing or getting rid of all those spent grains once I got the wort home. I boiled the wort made all my hop additions, cooled it down, aerated and pitched my starter then set the fermentor aside in a 68F location to ferment. There was plenty of activity in the airlock around 12 hours later and fermentation was in high gear the next day. All in all the Big Brew was a huge success in my book, something I'll look forward to doing again, without a doubt.

The End Of A Really Great Brew Day
For the past two weeks the fermentor sat undisturbed on the basement landing where the temperature stayed at 68F so it was ready to bottle this weekend. I was anxious to taste test it and get the final gravity reading too. The beer fermented down to about 1.015 and it tasted really good even uncarbonated. There was a nice balance between the malts and hopping which to my surprise didn't turn this beer into a hop heads dream, instead it had a nice English Ale flavor and aroma with great mouthfeel.

Final Gravity After Two Weeks Was 1.015
This beer will make a very nice addition to the standard fare of hopped up Pale Ales and Lagers, Stouts, Witbiers and Rye Lager beers. It's my first time using White Labs WLP007 - Dry English Ale Yeast™ but it won't be my last, I harvested several mason jars of WLP007 from this initial batch to use later this year when I plan to brew this English Brown Ale again.

English Brown Ale Bottling Sample
Once I finished bottling I rinsed the yeast cake left in the bottom of the fermentor with boiled water that had cooled down to 70F. I poured the water on top of the yeast and trub and stirred it all together using a large sanitized plastic spoon. Then I poured the yeast slurry into a large sanitized pickle jar where I let it sit to stratify the yeast into separate layers. The very top dark layer of beer I then poured off before filling three sanitized mason jars with the remaining slurry.

The Four Distinct Layers Of Washed WLP007
WLP007 is very flocculent and it drops out of your beer very quickly once it's done fermenting. The very bottom layer is comprised of dead yeast cells and trub from the fermentation. The very top layer is made up mostly of beer and the tan layer just below that contains the least flocculent yeast cells. The light creamy layer beneath that contains the most flocculent yeast cells that have settled to the bottom the quickest. I store those two middle layers of yeast in the mason jars in my refrigerator set to 36F and then pitch them as needed into my next starter.

1 comment:

  1. Good time Screwy! Let us know how it turns out. Rebel_B