Saturday, December 20, 2008

Smoked Helles and Brewday Slideshow

It occurred to me that maybe one of the 2 or 3 people who check out this blog might be interested to see my brewing setup in action, and for me to explain my typical brewing process. There are many sites, including How To Brew, that go much deeper into a textbook brew day, but I think my setup and techniques may help certain brewers, especially those new to all-grain brewing, or those who want to brew all-grain, but don't have the luxury of outdoor space to do so. I've really tried to concentrate on simple, low-tech equipment that does not sacrifice beer quality or consistency.

So I'll take you through a slide show of my smoked helles brewday.
To see the commentary, click "show info" in the upper right-hand corner.

The inspiration for the smoked helles recipe was a commercial beer. If you have never had the Schlenkerla smoked helles, you should seek it out, because it's amazing. I have only seen it on draft in NYC and Philly. This beer is so wonderfully, subtly smokey, that even people like me who usually don't like smoked beers should try it. This is a true session beer with just enough smoke to make you think of food, and go back for another pint. I wanted to try a beer like this, and maybe even give it a little more smoke than Schlenkerla's version (although not near the level of smoke found in their darker beers).

I had never done a beer with smoked malt, so I wanted to get a little input from the pope - Jamil Zainacheff. He recommended that I shoot for 7-10% Rauchmalt for a very subtle flavor. I was going to try 10%, but when I was tasting this grain, it was just so good to eat, I decided to take it up to 17% of the total grain. I figured if it was too smokey for a helles, I could blend in a small amount of my upcoming Schwarzbier and just call it a rauchbier. And it is definitely smokier than the Schlenkerla version, I tried it when I transferred it from the primary to a keg. But it tastes great, and I can't wait to try it in a month when it's fully lagered and carbonatated.

Smoked Munich Helles
Recipe is for 6.2 gallons post-boil, all-grain
O.G. 1.049 F.G. 1.012 IBU's 20

8 lb, 6 oz. Durst Pils malt
1 lb. 12 oz. Rauchmalt
2 oz. aromatic malt

25 gr. German Tradition pellets 5.7% 60 min.

Mash: 3.75 gallons water, no mineral additions.
Mash in to 151. Checked pH at 15 minutes: about 5.3
One hour at 151, followed by a mash out to 170 over 15 minutes.

Sparged with 5 gallons at 170. Collected 7.1 gallons at 1.044 = 79% efficiency.

Boil 90 minutes, hops at 60, whirlfloc at 15, 1/2 tsp. Wyeast nutrient at 10 min.

Chilled (see slide show) to 54 and racked to carboy, aerated by hand for 10 min.

Pitched the yeast: A decanted, 3 liter starter of Whitelabs 830 made on a stirplate.

Fermented for 2 weeks at 52, racked to keg on 1/4/09.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

JZ's Dubbel

This one is pretty much straight outa Brewing Classic Styles, with appropriate hop substitutions (JZ uses Tettnang, I used Tradition), and I substituted 1 pound of wheat for pilsner. I'm still trying to work my way through that damn bag of wheat malt that has the occasional kernel of roasted malt in it, so this was a good chance.

The brewday was totally smooth, I ended up 2 points high on the gravity and that's fine with me.

Recipe is for 6 gallons AG, post boil. 5.25 in the fermenter.
O.G. 1.066 F.G 1.013 ABV 7% IBU's 23

8 lb. Durst Pils malt
1 lb. Munich malt
1 lb. wheat malt
.5 lb aromatic malt
.5 lb. caramunich 60L
.5 lb. Special B

.75 lb. Belgian dark candi syrup (D1)
.5 lb. corn sugar

8 gr. Perle pellets 5.7% 60 min
21 gr. Hallertauer Tradition pellets 5.7% 60 min

Mash in 3.75 gallons of water at 149 for 85 minutes,
Raised to 170 over 15 minutes

Sparged with 5 gallons at 170
Collected 7 gallons at 1.050 (before sugar) = 81% efficiency.

Boil: 90 minutes, hops as noted
whirlfloc at 15, 1/2 tsp. Wyeast nutrient at 10 min.

Chilled to 68, racked to a carboy, and pitched a 1 liter starter of White Labs 530 Abbey yeast (made on a stirplate).
Aerated for 8 minutes by hand.

Fermentation stayed around 68 degrees, occasionally creeping up to 70 before I knocked it back down. Racked to keg on 12/23/08.

This ended up being a pretty nice beer, very clean with some subtle fruity/malty flavors. It was a little lacking in aroma, and I think it would benefit from a higher fermentation temp, and possibly playing around with the specialty malts and sugars to increase the fruity/malty qualities a bit. I'm not really sure how Jamil manages to make this recipe taste "Belgian" enough, because he ramps the fermentation from a frigid 62 to 70 and tops out there. If I could only change one thing, I would get this beer up to at least 72 during the last third of fermentation. I really liked the aroma of the WLP 530 yeast. Much less banana character than WLP 500.

Ray, Clarissa, and I sat down and tried this beer next to some commercial Belgian dubbels: Affligem, Rochefort 8, and Westmalle. Affligem was the clear winner, with a wonderful aroma of cherry and port, with a dry finish. Westmalle was to pruny, almost like a doppelbock, and the alcohol was too hot, but maybe it just needed some age. It was better as it warmed. The Rochefort was the worst, with a cloudy murky appearance, and a dominant aroma of nail polish remover (acetone). My beer fell somewhere in the middle, there was a nutty finish that I didn't really like that may have come from the malts, or maybe it was a little bit funky or something...not really sure.