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Brewday: Abbey Wheat

Today is another brewday. I don’t tend to brew during the week, but I wanted to get this going before leaving on a short trip this weekend.

I am basing my recipe on the Abbey Weiss by Jon Sharp, posted here (and it really does look delicious there, and beautiful… I can only aspire to something as gorgeous as the beer in his picture). The two changes I went with were to include about 250 grams of Quaker Instant Oats, and first wort hopping. (I also considered using a Chrysanthemum tea instead of Chamomile, since I’d like to see how that flavor would play out in a beer, but reconsidered since we were going out anyway and could pick up some chamomile without any problem. I did see some “floral tea” though, that really piqued my interest. Next Belgian ale that isn’t my Dubbel, I’m thinking I’m going to nab some of that floral tea and see what it can contribute!)

There’s also a longer boil, but the only reason I did that was because I forgot to put in my wort chiller, and ended up fooling around with the connections before putting it in, and then wanted to boil it long enough to sterilize it.

In any case, my version of Jon’s recipe is here.

Oh, and one more thing: I mashed it quite a lot longer than Mr. Sharp did. I intended to do so for 90 minutes, but it ended up being even longer, something in the neighborhood of  120 minutes (though I think more like 100 or 105 minutes in reality). I don’t know if that will have much effect, but the wort  looked pretty much like it did with my Fire Ale, and that’s extremely clear now, so you never know!

I have a starter of Belgian Abbey I (Wyeast 1214) and I am eager to pitch it as I believe I’ve stepped it up quite enough by now, which is why I bothered to mash anything at all this morning, even despite having an orientation in the afternoon and an appointment to go out for dinner this evening.

As for the mash procedure, well, finally, I nailed the dough-in temperature, and kept the mash within a degree of the temp specified all the way through. Despite it being a mash with oats and wheat — two huskless grains — I had no problem getting the mash to drain (no stuck mash!), and sparging went fine too, except I think I used too little sparge water. (There was a lot of bubbly, sugary goodness at the top of the grains despite my having sparged heavily. Ah well, we’ll see what my efficiency turns out to be. (I will be making an effort to figure it out this time, once I’ve boiled the wort down, that is.)

One interesting thing that happened was that I ended up leaving the post-mash, pre-boiled wort in a bucket for a good eight hours before boiling it. I don’t know what effect this kind of treatment has, but I do know that a lot of solids precipitated into the bottom of the bucket. The thing is, I wasn’t sure how much of those solids were sugars (good stuff!), as opposed clumpy proteins and fats (bad stuff!). I’ve read that some breweries actually treat their wort this way, and now I’m wondering what the uses of this kind of “settling out” would be in homebrewing. I ended up dumping it in, this time, but I seriously considered reserving that stuff, and using it to krausen the batch later on, or for some other purpose. (Like as a substitute for water in the bread machine, for which it is quite suited, having a bunch of nice sugar dissolved into it already and all that.)

I don’t know whether the beer will actually be so Trappist as all that, but I am hoping the Belgian Abbey I yeast (Wyeast 1214) will contribute some of its estery goodness to the beer, bringing some of the characteristics we also happen to expect from a good Bavarian weizen. If I can get both bubblegum and banana, as well as some kind of stone-fruity flavor esters, I’ll be very happy.

I’ll also be harvesting the yeast from this cake, and likely washing it next week so I can pitch it cleanly into something else — likely the second attempt at the (smallish) Dubbel I have in secondary right now, fermented with the wrong yeast. I’ll keep the rest in reserve in case I decide to try another Belgian ale of some kind, or in case someone else in the Korean brewing scene expresses an interest in the stuff.

And yeah, three brews in a week is a kind of record for me. I have to admit, it’s more than I feel comfortable with, but I had a lot of brewing to make up for, since I did nothing in the summertime and have a lot of stuff to use up. And there’s a “Brew Your Best!” Fest in late November, to which I’d like to bring a few nice brews, in contrast to the one weird sour ale I brought to the last event.

Though, speaking of that, I am thinking about branching off and doing something more easily bottled next week… maybe an IPA that’d be ready to bottle in a couple of weeks? I don’t think my carboy capacity is going to tolerate one more long-secondary brew.

In the meantime, I’ve got the smaller 1 Gallon wine bottles, and am thinking of a few experimental brews: a Saison, maybe some smaller all-Brett thing. I could also do a mead or a braggot or something, though they also take considerable time to condition to peak drinkability. I’ve also been thinking in another direction: some kind of gruit, or another wheat beer–this one, with fruit added, specifically some of those 홍시, which are the persimmons that get really soft and squishy. Apparently people used to brew grainless “beer” with them–apparently it was a common drink for African slaves in America, for example–and more recent brewers have done things with persimmons that sound great. I figure a few liters of persimmon wine ain’t a bad place to start, and a persimmon beer wouldn’t be far behind, I’m betting.

But for now, I have other stuff to do… like planning classes, sleeping, writing, submitting work to my writing critique group. Which I realize now I haven’t mentioned here. So… yes, brewing shall have to tale a backseat soon. But it was going to have to anyway: I only have so many carboys for secondary fermenations anyway!

UPDATE: Well, this is disappointing, for such a long mash: my OG is 1.052, which gives me a brewhouse efficiency of… 63%. Owch! (Ooops. I forgot to factor in the volume of wort. I ended up with not 18.9L, but 21L. Which means my efficiency is probably more like 69-70%. Not so bad. I oversparged, obviously, but probably also mashed it too thin. Must start measuring my mash water and sparge water more carefully, I think. (I mostly just eyeball it, and while I knew it put too much water into the sparge water pot, it was too late as I’d already put too much water into the mash, leaving me too little to sparge with.)

I know that part of that, at least, is due to the crush of the grain (which is not great; the shop where I ordered it forgot to crush it, and I ended up having to take it to the local mill, where conditions were a little less than perfect). But I’m curious what else might be contributing to such low efficiency. I guess I’ll have to research the subject a bit!

But I can say I’m happy with having skimmed the scum off the top. It’s the first time I’ve done that, and that stuff is nasty looking when you let it cool… I surely didn’t want all that in my fermenter!

Update (9 Nov. 2010): FG 1.010, like every beer I’ve brewed lately! It was a little bland but had a strange smell, which is apparently characteristic of the yeast as when I cleaned the carboy, I was hit with a faceful of that same odor. Hoping it will dissipate during bottle conditioning. Bottled half the batch, and the other half was racked into two containers containing fruit — 1 gallon of beer onto a kilo of defrosted “bokbunja” (unpasteurized) and the rest (about  a gallon, maybe 1.5 or so) onto about 2 kilos of pasteurized “hongshi” which are overripe, soft, seedless persimmons. Using soju fruit-inoculation vessels for this purpose, and will rack the beer off the fruit into wine jugs for clearing once they’ve sat long enough. A kilo of bokbunja may have been overkill, as it looks like a gallon of blackberry juice; meanwhile, I’m nervous about the layer of persimmon pulp that has floated to the top of the persimmon sub-batch, and will be spooning it off tomorrow morning if it hasn’t sunk by then. No idea whether persimmon will impart much, but would rather play it safe and get rid of whatever might prevent a good refermentation.

Update (18 Oct. 2011):

Wow, my first sour beer and I didn’t even document the process.

Well, let’s see, I left off just as I had racked half of this batch of wheat beer onto two different fruits — a gallon and a half onto hongshi (soft persimmons) and a gallon or so onto bokbunja (wild black raspberries). Here’s where things get a little fuzzy and muddled, because I didn’t take notes; but the essentials are that I set both out in my closet on the balcony and they sat out in cold weather. I didn’t know enough to know that one should usually rack off the fruit after a period of time (like, a few weeks) so instead I just went ahead and left them.

The persimmon wheat got bottled in April, right off the  fruit. (Which leaves me, now, with one bottle that has some fruit detritus at the bottom, which really sucks, but that’s life.) It didn’t get infected or soured, though it did develop a kind of sour tang — I’m guessing it might have been some interaction of the wheat tanginess with a touch of astringency from the skin of the persimmon fruit or something. Like the rest of the batch, it poured hazy, but with a light orange-golden hue to it, and the persimmon character was very mild.

I don’t seem to have any photos of the persimmoned wheat beer, so when I do open up the last bottle and pour, I’ll try be careful about it and get a nice shot, sans detritus. Then again, I’m thinking of brewing another batch of the stuff, so maybe the care and caution aren’t necessary…

The bokbunja wheat is a different story. It very quickly developed an infection, probably because I didn’t pasteurize the raspberries (and, truth be told, I probably added too much of them). Within a short while, fermentation restarted as expected… but then, not quite as expected, I discovered that a whitish pellicle had formed on the surface of the beer. Instead of panicking, I just left it on the fruit, and a few months later, I tasted it. (After all, if it had turned to fruity vinegar, I might still have a use for it, but I wouldn’t want to leave it there.) In fact, it didn’t taste like vinegar at all, nor like anything else bad. It was a little tangy, but then, the berries are tangy, so I didn’t know what to make of it. I decided to let it sour, and see  what happened.

So I set inside a box in the attic and it’s still there; I’ve tried to just forget about it except to occasionally go up and top up the airlock with a little vodka. Sometime during the winter, I read up on sour beers and especially on the observation that a combination of bottle-dregs and commercially-available cultures tend to get the best results, but of course, I didn’t have any bottles the dregs of which I could pour in, so instead I dumped some Brett C. from the All-Brett beer I brewed last year. Then I left it… and left it… and left it…

This is the result so far:

The beer is now over a year old, and in fact will have been on the fruit a whole year on the 9th of November. I’m thinking about taking a taste sample of it then, and if I like it, dropping it into a bottle and carbing it up. Then again, another part of me feels a serious temptation to leave it another six months before bottling it. When I took those pictures — in fact just the other night — it had a musty aroma, but nothing fungal or off-putting. I guess we’ll see, is the best I can say right now. If, in November, it turns out to be a brew worth drinking, I’ll probably use a sanitized scoop to get out as much of the fruit as I can, and then drop a gallon or so of my Shiktakju or my Saison onto it, to see how one of those taste when soured. (As I imagine six months will be enough to get a nice funky-souring effect.)

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