Rye Brewday: Wonmisan Kvass

Yesterday, I managed to bottle a couple of batches that I suppose couldn’t be more like night and day: a batch of Berliner Weisse (about 2-3% alcohol, a gorgeous blonde color, and somewhat sweetish sour — though less sour than I expected given how much of the sugar was converted to lactic acid) and a batch of dubbel (~7% alcohol, brownish-black in color, and very dry yet also flavorful).

The dubbel went into 500ml bottles, and the Berliner Weisse (which would have been a perfect keg beer, if I had kegs) went into 1L bottles, including a number of plastic ones since I don’t expect it to last too long.

Though I need to brew up a Saison to pitch onto the yeast cake I have sitting there, I’ve been short on time so I went ahead and mashed a  Kvass tonight… with the goal of having it bottled by Friday and drinkable by Sunday, I guess it was a bad idea to fall asleep on Tuesday night before I could boil the wort, huh?

But I’ve boiled it this morning, and it’s on the way to the fermentation vessels. (Just cooling now.) I had a rye loaf sitting out in the cold closet on the balcony for a few weeks, and it kept up quite well, so after checking it over carefully (it was quite close to mold free, and I removed the occasional spots I found) I tore it up and put it into a grain bag.

Into a second grain bag, I put a mere 500 grams of pilsner malt and 300 grams of rye malt, mashed it (advertently, overnight), and boiled it up with a mere 5 grams of Fuggles (added at first wort), 4 grams of caraway seed, and 5 grams of juniper berries.

I missed my target volume of about 10 L, but not by much, so I went ahead and splitting the batch, not quite down the middle, with about 3.5L fermenting with bread yeast, and 5.5L fermenting with some of the Weihanstephan weisse yeast I’ve had handy. Weihanstephan, when stressed (as I plan to do to it in a day or two, with some heat applied to it), produces a banana character that is within style for a kvass (so I’ve read), and I’d like to see how the yeast character affects the final product.

As for bottling, it’s a bit crazy but I’ll be bottling it late Friday or very early Saturday. It gets bottled while still working through the primary fermentation, so that is how it gets carbonated… as far as I understand, one does not add priming sugar. This means one cannot quite control how carbonated it gets, so I’ll be relying on plastic bottles for at least some of it, and wrapping up the non-plastic ones in a towel, in a trash bag, in a box, to prevent injuries if it ends up exploding.

If this turns out, I may well do a bigger batch (maybe 2.5-3 gallons?) of a darker kvass, still of low-alcohol but with a slightly richer, molasses-type flavor added in (and maybe a little honey). However, I will let it ferment out before bottling, so that I can add priming sugar and make sure of how carbed-up it will get. While I’m still very interested in Belgian beer, I think making lower-gravity table beers is a nice complement to that, giving more options in terms of what we can enjoy on any given day or at any given time, as opposed to a dubbel or tripel that one is likelier to have occasionally, and savour. I also must add that making smaller batches is quite pleasing in that, despite the fact that a particularly successful batch runs out quicker, you also get a sense for how the recipe works, and can also brew a wider variety of things with the same equipment and resources.

In any case, it looks like tomorrow will be the day to brew up a Saison, and rack my current Saison to secondary. In the meantime, I have other things to do, so off I go to do those!

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