Brewday Bonus: For the Nonce ESB(?)

“And that he calls for drink, I’ll have prepared for him a chalice for the nonce…” (King Claudius to Laertes, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene VII)

“For the nonce” is a phrase that’s stuck in my head since I first encountered it in Hamlet — not constantly, but it’s a phrase that occurs to me at times, usually when I cannot use it. It was one of those unfamiliar phrases I needed to have explained to me, and when it was explained, I wondered where the hell he’d gotten that word. Turns out there’s a complex etymology behind it, but one suited for this brew.

“For the nonce” of course means “for the occasion” in Shakespeare: it has nothing to do with the UK prison slang meaning of the word mentioned in that link, nor do I intend such a meaning.

This beer is “for the nonce” for two reasons: one is that I’m hoping it will be ready to bring to our brewfest in May. The other reason is that I decided to make it simply because today was a special occasion. The occasion was that I had mashed my Tripel IPA and realized there would be some extra sugar in the wort, plus some grainy goodness from a few speciality grains in the recipe. I figured I may as well soak up all the goodness I can from those, so I decided to add a little more grain, extend into a second mash, and use the capped second runnings to brew a second beer.

A few of the guys on my brewing board have been discussing a few British styles I’ve never tried many of (though I have had one or two and thought them fine). A quick bit of research suggested that the wort might be a touch dark, but that the maltiness, strength (when capped with some adjunct) and so on might just work.

So I quickly formulated a recipe for the occasion, and I’m going to stay up a bit late to boil this up and pitch it. I may end up with more than 5 gallons, which normally wouldn’t be a problem since I have several buckets and carboys, but I don’t feel like racking my Saison to a carboy till tomorrow. I may be able to boil it down to the point where it fits into a carboy, but if not, I’ll be putting a gallon into a separate jug and fermenting it with an alternate yeast. I figured the (theoretical) fruity esteriness of Cry Havoc, when used at a higher temperature, would add a nice character to this beer, but if I have a one-gallon jug as well, I’ll probably pitch some Safale S-04 and see what I think of it.

I figure chances are it probably won’t be a great exemplar of the style — not that I’ll really know the difference, but I will share it and see what I got wrong from others’ comments –but it probably will be a tasty treat nonetheless, and what’s more, it only cost me a little bit (some time, some energy, plus a kilo and a bit of sugar and a kilo and a bit of grain — so maybe the equivalent of $20 more) for that extra five gallons or so of beer. Which also suggests to me that all those double-batches I have planned could easily become triple batches–yielding beers of great variety–with a little imagination and preparation.

I’m not particularly worried about faithfulness to the style, anyway, though I am interested in trying a lot of different kinds of beer to see what I’m missing out on in terms of different flavors and so on that could fit into the palette of flavors I work with. It’s a cool experiment.

In any case, the recipe I linked is an approximation: in reality, all I did was cap the mash for my Tripel IPA with a hundred grams of Caramunich, a hundred grams of aromatic malt, and a kilo of munich (because it was the only base malt I had any of in crushed form) and then mashed another five-and-a-bit gallons of water. The kilo and a half of Pale Malt I included in the recipe is actually just the conglomeration of the rest of what was already in the mash, but largely spent. (I matched up the gravity reading to that much malt and went ahead with the rest.) I’m about to boil it, and when I do I’ll add some table sugar and some jaggery (Indian sugar) to the boil. Some Pride of Ringwood and East KEnt Goldings hops complete the recipe, along with the yeasts mentioned above.

I’ll be sure to post a pic and comments on how it turned out… something I’ve been neglectful of doing, though it’s an oversight I plan on addressing. I have pics, and lots to say… it’s the time I lack.

UPDATE (26 April 2011): The Cry Havoc yeast has been quite sulfuric the last few days, and has now settled into a thick, bubbly mass on the top of the beer. There’s still yeast rafts floating up and down, and the airlock activity is still going, but it’s weird… or maybe I just don’t brew in carboys enough anymore to recognize this stage, I don’t know. Anyway, I hope the beer comes out as delicious as the fermentation has been stinky!

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