Miss Jiwaku’s Holiday Stout / Holiday Old Ale

So Miss Jiwaku is taking a holiday from work, after leaving her last job. She said she wanted to try do at least one new thing a week, and I suggested that while she’s seen me brew up beers for a while now, she’s never done it herself. Why not try brewing a beer?

We talked a bit about possible styles and flavors and so on, and she settled upon a stout. At which point I started formulating the recipe, and figured that given her love of lightly and strongly soured beers alike (she’s crazy about Duchess de Bourgogne and Orval), we could scale up the recipe a bit (to about 8 gallons) and produce an old ale on the side, and see what she makes of that style.

(I think we might even manage to make a third beer, of a very low gravity, off the spent grains, if I bother with the third runnings. And we may well do so, since, why not? It’s easy enough to get a brown ale of some kind out of this grist, and Miss Jiwaku likes the brown ale… In any case, it’s a big old grist, and the mash is full almost to the top of my MLT, so it should be an interesting, if also somewhat involved, process of sparging and lautering.

The mash is at 72°C, which is at the upper end of the range, so we’re expecting a sweet beer with lots of complex, “unfermentable” sugars, and the flaked corn and flaked oats should contribute a certain amount of protein, while will lead to a rich and silky sweetness in the stout, and meanwhile will give the Brettanomyces in the old ale a lot to chew on.

We’re going to split the batches, going with ~2.5 gallons of old ale and 5.5 gallons of stout, and use a cooler with water and frozen bottles of tap water to regulate the temperature to a nice calm 15-16°C during primary fermentation. The stout should be ready to “secondary” in the keg and begin conditioning in at most a week, while the Old Ale, we’ll probably bottle in the late fall and start tasting at first snowfall. I’m not sure how I’ll keep it cool in the summer, when I’ll be trying to get other kegs into the cooler. But then, maybe the brett won’t mind a little higher temperatures… I’ve not yet researched how serious temperature controls are for Brett in secondary fermentation.

Anyway, for those interested in the recipe, it’s here. I had to do a little tinkering, having overestimated how much chocolate malt and oats I had on hand, for example. (It was originally supposed to include 1.5 kilos of oats, and .350 kg of chocolate malt. I ended up with only 0.5 kg of oats to spare, and 0.260 kg of chocolate malt on hand, so I threw in a little Carafa III and gave Miss Jiwaku a choice among other adjuncts that might boost the OG and darken the beer. She decided she wanted to go with dark date honey and molasses, which I think is a good call and which I hope will add to the complexity of the stout and old ale.

By the way, it was a LONG brewday and Miss Jiwaku is, at present, somewhat convinced that brewing is not her thing. Maybe we should have made a single batch of something more, er, petite? Ah well… live and learn. I will try get her to make a smaller brew, maybe a Saison or a Wit, someday.

As for my own brewing… 

I’m thinking about one more sour beer for the year, and since “the year” for us ends in February or at the very latest March, it probably won’t be all that sour. 8 months isn’t such a long time. But I can try get something with a bit of funky, sour character to it, or at least something with a touch of that same made (yeast) genius that makes Orval such an amazing beer.

I have a considerable number of yeasts sitting around, and am starting to get down to a selection of grains and adjuncts which leaves me being very specific in my choices of recipe. I crafted a bunch of recipes over the winter break, ordered grains to fit those recipes exactly (okay, with a little leeway); now I’m getting low on specialty grains and will probably start focusing on yeast experiments to carry me through to the end of the year.

Which shouldn’t be hard: there’s a ton of yeast and it’s all interesting. I may not be able to make a lambic, but I have lambic yeasts and they can surely do interesting things in a secondary, even just after six months; same thing with the Roselare yeast I have — I don’t have 18 months to get a nice Flanders Red done, but I can certainly throw that yeast pack into a secondary and get something interesting done! I’ll be doing some brewing with those in late June and early July, which is to say, I will suddenly have a few kegs tied up indefinitely by about August. I’ll also be in a big hurry to use up some yeasts that have sat in the fridge a long time, and which will probably go dead if I leave them too long.

Brewing; writing; exercising: those are my plans for the summer. Lucky you, whoever you are who’ll be around to help us kill off these kegs in January/February!

UPDATE (8 June 2011): Well, we finally have some airlock activity on the Stout, and I can see a little krausening beginning on the Old Ale. This lag time may be attributed to the fact that we didn’t make a starter, or maybe there was insufficient aeration, though I have, about every 12 hours or so since pitching the yeast, shaken both fermenters vigorously.

By the way, they’re now comfortably sitting in a cooler full of water, with ice bottles being swapped in about every 12 hours or so as well. The ice and the water evaporation are keeping the fermenters at around 19-20°C; while room temperature is not usually indicative of the temperature inside a fermenter, I’ve read that in a setup like this, the temperature of the ambient water bath is in fact pretty close to the temperature inside the fermenter, as any heat from fermentation activity bleeds out into the water bath more quickly than into the air.

This suggests these two beers are the coolest fermentations ever conducted inside our apartment, which was one reason why I didn’t panic at the lag time, but I was ready to when we were heading home this evening: Monday was a long day of work, and it’s been approximately 48 hours since we pitched the yeast. But all is well, or so it seems. If the fermentation goes nice and slow and steady, so much the better — as long as it actually goes.

I am not sure what we’ll do with the temperature as this progresses — the Old Ale will probably get moved to a slightly warmer water bath, if possible, but the Stout is likelier to stay around the same temperature, or get lowered, as fermentation progresses towards completion.

UPDATE 3 Feb 2012: Well, there is — at most — a gallon of the stout left on hand, but today I finally bottled the Old Ale, so that I could rack my Wonmisan Sour Pale Ale onto the cherries/dregs. The Old Ale portion finished out at about 1.005, but still has just enough sweetness to balance the heavy sourness and the vague hint of bright funk. I can’t taste cherries in it, but I do get a bit of tannin, which I am guessing is from the fruit, as well as a tinge of redness in the beer. (Not much, but then, this beer started out pretty dark.) I’m hoping more funk develops over time. I reyeasted the bottles with a few drops each of Bavarian Ale yeast, which was so characterless in the Super Sekrit ale I made with Rowan that I figured it can’t hurt this beer. (And that way we don’t have to wait six months for the Brett to carbonate the bottles.)

Today was also the first time I used my Colonna Capper, and I have to say, I like it. It has a little trick to it — you have to hold the bottle straight when pushing the lever down — but otherwise it’s easy to use and worked well.

Now I just need to remember that the big 1L bottles are the least likely to clear up, and that I should open them a bit warm.

I’ll update with photos of both beers side by side (the photos, probably not the beers) when it’s possible.

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