Parti-Gyle Brewday: Wonmisan Oldboy & Wonmisan Fenian [Cookiejar] Raid

Yesterday was a big day for brewing stuff. Yesterday was the day to transfer Miss Jiwaku’s Old Ale to a keg to bulk age on cherries. That suggested that the optimal way to do it would be to rack the Old Ale onto however many Washington cherries I had on hand (which turned out to be the better part of 3 kilograms).

I was faced with the question of what to do with the yeast cake from her Old Ale. While I realize that the Brett B. might have reproduced more, so that the blend is no longer at the original level of balance, I’m fine with that: I don’t mind if this one comes out a little funkier, or a little less funky.

So I decided that it was time to do two things:

  1. to finally try using my picnic cooler as a mash tun, instead of just as a way of cooling fermenting wort, and
  2. to try another partigyle brew.

If you’re not familiar with parti-gyle, it’s an antiquated tradition wherein brewers would make a very strong beer with the first runnings from a batch of grain; then they would run off the second runnings for a second, milder batch; and then they would run off the remainder or “last runnings” for a “small beer” or “table beer.” It was a way of getting the maximum bang for their buck — or shilling, I suppose — out of a particular pile of grains.

It’s also a pretty sensible method for modern brewers, since, as the excellent Randy Mosher points out, modern homebrewers face comparable challenges to brewers of old, especially how to easily produce a variety of beers in their practice.

The last time I tried parti-gyle, it was insane. I was mashing wort in my brewpot, for starters, which adds a lot of time to the process; secondly, I made the damned fool decision to make three beers, which meant, essentially, I would be boiling wort for hours and hours; thirdly, I capped the mash twice, which meant three hour-long mashes, and also meant an incredibly heavy pot sitting on my stove, which then needed to be emptied out do I could boil the wort.

This was just plain stupid with the equipment and resources I have — or rather, the resources I had. Modestly capping the mash is okay in  large, horizontally-laid out grain bed,  but for one stacked vertically, it’s something to watch out for. Also, there was — and still is, really — there’s no way I can boil more than two five gallon batches at a time if they are significantly different worts — one of my pots has a 5 gallon maximum — so unless I’m doing double batches of something where I’m hopping both batches the same, boiling up 10 gallons of wort at one time is just not feasible for me… Not unless I boil 4 gallons and reserve one gallon, boil it down, and add the remaining, and then count the beginning of the boil from then (and make up the difference with sterile, boiled water at the end).

However, this time around, I had some new tricks up my sleeve, like my new mash tun, but even so I figured I’d experiment with something a little simpler. I settled on producing only two batches of wort — one with a final target of 3 gallons and an OG of about 1.090 prior to adding the adjuncts, and one (after capping the mash with some Special B, some Caramunich, and a healthy helping of oven-roasted oatmeal) with a final target of 5 gallons at what would be 1.060 wort after adding some molasses and sugar as adjuncts.

More details, and how it went, below.

First Runnings: Wonmisan Oldboy (Old Ale)

First off: I’m not a huge fan of the movie Oldboy. I actually like both the other films in the Vengeance Trilogy better. But hey, the name fits. Basically, since Miss Jiwaku’s Old Ale needed to get racked onto about 3 kilos of Washington cherries I’d picked up in the last week, and it had been sitting in a 3 gallon carboy (a little overfull, with no headspace to allow for souring), I decided to rack her Old Ale into a bigger carboy, but then changed my mind and went with a keg. The yeast cake (which is the blend Wyeast 9097), of course, was something I didn’t want to just toss out waste, so I figured I would rack something else that could become an old ale onto it.

(I could have made a Belgian Tripel or Quadrupel, but for the yeast cake I wanted to recycle.)

My one experience with a commercial Old Ale was Theakston’s Old Peculier, which is an interesting beer but, in my experience, had no souring at all. Still, the lightness in color is one I recall, and the flavor was good. So I decided to go for something a little more in that ballpark — maybe not pale, but closer to golden or a light amber than to dark brown.

However, when you are calculating up a recipe for parti-gyle of this sort — two batches, different colors — and working with a limited selection of grains available to you, you need to be careful to make adjustments to both your individual recipe, and the recipe by which you set the base for the whole mash. I adjusted the latter, but not the former, and thus I was surprised a little when my wort ended up a few shades darker than I planned. Live and learn!

The grain bill for the main mash — from which, remember, I took only the first four gallons of runnings (to boil down to 3 gallons of wort) — was as follows:

6.5 kg  American Two-row Pale (75%)
53o grams Barley, Torrefied (6%)
500 grams Quaker Quick Oats (6%)
450 grams Victory Malt (5%)
400 grams Carafoam (5%)
250 grams Special B Malt (3%)
30 grams Black (Patent) Malt (0%)

I did s single infusion mash at about 68°C, which is about the middle-range for mashing and should leave a light snack for the Brett.

I had some trouble measuring the OG, since my hydrometer doesn’t go over 1.060, but I got a result of about 1.049 when I made a solution of 50% wort and 50% water. There was some gunk in the tube, so I have little faith in that measurement. Still, if it’d close, that means I hit about 1.098 or so. I’ll be adding some light Muscovado sugar to the wort as the fermentation progresses — no point in doing it now as it’ll only stress the yeast more than it already is.

For my hop schedule, I kept it simple: 30 grams of Nugget hops for bittering, 15 grams of Kent Goldings at 30 min for flavor, to reach a total of about 55 IBUs (BU:GU of about 0.47, well within the range for old ales, and unlikely to show through as much bitterness, given the immense gravity of the wort).  I’ll dry hop it when it’s closer to the time I’ll be serving it — since I’ll be bulk aging it for months, and not even serving it for six or seven months (I’d wait longer if it was feasible, too) there won’t be any hop aroma left by then anyway… so no point in wasting hops on it now. I figure an ounce of Kent Goldings dry-hopped when the time comes will be adequate, if the beer needs it — that will depend on how aromatically sour it gets, I suppose!

One more thing: this brew was really clear, until I (somewhat stupidly) disturbed the wort, and sent a bunch of stuff into suspension again. There wasn’t that much cold break, but there was a fair amount of hop gunk, and too much of it ended up in the carboy. I’m hoping, though, that this will just give the Brett something else to snack on as it develops — maybe that will work, maybe not. I’ll be clearing the wort with gelatin anyway, when the time comes, but I’m thinking that I’ll let the beer sit on the cake for some time, since after all Brett B. likes to munch on dead yeast as part of its process. Also, I’m hoping this will get a little more sour, and look forward to seeing the pellicle, so keeping it in the carboy seems an interesting experiment.

Second Runnings: Fenian Cookiejar Raid (Oatmeal Stout)

Have you heard of the Fenian Raids? As the story goes, basically, some Irish-Americans “terrorists” tried to invade Canada (or, rather, they attacked British outposts in Canadian territory) through the mid-to-late 1860s in order to pressure Britain to pull out of Ireland. They called themselves the Fenian Brotherhood, hence the name of the raids — and part of the name of this beer.

Meanwhile, oats — and especially oatmeal cakes — were the forerunners both of today’s energy bars and of our long-beloved oatmeal cookies. They were, in fact, a staple food among the English and the Scottish (and, I’m guessing, the Irish too) when the Romans showed up to invade the British Isles. Romans — and, much later, the English, seem to have been all too eager to follow a bad example — insisted that oats, like hay, were for horses, not for people.

The Scots, they knew better. Oats are wonderfully healthy, nourishing, and taste damned good too… well, okay, maybe my oatmeal stout won’t be so healthy, but it will be delicious. In a stout, oats are great for head retention, but also, in larger amounts, you can get a little flavor out of them — at least, if you follow Randy Mosher’s suggestion of roasting some oats in the oven till they smell like oatmeal cookies. Now, I’m not sure whether the fact my oats were pre-gelatinized (they’re quick oats) has anything to do with their non-cookieness. Or maybe I should have soaked them in water first? Anyway, I don’t know whether I’ll get the flavor quality I want, but at least this beer will have good head retention. If it works, then having a pint of this beer will be a little bit like raiding the cookie-jar. If it fails, I’ll have to try again later, that’s all!

So here’s the deal: I took the same mash as above, but with the first runnings already run off. Then I capped the mash very modestly with the following:

420 grams Special B Malt
400 grams Quaker Quick Oats (roasted until cookie-like in aroma/flavor)
220 grams Caramunich I
95 grams of Carafa II (thrown into the mash just at the end, for 10 or 15 minutes, for color without much flavor effect)

… and ran off about 6.5 gallons of wort, which boiled down to about 4.5 gallons in all. I hadn’t intended to boil it down that much, and it was only an hour boil, but I guess what I really need to do is a strict experiment about boiloff rates in that particular pot.

No worries, though: I’ll have a chance to get the wort to the volume I want: I’ll be adding 500 grams of jaggery (unrefined palm sugar of Indian origin) or Indonesian gula (which is similarly unrefined palm sugar, and delicious, but somewhat darker in color and slightly less creamy in texture and flavor) and about 100 grams of molasses (which is all I have on hand) as adjuncts, probably after boiling them down into a thick, two-liter syrup and then thinning it out again slightly. I don’t need to add it later — the wort isn’t so thick as to necessitate stepped feedings — but this boil came at the end of a very long brewday, so I forgot to add the adjuncts during the boil. No matter — it’s fine to add them later on too, as long as I do it before fermentation is finished.

As for mash temperature, that was especially difficult to get right — it’s not like mashing in your brewpot, where you can simply heat it up some — but I was helped along by the fact that I dumped the oatmeal into the pot fresh out of the over, that is, at 160°C: the oats hissed and crackled as I mixed them into the mash. I’m hoping, since the oats were only lightly toasted, that not many rough volatiles ended up in the wort. Finally, I stabilized it at about 68 or 70°C, which was what I wanted: to denature some of the enzymes and get a slightly sweeter wort. We’ll see how well that worked out: definitely, having the fermenter properly cooled will help keep the fermentation a little more controlled.

The hopping was very simple — 25 IBUs worth of Cascade at first wort. The bitterness will not be a big player in this beer, as it rarely is in a stout, it’s mostly just about balancing the beer a little. I went with Cascade because I felt like using leaf hops for once, and because, hey, it’s a Fenian stout not just because of the Irish Ale yeast (Wyeast 1084), but also because I figured I’d try something a touch more American… so why not go with the most popular hop in the US? Besides that, I figured that not much flavor would get locked in, since it got to a boil pretty soon after I added the hops to the warm, but not hot, wort. If there is a little citrus, I can live with it — I put orange peels into the last stout I made alone and it came through pretty nicely. It may even balance out the probably-lacking oatmeal cookie flavor I was banking on.

That’s it — the great big parti-gyle plan I carried out yesterday.


For what it’s worth, the recipes I worked off are here:

New Mash Tun

All this was facilitated by one thing: I tried out my cooler as a mash tun. I basically did a riff on this mash tun concept, posted by the inimitable ghohn. The concept marries the best of two systems — brew in a bag (BIAB), which allows for filtration, and using a cooler as a mash tun, which allows all kinds of good things:

  1. Helps the mash maintain temperature, as it’s in an effective cooler. Which means no having to go back and check the temperature every twenty or thirty minutes. I even managed to hit very close to the target mash temp for the first and the second mash on the parti-gyle.
  2. The cheesecloth liner helps filter the wort — I’ve never seen clearer wort than I’m seeing today!
  3. Not having to use your boil pot as a mash tun, which means a lot more cleaning up pre-boil, and simply adds more time and steps to the process. Usually, I had to mash, runoff and sparge into a bucket, clean out and wash the MLT and then use it as a boil pot. No more: now I can run the wort off and start the boil, and then go and clean out the mash tun.

For those following along at home, I have a big cheese cloth sitting as a liner. Under the cheesecloth is a braided stainless steel hose that I’ve gutted, and I worked a length of beer hose through the cooler’s outlet. It’s easy to disassemble, though I see little point in disassembling the hose part — I’ll just remove the stainless steel hose and clamp the rubber hose outside the cooler. After all, when I’m using it to cool fermentation vessels, I leave the cooler open anyway, so it’s not like I’ll be absorbing much more heat through the clamped hose anyway!

Anyway, I’ll try update with some pictures of the system when I get a chance.

UPDATE (10 July 2011): Well, both batches were bubbling nicely within 18 hours of pitching — I think more like within 12 hours, but I I only noticed it within 18 hours.

Despite its filling up only 2/3rds of the 3 gallon carboy (which looks like about 2.5 gallons, not including headspace) the Old Ale developed so much krausen and so much pressure that I had to attach a blowoff tube to the carboy cap. Maybe it’s because I allowed the fermentation temperature to rise to approximately 20°C (ambient water temp) — but then, that’s listed as the bottom of that yeast blend’s range, so… well, there you are.

The Stout is sharing a cooler with the apple cider, and I have kept it overly cool. I need to let that cooler ramp up slowly, as it’s been sitting at around 15-16°C and this temperature not only is inhibiting the apple cider yeast from attenuating completely — it restarts when I let it warm up, and tapers off when I cool it — but also is below the optimal range for the stout. I think 18-19°C is where I’ll let them both end at, so that I can keg the apple cider and let the stout ferment a little fruitier.

There are some photos of the brew session (and the new mash tun) here.

I think tomorrow afternoon, I’ll add the sugars (molasses, and probably some demerara I discovered I have on hand, and some jaggery) to the stout. I’ll leave it a little longer for the Old Ale, as it’s a much higher gravity wort right now, and I’d like to add this once the yeast have chewed through some of what’s there already. Then I can add a little yeast energizer or something, if it’s called for.

UDPATE (13 August 2011): Wow, I didn’t realize I’d left this beer in the carboy quite that long. I was a little worried when I looked at the Fenian Raid, as there was some residue floating on the top, but I was doubtful that it could be an infection, given how careful I was about sanitation. I asked Miss Jiwaku to sniff it, and she agreed there was no strange smell, so I racked it to a keg. (Which means I cannot rack my apple cider to the keg until another one is kicked… I hope that’s soon!)

In the meantime, the stout is quite dry, having fermented down to 1.006 — meaning this is a 7.2% ABV stout. It’s not as richly complex as Miss Jiwaku’s oatmeal stout — at least not warm and uncarbonated — and the roasted oatmeal cookie flavor didn’t come through — I’m guessing I’d need more of it, and all of it roasted more thoroughly and longer — but it’s going to be a fine dry Irish Stout. Indeed, at this degree of driness, I’m tempted, as I often am, to try funk it up with a little Brettanomyces. But I think I’ll save that for Oldboy and for one other batch of beer — I’m not sure which, maybe a Saison or maybe one of the Abbey ales I’ll be brewing up in the next few weeks.

As for the Oldboy, it’s still sitting in my little 3 gallon mad-scientist carboy, and will be for the forseeable future. I figure among other things, it’s a useful comparison to see how sour this one gets (with a plastic carboy cap on glass) versus Miss Jiwaku’s Old Ale, which is aging in a carboy that we open up every few weeks or so. I checked on it today, and it’s got a rich brown color, little or no aroma — though I was sniffing for off-aromas, and I’m not as sensitive as Miss Jiwaku — and seems to be doing fine, with the primary yeast having flocculated completely, and the Brett now working. (But I didn’t see a pellicle, though that’s no big deal, I think.)

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