Student Brewday: CUK APA / CUK Saison

Note: I am days behind on this post: it was written on Sunday. So all the yesterdays refer to Saturday, 8 October.


Well, yesterday was a long day. In addition to both moving our new fridge and our new washing machine into the apartment (the fridge in the morning, and the washer at night), and moving my old fridge out to the common room (so I can clean it this afternoon, and start using it for yeast/bottle storage, starters, and lagering), I also hosted a brewday with my students.

The brewing part of the day started at 10:00am, and concluded at around 8:00pm. This was in part the result of a miscalculation or two on my part. For one thing, it was the first time I’d mashed such a small grain bill (4.5 kilos of grain) in my big igloo cooler. The thing I’d forgotten is that with such a big headspace, heat loss was inevitable. We raised the temp three or four times, so that the mash was finally a bit thin, and still struggled to get the temp above 62°C.

But finally, an iodine test came out positive, so we ran off 20L of first runnings. Then we did a batch sparge and got about another 27L of second runnings.

By this time, a couple of the people who’d come first had left (with the exception of one student who stayed until the end), but several others had showed up, to help with the vorlauf and with the batch sparge, as well as sanitizing the sterilized fermenters.

After that, we blended the first and “second” runnings, basically putting a little under 75% of the first runnings into the APA, and 25% into the Saison, with the second runnings making up the difference in each. (It was actually 14L of first runnings into the APA, and 6L of first runnings into the Saison.) This was basically estimation, based on the gravity reading we got for the first runnings, and our goals based on ABV, but I was guesstimating. (Happily, I guesstimated well.)

I think we got the boil started on the American Pale Ale by much later in the afternoon than I’d planned, and the Saison about half an hour later, but there was a second miscalculation: I’d assumed my immersion heater would bring the water in my new aluminium pot to a boil within a half hour, but 50L of water takes more energy than that — it got pretty hot, but never boiled. Having been unable to perform a boil in the pot, I knew it was lacking a layer of aluminium oxide, and so was hesitant to use it. Instead, we started boiling the Saison wort in my small 5-gallon brewpot, and settled for a vigorous boil with the immersion heater and gas range both on, and periodic additions of more Saison wort when some boiled away.

In the end, we chilled the APA by, I think, 6pm, but couldn’t chill the Saison till about 7:30pm, after the last wort addition and final hour of boil. The one student who hung around till the end was a kind and generous soul, and we had a pretty good talk about the insanity she’s experienced at the hands of university administration. (Nightmarish, really.)

The APA was bittered with Galena, and received generous late-hopping of Willamette and Cascade; I will be kegging it with students in a couple of weeks, and then dry-hopping it with more Cascade once it’s cleared. It should be extremely hoppy by serving time. The Caramunich we steeped in the first runnings gave it a darker and more caramely aroma, which I hope also translates to something of the same in the final product.

As for the Saison, it was a gorgeous wort. The equal mixture of Vienna, Munich, and Pilsner malts gave it a golden hue with just the slightest hint of copperiness, and it had a startling, bright sweetness, probably accented by the small addition of chrysanthemum and dried lemongrass, and the much larger addition of of kaffir lime leaf, at flameout. The hopping was simple: 20 grams of Hallertau Tradition at first wort, which ought to have given us somewhere between 15 and 17 IBUs. (The AA% was higher on these particular hops, but they’d also sat at room temperature at the brewshop for who knows how long.) The adjunct, a simply 500 grams of table sugar, we added at about 15 minutes before the end of the boil.

In any case, we managed to finish all the brewing work by about 8pm, and the student who stayed until the end — the heroic Jungwon — helped me carry some gear up, as did our one male student, Heejin. (He did some seriously heavy lifting, which I appreciated.) I took a break, and then moved the washing machine into my brew closet, and figured out how to move my other beers and chill them until the time comes to hook up the washer. There should still be room to chill all my beers, I just can’t use my cooler to do it. (I’ll need to find some other container to fit my carboys into, I guess.) By midnight I’d pitched the yeast, against my better judgment since the APA was sitting at about 25C.

Neither beer had krausened this morning, and if they haven’t done so yet, I’ll probably agitate them to get a little more oxygen in, and thus more yeast growth. It’s probably less crucial with lower-ABV beers like this, but I know that some flavor effects result from healthy yeast reproduction so I want to nail that while there’s time.

Anyway, my thoughts on teaching brewing to newbies after this experience include the following:

  1. Unless they’re very serious about learning to brew, go for a single batch, not a double.
  2. Unless you’re actually teaching someone all-grain brewing, do an extract or minimash recipe; it will save time and the people learning will get the gist without the pain. (I just never thought to do it.)
  3. Remember to have the participants do all the fun stuff (like hop additions).
  4. If changes to your brewing routine are necessary, anticipate their effects.
  5. A showy beer is a good one to start with. Something very hoppy, for example, or something with an aggressive yeast character, like a Saison: something that can cover for any deficiencies on brewday will help mitigate the inevitable too-many-cooks effect.

All that said, I think the day went well. While none of my students seemed eager to start brewing, they all seemed to be happy to have had the experience, and excited about the idea that this stuff we’d made would become beer eventually.

Unlike on most brewdays, I actually had time to snap some photos. They’re here (Flickr) or here (Facebook) or here (Google+).

UPDATE (12 Oct.): The Saison is happily bubbling away, unsurprisingly, and smells delicious. The California ale yeast has only very miniscule airlock activity, but is beginning to krausen, thank goodness, and I expect a thick head of foam on the top of the wort by Tuesday morning.

UPDATE (13 Oct.): I just took a gravity reading on the Saison, and it works out to about 1.005 — though it registered as 1.010 last night, and was still fermenting even as I took the sample. There was a fair bit of yeast in the sample tube when I left it out last night. I don’t know if the remaining sugar fermented out in the night, or if it had hit 1.005 already and the remaining CO2 had fooled the gravity meter. Either way, I’m going to leave the bucket sitting until the weekend.

As for the APA, I’m worried about the temp — it’s in a room with an ambient temp of about 25°C and I am having trouble cooling it down beyond about 20°C, so I think I may have to swap it with the Kolsch yeast I have fermenting, since that’s almost done and won’t be too terribly affected by the temperature. Frustrating business, when you can’t use a big cooler or fridge with temp control…

UPDATE (14 Nov.): I kegged the Saison at the beginning of November, and the APA on 13 Nov. 2011 — because I couldn’t get a keg free before then, unfortunately. Having sampled both brews — flat, room temperature — I have to say they seem quite fantastic. The APA has a relatively low FG, probably about 1.004 or 1.003, which is dry for a Pale Ale — the unexpectedly long mash is the likely culprit — but I have to say the flavor, aroma, the mouthfeel all work for me, at least in a flat sample. I am excited to see how this turns out, as well as to see the reactions of the students who brewed it — and the rest of their peers.

Finally: I think I’ll dry-hop this for the folks. We had some hops left over, so I’ll have a look and see. I think it depends on how my in-keg dry-hopping of my own Wonmisan Vaporizer goes.

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