Well, today (18 Nov.) was a big day. I brewed a split double-sized batch. I think I really need to start doing more small batches, and more batches that are split after the boil. The split-double batch that gets two different boils is a lot more work. However, I managed to economize on time by carefully making sure I was multitasking on stuff that usually wastes time when I move from one step to the other, like heating up the first runnings while the second runnings are sparging.
However, I also slowed this brewday down significantly by taking (perhaps too aggressively) control of the runoff rate. I’ve wanted to do this for a while, but since I run off my work basically through a rubber tube stuffed into the outlet plug on my picnic cooler mash tun, it’s hard to do so. Or so I thought: I experimented with using gravity to get it done, among other tricks, but finally today I realized that I could just use a hose crimper to slow the runoff rate. It worked like a charm, and the runnings were clearer than I’ve ever seen. (Which doesn’t mean the beer will be, but I have hope this time.)
I won’t get into the details of the recipe for the moment — since I’m entering this into a contest, I figure it’s easier not to post the details… especially since one of the prizes awarded to first place in this contest is that a commercial batch of the recipe will be brewed for Craftworks Taphouse.
However, I will say that I absolutely nailed the OG (1.052) and got very close on volume; the color of the brew is exactly what I wanted, and the flavor out of the sample tube was basically about right. And this, despite me discovering during my third hop addition that I was hopping for a 4 gallon batch, not the 5 gallon batch I ended up making. The fix — some intense late-hopping, and stretching out the timings of the hop additions (20, 15, and 10 minutes turned into my 30, 20, 10 minute additions, as a result of needing to recalculate things, but all turned out well).
The beer is now racked to a carboy and in a chilly place. I should post about the other batch, and then go to bed…
Either way, after the contest, I’ll update this post with details… especially if I end up being happy with the beer…
UPDATE (21 Nov, 2011): Nice thick krausen and good airlock activity. I have this brew in my balcony closet, so I don’t look in on it during the day, but it’s damned chilly out there, and even with the shielding of the closet walls, I’m sure it’s at a pretty low temperature. I’m going to add some water to the tub in which this and the chestnut mead are sitting, as I think a little more themal stability would be nice, especially during the daytime. Hopefully this beer will be finished soon, and I can rack it to a keg to condition for the competition.
UPDATE (7 Dec. 2011): The krausen is finally fallen enough for me to move the beer — I’m guessing it was cold enough in the balcony closet to slow the fermentation down, as when I got a taste sample this morning there wasn’t much fruit or sweetness, even for a California Ale yeast (which is pretty clean to begin with — I may try using an English ale yeast next time, as I’d have liked a little more malty/bready character to it).
Anyway, I kegged this bad boy and it’s now conditioning out on the porch, under pressure. I’m planning to dry hop it lightly starting on Saturday, which means I’m going to take a sample and do a test run on dry hopping it tonight. It finished out at 1.012, which is a lot higher than the FG for the sour half (1.004), and has a nice, firm bitterness, a lovely pale color, and a mild hop flavor. Could have done with a little more maltiness, but I’m hoping that will stand out a bit more when it’s carbed up a little. Thinking about where to shoot for in terms of carbonation… I’m thinking 2.3-2.5, but how I can actually dial that in exactly is something I need to research a bit. I will probably end up eyeballing it, and just carbing low. Still need to add some gelatin to the keg, and of course those dry hops.
But I think this beer is perhaps just a little too inoffensive; it is conservative on hops, but it’s also not particularly malty; I think by not standing out too much in these areas, it doesn’t grab the way I’d like. I think remaking it, eventually, I’ll likely increase the crystal malt and the flavoring additions a little. Not a lot, just enough to build some stronger character…