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Experimental Minibatch: Wonmisan Grätzerexperimente

I now have a tiny, 1L batch of Grätzer fermenting in my brewcloset. This may sound insane, and it probably is, of course, but how it happened is perhaps an amusing story.

So, when I finished making the Wonmisan Grätzer, I was amazed to find that almost half of the wort I’d run off from the kettle into the glass fermenter was loaded with thick, gooey proteinaceous trub. I’d used Whirlfloc! I’d chilled it to a very low temperature! WTF?

My solution was to chill it longer, though not too long. And therein lies the foolishness. I should have simply chilled the wort overnight, but I was leery about leaving it around and risking an infection: I wanted it to be fermenting as soon as possible, and had already defrosted the Kölsch yeast I’d planned to use.

So I carefully used my tiny racking cane — the one small enough to rack from 1-gallon wine jugs — to rack the clear stuff into a new fermenter, and left all the trubby crap behind. I thought about tossing it down the drain, but on second thought, left the thing beside my window, with the lid on loose, to see if it got a wild yeast infection — something I could culture up an use in some brew this spring.

I had to rush out in the morning, but when I got home, I discovered, to my chagrin, that the protein had flocculated to the bottom of the fermenter, leaving about two liters of very clear, beautiful wort — about as much as was missing from the already-fermenting Grätzer in the other container.

I thought over my options. Obviously, if I wanted to salvage the wort, I’d have to oil it, but then what? Pitch it into the already-fermenting batch? I couldn’t smell any skunkiness, but that didn’t mean something hadn’t happened in the beer. (It’d been by my window all day, and though I get bad light, it’s not like I get no light… even if the window (which is the kind of glass that doesn’t let much light through) was closed and the curtain mostly-drawn, I couldn’t be sure some very mild skunking hadn’t happened — though it smelled fine to both Miss Jiwaku and myself.

This led me to think that maybe I could just boil it up, and rack it to a small fermenter to try an alternate yeast. I’ve just done that. It’s just waiting to be topped up with water, and then I’ll pitch some yeast in. I was thinking about pitching either California Ale Yeast, or maybe some of the remaining Cry Havoc I have on hand, but since I lose nothing if this brew turns out terrible, I’m thinking about whether I shouldn’t try something a little more off the wall: a Saison yeast, maybe, or a Wit yeast. We’ll see… I have some time to decide, as I won’t be topping it up and adding the yeast until tonight or tomorrow morning, depending on how my blending and brewing go.

Anyway, there is a lesson to be learned in all this. Maybe two:

  1. If a wort seems very, very trubby, don’t rush to clear it and rack it. Let it settle, chill it if possible, and then deal with after it’s cleared out a bit more.
  2. If you’re brewing with wheat — like a Grätzer, which is 100% wheat — don’t be surprised if it clarifies itself more quickly and aggressively than you imagined possible. Wheat is full of proteins, yes, but they’re also heavier and like to stick together and flocculate. Stan Hieronymous (author of a whole book about brewing with wheat) has noted that wheat-heavy brews can clear out pretty well just by virtue of this fact.

Point #2 nonwithstanding, I think I’ll probably going to add some gelatin to both of the Grätzers when they’re done, mainly because (a) I want the beer to be very clear, and (2) because I want the racking process to be easier.

UPDATE (7 Feb. 2012): I decided to just go with pitching some Kölsch yeast from the already-krausened Grätzer. It seemed easier, and it seemed like a decent way of comparing the effects of kettle caramelization, since the smaller batch got boiled for a longer time (and more vigorously) than the bigger one; it’s a noticeably darker color, therefore, and I’m curious how that affects flavor. So the same yeast seemed like a way of checking that out.

UPDATE (8 Feb. 2012): Er… wow. I should have used a blowoff tube… Ah well, there’s still about half a liter left! I left it in the jug, but will probably just toss it.


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