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Busy Brewday: Wonmisan White Mahakala / Wonmisan Tokkaebi

I’m incredibly busy at the moment with a few writing deadlines, but I never feel quite right when my fermenters are all empty, so I figured I’d do a quick parti-gyle brew today and ended up with the simplest recipe possible: a partigyle, 50/50, with 7.3 kilograms of pilsner as the complete mash. I can split the wort runoff at the 50% point and end up with a good strong wort for making a Belgian Golden Strong Ale (adding a packet of clear candi syrup, of course) and still have a 1.031 wort to blend some honey into, in order to make a braggot — a traditional fermented brew which is made with beer malt and with honey.

I am naming the braggot “Tokkaebi” after one of the few supernatural critters in Korean mythology to survive into popular consciousness today. (A Tokkaebi is a kind of Korean goblin, often horned and sometimes rather grotesque.) The Strong Golden Ale I’m (for now) naming White Mahakala, after the little-known Nepali version of the guardian spirit in Tibetan Buddhism who appears as a horrifying monster, but is actually a helpful, protector of those who need him.

I’m considering capping the mash wish some crystal malt of one or another kind, so that the wort for the braggot is not insipid, since I don’t plan on doing any blending — I want to keep all the high-gravity wort for the BSGA. The hopping will be similar: I’m hopping the BGSA with about 20 IBUs of noble hops, and the braggot I’ll hope as if it’s a 1.030 beer, since the honey tends not to balance out hop bitterness the way sugars extracted from malt do. I’m likely to drop hop a portion of the braggot, just to see what I think of it, and perhaps to spice another portion of it.

Simple post for a (hopefully) simple brew day. I’m halfway through the mash now, and need to get myself something to eat and get some writing work done. Deadlines loom! Perhaps when I have more time, I’ll come back and fill in some more of the details…

UPDATE (8:25pm): Having gotten done some of the things I needed to today (to my astonishment), I am going to quickly summarize the recipes I used for each brew:

Wonmisan White Mahakala: 

This got the first 21L of runnings from the parti-gyle, and was boiled for a long time — longer than I intended. IT will, therefore, probably be a little darker than I’d wanted, but I am hoping it will end up somewhere in the range of a golden hue in the end — still acceptable in a Belgian Golden Strong Ale.

I couldn’t measure the gravity for two reasons: the long boil caused half of the wort to evaporate, believe it or not, which is a problem I am remedying now by boiling up some water to add before aerating and pitching yeast into the brew. However, it is definitely a high-gravity beer.

I hopped it with an ounce of German Spaltz at 60 minutes, and an ounce of Hersbrucker at 30 minutes. There should be a little hop flavor, but not an overwhelming amount. I also added 500 grams of clear Belgian Candi Syrup at 15 minutes (along with a tab of Whirlfloc) and a few chunks of candied ginger at flameout, and let it steep for about fifteen minutes before chilling it.

I will be pitching a (very old) sample of Belgian Abbey I (Wyeast 1214) yeast into the brew, but I have no idea whether it’s still viable: I’ve been too busy to make a starter, so we’ll just have to see. If it fails me, I’ll probably just pitch in the Trappist High Gravity yeast I was planning to use anyway.

Recipe here, but bear in mind that it’s an approximation since this was a parti-gyle.

Wonmisan Tokkaebi Braggot:

For this, I took the second runnings without capping the mash. I got busy and figured the malt sugars would probably contribute enough since I was splitting the runnings 50/50, and since anyway a little more of the fermentables will be coming from the honey than the malt. If I’m unsatisfied with it, I can always boil up some malt extract and add it later.

So in any case, I boiled this one for about 90 minutes, with the hops going in starting at 60 minutes. The hop schedule was as follows:

As for adding the honey, I added about a third of the 2.3kg package at 20 minutes, a third at flameout, and a third after the flameout hops had steeped in the wort for about fifteen minutes.

The resulting wort is very delicate in color — extremely pale — and actually quite gorgeous-looking. I will probably add a little bit of dry hops; I don’t know which kind, but we’ll see. I’ll probably just choose whatever seems likely to complement it when the wort has fermented out.

As with the other brew, I added Whirlfloc at fifteen minutes. The yeast I decided to use was plain old California Ale yeast, because I would like to allow the honey and malt flavors, and whatever there is of hop flavor, to shine through, so a clean fermentation is in order. I was thinking of using the Saison yeast, but the campus housing office has decided that in March, foreigners don’t need heating anymore, so the apartment is suddenly cold. Ah well, I’ll brew Saisons when it’s hot… lots of Saisons!

Recipe here.

As usual, I made the error of not calculating wort loss in the mash tun, and that cost me some volume along the way. I will have to start adjusting my calculations so that I am producing 5-gallon batches, instead of 4-gallon or 4.5-gallon ones. Though, this time, the long boil on the Mahakala is part of why the volume was so substantially reduced as well.

Update (19 March 2012): By noon, still no airlock activity. Agitated both carboys. Hoping to see some krausen activity by nightfall, but will wait 48 hours before repitching different yeast. I was half-expecting problems with the Abbey yeast, but I am surprised at how sluggish the California Ale (WLP 001) is being. I hope it’s just a slow reproduction period, though there should be plenty enough nutrients from the grain for the yeast to reproduce and get to work.

Update (20 March 2012): On the evening of 19 March, there was still no krausen or airlock activity in either carboy, so I added some Trappist High Gravity yeast to the BGSA and another sample of California Ale yeast (WLP 001) to the Braggot. By the morning, the BGSA had krausened, and by this evening, the Braggot had as well, and was outgassing at exactly half the rate of the BGSA. (Two bubbles from the Belgian for every one from the Braggot; I’d say 4 bubbles a second for the faster one, which is pretty active… especially for such a chilly room.) I’ll have to figure out a way to let the Belgian beer warm up over the fermentation, while keeping the Braggot cooler.

Update (21 March 2012): Wow, I’ve gotten a sulphur smell from other yeasts before, but never from California Ale (WLP001); I hope it’s not related to the fact that the airlock had a crack and kept losing all the vodka I poured in. (I thought it was mostly draining into the beer, but it was actually ending up on the tile floor.) Probably not, as there’s a thick krausen and the sulphur smell is definitely like what I’ve gotten from yeast before. I’ve just never gotten it from this yeast before. Miss Jiwaku was not impressed when she checked out the carboys this morning, and, well, it kind of makes the front door area of our place smell like fart, so I can see why. The smell will subside as fermentation progresses, though… and at least the smell is coming out, instead of staying in the beer.

UPDATE (11 April 2012): Well, on 9 April I kegged the Mahakala, which finished out at around 1.006: nice and dry, though the sample from the tube had a pretty gentle yeast character. Probably this is because I didn’t manage to get the carboy very warm toward the end of fermentation. Since I like a headier Belgian yeast character, I’ll have to work on that.

And today, on 11 April, I racked the Braggot to a new keg to clear. It’s still at 1.020, but I don’t think it’s going to ferment out any more. So it’s just to clear, and then I’ll figure out whether to bottle the stuff or keg it. I am thinking maybe to bottle it, as then I can bottle some still and some sparkling, and see works better for the style.

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