Smoky Brewday: Gord’s Grätzer, Revisited

So, today I gave the grätzer/grodzisky style another go. Well, some might correct me by noting it’s my first go in earnest: the last time I made this kind of beer, I used wheat smoked with hickory and other stuff, and it came out tasting more like bacon than anything else.

Today’s grätzer was 100% wheat, cool-smoked with Korean oak chunks for hours and hours at a time. The malt was extremely smoky, and was only smoked approximately a week before the brewday.

I used 3.3 kilograms of wheat, which makes for 23L of wort at 1.035, though I suspect my volume is a bit lower than that–probably closer to 1.040. The bonus is that, since I went with no-chill, the bitterness is likely a bit higher than I calculated too — hopefully enough to match the higher gravity.

That’s right, I said no-chill. I actually just boiled the brew out on the balcony, put the lid on in the last fifteen minutes or so (at an angle, so it could be steam-sterilized), and when the boil was done, I removed my heat sticks, snapped the lid shut, and affixed an airlock to the top. The steam was outgassing when I last checked, which is good: you don’t want an airtight container full of liquid going from 100°C to 25°C overnight on your balcony: it’s going to cave in on itself, violently, when the pressure gets to be too much.

Anyway, the simple facts of the brew:

  • 3.3kg of heavily oak-smoked wheat malt, mashed at about 65°C for 2 hours (wanted to give what enzymes were there a chance to work, since the smoking probably overheated some of the malt a little).
  • 65 grams of Sapir hops at 60 min, and 28 grams of Hersbrucker at 15 minutes (along with some Whirlfloc).

Once it’s cool and I have a bit of time, I’ll rack it into a keg and stick it in my spare fridge, with a chunk of hose attached to a gas out quick disconnect: instant blowoff tube and pressure vent for the fermentation that will follow. I’m going with Kölsch yeast for this one, I think: I liked what it did with my last attempt at the style, and at the lower temp, while it’ll probably take a bit longer, it’s likely going to be very crisp and delicious underneath all that hoppy, smokey goodness.

(If this works, the next thing I’m going to try with this system will be some kind of lager, perhaps a Rauchbier fermented with what’s left of my sample of Papazian’s beloved Cry Havoc yeast, or some kind of hoppy lager or something.)

Here’s a recipe. (And yeah, it’s the same link as the last attempt: I accidentally saved the revision over the original. Ooops!)

Next up, I’m going to brew a double batch of my micro-IPA, pitching half with some unlikely yeast — perhaps a Saison yeast, as I have two buckets of Saison needing to be racked into kegs or bottles soon anyway — and half with trusty old California Ale Yeast. It probably won’t be ready for the party it was supposed to be for, but I have something I think I can bring instead that should be just as delightful, I think… I hope!

UPDATE: I just realized that I forgot to make a note of one very cool discovery: when I was mashing in, I discovered I had no rice hulls on hand. Fearing a stuck sparge with 100% wheat, I simply took a grain bag and affixed it to the manifold in my cooler mash tun, using an elastic bang to hold it in place at the neck of the manifold. Then I attached the manifold, heated the water, and mashed in. It worked incredibly well, to the point where I didn’t even have to vorlauf. My only concern is that it may have reduced my efficiency slightly…

The morning after brewing, the wort was still in the boil-pot, not yet cooled at about 40°C, and the gravity was 1.035 at that point, which adjusts to about 1.041. I don’t know my exact final gravity, though, and that is going to play a role in figuring out my efficiency, obviously. I guess we’ll see. I was worried the slow cool-off period would have made the beer more bitter and hoppy, from my hop additions, but it doesn’t seem to have done so: the smoke still dominates, though there is a nice hop character in there behind it, at least, from the sample I tasted. There’s a lot of hope gunk in the brewpot, though: I’ll be siphoning this wort off from the top, as the spigot on my pot is clogged all to hell.

UPDATE: The fermentations started off at different paces: the wort in the 1-gallon jug started fermenting pretty quickly, but the one in the keg took longer to get going. However, I finally checked the temperature in the fridge, only to discover that it’s too high for an ale fermentation — probably because I have the freezer turned down to fridge temperatures, at least that’s the only explanation I can think of. I therefore transferred both the jug and the keg to my living room, and have the jug in a paper bag right by the air conditioner (with the paper bag positioned to catch and direct some of that cold air right at the jug); the keg, meanwhile, is sitting in a bucket of ice-chilled water, precisely what I’d hoped to avoid. Ah well… it’s bubbling very vigorously, and all I can do is hope that the yeast didn’t get too stressed out at the start.

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