This weekend I brewed a Kölsch. Kölsch just means Cologne-ish, and it is also the name of the dialect they speak there. During Carnival, the festival that starts in november (at 11.11 on the 11th of November- hilarious Germans!) and runs until Ash Wednesday, hoards of Köln folk wander around under the twin towers of the Dom, swilling lots of this beer from a little glasses called a stange. They dress up in odd costumes and listen to extremely silly oompah music, and for some bizarre reason three men pay lots of money each year to dress up as Virgin, a Prince, and a Farmer. they look very silly, particularly the virgin.
In any case, the beer is quite nice, so I decided to brew some. It is a light beer, not too hoppy, very pale in colour, displaying some of the dry crispness of a lager. Mostly though, I wanted to brew it because I like a good pun in the title of a beer. It has long been my belief that you should think of a witty title, and then brew the beer to fit. I apply this maxim to my academic philosophical studies also.
The beer is called “Culchie Bogman”. For those non-Irish among you, a “culchie” is how Dubliners refer affectionately to our rural cousins. sometimes they embrace it, sometimes they don’t, it doesn’t tend to bother us. If any of you want to read up more on the culchie, here is a link to their annual festival.
To make matters even more fantastic, my friend Maeve, the talented artist kindly offered to do a label for the beer. I will handsomely reward her with… em… beer. When it’s ready. Here is Maeve’s blog containing some beautiful artwork.
“Culchie Bogman” Kölsch. 35L
Pilsener Malt 2.9KG
Pale Malt 2.5KG
Wheat Malt 750G
Munich Malt 680G
Hops: Taurus 21G, 60 mins
Saaz 28g, 15 mins
Hallertauer Mittlefruh 33g, 15 mins
1.5 tsp Irish Moss, 15 mins
Wyeast “Kölsch” 4L starter.
Other Notes: .5 tsp Calcium Chloride, Calcium Sulphate added to filtered strike water. Mash at 65c for 60 minutes. Ferment at 17c, Lager at 7c (or whatever temperature it is in my shed in a week or so’s time!) for 3-4 weeks
A further note: the Taurus and the Hallertauer hops are my own homegrown ones, and as such I have no idea how bitter they are. I guessed 12% aa for the Taurus, and 4% aa for the Hallertauer. I suspect that even though that is the lower end of the guideline for Taurus, that they are not in fact that bitter. In any case hop bitterness is not the most important factor in a Kölsch, and I was only shooting for 25 bittering units.
Here are some pictures of the brewing process.
This is my mash vessel, a picnic cooler with a stainless steel false bottom. I fill the cooler with the grains and start to add the water, stiring as I go.
I start to run off the liquid into the boiler. I have to recirculate the first couple of litres because they are usually a little grainy, the grain bed starts to act as a filter after a little while. When the liquid gets near the top of the grain bed I start to add more water, being careful not to disturb the grain bed itself, so I use a plastic lid to stop this happening. This is called “sparging” . I switch on the boil kettle which is a converted Keg. When it starts to boil, I add the first hops addition, in a muslin bag so they don’t clog up later. I add the other hops at 15 minutes to go, along with irish moss, a seaweed (not in fact moss) that clumps some of the protein molecules together that cause hazy beer, thus allowing for a clearer beer. It’s important to cool the liquid as quickly as possible once the boil is over, because it is unstable when hot and prone to oxidisation, picking up other bad or stale flavours, but worst of all, if it cools slowly it is far more likely to pick up airborne microbes and nasties that might spoil it. I use a copper coil that attaches to a hose, which cold tap water runs through acting as a heat exchange. This cools it down pretty quick. The cooler goes in the boil for 15 minutes before the end to sanitise it also. When it’s all cool enough I open the floodgates and it pours forth in a beery stream that would make your heart race. The plastic storage box is what I use these days as a primary fermenter, it has a capacity of 80L, which means plenty of headspace. It is made from food grade polypropylene, same as normal homebrew fermenters, but it was very cheap, and it’s see through so I can see all the action. This method also aerates the wort (the unfermented beer) which is very important, because although the whole yeast conversion is normally an anaerobic process, it does need oxygen to get started. All that frothing and pouring from a height is perfect for my purposes! 10 hours or so later, and it has already started to ferment, there are little bubbles exploding up from the bottom and shooting up to the top, where all the yeast eating the sugar and multiplying themselves cause the bear to have a frothy creamy head. It’s only getting started in this picture but now, a day or two later it is about 5cm thick. It smells fantastic. My yeast strain, Wyeast’s “Kölsch” is supposed to have an almost winey charater to it, but it should produce a fairly dry beer at the same time. I’ll just have to wait.