Tag Archives: barrel

Return of the Barrel: Rotunda’s Revenge

Doughing in (mixing grain and water)

Anyone who has read my blog will undoubtedly have seen one of my frequent links to ‘The Great Barrel Project’ that I undertook with two brothers in brewing, and worse, anyone who has met me will probably have been regaled with the tale of Rotunda the Bourbon barrel, and how she came to be filled with a dark and potent stout called Diogenes. I’m probably like one of those parents who finds it hard to discuss anything other than their child. I think all three of us would agree that it was far and away the high point of our distinguished brewing careers to date though; who can blame us if we talk too much about it? So it’s probably no surprise that after some serious procrastinatin’ and prognosticatin’ we’ve started to refill our beautiful barrel.

We considered a number of beers we could do: perhaps a nice raisin heavy

Kevin’s thermometer, better known as ‘The Geiger Counter’

Belgian ‘dubbel’ style beer? Maybe a barleywine loaded with English hops? In any case it had to be strong, after all it now needs to stand up to not only the original whiskey flavours of the barrel but also a 10% abv stout that was absolutely loaded with black malt. In the end, we decided to brew what we are going to call a ‘Double IPA’ (not that we coined the term, but that we think this is what most appropriately describes our beer. Beer styles are for losers in any case).

Sometimes brewing makes you feel a bit like a drug dealer. It’s calcium chloride flakes for the mash yer’ honour.

To give a brief sketch of the beer itself, the original gravity will be in the region of 1.090 – 1.100, which we hope will ferment to below 1.020, giving us a beer that is something in the region of 9.5% abv. We found with the last brew that time in the barrel increased attenuation, so we should get to our projected 1.018. Our yeast is White Labs’ ‘Super San Diego’ yeast, wlp090. Where malt is concerned, we’ve kept it simple with about 85% pale malt, and the rest being made up by some crystal malt, some Munich, and some sucrose to lighten the body a little. Hopping is high, with flavour additions at 30 minutes and at the knockout, and

The ph of the mash is important so that the enzymes can convert starch to sugar. This one was bang on.

we’re using a tag team of the classic American Cascade, and a hop that has only recently found its way into the homebrewer’s repertoire, Marynka. This Polish hop is cheap, reasonably high in alpha acid at about 8%, but it also has an interesting flavour and aroma. It is a descendent of the classic European hop Saaz, probably crossed with a high alpha hop like

There were so many hops going in to this we didn’t want to clog the tap, so we used some nylon net to form a huge hop bag.

Magnum. I brewed a single hopped ale with it, and at high concentrations I found I was getting a lot of peach, both in flavour and aroma, so let’s hope something like that comes through in this beer. Our software tells us that the IBU (international bittering units) will be high on this, perhaps 180, although tests have shown that these measurements make less sense the more you go over 100.

We got together recently to brew this, and we managed between us to brew 70L. We need a good bit more, since Rotunda is in the region of 214L, but between us, another epic collaborative brewday should do it! We’re not sure what our Double IPA is called yet, so, answers on a postcard. All will be considered, and the winning entry can be sure of a couple of bottles for his or her trouble.

And there were a lot of hops left after we took the net out!

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Italian Craft Brewery: Toccalmatto

Toccalmatto Brewery near Parma

Come here ’til I tell you something: there’s more to Parma than just the ham and cheese. The whole of Italy is making a bit of a splash lately when it comes to beer. The general direction of contemporary Italian birra seems to be a beautiful mix of the sensibilities of the two greatest brewing nations on Earth, that is the Belgians and the Americans.

Gear

Italy is unburdened with the ball and chain of tradition, instead it has the freedom to experiment. You can find all the fleeting trends that we see in American brewing, wood aged beers, big beers, hoppy beers, sour experiments, and all manner of hybrid styles. Yet at the same time, they take their beer seriously, in a way that reminds me of Belgium. Craft brewing is really young in Italy, but from the outset it seems to have allied itself with excellent food. Probably the best range of beer I saw in Italy was the selection carried by the trendy grocery/lifestyle store Eataly in Bologna, where many Italian beers rubbed shoulders with the best of Belgium, America, Britain and the rest of the world. Perhaps what really made the Belgian connection for me though, was the preponderance of 75cl bottles, they were everywhere.

Line 'em up

Toccalmatto is a small, young brewery – less than two years old – in Fidenza, not far from Parma. They only bottle in large bottles, and I asked Bruno Carilli, the owner/brewer whether it was hard to shift these in bars. “Italy is a wine country” he told me, “so it’s normal to share a bottle. Anyway, I wouldn’t want anyone thinking that my beer just another beer.” Don’t worry, there’s no chance we’ll be confusing this with Peroni or Moretti any time soon.

Well decorated!

It was really refreshing to see Toccalmatto’s brewery. It’s a simple affair, it doesn’t take up much space, it doesn’t have a huge capacity, it is well organised, but overall it’s simple. They bottle by hand with a simple gravity filler, and the beer is bottle conditioned. Good beer doesn’t need to come out of fancy equipment Bruno says. Perhaps there are limits though – he has recently come back from a visit to the Great British Beer Festival, and he visited Kernel brewery in London. “But they are crazy” he tells me. He shows me some pictures he took of their brewery, which I recently visited myself. It is in a tiny space under a railway arch. “But they brew beer right beside these people who are making cheese!” he tells me in disbelief, adding once more that they are crazy. We agree that Kernel make some very nice beer nonetheless.

Obscene dry hopping alert! Probably "Zona Cesarini"

Toccalmatto make quite a few different beers, many of which I was lucky to taste during my visit. First up was their Saison, Sibilla. It was an excellent saison, up with the best of the Belgians. It was very pale, and there was a citrus quality to the hop flavour. Bruno told me that the yeast strain he used also caused that citrus flavour, it was not the Dupont style yeast “because I am not making a version of Dupont”. Fair enough. It had a very dry finish, which did not last. All of the flavour was up front. Bruno seemed happy with this appraisal, telling me that “drinkability” was a key thing that he was trying to achieve, He wanted his beers to leave you wanting more, they should not be heavy, or filling. They should be tasty but easy drinkers. I have read that this is a trait also prized by the Belgians, who use sugar for this same reason – to make beers “digestible”.

Stray Dog Bitter was up next. This one was funny. It features a bulldog on the label, and a green white and red Union Jack. Bruno rather proudly showed me a certificate from the website Ratebeer.com which had it as the top rated bitter, above the British renditions that we all know and love. He seemed quite happy with himself to have upset the apple cart with an Italian version of the quintessentially British beer. As we go to press it has just been pipped by Jolly Pumpkin, for all these things are worth! I found that it had a thinner body than I expected. Styrian Goldings hops were certainly in attendance. It had little caramel, and again the drinkability was key.

Some of the barrels in the cellar

We tried a beer called Zona Cesarini, which was a twist on an American styled hoppy beer. Pointedly, non-American hops were forward, including Motueka and Sorachi Ace. The name was polysemic, it refers to Cesarini, a 1930s Italian/Argentinian footballer who had a habit of scoring in the last few minutes of the 90, in what is still called the “Cesarini Zone” by Italians. Furthermore the label features a Japanese Kamikaze pilot, referencing the Japanese (Sorachi) element, and also the “last minute” aspect of the beer: just like Cesarini’s goals, most of the hops don’t go in until towards the end of 90 minutes! For that reason it has very little bitterness, but a huge Motueka Pineapple flavour, Citra’s signature tangerine flavour makes an appearance, and Sorachi Ace are renowned for being lemony hops. All in all it’s a fruity affair; I very much liked it—it reminded me a little of Metalman’s Windjammer.

And the beer kept flowing. Bruno opened a bottle of Surfing Hop, which he described as a “Double IPA with artistic license”. Again there was a little subversion of the normal style. Sure, there were some American hops, but the malt was French, the yeast was Belgian, and it was quite dark. I was impressed by this, because when I brew, I find that the Belgian yeasts that I love can be too dominant to let me achieve the American style of late hop flavour which I also love, but Surfing Hop pulls it off.

At this stage Bruno revealed that he had a cellar. What was in the cellar? Barrels! Now you know I am a fan of barrels, and I was mightily impressed already at the beers that this simple little brewery was producing, but the experimental beers that we tasted then were really special. The first was a really big Barleywine that we sampled straight out of the Caol Ila barrel that it was aging in. Caol Ila is a lovely Islay single malt, a style I am really fond of because of those smoky peaty flavours that are associated with it, and this really didn’t disappoint, it was big and sweet, but it had picked up a really nice peaty flavour from the whiskey barrel.

One that got away: Jadis, a really interesting sounding Wit beer, rested on red grapes. There was no time to try it!

But there was stillmore. An Imperial Stout, which I think was in a calvados barrel. Bruno had whiskey, wine, calvados, a number of barrel types. This was no straightforward barrel-aged imperial stout (how passé) – it had the wild yeast brettanomyces added during aging. For all you myco-geeks, he stressed that this was not brettanomyces clausanus, but rather the kind that is found in gueuze and Flanders red, I presume he meant brettanomyces bruxellensis. In any case, this stout was incredibly complex. The big malty flavour was still there, but there was that wild acidic flavour right in the middle of the taste. My notebook says “v. hard to describe” so I’ll stop there. The barrel projects were both in the development stage, but they seemed pretty promising to me! He confessed that he had consulted his friend Jean Van Roy of Cantillon when he initially planned his barrel project. No better man.

King Hop

We had been there several hours at that stage, so we decided to let Bruno get home, the couple of other brewers he employs had long since left. I picked up a bottle of Re Hop (King Hop) to take back to the hotel with me, since it’s one of their best sellers. I can easily see why. It’s a 5% moderately hopped golden ale, in fact it’s extremely pale. The malt base is Pils, and I would guess not much else. The hopping is a mixture between the signature American Cascade flavour, and some late German Perle addition. It poured with a frothy, lasting head, and it was a little cloudy. It reminded me of some of the modern hoppy Belgian pales that the likes of Senne are producing. It had a very dry finish, due to the minimal crystal character. I found the European/American hop balance very pleasant. The beer wasn’t even cold, but 75cl seemed to disappear quite fast – drinkability topped the agenda once more. It was a lovely way to finish a great day, I really enjoyed meeting Bruno, seeing the gear, the beer, and the barrels. I think they’re doing something really special over there, and I hope they make it up in our direction soon. Importers take note!

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Petrus: A Barrel Aged Pale

Petrus Aged Pale

Bavik is an old fashioned Belgian brewery, and Petrus (7.3%) is an old fashioned beer. It is, according to Bavik, an ‘undiluted’ old beer. It is aged in wooden vats, which judging by smell are funkier than if Bootsy Collins, George Clinton and the whole Parliament-Funkadelic ensemble got together and made some extra smelly blue cheese. It’s a dark golden amber colour, the head doesn’t last much. I was surprised given the smell that it wasn’t more sour, now don’t get me wrong, it is sour, but it’s not Cantillon sour; perhaps it’s more that it doesn’t finish dry, it’s not especially puckering. It is similar to red sour Flemish beers like Rodenbach and Vichtenaar, it has that same almost balsamic sweetness coming through, it could be the oak I think that given the fact that it doesn’t finish that dry, it could have been more highly carbonated, as it is the gas is weak, and it sits a little flat in your mouth. I love this flemish sour thing though, and this is a really nice example.

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Three Men and a Little Barrel

Decommissioning the barrel at an undisclosed location in Naas, Southern Eire.

Finally, closure on our Epic project. A little over a month ago, Kev, Peter and I gathered in Naas to bring forth the fruits of our labour, the beer that we now call Diogenes, and described in several previous previous posts . After a gestation period of about 4 months, we each filled two 20L containers to bottle at our leisure, and we bottled the remaining 50L or so there and then, on a freezing day in January.

Diogenes finished at an Epic 11.5% ABV, which means it attenuated even further in the barrel, gaining an extra point ABV since it went in. Tasting it, we were very excited. Obviously putting something in a wooden barrel and leaving it you take your chances, but there was not a hint of funk about the beer. Tasting it alongside a pre-barrel bottle you could discern a real smoothness about it, the angular, almost rough taste points in the pre-barrel beer, the harsh roastiness from the excessive amount of black malt had all vanished. The whiskey was obvious. The oak’s vanilla was a beautiful accompaniment to the imperial stout flavours, and of course in the glass it is a thing of beauty, thick and black and velvet, it stains the glass brown as you swirl it up the sides.  We all agreed (to unashamedly blow our own trumpets) that this may be one of the best beers we have tasted, let alone brewed.

With a beer that clocks in that high, we decided we’d need to reseed the yeast, that is, introduce new yeast at bottling time in case the yeast already in the beer had either dropped out of suspension (perfectly possible after 4 months in the freezing cold), or else had just plain died due to the high alcohol content. If this happened, it would not be possible to bottle condition the beer (i.e. carbonate it), and so it would be flat. We reseeded 2 packets of safale s05 dry yeast for the 50l we bottled on the day, which is a high reseed level, I estimated it was over 3 million cells per ml. It is common practice for the stronger belgian beers to be reseeded at bottling time for this same reason, and 3m cells per ml is on the higher end of the scale, so when I came to bottle my own portion I used considerably less, which seems to have worked nicely. We didn’t want too much carbonation for this beer, as the almost syrupy black consistency is rather pleasant when undercarbonated. I bottled the majority of the beer in small bottles, and a number of them in large bottles which I corked, and I intend to keep for some time. I wasn’t one to muck around with the final product, being a purist, but Kev, who thinks he must be an Irish Sam Calagione or something decided to steep some of his on raspberries, and he says it’s great, but I haven’t had any yet *hint hint*.

We’re so happy to have seen this project through, and even happier that all our effort paid off so well. Everyone who has tasted this beer loves it, and it was a big hit with the other homebrewers at the Beoir January tasting session at the Bull and Castle pub in Dublin. It’s the end of a great adventure, and the only question is, what goes in the barrel next? Answers on a postcard please.

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A Barrel Full of Imperial Stout

Rotunda, Mallet, Ex-Bung

It’s the end of a long journey for our Kentucky bourbon barrel, ‘Rotunda’, and the 175L or so of Imperial Stout that Peter, Kev and I have brewed over the last month or two, a beer that is absolutely delicious even at this early stage, and which is collectively known as ‘Diogenes’. Read the two earlier installments of our audacious barrel project here (getting the barrel) and here (brewing the beer)

Rotunda started life at "Early Times", Kentucky

We all did our bit, and finally the day came where Kev and I drove from North County Dublin to Kildare, with 100L of the blackest stout in history sloshing about on the back seat. Needless to say we drove carefully. It was the day of the All Ireland Final, also notable for a Dimitar Berbatov hattrick against Liverpool. Even though the lads are Man Utd fans, this did little to distract us. Our minds were focussed on the culmination of our Barrel Project. They said we were crazy when we ordered an insane amount of Malt from England. They said it would never work when we told them we were going to brew enough super-strength stout to fill the 200L barrel. But now we’ve done it and the beer will sit there for the coming months, hopefully

One massive box, two carboys, several 20L beer bags, and a corny

undergoing a silent transformation, fusing with the white american oak from our barrel, originally from the Early Times distillery in Kentucky, fusing with the Cooley distillery’s whiskey that aged in it before our beer.

All three of us had been anticipating some degree of mayhem, delivering all that beer into what is already a very heavy barrel surely has its dificulties? Thankfully not, since the day went off without a hitch. This compares very favourably to the last brewday that Kev and I shared, where we perhaps bit off more than we could chew, trying to mash 30KG of grain in a massive plastic barrel. First of all we didn’t get near our mash temperature, it stayed at 55. With the introduction of steam we managed to raise this to 62, still very low. Then the manifold at the bottom of the bucket jammed, and the thing wouldn’t drain. We ended up having to scoop the mash out into smaller more reliable mash tuns, and drain it as best we could. I had to leave at that point, but Kev was to experience further misery, one of the elements on his boiler decided to give up half way through. The blackest brewday I have ever known, I’m still getting over it. Credit to Kev though, he managed to get close to his target OG, and only slightly under the volume he had been aiming for.

"Gang-siphoned"

Peter had already checked that the barrel was watertight before we got there, and in fact, it was still damp with whiskey from months ago when we got it at the Cooley Distillery. The smell was still incredible. We mixed 20L of starsan, and rolled the barrel up and down the path to slosh the starsan around a bit, although this was probably unnecessary since the whiskey was clearly still coating and soaked into the inside of the barrel. Cask strength is much higher than bottle strength, I think I remember the man at Cooley telling us it was in the mid sixties ABV, surely enough to keep most infectious beasties at bay.

A complex medical procedure

We rolled the barrel into the shed and propped it up on a couple of bricks, to raise it a little for when we come to siphon out of it. We began to siphon, this is when I had anticipated difficulty, but it was all fine, we were even able to siphon several of our vessels at once. We tasted some of our beers side by side, there were subtle differences, we then tasted a mixture of all three, and it was superb. The trub (the yeast and other gunk left behind by fermentation) was absolutely revolting, smelled awful, and was thick and gooey. Here’s a picture of some of it on Peter’s finger. Yeuch.

almost full

And that was that. I hammered in the bung (that we had pre drilled to accept an airlock, in case any extra CO2 was produced, and now all we have to do is wait. We may remove a little before christmas, and the rest a little later.

Bung is in

Eugghh

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Guinness Aged in Wood! **TOP SECRET**

Oh No! We Forgot the Distilled Leprechaun Essence!

Cask Conditioned Stout from Guinness Pilot Brewery

Guinness is a brewery shrouded in mystery. The brewery tour doesn’t bring you through the actual brewery, rather taking you through a visitor centre, full of plasma screens, multimedia displays, faux-grain sacks and escalators, culminating in the magnificent view of Dublin from the flying-saucer-like Gravity Bar. But what could they be hiding? Some have conjectured that the real brewery is run by clones of St. Arthur Guinness himself, aided by an army of dark coloured Smurfs with creamy hats, little pint-size homunculi, making Dublin’s famous stout in their own image.

However, thanks to my network of spies, I can reveal that the truth is far more shocking! If you hold these little fellas up to the light it turns out they are not black but in fact very very very dark red. Furthermore it seems that the goings on at St. James’ Gate are not the only thing Guinness are hiding. It turns out they have a secret lair deep within the Sugarloaf mountain (or some other sort of Pilot Brewery somewhere) working on interesting little numbers like the following “Cask Aged Stout” that a Counterintelligence Agent (friend) of mine managed to get his hands on.

“Now hold on!” many of you you might rightly exclaim, aren’t you three ‘ne’er-do-wells’ also brewing a barrel aged stout? to which I can only reply, yes we are, and we’re as shocked as you are, is it a coincidence, or might  it bethat this blog isn’t the only organisation with a secret spy-ring? Realistically though, who can blame Guinness for perceiving us as a threat?  I’m running a check to see if any of my visitors came from a certain St. James’ Gate ISP!

Can't Read My, No He Can't Read My Pixelface

In any case, as a precaution I have pixelated the image to hide our identities, even drinking this top secret beverage could put all of our brewing careers in jeopardy. Enough of this banter however, how was this secret brew?

The Back Label

Well as you can see from the picture of the back label, it is a ‘cask-conditioned’ stout, aged in a ‘Genuine Irish whiskey barrel’, it doesn’t say for how long. On the front it says it is 8.5%. The Hops cited on the back are Tettnanger, Samargd and Herkules. It says that both cones and pellets are used “throughout the various stages of the brewing and fermenting process” which suggests rather coyly that it might be dry-hopped. I have never heard of Samargd, I’m guessing it’s some sort of Czech hop. Herkules is a high-alpha German hop, and Tettnanger is a classic German noble hop, much used as an aroma addition in continental beers. Despite the label however, I would be very surprised if this stout is in fact dry hopped, since none of us got any hop aroma off it at all. There was very little on the nose in general, except I got quite a sugary, almost treacly caramel smell, which was matched by the flavour. Sugar was the overwhelming falvour here, dark, treacly sugar. The head looked very similar to the pale, fluffy head that bottled Guinness produces. The beer didn’t at all taste boozy or hot, and the body was light, which would be in keeping with a high sugar addition if that is in fact the case. Furthermore, when held up to the light the beer was not very dark at all, it was quite clearly ruby coloured. Couple this with the lack of any roast or burnt character, and I would bet that some sort of brewers caramel or dark sugar has been used to darken this beer rather than very much highly roasted malt. Also missing was the characteristic chocolate or coffee often found in a strong stout. There was a pronounced and quite pleasant smokey flavour, and I think this could have been the barrel’s contribution, perhaps the char gave it some smoke . There was not much whiskey flavour detectable,  perhaps it was overpowered by the sugar.

An elegant tasting glass.

I would have liked something bigger, bolder, certainly roastier, but I suppose that’s why we’re brewing the Barrel Stout. This beer is not as nice as the Foreign Extra Stout, in my opinion, which is weaker, but manages a much fuller body and feel. It woul surprise me if this ever saw the light of day given that the Foreign Extra is so popular, However, any interesting addition to the Guinness range is welcome, but in summing up, it would be nice if this had a real hop character, a bit more malt, and a more pronounced contribution from the barrel.

My disguise for going on the run

Now I’m off to get my disguise and go into hiding. You Ain’t seen me.

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Brewing for the Barrel

Back in April I described a trip to a distillery, where we bought a whiskey barrel (which we have since christened ‘Rotunda’) with the intention of filling it full of very strong Imperial Stout. That barrel is 200L, but there are three of us

Peter gives praise

filling it. Well today Ladies and Gentlemen, I am please to announce that 40L of the future contents of that barrel have been wrested from non-being into being, by me. Incipit Diogenes! (Diogenes is what I, at least, am referring to the beer as, for reasons explained in the aforementioned post. Peter, on the other hand calls it ‘The Virgin Birth’, but then he’s a deeply religious man)

There will be about 100KG of base malt alone in this brew, and a couple of KG of hops, so we decided to order in bulk. We bought 1 tonne of malt on a Pallet from England (Bairds), the delivery of which was a joyous occasion. Peter (who I told you was deeply religious) offered supplication to the malt gods that Rotunda would prove a fertile vessel. Kev clutched 25KG of black malt wondering what the hell we were getting ourselves in to. Of course we didn’t keep all this malt, we shifted much of it onwards to our friends and fellow brewers at the ICB, but we are certainly malted up for the foreseeable future. This beer is also highly

12KG or so of grain for the barrel brew

hopped, but luckily a friend was passing by Charles Faram the hop merchant in Worcestershire recently, and we were able to buy some Kilos of Magnum and Cascade at wholesale prices. My living room smells divine, and I’m wandering around in a hoppy daze.

So with our ingredients sorted, we set about formulating a recipe. It looked to be the case that even with only 20L batches, there would be over 12KG of malt in the mash, which I already discovered is my coolerbox’s limit. We came up with a fairly standard Imperial Stout recipe, containing black malt, chocolate malt, and roast barley, along with the grainy beauty of amber malt. For bittering, we went with the cheapest high alpha hop, which at the moment is the Hallertau hybrid Magnum. Magnum is also a good all purpose bitterer for things like IPAs, so it won’t go to waste. For flavour, we decided to use cascade, although not normally associated with this style. Apart from the malt, there will be flavours from the barrel, the oak and the whiskey, and so anything less assertive might have gotten lost. Cascade is normally associated with pale beers, but actually the Americans put it in stouts and porters all the time.  Also the more traditional Fuggles and Goldings are quite expensive at the moment, and since we bought the cascade in bulk we wanted something versatile that we could use in plenty of other brews. We are

Monster Mash, mashing at the limits.

pragmatists after all.

Yeast is another important factor- with a beer this big, it’s important to pitch lots of healthy yeast, so two weeks ago I brewed a fairly standard porter, with an OG of about 1.050, and I pitched in a packet of Wyeast 1084 ‘Irish Ale’ yeast, the classic stout yeast that is supposed to have originated in a certain well known brewery down the road. So yesterday armed with copious amounts of malt, hops and yeast I was ready to brew the monster.

The plan was to do two 20L brews back to back, I got up early and got going. I added calcium chloride flakes to the mash in order to get that malty profile that we need. Our recipe involved Pale Ale Malt as a base, with roasted Barley, Amber, Chocolate and Black Malts. We used Magnum to bitter, and Cascade at the end. Our yeast was the classic stout yeast, WYeast 1084 “Irish Ale”

 

The Runoff

The grain bill was huge, and difficult to stir as I was doughing in, there just wasn’t much space. I think it was the philosopher Wittgenstein who said in Philosophical Investigations that “The limits of my mash are the limits of my world”, or something like that, and now I see what he meant. I mashed it with about 30L which means a ratio of about 2.5/1, which should be ok.The runoff came in under the expected gravity though, even though with a grain bill this size we were banking on lower than normal efficiency (65%). I think I worked out that the efficiency must have only been 60%. My OG for the first batch came in at about 1.100. The second was about the same but I had a little more wort than expected, 22L. When both brews were in the fermenter the OG was 1.095, which is a bit below target, but then I’m confident that my beer will ferment lower than 1.029. I have a feeling I’ll get closer to 1.020, which means we should be close to the projected ABV, which is the theoretical limit of the yeast anyway, at about 12% alcohol it begins to die. We’ll just have to wait and see how low it goes! I have plans to improve efficiency next time. I don’t think it was a sparging issue as I fly sparged the second batch and it didn’t make a difference. My runoff could be too fast, also the tap is at one end of the mash, which could be causing uneven drainage, so I’m going to run a pickup tube into the middle of the mash tun. We

A black and beautiful torrent

have another couple of goes at this to get it right.

I did get a second beer our of these mashes though, a stout at OG 1.053, which is pretty good for second runnings! It also explains where all the excess sugar went, and it is some compensation for the poor efficiency of the first brew.  It will also serve to keep the yeast in motion, for the second batch of this next week.

As well as pitching enough yeast, good aeration is paramount, but I find that I get plenty of aeration by just opening the tap and letting the jet of black ambrosia shoot out the two feet or so down to the fermenter, and lots of good aerating splashing occurs. Fermentation was already vigorous when I got up the next morning, after only 7 hours. As you can see, there was already a thick 3 inch head of Krauesen formed. When I got back that evening, there had clearly been a bid for freedom from the stout,

After only 7 hours! I should have known what was coming…

but thankfully not much had escaped. It really made a mess of the fermenting box, the whole lid and sides were covered with gunk. I cleaned and sanitised the lid and the top of the box, and replaced it to finish fermenting. After this furious fermentation I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t ferment to a reasonably low final gravity. More reports when we have them!

“It Came from The Fermenter…”

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