Sunday, December 12, 2010

Big Brews, A Rainy Brew Day, Cry Havoc, and Fermcap-S - Oh My!

The past couple months have been crazy and we've been slackin' on the bloggin' - apologies! Here's a recap since the last post.

Big Brews
Wrapping up our brewing with White Labs 001 American Ale yeast, we finished big with an American Barleywine and a Russian Imperial Stout. The barleywine has been bottle conditioning for about a month and a half. We added both sugar and some fresh yeast at the time of bottling. We cracked one over the weekend, but there wasn't near enough carbonation yet. With the frigid weather here in Chicago and our house only staying in the 65-68F range, along with the hugeness of the beer, it looks like they're just going to take awhile longer to fully carbonate. Pleased to report it was quite delicious and we easily finished the bottle in spite of the low carbonation. I swirled the other bottles and moved them close to a heating vent, with the hope that helps keep the temp up a bit.

I also brewed a Russian Imperial Stout on impulse. We still had plenty of good 001 yeast left (NOT the barleywine yeast, which was totally pooped), so I brewed up a RIS with yeast I had left over from an American Stout - just pitched right on the cake and had an explosive, but controlled fermentation thanks to my temp controlled fridge. I have it kegged and sitting in the basement, where I plan on forgetting about it for awhile. An initial taste was smooth and choclately with hints of plum from the Special B malt.

Both of these beers were taken from Brewing Classic Styles, bastardized to suit the ingredients I had on hand. I can't say enough good things about this recipe book.

A Rainy Brew Day
Yesterday I brewed something like an English Bitter, or at least that was the intent - with an OG of 1.047 or so it's more like a Special Bitter. Boiled a bit too hard/long perhaps. Anyhoo - while I could have diluted with water to bring that down the beer already had precious little hops in it and I didn't want the color any lighter. The recipe, inspired by Steve Hamburg, was simple: 95% Marris Otter, 5% Wheat, 1oz Northern Brewer for bittering and 1oz Kent Goldings for flavor/aroma - around 32 IBUs.

Chicago weather has been on crack lately - while freezing all week it warmed up a bit to make it seem like a great brewday - but then it started raining as I was running off. So I rigged a tarp up to stay dry and keep that nasty city rain water out of my kettle:

This worked out well - it reminded me of camping in the Smokies in November, where it rained all the time. Those are stairs going down into our basement - so there was plenty of room for stacking things and actually standing up at the bottom, where there's also a convenient drain. The stairs are "pool style" - the curved ends are wider than the middle - just enough room for my propane burner and brew kettle.

I normally brew using a 5 gallon paint strainer bag in the kettle to hold hops in, since I tend to use a lot of them. I also put my runnings through the bag to catch any stray pieces of grain that may have made their way out of the mash tun. I then shake and rinse the bag out, and return it to the kettle for hops. But with only 2 oz of hops here, I decided the bag was pointless, but I still used it to strain my runnings.

Cry Havoc
Cray Havoc, White Labs 862, is Charlie Papazian's yeast strain - and I was intrigued to try it because it can ferment at both ale and lager temperatures. So, the bitter I brewed will be fermented with this, and then I'll use that cake to make a Munich Helles, and then an Amber Lager, and then a Smoke Beer (Rauchbier).

I made a starter, and decided to use some Fermcap-S, a foam inhibitor, in it while I was boiling it in the Erlenmeyer flask so I didn't have to watch it so much for boil overs. Well, I meant to add 1 drop, but instead a glob plopped out that was probably more like 4-5 drops. While it did a wonderful job during the boil, there was no krausen on the starter. I could see bubbles popping up from the bottom - but there's something reassuring about that krausen.

Anyways, after pitching the starter yesterday we have fermentation in the carboy this morning. This yeast is very English-like in that it clumps together at the surface like cottage cheese. Will be very curious to see how my Cry Havoc experiments go, and if that Fermcap mis-hap is going to affect the size of the krauzen in the carboy as well.

This'll probably be my last post before the holiday - so Happy Holidays and Good Brewing to all! Cheers.

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