Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wedding Brews Galore!

Last week, I had posted that I had foregone the Maerzen in order to provide enough time to brew some batches for my wedding.  (They actually aren't for the wedding, just the rehearsal dinner the day before...it would be way too much pressure to brew for the actual reception.)  We got engaged in Europe, Prague to be exact, and they were some of the most memorable weeks of our lives.  I had all the intention in the world of trying to translate that into the homebrew that we would serve for our rehearsal dinner, although intentions aren't always cooperative.

The plan was to try to take guests on a tour through Europe first, the Czech Republic with a traditional Czech Pilsner, then onto Munich, Germany with a traditional Bavarian Hefeweisen, and finally landing in England with a British India Pale Ale. 

The first, the Czech Pilsner, went off without a hitch.  I hit an excellent 70% efficiency with my BIB partial mash and my attenuation was spot on at 71%.  My original and terminal gravity we exactly as calculated at 1.052 and 1.015.  I couldn't have been happier with my results.  The base was Ultralight Extract, Belgian Pilsner Malt, with Carapils (Dextrine) Malt and 20ºL in order to give it a bit more body and a touch of color respectively.  So far, I've hopped with 4 oz of Czech Saaz.  I say so far because in the next day or two, I plan on doing a dry hop with another ounce before kegging it shortly after.

The second is where I started to hit some speed bumps...twice.  The first time I brewed it I was caught off guard.  I used flaked wheat for my wheat portion of the grain bill.  Malted wheat for some reason didn't even cross my mind.  I ended up with a dough ball the size of my mash tun.  The half pound of rice hulls I threw in there didn't do a damn thing.  What I ended up boiling was about a gallon and a half of wort.  The original gravity came out a bit lower than expected and the attenuation wasn't near what I had hoped for.  I ended up with a 3.6% beer that I decided I would try again with wheat malt and try to save this one as a summer drinking beer by dry hopping it with an ounce of Sorachi Ace hops.  If all turns out right, it should be nice and light, slightly sweet and have a pleasant hop flavor that will hopefully go nice with the clove/banana flavor of the weisen yeast.

My second attempt of this beer wasn't too much more successful, and it didn't hit me until the end of this brew day which, unfortunately, was too late to save this beer (at least in the traditional form that I wanted it).  The common thread between the two, and I should have been a bit smarter than using it untested, is that I was using an IR thermometer in order to measure all my mashing and sparge water temperatures.  My efficiency was a dismal 52% when I typically hit between 65% and 70% and my attenuation was extremely low, on the order of 58%.  This pointed to one thing, a high mashing temperature since at higher mash temperatures, sugars are still extracted from the grains, however they are less fermentable sugars and result in a sweeter beer.  Over the next few that I brew, I will be using my original thermometer and taking temperatures with that and the IR gun and comparing the two along the brewing process.  Once I've compiled my data I will be posting it here and the way it is looking right now, I will be suggesting not to brew with IR temperature guns.

Hopefully all is not lost on that second hefeweisen though.  I added a pound and a half of honey after primary fermentation subsided in order to try and boost the alcohol content and at the same time convert this to a honey weise that if all turns out well should be a very drinkable beer.

Almost from the onset, after reading Pale Ale by Terry Foster in order to get some inspiration, I decided to go with the American version of the India Pale Ale.  It seemed like a better beer to serve at a summer BBQ with the citrus notes of the hops and the crispness that one would expect from an American IPA.  The design of this beer is still in the works at this time, but its base will be 2-Row and golden malt extract, and I plan on using plenty of North American hops and a California yeast.

On Deck: Honey Dunkelweisen (5/29), Wedding IPA (5/30)
Primary: Hefeweisen 2, Honey Toasted Oat Brown Ale
Secondary: Hefeweisen (dry hopped with Sorachi Ace), Traditional Pilsner
Total for 2011: 46 Gallons 

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