With the prospect of such good weather, and an unusual free Saturday, I decided to have an impromptu brew day. Today's recipe: a German Pilsner that doesn't really have a name yet. (Perhaps I should call it "Banquo's Best" in honour of the play that is taking up so much of my time.)
I don't normally brew lagers-- at the homebrew level, they are more challenging, because they bring with them the need to have a cooler fermentation than most situations allow without chilling. But since it's winter, the basement can support a temperature of 55F/13C in certain corners.
|Milling grains with muscle power is for chumps.|
The recipe I put together is based around what I have: some german lager yeast (W-34/70) that was running up against its best-before date and I wanted to use, 8lb of Bohemian Pilsner malt and a bit of Munich, and some Saaz pellet hops that Andrew had bought for his previous brew (a Helles.) I've never made a beer with Saaz before, so I was looking forward to this. There are a number of similarities between this Pils and Andrew's Munich Helles, so I decided to try and see what a modest amount of flavour and aroma hops in this brew would do to distinguish it.
|Saaz hop pellets, measured and ready for timed addition|
The brew day started out well enough. Here at MBB (in other words, my garage), Andrew and I had been refining and advancing our brewing process with a nice new Blichmann pot to serve as a mash tun, and even a couple of toys that we've not used (a March pump and a chiller plate) waiting in the wings for the next brew day to allow for some interesting new tricks.
But today, given I was on my own, it was a back-to-basics brew day. I would be doing a single infusion mash in the Coleman cooler I had started doing all-grain brewing in a couple of years ago, but that had been relegated mostly to hot liquor tank (i.e. storage vessel for hot water.) It's not a great solution for mashing, but it has got me through many brews successfully.
|Coleman cooler, converted for mashing with dishwasher hose and plumbing parts|
|The "basic setup": an 8 gallon MoreBeer pot for heating and brewing, and the adapted cooler for mashing|
|The thermometer says I hit my mash temperature!|
|A beautiful, steaming bed of mashing malt|
|Drawing wort from the mash tun.|
|Using a refractometer to check the gravity of the first runnings|
Still, today was odd. Despite hitting my mash temperature well, it chilled off substantially over the next hour that I felt the need to top up with boiling water to get the temperature up. Essentially I changed this brew from a single-infusion 150F mash to a step mash, finishing the mash out at 156F.
Other oddities: The wort was so heavy with trub (solid matter that isn't beer) that my pot's tap clogged up. I had to siphon out the cooled wort manually. A pain! Speaking of taps not working, my turkey fryer burner's regulator is shot and I was forced to control the level of flame at the propane tank tap itself. Another pain, and one that needs replacement.
|Winter brewing means colder tap water: chilling after the boil is so much faster!|
|Dismantling reveals the culprit of my clogged pot tap: siphon full of green gunky trub|
I don't usually fly by the seat of my pants so much! I prefer when the recipe matches reality. Variations become challenges if I ever want to reproduce something, so I took a lot of notes this time.
Despite all the oddities, it was a beautiful day to spend outside brewing. Normally, winter brewing is a miserable affair and something I've gone to lengths to avoid. But today was comfortable, with no challenges from freezing or snow, and the sun shone most of the day. I even got the chance to fix a downspout that had frozen up around Christmas time.
|Naturally I enjoyed a beer while brewing!|
The end result is a carboy full of wort, which will spend the rest of the winter fermenting and conditioning in the coolest corner of the basement. Hopefully this will be a lovely deck lager when spring starts turning into summer.
|Cold, dark corners full of beer.|