Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Double Brew, Deep Into the Night

It's not often that laziness lets me down.

But it sure did this past Sunday when, still in the midst of shaking off the previous night's indulgences and waffling over whether I actually felt like brewing, early- and mid-afternoon came and went before I pulled my act together and got moving on a double-batch brew I'd been planning for a while. (And one that, otherwise, would have had to wait until the new year.)

So it was dreary, drizzly and dimming as my strike water heated up, and the mash was conducted under cover of dark:

Well behind schedule already, things weren't about to improve. The mash temperature came in lower than planned, and it took several boiling-water infusions to bring it up. After the sparge, more time was chewed up bringing all this extra volume to a boil – I finally got action just shy of 8 o'clock. And of course, all that liquid meant a longer chilling time than my usual five-gallon affairs.

The yeast were pitched after 10 p.m. and cleanup didn't wrap until close to 11:30. But, as always, any fatigue or annoyance had been largely supplanted in importance by that sense of accomplishment and excited anticipation (colored with a tinge of anxious uncertainty) that comes from having fresh wort in the fermenter, ready for magic to be done upon it.

On top of its nocturnal novelty, this batch was special for its experimental nature. Using the same grain bill and hopping schedule, I split the 11-plus gallons of wort in two for purposes of making two entirely different beers: One, a Kolsch fermented with White Labs WLP029; the other a Belgian Blonde Ale using WLP530.

To account for the higher original gravity and simple-sugar addition employed in the making of Belgian Blondes, I had pulled off about two quarts of wort most of the way through the boil and added to that 1.25 pounds of sucrose (table sugar). That was chilled and added to the Belgian wort as I drained the kettle. Other than that and the yeast strains, the worts were identical: in total, 17.5 pounds of Pilsner malt; 1.5 pounds of Munich; 26-ish IBUs from Magnum hops; and another 0.75 ounces of Santium hops at 10 minutes for the heck of it.

Both batches are now fermenting away happily. The Kolsch (left) is puffing along at around 62 degrees; the Belgian at closer to 66, though I have plans to let that warm up.

Time and tastebuds will determine whether this little experiment was worthwhile. The upshot is twice as much beer for not much more work; the risk is winding up with 10 or more gallons of substandard stuff. This was not my first (nor my second) double-sized batch, but ordinarily I stick to single-fermenter brew days. But then, I also tend to stick with brew days as opposed to nights. Though it would suit my laziness, for the sake of everything else let's hope darkness doesn't prove to be any kind of magic ingredient.

Update: Kölsch recipe and evaluation


billy.ellison said...

How are these two batches coming along? I have only done a couple of double batches myself, but I feel your pain. I got started at around 4pm on mine each time, and still ended up having a longer night than I wanted.

Brad said...

Hi Billy,

I kegged the Kolsch about 3.5 weeks ago, and when I started pouring it 1 week ago (prematurely, I think, but we were hosting a little party) it was tasting awesome. I think additional cold-conditioning time will only help. So far I'm very happy. (Fingers crossed.)

After I kegged the Kolsch I moved the Belgian into secondary to do some lagering. Then I kegged it about a week ago. I have not yet tried it as I use a balanced system and tend to give beers up to 2 weeks to carbonate.

My last batch was also double-sized -- 10 gallons of Alt. Again I wasn't sure I wanted to brew that day but I ended up being able to pitch my yeast about 7:30 pm.

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