The head on the brew has doubled in size--or more--and is frothing and bubbling with alacrity! Wow. I think of this yeast as an easy-going, mature fellow, not an ADD-enhanced teenager, but the youthful, exuberant character is the one I see this morning. The Stout is a big beer, but not spectacularly so, and the closet is hovering at 60-62 ºF, not exactly warm, but things are cookin' nonetheless. I like to think it was my superior yeast management that created this beautiful fermentation.
Twenty years ago today, the 22nd of January, 1988, I brewed my first batch of beer. Actually, I brewed it at my friend Ken's house, on his equipment. I later bought the equipment from him, and in May of that same year, brewed a second batch at home. Been cookin' up brews ever since! The St. Patrick's Day Stout is batch number CLVIII (158). The hall closet is at 60 ºF and after 24 hours the yeast has formed a one-inch head on the wort. It seems to be fermenting perfectly--a creamy whitish foam with flecks of brown covers the surface. I expect we will have beer real soon.
We take advantage of school holidays to brew here at FSB, and today was no exception. Things were still freezing when I started this morning, and were freezing by the time I finished this evening. In between it was a gorgeous winter day here in The State of Jefferson. I attempted another "no-sparge" brew, but with the lautering problems I have, I wound up sparging the hell out of it! I used a big horizontal cooler as a mash tun, figuring to get more surface area and make it easier to stir. I figured to use my bucket and strainer bag for the lautering. The cooler worked OK, but I still had many hot and cold pockets in the mash. I "doughed-in" by adding water to the grain (20 lbs: 15 lbs. pale, 1 lb. chocolate, 1 lb. Carafa II, 1 lb. oat flakes, 1 lb. flaked barley, 1/2 lb. roast barley, 1/2 lb. 120 ºL Special Malt). Five gallons (20 quarts) at 170 ºF only managed to bring the grist to 146 ºF. I used the decoction method to finally get it up to 152 ºF after several additions. I took out a gallon or gallon-and-a-half of mash out and cooked it to boiling in a saucepan on the hot plate (I have a primo commercial hot plate). Then I tossed it back in for a big mix-a-roo. Slowly but surely I got the mash to a saccharification rest. (I think I might get hooked on this decoction thing.) I attempted to lauter, but the mass of grain and liquor was too big and eventually the flow on my bucket shut down. It seemed to be a lack of air--the fat plug of mash in the bag ballooned in the bucket and acted like a stopper. After lots of heaving, wrestling, sloshing and splashing I managed to get a wort into the kettle. Man, do I need to solve my lautering and sparging problems! Nonetheless, I got just shy of 5 gallons at about 17 ºP (1.067). Ideal, really, for my St. Patrick's Day Stout. I under-hopped with an ounce of whole Northern Brewer (IBU approx. 33), but I'm looking for some dark malt and roast flavors with this one. Lots of cleaning up to do tomorrow and the next day, but the big messy stuff is done, and I can relax. I pitched my flask of SF Lager yeast at 1713 hours PST.
The New Year Beer ('08 Ale) went from closet to fridge today. It should be perfect by Stupor Bowl Sunday. Tomorrow is the first chance to tackle St. Patrick's Day Stout. I'm not quite sure yet what it will be, but I have a crop of SF Lager ready to pitch. Last Sunday I cooked up a starter, and by Thursday (the 17th) it had fermented out, the yeast making a compact layer on the bottom of the flask. So I refrigerated it. Tomorrow morning I will put it back in the closet so that it will warm up to the ambient temperature before pitching in the brew. Cold and snowy today, I expect more of the same on brew day. Tomorrow is a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. I like to take advantage of three-day weekends during the work year for brewing tasks. Look for an update tomorrow here at FSB.
Yes, friends, it was Corona Mill Time again. CMT is a regular feature here at FSB. Let me tell you, I'm thinking about buying the stuff pre-ground. I "cranked" 24 pounds of pale malt this afternoon! Who's the man? Give it up! Actually it was a pretty relaxed chore despite the tedium. Cleaning up--when everything is covered in grain dust--is the worst part. I also cooked up a yeast starter: 2½ cups water (600 cc) with 2¾ oz. DME, ¼ tsp. yeast nutrient, and ½ tsp. corn sugar. I boiled it in the Erlenmeyer flask for about 20 minutes. When the vial of yeast (WLP-810, SF Lager), the starter, and the hall closet reach equilibrium (about 62 ºF at this point), I'll pitch. I'm planning to brew a big stout this coming weekend that will reach its peak of perfection on the seventeeth of March--St. Patricks's Day.
Aught-eight oughta be great! The New Year Beer, batch number CLVII (that's 157 to barbarians), got kegged and bottled today. It has been snowing off and on all day, and we have an alpine wonderland here. Great day to stay inside and work in the brewery. We got 4 gallons of a lovely dark amber/brown ale: 2.5 gallons in the keg (2 oz. dextrose to prime) and 1.5 gallons (approx.) in 5 22-oz. bottles and 7 12-oz. bottles (1.5 oz. priming sugar). I had to lose at least a quart maybe closer to 3 pints due to the huge volume of yeasty sludge. This one might have been helped by racking earlier this week. Hovering around 64 ºF in the hall closet right now, I expect it will take at least a week to properly condition.