Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ale of Mark 3

Ale of Mark, my version of a "Scottish-style" beer, went to the refrigerator today. It has been quite hot here at FSB and it has been a bit of a bother to keep the hall closet properly cool. I've found that a couple of old gallon-sized plastic milk jugs, filled with water and frozen, can a keep a small space cool for hours.  The big "blue ice" packs for picnic coolers work even better. I set them on the floor on a towel (for the condensate--the jugs get very wet), and leave them in the closet through a blazing hot afternoon. They seem to have just enough heat capacity to absorb the excess heat and keep the closet around 64-68 ºF. Of course, we run the swamp cooler in the summer to keep the house livable. Normally I don't brew in the summer heat. I don't really have anyplace that stays below 70 ºF to ferment the beer. I know brewers who modify an old fridge with a controller that overrides the thermostat. That allows you to set nearly any temperature for the enclosed space. It works great for lagers, which need long, cool ferments. One of the improvements I'd like to make for FSB is an automatic temperature-controlled area like that. I've a few ideas. The system I have now is pretty simple, and I manage to get good beer, so I'm not highly motivated to change things. Some day, perhaps.

a.d.XIII Kal.Aug.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ale of Mark 2

The beer went to the keg today. I split it into two 2-1/2 gallon batches, one for each of the two small kegs. The first I primed with 50 grams of dextrose and the second I primed with 80 grams of dried malt extract. The 5-to-8 ratio seems to be the recommended scheme in the resources I checked. I was just about out of corn sugar and was fortunate that I had at least enough for one batch--I certainly did not have 100 grams of the stuff! It will be interesting to see if there is a taste difference. I used sucrose (table sugar) for many years because it was cheap and available, but every piece of contemporary homebrew literature I've found has said to stick with dextrose or DME, so I do. I never force-carbonate: I always prime the beer and let it condition before refrigeration. I think it produces a creamier, smoother carbonation. I could be full of shit, but that's the way I do it and I'm sticking with it. The kegs need a week or so at room temperature and then they'll go to the refrigerator. It has been very hot here, and keeping the house cool enough for the beer has been a challenge. Also, I broke my hydrometer--I do that all the time--and don't know the final gravity. Seriously, I think I've gone through five or six of those damn skinny little glass things. It's OK, the measurements aren't as important as the taste, and this one should be interesting. I'll just have to be patient, I doubt it will be drinkable before the end of the month.

a.d. V Id. Aug.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ale of Mark

The Fourth of July is always a good day to brew a batch of beer. My pal Mike is throwing a party next month and he wanted a "Scotch Ale." Well, I don't know about that--we drank quite a lot of beer in Scotland and couldn't settle on exactly what was supposed to be the national type. There were a number of small breweries that made full-flavored but easy-drinking ales, many of them served in the traditional manner, i.e. "from the cask" in the pubs. We went to one place on the outskirts of Inverness that had beer from the wood--actually drawn from a small wooden cask called a firkin--and drank an ale at a spot in Edinburgh flavored not with hops but with heather! We had black beers and golden beers and all the hues in between. We had craft beer and draft beer and bottled beer and mass-produced beer and imports and exports and you-name-it beer. So I'm not sure I know what a "Scotch Ale" actually is. Of course, lots of brewers will tell you that Scotch Ales are malty and full-bodied and probably amber-colored. So I made Ale of Mark today inspired by that notion. We stayed at a place called the House of Mark in the Angus region (Tarfside) that sat at the foot of a long canyon called Glen Mark. Through that glen flowed a stream known as the Water of Mark. Thus the Ale of Mark had its genesis.

I compromised a bit between a "first runnings/no-sparge" beer and a "batch-sparge." I used 15 lbs of malt including some Victory malt, British amber, and 120ºL caramel. I mashed with 4 gallons of water, and after an hour I added 2 gallons of "sparge" water. I then drained the tun and got 3+ gallons of 1.068 wort. I diluted to 28 L and boiled with 1/2 ounce of Admiral hops (15% alpha-acids). I wound up with 20 L of 1.044 wort into which I pitched a package of Safale-04.  Stay tuned for updates.

Happy Fourth of July!

a.d. IV Non. Aug.