Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Homebrew - Hoppy Christmas

I brewed my second partial mash on Saturday - my second annual Christmas beer. Last year's was a huge success with a very similar recipe, minus the mashing. I view it as a sort of American Amber/Altbier hybrid.

2 lbs 2-Row
1 lb Munich Malt
.5 lb Crystal 60L
.5 lb CaraMunich
4.2 lb Light DME
1.2 oz Northern Brewer Pellets (6% AA) - 60 Minutes
1.2 oz Hallertau Pellets (3.2% AA) - 15 Minutes
.8 oz Hallertau Pellets (3.2% AA) - 1 Minute
1 tsp Irish Moss
WYeast 1007 German Ale Yeast

The actual mash procedure went more smoothly this time, though I had a heck of a time maintaining a constant temperature. After mashing in, I put the covered pot in the oven set to "warm" and then watched the temp go from 155-151 in about 10 minutes. That certainly didn't happen last time. Through the course of heating it back up, I'm sure I went too high and at times it probably got too low. I ended with an efficiency in the high 50's to maybe 60% (I took three separate hydrometer readings and got three separate answers after making a temp adjustment). A little disappointing to have worse results the second time.

I'm brewing again this weekend (anther IPA) and this time I'm planning to mash sans grain bag. I'm still trying to work out the details to my process, but I think I can make it work and I think I'll get better efficiency this way (it'll be easier for me to eliminate cold and hot spots that form in and around the crowded grain bags and also easier to sparge uniformly).

A quick note about the yeast, my local homebrew guy sold me a WYeast smack pack with a Dec. '06 date (the packs recommend using them within 6 months, so this was very old). He said I should be OK because I was planning to make a starter, but to make sure it swelled before using. I smacked it and it didn't seem to do anything so I took it back to the store to show him. He took out a new pack (same date as the old one) and showed me that yes, it had started swelling and sometimes took days to fully swell when they were that old. Then he gave me a second pack free of charge! So, I ended up making a bigger starter than usual using 2 smack packs. My fermentation started in under 7 hours.

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