Given a chance, technology will happily betray you.
In other words, if you brew enough, something completely out of your control will send your batch off the rails the moment your eyes stray from the mash tun or kettle. That’s the lesson of this week’s brew day, at least. First, though, let’s talk about the recipe.
This is a dank amber IPA, the last of three beers we brewed for our Oktoberfest party at the end of the month. It’s a riff on an IPA that Michael Tonsmeire (aka, The Mad Fermentationist) has been developing for a startup brewery. I say riff not because i’m improving his recipe but because we had to adapt to some ingredients being scarce right now. (Hello, Simcoe and Nelson Sauvin.)
The core of the hop bill remains Columbus and Chinook, which should yield a spicy, resinous base with hints of citrus and the forest floor (in other words, dankness). Where the original layers Simcoe we’re using Galaxy---that ripe, passionfruit-like hop from Australia. We were lucky enough to step into our favorite homebrew store just after a box of Galaxy had been opened. We knew right away that we’d found our Simcoe replacement.
That’s all great, but let’s talk about what went wrong. During mash in, our digital thermometer blew a gasket. Despite our best calculations (and a history of nailing mash temperatures), it looked like we mashed in at 160 instead of 152. That’s way, way too high. So we added cool water in small amounts to ease the mash down to 152. It took a couple of quarts to get it done, but after some gentle stirring and multiple readings with the thermometer’s probe, we found our mark. Or so we thought.
Near the end of the mash, the thermometer starting cycling rapidly through its entire temperature range, racing up and down several hundred degrees like clock hands spinning wildly during a time-lapse sequence in an old Warner Brothers cartoon. At that point, we knew something was seriously wrong. Using a backup probe thermometer, I took a couple of readings during vorlauf and found the wort at 1-freaking-29. So our mash was a long protein rest? Worried about poor sugar conversion, I adjusted the sparge water temperature to give us a second rest in the 150s before mashing out at an unfortunately low 164.
Obviously we didn’t hit our marks. We aimed for 1.057 OG but found ourselves at 1.051, which honestly is better than i’d feared. Beer can be very forgiving when you brew, as long as you sanitize like a crazy person and cherish your yeast. We’ll probably still wind up with a good amber IPA, but it may taste vanishingly dry. I’m eager to measure that final gravity.
Batch size: 5.5 gallons
Expected OG: 1.058
Expected SRM: 14
Expected IBU: 62
11.0 lbs. Vienna
2.50 lbs. American two-row pale
1.10 lbs. Melanoiden
0.81 lbs. Crystal 120L
0.25 lbs. Pale chocolate
3.75 oz. Chinook (13% AA)
2.50 oz. Columbus (14% AA)
1.00 oz. Galaxy (14% AA)
Wyeast 1056 (American ale)
Mash: 5.8 gallons at ? (essentially a 45-minute protein rest at 129) followed by another 20 minutes at 153
Sparge: 3.21 gallons at 162
Boil: 90 minutes
60: 1.2 oz. Chinook
10: 0.5 oz. Chinook, 0.5 oz Columbus, 0.5 oz. Galaxy
0: 0.65 oz. Chinook, 0.5 oz. Columbus, 0.5 oz. Galaxy during chilling (154)
Fermentation: Pitched at 67 and fermenting vigorously at 69. In fact, after 24 hours, we saw the warning signs of a blown airlock and switched to a blowoff tube before we were relegated to scrubbing kraeusen off the ceiling.