Thursday, July 26, 2012

Vermischt Pale

Sunday Morning Kolsch?
"Vermischt Pale"

This Sunday I am planning on brewing up my first Kolsch.  I haven't spent much time brewing super light, lager in color, beers during my time as a brewer.  I have nothing against them but for some reason I have not been that into it.  Last year I got on this kick of brewing cream ales and really enjoyed that.  I would generally brew them on the hottest day possible and try to couple it with having people overs, games of Washer Toss, and lots and lots of homebrew.  They were low energy brews with a small grain bill and few hop additions.  Plus, I had someone who was able to supply me with Spotted Cow for there is a beer worth drinking on hot day.  Granted, we only get 10 or 12 days like that a year up here in Vermont but it is the thought that counts right?  I am the first to admit that a brew day with festivities and drinking can get away from you.  I forgot who said this but someone once said; "Pride before a fall and beer before a f-ed up mash."  That may be a little extreme but I think you get what I am saying.

This brew day is going to be different!  Mainly b/c I am super excited about the yeast.  The recipe is fairly straight forward and simple but the real star of this show is going to be the East Coast Yeasts Kolschbier strain (ECY21).  I recently have had a string of good luck when picking up Al's yeasty delights.  Love2Brew is a shop based out of New Jersey that Al also delivers to.  It was a bit of well kept secret there for a while but the cat is out of the bag already so go forth ye followers of Yeast of Burden and ECY!  Go forth and order your yeast.  I would wait a while though with temperatures climbing higher and higher the chance of accidental activation is great.  Love2Brew has managed to have the yeast on my door step (in an awaiting cooler I keep out for the UPS guy) always in less than 24 hours from it being shipped out of the warehouse.  I like that. A lot.  Is is because I want to ensure maximum viability from my yeast or is it because getting some of Al's yeast is like Christmas?  Well, little from column A and a little from column B.  Mostly column B.

Back to my point:  Sometimes brewing is something you do because you want to make an entire day of it:  Big grain bill, lots of transferring of water and wort, lots of hops, lots of timers going off, lots of missed hop additions, etc.  Sometimes you want something straight forward, to the point, and that leaves you with a better than drinkable end product.  This is what I am going for on Sunday....quality and simplicity.  This will likely be a 100% German Pilsner grain bill and I will likely use only Tradition or Hersbrucker hops.

Since I have had the Kolschbier strain in the fridge for a little bit I will be making a starter tonight to get it going strong by Sunday morning.  According to Al, one should make a starter if the yeast is over a month old, the gravity is over 1.065 (which it will certainly not be), or you are pitching into over 5/6 gallons.  I generally collect about 5.75 or 6 gallons into primary to ensure 5.5 in secondary and in the keg and the yeast is a tad over a month old so it seems like a starter is in order.  I'll make up about a liter starter that weighs in at about 1.035.  Because I am starting the starter so close to brew day, I will not likely cold crash and decant the liquid off the yeast cake.


Well, things ended up going a bit "different" as zero hour approached.  While watching the Olympics on Friday and Saturday night I decided to go for the gold and try something very different than the recipe I had planned.  I had some of my favorite American hops in the fridge and I thought I would do a bit of a free form hop schedule.  I also decided to add a bit of Vienna malt to the grain bill for a bit of color in the cheeks so to speak.  What I ended  up mashing in with was something that was likely going to end up being a bit of German Pale Ale with some very American late hop additions.

Why did I decide to do this?  The very opposite of what I was writing about a mere few paragraphs ago...well because I became inspired!  Isn't that what really motivates us as homebrewers and beer lovers?  It is for me, that is for sure.  While watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics I found myself really appreciating my European roots.  I am primarily French but I have some Welsh and Scottish mixed in for spice.  I then began thinking to myself that I should add something to this Kolsch to make it a bit more "melting potish".  This beer doesn't need to impress a judge or anything and at the end of the day we need to brew things that we want to sit down with in our favorite spot in the yard, house, lake, woods, whatever and enjoy what we are drinking.  I LOVE a tall glass of cold, crisp, and clear Kolsch.  I also love very late hopped Pale Ales...well...why not add two of my favorite hops to the end of the boil so I can appreciate every aspect of what I just mentioned?  I scribbled out some things on my brew day planning sheet and BLAMMO it was going to happen.  That is the joy of making your own rules, you can change them whenever you feel so inclined.  Ok, on to the brew day.

The brew day started off normal, I had put together everything the night before so I could get up, make my wife breakfast, make some coffee, double check my gear, and rock.  Problem one occured...I left my brew kettle lid at my friend Don's house post Harpale Ale.  Went there..picked up.  No worries!  Time to crush the grains!  I love my grain mill, it is a standard Barley Crusher that has never let me down.  It has a couple features that are very helpful...namely that it has a handle that can be used to attach a drill and blast through your grist in no time at all AND a handle to hand crush your grains when you forget your drill at that same friends house from the previous brew day.  Guess what we ended up doing?  Crushing by hand.  Luckily, my wife's brother Andrew was there to help out and learn about all grain so he got to do it.  He is also stronger than me.  Luckily it was only 10 pounds and only took 5 minutes or so.  That mill was a wonderful investment.

I wanted to try my new false bottom for my Blichmann 10 Gallon Pot for this brew so I planned to stick to a more traditional multi step mash for this.  Again, this in complete contrast to what I set out to do...simplify.  Oh well, it worked beautifully so no worries, eh?

Before I get into the notes I want to again say how much fun this recipe was to develop.  I had my sights set on something very by the book and  because I saw something that inspired me, I was able to take that emotion and zeal back to the drawing board, check my supply of this's and that's, and try something new.  Already as I await fermentation to begin I am pleased with this was fun to develop, fun to brew, and fun to write about.  Brewing is a process and we, as homebrewers, are free to really play with it and if your practices are sound and well thought out you are going to end up with something good...with some work you will end up with something memorable.

PS--> Vermischt means "mixed, blended, miscellaneous"...very fitting.

Recipe, Notes, & Details

9 lbs German Pils
1 lb Vienna

Multi Step Mash:
122 F for 20 min
149 F for 30 min
158 F for 30 min
170 F for 10 min

75 minutes

1 oz Tradition @ 60 
1 oz German Hersbrucker @ 30
1.5 oz Centennial @ 2
1.5 oz Columbus @ 0

Yeast & Adjuncts:
East Coast Yeast ECY21.  3/4 liter starter on stir plate. Not decanted.
Pitched at 64 degrees.
Pre Boil Gravity: 1.041
Original Gravity: 1.047
Final Gravity:
Apparent Attenuation: 75-78%
Actual attenuation:

Pre Boil: 1.041
Pitched at: 1.047
Collected: 7 gallons in boil kettle.
Final volume in primary: 5.75 gallons

Aerated for 60 seconds with pure oxygen

7/29/12- Brewed with Andrew. Rocky start with brew day. Had to hand crush grains.  Multi step mash went well.  One needs to stir constantly when heating mash up to next step with this particular false bottom...if not, you could easily overshoot your next step. Pitched yeast at 64 degrees.  Glad that it has been cool and raining lately or else I wouldn't have been able to get it down that cool.  In cold room of house, at 62 currently.

B/C of multi step mash, I had to sparge into my boil kettle and collect in my cooler mash tun and then transfer into my boil kettle.  A bit cumbeersome but added another layer of filtering that will be good for this beer.

7/29/12- Checked carboy around midnight and was fermenting nicely with large krausen.

8/8/2012- Gravity @ 1.012.  Aroma: a bit of sulphur, very subtle. Also a tiny bit of fruitiness from the American hops at the end of the boil.  Really surprising though how the ECY21 Kolschbier yeast really took center stage even given that I added 2 ounces of prominent American hops at flameout and during the chilling process.  The color is where it should be...yellow.  I just need the yeast to flocculate out.  I know I seem like a broken record here but my fridge is out...I am working on it though...temp controller on the way to convert my smaller chest freezer with soon.

8/11/2012- Racked to secondary. Gravity at 1.010.  Let sit outdoors overnight when temps got down into the high 40s.  Yeast flocculated out nicely.  Not really much different than above tasting notes.  Still coming along nicely.  Will do this beer well to hang out in secondary in a cooler area of the house for a couple of week.

9/3/2012- Bottled.  Gravity at 1.010.  This beer did very well with an extended secondary in a cooler area of the house.  Most notably is the color development.  Was glad to see it clear up and get a bit more yellow and more of what I expected from the grist.  The yeast really has continued to take center stage and ever come through over the late addition American hops.  

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