Monthly Archives: January 2012

Brewday recap: Lambic #1 (pLambic) with Turbid Mash

Last weekend, on MLKJr day, I brewed my first lambic. Technically it was a pseudo-lambic (or pLambic) because I pitched a culture rather than letting nature inoculate the wort.
DSCN2216There are many ways to get a souring culture, one of the most common is to buy a bottle of lambic beer that isn’t pasturized, and grow up a culture from the bottle dregs. I went a different route, largely due to the overwhelming popularity of the results. I bought a pitch from East Coast Yeast of Al’s BugFarm 5 (the 2011 variant) and made a starter.

Making a pLambic isn’t necessarally super hard, you can do a regular infusion mash and just pitch a mixed culture to make a sour beer, but after reading Wild Brews and nagging Michael Tonsmeire. for advice on a number of occasions leading up to brewday, I decided to make it in as traditional a manner as possible, which most importantly includes a turbid mash.

If you want to know all there is to know about a turbid mash, I’d recommend you read Michael Tonsmeire’s article, and then proceed to Wild Brews. In a nutshell though, it’s a specific mash process that leaves a significant portion of the starches from your cereal grains as they are, which sets them aside to be food for the non-brewer’s yeast to tear apart and eat over the 1-3 year fermentation cycle. A traditional mash breaks them down into simpler sugars, so that brewer’s yeast can easily convert them to alcohol and other by-products.

OK. So, I was a little anxious about the turbid mash, because it was a deviation from the process that I know so well, so I referred to Michael Tonsmeire’s website, Wild Brews, and a third article by the Cult of the Biohazard Lambic Brewers in order to make myself a spreadsheet, outlining the various infusions and runoffs. I was able to move through these steps on brewday fairly flawlessly, with the exception that there’s one step towards the end, where it would be handy to have a third pot and second burner. Oh well, minor delay. If you want to know what steps I followed, read Michael Tonsmeire’s article, he has the same steps all laid out with photos.
DSCN2236The boil is where this really becomes a drag. Due to the high volume of water used in the mash process, you end up with a 9-10 gallon pre-boil volume, which can take a really long time to boil down. I have a Bayou Country propane burner, and it took me about 4 hours to get to my final volume.

Hop selection is also of concern when making a pLambic — you don’t want to use high-alpha hops for bittering, even if you only use enough to hit your 20 or so IBUs — you want to use low-alpha hops that have ideally been aged a few years to have even less bittering power. I used 4 year old Challenger hops, that I calculated to be at 2.7%AA. And as the books say, yes, they do smell like cheesy, smelly feet. I put them in the boil early to make sure that I blasted out all the smell and flavor.

Fermentation was fairly mellow, and it seemed to finish it’s primary phase in 4 days. The krausen has now fallen, and I’m sure the secondary microorganisms are now taking over the show. I’ll post some followup photos here as things change, I know it’s going to be a long process.

Recipe: 2012 Lambic #1
Style: 17D-Sour Ale-Straight (Unblended) Lambic

Wort Volume Before Boil: 10.50 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 6.25 US gals
Volume Transferred: 5.50 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.032 SG
Expected OG: 1.053 SG
Expected FG: 1.015 SG
Expected ABV: 5.0 %
Expected IBU (using Daniels): 19.2
Expected Color: 3.9 SRM
Mash Efficiency: 98.0 %

UK Pale Ale Malt 6lb 12oz (71.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Flaked Soft Red Wheat 2lb 12oz (28.9 %) In Mash/Steeped

UK Challenger (2.7 % alpha) 2.00 oz Loose Whole Hops used All Of Boil

Yeast: East Coast Yeast ECY01 – BugFarm 5

Mash Type: Turbid Mash


Brewday Recap: Dark Mild

roasted-grain-additionLast Sunday I brewed the first dark beer of the year, a Dark Mild. This style is unfortunately a dying style, and is almost unheard of in the US. The best way to describe it is the smaller, gentler brother of a porter or brown ale. It’s usually around 3-4% ABV, and the term “mild” comes from the fact that it’s hopped just enough to balance the beer, leaving the malty caramel and chocolate notes in the forefront.

The total grain bill for this batch was under 7.5 lbs, which is tiny for a 5 gallon batch. These kinds of batches make for a very easy brewday, with small volumes of water to heat, and very easy stirring. They also make for a gentle fermentation after the fact, with worries of blowoff and large heat output kept to a minimum.
dark-mild-runoffI used basically the same recipe as last January, with two small tweaks. First, I used Willamette instead of EKGs, to try to make it more traditional. [Willamette is a Fuggles descendant, which is what I should have used, but didn’t have on hand.] Secondly, I used the sparge-time addition of dark grains technique that I learned about from Gordon Strong to keep the dark grains nice and smooth. I have a feeling I may regret not bumping up the quantity of those grains, as the unfermented wort was really caramelly and not at all roasty, despite 3/4 pound of dark roasted grains. We’ll see what fermentation does to change that, but I suspect it won’t be much.

[Edit 2012/1/23: Fermentation did in fact sharpen up the flavor on this batch, and the roasty character is just perfect. I’m glad I didn’t try to correct it.]

I pitched a solid cup of slurry into this beer, and like all the beers I make at this gravity range, fermentation was pretty much done after 3 days. I moved the beer to the cellar to chill out for a few days at 55ºF, and I’ll keg it this weekend, giving it 6-7 days before cold crashing it. I don’t like to give these beers too long on the yeast, because they clean up too much, taking away that “English” character that makes these small beers interesting.

Style: 11A-English Brown Ale-Mild

Recipe Overview

Volume At Pitching: 5.28 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 5.02 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.039 SG
Expected OG: 1.048 SG
Expected FG: 1.012 SG
Expected ABV: 4.6 %
Mash Efficiency: 85.0 %
Boil Duration: 60.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 68 degF

UK Pale Ale Malt 7lb 0oz In Mash/Steeped
UK Medium Crystal 12.00 oz In Mash/Steeped
UK Dark Crystal 8.00 oz  In Mash/Steeped
UK Chocolate Malt (500 EBC) 8.00 oz
UK Roast Barley 4.00 oz

US Willamette (4.9 % alpha) 0.85 oz Loose Pellet Hops used First Wort Hopped

Yeast: Wyeast 1318-London Ale III

Extra-Ordinary Bitter


Just a quick write-up on yesterday’s brew…

Since last year’s vow of small beers (under 5%), I’ve become a little obsessed with a good English bitter, something that’s a bit of a rarity this side of the Atlantic. Yesterday’s was the lowest grain volume I’ve used, and also the 3rd batch in a row with really excellent efficiency (I hit 80% on this batch). I’ve achieved this by stirring thoroughly part-way through the mash, at the mash-out infusion, and at the second batch sparge infusion, not by adjusting my grind or increasing my sparge rate, which feels like a good way to go about doing it.

Pretty simple recipe, the only variation is that I subbed part of the 2-row base with wheat malt, just so that I could brew it with ingredients I had on-hand. I’ve become enamored with this particular combination of crystal malts in a bitter, just scaling up and down the base malt.

Style: 8A-English Pale Ale-Standard/Ordinary Bitter
Recipe Overview

Wort Volume Before Boil: 6.60 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 5.25 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 5.02 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.030 SG
Expected OG: 1.038 SG
Expected FG: 1.010 SG
Expected ABV: 3.7 %
Expected ABW: 2.9 %
Expected IBU (using Daniels): 26.8
Expected Color: 11.1 SRM
Apparent Attenuation: 72.9 %
Mash Efficiency: 80.0 %
Boil Duration: 60.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 64 degF

UK Pale Ale Malt 5lb 0oz (73.4 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Wheat Malt 1lb 0oz (14.7 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Dark Crystal 8.00 oz (7.3 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Medium Crystal 4.00 oz (3.7 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Chocolate Malt 1.00 oz (0.9 %) In Mash/Steeped

UK Golding (4.9 % alpha) 1.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops used First Wort Hopped
UK Golding (4.9 % alpha) 0.50 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 25 Min From End
UK Golding (4.9 % alpha) 1.00 oz Loose Pellet Hops used At turn off

Yeast: Wyeast 1318-London Ale III

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Full Mash
Schedule Name:Single Step Infusion (66C/151F)
Step: Rest at 151 degF for 60 mins