Batch #9 – All Grain #5
It’s time for a new recipe and all new mistakes. This is batch #2 on my v3.0 brewing system – ninth overall since I started home brewing and the fifth all-grain. This time around I’m finally tackling something that I’ve been wanting to do for almost as long as I’ve been brewing. It’s what I’ve come to call the “Vertical Epic” named after a series of beers created by Stone Brewing Co. In their model, each beer is released on that year’s palindrome date (e.g. 10-10-10, 11-11-11, 12-12-12) and meant to be cellared for at least one year after the brew date before drinking. The original concept comes from the wine world and vertical tastings where similar wines from multiple vintages are sampled in a single sitting in order to compare and contrast the differences between the chosen bottles.
This year’s brew is the 11-11-11 series. It will be brewed around one year prior to November 11th, 2011 and age for a full year before consuming. The chosen recipe is the 11-11-11 Gun Stock Ale formulated through a social collaboration on the HBT forums. It is in the style of an Old Ale and fermented with a seasonal Wyeast blend of yeast which combines two different yeast strains.
For sourcing the ingredients, I decided to try out Brewmasters Warehouse. This recipe has a few ingredients which many suppliers don’t stock. The Wyeast Private Collection strains are limited edition releases that are fairly hard to find. Brown malt is also difficult to come by. Amber malt is slightly less rare, but it can also be problematic to track down. Luckily, Brewmasters Warehouse carries all of these ingredients. They also have an online recipe crafting tool which allows anyone to build and share their recipes. Simply input a recipe using their available stock of ingredients and anyone can instantly add them to their shopping cart with a few simple mouse clicks. Another HBT forum user was kind enough to post this recipe for anyone who wanted to do their shopping here.
Overall, I can’t say I was disappointed with my experience ordering from this vendor. I chose to have the grains milled for a nominal extra fee and the crush appeared to be quite good. The packaging was also top notch with the grains split into two durable vacuum sealed plastic bags. There were only two downsides to my order. First, while I’m located in northern California, this vendor ships out of Georgia. This is a long journey for any perishable item such as grain or yeast to travel without incident. I’m not terribly concerned about this in the fall when temperatures are moderate, but I would probably think twice about ordering here in the thick of summer or dead of winter. It also took a few days longer than I expected for the order to be fulfilled and shipped compared to some other vendors I’ve dealt with. However, I can chalk this up to the difference between dealing with a small regional company and the efficiency of a massive highly optimized enterprise like Amazon. It’s definitely a pretty minor complaint. If I were still living in the Midwest, they would definitely be in the running for more of my business.
11-11-11 Gun Stock Ale
Batch #9 – All Grain #5
- 14.5# Marris Otter
- 12oz Brown Malt
- 12oz Amber Malt
- 8oz Molasses
- 2.5oz Target AA 8.6% @ 60 minutes
- .5oz Target AA 8.6% @ 5 minutes
- Wyeast 9097 Private Collection Old Ale Blend
- O.G.: 1.083
- F.G.: 1.020 ?
- A.B.V.: 8.3% ?
I’ve done a Scottish ale which used a first running reduction before and it was one of my favorite brews. The rich caramel and toffee flavors added from the reduced syrup add a great flavor complexity. Any time you’re doing a reduction of this nature it is very important to use a large pot with lots of extra head space. Even boiling down a gallon or two in a five gallon pot can produce a full pot of foam at a rigorous boil.
When it comes to the yeast, this is the first time that I’ve dealt with either the Wyeast brand or multi-strain blends. Unlike the vials of White Labs I’m used to Wyeast liquid yeasts come in what is called a smack-pack, a liquid foil packet which contains a small nutrient pouch suspended inside. A few hours before you are ready to pitch the yeast you smack the pack, breaking the inner pouch and releasing the nutrients into the yeast. As the yeast feed on the nutrients and begin to propagate, the pack will begin to swell. The pack should be fully swollen after 3-6 hours indicating that the yeast are healthy and ready to be pitched.
The Wyeast Private Collection is a special release series of strains which varies from year to year. The 9097 strain was made available for a limited time from October through December of 2010 before being retired. This is a blend of a normal attenuative ale yeast mixed with a small amount of a Brettanomyces strain. The ale strain ferments out as normal while the Brettanomyces feeds on the complex sugars left behind after the primary ale fermentation over a much longer period of time (months as opposed to weeks). The resulting flavors produced from this secondary fermentation process should hopefully add subtle sour and cherry-like notes to the final beer.
Before the brew day, I did research on various brewing worksheets and collected a number of references in order to develop my own worksheet. While I haven’t yet come up with something that works perfectly for my needs, I have managed to find a few samples to help me out. I printed a couple of these out for the big day to use as guides along the way to make sure I was recording as much data as I needed throughout the process and not forgetting any important steps along the way. This was quite helpful and I feel I have more data points in my notes for this batch than for the last few. It’s still not perfect, but it’s definitely a move in the right direction.
It will be a while before I know how this one turned out. After a month, the primary ale yeast strain had done its job, producing an 8.3% ABV beer and I transferred into a glass carboy. Over the course of the next several months, the Brettanomyces strain of yeast will slowly do its work and hopefully add to the overall character of the beer. I will also be adding oak cubes at some point during this secondary phase in order to add another layer of flavor complexity to the final beer.