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Dusseldorf Alt Brew

May 30, 2010


BeerSmith Recipe

Brew Day

From memory, >4 weeks after the fact:

I started preparing my first ever starter the night before by boiling some DME in water (1g to 10mL water), cooling, and putting in 1 gallon jug.  The next morning, I warmed (from fridge temp) and added the yeast.  Throughout the day, I tried to swirl it around whenever I thought about it.  I’m not sure how well I warmed the yeast.  I think every time I’ve done a liquid yeast, I’ve taken it out too late and done what I expect is too rapid of a warmup for them.  At best, I’ll put it in a jar of cool water and gradually warm it by adding hot water throughout.  Generally even in this best case I do it more quickly than I think I should.

I think I did well heating the water, loading up the mash tun (though I had a little bit of trouble figuring out the proper orientation of what I later learned is known as a Phil’s Phalse Bottom), and lautering to the brew kettle (the sparge rate seemed pretty good with the wort being pretty clear by the end).  I attempted my newly acquired knowledge (from Brew Strong) to only boil hard enough to get turnover (not fire up the jet engine underneath).  Also, I was sure to do the 90 minute boil since I was using the Pilsener malt (lightly toasted malt that will contain more SMM – precursor to DMS).  One thing that sticks out during the process was that I couldn’t take any hydrometer readings.  This fact will play a role later (see “Post Fermentation”).  The brewing session prior, I put wort that was too hot into my hydrometer’s storage tube (the thin plastic container that the hydrometer was purchased in) deforming it and separating a portion of the bottom seam from the side wall.  I had been using it as a test jar since I got the hydrometer because I’m cheap.  Since then, I purchased a nice wine thief made out of HDP (if memory serves) that can stand much higher temperatures, is wider to prevent constriction from influencing the reading (something I had been concerned with with the other tube), and can of course be used as a wine thief to make it easier and more sanitary to take readings with beer in the fermentor (unfortunately it’s too wide for my 1 gallon jugs though).

Along with being my first experience with a yeast starter, I’m pretty sure this brew marked my first use of Whirlfloc.  Another nifty little piece of information I heard from Jamil, Whirlfloc is “irish moss on steroids” (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that quote somewhere).  Basically – if memory serves me – it promotes coagulation of proteins in the wort (when added 15-20 minutes prior to flameout) causing them to fall out, resulting in a much clearer beer.  I added about ½ a tablet (contrary to package directions, but consistent with recommendations from other homebrewers).  Being a fairly dark beer, I didn’t really notice much difference in this from using it, but I noticed a huge difference in my follow-on Pale Ale and ESB.  I am concerned that this addition will affect my head formation and retention by dropping head forming and retaining proteins out of the beer.  This is something I’ll have to experiment with in the future (on a dark beer where the clarity isn’t much of an issue, maybe).


Post Fermentation

Exploding bottles


The first bottles of this were a little on the sweet side.  The latest one however (that probably had an extra week or so to sit in the fridge) was right on, I think.  If I’m going to use Leavenworth’s Eight Mile Alt as a comparison, I think mine is better while probably still being true-to-style.  Now I’m not sure the Eight Mile is the perfect example of the style, but my only point of reference is a comment by Jamil in his Jamil Show where he mentioned he thought it was more true-to-style than many of the examples in the BJCP guide.  Regardless, I think mine is a really good beer and I’m looking forward to tasting what’s been lagering in the fridge for almost 3 weeks now (once its had about 4 weeks).

Lagered Beer:  Wow, what a difference some time made!  The lagered stuff actually had time to fully ferment and it’s a much different beer.  It’s much more “bready” than sweet, but it’s still all malt with just enough bittering by the hops and no perceivable flavor.  The aroma is right on I think, while the flavor seems a little off – not delivering on what the aroma suggests.  I’m not sure if there’s some fermentation byproduct or what.  Still it’s a really good beer that I wish I had more of.  I’m surprised how quickly a ~5 gallon batch disappeared (though some of it “disappeared” in an explosion of foam).

What to do different next time

Man, I sure liked this beer when it wasn’t finished fermenting.  Maybe I’ll make a similar recipe sometime with a higher mash temp to reproduce it.  Of course I don’t think I’ll be able to call it an Alt, but it’ll be good.

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