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Scottish ‘Tweener Brew

September 8, 2010

Pre-Brew

To get back into the swing of brewing now that we’re relocated back to Madison, I’m going to brew one of my favorite styles – Scottish.  I really like the variation on Main Street Homebrew’s Loch Ness that I’ve made, but I want to give Jamil’s recipe another try at a heavier version.  I think the 60/- was good, just too watered down.  This time, I’m going for a brew that’s between the 80/- and the Wee Heavy.  I don’t want to have crazy alcohol, but I do want some solid flavor.  Maybe in the future I can do it again at a true 80/-.

I picked up the ingredients at the Wine and Hop Shop Saturday (the day before) and saw they had revamped the layout.  When we were here previously, I was strictly an extract brewer, so I’d just stop in and pick out a kit and leave.  Now being into all-grain I was looking to find the grains first (since I couldn’t think where they would have been previously).  It wasn’t hard though, because now they were the front and center.  Oddly they were completely self-serve, too.  Scoop your own grains into a supplied bucket, weigh them on the scale, and mill them yourself (with the on-site mill).  After some careful measuring, I think I came out right on.  I went ahead and milled them and thought, “these don’t look too finely ground.”  I inspected for a little bit, but finally decided that they were probably OK.  When the brew day was done however, my gravities were way off and I’m thinking it might have to do with the mill.  I think I’ll do a 1-gallon batch of porter next week to see if I have the same problem.

After reading this small batch brewing primer:  http://brewing.lustreking.com/articles/stovetopallgrain.html, I decided to do a couple experiments.  First was to see if I could use the oven here to keep my mash warm.  A test run of 2 gallons of water at ~160F for 1 hour showed that to be not possible.  While the water heated, I let the oven heat to its lowest setting.  When the water was warm (and the oven was preheated – as evidenced by the flame being out) I killed the oven and set the kettle inside.  After the hour was up, the water was at 120F.  Maybe I could make it work by pulsing the oven, but I don’t think it’s worth that effort.

Second, I determined my boil off by boiling 2 gallons for 1 hour.  By the end of the hour, I was down to ~1.375 gallons.  Coupling that boil off rate (0.625 gallons per hour) with the value of 0.12 gallons per pound of grain (as mentioned in the primer), I determined I should start with 3.17 gallons of water.  This calculation ended up working exceptionally well on brew day.

Recipe

BeerSmith Recipe

Brew Day (9/12/2010)

Started out pretty uncertain of myself.  It’s been about 2 months since my last brew (Pale Ale on 7/11/2010) and I was pretty nervous that I’d forget something important and have to scramble to make up.  Though it took more time than normal, I think things still went pretty smoothly.

Mashing went well.  Brought up 5.75 quarts of water to ~170F and dumped it into the cooler with the grains.  About 2/3rds through, I stuck the thermometer in and saw it in the 150 – 160 range, so I think things were OK.

After mashing, I soaked in ~6 quarts of water at ~170F for 10 minutes.  Finally, I lautered by pouring ~1 quart of water at 170 – 180 over the bag.  One point to elaborate:  I bought a big new colander the day before brewing to replace the loaner that we’d been using in Oregon.  I was hoping it would sit in the top of the brew kettle so I could just lauter over the kettle and let it drain while I brought the wort up to a boil (as done in this small batch all-grain primer:  http://brewing.lustreking.com/articles/stovetopallgrain.html).  Unfortunately it just barely too small and I couldn’t find a good pair of sticks like the guy in the primer uses.  Fortunately it fit very well in our smaller cooking kettle (maybe 3 gallons).  If I can’t find a good pair of sticks in the future, I think I’ll just stick with lautering in that.  Sucks to dirty an extra pot, but better than splattering 180F water (like I did a couple times today, trying to get it to work) when the colander slips and falls into the pot.

Used Wyeast for the first time.

Fermentation

Checking the fermentors about 6 hours after pitching and the airlocks are already gunked up from rapid fermentation.  I sure hope it’s not too vigorous.  Reading Designing Great Beers I see that they should ferment cold and cleanly, to prevent yeast esters.  I’m afraid this rapid fermentation indicates that there will be not an insignificant amount of ester production.  All in all, I need some temperature control!

After a few days (3 – 4) fermenting (I can’t remember exactly) primary fermentation essentially stopped.  After 1 week, I wanted to harvest yeast for my Test Porter brew.  Coincidentally,  I had my cooler and aquarium heater set up, so I transferred 1 gallon (the one with more break) to another jug and put it in the cooler @65F.  My intention is to let it condition cooler (though not as cool as recommended) for a week or so before bottling.  If I have the patience, I might even let it sit another week or more.

Bottling (9/25/2010)

I think this will have to go down as one of the smoothest bottlings I’ve ever had.  So smooth that I figure I have to have missed something.  Luckily it wasn’t the priming sugar, though I did forget it until I was about to cap the first bottle and I saw the measuring cup with the sugar-water sitting on the stove.

I got 6 bottles (2-22 oz. and 4-12 oz.) out of the gallon that went to secondary in the temperature-controlled cooler and another 6 bottles (4-22 oz, 2-12 oz.) out of the other gallon.  I labeled two of the 12 oz. from the first batch for submission to the Badger Brew Off.

Update (10/5/2010):  As usual, I was impatient opening the first bottle and tried it after ~6 days.  As frequently happens (~1/3 of the time), it was flat.   So, I waited another 4 days and it was still flat.  Trying to decide if I under-primed or if they just needed more time, I was reminded of my thought that it’s kind of cold in the cabinet I’m storing them in (it’s adjacent to an outer wall).  With my trusty RT-600C in hand, I found the temperature (at 10:00 PM) to read 59F.  I’ll leave it until tomorrow and see what kind of fluctuation I get (the min/max feature on the thermometer is really nice).  Maybe if there’s too much fluctuation I’ll have to move them to the other side of the cabinet.  Though if the temperature is fairly stable on the cold side, it might be good to let them carbonate in a warm area and store them near the wall to age.  In the meantime, I guess I’ll have to stick to commercial stuff.

Grading

28/50

Aroma (5/12):  Lacking that “scottish ale” smell.  Really not much aroma to it.

Appearance(2/3):  Pretty clear, but a little too dark.

Flavor(10/20):  Also lacking “scottish ale” taste.  My first few sips seemed a little “green,” like there was a yeasty flavor.  This is coming from my higher trub fermentor, but I haven’t noticed a difference between fermentors before.

Some acidity to the carbonation but not much else.  The hops are essentially non-existent, which is probably what I was going for, but I’ll be interested to see how I like my Loch Ness brew with the flavor hop additions in comparison.

Mouthfeel (5/5):  Pretty nice actually.  Very full.

Overall (6/10):  Easily drinkable, but not a scottish.  It’s not something I’ll savor, but I won’t be unhappy to drink it.

I picked up the ingredients at the Wine and Hop Shop Saturday (the day before) and saw they had revamped the layout.  When we were here previously, I was strictly an extract brewer, so I’d just stop in and pick out a kit and leave.  Now being into all-grain I was looking to find the grains first (since I couldn’t think where they would have been previously).  It wasn’t hard though, because now they were the front and center.  Oddly they were completely self-serve, too.  Scoop your own grains into a supplied bucket, weigh them on the scale, and mill them yourself (with the on-site mill).  After some careful measuring, I think I came out right on.  I went ahead and milled them and thought, “these don’t look too finely ground.”  I inspected for a little bit, but finally decided that they were probably OK.  When the brew day was done however, my gravities were way off and I’m thinking it might have to do with the mill.  I think I’ll do a 1-gallon batch of porter next week to see if I have the same problem.

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