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Deadweight Scotch Brew

November 18, 2011

I didn’t think too hard about the name…

I wanted to brew a scotch ale to get back into brewing (man, it’s been more than a month since I brewed).  I thought I’d brew as big a one as my MLT would allow, then I realized a 10-gallon batch can’t really be that big with my efficiency and a 5-gallon batch is just ridiculous.  I’ve still got a recipe for 1.089 OG, but only the whims of my efficiency know how it will turn out.

Then, after I got the OG worked out – while trying to figure out what I should ferment at – I found my way to a BYO “Tip from the Pros” that got me thinking about Munich malt.  After my Maibock and – particularly – my Doppelbock, I’m a big fan of Munich.  I’ve been missing what I characterize as the Scottish aroma and to some extent the flavor, and I’m wondering if Munich malt might be the key.  I guess I’ll find out.  And I think I’ll save the oats for any possible follow-up batch.  Though it sounds interesting, I’m already doing quite a bit with this.

Recipe

BeerSmith Recipe / Brewsheet

Pre-brew

Dumping the grains into the mill was an experience in wonderful aroma.  I think it was mainly the munich malt and it smelled delicious.

Brew Day (11/20/11)

I think I rediscoverd the reason for my poor efficiency.  I think BeerSmith just doesn’t handle my ketle deadspace in its efficiency calculation.  When I punch in the actual volume attained at the end (~7.25 gallons this time) it shows 80% percent on my 1.076 OG.  I think I just need to take the deadspace into account myself when making the recipe and say my batch volume is 6.25 gallons instead of 5.

  • Measured dough-in temperature no greater than 152 F, but 15 minutes later when I mixed it up again it was > 153 F.  Man, it’s a pain to get everything mixed up and even temperature.
  • Essentially did a batch sparge this time.  I wanted to see how much I could get from the first runnings once I realized they were low OG-wise.  That only got me up to ~4 gallons though, so I added another 4 gallons or so, stirred it up and ran it off.
  • Recipe originally called for Willamette at 4.8%, but I actually got Fuggles from 2 different suppliers.  One supplier had them at 4.2%, while the other was 4.0%.  The change in alpha acid percent led me to adjust my 60 minute addition up to 51 g (up from 1.5 oz – ~42g).  Unfortunately, I didn’t consider the lower gravity as well.  To compensate, I reduced the 30 minute addition to 12 g and moved it down to a 15 minute addition to roughly maintain my SG:IBU ratio.  After my too-bitter (for my taste) ESB, I don’t care to make the mistake of over-bittering something that’s not supposed to be very bitter.
  • I had an issue when adding the chiller near the end of the boil.  I put it in with about 8 minutes left and tried to crank up the burner, but it didn’t seem to get any more intense.  This observation was later confirmed when it just wouldn’t get back up to boiling for 5 – 10 more minutes.  I think the propane tank was freezing up, so I think I need to make sure I put it in a bucket of water when I’m brewing in these cold temperatures.
  • Was a little nervous about the starter.  The yeast was collected from my last brew and had been in the fridge for ~4 weeks.  I got the starter going Friday evening and kept it on the stir plate overnight and most of the day Saturday (until the stir bar threw randomly and for some reason, I couldn’t get it going again).  This highlighted my need to get a potentiometer for the stir plate.  I had recently thought about it, but decided I was doing fine without it.  I guess not anymore.  I think part of the problem might have been that the yeast had mostly flocculated, so it was more clumped up and not flowing as smoothly.  This was evident – and another cause of concern for me, thinking it was just not viable.  I’m guessing I just underestimated it flocculant ability because there was a nice krausen the next morning.

Fermentation

  • Fermented in the keezer set at 58 F
  • The morning after pitching, nice krausen
  • By afternoon, steady bubbling from the blow-off tube (to make sure I don’t get gunk in my keezer).  Slow enough for me to be comfortable that they’re not too hot and making fusel alcohols.  Based on the Pro Tips, it should take ~3 days to ferment out.  That’s a little faster than my typical beers (taking no more than 2 days generally) but I’m fine with that if it means there aren’t hot alcohols.

Moved out of keezer and into water-filled rubbermaid after ~1 week.  Due to thermostat setting to keep house cooler when we’re away, the temp has stayed around 63 (about what it was near the end of the time in the keezer).  Wanting to get it warmer, I threw in the aquarium heater after ~10 days and will use that to warm things up slowly to make sure everything gets cleaned up.  My intention is to keg after 2 weeks (~4 days after putting the heater in).

Sample after ~13 days:  1.024 (seems a little high, will definitely have to check again to make sure it’s done before I keg). Color in the wine thief was lighter than expected, but in the glass it seems right (copper/amber).  Aroma dominated by yeast, but alcohol also noticeable.  Sweet, light caramel aroma beneath the two dominant.  Flavor is sweet, caramel with noticeable but smooth alcohol.  I’m pretty heartened by this.  If the yeast can clear out and the caramel become a little more noticeable in the nose, it could be quite excellent.

Sample after kegged for a week (~21 days after brewing):  1.020.  Guess I kegged a little too soon and that boosts the alcohol (very smooth alcohol at that) to ~7.33%.

Impressions

Now that it’s nicely carbonated, it has a restrained munich (like a small doppelbock) aroma and corresponding flavor.  The alcohol is very smooth and really not noticeable in the flavor, just giving a slight warmth going down (and certainly noticeable after a pint).  I’m definitely going to bottle some of this up and submit it to competition.  I think the smooth alcohol will go over real well, but I don’t think the flavor is quite right and I’d like to see if I can get any tips on how to improve it.  I really like this beer, but I still have some work to do before getting a good scotch ale.

Upper Mississippi Mashout Results

Assigned Score:  34.5

Judge 1:  35 – “too small for strong scotch, needs bigger body, malt richness, and alcohol,” but he thought it was a good beer that was too “sessiony” for the style with a low nose.

Judge 2:  34 – not much useful from this judge.  He pretty much just characterized it.

Scoresheets

Takeaways:  I think the alcohol might have just been too smooth/subtle for them.  At 7%+, I think it should be enough alcohol for a strong scotch.  I will strive to give it more malt richness and a bigger body in the future, though.

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From → Ale, All-Grain, Brews

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