Sunday, December 13, 2009

Porter Out, West Coast Ale In

I have been threatening to do successive batches of beer for a while now, and finally got around to doing it.

On Saturday, my brother, my brother's friend from work, and I bottled our 12 gallons of porter and brewed another 12 gallons of west coast red ale. For the first time we left the yeast in the bottom of the fermenter from the previous batch and racked the new beer onto it. I like to call this hot bunking the beer. I think hot bunking is a navy term where more than one crew uses the same bed, and may often lie down while the bunk is still warm from the previous user (yuck)....but it works nicely with beer. Within an hour we had a full fermentation going. The pictures shown are after 24 hours, and you can already see some of the fermentation subsiding. I think I may re-use the yeast again when brewing at Christmas. Reusing yeast saves about $7 per batch, or between 10 and 12 percent of the cost of materials on a normal brewing session.

The session went well. We had extra work and extra cleaning with the bottling and brewing on the same day, but we had extra help. My brother's friend had never brewed before, but is an avid BBQ-er (not sure what Barbecue cooks call themselves)...And what goes good with BBQ? Craft beer.
He did a good job, and asked a lot of good questions. I hope I gave good answers, and that he had fun. We did give him a cut of our Porter to take home, and I am sure that he will get some of the
West Coast we brewed from my brother.

I don't have any complaints about our brew day, except we probably should have boiled down the wort a little longer as we ended up with a little more liquid and a slightly low specific gravity than I would have liked. Last time I brewed this beer I was slightly over 1.040, this time slightly under. Our efficiency was 67%, lower than the last west coast red ale (72%), but higher than for our Porter (59%). The minute variables are too numerous to count, but I wonder if the addition of gypsum to the mash last time made (to make water harder) or makes the difference. This doesn't explain why we jumped 8% from the porter, but maybe why we were 5% higher with the last red. The last red's grains were also from a different supplier, and their grind might be more fine. I did re-run some (perhaps half) of the grain through the mill twice, so perhaps this is the major difference.

Anyway, the Porter tasted like what I thought it should, so I am excited to try it after it carbonates. It will be carbonated at Christmas, but might not be good until New Years (but if it was good now, perhaps it will be good in two weeks). Now, I have to come up with a Strong Ale recipe to brew at Christmas. I have been doing my homework, but am wondering if I should do just a strong ale, or add spices to it. Also should I go English or German Alt? Every time I think I have made a decision, I change my mind. I am nervous with the strong ale, as it is a lot of ingredients, and has its own complexities in its strength and aging. I am certain I am going to use some oak for aging.... definitely American Oak.

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