A lot of things are new around the old family brewery these days. I talked ad nauseum about new equipment, and to date, we have only bought one thing, albeit a great one new thing. We have, however, opted to experiment with new recipes, materials, and methods.
This past weekend we bottled the Scottish Ale and brewed a Belgian Wit (which are both new recipes for us). Preliminary tastes has the Scottish Ale with a little too much smoky peat flavor (from the new ingredient), but time, refrigeration and carbonation may change the character of the beer. The smoky flavor is not altogether unpleasant, but it was a little more than I wanted in it. My brother and I had a debate on how much, and we opted for a compromise between my brother's philosophy of going bigger but a dose of my philosophy of restraining ourselves so we still have a drinkable beer. So the final decision was slightly more than I would have done, and slightly less than he would have. At this point, the jury is out, still.
For the Belgian, we opted for using some un-malted grains (specifically wheat and oats). I have previously used malted wheat for our wheat beers. The un-malted cereal grains are natorious for creating stuck mashes, so we opted to do a separate cereal mash to try to mitigate this. The idea of a cereal mash is to mash the un-malted grains with a little malted barley. The cereal mash is rested at 120 degrees (protein rest) to break down the gluten (the proteins that make the grains gluey) to reduce the chance of stuck mashes and then up to mash temperatures. The reason to add a little barley is to provide some enzymes to start the starch conversion.
I heated the grains on the electric stove to 120 degrees and then we added it into the main mash (instead of raising the temperature separately). The only problem was that I burnt the grains on the bottom (using the electric stove) and besides losing those grains, I had to be careful to not stir the burnt stuff into the mash. The cereal mash seemed to have worked as we didn't have a stuck mash, but it may have also been that we were using only 35% un-malted grains (50% would have been more dicey), and it didn't really matter.
I figured we would hit at least 80% mash efficiency, and despite the use of the un-malted grains (which is traditionally lower yield) and losing some of these grains to burning, we ended up with a higher gravity than expected, but less total run-off. So in all our efficiency was about 80%. I was pleased. So by my brother's birthday in early May, we will have a nice Wit beer available.
I need to figure out how to rid myself of all of this beer. I have 5 beers currently available, and two that will come on line in the next 4 weeks. And I just want to brew again. I will have to see if my friend is ready to brew once I get the equipment back. But what is next?
Of what I have currently available, the Porter is my favorite beer. I am likely to add some more crystal malt next time, but right now it is the beer that I always want to drink. Our Oktoberfest has aged nicely and except for some chill haze, is what I expected. However, I notice that there is a taste that I presume to be from the lager yeast that I don't quite like. I noticed this taste when I purchased some Oskar Blues Little Yella Pils (Traditional or Continental Pilsner). I didn't know what it was, but I was surprised when the same flavor came through on my Oktoberfest. I have decided that I am just an Ale Man. I might have a lager once in a while, but for the most part, they are not for me. I feel like the skunky smell/taste I don't like is more prevalent in lagers than ales. But, I don't know what that is. Is it Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS) that is often spoken of (some like a little, some say none is appropriate), or something else?
So, what to brew next? I am open for suggestions, but I am thinking that a Traditional English Bitter (or Extra Special Bitter, ESB) might be next. I want the hoppiness of the bitter, but certainly not overwhelming. Something refreshing.