A beer ten years in the making

One of the greatest things about home brewing is the ability to brew batches to commemorate any special occasion. In my family celebrations and beer go hand in hand. So, it made sense for me to brew a majority of the beer for our wedding last May. Jen and I thought it would be a great personal touch to the biggest celebration of our lives. It was a ton of work to brew and bottle over ten cases, but to share this special day with family and friends enjoying the beer I brewed was really rewarding. The whole process is documented at my old blog if you’re interested in reading more.

Our little love story started ten years ago when Jen and I met while working at an Italian restaurant, Vinny Testas. This past week we celebrated our ten year anniversary, so I knew a special batch was in order. Because of this milestone, I had some specifics planned for this beer: 1) I’m shooting for 10% abv for obvious reasons 2) I want a beer that will age well so we can crack one open on our anniversary for years to come 3) I wanted to use the washed Wyeast 1056 saved from the batches made for the wedding. This wouldn’t be an easy task considering the age of the yeast and my modest brewing rig.

I decided to go with a Russian imperial stout and made a starter with the washed yeast last week. After a little lag time the starter took off and looked/smelled healthy. I stepped it up two more times to ensure it was ready for pitching. To eliminate any doubt of healthy fermentation, an extra smack pack of 1056 would also be pitched. With that out of the way I was left to wonder, “How the hell am I going to make five gallons of 10% beer with a five gallon igloo mash tun?!” No fear… BREW STRONG!

I can proudly say that 14 pounds of grain will fit in a 5 gallon igloo cooler with a 1.1 quart of water per pound of grain ratio…barley (see pic below). I collected about 6.75 gallons of 1.060 wort after batch sparging. To boost the gravity, I added dark DME in 15 minute intervals throughout the boil. When all was said and done, I added three pounds throughout the boil and hit 1.105. This brew day was full of improv and probably wouldn’t have turned out so well without the help of a refractometer.

I’m happy to report fermentation took off almost immediately and is still chugging away. All signs indicate this batch will be a success. My plan is to give it about a month for primary then rack it onto something special. With a little luck it’ll be ready in time for our 11th anniversary.

Dieci Anni Di Dolci
Brewed February 19, 2012
Yeast: Wyeast 1056
Starter: Yes
Batch Size (Gallons): 5
Target Original Gravity: 1.101
IBU: 96
Efficiency: 76%
Boiling Time (Minutes): 80
Color: 55 SRM
Mash: Single Infusion @ 153F (60 minutes) – Batch Sparge

Grain Bill:
11 lb Marris Otter
1.5 lb Chocolate Malt
1 lb Roasted Barley
12 oz Flaked Barley
4 oz Special B Malt
3 lb Dark DME (added at 60, 45, and 30 minutes)

Hops/Additions:
80 min 4 oz Centennial (7.5%)
15 min Irish Moss
10 min 1 oz East Kent Golding (4.5%)
5 min 1.6 oz East Kent Golding (4.5%)
2 tsp Yeast Nutrient

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First Brew of the Year

It’s that time of year for setting goals and making resolutions. Besides eating better and exercising more, I’ve resolved to brew better beer. Practice makes perfect and consistency is what I consider mastery in this craft. Having brewed for over a year I’m confident in my process, but still in the learning stage. Take all advice with the caveat, “Your Mileage May Vary.” Now let’s talk brewing!

For the first recipe of the year I had a specific goal in mind: Brew a true session beer with some complexity. I say “true” session beer because the classification can be used loosely. Some people would consider a 5.5% to 6% beer still sessionable. While this may be acceptable with some styles, I’m trying to keep this beer around 4.5% abv. Most of the recipe was formulated with a surplus of ingredients I had.

This recipe would fall within the American Pale Ale category due to the late additions of Citra and fermenting with Wyeast 1056. Since Citra will be the focal point, any additions should compliment the grapefruit flavor and aroma. I happened to have a whole box of clementines in the fridge that would work nicely. After all… they are in season. They were incorporated after steeping for 20 minutes and mushing in a half-gallon of water. Coriander has worked for me in the past so I decided to throw some in at the end of the boil.

Since brew days can be scarce and I’m still using a five gallon system, I wanted to squeeze an extra gallon for experimenting. I took the last runnings of my batch sparge after hitting preboil volume. With the addition of some DME, crystal malt and hops I ended with about a half-gallon. I topped with distilled water to get one gallon of 1.062 wort. Yeah, I may have added too much DME!

It’s a little over a week and I’m still debating what to do. It looks like a lot of yeast is still in suspension. Maybe due to adding the clementines during primary fermentation? I’m hoping for the best and will see what’s needed. Here’s the recipes and pictures:

Cirtitine Ale
Yeast: Wyeast 1056
Starter: No
Batch Size (Gallons): 5
Target Original Gravity: 1.047
IBU: 36
Efficiency: 78%
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60 minutes
Color: 6.4 SRM
Mash: Single Infusion – Batch Sparge1 at 152
Temp: 152

Grain Bill:
6 lb American Pale Ale (2 Row)
1.5 lb Munich
8 oz Carapils
6.25 oz Crystal Malt 40 L

Hops/Additions:
60 min 1.25 oz Cascade (4%)
20 min 0.25 oz Citra (11.2%)
10 min 0.25 oz Citra (11.2%)
5 min 0.5 oz Citra (11.2%)
5 min 0.5 oz Coriander
0 min 0.5 oz Citra (11.2%)
8 Clementines steeped in 170F water (added to fermenter)

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Experimental Batch
Yeast: Safale US-05
Starter: No
Batch Size (Gallons): 1
Target Original Gravity: ???
IBU: ???
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60 minutes
Color: 12.3 SRM

Hops/Additions:
Steeped grains: Crystal 120/Carapils (2 oz each)
60 min Light DME
60 min 1/8 oz Centenial (7%)
30 min 1/8 oz Centenial (7%)