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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Lucky 7’s IIPA

We’re almost a month into 2012 and I’ve yet to enjoy anything I actually brewed in the new year. The waiting game is always the hardest part. A couple of weekends ago I got started on a new batch. Since the well is running dry and the winter months are upon us, I attempted my biggest brew to date. I decided on an imperial IPA with a target OG of 1.077.

The mash tun I use is only a five gallon igloo cooler, so capacity is a concern. Surprisingly I had tons of room to spare with 11.6 pounds of grain and almost 3.5 gallons of water. To boost the sugar content (aka fermentables… OG) 1.5 pounds of turnbinado sugar was added to the boil. Melanoidin and Caramunich II were chosen as speciality grains and comprised right around 18% of the fermentables. These grains along with Wyeast 1450 (Denny’s Favorite) were a few more firsts for me. Given the role of the dice with the new ingredients, the target OG of 1.077, and a target IBU of 70, I thought “Lucky 7’s” would be a fitting name.

It was smooth sailin’ all day: Mash temp hit, perfect sparge, steady rolling boil, and a fast chill. I was even able to prepare a great meal while brewing thanks to the crock pot and a pork butt. You’d be surprised how easy it was to make homemade BBQ sauce, kimchi and roasted beats throughout the brew day when the meat can cook unattended. Everything was well worth the effort.

If cooking a full meal and one five gallon batch wasn’t enough, I also tried another experimental batch with the final runnings. Unfortunately, I should have added some more DME since the batch ended with 1.030 as a starting gravity. Next time I’ll remember to use the refractometer. Live and learn… Last night I transferred the IIPA and the Citritine ale (brewed earlier in the year) to dry hop both with some additional Citra. Good brews are right around the corner. Here’s the recipe and some pics:

Lucky 7’s IIPA
Brewed January 14, 2012
Yeast: Wyeast 1450
Starter: No
Batch Size (Gallons): 5
Target Original Gravity: 1.077
IBU: 70
Efficiency: 78%
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60 minutes
Color: 10 SRM
Mash: Single Infusion @ 153F (70 minutes) – Batch Sparge

Grain Bill:
10 lb American Pale Ale (2 Row)
14 oz Melanoidin Malt
8 oz Caramunich II
1.5 lb Turnbinado Sugar

Hops/Additions:
FWH 1.5 oz Centennial (7.6%)
30 min 0.25 oz Centennial (7.6%)
15 min Irish Moss
10 min 1 oz Citra (12%)
0 min 1 oz Citra (12%)

Fermentation
Primary 10 days (ambient temp around 62F)
Transferred to secondary on 1/23 with 1.25 oz Citra (1.018 gravity)
__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Experimental Batch #2
Yeast: Safale US-05
Starter: No
Batch Size (Gallons): 2+
Target Original Gravity: ???
IBU: ???
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60 minutes
Color: ??? SRM