Sunday, November 10, 2013

#13 ESB - Brewday

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

Brewed 11/10/13:
So this brewday was a shit show.  I was forgetting things left and right.  Thankfully Steve joined me, so we had an extra set of hands and eyes on the wort.  I thought that would make things go smoothly, so we tried to bottle the oatmeal stout simultaneously.  It was too much.  I think I've learned my lesson: brew day and bottling day are not the same thing.

Anyway, so we brewed the ESB.  The general theme of English bitters is to extract as much flavor and body from as little grain as possible.  Flavor comes from a lot of places, but the body of the final beer comes primarily from unfermented sugars or dextrines (and to some degree from proteins in suspension).  Yeast digest short chain sugars like glucose, fructose and maltose, but have a hard time with longer carbohydrates.  Starch from the malt is broken down in different ways by different enzymes at different temperatures.  Fine tuning the body of a beer depends on adjusting the temperature of the mash to achieve the right balance of enzymatic activity, and thus the right balance of fermentable and unfermentable sugars.

But to complicate matters, different yeast strains also handle different ranges of sugars.  Some Belgian yeasts can ferment over 80% of the sugar content (known as 80% attenuation), while some British yeasts may only take 60% of the sugars.  For this batch we chose two middle of the road English strains that will ferment the big imperial stout up next but leave sufficient dextrines in this beer to prevent it from seeming watery.

Between the yeast choice, and a warmer mash temperature, this beer should come out full of flavor and body, but after drinking so many "double" and "imperial" american beers, I'm still hesitant to drop the original gravity too low.  We've been mashing using the brew-in-a-bag method, so our temperatures can swing by as much as 10F.  By contrast, professional breweries can keep there mash temperatures within a degree of the target.  I would be curious to know what effect these swings have on the composition of the wort, as I'm sure the temperature and timing of these swings could produce some surprising results.  As mentioned in the last post, we targeted an original gravity 1.050, so that we have room to play with these techniques, but still have a flavorful beer if things come out more fermentable than expected.

Yeast pitched at around 60F.  Worthington White Shield (Wyeast 1028) pitched straight from smack-pack (popped in the morning), and Whitbread dry (US-04) pitched dry.  Carboys placed in refrigerator and set to 62F.

2 Days: Temp to 68F.  Smallish krausen (~1") on each.  Look nearly identical.  Smell already starting to turn from sulfur/sour to something English.  Is that from the yeast, hops or malt?  I don't know but it smells good.

The remains of the bottling day gravity sample when I could finally pull it away from my face long enough to take a picture.  Oh and remember how I said I wouldn't bottle and brew on the same day?  Well that's the imperial stout in the background.  Whomp whomp.

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