Tuesday, May 27, 2014

#22 Oatmeal Pale Ale - Brewday

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

Yeast Starter 5/18/14:
Yeast character won't be a focal point of this beer, so I'm reusing the Whitbread yeast I saved from the American wheat I brewed about a month ago.  I harvested the yeast from that beer, used some on the Arrogant Bastard, and saved the rest in the refrigerator.  I was a little worried about the yeast health after sitting for a month, so I prepped a .3 gal starter with 1/4 tsp of yeast nutrient.

When I went to open the jar of yeast, it exploded all over my mom's kitchen.  Apparently the yeast--who I thought were done fermenting and would sleep peacefully at 40F--had scavenged residual sugars from the small bit of wort left in the jar and produced enough carbon dioxide to turn the glass jug into an IED.  Apparently that's why they advise you to vent stored yeast the first couple weeks of storage.  (EDIT 5/27/14: Apparently I'm not the only one to make this mistake.  Check out this article from this month's issue of BYO.)

Brewday 5/25/14:
This was a good brewday; friends John, Melanie, Dana and Pat, all came up to help out with the brew and see the process which was a lot of fun.  It helps to have an extra set of hands (or four) and some company for the 7-hour undertaking.  I have a hard time multitasking--making the day entertaining while still juggling all the balls in the air for the brew itself--but I hope everybody had fun.

For this beer, we tried out a new mash process.  I've been doing brew-in-a-bag since I moved to all-grain, but this time we finally broke in the mash tun.  I've had the cooler with a PVC manifold since I bought my brewing equipment--an entire HERMS system in fact--but I had been waiting for the guy who sold me everything to help get it patched up and all the hoses and pumps in place.  I haven't seen him since.  I finally gave up on that and just went with the simplified single infusion mash (4 gal) with a two-stage batch sparge (2.5 gal each).  Everything went surprisingly smoothly for a new process: no major mistakes, nailed the mash temperature (151F) and pH (5.45), no stuck sparge despite the high percentage of oats, and got a nice bump in efficiency (55% to 65%).

After the (surprisingly mild) hot break, the boil developed an oily sheen.  There were no bittering hops in this recipe, so it was something from the grain, not hop oils.  I've read that oats can cause head retention issues because of the high lipid content, so I'm thinking that was it.  As the center of the kettle continued to bubble, the oils settled into a thin film around the edges and formed a scummy residue with the break proteins still floating on the surface.  Now there is always scum on the top of the brew kettle, and I've heard removing it can improve flavor and clarity, but also that you can remove head-forming proteins.  I don't know the best way to handle it, but this time I went ahead and skimmed what I could.

Another change in this batch was the switch from Irish moss to Whirlfloc tablets and it made a noticeable difference.  I wish I had snapped a picture after the boil, because the protein coagulation during chilling was much more dramatic, with big coral-formations of denatured enzymes looming underneath the golden wort.  I was worried the high percentage of oats might make for a cloudy beer, but this was certainly the clearest wort I've had.  Unfortunately the false bottom didn't strain as much of this out as I hoped, so a large percentage of the trub wound up in the fermenter.

Wort chilled to 60F, 30 sec O2, yeast pitched from decanted starter, placed in fridge set to 66F.

1 Day: The heater failed to come on, so the beer temperature was stuck around 62F.  I tightened the bulb and bumped the temperature to 68F.  It looks like the yeast got a healthy start regardless and are swirling vigorously.

6 Days:  Added dry hops, 2 oz Columbus and 2 oz Cascade.  It was two much hops to get them all submerged, but hopefully over the next few days they'll all settle into the beer.

14 Days:  This beer is just a mess of hops.  4 oz is too much to do at one time, next time I do something hoppy I think I'll do a two-stage dry hop a la Pliny the Elder.  Gravity has dropped all the way to 1.009--more than I expected--for 81% apparent attenuation, exactly the same as the Arrogant Bastard clone with the same yeast.  The hops are really popping right now as expected.  Can't wait to try this carbed.

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