Haven’t visited this blog in a couple years. Surprised it’s still even here. Looking at the last entry, from 2018, it appears I did brew an IPA the year, again looking to see if I could solve my hop loss issue. This time with a new PET fermenter. Given that I didn’t follow it up with results tells me it gave me the same hop-less result. I won’t go into the issue as I covered it here many times in the past. The only thing I don’t think I’ve swapped out or changed in the process is my immersion chiller. Prior to that I had a successful saison brew in 2017, and in 2016 I brewed the oatmeal stout I just brewed again. So very little brewing going on here as of late.
I’m back here because after a couple years of good intentions, I finally made the time to brew. Luckily my employer shut down between Christmas and New Years, so it was a real week off (not one in which others were working so I’d be checking emails, etc). Went with Rogue “Shakespeare Stout” clone. Unfortunately in the time I haven’t brewed, I managed to lose all my old beer recipe/brewing notes in Beer Alchemy. I have an newer version that I can run on my current Mac OS, but I can’t import old recipe data files. Ugh. All the notes for every brew gone. To me far more important than recipes.
So I went with a clone I had success with in the past. Only difference was previously I was able to get Wyeast’s “Pacman” strain. It was hard to get at the time. I think it was only produced for a short time each year back then. Now I don’t know that they offer it all all. So after some research, I elected to try (new to me) Wyeast 1272 (American Ale II). From what I understand, if fermented in the lower temperature rage, it accentuates malts, and at higher temps, the hops, but also gives off a fruitier flavor. I built up a starter with 1L, using the canned wort (pint) I got from morebeer.com, and an equal amount of boiled (then cooled) water. Didn’t see a ton of activity but eventually got a decent yeast cake on the bottom of the flask. I chilled that, decanted, and added another 1L of wort to build up more healthy yeast. This time I saw much more activity and a lot of foam when shaken (no stir plate here, just the manual pick it up and swirl it method).
Brew day, considering the time off, went reasonably well. I had cleaned the cooler/tun days ahead with PBW. Cleaned the fermenter and any hoses as well, and used a fresh new bottle of Star San to sanitize. The night before brewing I crushed my grains. It was around 30°F outside and about 55° in the basement. I brew outside, then bring the cooler in for the mash to sit in the basement. Amazingly hit my mash temp of 149°. Most of the way through the 60-minute mash, I realized I never added the flaked outs (1.5 lbs) so I tossed them in, mixed it up and let it rest another 45 minutes. Then I realized I never added the gypsum to the mash. I had used the Bru’n Water spreadsheet in the past, and with this recipe it had calculated a certain amount of gypsum for the mash and the boil. So just added a little more than planned for the boil addition and went with that. From there on it went pretty well. Mashed out with a gallon of boiling water, vorloff, 1st runnings, etc. Then batch sparged and ran off to get my full boil amount, aiming for 7.5 gallons.
Here’s where I admit my “system” is very rudimentary. One nice piece of gear is my Blichmann burner. Beyond that, a 10 gallon SS pot. Pretty wide compared to the brewing specific kettles I see. No ports. So I use a hand-held thermometer to check temps. I use a converted rectangular cooler with a ball-valve that I run off from (a stainless steel hose cover inside the cooler). All very Denny Conn-ish. My kettle is not marked for volume measurements. So yes, I do a lot of estimating after I pour in the gallon jugs of filtered well-water. My pre-boil and OG were both high compared to my recipe calculations. I believe this is due to the software defaulting to 70% mash efficiency. My efficiency appears to be at least 80%. Without exact volume measurements in the kettle it’s a bit difficult to be sure.
The recipe OG was to be 1.061, and I got 1.066. Now, depending on how the Wyeast 1272 operates. If it attenuates better than average (due to low mash temp) I could be close to 7% as opposed to the 6% of the Rogue original. The yeast is a top-cropper. I pitched around 7:30 the evening I brewed, and by morning there was a 1/2″ of krausen. The 2nd day it was much thicker. By day 3 I feared it may reach the top so I added a blow-off tube. Of course, by the next morning, the krausen started to go down slowly. I’m writing this on Day 4. I pitched at 62° and used temp control (with heat tape) to bring it up to 64°. By late day 2 the temp with up to 66° brought on by the ferment. I raised the temp control to 65° to avoid it dropping to much when fermentation slows. I’ll likely leave it like that for at least a week. May rain it a bit to make sure it cleans up. Depends on what I see when I take a gravity reading.
So, so far so good. Felt great to get a brew day in again. And not to be sitting here worrying about another disappointing hoppy ale. My darker brews seemed to not be effected, but that may just be because they aren’t hoppy beers. I may try a black IPA sometime to see if the darker malts are having an effect on the hop loss.
So, this brew does have me thinking about adding a weld-less sight gauge to allow me to get more accurate readings and better document my process’s results (water absorption rate, mash efficiency, actual volumes of pre-boil, post-boil, transferred, etc). Of course, looking into that, I found myself then researching a SS ball valve for the kettle, and possibly recirculation for whirlpooling or to assist the immersion chiller in cooling the wort quicker. Typically I use an auto-siphon to transfer chilled wort to the fermenter. This time I literally lifted and poured, because the PET fermenter has a pretty wide opening. I was happy to see that much of the hop matter had sunk and was still left behind in the kettle. Pouring also likely helped a bit with oxygenation (no, I don’t have an oxygenation wand), plus I swirled it quite a bit once in the fermenter.
So now it’s wait and see. Going to give it at least 10 days in the fermenter. I hear some say that Wyeast 1272 does flocculate well, but it can take some time. Not sure if it’s worth going to a secondary, to cold crash it, or to just transfer it to the keg once the FG is steady as that will act like a cold crash in the keg anyways.
If this ends up working out, I’ve got ingredients for an altbier to brew. Given the 55° temp in the basement in the winter, I would still want to use an swamp cooler to try to hold it around 50°. Better chance in the winter than any other time of the year.
UPDATE: 1/11/21 (11 days in primary)
Very little airlock activity, so I pulled a sample with a wine thief. Gravity measured at 1.017. Using the calculator at The Screwy Brewer, that would put me at around 6.4% ABV, and at 72% attenuation. According to Wyeast, the 1272 American Ale II attenuates at 72-76%. I am hoping for it to drop another couple points, given the low mash temp, but not sure it will happen. Will let it sit until 2 weeks total and then likely keg it. Hopefully sitting in the chilled keg it will help it flocculate.