I first brewed Jamil Z’s Cowboy Alt from his Brewing Classic Styles book in early 2012. I entered it as a German Alt in a local comp and scored a 38 and second place in the category. Having never had true German altbier, I simply compared what I tasted versus the descriptions (North German Alt and Dusseldorf Alt are different sub-styles, and Cowboy Alt is a Dusseldorf) and felt mine was a bit lacking in the bitterness to be judged as a Dusseldorf. Entered it in the No. German Alt cat). It’s a different beast. German Ale yeast that ferments best at a good deal lower than typical ale yeasts (upper 50s vs mid-upper 60s for ale). It’s classified as a hybrid due to the use of ale yeast at low temps.
My second batch is now fermenting away in the basement, in a tub of water, holding a temp around 59-60°. The odor from the blowoff is smelling like sulfur, more typical in a lager yeast.
I ended up brewing without planning it. I had all the ingredients, but when my daughters soccer game was cancelled, my Saturday was suddenly freed up. So I never made a yeast starter from the Wyeast 1007 smack pack. It’s not a big beer, so I felt I could get away with just using the pack itself. Smacked it, and left it to expand, but it never did. I know Wyeast will tell you that they don’t always expand but that the yeast can still be healthy.
It was a 6 hour brewday… I had to weigh and crush my grain (usually with try to do this the day or night before) plus, it’s an extra hour process as I typically brew ales. mashing for 60 minutes, and boiling for 60. But given the base malt of this Alt being pils malt, and a low mash temp (149°), I needed a 90 minute mash and boil each. The longer boil is to make sure I get rid of all the DMS precursors more common from pils brews.
I had basically no indication the initial pitch of yeast was working after a 36 hrs though. I got a bit nervous, didn’t want to was a brew. Thankfully A&G Homebrew in Portsmouth was still open 7 days a week (soon to change for summer hrs). I ran up there Monday afternoon and got a second 1007 smack pack. Smacked it in the car, did some errands, and headed home. Much like the first pack, the 2nd didn’t expand either. It was a few months old, but that’s not bad. I know the first pack was relatively new as well, so age wasn’t an issue. I pitched the second one and by TU evening it was slowly burping CO2. Given the way it’s gone this week, I think what I saw Tuesday was the first pitch of yeast kicked into gear. After several days of steadiness and an inch thick krausen, it seemed to kick into an extra gear. I think the second pitch had kicked in. So I’m just letting it go. Will likely leave it for 2 weeks and check the gravity to see if it’s finished. Then into a keg where I will gas it up and let it sit cold for a month. This hybrid style needs cold conditioning (lagering) more than a typical ale, but not as long a lagering period as most lagers.