Had to take a few weeks off from brewing, cuz, well, I had health issues. Enough to say I have a bad lower back, and I became negligent in seeing  my chiropractor for my once-a-month tune-ups. So, after carrying two 5 gallon fermenter buckets – full of beer – up from the basement to the kitchen for bottling, the next day I could hardly get out of bed! I don’t like going on about my health, but this was extremely uncomfortable, and kept me from brewing. Needless to say, both the pain in my lumbar region, AND a commitment to supply beer for a friend’s birthday party in December were enough motivation for me to visit my bone-crunching buddy in Renfrew. He works magic on me…

So yes, the title of this article is an intended pun. Go ahead, read it again. 😉

So, I spent a summer mashing in at lower temperatures to get a cleaner, crisper, drier beer for the hot weather. I’d normally aim for 150F, so to experiment, I’d mash in at 146 or so. My beer did act differently in the fermenter – the final gravity of a few of my batches were quite low – as low as 1.002! I was used to 1.010. I thought I hit the jackpot! But, there was a price to pay. Even after a few weeks in the bottle, the head retention was crap… I didn’t put two and two together. There was indeed Carafoam in my recipes, but it seemed to have no effect. (Carafoam is used specifically to increase head retention).

The beer club I belong to is a great place to get information and wisdom about all things beer… so I posted a question about my issue, and bang – the response was – “Yes Jim, the two are directly related.” I won’t bore you with the food chemistry behind it, but mash temps and head retention are in lock-step with each other. Lesson learned. The other related characteristic is mouth-feel. The drier and crisper the beer is, the less body it has, which is a sacrifice for the summertime when all you want is to quench your thirst, but it’s less interesting flavour-wise. So, with fall here, and winter on its heels, I’m going to mash in at 150F or higher. And no more basement fermenting!

Cheers for Beers,

Jim