Well, summer is finally here in full swing, which means your’s truly is out on the deck pretty well every day barbecuing or smoking some form of protein, as well as performing my weekly ritual of brewing beer. I do skip the odd week when my pipeline is full and there’s no more fermentation buckets, but that doesn’t happen very often – somehow, all that golden delicious homebrew has a way of dissapearing…
I thought that this post would be dedicated to explaining some experimenting I’ve been doing, or as the title says – “ex-BEER-imenting”! There’s only 4 ingridients in beer – water, malted barley, yeast, and hops – yet, the variations in these are endless. Add to that the very important factor of temperature control during the mash, and one can vary the outcome in an infinite variety of ways. That’s what makes this hobby so fun.
One thing I’ve been playing with is yeast: I haven’t bought fresh yeast for over two months. When bottling day comes and all that’s left in the fermenter is the yeast cake, I mix some water in to make it easy to pour, then store it in the fridge in a sanitized mason jar. I then pour about a cup of it into my next batch of beer. It’s pretty cool – the air lock on the fermenter will be bubbling in as short as 12 hours. Currently I’m on the fourth generation of S0-4, an English ale yeast known for its really fast action.
(Note to experienced home brewers: since re-using yeast, the krausen ring left on the fermenter is very concentrated and gummy. Something that has never happened when I pitch fresh yeast. It doesn’t seem to affect anything else like flavour – so I’m not too worried about it. See pic below).
As long as my sanitation techniques don’t falter, I should be good for a few more generations. After that, it will begin to mutate and perhaps start adding off-flavours to my beer. That’s what I’m told, though I’ve yet to experience it. My wife calls me a mad scientist… she might be right!
The other thing I’ve been playing with is mash temperature. My preference in beer leans towards the clean, crisp styles, but with some character. Think of it as a cross between lagers and ales. Lagers tend to have less flavour because they are fermented at low temperatures, and use a yeast that ferments on the bottom, as opposed to ales that ferment at room temperature and use yeasts that are top-fermenting. So to produce a cleaner, crisper, dryer beer, one can use a lower mash temperature, which influences how the grain starches are converted to simple sugars. Put in layman’s terms, mashing in at slightly cooler temps (say 147 degrees) will accomplish this goal, as opposed to 150 or 155 degrees, which results is more body, mouthfeel, and less ABV.
I also add some table sugar in the boil, which helps dry out the beer as well. A lower mash temp, plus the sugar will increase the ABV, so I use less grain in my recipe to compensate. All this produces an awesome summertime brew that will please anyone looking to have a few beers in a row without any overpowering flavours or alcohol content. A squeeze of lime in a frosted glass… I’m getting thisty just writing this!
The last thing I’ve been playing with is what’s called the “no-chill” method. Instead of using my immersion chiller to bring down the temperature after boiling for 60 minutes, I give the boiled wort a good whirlpool stir to help collect the trub in the middle, then let it sit overnight to cool off. The next day, the wort is VERY clear when I transfer it to the fermenters. There’s some discussion about hop utilization when they’re added later in the boil, as you’d do for an IPA for instance, but I haven’t had an issue with that personally. I don’t have a fussy palette, so perhaps that works to my advantage! The last American IPA I did was quite nice, so the technique works for me. Using an immersion chiller does mean being able to pitch yeast the same day, but being out in the country on a well means I’m wasting about 30 to 40 gallons of water, which I prefer not to do.
So there you have it – lately, thanks to all these changes I’ve been doing, PLUS using a cooler for my mash tun so I can recirculate, it all results in very clear, clean-tasting summertime homebrew. Think I’ll go crack one open now…