Monday, May 30, 2011

Epik - with a "k" - Utopias Clone - Super Attenuation Update

So holy crap everyone. This thing has attenuated like a fracking champ (shut up. don't act like you've never seen Battlestar Gallactica.) After three days of the lower runnings beer fermenting I aerated the large batch and combined the two along with a very small droplet of olive oil. I realize that while the findings on the olive oil thing are controversial I figured a small droplet couldn't hurt anything and I wanted to everything I could to encourage cell growth.

I wish I had also added some fermcap but I figured with a gallon's worth of head space in my fermenter I should be fine.... boy was I wrong. Three hours later fermentation had taken off like a rocket and I had some blow over... but I only lost a quart or so. I let it go for 12 days past that. Fermentation was kept cool at about 64 for the first three days then I just let it free rise to 70. I just checked the S.G. and we're sitting at 1.015! How awesome is that!? That is some serious attenuation.

The hydro sample I just had is pretty darn good. Lots of perfumey alcohol and some nice sweetness, but deceptively smooth in taste. I can only imagine how it will be with some age. I'm now considering not trying to make this as crazy alcoholic as before because I'm enjoying where this beer is at... I'll still add the oak and let it age. But maybe not the extra fermentables.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Epik - with a "k" - Utopias Clone

Sorry for the lack of posting lately, but work has left me little time for brewing. A few weeks ago I did a strawberry ginger beer for my wife. I'll have a post on that before too long. But I'm more excited to talk about what I just finished brewing.

This was hands down the longest brew day I've ever had. From heating up the strike water to pitching the yeast was just shy of seven hours. "What could take so long?" one might ask. A 22%ABV beer. That's what took so long.

In much the same vain as Sam Adams Utopias or the Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, I've often wondered about making a beer of insane gravity. After doing tons of research, careful planning and recipe design, I decided to brew it today. This more of a clone of Samuel Adams Utopias than anything else. I intend the end result to drink more like port than like beer.

Some of these ideas are not my own, so please don't think I'm the one who came up with a lot of this stuff. I rather read about other people's experience trying to do this, read about their successes and failures, and tried to come up with a plan based on that.

The most important thing in making a beer of this magnitude is yeast health and a strong fermentation. Most yeast stop fermenting in environments that have too much alcohol. It's also quite easy to underpitch into something of this magnitude, or to over stress the yeast. All of these things could end up in under-attenuation.

Also how do you mash that much freaking grain without having 30 gallons of water to boil down? Well allow me to explain.

I'm making a six gallon batch. I figured after trub loss and having a crap ton of yeast that should yield me with around five gallons of finished product. I made this beer with a whopping 31 pounds of grain. Two-Row, Munich 10L, Caramunich 1, 60L Crystal, and Smoked Malt. Then it will get doses of honey, maple syrup and table sugar... but that's for later.

Here's my recipe:

Epik Epikness

15lbs. American 2-Row
10lbs. Munich 10L
2lbs. Smoked Malt (Rauch)
2lbs. American 60L Crystal
2lbs. Caramunich 1 (33L)

2lbs. Honey
2lbs. Table Sugar
2lbs. Maple Syrup

1.5 oz. Medium Toast Oak Cubes - soaked in Apple Brandy
1.5oz. Medium Toast Oak Cubes - soaked in Malbec

5oz. Target Hops 8.6%AA - First Wort Hop Boil #1
2oz. Target Hops 8.6%AA - First Wort Hop Boil #2

Yeast WLP099 - Super High Gravity
Nottingham - Dry

I first mashed the 15lbs. of 2-Row at 145 for one and a half hours. I yielded about 2 gallons of 1.072 runnings. I then batch sparged and collected 3 gallons of 1.040 runnings. The runnings were then heated to 156 degrees which I then used to mash the remaining 17lbs. of grain. The mash temp settled at 145 degrees, held for 1 hour.

I then collected somewhere around 4.5 gallons of 1.107 runnings. While I was collecting these I added the 5oz. of target hops and began to boil.

I batch sparged this second round of grains and collected runnings of 1.060. These got a FWH addition of 2oz. Target, and then started the boil.

Both were boiled for one hour and got a hit of yeast nutrient and whirlfloc. The higher gravity kettle went down to roughly 4 gallons of 1.115 wort. The second kettle went down to 2.5 gallons of 1.072 wort. I was surprised at how little the larger kettle reduced in volume over the hour. I suppose that with more sugar to water ratio it had less to blow off and just didn't evaporate at it's usual rate.

While the larger kettle was still boiling I used a sieve to remove as much of the hop particulates as possible. I then put it strait into a sanitized bucket with an airtight lid.

The other one was crash chilled and whirlpooled, and then I aerated the ever-loving crap out of it. Into it I pitched all of the yeast, the two vials of WLP099, and the two packs of dry Nottingham (rehydrated of course).

The plan is to let this one ferment for 3 days. By that time the yeast in there should have reached the end of the growth period. At that time I intend to aerate the large gravity wort and put that strait into the fermenting beer. Then after high krausen is reached I will add the maple syrup, allow it to ferment then go in with the honey, and then finally the sugar. This should give me a S.G. overall of 1.170. Which is a shade lower than I was hoping so I may throw in a few pounds of DME.

Once my F.G. has been reached (I'm hoping for 1.022 or lower) I'll rack the beer to a glass carboy with the oak chips where it will age for at least six months... probably a year.

May/16/2011 - Brewed.
May/19/2011 - Higher gravity portion added to lower gravity portion.
June/3/2011 - Racked to secondary with oak cubes for bulk aging.