Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Surprises from the Depths

It started slowly, barely perceptible, but in the depths of darkness something was astir and eventually life burst forth. No, I am not referring to the earthquake that struck Virginia yesterday - close to the town of Mineral to be precise, about 30 miles from where I am sitting. I am in fact referring to the larger of the two beers I brewed when I decided to recreate a medieval approach to parti-gyling on a homebrew scale. I say medieval because those new-fangled brewers at Fullers disregarded tradition entirely for their method of parti-gyling.*

The larger of the two beers was, naturally enough, the weaker. With an original gravity of just 1.036 and the fact that I used only 21IBUs of Willamette hops, this beer was very much in the "mild" category for the BJCP style guidelines, and it was planned that it would be entered in the Virginia Beer Blitz as such. A quick disclaimer, I generally care not a fig for style guidelines when I am actually brewing, preferring to see where an actual beer fits best after the fact, as long as it tastes good then I am happy with my exploits. Last night, just before the largest aftershock so far, I bottled both it and my robust porter which made up the smaller brew.

The porter behaved pretty much as expected, the dried Nottingham yeast was bubbling along after about an hour and finished off at 1.016, giving the porter a quite respectable 6.1% abv. My small batches are a mere gallon and only give me 8 bottles per batch, but I find it less painful dumping 8 bottles of crap than I do bigger batches. Thankfully I am yet to ditch any of my 1 gallon experiments, indeed one such experiment garnered me my first competition gold - intriguingly enough, also a porter.

I had no idea what to expect with the larger batch. I had added a pound of Belgian dark candi sugar to bump the gravity, about 14% of the overall fermentables - which I was worried about, but reading some of Ron's historic recipes puts my mind at ease on that front. As I said earlier though, it took time for the yeast to get going, I used the Wyeast 1338 European Ale, which is known to be a slow starter. Measuring the terminal gravity was something of a shock then, it had fermented down to 1.002, giving me a "mild" of 4.5% abv, and I am assuming it will be bone dry when the conditioning is done with. I actually have high hopes for this one, I love dry finishes, and the colour is a gorgeous copper tinged with red. Wherever I choose to put it in competitions, I am looking forward to drinking it!

I will be brewing again this weekend, not entirely sure what, but thinking along the lines of an ESB, fermented with Nottingham - I love that yeast, it gets going so quickly. The days are cooling down and the brewing is ramping up.

* ever so slightly tongue in cheek.

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