Thursday, November 10, 2011

Getting Old

One of my most precious beer memories comes not from the hospody of Prague, the brewpubs of Nelson County or even the pubs of Kent on a sunny day. Rather, it comes from an arts festival in Berlin in 2008, when wandering around eating various types of wurst I spied the name Schumacher Alt and made a bee line for it. What followed was a revelation, a beer with the flavours that I love in a warm fermented beer with the crisp dry  finish and prominent hop bite that I love in a Pilsner.

The manly brew of which I speak is of course altbier, which as everybody and his uncle knows translates as "old beer", as opposed to the pale lager which was in the mid 19th century, new. I could argue here that 19th century pale lager was the craft beer of the day, but that would be too much fun.

Ever since I started homebrewing, I have wanted to make an altbier. As I am prone to do, I spent hours poring over style descriptions, the websites of alt luminaries such as Schumacher and Zum Uerige and various other media in order to get a real handle on how my project would shape up. From the outset I knew that I wanted to brew a straight up alt, not a sticke, doppelsticke or any other derivation thereon. I wanted a reasonably sessionable beer, call me crazy but I actively like drinking.

The one sticking point though has been the absence of a refrigeration chamber for lagering the beer in. Recently though I had a idea, and yes it hurt. I quite often buy 2.5 gallon bottles of water for brewing with, and so I wondered if I would be able to fit the 2.2 gallons of beer that I get out of a batch, once it is off the trub, into one such bottle.

As you can see, the hole in the bottle is in a slightly awkward place, so with a measured 1 gallon jug, I poured 2.3 gallons of water into a used bottle and hey presto, it comes to about half an inch below the hole. Suddenly I found myself with a surplus of lagering vessels, but still no refrigeration chamber. Then again the power of the mind fell upon me, with excruciating vehemence this time, I have a fridge! Any spare water in the bottles after brewing, I would store in the fridge, simply turn the bottle upside down and it should work fine, so I put the bottle in the fridge, and as you can see, I have a viable lagering system! Well, viable for doing altbier and kölsch, which is just as well as they are styles I really like.

Having solved my little lagering issue, I finally got round to designing a recipe for the beer itself, and here it is:
  • 50% Bohemian Pilsner Malt
  • 49% Munich Malt
  • 1% Carafa III
  • 31 IBU of Spalt Select for 90 minutes
  • 4 IBU of Spalt Select for 20 minutes
  • Wyeast 1007 German Ale liquid yeast
Apparently, this will give me the following details with my system
  • OG - 1.048
  • FG - 1.012
  • SRM - 13 (copper to red)
  • ABV - 4.8%
I will be brewing this beer, which I am calling Old Cobbler's, on Saturday, and then lagering it for all of December. When we get back from our Christmas trip to France, I will bottle it in preparation for being able to drink again after my annual beer fast, which many people call "January".

1 comment:

  1. Schumacher Alt is a great beer. Definitely my favorite of the Dusseldorf alts.


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