First published on “The Trans-Canada Beer Blog” January 20, 2013.
My goal for this year is to brew a batch of beer every month. It’s a pretty big challenge for me because (a) I live in a small Toronto apartment with no outdoor space and (b) there are lots of great beers around to distract me from drinking homebrew, so my bottles are always tied up! A batch a month is something I really want to do – it basically means as soon as I bottle one batch I have to brew another – because I just have so many ideas for things I want to make and I really want to be a better brewer.
As I enter my third year of brewing (I started January 2010) and as I am finally starting all grain brewing I feel like its time to up my game. This series of “How’d You Brew That?” is all about just that. Upping my game, fine tuning my brewing methods, making new recipes, cloning classic beers, and trying to explain how I am brewing to make myself a better home brewer. The first beer? The Pepperrell Porter.
The Idea: I like to take a somewhat historical approach to my beers and try to tie in historical themes, if not traditional ingredients, into my beers (I’m a historian by day). This one is more on a traditional theme. I grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and right near my house was an military base called Fort Pepperrell. It was set up by the Americans in WWII, back before Newfoundland joined confederation, as a first line of defence against Germany. Had the German’s won the Battle of Britain, Newfoundland would have been the first line of defence from a North American invasion. To try to make a beer named after this American base in the middle of a then British colony I wanted to take a British style porter and smack it around with some more American influences on the hop bill and yeast.
The Recipe Design: This recipe started as a Founders Porter Clone that I started to shift around. It’s an amazing beer and the standard bearer for American-style Porters for me, so I didn’t want to deviate too much – just enough to make it my own. I altered the malt to the very English Maris Otter and adding some Biscuit Malt because I really like the biscuity character it gives beers, especially darker ones.
8 lbs Maris Otter
1 lbs Munich Malt
1 lbs Chocolate Malt
1 lbs Carafoam
1 lbs Biscuit Malt
8 oz Crystal Malt (120L)
4 oz Black Patent Malt
0.75 oz Nugget (13.2 AA) @ 60 min
0.75 Willamette (4.0 AA) @ 20 min
0.75 Challenger (6.7 AA) @ 20 min
0.25 Challenger @ Flame Out
0.25 Willamette @ Flame Out
1 Package of Wyeast Northwest Ale Yeast
Specifications: The estimated original gravity should be 1.066. It should be near 40 IBU and ferment up to around 6%. Beer Smith tells me I’m a little high for the style (“robust porter”) on the color, but that’s fine with me.
The Brew: I’m using a pretty simple infusion mash method in a nice big mash pot. Here is how it went down last Saturday (January 12, 2012).
11:10, Set 15l of water in mash pot on burner (just an electric stove element). I waited for it to reach 168F (strike temp) with the expectation that I would drop to 156F for the 60 minute mash.
12:00, Water is finally at 168F. Mash-in (slowly dump all the grain) at 168F. The temperature dropped to 156F, which is about where I wanted it to be for the mash.
While the mash was happening I set two sparge water pots (3.5l in a soup pot and 13l in an old brew pot) on high to heat to my sparge water to 168F.
12:40, Just checking in. The mash temperature was holding at 156F.
1:00, Time for the first batch sparge! Up until this point everything is has been pretty simple: add grain to water at a specific temperature and wait. Now I need to pull the wort off the grain and to do that I need to vorlauf. Basically, before I pour the wort into the boil kettle I need the grain bed to settle in the mash pot. To do this I pour the cloudy first runnings into a measuring cup and add them back to the kettle until the wort is clear.
Now the rest just goes into the boil kettle.
Now that the grain bed in the mash pot is dry and settled, I can add my first batch sparge water.
The method I’m using has two stages. One 3.5l (at 170F) addition of water where I stir up the grain bed once the water is added to break any clumps of grain or patches of stuck wort. After letting that rest of 10 minutes I vorlauf again and pour those runnings in the boil kettle. Then I hit it with the 13l of water (at 168) without disturbing the grain bed and let that rest for another 10 minutes. Once that is done I vorlauf one last time and add the last of that wort into the boil kettle.
1:40, Second batch sparge complete. Collected approximately 26l in boil kettle and put in on heat to boil. In retrospect I should have gathered a little more wort here!
I keep a thermometer in my boil kettle just to let me know how close to the boil I am incase of any scary boil overs. It’s happened in the past!
2:42, Added .75 oz Nugget Hops (pellet, 13.2 AA). Set timer for 40 min for additions of Crystal and Willamette (.75 oz each @ 20 min) and some Irish Moss (1 tsp) at this time. Irish Moss is said to improve clarity and pull out protein. I don’t know if it actually helps or not, but I have it so I’m going to keep using it for now!
3:22, Added the 20 minute hops and put the wort chiller into the boiling wort to sterilize.
3:42-ish, Wort Chilling! I just have a homemade wort chiller – the pretty common copper pipe one – to cool down the wort.
Finally, once to wort was cool enough (22C) I racked it down to the carboy. It didn’t take that long and sure beats the old put-the-pot-in-a-sink-of-ice-water method.
And then I pitched the yeast! I just used a regular smack-pack (no starter) which I had smacked the night before. I might move on to starters someday, but not for this one!
Finally, done! I put the airlock on and settled it away in the back of our office. Overall, it’s a little lower in volume and original gravity than I expected. I was hoping for 1.066, I ended up with 1.058.
As you can see, it’s a little less than filling my 5 gallon carboy. Usually I’m a little more full.
The lessons: I might batch sparge a few minutes longer next time to give it slightly longer to pull off those sugars. Also, I’ll also be less afraid of filling my boil pot up higher as now I know that at the level of rolling boil I reach boil overs are not a big worry. Finally, I think for my next batch I’ll try way fewer speciality grains (7 grain types? what was I thinking?!) so I can get a better sense of my efficiently, which right now seems to be around 64% total. I think I can get that to 72% (which is ok-ish) for my next batch.
While I wish this was a picture of the final product, instead it’s a wonderful pint of Sawdust City’s “Skinny Dipping Stout” that I got at Grapefruit Moon after the brew. A well deserved pint!
Suggestions?: Any ideas on how I should improve my efficiently? Tips on making my setup better? Ideas on ways to tweak this recipe? Let me know! I’ll be updating the blog on how the beer develops, so keep in touch!