Monday, June 04, 2007

Imperial Stout via Batch Sparge

My brother-in-law and I recently started brewing beer. Being in Fort Collins, amongst some top-class breweries, we thought we'd be in good company.

Robb's got extensive experience in the craft, having brewed scores of quality beers, meads and wines. On the other hand, I have done very little. After making 2 or 3 batches in the dorm kitchen about 10 years ago, I just gave up. I found it much easier to run down to the corner for a sixer after I became of the age to legally purchase. Nevertheless, I love making my own stuff, and having a discriminating palette, I've always wanted to get back into making beer. With summer nigh upon us, and plenty of "Yeah, dude. We gotta brew!" conversations through the past year, Robb and I finally jumped in head first making beer.

Our last batch was a pale ale using Crystal hops exclusively. It turned out to be pretty good. A little light in body, cloudy, and not quite bitter enough, but Mmmmm tasty. One of the best things about home brew is that you get a chance to make more if it's not quite right -- and if it's perfect for that matter too.

Yesterday, we set out to build an Imperial Stout. We used an award winning recipe from Robb's stash, with a full 18lbs of grain for a ~5 gallon batch (Yowza!). We decided to omit the 10 lbs. of raspberries it called for, as neither of us have the garden, nor the budget for such an extravagant adjunct.

We started at about 8 in the morning with some donuts, coffee and a wee bit of mead Robb happened to find hibernating in a forgotten Corny keg. The mashing went a little less than controlled. We started with water that was about 4 degrees outside of the envelope of enzymatic activity we wanted, and semi-frantically (only as frantic as home brew allows) tried to cool it down, as you would a hot bowl of oatmeal. Then we went in for some breakfast. When we got back out, it was way too cool, by about 10 degrees F. I hypothesize because it was sitting on the concrete. We decided to put it back on heat for a bit until the temp got to where it needed to be.

I was in charge of the re-heat. I stirred while the pot was over the flame, and watched the thermometer closely. It rose pretty slowly, until I gave it a good stir. And suddenly it was like 20 degrees too hot. Real nice. With any enzymes completely fried that would help us out with any starch conversion, we decided to check the status. Fortunately our starch converted. Whew!

After a discussion with the friendly owner of the local home brew shop, we decided to batch sparge our mash. I didn't quite understand the process at first, but it turns out to be pretty simple. Instead of letting the grain sit while spending an hour sprinkling hot water over it, you go through a process of draining the mash at full speed, stirring in the sparge water in a couple batches until you have your desired volume. The best instructions for batch sparging, we found at brew365. There's lots of other articles about the technique, but few make it seem as simple as it is.

After that, everything went as planned. We got the gravity reading we were hoping for too (with 18 lbs of grains we BETTER). It should be quite a stout stout.

Robb just sent me a movie of the fruits of our labor. She lives!


Unknown said...

Eric, your blog is looking nice! like the redesign - paul

Eric said...

Thanks. I had some fun with it, especially playing with the clouds (Try resizing your window horizontally and watch'em).

There's some improvements I intend yet, like the display of the comments and such. A work in progress.