Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Kate the Great clone

I had planned on brewing my first Russian Imperial Stout today quite a while back... today was my 40th brewing session, and with a recent pile-up of homebrew, I wanted to brew a beer that needed some time to age before drinking. The recipe I was most interested in was a clone of Portsmouth Brewing Kate the Great. Kate the Great is a very popular beer of theirs... one of those once-a-year releases that has people lining up early in the morning to snag a bottle, or more. I've never had the pleasure of trying it, or any Portsmouth beers, unfortunately, but I've always been a big fan of Smuttynose (their sister company). I found a close variant of the recipe I decided to use from the blog the Mad Fermentationist; his recipe was closely based on notes and tips given to him by a brewer at Portsmouth. It's a very complex recipe (11 grains, and 6 different hops), which normally turns me away (I find overly-complex beers can come across as a bit muddled compared to simpler recipes), but obviously these guys know what they're doing, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

I've never brewed a beer this big before. With a target OG of 1.101, it's much higher than anything I've attempted in the past (a Tripel and Belgian Golden Strong were pretty high, but a lot of the gravity there was from multiple table sugar additions during fermentation). I milled the grains and measured out the water yesterday, which ended up being a smart move since I woke up this morning at 3:00 am and couldn't get back to sleep. My brew day started early, at about 7:30, but the whole time I felt quite drowsy and a little out of it, to be honest. My mashtun is your standard 10-gallon cooler with a stainless-steel braid; I was unsure just how much grain and water I'd be able to fit in there for the mash. I checked some tables online, and it looked like I'd be ok, but just to be sure I substituted some of the 2-row with a lb of light DME, which I added during the boil.

The main differences from my recipe to that recommended by Tod Mott are that a couple of the hops used are substitutes, due to what I had available, and I used Wyeast 1098 British Ale instead of the 1056 American Ale (or equivalent). My previous beer was a Blonde Ale recipe of my own that used fresh 1098, so I used some slurry from that batch when I bottled it a couple of days ago. I find the 1098 the most neutral of the English yeasts, so it should work out ok. Also, I don't think I'll be using any oak in this recipe, unlike the real thing.

The mash produced the darkest, thickest wort I've ever had yet. The run-off was quite slow when draining into the kettle, but it just took a little extra time. My SG before boiling was only one point below target, but my boil was a bit less vigorous then I had intended, so I ended up with some extra volume at the end. As a result, of course, my OG came in a bit low (1.097), but overall I was happy with my guess at my efficiency for a beer this big (I normally get 75-80% depending on a "normal" OG range of 1.050-1.070, so I assumed 68% for this beer).

This was also the first time I actually employed a blow-off tube. I used my silicone tubing that I normally use to drain from the mashtun; it seems to fit over the airlock tube well enough. I brewed a Stone VE 090909 clone a few months ago, and had my first-ever fermentation explosion from the Better Bottle the beer was fermenting in, and it took hours to clean up the mess. Hopefully this'll prevent problems. We'll see.

OG 1.101, FG ~1.024, IBU 70, SRM 47.9, Efficiency 68%, Batch size 5.5 gallons

1. Canadian 2-row 7.27 kg
2. Light DME 454 g
3. Flaked Barley 368 g
4. Special B 368 g
5. Wheat malt 368 g
6. Carafa Special II 314 g
7. Aromatic malt 250 g
8. Caramunich II 204 g
9. Roasted Barley 204 g
10. Black Patent 100 g
11. Crystal 120 L 100 g
12. Chocolate malt 100 g

1. Styrian Goldings - 56 g (1.75% AA) @ 75 min
2. Magnum - 56 g (9.15% AA) @ 75 min
3. Pearle - 11 g (8.3% AA) @ 75 min
4. Centennial - 14 g (8.8%) @ 15 min
5. U.S. Goldings - 14 g @ 0 min
6. Hallertau - 14 g @ 0 min
7. Styrian Goldings - 28 g @ 0 min

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1098 British Ale (cultured a couple of days ago, ~300 mL of slurry)

- Used a thick mash at around 1.15 L/lb. Mashed in at 149 F and began a 60-minute rest. Vorlaufed, drained into kettle. Sparged with 4 gallons ~173 F water, vorlaufed and drained again.

- 75 minute boil. DME was added at 45 minutes. Had a bit of a boil-over once the hot break formed, but nothing drastic.

- Began chilling with immersion chiller at flameout. Had down to 65 F after about 30 minutes. OG came in a bit low at 1.097, but I also had an extra L or so of wort at the end of the boil. Filtered into Better Bottle, and aerated by shaking for several minutes before and after pitching yeast slurry (no O2 system yet, unfortunately). Shook again 6 hours later.

16/11/11 - In the morning, there was a bit of beer in the blow-off jug. The beer blew off the stopper several times during the day (making a bit of a mess), until it was finally left alone, foam slowly creeping out all day/evening. 

17/11/11 - Settled down enough to put the airlock back in... temp had crept up to 70 F. Let it sit in a cool-ambient room all day, where it continued to ferment pretty aggressively (via the airlock, anyway).
18/11/11 - Airlock slowing down, temp dropped down to 66 F. Moved the BB to a warmer room (about 70 F ambient) to hopefully hold the temp up a bit. Last thing I need now is a stuck fermentation.

20/11/11 - No visible activity, temp still at 66 F. I'll likely leave it at least another week before taking a gravity reading. No plans to bottle for another 2+ weeks.

23/11/11 - No krausen at all, so decided to take a gravity reading. Came in at 1.023, so hopefully the main work of fermentation is complete. An FG lower than that would probably be too dry and roasty for such a big beer.

13/12/11 - FG 1.023. Bottled with 96 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 4 gallons, max temp of 70 F reached. Added ~1 g of rehydrated Champagne yeast to bottling bucket. Bottled 24 x 12 oz, 8 x 500 mL, 4 x 22 oz. Leaving the bottles in a warm room for about a month to carbonate.

10/1/12 - Moved bottles into the "cellar", temp set at 50 F. Going to try not to sample any for about 6 months to give the beer time to age properly.

12/2/13 - Finally posted the tasting notes... very smooth for the high-ABV, but could probably stand to be a bit roastier (compared to other RISs, anyway).

Saturday, 12 November 2011

After homebrewing for almost two years now, I've decided to start blogging about my experiences in the world of beer... especially homebrewing, of course. Like most homebrewers, I already keep close track of each batch that I brew through pretty-meticulous notes (which is always recommended, whether it be a brand-new batch, or a favorite standby that you've already brewed 10 times). However, blogging about the process seems to be a good way to keep an even better record of it all, and if someone happens to stumble upon these posts and get interested in homebrewing, all the better.

As for my brief history with all this, I only really got into beer about 2&1/2 years ago, when my wife and I took a trip to Belgium. It was there that I finally realized how complex and tasty beer could be, and just how many different styles of beer there actually were. It didn't take long before I found out that with some reading and experience, you can brew all these types of beer at home. Living in New Brunswick, Canada, where access to great beer is definitely limited compared to a lot of other places in the world, made the decision to start homebrewing even easier.

After a couple of months of preliminary reading, I brewed my first extract batch in late November of 2009... it was an American Amber Ale, didn't turn out that bad (or that great), and I was immediately hooked, like so many others. Since then, I made the inevitable jump to all-grain brewing (after about 9 batches of extract and partial-mash), and have brewed 38 more 5-gallon batches. I have a freezer that acts as a fermentation chamber/cellar (thanks to a digital temperature controller), along with the usual equipment that goes with all-grain brewing. I bottle all my beers; oddly enough, a kegging system is the one jump I have not made yet.

I plan to brew my 40th batch, a Portsmouth Kate the Great clone, in a couple of days.