Monday, 5 December 2011

Tasting/Recipe : Schnee Tag!

On a trip to Seattle several years ago, before I was even into beer, I was briefly at a party being held at the hotel bar of where we were staying. They had several wines and beers available for tasting; I tried most of them... unfortunately, I can't remember who actually brewed the beers I sampled. The final one I was offered was a jet-black beer; normally being turned off by darker beers (the only dark beer I had probably ever had at that point was Guinness), I politely said no, but the person serving the samples insisted I try it. "It's black, but it doesn't taste as dry and harsh as a lot of other dark beers", he said. I gave in, and was happy I did... while the beer WAS roasty, it was really more sweet, malty, and especially quite "clean".

This was my very first Schwarzbier. And, unfortunately, to this day it still remains one of the ONLY Schwarzbiers I've been able to try. There are no beers of this style available commercially in liquor stores in New Brunswick (surprise). I HAVE gone out of my way to purchase these beers when I've been able to, whether at a liquor store in Maine (e.g. Monchshof Schwarzbier from Germany), or at the Garrison Ale House here in Fredericton (the Paddock Wood Black Cat Lager from Saskatchewan). I really enjoy this dark lager, and when I finally bought a chest freezer and digital temperature controller last year, a Schwarzbier was the first lager-style beer that I wanted to brew.

I went with one of the two Schwarzbier recipes from Brewing Classic Styles, choosing the one that the authors admits may be a bit too roasty for the style, but tasty. After fermentation appeared to be complete, I continued to lager the beer in the chest freezer for two months, before bottling in March. I unfortunately calculated the sugar needed for carbonation incorrectly, so the beer IS a bit under-carbonated for the style, but ultimately I've been quite happy with how it turned out. In fact, I'd say it's one of the better beers I've brewed yet. At this point, I only have a few bottles remaining, but it's held up quite well.

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-sized, light-tan, very creamy head. Slowly fades to 1/2-finger. Body appears black at first glance, but has excellent clarity and ruby-highlights when held to the light.

Aroma: Aroma is quite clean, with a good amount of bready-malt, a touch of caramel sweetness, and a bit of roastiness. No DMS or diacetyl. No hop aroma noticeable.

Taste: Mostly malt flavor/sweetness, with some roasted flavors in the background. Finishes with a moderate-low bitterness, and a bit roasty. Maybe a touch of spicy hop flavor, and a bit of bitter chocolate. No diacetyl. Generally quite clean, likely due to the lager yeast.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation is moderate-low (should be higher), medium-bodied and quite creamy. Smooth. Maybe a touch of astringency.

Overall: I don’t have a lot of experience with this style, but I really like this beer. Should be carbonated more. I agree with Jamil that the recipe is likely a bit too roasty, but I think it works. Could use a touch more bitterness.

Recipe (5.5 gallons, 78% efficiency): OG 1.051, FG 1.015, IBU 24.4, SRM 28

1. 2.32 kg Munich malt
2. 1.82 kg Pilsner malt
3. 170 g Caramunich II
4. 170 g Chocolate malt
5. 99 g Roasted Barley
6. 99 g Carafa Special II

1. Hallertau - 42 g (3.9% AA) @ 60 min
2. Hallertau - 14 g @ 20 min
3. Hallertau - 14 g @ 0 min

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

Yeast: Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager (PD Dec 14/10) (with a 5 L starter)

- Brewed Jan.13/11 with Geoff. 60 minute mash with 17 L of strike water, mashed in at 154 F. Sparged with ~5 gallons of 180 F water for final volume of 7.25 gallons into kettle. 90 minute boil.

- Chilled down to 62 F with copper immersion chiller. OG a bit high, 1.054. Poured into Better Bottle and placed in chest freezer with temp set at 45 F to bring wort temp down more. Pitched yeast when temp reached 50 F, aerated by shaking for several minutes before and after. Began fermentation in chest freezer with temp set at 50 F.

- Slow fermentation lasted for 5-6 days. When gravity reached 1.020, I moved the fermenter outside of the freezer and let the temp rise to ~65 F for a two-day diacetyl rest. Then, it was placed back into the chest freezer, and the temp was allowed to drop by 2 F every day, until it reached 36 F.

- Lagered at this temp for ~2 months. FG a bit high at 1.017.

- Bottled with 69 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 at 36 F. Also added 3-4 g rehydrated Nottingham dry yeast. Got 40 x 12 oz, 8 x 500 mL. Placed in warm room (68-70 F) for 2 weeks to carbonate. Realized too late that temp used in the calculation should be max reached at fermentation; this is why the beer came out a bit under-carbonated.

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