Batch #5 – All Grain #1.
This is my first all grain batch and my second to be kegged. I begin my recipe search as I most often do – by browsing the recipe database at HBT. Once again, I know I’m going to go with a recipe in a style I haven’t done before. This time I am picking the Scotch Ale style, a strong ale with a strong smoky malt profile. Moylan’s Kilt Lifter is one commercial example of the style. After a bit of searching, I have chosen my base to be a recipe going by the name of “If It’s Not Scottish, It’s Crap”. While the reference to the Mike Meyers classic “So I Married An Axe Murderer” is a strong consideration in my choice, ultimately it is the distinctive technique and unique hops selection used in this particular recipe that draw me to my final decision.
- 9# 2 Row (UK)
- 1# Aromatic
- 8oz Crystal 60L
- 4oz Roasted Barley
- 4oz Special B
- Strike @ 165°
- Mash @ 156° 60 minutes
- Sparge @ 170°
- Boil @ 90 minutes
- 0.25oz Pacific Gem 15.3% AA @ 90 minutes
- 0.25oz Pacific Gem 15.3% AA @ 20 minutes
- 0.5oz Goldings East Kent 5.3% AA @ 20 minutes
The transition from the world of extracts and partial mashes into the world of all grain brewing requires a slightly expanded set of equipment from what I already have. The old 20 quart kettle which worked for concentrated malt extract boils isn’t big enough to support a full 5 gallon boil. When working with concentrated malt extracts you can use a smaller kettle to pre-boil part of the total volume of water separately and combine it with a smaller volume of concentrated higher gravity wort in order to produce the total volume. The all grain brewing process requires the full volume of water to be mashed with grains in order to get the equivalent original gravity – and hence a larger kettle to support that extra liquid. The smaller kettle can still come in handy for tasks such as heating extra sparge water, but my primary boil kettle will be replaced with a 7.5 gallon stainless steel kettle.
For new equipment, I need a MLT (Mash Lauter Tun). This is the vessel in which crushed grains are steeped (mashed) with hot water to produce the sweet wort. With just a few simple modifications, any cooler of sufficient size can be turned into a MLT. I’ve chosen a round 10 gallon Igloo water cooler with a few additional modifications for this job. This is the same style of big orange water cooler which is often seen strapped to the back of construction crew trucks.
The primary concern when considering cooler designs is how the wort will be drained from the container. The first step usually involves replacing the standard spigot with a brass/stainless steel bulkhead assembly and ball shutoff valve for easy on/off liquid flow control. These parts are easily picked up from your hardware store’s plumbing department. Some sort of manifold or false bottom is also necessary in order to promote efficient draining of the wort from the grain bed. For my purposes, I’ve chosen a simple DIY design based on a braided stainless steel hose attached to the end of my modified inner bulkhead fitting. Parts assembled, I have everything I need to begin my first all grain brew.
One of the key characteristics which define Scottish ales are the caramelized and burnt toffee notes. In this recipe, these flavors are produced by boiling down and reducing a small amount of the first runnings before combining them with the remainder of the wort. The first quart or two of the wort drained from the MLT will be reserved and boiled separately until it is reduced in volume by around half before being combined with the remainder of the wort in the boil kettle.
This time out, I sourced everything from a different LHBS than usual. Oak Barrel Winecraft in Berkeley is well stocked with friendly, helpful staff. Their prices are occasionally on the high side, but if you happen to live in the East Bay area, they are definitely worth checking out. Parking is easy and the store is spacious and well organized.
My procedure is begun by boiling up an initial gallon of water which I then pour into the MLT. I then seal up the cooler and give it a good shake. I’ll leave this alone while I’m heating up the strike water for my mash. When it’s time to start the mash, I’ll dump the water from the cooler and have a sanitized, preheated MLT ready to go. My target mash temperature is 156°. Given the amount of grain, the volume of mash water that will be added and the equipment I am using, I need to heat my initial strike water temperature to 165°. Once all of the water has been added, it should cool down to the target mash temperature. It will then rest for 60 minutes before sparging with 170° water. Sparging is simply the process of rinsing the mashed grains with additional hot water and collecting the resultant sweet wort for boiling. The higher temperature of the sparge water is meant to stop enzymatic activity in the grains and increase the flow of liquid through the grain bed.
This being my first foray with a number of new styles, techniques, equipment, and methods something is bound to go wrong. Almost immediately when I begin sparging, I end up with a stuck sparge. Even though the valve is opened all the way, no liquid flows out of the tun. Running a sanitized wooden skewer through the bulkhead fitting I am able to clear the blockage and begin slowly draining the wort. After further inspection of the spent grains later on, I discover that the braided hose has come loose from the inner bulkhead fitting. Inadequate fasteners or excessive stirring of the mash are probably to blame.
The first S.G. reading is 1.069. The second reading is 1.061. After 9 days in primary, I rack the beer into the secondary glass carboy. At the time of racking to secondary, the S.G. reading is 1.014. After 12 more days in the secondary the F.G. ends up at 1.012. At this point I transfer the beer into a keg and force carbonate it at 12 PSI at 48°. It should be properly carbonated and ready to drink within another week.
So, after everything is this a delicious quaffable brew? Every beer I’ve made has been a good beer which I’ve enjoyed drinking. Unfortunately, not every brew is one I’ve felt is one that I would want to consider making more than once or adding to a regular rotation list. That’s just part of the adventure of exploring new style territory. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be my favorite, I still learn a little more about how different ingredients and preparations come together and affect the flavor of the final beer. As it turns out, this is the second brew I’ve done which I would consider on the esteemed regular rotation list. (The Bell’s Two Hearted Ale clone was the first to place on this list.) Needless to say – and in spite of the problems along the way – I’m extremely pleased with this brew and look forward to having a chance to make the next batch.