Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Apricot Lovin' Brew Day

Sunday was another brew day for me. This time, I brewed the base beer of my Apricot Lovin' American Wheat. It might be a little early in the year to be brewing a fruity light colored beer, but that's ok.

At some point during the day, I realized that this is really the first fruit beer I've brewed since one of my greatest brewing failures: the first attempt of "Girly Berry". Hopefully this fruit beer will turn out better. I have actually used fruit (cherries) in some of my older X-Mas Ales, but I don't really consider those fruit beers because the fruit in those is subtle enough that the malts still dominate the flavors in those.

And why did I decide to brew a fruit beer? I first got the idea from one of the pastors at my church who wondered on my facebook wall if I could make a Pyramid Apricot Ale. Apparently, he had tasted some at a restaurant somewhere in the area and really liked it.

My initial response was to ridicule him for asking about a girly fruit beer. [Just for the record, I do realize that I should stop calling light fruity beers "girly". I do know that lots of women drink and enjoy all kinds of beers, and it is sexist and ignorance to label a beer "girly". I'm working on it ... I really am.]

After the obligatory ridicule, I did think about what it would take to brew an apricot wheat ale. One of my favorite local breweries, Dry Dock, makes Paragon Apricot Blonde, which my Beer Model really likes. Northern Brewer recently started selling an all-grain kit to make that beer. My favorite local home brew shop is right next door to the Dry Dock.
I emailed Steve at the Brew Hut asking if he had a recipe for Paragon Apricot Blonde. My intention was not to get the recipe for the blonde, but just find out what sort of fruit profile would be good to use. Turns out that the Brew Hut sells an extract kit for Paragon Blonde, and so they had all the ingredients ready to go.

So, then I asked the SheppyBrew Beer Model if she would like an Apricot Wheat on tap. Her keg of Buckwheat's BPA is getting close to empty, so it is time to start thinking about what to put in there. She did think that a fruity beer would be nice to have available. So, with permission from SWMBO, I decided to go for it.

For the base beer, I decided to just use the recipe of Summer Lovin' American Wheat, because that had turned out well and I figure that its light refreshing delicate malt profile with low bitterness would showcase the apricot flavor well. I will add pureed apricots into a secondary fermenter, and add some apricot extract at bottling time. This is what the recipes from the Brew Hut and Northern Brewer specify.

So, I developed my recipe (see Apricot Lovin' American Wheat ) last week, and stopped by the Brew Hut on Friday for my ingredients. One thing I sort of discovered through this process is that the BeerSmith software does not have a good way to add fruit (or any fermentable) in a secondary fermentation. The recipe above does not take into account the alcohol from the fruit at all. To be honest, I have no idea how much alcohol 3 lbs of fruit puree adds anyway.

One change I made to my process on Sunday is that I decided to use a double infusion mash with a protein rest at 131 degrees for 30 minutes. I think I've heard that one reason you might want to do a protein rest is reduce the sticky mess that wheat malt can be. My hope was that by doing the protein rest I would be less likely to get a stuck sparge. The lautering went very smoothly, and I did get pretty good mashing efficiency. I don't really know if this was because the protein rest or if it would have gone as well without the double infusion. But, I do think that I will do the same thing for future wheat all-grain batches.

I did actually also use a sparge bag in the mash tun just in case I ended up with a stuck sparge. I obviously didn't need it, but it was nice have that piece of mind. I might use this technique in the future as well.

The boil went well. I ended up a bit high on the pre-boil volume, so I boiled a little longer than usual. I also ended up diluting with half a gallon of water into the fermenter and still ended up a couple of gravity points higher than planned. I got a full 5.75 gallons in the fermenter.

I pitched the yeast at about 64 degrees. The temperature fell to 62 the next day and is now fermenting away.

In a week or so, I will add the apricot puree into a secondary fermenter and rack the beer on the top of the apricot. I am not sure how long I'll leave the beer on the puree. I should probably figure out the sugar content of the puree at some point. I don't want to get an overflow on the secondary.

Anyway ...I am looking forward to finding out what the Beer Model and my pastor think of the beer. I'll probably let you know when this beer is done and how tastings go.

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