Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Brew Day: Schnockered to Comfortably Numb

Back at the beginning of November (see Fall Back ... Brew a Morlock Porter), I brewed my Category 12 Porter. This meant that I only had one more BJCP Category left to brew in my quest to have brewed at least one batch in all 23 BJCP Categories (see SheppyBrew Styles).

Since then, I've brewed a couple of old favorites, leaving the last category for the very end of the year. Monday, I took the day off work to brew a Category 19 Strong Ale. (Actually, I took the day off because my employer has a use-it-or-lose-it policy on vacation days. The brew-day was just a bonus)

If you want to see the recipe, go to the SheppyBrew website and look at

This is the highest gravity beer I've ever attempted. I assume it will be highest in alcohol as well, but it sort of depends on how well the San Diego Super Yeast does on its attenuation. As I mentioned on the SheppyBrew Website, I am not 100% sure where I got this name. I heard the term "Schnockered to Comfortably Numb" somewhere and typed it into my phone, thinking it would make a good beer name someday. When I knew I was making a Barleywine, the name seemed perfect.

I think this is the 3rd time using the Super Yeast
Anyway, my brew-day didn't start as early as most of mine do. Even so, it was dark out when I started. There was snow on the ground, which in the past has usually meant a brew day in the garage, but this time I just did it on the patio like usual.

The mash tun was much fuller than usual. Obviously this would be the case as this beer has twice as much grain as my "typical" beer lately. I actually got my strike temperature perfect immediately and the mash maintained itself nicely between 148 and 150 for about an hour and a half.

Biggest mash I have ever done

I went to the health club during the mash and listened to Basic Brewing Radio's podcast: Homebrew Disasters '13. Little did I know that I would have a disaster of my own later that day.

First wort. Hops in a bag.

After I got back from my workout, I drained the wort and then gave it a batch-sparge as specified on the recipe. If you looked at the recipe, you probably noticed a significant amount of first-wort-hops. Knowing that this beer was going to have lots of hops (probably more than any beer I've ever made), I decided to use hop sacks. It has been a long time since I've used a hop sack, and I've never used one for first wort hops, but it seemed to work out pretty well. Regardless, the hops smelled wonderful on this cold December morning. Yum!

The boil ... hop sack still in there.

My pre-boil gravity was low. I had planned for 1.075 and only measured 1.066. I'll chalk that up to never having done such a big beer before, and therefore not really knowing my efficiency with such big beers. You may remember that my NSFW Belgium Golden Strong is a very high-alcohol beer, but lots of its fermentables come from simple sugars added during fermentation, so I have never done a mash anything close to this big.

I compensated for the low gravity with a pound and a half of DME. This was sort of cool, because it allowed me to use one of Beer Smith's new features, its "Adjust Gravity" tool. Normally, I would be ashamed of having to use a whole pound and a half of DME in an all-grain beer, but it is actually only the difference between 80% mash efficiency and 75% mash efficiency, and I think that actually isn't too bad.

The rest of the boil went as planned.

I had used another new feature of Beer Smith for this beer, its ability to calculate IBUs from Whirlpool hop additions. And I dumped a bunch of hops in the "whirlpool". In my case, all "whirlpool" means is that I turned the heat off and waited before turning on the chiller. Again, as there were so many, I put these into a large hop sack too.

My post-brew day reward. 2013 X-Mas Ale
It is sort of funny ... while listening to the Homebrew Disasters '13 podcast, I smugly kept telling myself how idiotic some of the stories were. I should have know something stupid would happen to me.

I hooked up my hoses to the my immersion chiller. The outlet hose had some frozen water in it, but I (stupidly) figured that I had drained it pretty well last time and that the hot outlet water would simply melt the ice eliminating the blockage pretty quickly. Well, apparently, I did not drain that hose as well as I thought, because the water was not getting through. I saw the tubing from the chiller start to bulk up, and was inches away from turning off the water when my outlet tubing from the wort chiller exploded.

Stupid. I have other hoses that are completely empty. Why did I use the one that I knew had some ice in it? Cause I am an idiot who mentally made fun of the Homebrew Disasters stories. I guess you could call it a bit of "karma". I just think I'm literally a moron.

Well, luckily, very little (none I think) of the water from the explosion got into my brew kettle. I ended up being able to place the brew pot on my snowy lawn and situating the chiller so that even with no outlet hose, the water flowed through and did not get into the pot. My lawn got a localized puddle, and I did end up holding the wort chiller the whole time, but I got my wort chilled just fine.

In fact, I got it chilled better than usual. It got down to 64 without having to do my carboy ice bath.

I just have to get my wort chiller repaired.

Anyway, after I got the wort chilled, I racked into the fermentor. I aerated the heck out of the wort and pitched my Super Yeast starter. I had signs of fermenting going before I went to bed.

The yeast is busy doing its thing. I am planning on moving this beer to a secondary vessel in a couple of weeks and probably kegging it around the end of the month. I'll probably take several "QC" samples to see how it tastes, but I am planning on aging the beer in the keg for at least another month before drinking much of it. We'll see how it tastes around the first of March.

As it is pretty hoppy, I may try to drink most of it pretty young, but I do want to try to save a significant amount for aging. We'll see how that goes.

I'll be sure to let you know, if not on this blog, on SheppyBrew's Facebook Page or Twitter or somehow.

Go BlackHawks!

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