Patersbier Brew Day – Brewing

06/10/2010

Patersbier is my first brew. Going into it, I tried to plan meticulously. Lots of reading and re-reading. I wrote out my entire plan for brew day beforehand so I would have a guide to follow. Every time I had a niggling question, I had to go and look it up, no matter how trivial. When I write instructions (for lab experiments in the past), I’m extremely thorough, because it turns out that I think of a lot of strange things when I’m actually in the thick of things. That probably doesn’t surprise you, but I don’t want to find out later that I should have held something with my left hand instead of my right in order for the experiment to work. The tediously fastidious nature of growing one type of cell in the absence of all others through dozens of generations taught me that. And when you do screw up… back to the liquid nitrogen, and hope the cells you froze five generations ago weren’t already ruined and you didn’t know it (hint: they were). So here is the brew day process.

Today’s Equipment: 5 gallon stainless steel brew pot (20 quarts), 6.5 gallon glass carboy, hydrometer, thermometer (my kitchen thermometer), grain sack, wort stirrer (a metal spatula), water spray bottle, 2 cup measuring cup, big funnel, scissors, plastic beer thief (a long turkey baster would be better).

Ingredients: 0.5lbs CaraPils, 6lbs Pilsen malt extract syrup, 1oz Tradition hops, 0.5oz Saaz hops, Wyeast 3787 Trappist smack pack. This is all from the previously mentioned Northern Brewer kit. Also, I used 3 gallons of filtered tap water and 3 gallons of unfiltered tap water.

First thing to do is activate the yeast smack pack. Try and shake the pack so as to get the inner yeast nutrient package to the bottom corner. Then just clap your hands forcefully with the pack in the middle. You’ll know in a few hours if it was successful. I usually hit it a number of times to prevent failure. I like to activate the pack the night before brew day. By the next day (or at least 12 hours later), the pack will look like it’s about to burst from all the gas produced by the multiplying yeast (it won’t). This will provide for you a healthy fermentation, reduce stress on the yeast, and shorten lag time. Lag time is the time in between pitching the yeast into the finished wort and the beginning of the rapid yeast growth phase where they furiously ferment your beer. Ideally, you want to pitch enough yeast so that they don’t do much reproducing when they hit the wort – they go straight to fermenting. Shorter lag time is better for us impatient types and for the beer. After three hours you should be able to tell that the pack has puffed up. You just need to know that your yeast is alive and growing before pitching it.

Expanded smack pack

The smack pack after a few hours of growth

Set 3 gallons of water to boil. Leave the top off of your brew pot for the entire brew. It will slow heating, yes, but it will help evaporate undesirable sulfurous compounds. My specialty grain for this batch was 0.5lbs CaraPils. I steeped it in a mesh bag for 20 minutes up to a temperature of 170 degrees F. You’ll notice that I have my grain bag suspended in the pot with my spatula (I am so clever). I’ve seen some people just let their grain bag sit in the water. The problem with this is that the bottom of the pot is much hotter than the water because it is in direct contact with the heat source, and so the grains that are sitting on the bottom will get much hotter than the water whose temperature you’re checking. So a) you don’t actually know how hot your grains are and b) they’re probably over 170 degrees F. Food for thought.

Steeping the specialty grains. Also, note the level of the water.

Steeping the specialty grains.

Following that, I removed the brew pot from the heat and added the 6lbs of Pilsen liquid malt extract (LME). It is now called “wort” (pronounced wert). The purpose of removing it from the heat is to keep any from getting burned to the bottom of the pot (if you have an electric stove, it’ll be in the shape of the coil…). It is a bit slow to dissolve, but not too bad. I’ve seen some people just pour the whole thing in at once and then stir, but I prefer a stable pace for controlled solubility. Once you’ve got that mixed in, put it back on full heat. Once it’s at a rolling boil, add bittering hops. I added 1oz of German Tradition hops in pellet form. Bittering hops are typically boiled for 60 minutes (the entire length of the brew). When you buy hops, they’ll come notated with the percentage of alpha acids they contain. These were 6.9%. The alpha acids are a group of compounds that, under the heat of boiling, isomerizes and solubilize in the beer. The purpose of these hops is to balance the maltiness of the grains and extract.

Addition of liquid malt extract

Addition of liquid malt extract

Now you will want to watch for boil-overs. Despite having 3 gallons of water in a 5 gallon pot, the boil over I encountered during this first brew readily filled that remaining 2 gallons in the time I spent looking in another direction. This is where a spray bottle filled with water comes in handy. A simple spritzing causes the boil over to subside almost instantly. Generous stirring and a close watch can prevent boil-overs, but the spray bottle was definitely worth it to prevent the ridiculous mess I would have otherwise had to deal with. This is called the “hot break.” Certain proteins are coagulating under the high temperature and they rise to the top of the boil, just like boiling too much pasta in too little water. This is a good thing because it makes these proteins easier to remove when the time comes and leaves you with a cleaner, more refined beer.

The wort following the addition of bittering hops. Note a) how green it has become and b) how close it is to the top of the pot

The wort following the addition of bittering hops. Note how much the level has risen

Following the addition of the bittering hops, this recipe calls for 45 minutes of boiling. Then I add the aroma hops. For this beer, they are 0.5oz Czech Saaz pellets. I appear to have neglected to record their alpha acid content. These hops are more for aesthetic appeal, especially aroma. Some sources will even refer to them as ‘aroma hops.’ More hops later in the boil will produce a hoppier beer. The shorter boil time means that fewer volatile oils containing hop essence will evaporate, and thus more will be present in the final beer.

At the end of 15 minutes, cut the heat. Now is the time to cool. I’ll continue next time with what to do post-brewing.

One thought on “Patersbier Brew Day – Brewing

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