Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Brewing the Beerfest Brett Stout

Enough construction talk for now (although I did get rough-in inspections done today which was nice, now I can drywall).  I don't think I mentioned it on the blog but back in October I won the Cincinnati Malt Infusers Octobersbest competition with an Imperial Stout aged on Brettanomyces.  The winner of this competition gets to have their beer brewed at Rivertown Brewing Company to be exhibited at the Cincy Beerfest in February.  It's a well run competition and if you are a homebrewer you should enter something in it next year.  I was pretty shocked that it won as sour beers are not everyone's cup of tea.  After the initial joy wore off though much discussion was had about how to pull off a production batch of this beer:

1.  Without contaminating the whole brewery and
2.  Somehow get 6 months worth of aging in a little over 2 months.

Well the answer to the second question is of course that we won't.  The beer will probably not have as complex of a Brett character as I would like by Beerfest, but should be in outstanding shape when it gets entered at GABF in September as a Pro-Am beer. The answer to the first question got easier when it was decided that we would only make a 40 gallon batch using the Rivertown pilot system to make two 20 gallon batches.

The first 20 gallons was made back on November 15th.  Since this is a Russian Imperial Stout it takes quite a bit of grain to make 20 gallons (70+ pounds).  So much that it doesn't all fit in one mash tun so I had to bring in my mash tun in order to fit it all.
Mine's the little one on the right.
We eventually got it figured out and made it all fit.  Sparging was a bit tough though since I decided to run off both tuns at once in order to save time (we got a late start that day).  I ended up sparging unevenly and shorted the run-off gravity from what I was hoping for.  What can I say, my first try on a new system with a split mash...gimme a break.  The boil went off without a hitch and the beer got put to bed about 12:30 in the morning.

Fast forward about 2 weeks and it was time to make the second batch.  This time I decided to leave nothing to chance and brought my whole rig that way we wouldn't be short of vessels (a problem that plagued us on the first batch).  I worked out a better plan for sparging and got an earlier start so that I could run each mash off separately in order to better track the runoff gravity.  We also upped the grain bill slightly in order to compensate for the extract that we lost the first time around.
Two pilot systems are better than one!
This time we hit the numbers right on the money.  We even had enough time to take the second runnings and boil it down to make about 5 gallons of a 1.050 "free beer" that is fermenting away somewhere in the corner of the brewery.  We'll consider it a "present" to the boys at Rivertown for letting me be in their way a couple of nights while making this thing.
Just before boil start...Ain't it pretty?
Now comes the real fun part...the Brett.  Five vials of White Labs WLP563 Brett Lambic to be precise.  Since it needs to age and it would be nice to age the whole 40 gallons together, we need a tank to do that in.  Fear not for it just so happens I have a tank for exactly this occasion.  A specially fabricated barrel with a modified Cornelius keg top courtesy of Mt. Carmel Brewing Company
Batch #1 coming out of the 20 gallon baby conical and into the world's largest Cory keg.
This way the only thing that gets contaminated with Brett is my tank, and not any of Rivertown's equipment.  Since I plan to use it for carbonating Brett beers anyway, it's no skin off my back.  Once the second batch goes in and gets some time on it we will carbonate and counter fill a few kegs for Beerfest and GABF.

This project has been a lot of fun so far, and although we didn't get to make it on the big system, it was still nice to be making a commercial beer.  We haven't settled on a name yet, but look for it at Beerfest in February and wish us luck at the GABF Pro-Am in September.

Now back to construction....for the next week or so my name is drywall...