Sunday, 25 September 2011

Golden Mole

There has been no news for a while. This is for the same lame-ass reason as before - the mead and the braggot were STILL not done. The braggot finally stopped bubbling the other day, and finally reached a gravity of 1.011. It was stable for about 3 days, so I decided it was done, and bottled it.

When I tried it a couple of weeks ago, "Loathsome" Braggot tasted like someone had mixed half a jar of honey into a can of special brew. Not pleasant. After re-racking away from the yeast, the addition of gelatine and then a week to rest it seems a lot better, a lot smoother. Just to recap, this was a beer/mead hybrid using 3.5 kilos of amber malt extract, 3.5 kilos of honey, some hallertau hops, bitter orange peel and a couple of other things. I've now added about 300g more of honey to 20l for carbonation. I could have used the usual sugar, but that seemed wrong, even though the beer part came from extract which is already sort-of cheating... anyway, there we are. I reckon it's about 12% alcohol, from some back-of-the-envelope calculations. Honey is consumed more slowly than sugar, so carbonation will take a while if the yeast is even still alive at that concentration, and, well it's probably going to best if I try to leave it until sometime around christmas before giving it a go. You and I, dear reader, both know that that's not what's going to happen, but it'll do as a plan.

Mellow-Mole mead is stubbornly still bubbling away. It's in a 25l glass vessel at the moment so there's no easy way to take a sample and figure out the gravity. The orange and lemon pieces in the top are stubbornly refusing to sink, and the liquid is stubbornly refusing to clear. There doesn't seem to be a fast-forward button I can see, though I have now moved it out of the back cupboard and into the front room, where it's a couple of degrees warmer, in the hope that it'll take off a bit. It's been a week since then, too, and has it stopped? Has it buggery...

Errr, what else... Last week Gordon and I went back to U-Brewit in Osborne park and made another 50 litre batch of brew-on-premises beer. This time it's going to be a German style, apparently a Munich style dunkel. I know not every brew needs a name and a label , but, well, I have mental images of mascot-mole in lederhosen with an umlaut over the 'o' in München Möley's Dunkel. Of course given that "Old Moley" was from there and came out a sort of Australian golden ale style when it was supposed to be a British bitter... who knows. Also Fat Moley has received some pretty good reviews. Particularly the "Redux" version which seems to have mellowed nicely. Conversely to "Sussex Beast", Fat Moley seems to be even better with all the yeast and sediment mixed in. This I know because I took some on the plane to the UK with me and shared a couple of bottles with a friend within a couple of hours of disembarking. The folks I've given it to in general seemed to think it was good stuff, even those that don't often drink stout or don't often drink beer at all! So I'll take that as encouragement and carry on. Which brings me to today's activities - Golden Mole.

Golden Mole is hopefully going to be a hoppy, thirst-quenching, light coloured, mid-strength golden ale. It's also going to be the first one that gets a proper "Cold Break". Previous brews were, after the boil, cubed up (put in an airtight container with as little air space as possible) and either left in the fridge overnight (which broke the fridge) or just left out in the kitchen. This is mostly fine from a brew hygiene perspective but could result in slightly off flavours. It is an annoyance that you can't wrap the whole process up in one day. On top of this a "cold break", which just means rapid cooling as far as I can tell, precipitates out some of the protein matter not caught by either the whirlfloc/Irish moss or the gelatin. This means you should end up with a crystal clear beer at the end and further reduce the chance for any off flavours.

I also wanted to get myself an old fridge off gumtree and rig it up in the garage with a thermostat so I could precisely control the fermentation temperature. However my thermostat hasn't arrived yet, so I can't. At this time of year it's not too hot though, so I'll likely just use the back room cupboard again. Golden mole is supposed to be golden and hoppy, but still English in character so the ingredients are as follows -

  • 4 Kg of Maris Otter malt
  • 200g Crystal Malt
  • 200g Torrified wheat
  • 200g Aromatic Belgian Malt

The aromatic Belgian malt is actually a mistake. The original recipe I cam up with just called for flaked barley, but I forgot to take my recipe list with me to the grain shop and the guy suggested it might be that, so I went with it. After sterilising an endless parade of things, again, and preparing 40l of water, this lot was mixed with about 150g of rice hulls to keep the grain bed flowing, a couple of campden tablets and 20g of Calcium Sulphate. It was mashed with 12 litres of water at about 69 degrees, but by the time it was all mixed up the mash was only at around 62, so a little water from the kettle (always have that freshly boiled at this point) kicked it up to 66C. Just about perfect.

While it's mashing 18 litres of sparge water have gone into the pan and are being heated up to around 62, as per Sensible Mole's advice. This is one more area I'm slightly unsure of, as some brewers advise taking the mash up to around 76C to stop all further enzyme activity. However I don't really have the equipment for that, so I'm ignoring it, and so do others. I also measured out the hops. As I want it really hoppy, not too bitter, and I had a few different types of hops hanging around in the freezer, I've gone for this little lot -

  • 20g of East Kent Goldings at 60 minutes
  • 20g of Challenger at 30 minutes
  • 20g of Saaz at 15 minutes
  • 20g of East Kent Goldings at 5 minutes
  • 40g of Saaz at 5 minutes
  • 36g of Hallertau at 5 minutes

That last one there is only 36g because that's what was left. Saaz and Hallertau are usually used in pilseners and lagers, so this is balanced with goldings used for both bittering and aroma, and some challenger at the mid point should help it retain an ale-ish character, as should the Wyeast's "Thames Valley" yeast strain I've picked out to try this time. And of course there's the usual yeast nutrient and Irish moss at 10 minutes. Quite a busy boil schedule!

Between those last words and these I have passed the sweet wort through the grain bed three times, performed the sparging and passed the spargewater back through the bed once, then boiled. When the boil was done I jugged the boiling hot wort out of the pan and into a spare fermentation barrel which had a muslin/filtering bag around the lip, then I removed all the hop matter in the bag. That was when my new heat exchanger came in useful. I attached the garden hose at one side, the other to another length of hose draining waste water into another tub and the boil pan, which needed cleaning anyway, and then ran the fresh-off-the-boil wort through the other system. The water came out warm, the wort came out at 27C - pretty much perfect for pitching the yeast, by the time the 23l I was left with were topped up with a couple of litres of the prepared water to hit the 25 I was after.

So far so good. Yeast was a "slap pack" which I'd slapped at the beginning of the process, so should be ready by now and I pitched it in with the rest. Now there's just the cleaning up to do. Ugh. Still, Golden Mole was probably the quickest brew so far. I started about 5pm and finished before midnight! My only concerns are that I may not have aerated the wort well enough before pitching, and that there's an awful lot of hop matter already settled out at the bottom. This one may turn into a hop-bomb. For the record the SG was 1.039 and I used my new Refractometer (Thanks OMNIbus team!) to measure the sugar content at 9% Brix. I think Brix come in percent... I need to do some more reading.

In my next update I really hope to be able to tell you that I've bottled the mead. And I hope that if I do I'm not lying!

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