Sunday, 5 February 2012

Maple Mole Eh?

So it's been a while since I wrote here. That's mostly because it's been a while since I've done any brewing.

This is becauce I've been away on holiday a lot, and also because Gord and myself went to U-BrewIt and did three more brews towards the end of last year. This is not a bad thing, but those beers have to be kept in the fridge as they are filtered and not 'live' like my homebrew, that can apparently live in the cupboard almost indefinitely.

There was enough u-brewit stuff that not only was I down to one shelf in my main fridge, but the temp-controlled brew fridge had to be pressed into service as a secondary beer fridge, and was packed full as well. Over the following several months I've been valiantly trying to clear the backlog, and today I have managed to liberate the second fridge for brewing purposes again.

Before I start on Maple Mole, Eh? I'll tell you about the other brews. Loathsome Braggot has turned out amazingly well. It's a little like Chimay Blue, only it's stronger, and it has an amazingly powerful honey aroma. I am well pleased with this one. The only trouble is the strength. A couple of little bottles of the evening and you'll feel it. Any more than that and you wake up the next day feeling like you got run over by something. Success :)

Golden Mole was not a success. It made utterly divine smells as it was fermenting, deliciously fruity and hoppy. I bottled it after a few weeks, and after applying the gelatine clearing method, all seemed well. On pouring a few weeks later it was a brilliant amber colour and divinely clear - no cold haze, no yeasty residue, just beautiful translucent, sparkling beer. We gave the first taste to Fran, who said "Mmm" and then shortly afterwards "ugh, well, err, you might like it, but it's so bitter! It tastes like earwax!"

Unfortunately she was right, there was an overpowering bitter earwaxy aftertaste and and after trying a few more bottles, Golden Mole had to go down the sink :(

Hopping Lord Moley (which was to be renamed "One Legged") finished fermenting and then I lagered it for a couple of months in the brew fridge while I was in and out of the country. Eventually I bottled it. No gelatine treatment for this one, I decided, besides which, the prolonged cold secondary should sort it out. Which it did. Golden mole, when bottled and poured, is another nice, clear, straw-coloured, sparkling ale. Which tastes of earwax.

Not anywhere near as bad as Golden Mole, but still not right. I'm beginning to get the impression I should stick to dark things... I haven't poured this batch down the sink (yet) and will give it another try in a few weeks to determine it's future.

The other creation I had been working on was "Mellow Mole" spiced mead. This took about six months from hive to glass but was well worth it. It still needs a little time to mature, but it did eventually drop clear in the bottle. It's got a lovely honey and orange smell to it, and a kick like a mule. This ought to smooth out in time. I also made double and triple honeyjack varieties of it by freeze-concentrating two and three bottles respectively to single bottle volume. The triple tastes like lovely honey sherry! Definitely a success. Another batch is planned, probably with peaches as an additive.

So, on to today's main course - Maple Mole Eh?

I went to Canada last year and brought back a litre of Maple Syrup from the trip. I figure Maple Syrup would make a good flavour addition to stout, so I'm going to try a variation on Fat Moley Redux that uses Maple Syrup as a flavour and sugar adjunct.

The grain bill needs to be reduced slightly as Maple syrup contains a large proportion of sugar that the yeast will turn to booze. So it goes as follows -

  • 5 Kg Maris Otter Malt
  • 300g Crystal Malt
  • 300g Black Malt
  • 500g Roasted Barley
  • 1500g Rolled Oats
  • 1 Litre (~1300g) Maple Syrup

I'm going to add the Maple Syrup at or near the end of the boil so it doesn't boil off any aromatic flavours, and given it's already 6pm, I'd better get on with it...

The mashing water was heated up to 73/5-ish degrees again. This time I took the step of pre-heating the tun with a couple of litres of boiling water. This, and the higher mash water temperature ensured that I got the mash to 68.5 ish degrees with no need to add in extra boiling water for a temp boost. Excellent. The mash is going to be a relatively short one this time - I read that 90 minutes can be excessive and will allow the enzymes time to break down some of the more complex stuff, resulting in a thinner beer. 60 minutes is apparently better for an ale. I'm going to sparge at about 170 degrees this time, and I'm also going to monitor my spargings for gravity. If it drops below 1.008 then you're at risk of extracting a lot of tannins, which could just be the source of the earwaxy flavour from the last brews.

The mash eventually went on at 7pm. At 8pm I drained the sweet wort, and started to deviate from Sensible Mole's advice based on some reading and some thinking. I wanted to get the sweet wort boiling ASAP rather than letting everything cool in a long clarifying process that likely results in further sugar conversion and thinning of the beer. So I passed the first 5 litres of sweet wort through the grain bed again, then drained another 10ish litres and put them straight on to boil. Then I started sparging. Sparge water was 25 litres at 70C. I let this go through pretty quick too, and after collecting about 15 litres of this I noticed that what was coming out of the tap was down to 1.006, already too low! But probably a lot better than what I've done before. So I stopped collecting, and topped the pan up to roughly 30 litres with unused sparge water.

Doing this quickly and not messing around has another advantage - the stuff is already pretty hot as you start the boil, so getting it up to 100 is quicker. It's now almost 8.55pm, the first hops have gone in and it's under two hours since the start of the mash, and only two and a half since I started the brew. Have now decided to put the maple syrup in early rather than late. As it's made by boiling the crap out of maple sap, a bit more boiling isn't going to hurt it!

Today's hop schedule is similar to Fat Moley Redux, but constrained by what I have in the freezer, because I have a lot of hops in the freezer and I'm damned if I'm buying more...

  • 40g Northdown at 60 minutes
  • 40g EKG at 60 minutes
  • 20g EKG at 20 minutes
  • 20g Challenger at 20 minutes because I only had 40g of Northdown
  • Yeast nutrient and whirlfloc at 10 minutes

This done, I got cocky and tried to run the wort straight from the pan, through the heat exchanger and into the fermentation vessel. The heat exchanger got blocked with hops, I had to take it off, got my arm sprayed with boiling sugar water, and sprayed tap water everywhere. Bum. So I passed the boiling stuff through a muslin bag into one fermentation vessel, and then from there through the exchanger to another, and then back again. Forgetting to switch the tap on this vessel to 'off' I let about half a litre of sticky pre-stout escape onto the kitchen floor... At the end of this I have 24.5 litres of black stuff at 1.062, a stunning 55% efficiency! WTF? I didn't spill that much. Maybe I overestimated the sugar content of Maple Syrup, maybe my quick sparging and wort clarifying reduced my efficiency, maybe I'm just crap today.

So there's an attempt at a quick brew. Started 6-6.30 ish, finished (bar the tidying up) by 10.30 is. That's about 3 hours quicker than my last effort.

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