Mid-Late Winter Brewing

Fermentation Station

The fermentation corner has looked sad since the beginning of October when I took a little break, so I figured before the weather gets too warm, and my basement is at a decent fermenting temp, it was time to stock up on some grains, and try a few new recipes! Currently, I have two (about 4 gallon) batches going of roughly the same recipe – I’m shooting for a blend in flavor of a Vienna Lager, and a Cream Ale, utilizing the same base grains, but altering the specialty malts, and hop profiles a little bit to add slightly different characteristics. I’ve had a few problems with the first batch though..

The first batch of this came out with a much lower OG than it should have – measuring about 1.035 after temperature calibration. I’m actually very okay with that part as I’ve actually been trying to find ways to make lower alcohol brews as in the past I usually wind up between 7-10%, but the problem lends to yeast activation. I’ve struggled with White Labs yeasts virtually every time I’ve tried to use them, and this was no exception. I wanted to use the English ale yeast to attempt to leave some of a malty flavor that’s similar to one of my favorite Vienna Lagers, so I activated it per the instructions, drop it in, after 24 hours, nothing coming off the airlock. I opted to give it an extra day to see if maybe it was just a delayed start, but no luck. So, I ran to the local homebrew store, and picked up a sachet of a SafAle English Ale Yeast, and made what I referred to as a “Kickstarter” – effectively a small dextrose based simple syrup mixture (about 16oz or so) which I dumped in the batch after cooling, and pitched the packet. This likely had a minimal effect on the OG as well, but I did not take another gravity reading – I would say it may vary the total ABV by about 0.15% or so max, so I’m not worried about being too accurate here. All in all it’s looking like it’ll turn out around between 3.25-3.50%, assuming about a 71% efficiency. This could actually be a very high estimate based on having to repitch.

I’m going to preface the second batch by saying that I’m not a huge fan of fruit in beer, however I wanted to try something with one of them – with the batch that’s using a lesser quantity of hops, and being lower in alpha acids I tried a blood orange infusion. I’ve often found that blood oranges deliver a bitter flavor that is comparable to a lot of hops, but they tend to leave their “fruitiness” mostly out of the mix. I added these in using a grain bag, cut in half with my 60 min hop addition to extract all of the oils possible and really tried to infuse as much of that as possible. I’m someone that usually samples the wort before pitching yeast because I like to know what I’m getting into – it really is just a grain based tea at this point anyways. This was probably one of the best tasting ones that I’ve made to date – it had a little residual orange flavor at the end, which I think should hit a little harder after fermentation, so it’s going to be a little fruitier than I wanted, but will be a welcome flavor. The OG coming out of boil was 1.057, using Lalbrew California Ale Yeast (that actually took on pitching) to hopefully bring out the more bitter profile, I’d say the finished product is likely looking to be closer to 6% ABV.

Oh… and I guess if you’re really looking at the photo above, you’ll see a little half gallon with an airlock. Last week I bought some apple cider at the local public market – admittedly when I got it, it was already getting a little on the vinegary side. I made a cocktail for the Superbowl out of one of them, and got a second just to drink. Well last weekend turned into this weekend, and I completely forgot about it, so I opened it up, and it was to a point where it was just barely drinkable as is and I probably wasn’t going to get to it before it turned, so I threw half of that container into a saucepan with some brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice, brought it to a boil to combine, dumped it back in with the cold stuff, and pitched a packet of yeast. I figured if it was going to turn and begin to ferment before I got to drink it, I may as well help it along and get something tasty out of it. I didn’t have a small enough vessel to ferment that in, so I just drilled out the cap to slightly smaller than an airlock would fit, and forced the airlock in.

This photo was taken about 15 mins after pitch, as you can see that yeast really started getting to work quick!

In the next few weeks I have a few other projects that I’m looking to start in this area, I have a pear cider that I’ve been sitting on some juice concentrate to use for a couple of months, a 3rd iteration of this Vienna Cream Ale (utilizing a different base grain), and am also planning on a few foods, and non-alcoholic drinks in this mix – a salsa, cultured butter, Yogurt, and Kombucha. The Kombucha will be a little bit as I’m just starting the SCOBY this evening.

Also, if anybody is looking for affordable wort chillers, I recommend living where it hovers around 3 degrees at night… it’ll take you to pitching temp relatively quickly


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