Thursday, November 19, 2009

Festivus Ale

I decided a while back that I wanted to make a big Christmas beer to hand out to friends and family during the holidays, I just wasn't sure what style I wanted to brew. At first I considered brewing up one of those ambiguous “winter warmers” that almost every craft brewer seems to put out this time of year, then I remembered that I don't even really like very many of them. Then I read about this french saison yeast the Wyeast had released as part of their “Private Collection” special release program. It's a french saison yeast, rumored to be from Brasserie Thiriez, that doesn't need ridiculously high fermentation temperatures like their regular saison yeast. Bingo, I quickly decided, after consulting Farmhouse Ales, that the beer I would brew would be a Bier de Noel, basically a dark, high gravity saison. The recipe was based off the info in the book.

Most of the bottles are still in my cellar waiting for me to design a label and get them ready for Christmas, but I did crack one open the other night to see what I had made. I have to say it turned out to be real good, maybe my best beer to date.

The aroma has a weird peppery flavor from the yeast mixed with a caramel/nutty malt note, hard to describe but I liked it. Alcohol is nicely integrated but very noticeable. Mouth feel is silky smooth with a little more body than you would expect from a beer this dry. It even has pretty good head retention. Should be even better after another month or so in the cellar. I might even save a few of the 12 ounce bottles for a competition.

Expected OG: 1.074
Actual OG: 1.077
Expected FG: 1.010
Actual FG: 1.004
IBU: 24-27
Boil: 60 minutes
Pre-boil Volume: 5.5 – 6 gallons
Final Volume: 5 gallons
Apparent Attenuation: 94% (!!)
ABV: 9.6%

Briess Pilsner DME 4.5 lbs.
Cane Sugar 1.5 lbs.

Partial Mash Grains:
Weyermann Light Munich 3.5 lbs.
Weyermann Cara Munich III 12 oz.
Castle De-Bittered Black 2 oz.

Brewers Gold 8.0%, 60 min 1.0 oz.
Vanguard 4.4%, 15 min. 0.25 oz.
Vanguard 4.4%, 0 min. 0.25 oz.

Wyeast 3711 French Saison 1.5 qt starter

Spring water from Welpman Spring in Morgan County, MO

Partial Mash (stove top method): In a 8 qt. stock pot, heat 5.5 quarts of water to 165˚, meanwhile pre-heat another 8qt pot in oven (set to warm) add grain bag and grains to preheated pot, then slowly add water. Mash temp should be about 150˚. Move pot to preheated oven for 60 minutes.

After about 30 minutes, heat 6 quarts of water to about 170˚. When mash is done, pull out the grain bag and let it drain for a few minutes. Add bag to heated water stir and let sit for 20 minutes to rinse out any remaining sugars. Should end up with around 9+ quarts of wort.

Add 3.25 gallons water and wort to brew kettle (for a total of around 5.5 gal.), add DME and stir, heat to a boil, add hops at intervals above. At about 15 min. add a 1 tsp of Irish Moss to help with clarity, at about 5 min. left add sugar. After boil is finished let sit for about 20 min. to aid in hop flavor.

Chill wort to about 80˚ or so, transfer to carboy, aerate, take gravity, pitch decanted yeast starter.

Brewed on 08/12/2009 by myself.

8/11 /12:30pm - 5oz DME + 1.5 qt water = starter

8/13/12:30am – OG is a little low, yet again, added 8oz of sugar boiled in 2 cups of water. Working backwards in Beer Calculus, I'm figuring that my mash efficiency is about 68%. I also need to use less sparge water since the grain is already saturated.

8/13/1:30am – pitched starter at about 75˚ with a temp corrected OG of 1.077. I put the BB in a tub of cold water and by 2:20am the temp was down to 70˚. I want the fermentation to start out low then I'll take it out and let it rise naturally.

8/13/11:30am – Fermentation has started, about a 1 ½ inches of Krauesen. Temp is around 70˚, replaced ice bottles. I think I'll let the temp ramp up a little from here.

8/18 – Temp has been holding around 72-74˚ the last few days. Moving into office (where temps can get up to 77˚ for some reason) for a while to make sure it finishes.

9/16/09 – Bottled eight 12oz., eighteen 22oz., and two 24oz. Bottles with roughly 16oz left over that went into a 24oz bottle. Total of about 4.3 gallons. Primed with 3.6oz. of corn sugar @ about 72˚ for about 2.3 volumes of CO2.

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