Sunday, 9 December 2007

Zymurgy (continued)

After the near disaster posted in Beer gets skittled and the previous coverage of brewing in Interesting things to do with yeast I decided that the time had come to get ready for the cooler weather of next Winter. This means a batch of Imperial Russian Stout (which takes at least 6 months, and preferably longer, to age) is needed.
Background

My interest in this stuff started when I was in Moldova and took to drinking the dark local(ish) beers to accompany my evening meals (when I was eating alone - while Moldovan wine was very good, knocking off a bottle solo was not a good idea when the pavements were icy).

One evening the waiter offered me a Baltica #6 as a good dark beer. I jokingly said "is that the alcohol content?" at which he examined the label and pointed at the number 8 in front of the % sign sign. It was very nice, which led me, on return to Australia to investigate beers of Russia.

I don't know what they did before the Crimean War but apparently during that campaign one of the English breweries started shipping beer to the troops, and as with India pale Ale they gave it plenty of alcohol to preserve it during the long voyage. This stuff was lethal: at one point the troops rebelled as the content was cut from 12% to 10% and was, as a consequence, rated as not worth drinking.

Previous foray

Rob Ey and I went down to the best (if not only) home-brew shop left in Canberra and sought the owner's advice on how to go about this. He gave us two cans of molasses, some hops and some boss-yeast. It turned out rather fine - and I suspect Rob still has some left nearly three years later.

Current effort

I went back to the brew shop - still functioning at Kambah - and got a slightly different set up this time. The guy's opening gambit was two 3Kg cans which would have tuned out about 10% alcohol. On being asked to drop it to 8% or thereabouts he offered:

  • a 3kg can of ESB Extra Special Stout (from Sydney);

  • a 1.5kg can of Black Rock Malt extract (from NZ); and

  • a Belgian yeast pack to replace the stuff with the ESB (since that would cease to function at about 5%, while that offered would go up to 10%, if the carbohtdrate was around).


I made this up on 9 December 2007, with no apparent grief except that after mixing up it was still at 30 degrees C, which is a tad warmer than recommended for yeast. However I have brewed in Adelaide with an ambient temperature up to 42 degrees and 30 was room temperature at the time, so rather than wait around for several hours for it to cool I lobbed the yeast in. Within 15 minutes it was bubbling well.

In fact it went rather ballistic and did a very good impersonation of a volcanic mud pot for about the next week. It then calmed down to a steady splut whenever looked at until I decided to bottle it on 29 December. The image to the left show the condition of the fermenter once the goodies had been extracted. Note especially the traces of the ruption on the outside of the vat.

I will offer a report on the outcome in about 6 months time.



Having bottled this I reassessed the level of ongoing current slurp stocks and decided that a honey-wheat was indicated fairly urgently. So, also on 29 December a Morgans wheat beer was duly fired up with some Coles generic honey to give it the required sweetness. Probably reflecting the lower level of fermentable product this started to bubble nicely the next day.

A further re-assessment of stocks was made on 7 January. The news continued bad, primarily because two weeks had come out of the cycle for no short term quenching of the thirst, so the Morgans was bottled and a serve of Thomas Coopers Brewmaster Wheat Beer was fired up. Since the honey supply was also low (due to it being used for the good purpose of marinating wings) the batch has got malt extract.

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