Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Good night, Geordie-Boy"

Today was a day of experimentation in the brewing process.

Kegged: 090701 Geordie Ale

I tried something different with the 090701 batch of Geordie Ale. Both previous batches were 7 day primary/4 day secondary (or so) with a gelatin addition at secondary for clarification. This batch went into primary back on July 11, which means it has been a 15 day primary. I decided to take it straight to keg without fining, partly because the tap is empty but also because I want to see if the gelatin makes a difference to me.

The FG came in at 1.019. That is much higher than the recipe prediction, which is 1.013. The flavor of the sample was good though, and remembering that this batch started at 1.046 instead of 1.043 as planned, I think it will be fine. I wonder if not racking to secondary contributed to a stop in fermentation. It's in the keg cooling now, and I'll carb it tomorrow and see what we have.

Brewed: 090702 Geordie-Boy Ale

While we were in Gatlinburg last weekend, there was some discussion of the F&H recipe database and what innovations might be planned as the brewery matures. Amy made an offhand comment about using unusual ingredients as a way of making Fork and Hay a little different. Somehow, that line of conversation resulted in the idea of using grits in a brew. Yes, grits.

I did a little research (read: I Googled it) and found that the idea wasn't very far-fetched at all. Early American brewers used corn grits as a grain in their beer and evidently Yuengling still does. In most homebrew recipes, grits have been replaced by flaked corn, mostly for simplicity's sake: flaked corn is already gelatinized, meaning the starches have been made available for conversion, whereas grits require cooking before they are ready for use in a mash. Some brewers recommended that it would be possible to use instant grits (as they are also gelatinized), but as I was reminded repeatedly, no self-respecting Southerner uses instant grits (even if he is a "yute.") I figured that "quick grits" would be a reasonable compromise between authenticity and convenience, since they pass the "Amy test" of grit acceptability.

The original Geordie Ale recipe calls for 1 pound of flaked corn, so I created a variant of it and substituted 1 pound of quick grits. Something about this idea reminded me of The Waltons, so I named the variant "Geordie-Boy."

I weighed them dry and then added about 6 cups of water to hydrate them. I microwaved the mix for about 6 minutes to get everything going, then added the gelatinous goop to the mash tun before the remaining grain bill:

If this works out and I decide to do it again, I need to add considerably more water to the grits when preparing them. Even after adding them to the 170 F strike water, there were pretty sizable clumps (or maybe "clods" would describe them better) that I struggled to break apart. I got them mostly separated and added the remaining grain as usual. The mash lost about 2 degrees over the hour interval, so there was no unusual thermodynamic impact from the grit usage vis-a-vis flaked corn. In fact I have to believe it was a net positive, since the dry grain went in at ambient, about 78 F, while the goop went in at about 160 F.

Once again I tried to pay more attention to water volumes. I didn't adjust the volumes suggested by BeerSmith based on the experience from my last batch though, because I wanted to see if I got the same behavior. I did. Actually I started the boil with 7 gallons, a little more than the last batch, probably because of the volume of liquid introduced by the prepared grits. I boiled in a similar manner as before, waiting until I was down to the predicted pre-boil volume before starting the clock and adding the hops.

I repeated the wort cooling experiment from the previous batch as well, with even better results. This time I went from flame-out to under 80 F in only 9 minutes. I think the difference was that I agitated the wort with the immersion chiller pretty well constantly, which served to put more wort in contact with the heat exchanger during any interval, while also aerating the wort somewhat. (I really got after it - swirling clockwise then counterclockwise, bouncing the IC up and down, etc.)

Once the wort was around the same temperature as the hose water (78 F) I dumped about a pound of ice into the large pot in which the boil pot was floating. This rapidly took the wort down to below 72 F and made it suitable for pitching. I didn't time it but it wasn't more than about 5 minutes to get there.

The other experiment for 090702 was that instead of using a new yeast smack pack, I pitched directly onto the yeast cake I had remaining from 090701. In fact, I poured the wort directly into the same carboy without washing the yeast or anything. There are conflicting opinions on the best way to reuse yeast, and the method I used is recommended if you're going to make the same recipe again or a darker beer. It's supposed to result in quicker and more vigorous fermentation so I will be keeping a close eye on things this evening.

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