That magical time of year was upon us again. The day when Jesus rose from the grave to…make children look for chocolate eggs…laid by rabbits…or something. I don’t know, its a very confusing holiday to celebrate. Regardless, it also happens to be the time of year where we buckle down, wash out the turkey fryer and begin that most ancient and wondrous magic of turning a pile of ordinary grain into a tasty elixir that bestows attractiveness and self-confidence.
Last year’s Zombie Jesus was a rousing success, and I find myself getting far more requests for this beer than I have in supply. Next year, we might buy some extra equipment and try brewing a double batch to give us some more bottles to sell to friends and family. This year, I feel like I’ve promised most of my supply away before I even had a chance to crack open a bottle. Speaking of which, I finally cracked one open tonight a little ahead of schedule and am generally pleased with the results. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so while I feel like we still have a ways to go before we’ve got the recipe where I want it to be, we’re definitely making progress. I think the hop combination we have right now is about perfect. The smell is absolutely phenomenal, and surprisingly reminiscent of Dogfish Head 90 min, one of my favorite IPAs. However, we’re still under-malted in my opinion. The feel of the beer is still lighter than I’d like and less alcoholic than I’d prefer (still not bad at around 6.5%). But I’m being picky and opened it a little ahead of schedule. Some more bottle conditioning will likely do this beer good.
Still, I’m impressed we made the move from an extract recipe to all-grain while still improving on the original model. The conversion went much smoother this time around, as did the hopping. Next time around I would consider upping the malt even more as well, controlling the temp better for the step mash, adding some munich or vienna, maybe a touch of chocolate malt, and adding some sugar to up the alcohol. All bitching aside though, I think this is a solid beer and I’m proud to have made it.
This time through I decided to play around with a yeast starter. I’m actually kinda embarrassed that I didn’t know to do it before now, however in my research into all grain IPAs, I found them mentioned all over the place and decided to look into it. Turns out for high gravity beers, it is highly recommended to start your yeast culture going about a day ahead of time. Unfortunately for me, I discovered this information exactly one day in advance and had to seriously improvise on equipment, while freaking out about the possibility of me killing our culture of yeast a day before brewing.
First, let me tell you how it should be done. You should take the DME and water and mix it in the sanitized 2 liter Erlenmeyer flask you have bought weeks ahead of time, because you knew this was going to be a step in the process. Then you should heat the Erlenmeyer flask over the stove until it’s boiling, then let it cool. Afterwards you will pitch the yeast into it, then seal it with an airlock and stopper that you have also purchased, designed to fit the flask. Then you let the CO2 bubble out through the airlock, confident that no oxygen or bacteria is getting in. Of course I had no flask, stopper or airlock, so I took some the the DME I had, mixed it with water, brought it to a boil and then let it cool for a bit before pouring it ever so gently through a sanitized coffee filter holder into a sanitized 2 liter of Shasta. Afterwards, I ever so carefully pitched the yeast into the Shasta bottle and sealed it with the bottle cap, delicately cracked open to let CO2 out. Anyway, it worked out fine, and the next day I woke up to find it magically bubbling away.
Onto the brewing. We happened to brew on the most gorgeous Black Friday in recent history. After work, I hastily sealed up the yeast starter, put my equipment in the car and rushed over to Diego’s so that we could hopefully finish our operation before midnight. We are joined by brewing apprentice, Troll. The man knows his beer quite well and already has a passing familiarity with the home brewing process, so we are confident he will be a journeyman before too long. We talk about logistics for a bit (where the mash tun will go, where we’ll brew, etc), crack open some beer, and then get down to the business of cleaning. The whole process is much easier in general with a 3rd person. I soon realize I have forgotten the hops at home on the south side, a regrettable error when going about the business of making an IPA or any kind of beer for that matter, but my beautiful fiancee once again comes to the rescue. Once we’re done cleaning, we set up the equipment and begin brewing. The step mash does not follow the steps that we want it to, but alas as Diego says, “The Cajun Bayou is not a precision instrument.” We end up getting the conversion we want at the length of time we want in something more akin to an infusion mash. Everything else seems to go fairly well until we realize we need a hose for the counterwortflow chiller and none can be found.
Diego and I then make an educated decision to steal someone else’s hose. You see, most people are not expecting some jerk to come along and take their hose. So, hose security is understandably lax. After nervously scouting a few houses, we eventually decide on one with a fairly portable length of hose and I go about the business of detaching it. Diego is on lookout and does a rather poor job, because as I leave the house with a length of hose coiled around my arm, a cop car drives past on the street. Anyway, my criminal doings go unnoticed by the CPD and we proceed back with the bounty.
Troll manages the boil quite nicely adding hops at regular intervals and we smell the powerful aroma that they release. Eventually, we get to the point where we transfer it into the hopback and prepare to make use of the counter-wortflow chiller. Now it should be mentioned that I seriously am in need of better hosing attached to the counter-wortflow chiller as one length of hose is all but melted from the last time it was used. We hook everything up and begin the process of draining, but the flow gets stuck due to the weak hose. While we’re fiddling with it, the hose comes loose and my hand is blasted with boiling water for a few seconds while I hastily try to shut off the flow and fix the connection. Eventually we fix it and carefully manage the flow down into the carboy. The rest goes according to plan, we pitch the yeast with the yeast starter and seal up the carboy. Fermentation happens beautifully. So I pile a mountain of aloe onto my burned hand and go home content in the knowledge that Zombie Jesus has been brewed and in a months time or so I can taste the results.
Here are the steps we followed along with some comments on the process:
· 15 lbs Pale Ale 2-row (Breiss)
· 1 lb caramel 60L Breiss (caramel/crystal specialty grains
· 1 oz Simcoe pellets
· 1 oz Warrior pellets
· 2 oz Amarillo hop plug packages
· 1 oz glacier leaf hops
· Northwest Ale Activator Wyeast
· 1 tsp gypsum
· ½ tsp irish moss
1. Day in advance prepare 2L Yeast starter
2. Sanitize all equipment to touch beer
3. In large pot add 1 tsp gypsum to 4 gallons of water and raise temp to 145 (this can be done while sanitizing other equipment)
4. Set up lauter-tun system
5. Add the crushed malt to the water and mix well. Temp should stabilize at 133. Hold for 30 min. Add heat if necessary, don’t worry about a 3-5 degree drop during this time. (Fat chance. Temp stabilized at around 155.)
6. Begin boiling additional water (8 quarts worth)
7. After the 30 min at 133, add the additional 8 quarts of boiling water to raise the temp to between 150-155 and hold for 45 min. (Raised temp to around 160 -165)
8. Raise temp to 158 for 10-15 min
9. Raise temp to 167, then filter out into lauter-tun system
10. In a pot, add ½ tsp gypsum to 3 gallons water. Raise temp of the water to 170 and add to the lauter tun water supply.
11. Begin draining from lauter-tun to pot below. Begin water flow from cooler to lauter-tun. Adjust rate as needed
12. Bring to a boil, add warrior pellets
13. Add 1 amarillo hop plug after 15 min of boil and then again every 15 min for 3 hop plugs in total
14. Boil total for 60 or 90 min? (Probably boiled for around 75-90 min)
15. 5 min before finish add ½ oz simcoe pellets and glacier hops as well as ½ tsp irish moss (Only added the glacier hops, kept simcoe for dry-hopping)
16. Pour through the hopback and add cold water if necessary to reach the appropriate water level.
17. Pour in the yeast from the yeast starter
(OG: 1.06 FG 1.012)
Yay Zombie Jesus!