I have really been on a roll these past few months. I made CornucopIPA on 11/7/07, Christmas Presence on 11/15/07, Little Bear’s Brown Beer on 12/11/07, Mean Giant Double Stout on 12/20/07, and now today I made Big Slick 2 and Pre-Cut!
I don’t normally make two beers in one day, but this was a special recipe. Big Slick was the first big beer I ever tried to make. The grain bill to achieve a starting gravity of 1.095 for 5 gallons was just over 20 lbs of grain. I knew I could mash at most 12-15 pounds of grain in my little 5-gallon Rubbermaid cooler mash tun, so I had to get creative.
I decided to do two mashes, each with half the grain bill, and each mash I would collect half the wort I needed for a single big batch. The result was pretty good in terms of hitting a high gravity, but the end product wasn’t so hot. The finishing gravity never really got as low as I wanted, and I kept messing with it, and it ended up with a flavor that I believe to be DMS.
I have a lot more brews under my belt now, so I decided it was time to try again with the old Big Slick. It is an Imperial IPA, with the full range of American C-Hops: Chinook, Centennial, and Cascade. Big Slick 1 stalled at 8.5%, but I just made Christmas Presence to be 8.8% with no sweat at all, so I am sure that I can outdo Big Slick 1 with this Big Slick 2.
You might wonder, “why do two mashes, why not just use DME to augment the gravity”, and that is a good question. For one, DME costs a lot more than grains. For two, I like mashing a lot more than I like stirring in powder – it feels more authentic to me. Finally, I don’t know what’s in that DME – it might be a lot less fermentable than a comparable amount of malted barley would be.
Another benefit of doing the two mashes is the opportunity to PartiGyle. This basically means making two beers from one set of grains. Since I only need about 3.5 gallons from each mash, that leaves gallons worth of useful wort that I could make beer with. I think of this as an opportunity to experiment. So I did.
I put branches cut from our recently discarded Christmas Tree (a Fraser Fir) into the wort and boiled them for about 20 minutes in there. I put in two little branches to three gallons, such that the smell was very apparent after the additions were done. My intention is to have the fir act as all the spice I need. The smell of a Christmas tree is so luscious, I figure the taste must be nice, too. Furthermore, the whole piney family of plants has a lot in common with the aroma and taste of some of our favorite hops varieties.
The resulting wort has a strong Christmas Tree aroma, and a distinctive Christmas Tree flavor (not that I tried to eat the tree, but the flavor follows the aroma). It is even almost minty. I didn’t use any hops in this beer, called Pre-Cut, but I did use a half pound of DME and a half pound of local honey to boost the gravity to produce a beer at about 4.5%.
Here’s the recipe and label art for Pre-Cut.
Back to Big Slick. There are almost five ounces of hops in there, and you can tell it from the taste already. Plus I had to clean the strainer three or four times to get them all out while pouring from brew kettle to fermenter to aerate.
Here’s the recipe and label art for Big Slick.
In addition, Little Bear’s Brown Beer is fully conditioned and out of temperature control. The taste is great! Mild, but still hoppy. I consider it an American Brown Ale. It is also low alcohol, clocking in at 4.3%, as intended.
Also, Mean Giant Double Stout is still chugging away, slowly bubbling every minute or so. That’s good news, because it means that it should be well attenuated, and thus plenty powerful, as intended. With any luck, it will even go further than predicted and end up over 10%. Then we’ll cross our fingers for proper conditioning in the bottles.