Monday, September 21, 2009

Oatmeal Dunkelweiss with citrus

Brewed: 9/20/09

I'm not entirely sure that this beer fits the Dunkelweiss category, but the German translation "dark wheat" certainly makes it a literal fit. I have always been intrigued by a recipe in brewer Randy Mosher's excellent Radical Brewing for a Tangerine Porter, which he likens to a "chocolate orange creamsicle." and my Oatmeal Dunkel is a close approximation of this.

Grain bill:
4lbs Munich Malt
3lbs Bavarian Lager Malt
.75lb Carafoam Malt
.5lb Black Patent Malt
.25lb Special B Malt
1lb rolled oats
2lbs unmalted wheat
.25lb rice hulls (filtering aid)

.5oz Columbus - 60 minutes
.25oz Amarillo - 30 minutes
.5oz Amarillo - at heat shut-off

zest of 2 tangerines at heat shut-off

Mashing grains like unmalted wheat and rolled oats is always a challenge. They need to be boiled for a period along with a portion of malted barley to break down their complex starches, and even when that is done correctly, they can still be troublesome. My mash seemed fine, until I began to drain the liquid and the flow abruptly ceased. Anyone who has ever left a bowl of uneaten oatmeal on the counter will know what I'm talking about. The mash temperature had fallen below the gellatinization threshold and turned into a substance resembling sticky cement. After working the mixture a bit, infusing with hot water and recirculating the wort I got it flowing again, but it added a couple hours onto an already long brew day.


It's been a week and the primary fermentation is complete. I'm going to leave this to ferment for a couple more weeks, before bottling or kegging.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Milling Grain

I'm planning on brewing sometime in the next week and thought I should discuss one of the most important aspects of all-grain brewing. Malted and unmalted grain must be properly crushed before the brewing process can begin. Brewers differ on their definition of "properly," but the general consensus is that the kernel should be crushed instead of pulverized and, in the case of barley, the husk should remain partially intact to form a natural filter bed when the mash is drained (sorry in advance if this post comes off as overly geeky!). Most breweries and experienced homebrewers use a roller mill that employs opposing steel pins to evenly crush the grain, but I have had success using the much-maligned (in brewing circles), but economical ($40 instead of $100+) corona mill.
Designed to churn out corn meal, the corona mill forces whole grains through opposing steel plates that can be adjusted to produce varying degrees of coarseness. It really does an excellent job once you learn how to adjust it properly, and all the cranking tones the biceps, so what's not to like?

When crushing barley malt for brewing, the results should look like this:

My beer will be around 80% barley malt and 20% unmalted wheat (which will require a brief period of cooking to break down starches and a mill adjustment to account for its smaller size and lack of husk). To ensure an ample filter bed, I will mix a couple handfuls of rice hulls (tasteless, natural filtering aids) to the grain mixture before mixing in the mash water. This is a vital step when dealing with significant quantities of huskless and/or unmalted grains like wheat.

Monday, September 7, 2009

My Beer History

I've been brewing beer at my apartment in the Greenwood Heights section of Brooklyn for a little more than a year, but my interest in fermented food goes back a little further. Introduced to the finer points of cheese making and saurkraut production by friends and coworkers at the Union Square greenmarket in Manhattan, I picked up Wild Fermentation by the incredible Sandor Ellix Katz. Katz' book is an amazing collection of recipes and a history of fermented foods, as well as a manifesto on healthy living and community building. I couldn't recommend it more.

From there, I moved on to fruit wines and ciders before brewing my first batch of ale from a recipe in Charlie Papazian's epochal The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. In the past year, I've brewed a wide range of beers and progressed from extract, to partial-mash and, finally, all-grain brewing. My good friend Glenn Robinson captured my first attempt at all-grain brewing back in January '09 and posted his photos and my descriptions here.

What stared out as a solitary endeavor quickly grew into something more. I met experienced homebrewers living right in my neighborhood who, in turn, suggested reaching out to the brewers at Six Point brewery in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The pros at Six Point have provided advice and supplies that have been invaluable to my brewing endeavors. I've also begun providing beer for events put on by Bags For The People, a great organization based in Brooklyn, and branching out and experimenting with classic beer styles. My most recent batch is a stout with brewed coffee that I blogged about here.

Thanks for visiting.