March has been an…interesting…month for brewing. I didn’t have much activity during the first half of the month due to busy weekends, and there hasn’t been much brewing during the second half due to a global pandemic. Nonetheless, there are a few newsy bits.
My brew club is doing a barrel project (planned prior to the pandemic-related closures), with a Russian imperial stout. Members are brewing 5 to 10 gallon batches, which will go into a 53 gallon Maker’s Mark barrel for extended aging. This is probably one of the biggest beers I’ve ever made, filling the entirety of my mash tun. The grist used nearly 27 pounds of grain, and target starting gravity was 1.110. I hit 1.105–not shabby at all! I brewed the beer on 23 February, and it took off with a very vigorous fermentation. This created a bit of a mess in my temperature-controlled chamber, so I added a blow-off tube. The beer was was at 1.030 when I checked gravity on 7 March. I agitated the fermenter at that time, to hopefully re-rouse any dormant yeast and knock back the last few percentage points. I don’t expect it to end up south of 1.025. Due to the current health crisis, it’s a bit up in the air when we’ll be able to get it all into the barrel, but we’re working out some ways to safely move the beer where it needs to be without gathering a bunch of people together. The good thing is that this beer won’t be too awfully hurt by sitting for awhile. That’s the point, after all!
My other brew for March was a rebrew of the Schell’s Pils Clone I did last year. This was one of my favorite pilsners, and I would love to have it on tap again! Plus, it fits nicely into my 2020 brewing goal of exploring more American equivalents of German hops. I brewed the beer on 7 March 2020, hitting a starting gravity of 1.053. It’s fermenting at 52°, and should be ready to keg soonish.
I still have my kölsch in the lagering chamber, and I kegged the Czech dark lager on 22 February 2020. Right now, I’ve got my red rye lager, Crystal pils, and Wildfire IPA on tap. All of them are drinking beautifully! It’s a shame I can’t more easily share them in the midst of social distancing restrictions…as a result, I’m not going through the beer as quickly as normal. This means a longer lagering time, which is perhaps the single silver lining to the current situation.
In the equipment upgrade realm, I’m now trying out the Clear Beer Draught System. This system replaces the dip tube in the keg with an intake that floats at the top of the liquid. The idea is that this area should typically have clearer beer than the stuff at the bottom of the keg where a normal dip tube would be. I will have a better idea of its efficacy in a month or two (the only beer on tap with it is my IPA, which has a giant hop load and thus is hazy by nature).
April will probably be pretty light in brewing. I’ve got an altbier and a weissbier on the horizon, but no formal brew date set yet. The former will reuse the yeast from my kölsch (which I have stored in the fridge), as a bit of an experiment. The latter will be a very quick turnaround, because the style is intended to be served quite fresh. Depending on events, their brew date may not even happen until May! There’s no rush…