Beer Tasting: Alt-Alt Ale

My altbier has been on tap for over a month, and seems to be at peak flavor. Time for a tasting!

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.052, final gravity = 1.008, abv = 5.8%; estimated IBU = 28.
  • Aroma
    • Exceptionally malty, with a strong caramel/sweet note (thank you, honey malt!). I do not pick up much in the way of hops, esters, or other components.
  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear, with a deep amber, almost copper, hue. The head is low and ivory colored, with excellent retention.
  • Flavor
    • Moderately-high degree of maltiness, which is predominated by caramel aspects at the front end and a bit of breadiness at the back. It is rather bitter, and the bitterness has a distinct but clean character. There is a very modest perception of sweetness, but it is not overwhelming. The maltiness and hopiness are really nicely balanced, although it is definitely the bitterness that lingers longest on the finish.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This is a medium-bodied beer, with medium-high carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • I quite like this beer, particularly as a way to try out a new style along with some malts that depart from my usual repertoire. The gelatin definitely did the trick for fining this out (particularly so when melded with the ingredient of time in the keezer). It departs from the altbier style in some ways (e.g., head is a bit lower than optimal for the style, and I didn’t use much in the way of German ingredients), but as a variation on that theme, it’s darned good. I can’t say it is in my “brew and drink every day” category (it’s a little too ‘massive’ of a beer for that), but it’s definitely in the “brew every once in awhile and enjoy” category.
  • Overall rating
    • 8 / 10

Alt-Alt Ale Kegged

On Wednesday, January 6, I kegged the Alt-Alt Ale. It had been fermenting for 11 days, and was down to a final gravity of 1.008. This equates to 5.8% abv. In tasting, I definitely pick up the honey malt. The yeast leavings were pretty remarkable–this had a high, hard, and foamy krausen, which ringed the fermenter more than just about any other yeast I’ve seen. This was fairly bizarre for WLP001, so I think it is a good decision to end my particular culture there, and reculture the yeast for next time I use it. The beer is now carbonating under high pressure, and will condition until the next keg in my keezer is kicked.

Alt-Alt Ale

With a little extra time over the holidays, I wanted to brew up a few batches. I’ve never made anything along the lines of an altbier before, so a recipe in the November 2015 issue of Brew Your Own caught my eye. It’s a clone recipe from the Milwaukee Brewing Co., called Louie’s Demise. From what I know of the style, the recipe hits most of the notes for an altbier, but takes an American bend in the malts (unspecified 2-row malt, which I presume is usually brewed with an American variety rather than Pils malt) and the yeast (WLP051, California V, rather than a German ale yeast). I made a few additional tiny modifications for my ingredients on-hand, and thus beer is titled the “Alt-Alt Ale”. It has a ring to it, and also vaguely reminds me of the AT-AT’s from Star Wars.

One interesting thing about this recipe is the use of honey malt. My eye has been on this for some time, but I’ve never actually brewed with it. This malt has a very strong aroma, with a thick, sweet and raisin-like character. It’s almost reminiscent of crystal 80, but much stronger. I think it’s going to be quite good, but I also think it would be something to use with caution in other recipes. This is a malt that’s nice to use when you need it, but could overwhelm a brew if competing with more delicate ingredients or aromas.

Alt-Alt Ale

  • 7.25 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Brewing Co.)
  • 1.5 lbs. honey malt
  • 1.25 lbs. Borlander Munich malt (Briess)
  • 0.5 lbs. Munich 20°L (“Dark Munich”, Briess)
  • 0.31 lbs. Carafoam (5 oz., Weyermann)
  • 0.06 lbs. roasted barley (1 oz., Simpsons)
  • 0.75 oz. Mt. Hood hops pellets (5.7% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Perle hops pellets (7.3% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Czech Saaz hops pellets (2.6% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss (10 minute boil)
  • California Ale yeast (White Labs, WLP001), harvested and made in 1L starter
Procedure
  • From the yeast harvested at last batch, I prepared a 1L starter to aim for ~200 billion yeast cells (I “needed” 188 billion). I had only intended for it to sit overnight, but due to illness and then Christmas it ended up cold-crashing for another six days in the refrigerator. Because the starter should (theoretically) have been at full-strength, I didn’t figure that this was too big of a problem. One interesting thing I noticed is that the yeast this go-around seemed to be a bit more flocculent than I am used to for WLP001, with behavior closer to that which I normally see for WLP002.
  • This recipe called for a somewhat thinner mash than I usually do, at 1.4 quarts of water per pound of grain. I mashed in with 4.78 gallons of water at 159.1°, which hit a mash temperature of 148.1°. This was effectively dead-on for my target (148°). The mash temperature was down to 145.5° after 30 minutes, and down to 144.5° after 45 minutes.
  • After a 60 minute mash, I added 0.25 gallons of water at 210°, to raise the mash temperature to 145°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. Then I added 3.78 gallons of water at 180°, which raised the mash bed to 160°. I let it sit 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • Altogether, I collected 6.8 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.045, for 74% mash efficiency.
  • I boiled the wort for a total of 60 minutes, adding the hops and Irish moss at the intervals indicated above.
  • After the boil, I chilled the wort down to 76°, transferred to the primary fermenter, and pitched the yeast.
  • I had approximately 6 gallons of beer in the primary, with a starting gravity of 1.052. I brewed the beer on 26 December 2015, and plan to ferment it at 67° for around two weeks.