The Speed Brew experiment that I last blogged about came and went. I brewed this on 12/19, and pitched US05 at 57, kept it in the low 60s for 4 days, then turned on the aquarium heater and brought the fermenter temps up to 68-70. On Sunday, December 27 I put one of the fermenters in the garage, where the beer temp dropped to 39 overnight. In the morning (9 days after pitching) I added a packet of gelatin to the fermenter. I racked this beer into a keg on top of an ounce of Columbus pellets in a nylon on Wednesday, December 30, set the gas to 10 psi (my serving pressure), and shook the crap out of the keg with the gas on for about 5 minutes. The beer was pretty much carbed and we started drinking it New Years Eve, 12 days from grain to glass.
When I tapped the keg on New Years Eve I was surprised by the clarity of this beer. Normally I would expect a US-05 fermented beer to take a couple of weeks to clear in the keg, but this only took 12 days from pitching. I am now a gelatin convert. Lots of compliments on this beer, BIG hop flavor and aroma, and I think I like the grain bill as well. There's a nice biscuity, bready flavor to it with just a bit of sweet caramel while keeping a dry finish. Definitely a nice session beer for hopheads, but it's not nearly as bitter as the 86 IBUs suggests. The first keg only lasted about 2 weeks!
I'm still working on the first keg of Belgian Golden Strong with the Unibroue strain. It took about 5 weeks in the keg to clear, the longest I've ever experienced, but now it is crystal clear. It is a nice pale golden color with a white head. The aroma is mostly of pears, apples, and a bit of spice, but there is also a bit of alcohol that comes through. The flavor is okay once it warms up a bit. I get a bit of fruit at first, then the spice comes up and the alcohol follows. This beer does not hide the alcohol as well as I hoped, which might have something to do with the fact that it is a bit over 9% ABV. I'm wondering now if I fermented a bit too high too early. At first the mouthfeel was a bit thick, but I've since switched over to the higher pressure regulator and that has helped quite a bit. I did get an amazingly dry finish on this one, but I'm hoping that the other half of the batch that has been waiting patiently will improve with some age on it. Flavor is pretty good, nice amount of fruit and spice, and it hides the alcohol well, but the mouthfeel is a little thick despite the low finishing gravity. Overall, it's not quite Duvel, but it's drinkable. Not bad for my first attempt at the style.
About three weeks ago I finally got around to brewing Denny Conn's infamous Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter. It was -15 when I started heating the strike water, and despite brewing on my new stainless steel brew cart, I think I'm going to wait until it warms up to brew again, that was just too damn cold. I was surprised though that after 60 minutes my mash tun didn't lose a single degree of temperature. I'll take some pics next brew session to show off my new ghetto fabulous rig. This was the first batch I brewed after taking apart my burner and dremeling out all the rust and wort that had accumulated after 2 or 3 years, and I'm happy to report that there was not a single bit of soot on the BK when I finished.
I pitched US05 with this one and kept the temps in the low 60s the whole time. I added 2 fat vanilla beans from Penzeys directly to primary 1 on January 12, 9 days after fermentation started. Took a sample after 10 days and then cold crashed in the garage for a day and kegged on January 26. I added 300 mL of Elijah Craig directly to the keg. The samples at all the stages tasted incredibly smooth. I think the brown malt is the key ingredient here, it gives a really smooth chocolate and coffee flavor that ties everything together but doesn't stand out. Now that it's carbed up, this is an amazing beer, probably the best I have ever brewed.
Finally, I've got 3 beers entered in the Upper Mississippi Mash Out, which is being held this Saturday. I entered my Smoked Brown, the Speed Brew APA, and the Belgian Golden Strong. I'm very curious to see what the judges say about these beers. None of them are perfect and they are the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th all grain batches I've brewed, so I can't wait for the feedback. This is a really big comp, so I'm hoping that I get some good feedback. Also on Saturday, RAZE is holding our first competition, Winter Darkness. I'm entering my Smoked Brown and BVIP and also judging, so it should be a fun day. I think we'll have around 20 entries, so it'll be small, but Ryan managed to score tons of sponsors so we have tons of free schwag to give to the winners.