Sunday, February 27, 2011

Checking on what condition my conditioning is in

Today I am attempting my first real (read: informed) bottle conditioned beer today. It is my Belgian Golden Strong taken from Brewing Classic Styles. Basically its a close approximation to one of Belgium's great beers, coolest beer website and our personal favorite beer here at the One Eleven: Duvel. If you have never had it, then get it. Its great any time with anything. 

"Lager storage"/refrigerator
I had a hell of a time figuring out EXACTLY how to do bottle conditioning. A quick infominute-Bottle conditioning is a process where beer has yeast added into the beer after its initial fermentation, right before its bottled. While in the bottle, it goes into a secondary fermentation. Usually the beer is filtered first to get rid of the older, or in the case of high-alcohol-beers, worn out yeast. Since the Snow Devil (my Duvel clone) comes in at 8.5% it qualifies as a high-alcohol beer. Why would you do this? It adds complexity due to different yeast flavors (if you choose to use flavorful yeasts, which I will not be doing), helps in carbonating a beer if your yeasties are worn out, and a smoother flavor profile if given enough time

The info available was there, kind of, but it took a lot of work to get through. So where does one start? I started here. It was a pretty good outline, but it didn't quite cover my circumstances. I wanted to use dry-yeast and pitch a slurry, for a Belgian beer. Why a slurry? Well according to pretty much everybody, like in this book, Palmer, and the manufacturer of the yeast S-23, they say to rehydrate your yeast. Otherwise, you could lose anywhere from 40-60% Click those links and you can figure out how to do that first. I spent some time getting that ready. Then I had to decide exactly how much yeast I wanted to pitch. Too little and your carbonation may not be optimal, too much and you get much more yeast in there...which can affect flavor quite perceptibly. The Northern Brewer sheet suggests 1-3 million cells per ml for belgian beers, or 20-60 billion per 5 gallons, which I was bottling. That's kind of a big swing, so I just went for somewhere in the middle. I also didn't have a vessel to measure out 15ml of slurry and needed more because of my Belgian style, so I had to work around that by going bigger. Let's get to what I actually did do: 

I found how to get 10x the weight of my dry yeasties-400 ml of water- Northern Brewer sheet said 1/4tsp dry yeast to 100 ml of water...times four. So I boiled the hell out of a pot of water that would let me end up with more than 400ml. I boiled about 2 quarts for 15 minutes or so. Not sure if that's "sterile" or not, but its close enough. Once that cooled to just above room temp, I dumped 400ml into a sanitized pyrex container. Then I sanitized the shit out of the package and scissors, then combined it into the water. I forgot to stir the water before adding the yeast, per the S-23 website. I ended up with a little island of yeast after 15 minutes. So I used a sanitized spoon to combine the whole slurry and let it sit some more. After about 10 minutes, I reswirled, then added 75 ml of slurry to my bottling bucket with my priming sugar. Why 75 ml? Well... I did some deep-mental-digging math to stumble upon that number. My reasoning: If 400ml of water with an 11.5 gram package of properly rehydrated dry yeast gets you 230 billion cells (according to the NB sheet), then 40 ml will get you 23 billion cells. That wasn't quite enough since my beer is a nice and high alcohol beer, again, according to people who know more than me, I should add more yeast than a typical beer because of the gravity, and also because of the low temp that I was bottling-this beer came straight from the fridge. Anyways, I ended up guessing I needed 43 billion cells, or 75 ml of slurry. Jamil's Yeast publication stated that it should be anywhere from 10-20x less than your primary fermentation pitch, so there I was. Unfortunately it lacked a nice-comprehensive chart for every beer style known. How dare they?! 

As far as the amount of time to let it condition in its secondary fermentation...well I don't know. I think Duvel does a month or two then sends it out. Dupont does 40-80 days. Me...well...I think I'll try it at 3 weeks and see, then let it sit. Since this particular beer is super carbed AND it is bottle conditioned it needs to be cold as a witch's titty (approximately 38F or so) for at least a couple of days to let some of that yeast settle. You also don't have to empty the bottle completely. Ideally, for any beer except hefeweizen or wit beer, you chill it for a while, then pour it without disturbing the yeast layer at the bottom. The beer may be so good that you want to get every drop out, but it will be for the better that you don't. There you have it. That was my bottle conditioning story. 

Currently Listening: Genesis-Invisible Touch
Currently Reading: Don DeLillo-Americana

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