Irish Octoberfest

Another smooth working brewing project made with grains sent by Irish Mike so that I may store a marzen all summer and enjoy a homebrew Oktoberfest in the fall.  As I didn’t have a specific recipe to follow, I elected to follow the same decoction schedule that I used with the hefe weizen.

Grain Bill:

  • 10 pounds pilsner malt (1.0-1.5 L)
  • 1 pound Vienna malt (2.3-3.8 L)
  • ½ pound Cara Hell
  • ½ pound Cara Munich III (1.5L)

Hop Bill:

  • 1 oz. Hallertau (4.8% alpha) for 45 min.
  • 1 oz. Saaz (3.4% alpha) 15 min.

Yeast: White Labs Oktoberfest/Marzen WL820

Mash Schedule:

  • Mash Water: 16 quarts St. Louis County Tap, boiled the night before
  • Mash Water Ratio (MWR): 1.3 quarts/pound
  • Mash Water pH: unknown
  • Strike Temp: 115 F
  • Mash Temp: 111 F
  • Raise Temp to 122 F; hold protein rest 30 min
  • Removed approx 40% of thickest part of mash into second kettle
  • Raise second kettle to 158 F hold saccharification for 15 minutes
  • Keep rest mash at 122-128 F
  • Bring second kettle to boil; boil 30 minutes
  • Recombine with rest mash (temp was 145 F); raise to 148 F; hold 15 minutes
  • Raise temp to 158; hold 45 minutes
  • Mash out at 170 F for 10 minutes

Starting Temp & pH

I prepped 10 gallons of water the night before brewing (4 went to mash, 5 went to sparge) by boiling 2 5-gallon batches of water for ½ an hour.  I adjusted the sparge water with 3/4 a teaspoon of acid.

Strike

Began heating strike water at 7:45 AM.  I raised the strike water to 115 F and mashed-in. Mash temp came in at 111.

Mash

Began mash at 8:30 AM.  Decoctation mash.  Doing some research on decoction as well as my own brewing notes, I felt that the 122 F protein rest seemed a little low, so for the rest mash I bumped the temp up a few degrees, and may take it as high as 130 F the next time I use this method.  Also, in an effort to never overshoot my temps, I try to creep up to hit my marks, but this really adds to the mash time.  I’m thinking not to be so timid next time and turn those burners on, especially during the first 15 minutes or so of making the raise.  I must remember that it’s a big kettle and it takes it a long time to get the temp moving upward.

Sparge

15 minute settle; 15 minute recirculate; 15 minute run-off; 30-45 minute sparge.  The mash appeared as if it was going to stick when it slowed down to a gentle trickle at the beginning of the recirculation, but it just flowed that way beautifully throughout the sparge.  The beer cleared almost immediately upon recirculate, but I went ahead continued pouring wort back into the lauter tun just to see if it continued to improve.  The added time on the recirculation didn’t seem to make a difference; Dave Miller continues to haunt me.

Boil

Had 7.5 gallons of wort in kettle.  Began hard boil at 3:30 PM and boiled for 90 minutes.  With 45 minutes left in boil I added the Hallertau hops, and with 15 minutes left I added the Saaz and the Irish moss.  I put the chiller in to the kettle with 10 minutes left.

Cold Break

45 minutes to drop from boil to room temp.

I racked only enough to get a sample and poured the rest through a strainer into the primary.  Gravity is at 1.064, which at the time seemed high, but after speaking with Mike and doing a little research, it’s perfect for a high gravity Marzen.

Primary Ferment

I had convinced myself that because of the high starting gravity, I needed to do a yeast starter.  I also noted that after letting the beer settle in the primary, a lot of trub had settled to the bottom.  My plan was to let it settle overnight while the yeast starter got cooking and pitch the following day.  I called Mike to confirm my plan and he basically talked me into just pitching the yeast.  Any advantages I would gain from having a starter would be lost while the wort sat, and he felt the trub was a non-issue and perhaps beneficial to the yeast and/or the final flavor of the beer.  So, I pitched the yeast and am waiting for the first bubbles from the fermenter.

Day 2

No activity this morning.  The test tube of yeast came unrefridgerated in the mail, so it’s possible that the yeast is dead.  If I have no activity by tomorrow, I’ll get more yeast and repitch.

By the afternoon, the smallest of bubbles pushed it’s way through the air lock.  By the evening the bubbles were coming slow, but steady, and I move the primary from upstairs (70 F) to down stairs (61 F).  I would love to get another five degrees colder, but c’est la vie.

Day 3

This morning the marzen has a steady heartbeat.  It seems to like the colder temp and is chugging loudly away.

 Day 4

This morning the heartbeat continues, roughly once every 3 seconds.  I noted last night that while most beers smell good as they escape the air lock, this one isn’t as pleasant.  I’m not sure what this means.  Perhaps the lager yeast is too warm as 61 F.  Perhaps this particular yeast just doesn’t smell great.  Perhaps there’s something wrong with the beer.  There’s not really much that can be done about it, but I thought I would make a note for future reference.  It’s not an awful smell, but it’s not what I expected.  I’ll try to describe it on further review tonight.

Bottled

I checked the gravity on June 12, 2007 and it was 1.012, perfect!  I bottled it without priming.  Collected two 2-liter jugs and 12 24 ounce swing top bottles.  The sample was not great but it was drinkable and the alcohol content should do the trick.

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