Groundhog Bock

February 3, 2013

Punxsutawney Phil has declared an early spring, and, given his 39% historical accuracy rate, we have no reason to doubt his word. I therefore brew a beer of spring on an awfully wintry day.

The plan was to brew on Groundhog Day. However, my hose was frozen and I had no propane, leaving me two elements short of the required four for brewing, though I had Earth and Wind in abundance.

I was going here for something closer to a Maibock, lighter in color and not quite so debilitating as our usual doppelbocks. Using a traditional double decoction mash (aka “Friggin’ Mash”), so any color will come from the caramelization and not from the roast of the grains.

A new brewer showed up to check the mash progress.

A new brewer showed up to check the mash progress.


Grain Bill

  • 6 pounds light Munich malt
  • 5 pounds Vienna malt
  • 1 pound cara Munich malt (10 L)

Hop Bill

Ay, there’s the rub…

For reasons I cannot explain, I only bought one oz of Hallertau at the brewstore with 4.3% alpha. I am not sure why. Reflecting back, it seems that I was thinking one had to double the alpha value to get AAUs, but I don’t know why I would be thinking that. Bock is not supposed to be dominated by hop character, but it is safe to say this one will not be overhopped for the style. Perhaps this is an unconscious reaction to the overhopping trend that Huck and I have been lamenting for years.

  • 1 ounce Hallertau (4.3% alpha) 180 minutes


  • Wyeast Munich Lager Blend

I smacked the pack the day before, but there was no action by brew day. The package was already swelled enough when I bought it that it was hard to tell where the inner pack was, and I had no confidence that I had hit it. So, I cut open the package and the nutrient pack and put them in a growler to start them out. As of the beginning of the boil, there was no action in the growler. So, I made up some starter with malt extract and added it in.

Mash Schedule-

    • roughly 16 quarts water, not sure exactly but all the grains were wet
    • Mash in: Strike temp = 102 F
    • Glucanase rest: Temp = 95 F hold for 20’ (will also lower pH of mash)
    • Protein rest: Raise to 127 F (122-127); hold 30‘
    • Decoction 1: Remove 40% of thickest part of mash into second kettle
      • Raise second kettle to 158 F (158-162); hold saccharification for 20’
      • Keep rest mash 122 F (122-127)
      • Bring second kettle to boil; boil 10’
    • Beta amylase rest: Recombine with rest mash to raise temp to 146 F (145- 153F) & hold for 30’
    • Decoction 2: Remove 1/3 mash into second kettle, slowly raise to boil for 10’
    • Alpha amylase Rest: Recombine with rest mash; raise temp to 158 (158-162)F; hold for 1 hour
    • Mash out: Raise to 170 F (168-171) and hold for 10’

The mash went by the book. Each decoction raised the temp of the combined mash exactly into the right range without having to raise the temp on the fire. I have never had that happen with a friggin mash before.

Hitting temperatures in this weather would be impossible if it were not for my “warm room” that houses my well pump and some of the other machinery of the Thoor. This allows for a place to put pots and hoses to keep them from refreezing as I go along.

The warm room

The warm room


  • used a solid 5 gallons in order to make up for evaporation due to the decoctions. The boil indicates I may have overdone this.
  • By the time the last of the sparge water was running through, it was pretty clear of impurities caused by sugars and such. Looked like a mountain stream. But, I kept it all anyway. Probably cost me at least an hour of boil time.

It was so cold in the garage during the sparge that the sparge water, as it leaked from the tube and ran down a sleeping bag wrapped around the bucket, froze before it could drip from the bag.

Sparge water freezing as it leaks out.

Sparge water freezing as it leaks out.


  • 17:00 start of boil
  • 21:00 cold break
  • starting gravity= 1.060

I had intended for the boil to be done by around 18:30 so that I could go to a Superbowl party. At 19:00, the gravity was only 1.045, not at all acceptable for a bock, so I kept it going. It didn’t hit 1.060 until 21:00. Still short of German law, but I don’t like my beers to be dictated by the EU anyway. Besides, I had already consumed most of the beer I had purchased to take to the Superbowl party, so I had to take it off the boil while I could.

As it cooled outside, I instituted a new annual tradition, Zombiebowl, by watching zombie movies instead of the Big Game. I think it might catch on…

As of this morning, there was still no action in the yeast starter. I pitched it anyway in hopes that it will take hold. I am getting REALLY pissed at my local brew stores for their inactive yeast. I have ruined several recent brews this way.

06 Feb

Still no action this morning. Yesterday, I drove to Norwich to the Amish brew store and picked up a vial of White Labs German Lager yeast in order to try to save this thing. I took it home and pitched about 3/4 directly into the carboy and the other 1/4 into a growler with a pint of starter in it. The vial said to keep it at 70F until fermentation starts. Well, I have news for them: this is February in central NY. There is no place in my house that will be 70F until after the equinox. So, I put the carboy and the growler into the warm room, which is kept at a constant 60F. If the yeast cannot grow in there, then it does not deserve to live.

From now on, I use Huck’s system. I will start the yeast several days early and I am not brewing until the yeast is bubbling furiously.

In the meantime, to all the local brew store owners: I hope you go out of business and have to move back into your mother’s basement. Assuming you are not still there anyway.

07 Feb

As of this morning, the beer is bubbling. A nice sight. But it took three days longer to get here than it should have. I am not confident about the beer’s chances. But… we will see

photo(6)17 February:

Racked this beer today. S.g. is at 1.020. Color is a little darker than I was shooting for, due to the double decoction.

There are no obvious off flavors. Of course, it is hard to tell with a green beer, but at least there is no sharp vinegar smell or taste that would signal time to dump it. Interestingly, the sample does not taste underhopped. Maybe the sour taste from the wild yeast and bacteria makes up for the lack of adequate hops. Just get the grains wet…

18 March:

Kegged and put into 60F to let some ferment go on.

f.g. 1.016

I filled a 2.5 gallon keg, a 1.3 gallon Tap-a-Draft bottle, a big Grolsch bottle, one small taster bottle, and a half gallon growler. Not sure why the mishmash of containers. I think I had the idea that I wanted to use my remaining minikegs for the In Like a (Red) Lion bitter. My main goal was the 2.5 gallon keg, since I want to use the bock for some sort of Bealtaine celebration.

I primed it with about a pint of krausen that I saved earlier at racking time, but I figured it probably doesn’t have a whole lot of sugar in it, I mainly wanted some active yeast, so I added a pint of water with half cup of extract to it.

I am going to let it prime in the warm room (60F) for a while, then transfer it to the garage for more lagering like conditions.

30 March:

Transferred the bock containers to the garage. It has been getting into the 40s here during the day, but not much above that, so the garage should hang somewhere in that range for a while. If it starts warming up, I will find a new place for it.

West Hill Willie emerged to signal that Spring is here. Willie tends to sleep in more than his Southern cousin.


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