Why “Big Alaskan”? Well, because everything Alaskan is big of course. Really, because this is the largest grain bill I’ve used with extract in a five gallon batch. Five pounds of grains including a full pound of baked flaked oats. I baked the oats for 30 minutes at 300 degrees. Then I left it in the oven overnight. I don’t know if that makes a difference or not, I just did it. The idea was to give the beer more of a roasted flavor and aroma. Experimentation is one of things I enjoy most about brewing beer.
Also the night before I made a starter from 4 cups of water, one cup of Amber DME and one vile of White Labs WLP004 Irish Stout yeast.
The next day I mixed all the grains including the oats together and split them evenly between two grain bags. I included rice hulls to keep the grains from becoming a solid mass, particularly when using oats which tends to gum up.
Now, I’ve been told two different things about steeping grains. First I was told that steeping grains does nothing but add flavor, color and aroma. That it’s not a mash so you won’t convert the soluble starches to fermentable sugars.
Second I was told that if you steep with base malts like two row or six row which have diastatic enzymes they will self convert and will also convert some from specialty grains, basically a mini-mash. I’ve chosen to go with the later even though I don’t adhere strictly to the times and temperatures recommended. I place the grain into bags and put them in 3 gallons of water in my brew pot.
In this case its:
- 2 pounds 2 row
- 1/2 pound of Belgian Biscuit
- 3/4 pound of American Black Roast
- 3/4 pound of American Chocolate Malt
- 1 pound of roasted Oak Flakes
I bring the temperature up to 160, turn off the flame, cover and stir occasionally for an hour. Good time for a Home Brew.
At the end of the hour, I pull the bags out and put them into a colander to drain. I’ve been told not to squeeze the bags because that will unleash something tannins which I understand is a bad thing in your beer. What we can should do is rinse the grain bags to get more of the goodness out of the grain and into our wort.
At this point I like to bring the wort up to near boiling. I can tell by the movement in the brew pot. Once it get’s to that point I turn the flame off and begin adding my liquid extract that I have had sitting in a pot of hot water making it easier to pour and stir into the wort. I turn off the flame to avoid caramelizing the extract on the bottom. Even though the wort is heated and the extract is heated, the heavier malt extract will go straight to the bottom even with constant stirring while pouring it in.
I know a lot of people prefer dry extract, but I don’t taste the difference in the final product. The liquid is much easier to work with and is less expensive. I think the key is to have the wort hot and no flame until you’re sure that the extract is thoroughly stirred in. For this recipe I’m using 7 pounds of Amber malt.
The next step of bringing the wort to a boil to achieve the hot break is one of the reasons I prefer to brew outdoors when I can. The indoor gas stove takes much longer to bring the wort to boil. If I go to a larger pot to make boil overs less likely it would take even longer to brew indoors.
Between stirring and careful manipulation of the propane flow it’s possible to maintain the boil until you get past the danger point of boiling over. In a show of confidence notice the bare foot next to the pot.
Seriously this is the point with the most potential for a disaster, you need to pay close attention here.
Once you attain the hot break which just means it’s boiling without any of the foam and is past the danger of over flowing. It’s time to set the timer and introduce your first hop. I maintain the boil for 60 minutes with additional hops at 15 minutes and 5 minutes. In this case I’m using 1/2 ounce of Magnum for bittering (60 minutes), 1/2 ounce of Mt.Hood for flavor (15 minutes) and 1/2 ounce of Willamette for Aroma (5 minutes)
By this point I’m sure more experienced homebrewers particularly the All-Grain folks are scratching their heads wondering why I do things this way. The only answer I have is that it works for me. I enjoy the product that this process creates regardless of what ingredients I use.
I make adjustments for some brews like those that require fruit, orange peel or honey but the general sequence and times are always the same. It produces a consistently good beer. In the end, isn’t that what we all want as homebrewers? A consistently good product, that we’re pleased with and proud to share with others?
In the final minute I add 1/2 tablespoon of Irish Moss to help with clearing the beer.
We cool the wort to about 80 degrees. We end up with about 3 1/2 gallons of wort that’s transferred to our 5 1/2 or 6 gallon glass carboys. We have a gallon of water in the carboy as we siphon the wort into the fermenter with as much splashing as we can. We don’t worry about getting every last drop out of the brew pot. Perfectly willing to leave a bit behind with the solids we don’t want to end up in our bottles. We top off the wort in the fermenter bringing it up to the 5 gallon mark on our carboy. We put a cap on it and give it some vigorous shaking to introduce as much oxygen as possible. The starter I made the night before was still working, so we gave it a shake and pitched the whole thing. If you can, always make a yeast starter particularly if you have a high gravity brew (1.060) like this. This brew took off immediately and was done with primary fermentation in 3 days.
I didn’t intend this as a “how to” as much as it was a “how I do”. I’m certain that there are ways that I can improve on my process, in fact it has improved since I started and I’m sure it will continue to improve as long as I brew. Your thoughts and ideas are always welcome.