Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How and Why I brew the partial mash way... a new series of blogs and recipes

Ok,  the views and email questions have been great.  There seems to be a recent up swing in interest for Partial Mash brewing.  I think that's great.  The next several weeks will be dedicated to Partial Mash Brewing.   I'll get into the pro's and cons of partial mash, and how those pros and cons led me to choose partial mash as my primary method for brewing.   In later series I will get into counter top Brew in a Bag.  I'm not committing to only posting about Partial Mash.  I'll probably share a funny story about SWMBO, or about my adventures at the LHBS, but I here by also pledge to delve deeply into partial mash.

For our purposes Partial Mash Brewing is defined as a brewing technique where a portion of the ferment-able sugars are coming from an actual controlled temperature grain mash.

Blog Interruption for this rant...
 IT IS NOT EXTRACT WITH MORE @#$@#NG SPECIALTY GRAINS!  Please newbs hear me on this, to call a recipe a partial mash you have to actually do a controlled temperature mash of Base Malt.

I have nothing against Extract, in fact as I write this I have 15 gallons of extract in my fermentation chamber (read as master bath whirlpool tub).  I know extract brews can be great, especially if you can do a full volume boil. But when given the choice I prefer partial mash.   It's cheaper, it tastes better (truly indistinguishable from all grain in my opinion) and for me it is the most fun.

I first started hearing about Partial Mash Brewing in the mid 1990s.  I was a new brewer, and I pretty much stuck with Extract at the time.   Let me tell you, extract in the late 1980s and 1990s left something to be desired.  If you've heard the term "extract twang"  that is where it came from. At that time extracts were created by boiled evaporation.  You can imagine the effect this had on the sugars.  They were caramelized and they really did ferment out twangy.  Thankfully, the extract manufacturing has improved 100 fold since then. But at the time everyone was looking for a way to improve extract home brewing.  BIAB wasn't a glint in a drunk Aussie's eye yet,  and no one had thought of the positive effects of late addition extract.

In the very late 1990s we started hearing about partial mash, kind of like you're starting to hear about it again.  It seemed so simple, just get a picnic cooler, put some PVC pipe in the bottom, add some clear silicone tubing, and if you wanted to be really fancy a cheap plastic shut off valve.  You were ready to mash some grains.  All you had to do then was add some extract to create a very high OG wort that you could boil.  From there on it was just like extract.   This was brilliant at the time.  This was a way to get some real grain flavor with out the need for an expensive brewing system.  Suddenly a whole world of recipes opened up to us.  And exotic new grains became available too,  grains like... Maris Otter, and Vienna... It was awesome.   And in truth it still is awesome.   I advocate that for 75% of homebrewer's Partial Mash is the method they should embrace, it should be there go to brewing technique.  It would significantly improve their beer.  Guys ask me all the time " is this all grain?  how did you get that maltiness?"  They always look perplexed when I tell them it partial mash. "no way, you can't get this flavor from extract..."  "it's not extract, it's partial mash..."  "like brew in a bag?" "sure, you betcha!"

Like all "sectors" of home brewing Partial Mash is growing and changing too.   I'll also get into those changes and improvements.   Should be fun, and I know I'll learn something.  I hope everyone else does too.

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