The plan today was very straight forward. We intended to brew a french country ale. A rich, malty, high alcohol, luxurious country ale. Not a saison and not a farmhouse ale, a french country ale. The recipe was inspired by "Farmhouse Ales" by Phil Markowski. In the book, Markowski explains that most of the Biere de Garde beer in France is actually brewed with clean ale yeast. Not with Saison or Monastery yeast. The idea of turning Biere de Garde into an estery Saison, or spicy, phenolic beer is an American idea. Well that struck a chord with us. So we planned the recipe, we knew we were going to make 3.5 gallons and take 3 gallons to the fermenter. We knew we were going to step mash and do at least one decoction. We knew what our color was going to be, or what it was supposed to be. And then we started brewing. And that's when everything changed. The color wasn't right, the wort was delicious, but not decadent. We had to do something to get the beer we wanted.
But fortunately for us, and for you our somewhat loyal readers, we have prepared ourselves for just about any brewing situation. And we knew just what to do to get the beer we wanted.
We started with a betaglucan rest at 119 F. We were actually shooting for 116 F, but I recently filled the cavity of the Cajun Injector Electric Turkey Fryer with ceramic foam, and boy oh boy does it hold heat now. Listen to me round eye, when you make changes to your system, you will have to learn your system all over again. There is virtually no heat loss on a small high gravity (high grain) batch of beer. That is exciting, that means we can hold temperature on our mashes in the future with out any problem.
Our next rest was supposed to be at 132 F, but we were not impressed with the color at all, and so... we decided to pull an additional decotion. Rather than doing a single decoction to go to mash out, we were now doing a double decoction. So we pulled the grains and let the element in the kettle raise the main mash slowly to 146 F. Slowly, was the key, by going slowly we went through the protinase rest as well. Mark kept a close eye on the main mash while I handled the first decoction. And by the way, we used Vienna Malt by Muessdoerffer. Amazing stuff, after the first decoction the wort tasted grainy, and bready, with slight caramel and nut notes.
When we returned the decoction to the mash we raised the temperature from 146 F to 154 F. But we had an ace up our sleeve. While we were decocting we added a second bag to the kettle and we scooped the remaining grains into the bag... When we poured the decoction back into the kettle we poured the decoction into this second bag... By now you know we were up to something. And here it is. A second bag is a great help in a decoction. This is a great technique, we hope you'll give it a try.
With the help of the bag we were able to easily pull a thick mash decoction for mash out. Mark handled this decoction while I started weighing hops and additions, and updating the brew log. The second decoction, gave us even more richness, and a beautiful color. We added the decoction back into the main mash when we both thought the color was where we wanted it. When we added the decoction back in, our temperature came up to 166 F. So we turned on the element and rose to 170 F. for 10 minutes.
We then pulled the bag, set it on a colander over the kettle, vourlauffed the entire volume of wort, and sparged to a volume of 4 gallons. We generally only lose about .5 gallons an hour in the electric turkey fryer. Our Gravity was 1.060. Perfect. The sugar addition and the boil would take us to 1.074.
The boil was uneventful standard home brewing stuff. We added Northern Brewer as a first wort hop, Mt Hood for flavor, and Styrian Golding for Aroma. We added Irish Moss, and Yeast Nutrient. At the end of the boil we drained the wort into Mark's 5 gallon kettle, chilled in the sink, in an ice bath. Once we were at temperature we poured the wort back and forth between Mark's kettle and the fermenter. This is an easy way to aerate. Our gravity was 1.074. So we pitched 1.25 packages of Fermentis K-97, Kolsch yeast.
Lots of yeast, a rich healthy environment, lots of nutrient, lots of aeration... this beer should be amazing. Really looking forward to trying this one.