Monday, December 14, 2015

Mild Winter Brew Day

We missed posting last week because we were getting ready for another brew day. This time, we dove into a recipe that is not very common, though incredibly easy on both the brewer and the drinker: English Mild. As its name implies, this British ale is neither bold nor big. This is what we "yanks" would call a session ale, though distinctly full of English ale character.

Dark Milds (per BJCP 2015 style guideline 13A) can be anywhere on the pale to dark amber range, about 12-25 SRM. They should appear fairly clear and possess no great hop presence or aroma. The main stand-out quality of this style is its drinkability while remaining flavorful. True to most British styles, the beer should be malt forward and exhibit toasty/biscuit flavors with a satisfying dry finish. As my comparison to session beer might imply, this is not a heavy hitter at about 3-4% ABV. This is a beer meant to be enjoyed throughout the day without rendering the drinker incapacitated.

As we mentioned last post, we will be co-brewing with our friend Kyle Nelson of Steel Rain Beer in January with the hopes of submitting our beer for the Bluebonnet Brew-off. This is the largest single-site homebrew competition in the United States, and judges an incredible 1,000+ homebrew entries every year. Due to time constraints, we decided we would brew a Mild recipe that Kyle drew up so that we could finish it in time for the entry cut-off on January 28.

This recipe is not Kyle's, though. I read a few recipes online and listened to the Brewing With Style podcast from the Brewing Network to pick up some pointers and general impressions. I wrote this recipe on Beersmith and checked it against the style guidelines, just to test the boundaries of the style for my own education and edification. I also chose to brew this on my small-batch stove top setup since I'm currently re-building my full batch system. (Stay tuned for a bunch more posts on the build!)

On to the recipe:

Mild Winter

2.5 Gallons, OG: 1.036, FG: 1.010, ABV: 3.4%, 20 IBU

2.75 lbs Maris Otter Pale Malt
4oz Biscuit Malt
4oz Crystal 40L Malt
4oz Chocolate Malt

Mash @ 152 for 60 min

0.5oz East Kent Goldings @ 60 min

White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale Yeast, ferment @ 65 for 3 days, then ramp up to 70 for 2 days before crash cooling and kegging at 1.5 volumes CO2.

Now for a gratuitous amount of brew day photos...

My small batch grain bag is a little large, so to keep the bottom
from scorching on the hot bottom surface, I put a stainless steel
vegetable steamer underneath.

Perfect mash temp hit after doughing in.

Our overly sophisticated mash insulation system
consists of several bath towels and my Carhartt.

Even so, we lost about 4 degrees Fahrenheit
throughout the 60 min mash. I'll chalk it up to
less thermal mass in the 2.5 gal batch size.

After removing the grain bag, we were left with
exactly 2.5 gallons of "first runnings" wort.

But we weren't done with those grains just yet!
Sparging with 170F water, we rinsed out some
more sugar and ultimately gravity points.

Adding the sparge back into the boil, we started
with about 2.75 gallons.

In order to keep from shocking yeast that's been
stored in a fridge, I put the vial or pouch in a
bath of room temperature water to warm up.

The downside to small batches is you don't
always use hops in the most efficient way. I
suppose I could have added the hops later during
the boil and used the whole ounce though.

Pre-boil gravity right about 1.040. Hmm...

Our high-tech method for suspending the hop sock
to keep it from scorching on the bottom of the
kettle during the boil.

Damn-near futuristic chilling setup with the
garden hose connected to the wort chiller in
the driveway.

Despite the Texas winter day being a balmy 75
degrees, the wort chiller was able to bring the
2.25 gallons down to pitching temperature in
about 25 minutes. Here is the batch getting all
cozy in the fermentation chamber.

Last but not least, our OG reading shows a
whopping 1.050. Ain't exactly a mild anymore.

Now oddly enough, I got stellar conversion in my mash and the pre-boil gravity showed 1.040, finishing with a OG of 1.050. This pushes it out of the style guidelines by quite a bit, leaning more towards a British Brown Ale (category 13B). Not what I set out to brew, but hey it's still beer. I'll have to dial in my boil-off rate and brewhouse efficiency in Beersmith to prevent surprises in the future. We'll see how this guy measures up after fermentation. I will likely have to re-name it to reflect its true style. Mild-Mannered Brown? Who knows. Once again, beer was made and it was a good day.

Chipotle 9*8*7 RIS on the left & Mexican
Vanilla 9*8*7 RIS on the right
If you look closely at the photo of our fermentation chamber, you may notice something a little weird with one of our two Russian Imperial Stout variants. Slowly but surely, the Chipotle 9*8*7 RIS has been building up a pellicle. Pellicles form when oxygen gets into the fermenter. Though it's most commonly associated with sour beers and/or lambics, it doesn't necessarily mean the beer will become sour. True, the chipotle powder I used probably had trace amounts of some wild yeast that landed on it in its production process, but this may only impart a "funky" flavor one might expect from brettanomyces without the lacto- or pedio- sourness. While some may consider dumping this beer since it's "only a gallon of beer," I'm going to let this little experiment continue. We really enjoyed this base Russian Imperial Stout, and I'm intrigued to see what time and bugs will do to it.

I did not sanitize or sterilize the powder I used for this gallon of special release RIS, so I inadvertently inoculated a gallon of stout with some kind of funk. Whether or not it will improve the flavor remains to be seen, but I'm hopeful that we won't have to dump this gallon. When it comes time to bottle, we'll let y'all know what's up.

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