This Friday, tomorrow, will see the fourth year of the Iron Brewer take place at Cool Brewing in Toronto. The Iron Brewer is a friendly brewing competition amongst members of the Master Brewers’ Association of Canada (or MBAA – Ontario District) In it, 15 members who have applied for the honor to compete, and were then selected by lottery, are provided with identical bags of ingredients. These ingredients, generously donated by suppliers to the brewing industry, often include a couple of fun or unusual things. This year the ingredients included:
YEAST: 2 packets each of Mauribrew Ale 514, Lager 497 and Weiss
MALTS: Canada Malting’s Ontario Select, Munton’s Pale Ale, Weyermann’s Vienna, Great Western’s Dextra Pils, Briess’ Victory Malt, Franco-Belge’s Kiln Coffee, Weyermann’s Special W, Munton’s Roast Barley and Toasted Rye Flakes from OiO.
HOPS: Pellets: Goldings, First Gold & Target. Whole Cone: Chinook, Columbus, Golding & Willamette. Also- a coupon redeemable for Bertwell Hops.
SPICE: Cinnamon Sticks, Grains of Paradise
OTHER: An infusion stick of white ash wood and a tablet of Whirlfloc
And this year the participants included: Me! I was very happy to be selected to be an Iron Brewer!! As soon as I heard the good news, I began planning my brew. What would impress a room full of my peers? What would stand out amongst (what are sure to be) many excellent brews? What would a “Brewer’s Brewer” make???
I decided that either an Iced beer, or a Pilsner would fit the bill. Icing beer is a technique that is fairly rare even amongst very experienced brewers. Few brewers have had an opportunity to try it, I suppose. At least, whenever I’ve iced a beer before, I have been surprised by the rather impressed response it usually gets. As for Pilsners- well- a properly executed, true-to-style, crisp, perfectly balanced and delicious Pilsner is something that almost every brewer can really, really appreciate on at least one level. But the hops available- totes UK & US. Nothing Continental about them! And the closest thing to true Pils malt was the Ontario Select. I thought substitutions could be quite nice, but I would be losing the whole “To Style” thing. There are many blonde lager things. Most are not Pilsners. PLUS- I have never pulled off a Pilsner properly before. Yes, I’ve only tried once, but I was intimidated to try again. I remain intimidated! Lagers I can do. Lagers are easy. Pilsners are hard to get just right.
So- an Iced Beer it is! But what to ice? An Eisbock would be the traditional route, but I decided to do something a little creative in an attempt to recreate a delicious accident- when I accidentally “eised” an English brown ale, to wonderful results.
Also, Brown ales and Porters are two of the few styles where I find a “Kitchen Sink” approach works well. Most other recipes seem to benefit from the clarity of just a few well-selected ingredients, and become muddied or flabby from an excess of specialty malts- but English brown ales and porters actually seem to benefit from the over-complexity of too-many malts! (in my opinion, anyway)
So, when you ask me which malts I will use, I answer boldly: “ALL OF THEM”. And when you ask me which hops I will use, I will continue: “ALL OF THE PELLETS, AS CONES TEND TO CLOG MY SYSTEM UP, AND THE PELLETS ARE ALL UK VARIETIES ANYWAY, WHICH WORKS BETTER FOR MY PURPOSES.”
I brewed a volume large enough to split the batch- one half went into a bucket which went into a freezer. The other half went into a corny keg as a backup, and, haha, it’s a good thing it did because the same malfunctioning old freezer with a bum temperature control that caused me to accidentally ice some brown ale inspiring this whole farce, malfunctioned in the opposite way and caused me to accidentally ice ALL of my iron brewer brown ale. I was targeting about 25% concentration, but essentially froze all of it. I guess the alcohol was caught in amongst all the ice crystals? Right? I doubt that the tiny bit of liquid remaining was really the 4.5ish% alcohol in my brew, because, there is no way, right?? Who can say? Who knows about SCIENCE?? (I figure that if it was really that easy to make hard booze, we’d all have bigger freezers, right??)
Anyway, with plan A now ON ICE, I was left with a backup beer, that while lacking any major flaws and being totally sessionable, was an entirely brown sort of beer. This is a beer that you may develop a deep appreciation for after a 6th or 7th pint. After 10 pints you may just become devoted to it! But after one small sample, this lil’ brown ale was not going to set your world on fire. It’s just a lil’ English Brown, y’know?
SO- onto plan B. I still had the lager yeast and enough base malts to combine into a totally decent batch. But with a Pilsner requiring too much substitutions (and being too scary), I decided on a Maibock! A one-hundred-percent Berwell hopped Maibock! Fun! Unfortunately, by the time I was able to organize the hops, I wasn’t left with a whole lot of time for my high-alcohol lager to ferment. Just under 2 weeks to be precise. I began fermentation at 10 degrees Celsius, and raised it by half a degree every other day or so, until it reached 14.5 degrees. Yesterday I raised it to 20 to try and finish it off/do a Diacetyl rest. Tomorrow morning I will keg and force-carb it. Then I will taste it. If, somehow, it is not an under-attenuated, green and sweet lil’ fruity number- but rather a delightful Maibock with a unique hop character- then it will become my very-last-minute entry in the Iron Brewer. If it is as mediocre as I fear it may be, then it’s brown-towne for me.
Wish me luck!!
Here are some pics of my brew day(s)- which will also serve to show off my new system! (I haven’t made an update in awhile! Spleesh!)
Yes- I will take some of everything please. And a coffee. “The Most Important Brew Of The Day”
This was the plan, and it basically got followed, except I nixed the dry hop and the second runnings.
Don’t kick the bucket if you’re over the mill.
Photo taken mere moments before malt spilly-times
After malt spilly-times, this arrangement was found to be more suitable.
About to mash in! Malt in the bag, Rye on the side please.
This is what my brew room looks like. One end of it anyway. It is underneath the kitchen of my at-least-one-hundred-year-old Hamilton home. Probably lotsa ghosts captured in this shot too, but they are INVISIBLE. The brew equipment is situated in the remains of an old cistern! The house is situated in the remains of a unmarked mass burial ground!! (probably)
This is what the other end of it looks like! The barrel holds alot of my homebrew clubs (the HOZERS) sour ale! (and likely at least one ghost)
Mash Water heating up!!
Mash-In achievement: UNLOCKED
RYE BONUS LEVEL NOW PLAYABLE
Now we rest.
The temperature loss after one hour.
What the Mash looked like after one hour! Mmmmmm.
Time to warm up that mash with some recirculation! Here’s what it looked like, PREcirculation
Beginning the recirculation- the wort is drawn from the bottom of the mash, pumped into the auxiliary pot where it is warmed by an electric heating element, and then allowed to cascade back overtop the mash by gravity
look at how I bend gravity to my will
gravity herself, once so fickle to me as a skateboarder, is tamed and harnessed in the production of my ales
Recirculation done! Mash out UNLOCKED. Time to Lauter!
First Wort Hops, 1 oz EXACTLY- right on….. Target.
A view inside my kettle
Start the Lauter!
Continue the Lauter!
OK- Finish the Lauter! No more hot water from the HLT, time to drain the auxiliary tank
Nearing the boil…
my fancy imported hot break control aid
The pre-boil gravity
and more hops
The wort chiller is added..
As is the Whirlfloc tablet. the yeast is retrieved from the freezer.
The whirlpool greatly aids the undersized wort chiller, the fermentor is sterilized and ready to go!
Ready to cast out! Me maties. Yarrhgh.
I aerate and monitor the temperature of my wort using this one weird trick
Aeration in action
The yeast packets are pitched!
The aftermath of the brew…
The final gravity! It would have been higher, but I topped up to get a big volume. Besides, English ales are meant to be enjoyed in series, right? (Or even in parallel)
The brewday is complete! Everything is cleaned and brought outside to dry out.
The approximate fermentation temp
Fermentation is OVA
Still- a pretty good rack!
One gets force-carbed. One gets put on ice. Is it cheating to add C02? C02 wasn’t in the bag, after all. But neither was priming sugar… hmmmm. Does the MBAA expect us to do a minimash for priming sugar or something? Cap the ferment or capture the C02? That would be some rheinheistgabot styles right there.
Dude! you leaked everywhere! That’s cold.
All that was left in a liquid state in the bucket. This viscous nonsense tasted syrupy, chocolaty and intensely boozy. It was actually pretty excellent. NO REGRETS. ok, a couple regrets.
onto the Maibock!
all your remaining base malts- belong to us!
some mash hopping- an old technique to aid in filtration (suitable for my extra-fine crush here) that has found new converts in the hop head brewers of today! does it work?? who can say!? hops are magic
first wort hopping- another old technique, originally to aid in hot break control, also popular among modern hop heads. Hops are magic. Without a kettle screen on my auxiliary pot, all of the hops are placed into stainless balls instead.
Look Ma! No Sparge!
..good to the last drop
Skimming off the scum of the hotbreak..
After a 2 hour+ boil, a “whirlpool” with the wort chiller, no longer hopelessly undersized!
The fermentor- I’m proud of this- I had the dip tube welded shut to create an awesome thermowell for the temperature probe! The other post is where the blowoff tube attaches.
The yeast of my concerns!
Gooey proteins coagulated onto the hops..
The lagering chamber in action!
Well- that’s it for me!
That was a long post- If you made it this far, YOU are the real IRON BREWER. Don’t you see??: The Iron was inside you all along!