Thursday, October 29, 2009

Some Yeast Work and Brew Preparation

November will be a (relatively) busy month for me when it comes to brewing beer. I plan to brew 4 five gallon batches in the next week or so, and then eventually (in probably about 2 weeks) I will be bottling around 200 beers. My kegs are in good shape for a bit from brewing about 4 weeks ago (currently serving my special bitter and my cappuccino stout), so these new batches are meant more as an experiment. Sort of along the lines of the Yazoo Hop Project, I am making 4 different pale ales. Mine won't be dry-hopped IPA's like the hop projects, but they will each share the same grain bill, much like the Hop Project series does. The difference, though, is that instead of trying different combinations of hops to find that perfect recipe, each of my pale ales will be brewed with just one type of hop. The purpose of this "experiment" is to learn more about a few different hops.
The hops I have acquired for this series are:
  • 4 oz Centennial (this one has a higher alpha value, so less will likely still be more)
  • 6 oz Crystal
  • 6oz Willamette
  • 6oz Perle
I am looking forward to having 4 different hopped beers to compare and learn about.

A year ago, a project like this wouldn't have been very affordable. Hops were expensive and in short supply. This year, however, in case you have been in a hole or just don't follow the hops market, there is a surplus of hops and prices are sometimes 1/4 of what they were last year. So what does that mean? It means that I can use 4 times the hops! Or maybe just that I can do a single-hop pale ale series. At any rate, this should be fun.

Along the same lines, brewing 4 batches of beer can be pretty expensive for a homebrewer, so I am trying to maximize efficiency wherever I can, but without cutting corners. Often, in the quest to save a buck (and speed fermentation), I re-use my yeast by pouring new wort on top of a yeastcake from a previous batch. This requires planning so that I am racking the first batch the same day I am brewing my second.

For this series of four batches, I intend to do a similar thing, but I am planning to have two batches going at a time. So to still use one vial of yeast, I am making a starter. But not just a typical start. I am doing a 2-stage start to try to multiply the yeast some before pitching. At any rate, it should be good and primed to do some munching when it gets into the primary.

As a part of the starter preparation, I made some standard wort with some dried malt extract and poured some off for the starter, pouring the rest into standard beer bottles to store for future yeast care. Not a difficult process, but sanitation is of utmost importance. I ended up with 8 bottles of extra wort and some wort for my starter. Once it cooled, I added the yeast. Let's hear it for procreation!