Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Imperialized Autumn Maple

There’s something to be a said about commercial pumpkin beers…a high percentage of the time, they’re complete garbage.  I absolutely love fall, I love pumpkins, and I of course love beer, but when the three are married together, more often than not, the  harmony that was meant to be is nowhere to be found and what remains can only be described as a sad excuse for ingenuity.  Not a lot of character comes from the pumpkin itself and most of the time I find that brewers try to overcompensate for this by adding too many spices or leaving the beer too sweet with a one-dimensional flavor. 

Although not brewed with actual pumpkin, the Bruery’s Autumn Maple breaks this mold and finds a balance between the actual yam essence, the warming alcohol, and the broad range of spices and phenolic flavors.  Even though it doesn’t blow your hair back at first sip, the yam flavor is present and the spices are subtle enough to plant that seed of fall in your head without making you feel like you’re choking on grandma’s pumpkin pie.  In my mind, it’s a great harvest offering and having never brewed a pumpkin beer myself, I thought it best to start out by trying to emulate one that I actually respect. 

According to an interview with The Brewing Network back in November of ’08, founder Patrick Rue stated that Autumn Maple is mashed with a full 17lbs of yams per barrel, has a grain bill comprised of 2-row, munich, and caramunich, and is spiced and flavored with the following: a 1 lb mix cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg per 15 barrels, 1 pound Tahitian vanilla bean per 15 barrels, as well as molasses and maple syrup.  

Without knowing either the original or final gravity of the beer, we played around with the grain bill until we arrived at a grist that, at an estimated 75% efficiency and attenuation rate, would give us a 10% ABV beer.  To keep it authentic, we cultured up the Bruery’s house Belgian yeast from one of their lower alcohol beers, Orchard White, and pitched a decanted 4 ½ ltr starter into the primary.  Amazingly, the yeast strain turned out to be extremely attenuative and transformed our 1.100 wort into a 1.001 gravity beer.  At just a touch over 13% alcohol, the beer still retains a surprising amount of body, has a mild yam flavor and just the right amount of spices. 

Imperial Autumn Maple

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 13.5
Anticipated OG: 1.099
Anticipated SRM: 19
Anticipated IBU: 25.8
Wort Boil Time: 150 Minutes
Anticipated ABV: 10.0%
Actual ABV: 13.2%

50 ½ % - 9.00 lbs domestic 2-Row
22.5% - 4.00 lbs Munich Malt
28.5% - 3.3 lbs Cooked Yams
3.5% - 10 oz. Maple Syrup
2.8% - ½ lb Caramunich
2.1% - 2 oz. Dark Molasses

40 grams Liberty (pellets, 4.5% AA) @ 60 minutes
1 ½ grams Allspice, freshly ground @ 2 minutes
¾ gram Cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces @ 2 minutes
¾ gram Nutmeg, freshly grated @ 2 minutes
1 Tahitian Vanilla Bean, split and seeded @ 2 minutes

Bruery house strain – cultured from a bottle of Orchard White

Water Profile and Additions
Charcoal filtered Seattle water
1.2 grams per gallon Calcium Chloride added to the mash and sparge

Mash Schedule
60 minutes @ 151
15 minutes @ 168
Sparge with 172 degree H2O

Brewed on 10/25/2009 with Blake and Paul

10/15/2009 – Harvested the dregs from a bottle of Orchard White and mixed with 10ml of 1.035 worth.  Once fermentation started, I added another 20ml and then 24 hours later, another 50ml.  24 hours after that, I stepped it up to 250 ml, then 1000ml, then 2000ml, and then 4000ml all with about 24 hours in between each step.

10/25/2009 – Placed about 2.5 lbs of washed yams on my BBQ and 2.5 lbs in  350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Once both sets were cooked through, we smashed them in bowl, skins and all, and then added 3.3 lbs of the yams, along with the grain, into the mash tun.

Mashed at 151 for 60 minutes and then raised the temp to 168 for a mash out.

The mash and sparge wasn’t as efficient as we hoped, so after collecting 6 gallons in one kettle, we started collecting in another to allow for faster evaporation when boiling.  Later the two were combined before the hop addition.

Hops at 60 minutes.

Molasses was added at 20 minutes.

Whirlflock and yeast nutrient added at 15 minutes.

Spices were added at 2 minutes:  Although we knew what spices the Bruery used, we didn’t know the exact ratio.   To come up with our own, we freshly ground each spice, tasted, and then weighted according to our preferences.  We decided to forgo the ginger knowing how it can be such an overwhelming flavor and ended up with about 2 parts allspice, 1 part cinnamon, and 1 part nutmeg (3 grams in total).  We also added one whole Tahitian vanilla bean which we split and seeded.

After a total of 150 minutes boil time, wort was chilled to 67 and aerated with an oxygen air stone for 60 seconds.

Primary fermentation took place at 68 degrees.

11/8/09 - Racked to secondary and onto 10 oz. of grade B maple syrup.  Beer was moved up to my office, which has an average temp of about 70 degrees.

1/25/10 – Split beer into two kegs for maturation: half straight, half with a bourbon soaked oak stave that weighed about an ounce dry.

4/12/2010 – Kegged and carbonated.

11/17/2011 - Tasting and review.

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