Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Glacial Eis

Every year I look forward to the various beer festivals in the area, but one more than all the others keeps me waiting in anticipation:  Brouwer’s Big Wood.  The local beer haven Brouwer’s is known for having an exceptional line-up of 60 taps plus a very deep cellar of over 800 bottles, but for their Big Wood fest, they pull out all the stops and fill the taps with unique wood-aged beers of all different varieties.  A number of the selections are often commercially distributed offerings from various breweries (FW Abacus, RR Supplication, Vintage J.W. Lees, various Cantillons, etc.), but others are one-offs that are nearly impossible to find anywhere else (FW unblended Velvet Merkin, Hair of the Dog Fred Flanders, etc.).  It’s always a great time sorting your way through the extensive lineup and although there were numerous beers worthy of high praise at this year’s festival, one of the many that I walked away being highly impressed with was Glacier Brewhouse's Maker’s Eisbock. 

I haven’t had a whole lot of Eisbocks, and maybe this was one of the reasons why this beer grabbed my attention, but regardless, I couldn’t help but revel in the luxuriousness of the sweet, smooth maltiness that melded so well with the vanilla/coconut and mild alcohol heat.  While it seemed that a lot of the other beers were either very bourbon forward or wrapped up in a complex layer of roastiness (neither of which are necessarily a bad thing), the full flavored, yet simplistic, Glacier’s Eisbock was a wonderful change of pace.  The long lagering period and eising removed any trace of the typical rough edges a beer this big might possess and it quickly became the inspiration for my next homebrew. 

Fast forward two weeks and I’ve got the mash paddle in hand and the burners lit.  Doppelbocks (the common base for an Eisbock) are often brewed using a decoction mash, but since I was low on time and feeling a bit lazy, I went with a standard single infusion.  To offset the flavors that a decoction can add, I included a bit of melanoidin malt in the grist and I upped the CaraMunich by about 10% over what I probably would use if I were doing a decoction.  Whether it’s just expectations or actuality, I also often hear people say that decocted beers have a smoother, more integrated flavor profile.  Maybe it’s just my own perceptions, but I feel that a light dose of oak in a big beer can really help to meld the flavors together as well.  Usually I would add this in the secondary, but for this beer, I wanted some Hungarian oak in the primary to not only help with flavor integration, but also to help provide more structure in the mouth feel.  It might be overkill with a beer this malty, but at only 14 grams of med +, it was worth the risk. 

While I did enjoy the slight bourbon character that the Maker’s barrel imparted on Glacier’s Eisbock, I’ve brewed a number of beers recently using bourbon and so for this beer, I wanted something a little different.  I considered simulating aging the beer in a Sherry barrel, but after trying a few samples of fortified wines around the house, I ended up going with a blend of 1 part Amontillado Sherry, 1 part Marsala Fine I.P., and 1 part Marsala Superiore L.P.  The resulting mixture had a great balance of earthy nuttiness and semi-sweet smokiness that I think will complement the malty base and add a very subtle complexity to the background.  At only three ounces in the primary, I expect some of the sugars from the wine to ferment out and the residual flavor to hide in the shadows.  I’m imagining this minute amount leaving you with the feeling that it might be there, but yet you’re just not quite sure.

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal):  Pre-Eis – 6.0, Post-Eis (estimated) – 3.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 17.50
Anticipated OG: 1.075
Anticipated SRM:  16.1
Anticipated IBUs:  27.1
Wort Boil Time:  90
Anticipated ABV:  Pre-Eis – 7.5%, Post-Eis (estimated) – 9.0%

48.3% - 8.5 Lbs Munich (10°L)
17.0% - 3.0 Lbs Pilsner
17.0% - 3.0 Lbs Vienna
6.3% - 1.10 Lbs CaraMunich (55°L)
5.7% - 1.00 Lbs Crystal 20L
2.8% - ½ Lb Cara-Pils
2.8% - ½ Lb Melanoidin Malt

40.0 grams Hallertauer (Pellets, 4.0% AA) @ 90 minutes
10.0 grams Czech Saaz (Pellets, 5.5% AA) @ 30 minutes
10.0 grams Czech Saaz (Pellets, 5.5% AA) @ 5 minutes

Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager (3 packs into 2500ml starter)

Water Profile and Additions
Charcoal filtered Seattle Water
Mash Additions: 0.4 gram/gallon Calcium Chloride, 0.75 gram/gallon Baking Soda
Sparge Additions: Adjusted pH down to 5.6 using phosphoric acid – about 0.5ml
Boil Additions: 0.9 grams/gallon Calcium Chloride, 0.35 grams/gallon Epsom Salt, and 0.2 grams/gallon Salt (all based on 6 gallons final volume)

Mash Schedule
Doughed in @ 161°, mash settled at 152°
45 minutes @ 152°
15 minutes @ 168°
Sparged with 170° Water

12/20/11 – Dropped 14 grams of Hungarian Medium + toast oak into boiling water for two minutes to remove intense oak flavor.  Oak was then wrapped in muslin sack, along with a weight, and placed in a small 4 oz. jar.  This was then run through the pressure cooker to sterilize.  After it had cooled, I added 3 oz. of a mixture that consisted of 1 pt. Amontillado Sherry, 1 pt Marsala Fine I.P., and 1 pt Marsala Superiore L.P.
12/27/11 – Added 3 smack packs of Wyeast 2124 to 2500ml of 1.035 wort and placed on stirplate @ 50°.  After 60 hours, I removed and placed in the fridge until brew day.

1/02/12 – Brewed Solo

Doughed in @ 161° and mash stabilized at 152°.  Added mineral additions and pH measured 5.28.  Rested for 45 minutes and then increased HERMS temp to 168°.  After a 15 minute rest at 168°, increased sparge temp to 170° and started sparge.

Collected 5.25 gallons of wort with a total of 450GUs.  Topped off to 7.5 gallons and started the burner.

Boiled for 90 minutes with hop additions as stated above.  Boil additions went in at about 30 minutes.  Recirculator started @ 20 minutes, chiller dropped in @ 15 minutes, and yeast nutrient and whirlflock added @ 10 minutes.

Chilled wort down to 54°.  Let sit in my 48° garage for 4 hours covered.  Racked into carboy along with and oxygenated 60 seconds with pure 02 .  Decanted yeast and pitched.  Also added muslin sack of oak and the 3 oz. of Sherry/Marsala mixture that the oak had been soaking in.

Fermenting @ 50°.  After primary (4-6 weeks).

2/25/12 - After a 48 hour diacetyl  rest, I crash cooled the beer and racked over to a corny keg for lagering.

4/7/12 - Transferred beer to a new keg to get it off any sediment.  Replaced beer-out dip tube with gas-in dip tube and then stuck in the freezer.  After 5 hours, I swirled the keg every hour.   At 12 hours, there was substantial ice slurry so I then switched the dip tubes back and racked over to new keg.  I was able to pull out about 4 gallons of beer and the remaining gallon had a gravity of 1.013.  Estimating that ABV of eised beer is a little over 8%.

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