Before I get to today’s beer, I will be attending the Brewin Up a Cure event at the Brewery at Hershey on Sunday. The event is from 1:00-4:00 PM and admission is $20. I will be serving samples of Table Cat and Maggie Moo’s Cocoa Cream Stout along with thirty other homebrewers. Check the link for directions and more information.
N.E. Helles represents a couple of firsts for me. It was my first decoction mash and it was my first ten gallon batch. The decoction was long and slightly frustrating and I don’t know if it really did anything for the beer but I got conversion and most of the time, it was pretty fun. The ten gallon size was more of a problem, in the long run.
The few problems I did have with the decoction stemmed from poor planning on my part. I got my original blueprint from an episode of Brewing TV. Then I talked to the guy at the homebrew shop and got totally different advice. I’m sure that both sets of instructions work wonderfully. The problem came from idiot with no experience trying to combine them into a new decoction process.
As I said, though, my main problem was the batch size. Not just the batch size, but the time of year. Right now, my burner would probably have no trouble getting all that wort to a boil, unfortunately, I wasn’t brewing on a cool evening in April, it was a bitter cold early morning brew session in November. Not a normal November, either. The overgrown-in-both-directions Winter that we’re just now coming through will not soon be forgotten.
I boiled this beer, but I never achieved the strong, rolling boil that always desired in brewing. This wort hit the boiling point and stayed there, fearing retribution from the relentless cold surrounding it. There is a lot of boiling involved in decoction mashed beer. I’d like to think that this issue was the main problem with this decent beer. I think the (very simple) recipe is solid and I think the rest of my process was legit. All of this is not to say that the finished beer is bad. It is an enjoyable, albeit forgettable, session beer. I’ll write more about that next week in the tasting notes, though.
The last important bit about the process, possibly the most important, is of course fermentation. Since this was a ten gallon batch, I split it into two five gallon carboys with two different yeast strains. I used White Labs’ German Lager and Bock Lager strains. The bock yeast finished slightly drier and made a little bit better beer. I will post tasting notes for both next week.
The skeleton of my recipe is below. I’ve chosen to leave out the details of the decoction mash because it was poorly planned and the details I have are not even complete. Beyond that, I do think these ingredients will yield a good beer with whatever your normal mashing regiment is. I used the bock lager yeast again for my Maibock, but afterwards returned the what has become my go to lager yeast, Saflager W-34/70, aka Weihenstephan. I think the bock yeast was fine, but in my limited experience, I’d definitely recommend 34/70 for just about any lager.
N.E. Helles (A and B)
Style: 1D. Munich Helles
Brew Date: 11/3/2013
Serve Date: 12/25/2013
FG: 1.01 (A) and 1.008 (B)
ABV: 4.2% (A) and 4.4% (B)
90% German Pilsner
10% Dextrine Malt
75 min Hallertauer to 15 IBU
20 min Tettnang to 4 IBU
10 min Tettnang to 2 IBU
A: White Labs WLP830: German Lager
B: White Labs WLP833: German Bock Lager
Mash how you want.
90 minute boil.
7 Days in Primary
35 Days in Secondary
14 Days in the Bottle