2014 PROOF Process Overview

20140527-181402-65642435.jpgI already covered the process I used to make PROOF over a long series of posts back in the Spring when I brewed it. I’ll try to be more concise and cover the whole process in this one post today, though.

The first unique thing I did was conduct two separate mashes. One was in my normal cooler mash tun, packed to the brim with as much malt as I could fit. The second was in my brew kettle. It was a brew in a bag mash, a method which I normally use for smaller or lower gravity batches. Instead, I used it here to boost the gravity above what I could otherwise achieve with the twenty five pound capacity of my ten gallon mash tun.

After the main mash was done, instead of sparging with water to rinse the excess sugar from the grains, I added the wort from the BIAB mash to sparge with. My overall efficiency with this method was pretty low, but it still got my gravity higher than it would have been without the second mash.
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After I collected all of the wort for PROOF, I dumped the two sets of grain together into the cooler and put as much water as I could fit in with it to start a second runnings small beer. I let that sit for a while I continued working on PROOF. When I collected the second runnings wort, I was very surprised by how high the gravity was. That became Evidence.

So back to PROOF. I separated the wort into two kettles. The main one had somewhere between six and seven gallons and I boiled it as I normally do. I put another gallon in a smaller pot on the stove. With the smaller volume, that wort got extremely caramelized. It boiled down into a syrupy consistency, so much so that I had to add more wort to it to keep it from getting unmanageably thick. The main boil was timed and lasted two hours. The boil on the stove lasted a bit longer because it started quicker.

There were only two hop additions in PROOF, but they were both pretty huge. I used all Columbus hops because they were mainly just used for bittering, all other character being aged and fermented out. Columbus hops were a good value between their Alpha Acid and price. I added four ounces with ninety minutes left in the boil and another two with five minutes left. I was hoping to get some hop aroma from this addition, and in the fresh wort it was quite strong, but after the insane fermentation, there was no trace of hops left.
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I initially planned to dry hop after fermentation to introduce more hop character, as I figured it would be extremely diminished by then. When the time came, though I decided to skip that and keep the beer all sweet, malty and boozy and accept that it didn’t have hop character. The bitterness is still very much in place in the finished product, though.

After the boils, I mixed the two worts together while I chilled them. I took about a quart of the wort in a growler and added a vial of White Labs’ San Diego Super Yeast to make a (really, really, overly strong starter). The rest of the wort went into a bucket with a Nottingham yeast cake from my Single Hop IPA, which I bottled during the boil.

The gravity of the wort going in was 1.110 and the yeast went wild. The lid was blown off the bucket within an hour. By the next morning, the gravity had dropped to 1.030. That put the ABV around 10.5% in twenty four hours.

When I took that gravity reading, I added the first dose of sugar. I measured out six ounces of light brown sugar in a bunch of ziplock bags in preparation for these twice daily check ins. For the next week, every morning and evening I checked the gravity of the beer and if it was 1.030 or lower, I added sugar. In most cases, I added twelve ounces, but as it went on, it tapered down to six and eventually I started skipping the sugar.
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My method for these additions was very careful. The beer was actively fermenting and full of alcohol but I still had to be carful not infect it. With two checks a day on a five gallon batch, it was necessary to add the beer back after taking a gravity reading, something that is not normally done. To help keep this beer clean, I kept a pitcher, a spoon, my wine thief, hydrometer and sample flask in a bucket of sanitizer next to the bucket fermentor. I pulled enough beer for the gravity sample, then added sugar to the pitcher and dumped the sampled on top of it. For the twelve ounce additions, I’d have to add a bit more beer, for six ounces the sample was enough. With the beer and sugar together in the pitcher, I gently stirred with the spoon before adding it back into the bucket.

By the end of a week, the fermentation was slowing down and I stopped adding sugar. I had added ninety ounces, over five and a half pounds of sugar. The adjusted original gravity was now 1.159.

Also during that week, I added the starter on the second day and several doses of yeast nutrient and yeast energizer. Afterwards, I let the beer go in the bucket for another week before racking it off of the absolutely massive yeast cake and into a carboy.

I racked the beer again. It sat in the next carboy for a couple months. I added champagne yeast at one point to try to help dry it out some more, but it didn’t seem to do much of anything. Then I added some White Labs’ Super High Gravity Yeast, which I did in a starter first. That took the gravity down a little bit.
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The beer continued to sit in the carboy for another couple months before I finally bottled it. Bottling was done pretty much in my normal way. The one exception being that I bottled every drop of it that I could, ignoring the fact that the last few bottles had a ton of yeast trub and were bound to be cloudy messes. I marked those bottles so I wouldn’t misplace them but I wasn’t going to waste any of this stuff. After bottling, I gave the beer about six weeks before opening one.

I ended up with forty seven bottles, a little bit lower than a normal batch, but with all the volume loss to yeast, I was happy with it. This beer got a lot of special treatment after bottling, too. I’ll be covering that in my next two posts. Check back tomorrow to see how I approached the labels for 2014 PROOF.

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