2015 PROOF?

IMG_4314I was planning to make PROOF a bi-annual tradition. Surely I won’t go through two cases of nearly 20% ABV beer in less than two years, so what reason could there be to brew it any sooner? I have more stupid ideas, of course. So no, I’m not going to wait for 2016 to make a new version of PROOF. 2015 PROOF was probably always inevitable.

I have a lot of new experience to help me make this version better, too. The sweetness is the only real problem I have with 2014 PROOF, so most of the changes I want to make have to do with preventing that issue next year. Starting with the recipe.

The grain bill for 2014 PROOF was very simple and that will remain the case in the 2015 edition. I’m trading both malts in for two different malts the second time around, though. 2014 featured mainly Pale Malt with a healthy dose of Munich. 2015’s grist will contain a huge amount of Pilsner Malt and likely a hit of Victory Malt.

Pale Malt and Pilsner are the two main base grains use in a great majority of the beers in the world. They are similar, but there are also significant differences. Pale Malt is darker and more flavorful. Pilsner is lighter, more neutral and crisper. Personally, I usually prefer Pilsner as my base malt in most beers other than English styles, in which case I use Maris Otter. Maris Otter is a type of Pale Malt, but it is very different from American Pale Malt.

The sheer volume of malt used in this beer means that the cleaner Pilsner Malt will be appreciated. The more crisp character of the malt should help it feel drier, even if it isn’t. Even the lighter color will be appreciated. At this high a gravity with this long of a boil, the beer will pick up some serious color, but hopefully next year’s batch will be lighter and allow for all that color to be more appreciated instead of just muddy.

Victory Malt is something that I used to use quite a bit. It featured prominently in some of my early IPA recipes. It is a toasted, amber colored malt. It is not as dark or roasty as Amber Malt, but is similar. It is also similar to Biscuit Malt. It is toasty, biscuity, sharp and, I think a bit drying.

I was actually considering making this a single malt beer, using only Pilsner. I didn’t want to do that, just in principle. I already have Old SMaSHy, my single malt, single hop English Barley Wine. Old SMaSHy may be my favorite beer in my repertoire, but I don’t want to repeat myself. After giving it a lot of thought, it wasn’t until writing yesterday and today’s posts that the idea for Victory Malt came to me. I think it is a good one, though I’m not completely sure I’ll stick to it. Amber and Biscuit Malts are both similar, as I said and I think they could work too. I believe Amber Malt would be a bit too harsh, but Biscuit could be just as good as Victory. I’m going to have to continue to give it thought and maybe even a bit of research until I get around to brew day.

2014 PROOF was a single hop beer, using only Columbus. This worked just fine. All hop flavor and aroma were fermented and aged out by the time the beer made it to the bottle, anyway. Columbus can be a bit harsh, but under the circumstances, it gave a pretty clean bitterness. As I mentioned yesterday, I’d like to reintroduce my original idea of dry hopping next year. I chose Columbus for purely budgetary reasons. Between their price and Alpha Acid, picking up a pound of Columbus hops just made sense. I would stick by that idea for the next batch. The fervor of the fermentation combined with the months spent in secondary mean that it really won’t change the final flavor of the beer very much no matter what hops I use in the boil.

The dry hop selections will be much more important. I haven’t made up my mind about them yet. I think that it will be important to mix things up, though. A single hop variety would be too straight forward with other complexities in this beer. Several varieties, ranging from all the different characteristics associated with hops will be important. I don’t think the more distinct, specific newer varieties would be the best option. I don’t want the peach flavor of Galaxy hops or the white wine character of Nelson hops. The more vague, mixed citrus, pine, herbal, earthy, fruity flavors of some of the classic hops would be more at home in highly alcoholic, strongly malty and biscuity characters of this beer.

Now, to get to more of the lessons I talked about in yesterday’s post. I think pulling a larger volume of wort and boiling for longer will ultimately lead to much better efficiency. I think that while the small caramelizing boil added a ton of character, it may not be the best idea for this beer. I adopted that method for Quadruple Grim, and I think it is a going be a great addition to that beer, but PROOF doesn’t need any extra caramelized malt character.

Instead, I think next year’s batch might be benefitted by two boils that are closer to the same size. I can still concentrate the wort more by splitting it up, but hopefully raising the volume and will allow a longer boil to still minimize caramelization.

I will keep the idea of brewing a smaller beer ahead of time to create a huge yeast cake, but I will take the advice I gave yesterday and use White Labs’ Super High Gravity Yeast. Instead of adding a bunch of different yeasts, I think a second addition of the same yeast later in the beer’s aging time will be beneficial. With the extended aging in the fermentor and the stress the yeast will go through during fermentation, I think fresh yeast will be good before bottle conditioning, but I want to stick to a single yeast.

The other lessons are pretty straight forward. I’ll use white sugar instead of brown. I’ll let the gravity get below 1.030 before adding sugar. I’ll dry hop, if the beer gets dry enough.

I still have a lot of details to work out, but I’m very excited to brew 2015 PROOF. I don’t have an exact time frame worked out, but I hope to start the beer earlier than last year’s version so that fermentation can take place on the cooler side, slowing it down hopefully keeping it going a bit longer. There is more to figure out, but I will do it.

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