Oktoberfest -Version 2

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Oktoberfest was brewed on 08/28/16.  One of goals in the beginning of the year was to step up my lager game, and brew a couple lagers.  Mission complete since this is lager number two for me in 2016.  Though I’m a hop head for sure, I really enjoy a good Oktoberfest beer once the weather starts cooling off and the leaves change colors.  Its really one of the perfect styles for people who are big beer people and people who drink macro beers.  Its usually malty and not bitter, easy drinking but with good flavor, and sessionable.  They aren’t complex enough where people may be turned off, but there are subtle nuances that can be appreciated as well.

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My brew/drinking buddies for the day, Jason, Andy, Steve (Dave not pictured)

There are two types of Oktoberfest beers:  Festbeers and Märzen.  The Festbeer style is closer to being like a more robust Munich Helles.  This is the type of beer you would be served if you attended THE Oktoberfest in Munich.  The Festbeer is smooth, crisp, and easy to drink in quantity despite an abv usually hovering around 6%.  Pilsner malt should still make up the majority of your base, but you’ll see a higher percentage of Munich and/or Vienna malt in there as well than in a Helles.  Specialty malts should be kept to a minimum.

The other type of Oktoberfest is the Märzen.  This style is typically more deep gold to amber colored, and is the more commonly found style in the US.  A lot of examples have a bit more toasty or caramel flavor.  Munich and/or Vienna malt may make up a larger part of the grain bill, and you may find some specialty grains being used like caramunich or other crystal malts.  Their use should still be restrained since you don’t want sweetness.  There’s a clear difference between a good, well attenuated malty beer and a sweet beer, and this shouldn’t be sweet.

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Both styles of Oktoberfest have things about them that I enjoy, so I tip-toed the line between them.  This year’s Oktoberfest probably leans more toward the Märzen style, but it it shouldn’t have any of the caramel sweetness that can sometimes be off-putting in that style whn not done properly.  With this beer, I much prefer getting my malty flavors from using larger percentages of Munich and Vienna malt, and I added a half pound of Melanoiden malt.  Melanoiden is a specialty malt that is almost like a super Munich malt.  It adds intense malt aroma and flavor to the beer, but not in a sweet way.  The malt should have notes of fresh baked bread, biscuits and a bit of toast.

 

 

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Mashing in!  Jason on the left, me on the right.

This year’s beer isn’t too much of a change from the last time I brewed an Oktoberfest.  I substituted a couple pounds of Pils malt for Munich for that added maltiness, and the Vienna is the same.  I upped the bittering charge a bit, and got rid of the second round of hops so that the bittering hops will offset the sweetness, but there won’t be much hop flavor to get in the way of the malt.  I also went with the yeast I used on my Helles, Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager.  It had a profile that I really enjoyed, and it should work just as well here.

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Getting all those sugars out!

Brew day was a lot of fun as usual, I had a good group hanging out and helping me.  I mashed in at 150 for an hour and sparged as usual.  This beer called for a 90 minute boil due to the Pilsner malt used.  Since it wasn’t a huge percentage of the grist I may have been able to get away with a 60 minute boil, but why risk it?  I threw in my lone bittering charge at 60 minutes and sat down for some beers and BLT’s with my friends.  I didn’t have anything going on until a whirlfloc addition at 15 minutes, and sanitizing the chiller in the boil at 10 minutes.  I got the beer chilling right at flameout, but this took a while to get to pitching temperature.  Hose water this time of year doesn’t get too cold, so we filled a bucket with ice and saltwater and then coiled the hose in it as a sort of pre-chiller.

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Watching for a boil over

We were able to get the beer down to 68 degrees and I decided I’d let the fride to the rest of the work.  I drew a hydrometer sample, poured through a strainer into the carboy, and then I pitched my yeast which I had built up in a starter.  My hydrometer sample was right on at 1.057!

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This beer will ferment at 48 degrees for about a week and a half.  After that time, I’ll raise the beer to 65 degrees for a diacetyl rest.  The beer will sit at 65 for two days, and then I’ll transfer the beer to a keg.  I’ll then drop the beer by  5 degrees each day until it gets close to freezing, probably 34 or 35 degrees.  Once I have open space in the kegerator, I’ll trow some gelatin to clear this thing and then start letting it carb!  I expect to be drinking it by mid October, though it should continue to improve with more time in the keg.

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My Strainers, Jason and Steve

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Right on the money!

Ca+2                  Mg+2                  Na+                Cl-                 SO4-2              HCO
80.3                   11.8                     7.8                  72.0                59.2                4.379

Recipe Specifications
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Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.057 SG
Estimated Color: 8.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 25.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 76.00 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Ingredients:
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Amt Name Type # %/IBU
4 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 34.8 %
3 lbs 12.0 oz Munich 10L (Briess) (10.0 SRM) Grain 2 32.6 %
3 lbs Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 3 26.1 %
8.0 oz Melanoidin (Weyermann) (30.0 SRM) Grain 4 4.3 %
4.0 oz Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) Grain 5 2.2 %

1.50 oz Hallertauer [4.80 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 6 25.6 IBUs

2.0 pkg Bohemian Lager (Wyeast Labs #2124) [124. Yeast 8 –

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 11 lbs 8.0 oz
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Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 14.38 qt of water at 161.4 F 150.0 F 60 min

Keg Update 09/12/16:  After a few days at 65 I kegged this beer under my usual closed transfer system.  The FG came in at 1.011 giving me my target 6% abv!  The beer had a really nice clean malty flavor already that will only improve with lagering.  I lowered the beer back to 50 and will drop the temperature a few degrees each day until it reaches lagering temps where it will sit a month or so.

Tasting Notes 10/20/16:

Appearance:  Oktoberfest pours a deep gold to light amber color.  The beer has a nice level of clarity thanks to the gelatin used to fine it.  Its not crystal clear, but its not far off.  The beer has a nice white head when poured that sticks around for a bit then clings to the side of the glass.

Smell:  The aroma of this beer is mild, as it should be.  The dominant smell I pick up from this beer is freshly baked bread crust.  There was initially a hint of sulfur, but that has thankfully conditioned out of the beer.  No yeast or hop aroma to speak of in this one.

Taste:  Clean, crisp, and malty is the name of the game here.  The maltiness follows the nose in that it tastes very bread crust like.  Its just a pure malt flavor, no real flavor from the hops come in, just bitterness to offset the sweetness.  The beer is well balanced, could maybe be just a touch hoppier to further balance it.  I’ve had a number of friends sample this at an Oktoberfest party and it was well received, but the constructive criticism I got was to up the hops a bit.  I think a 15 or 20 minute addition might do well here.  This lager yeast fermented very clean, and I’m glad I used it here after the success I had with it in my Helles recipe.

Mouthfeel:  A light to medium bodied beer with lively carbonation.  One of the adjustments I made in the keg with this beer was to blast this with some more C02 while my other keg was disconnected.  I usually have my regulator set to about 12 to 15 psi, which works great for my ales, but setting this at 20 and leaving it overnight about a week ago bumped up the carbonation to a perfect level.

Overall:  A definite improvement over last years, but still not perfect.  I had an Ayinger Oktoberfest the other day, and that beer is on a whole other level.  That being said, I’d put this beer against a lot of other American versions of the style.  The malt flavor in this beer is really nice and clean.  The bitterness could use the slightest bump.  I’d like to add a bit more toasted biscuit flavor, or somehow just make the malt a bit more complex without over complicating the beer.  I’m thinking a higher percentage of Munich or Vienna malt might do that, and maybe a bit of Caramunich.  All that aside, I’m really pleased with this beer, and it’s another solid entry into my very sparse lager portfolio.

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O’Sharkahan’s 2015

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O'Sharkahan's

This was the second part on my stove top brew day on 01/03/15.  This one was a 2.5 gallon batch.  I really enjoy Irish Reds when I’m in the mood for an easy drinking low ABV malty beer, and in brewing terms, St Paddy’s is just around the corner so it’s time for the 2nd batch of O’sharkahan’s.  This, like last year’s version, is a 2.5 gallon batch.  While I do enjoy this style, I don’t drink it often enough to warrant a full size batch of it.

A good Irish Red ale has a few characteristics that define the style.  The beer is mostly malt forward, though it shouldn’t come off as cloyingly sweet and balance is important.  You’re looking for some caramel flavors, some toffee flavors, and maybe a hint of roast, though the roasted barely is just primarily to get you that nice red color.  A bit of English hop flavor is ok, but generally you want the malt flavors to be the star of the show here.  The color of the beer should be copper to deep crimson, and the beer should be clear.  As far as yeast goes, you’ll want to use a pretty clean fermenting yeast, but some esters are acceptable and in my opinion lend a nice subtle fruity characteristic, but make sure not to overdo it as the beer should still be pretty clean.  The style BJCP style guide says some buttery diacetyl character is ok in this style, but I’m not a fan, and that was my cheif complaint using the Wyeast Irish Ale in this recipe last year.  I found the buttery taste to be distracting from the other elements of the brew.  Most importantly, this beer should be a good easy drinking pub ale!

I was mostly satisfied with last years version, though there were several areas for improvement.  As stated above, I used Wyeast Irish Ale in last years version, and I wasn’t a fan of the buttery flavor it left, even fermented in the mid 60’s.  Now, this was my fault since it even says on the package that the buttery flavor is a feature of this yeast, but I didn’t realize just what the finish product would be like.  I’m sure that yeast would be good in a stout, but I decided to go with something cleaner for a red.  I decided to use one of my favorites, WLP 007 Dry English Ale.  When fermented in the low to mid 60’s, its a clean yeast, but gives just a bit more yeast character than something like Chico American ale yeast.  Plus it clears pretty quick, and clarity is important to this style.  To keep things simple, I cut Vienna malt and Fuggle hops from last years recipe, as well as dialing back on the crystal.  I also wanted to lower the ABV into the upper 4% area.  What I ended up with was a simple recipe that should highlight the best features of the style: an easy drinking ale made with good European base malt, mild English hops, and a nice deep red color produced by a small amount of Roasted Barely.

The brew day was pretty easy.  I started mashing this batch while I was chilling my batch of White Death DIPA that I brewed first.  I mashed at 154 for an hour, sparged, and then boiled.  It was nice not having a ton of hop matter to filter out of this thing going into the fermenter, especially after hovering over the carboy and scooping hops from a strainer for a half hour with my DIPA.  This was just a nice simple batch to brew compared to some of the big hoppy brews I’d done recently.  I took my hydrometer sample after I’d chilled the beer, and I came in a bit high at 1.054.  I noticed my volume was a little low in the fermenter, so I added another quart of water to get me where I wanted to be at 1.049 OG.  The hydrometer sample was decently clear, and it already had a nice flavor to it, so I actually have pretty high hopes for this one, and I anticipate it’ll be an improvement over last years.

My water profile for this beer was:

Ca+2    Mg+2    Na+    Cl-     SO4-2
79.5      0.0        0.0     89.6    69.1

Recipe Specifications
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Batch Size (fermenter): 2.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.049 SG
Estimated FG: 1.013 FG
Estimated Color: 17.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 25.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
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Amt Name Type # %/IBU
4 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) Grain 1 91.4 %
4.0 oz Caramel Malt – 40L (Briess) (40.0 SRM) Grain 2 5.7 %
2.0 oz Roasted Barley (Simpsons) (550.0 SRM) Grain 3 2.9 %

0.50 oz East Kent Goldings (EKG) [5.00 %] – Boil Hop 4 20.8 IBUs
0.25 oz East Kent Goldings (EKG) [5.00 %] – Boil Hop 6 5.1 IBUs

1.0 pkg Dry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007) [35 Yeast 7 –

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 4 lbs 6.0 oz
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Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 5.47 qt of water at 165.9 F 154.0 F 60 min

Bottling Update on 01/23/15:  Bottled this one up today, and the beer came in at 1.009.  That’s a bit drier than I’d have liked, but the hydro sample still tasted really good.  Hopefully the beer will still have some body to it when its carbbed.

Tasting Update 02/16/15:  Sorry it took me so long to get around to tasting notes, but the time has given me a chance to have a few of these to form a solid opinion of the beer.

Appearance:  This ale pours a very deep crimson color with an off white head that dissipates quickly, but clings nicely to the edges of the glass.  The beer is very clear when viewed with light behind it.  The color is probably the only thing I’d change, it just turned out a bit too dark.  If not viewed in a bright room with some light behind it, this beer almost looks like a stout.  The good thing is the color, while dark, is a beautiful crimson color.  My concern when trying to brew reds is to get that actual red color, and not copper or brown.  Just a touch less roasted barley should do the trick for next time.

Smell:  This beer has a sweet malty aroma, almost like sticking your nose in a loaf of freshly baked bread.  There’s a hint of floral hop aroma, and just a hint of fruity yeast esters, but the aroma is pretty malt forward.

Taste:  There’s a nice mild bitterness that is the first thing that presents itself, but that is immediately  followed by a bread and biscuit like malt sweetness.  There’s also some toffee and caramel notes too, but this had a very nice bread like flavor from the Maris Otter.  There’s little in the way of hop flavor here, just a bit of floral and spice notes to keep the beer from being too sweet.  There’s a very subtle ester fruitiness from the English yeast.

Mouthfeel:  The carbonation on this one is on the light side of medium, as is the body.  This beer is fairly smooth and very drinkable, it would be easy to put a few of these away in short order.

Overall:  I’m very happy with this beer, it turned out just about perfect for what I wanted it to be.  I’d prefer it was just a bit lighter, but the aroma and flavor are spot on for the style.  This beer certainly won’t blow anyone away since Irish Reds aren’t the biggest or boldest beers in terms of flavor, but this beer will go great with corned beer and cabbage, or a night of drinking without wanting to get hammered, and that’s the goal.  Next time I’ll dial back the roasted barely just a bit, and that’s about it!

Final Beer Stats:

Measured OG: 1.049
Measured FG: 1.009
SRM: 17.5
IBU: 26
ABV: 5.2%