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September 3, 2005

Rye not make some mead?

It's been a while since there was a brewing session at Biergotter West (JayW's place in Windsor). Our last brew day in Windsor was dedicated to fruit beers and the results were fantastic. The pineapple ale was a big hit, the apple ale was nicely balanced, and the raspberry porter was quite tart and tasty.

Anyhow, JayW and I (JayC) had been throwing around the idea of doing rye beers for a while. We even tried a couple of times in the past, but the flaked rye that we used previously just didn't give us the result we were looking for. On a previous trip over to Kuhnhenn, we got a look in the attached BOP and HBS shop and saw a giant tub of malted rye, exactly what we needed.

We found a weekend that would work for both of us (Labour Day weekend) and started making plans. I had just picked up Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher (great book) and gotten the idea of trying a parti-gyle batch to get a small volume of high gravity beer and large volume of lower gravity beer. Seemed like a good idea, since we'd only need to mash/sparge once and get beer for both of us. The recipe we formulated called for a lot of rye, about 20% of the grist. We had also been planning to make mead at some point, so this seemed like as good a time as any.

So I packed up the car and headed down to Windsor on Friday. On the way, I stopped in at an apiary just north of Leamington and grabbed a bucket full of fresh clover honey. Smelled great. Brew day was Saturday, but unfortunately that was our first opportunity to go to the HBS shop. We headed out in the morning to cross the border and grab supplies. The shop attached to Kuhnhenn was spectacular. They had everything we needed at the best prices we've ever found. Tons of malt and hops, a wide variety of yeast, all tasting and smelling fresh (or at least stored well). The staff was helpful and steered us clear of some needless worry when dealing with rye (rice hulls are often suggested to avoid a stuck run-off, but when he heard our method, he said we didn't need to worry).

We left the shop with everything we needed for the day's brewing, as well as hops and yeast for a future Toronto brew day, and headed next door for a pint. After all the shopping, we deserved it, and Kuhnhenn never disappoints. Except for today when they had no beer bottled for off-premise sale. Oh well. So we headed up the street and grabbed a couple six-packs of Michigan micros.

Anyways, we got back to Windsor and started crushing grain (sorry, no pictures). This took a while, so we didn't get the mash started until almost 4pm. Crap, it was going to be a long day. Mashing was going well, but at the end of the saccharification rest the wort didn't taste quite as sweet as it should. An iodine test confirmed that it wasn't quite done, so we heated it up again and let it sit for another 30 minutes. That was all it needed, so it was time to start sparging.

Meanwhile, we pasteurized the honey to prepare the mead, two 5 gallon batches (a still and a sparkling if everything works out). It really didn't take long and as the honey/water mixture heated, it gave us a chance to skim coagulated proteins off the top. These went in the carboys, yeast nutrient was added, and yeast was pitched later in the day.

Back to the beer. So we pulled off about 4 gallons of wort for the barleywine and then continued collecting for the rye beer. We nearly hit gravity on the barleywine (only had to add 1/2# of DME) and overshot on the rye beer. Not bad for a first attempt at the parti-gyle method. Things went quite smoothly from here, but it was getting quite late. By the time the beer was boiled, cooled, and put into carboys, it was after 11pm. We took a short break to run downtown to Phog Lounge and then returned to oxygenate and pitch the yeast. There was no time for a starter, since the yeast was purchased earlier in the day, but we've had good results before with White Labs yeast in this situation. There was a little clean-up at this point, but not much. I think we gave up at about 2am.

The next morning we finished cleaning the garage and packed up the car, and then I headed back to Toronto. From JayW's updates, it sounds like fermentation was quite vigourous. It was a fun day of brewing, using new methods and new ingredients. What kind of insanity will be next? IPA/DIPA combo...

Posted by beerbaron at September 3, 2005 10:12 AM

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