Friday, September 2, 2011

Guest Blogger: Oktoberfest Ale Update

by Mike Micalone

It's time for part two of my three part series on Adam and me brewing our Oktoberfest beers. If you missed part one you can check it out here.

Waiting for a beer to ferment can be pretty tedious. If you're too impatient you can end up opening up the fermenter before the beer is fully fermented. Now this isn't the worst thing in the world but my philosophy has always been to open the fermenter's lid a few times as possible so avoid any foreign bodies. After 17 days in the primary fermenters it was time to do some dry hopping (get your mind out of the gutters people, I said drying hopping).

Dry hopping is the process of adding hops to your beer to create a more aromatic beer. Hops that are used early on during the boiling process tend to add to the bitterness of the beer where hops towards the end or even after the boil are just for aroma. Both Adam and I's Oktoberfest recipes called for us to dry hop the beer. This can be done in a number of ways but the way most commonly done is to add the hops to the bottom of a secondary fermenter and siphon the beer directly on top of them.

Before I dry hopped our beers I decided it would be good to grab a gravity reading from each batch to ensure they were fully fermented. Using my (third in a long line of very fragile) hydrometer I found that my beer was sitting at 1.010 for a reading and Adam's was at 1.009. This tells me that all the heavy sugars that were once in the beer when the beer was much denser (a gravity reading of around 1.058 for my beer before it was fermented) had been converted to much less dense alcohol.

After taking the readings I decided to try out the green beer. Green beer is the term used for beer that's been fermented but not conditioned and carbonated. My beer had a lighter, more golden color, a lighter body and slightly bitter taste due to the amount of hops I used. Adam's beer was more of an amber color with a fuller body and a more malty taste than mine. Mine was pretty much crystal clear while Adam's was a little harder to see through. This could have possibly been due to the different colors of the beers or that some of the proteins in the beer have not settled out yet.

Next I prepared the secondary fermenters by sanitizing them and then adding a bed of hops to the bottom. In mine I added 1/2 ounce of Tettnang hops while Adam's called for 1/2 ounce of Hallertauer. I used my auto-siphon and moved the beer for each of the primary fermenters to the secondary ones. I took care not to aerate the beer too much since the beer already has a slight bit of carbonation to it. I also made sure not to pull any of the trub (left over grains, hops and yeast) from the bottom of the fermenters.

If I wanted to I could have saved the yeast from the bottom, washed it and reused it in a batch of beer within the next few weeks. I've done this in the past but decided I didn't have anything that called for German style yeast that I was planning to brew. I inserted the airlocks, closed the lids and tucked the fermenters away for another 7-10 days so they can absorb the aroma from the hops.

Stay tuned for the final part where I talk about bottling and sampling the finished beer!

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