Sunday, April 16, 2017

Scottish 80 Shilling Ale 1.0

Photo of the bourbon-oaked version
Unlike a lot of craft brew fans, I'm not terribly fond of hop-forward styles. I'd much rather have a Belgian Trappist ale or a good German lager than an IPA, American Pale Ale, or "Imperial" something-or-other. One of the beer styles I really enjoy is the Scottish Ale, though until today I hadn't brewed one.

I began by searching out a recipe that had won an award at the national level. Then, I considered that recipe in terms of my own tastes and the ingredients I had on hand. For example, I had only an ounce of East Kent Goldings (EKG) hops pellets on hand. This wasn't enough to bitter the beer, so I investigated other hops varieties that are suited to Scottish Ales and went with Magnum hops for bittering. I would use the EKG for flavor and aroma so that the beer would remain true to style. I also wanted some Cara-Pils in there for a nice head. Here's how that brewing session went...

Ingredients

9 pounds Maris Otter Malt
10 ounces Munich (Light) Malt
10 ounces Cara-Pils Malt
9 ounces Honey Malt
5 ounces Roasted Barley
0.50 ounces Magnum hops pellets @ 12.7% AA
1.00 ounces East Kent Goldings pellets @ 5.7% AA
1 Whirlfloc tablet
1/2 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1 packet White Labs Edinburgh Scottish Ale Yeast
1 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
2 Campden Tablets

I had originally estimated this to be a 5.9 gallon batch at 80% Brew House Efficiency in BeerSmith. My actual volume came out at 5.9 gallons but my efficiency was actually 87.7% for this batch, so the figures below represent the finished beer rather than the original estimate:

  • Batch Size: 5.9 gallons
  • Brew House Efficency: 87.7%
  • Boil time: 60 minutes
  • Estimated pre-boil volume: 7.3 gallons
  • Estimated Mash Efficiency: 87.1%
  • Estimated Original Gravity: 1.059 SG or 14.5 Brix
  • IBUs: 24.3
  • Color: 16.3 SRM
  • Estimated ABV: 5.3%
  • Total Grains: 11.13 pounds
  • Total Hops: 1.5 ounces
  • Bitterness Ratio: 0.411 IBU/SG
  • Estimated Pre-boil Gravity: 1.052 SG or 12.9 Brix (actual was 13.3 Brix)

All the grain, whether pre-crushed or not, was run through my Cereal Killer mill to ensure a proper and somewhat consistent crush.

The Mash

Per the formula for The Grainfather and my own experience with the system, I calculated that I would need 4.5 gallons of mash water and 3.75 gallons of sparge water to produce a 6-galllon finished volume of beer. I put 4.5 gallons in The Grainfather kettle and dropped in a Campden Tablet to remove chlorine and chloramine. I also put one in the sparge water kettle and filled it.

A 90-minute mash at 157F was performed with the grain bill, followed by a 10-minute mash out at 167F. The sparge water was heated to 167F and the grain batch sparged into the kettle.

Post-sparge the the kettle contained just over 7 gallons of wort. I added some water to top it off at the needed 7.3 gallon mark my calculations called for. 

The color looks good to me. I wanted a slight reddish hue
I stirred the wort well and took two or three gravity readings with a refractometer. All three readings came up at 13.1 Brix, versus the expected 11.7 Brix. Clearly I've become more efficient at mashing than I've been in the past.

The Boil

A 60-minute boil began. Due to the large wort volume, it took The Grainfather quite a while to get up to the boil. Once there, I stirred it to keep ahead of the foam until the foaming stopped. I then began the 60-minute countdown.
  • 60 minutes: Add Magnum hops pellets
  • 15 minutes: Add Whirlfloc tablet and whirlpool the kettle for a couple of minutes
  • 10 minutes: Add the East Kent Goldings and Yeast Nutrient. Start recirculating wort through the counter flow chiller to sterilize it.
  • 0 minutes: Switch off the heat, switch off the pump, and run cold water through the counter flow chiller to cool it down. Then move the output hose to the sanitized fermenter and pump the wort into the fermenter.
Owing to the efficiency of the chiller and the temperature of our cold water supply, wort entered the fermenter at 64.9F, right at the low end of the yeast's optimal range. I pitched the yeast and a vial of White Labs Clarity Ferm and sealed the fermenter.

Fermenter Volume a little below 6 gallons

The Fermentation

Using my Inkbird temperature controller, I programmed the following temperature settings:
  • Days 1-2: 66F
  • Days 3-4: 67F
  • Days 5-6: 68F
  • Days 7-8: 69F
  • Days 9+: 70F
This gradual climb should allow the yeast to finish out fermentation well without stressing it unnecessarily. I attached a fermwrap fermentation heater to the fermenter and plugged it into the Inkbird controller's heat port.

After primary fermentation is complete, I plan to transfer the beer to a clean and sanitized secondary fermenter and pitch in some gelatin to clarify the beer some more. I'm hoping to enter this brew in a competition and want it to look and taste its best.


Post-Mortem and Other Notes

Lately, I've noticed that my brewhouse efficiency has been pretty inconsistent. FOr my last four brews, it's been:
  • Boardwalk Belgian Quad 2.0: 74..7%
  • Mandarina Blonde Ale 1.0: 83.0%
  • Australian Sparkling Ale 1.0: 80.0%
  • Scottish 80 Shilling Ale (this brew): 87.7%
I'm still tracking down the issue, but I have a few "suspects" to consider:
  • Grain Crush - For the Quad, the grain bill consisted mostly of a malt I crushed myself. Later, I discoverer that my mill had a larger gap between the rollers than it should have had, so I adjusted that for the other three batches and efficiency improved.
  • Mash Thickness - The Quad had a thicker mash and the largest grain bill of all. 
  • Grainfather Efficiency - I've heard that The Grainfather delivers greater efficiency for grain bills of a certain size, and lower efficiency above and below that. 
Lately I've been keeping stats on the grain bill in pounds, the brew house efficiency of the finished wort as calculated by BeerSmith, mash time, and mash thickness. There hasn't been much correlation so far, but I'm hoping to find out what's causing it in time. My primary suspect at this point is the grain crush. The batches I've made since adjusting the mill have been more efficient.

April 24: The ale has been fermenting now for approximately nine days. The airlock activity has been relatively mild and slow compared to other yeasts I've used. Despite the fermenter being more full than I often have it, there has been no blow-off through the airlock and no unexpected mess as there was with the Australian ale yeast I recently used. The temperature control system has not needed to cool the beer at all, Although I am very interested to see how this one is coming along, I've resisted the urge so far. Given how "slow and steady" this fermentation has been, I am hesitant to do anything to interrupt or interfere with it.

May 10:  The beer has been moved to two secondary fermenters. One is being treated with oak chips soaked in bourbon, to give me about 2.5 gallons of a bourbon barrel Scottish Ale. The other half is untreated and being allowed to brighten up a bit before bottling. When I tasted some of the bourbon barrel portion last night, it had a nice bourbon flavor but had not picked up much of the oak flavor yet. My plan is to taste a small sample each night until I'm happy with the oaky notes.  Then I'll bottle the beer.  The untreated beer will probably be bottled first.

May 12: The 2.4 gallons treated with oak and bourbon achieved the subtle flavor I was hoping for, so I bottled that portion of the batch with carbonation drops since I was in a hurry.

May 13: The 3 gallons not treated with oak and bourbon were bottled with corn sugar today. Both versions were labeled and placed in my 76F "hot box" to accelerate carbonation. I should have tasting information as soon as next weekend.

May 22:  The beer has been bottled for about a week now. It's very mildly carbonated at this point. If poured hard enough, it generates a nice beige head that lasts a little while. The aroma is a nice balance of malt and hops, as is the flavor.  The BJCP style guidelines say the aroma should be one of low to medium maltiness, with earthy hops aroma, which I get from it.  Hops flavor is low, as the guidelines suggest, and there is a malty flavor to the beer.  It seems like a good representative of the style.

June 10:  I received the comments from the judges at the state fair today. They weren't too impressed with it, which was disappointing, but did provide good feedback.

The first judge's comments were:

  • Aroma: Hop floral aroma with buttery diacetyl and biscuits. Score: 8/12
  • Appearance: Light orange yellow, dense and sturdy white-tan head. Score: 2/3
  • Flavor: Unidimensional malt finishes dry with biscuit crispness. No hop flavor or bitterness perceived. Score 11/20
  • Mouthfeel: Moderate body and moderate carbonation. Smooth, easy drinking, and grainy. Score: 4/5
  • Overall Impression: Very good beer. Seems to lack complexity with malt profile. Consider adding some crystal malts to add more malt dimension. Score: 6/10
  • Total: 31/50
The second judge's comments:
  • Aroma: English hop aroma that is floral. Some fruity esters. Caramel malt. No Yeast. No grain. Score 5/12
  • Apperance: Very clear amber with oily dark ?? head and continuing bubbles in cup. Score: 3/3
  • Flavor: Metallic/vegetal flavor, malt that is neutral, malt flavor is one-dimensional, hop bitterness balances the malt. Score: 8/20
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body, medium carbonation. Finish is thin malt (not bitter). Score: 3/5
  • Overall Impression: Very nice looking beer with good aroma and no faults. Style requires much more malt presence and complexity. May be over attenuated or mash was not at high enough temp. Try other yeast to reduce attenuation. Score: 4/10
  • Total: 23/50
Seeing that this was the first time I've ever tried to brew a Scottish Ale, I'm not surprised that the comments and ratings were relatively low.

Next Time

The next time I brew this beer, I plan to make the following changes:

  • Add a grain that intensifies the malt aroma
  • Add 1-2 Caramel/Crystal malt varieties to improve malt flavor and complexity, possibly some Caramel 40L, switching to Munich Dark instead of light, and a touch of chocolate malt
  • Shift the hops additions more toward the bittering addition and less toward flavor/aroma, to shift the aroma and flavor back more toward the malt
  • Increase the mash temperature to add body
  • Change to a less attenuative yeast

This would address the comments I received from the judges as best I can.

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