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Funky Honey Ale 1.0

A few months ago, I purchased a a beer from Strange Roots Experimental Ales that was made with 78% barley and 22% local honey, fermented with a wild local yeast.  Although it was somewhere between a mead and a beer, I found it really tasty.  I tried making my own version, which wasn't bad, but was nothing like theirs.  Today I decided to try my own twist on their beer.

Like the Strange Roots brewery, I'm going to use a 78% Pale Ale malt base with 22% clover honey added late in the boil.  I'll be using Southern Passion hops late in the boil (5 minutes) to give it some interesting tropical fruit notes and flavors.  I'll use The Yeast Bay's Wallonian Farmhouse Ale yeast to ferment it.  That yeast is said to impart a slight funk, slight tartness, and some spicy/smoky notes.  It's also a diastatic yeast, so it should have no problem chewing through all the malt I'll be using.  

Ingredients

8 pounds and 10 ounces of Viking Pale Ale malt
2 pounds and 7 ounces of Clover Honey (10 minutes)
1/2 tsp. Fermaid K yeast nutrient (15 minutes)
1/2 Whirlfloc tablet (15 minutes)
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B (20 minutes)
1 package Yeast Bay WLP4020 Wallonian Farmhouse Ale yeast
3.75 gallons of mash water (mix of RO and Dublin Ohio tap)
1.00 gallons of sparge water (RO, untreated)

The beer should have the following characteristics:
  • Batch Size:  2.5 gallons estimated (2.3 actual)
  • Original Gravity:  1.110 SG expected (1.093 SG actual)
  • Pre-boil Gravity:  1.065 SG expected
  • Final Gravity:  1.007 SG expected
  • ABV:  15%
  • IBUs:  31
  • Color: 7.4 SRM
  • Fermenter:  Spock
  • Bottling Wand:  n/a
  • Carbonation Method: n/a
Mash schedule:
  • Heat water to 95F and begin adding the Pale Ale malt as it continues to heat to 140F
  • Mash at 140F for 75 minutes (I ended up mashing for about 90-120 minutes in total)
  • Mash out at 169F for 10 minutes
Boil schedule:
  • 60 minutes: Add honey
  • 20 minutes: Brewtan B
  • 15 minutes: Whirlfloc, Yeast Nutrient
  • 6 minutes:  Southern Passion hops
  • 0 minutes:  Chill to 72-80F
Fermentation Plan:
  • Pitch yeast with wort between 72-80F
  • Allow beer to free-ferment in 68-70F basement
  • If the yeast appears to be stalling, add champagne yeast or wine yeast to help it continue to ferment out the remaining sugars.  I don't expect that to happen, since the yeast is known to be a major attenuator given its diastatic ability.
  • If gravity is unchanged for at least 7 days, consider cold-crashing, fining, and bottling.
Post-Brew Notes and Observations

07/19/2020:  One reason I decided to brew this beer was that I had been trying to adjust the grain crush in my motorized mill.  The Grainfather staff seemed to think that that my recent low efficiency was due to an improper grain crush.  In trying to adjust the crush, I crushed quite a bit of Pale Ale malt.  In the end, I could not get the mill gapped satisfactorily, so I gapped my old manual two-roller mill and used that to crush the grain for this batch to see if it helped.  I also increased the mash time and lowed the temperature to get a very fermentable wort out of it.  Given the arthritis in my joints, that crushing activity was quite painful.

The pre-boil volume was much higher than anticipated (3.6 gallons, approx.), and I had to increase the boil time significantly to get rid of the excess water.  After a bit more than an hour of boiling, the wort volume had dropped to about 3.2 gallons, which was what I had wanted to find at the start of the boil. By then, however, it was late.  I covered the kettle and stopped the boil, planning to pick up tomorrow.

07/20/2020:  The boil was restarted.  The Grainfather fairly quickly got back up to a boil once restarted.  Gravity reported by the Tilt Hydrometer was a disappointing 1.093 SG, backed up by the refractometer.  Given the long boil, I'd say the color is considerably darker than 7.4 SRM, too.  I really need to figure out why The Grainfather's efficiency has nose-dived since I last used it regularly.  It was pretty common for me to get 77-85% brew house efficiency back then.  Now I'm doing well to get 60%.  I know the smaller batch sizes are part of that, but it seems like more is going on...

07/21/2020:  The gravity started dropping fairly soon after the yeast was pitched.  It's reading 1.074 SG on the Tilt right now.

07/22/2020:  The gravity is 1.046 SG, temp is 69F.

07/23/2020:  Gravity is reading 1.045 SG today, so it appears the yeast is slowing down.  That surprises me since it's a high attenuator (81-100% according to The Yeast Bay), and is a diastatic yeast which can break down complex malt sugars for consumption.  I guess we'll see where things are tomorrow and whether I need to dose it with a more alcohol-tolerant strain.

07/24/2020:  Gravity is still dropping but very slowly. I believe the current temp is too cool for the yeast and is slowing it down. I need to warm it up so that it will finish fermenting the beer.  Gravity is reading 1.045 SG today, which it's been reading for several hours (and it still has quite a long way to go before reaching FG).

07/26/2020:  Gravity is 1.039 SG today, with temperature holding steadily at 80F.

07/27/2020:  Gravity is 1.038 SG today, with an occasional blip of 1.037 SG.  Gravity seems to still be dropping.

07/28/2020:  Gravity is 1.036 SG today, which represents an ABV of 8.3%.  The yeast still has a way to go.  If it seems to be stopping, I'll dose it with some champagne yeast to get it to finish out.

07/30/2020: Gravity is 1.034 SG today (ABV 8.6%).

08/02/2020:  Pitched a package of CBC-1 bottle conditioning yeast today, and dosed the beer with some additional oxygen. I hope to add a little yeast nutrient later, too.  Gravity was reading 1.032 SG later in the day.

08/05/2020:  Gravity is down to 1.031 SG today, so the oxygen and CBC-1 hopefully have helped keep the fermentation on track.  Brewfather estimates that the beer is currently at 9.0% ABV.

08/08/2020:  Gravity is now 1.028 SG with an estimated ABV of 9.4%.  Gravity seems to be dropping a point about every 24 hours.

08/15/2020: The yeast blend is continuing to do its job.  Gravity is now 1.023 SG, representing approximately 9.9% ABV.  About every 24 hours I see another 1-point drop in gravity.

08/18/2020:  The gravity is down to 1.022 SG (10.2% ABV).

09/13/2020:  The gravity is down to 1.014 SG (11.3% ABV).  It's only been at this gravity for about three days so I am going to let it continue fermenting before bottling.

10//02/2020:  Gravity has dropped to 1.012 SG (11.5% ABV).  It seems to go about 7-10 days before dropping another notch, so as long as this continues I'll keep it fermenting.

10/23/2020:  After tasting this beer prior to bottling, it became clear that the stopper must not have been on as solidly as I believed it was. It was pretty oxidized, so I have decided to dump it rather than try to salvage it.

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