So, after two years of brewing I decided to step it up a notch and brew a big beer. Today’s beer is a Black IPA! For those who are unfamiliar with this style, wikipedia refers to it as follows:“The American-Style Black Ale (Black IPA, Cascadian Black Ale) is a relatively new variant of IPA, with a characteristically dark or black appearance, due to roasted malts, while retaining the hop aroma typical of the IPA style.”
This would be my biggest beer yet on all fronts; from grain bill to ABV%. The grain bill was comprised of three different grains totaling 17.25 pounds. I would be boiling this beer for 90 minutes, which would mean a larger boil volume. This beer will finish off at 8.5% ABV; by far my largest beer to date. I’m ready, let’s get this batch going.
I had prepared a starter two days in advance since I knew there would be a lot of fermentable sugars in the wort. The last thing I wanted was to under pitch my yeast and not ferment this batch properly. The starter took off and within a few hours we were bubbling away. So far so good… Now, how would the good luck continue into the brew day?
After getting my station setup, leveling the stand, heating up the specified amount of strike water, and pouring a beer it was time to get this show going! I hit the strike temp dead on the money and drained the water into the mash tun. After heating up the tun for a few minutes, it was time to mash in the 17.25 pounds of grain!!! We doughed in and stirred it up pretty well, making sure we didn’t have any dough balls in the mash. A few minutes later, I double checked my temperature. I was, once again, right at the temp I needed to be. So far, so good; hell, it was great!
Well, we were mashing at the right temp so it was time for beer number two! This batch called for a 60 minute mash. During this time we ordered some grub, chatted about brewing different beer styles, and some of our favorite brews.
Ok, time to drain the mash tun and start filling up the brew kettle. I use a stainless steel braid to filter out the grain particles and normally I can achieve clear wort within a few minutes. It looked clear, so it was time to dump those first runnings back into the mash tun and start filling the kettle. Right away, I noticed something was not right since I saw a few grain particles… What the heck, my day was perfect up till now! So, I dumped the wort back into the mash tun and started over. This time it was clear, but little did I know we had an “issue” deep inside that 154 degree mash!
I needed to collect close to 7.5 gallons of wort so my 90 minute boil time would net a touch over 5 gallons in the fermenter. The sparging process was going to take a bit longer than normal to get this thing full. However, it took a little longer than I expected due to my unknown issue (well, unknown at this point in the day).
Check out how dark this batch looks in the kettle, hence the ‘black’ in the Black IPA. As you can see from the picture at left, I do not have a lot of room for error in the boil… and I’m not even at full volume. For the record, that indented lip is 7.5 gallons. Could a boilover be immanent? I will need to watch this one super close.
Well, we have this BIPA boiling and the three ounces of hops (that’s right, three ounces) are added. I had to keep a constant eye on this boil for the first 30 minutes. After the 30, a little had evaporated so I was ok to step away. But, during that first 30 we had a breach! A little foam slipped over the edge. I’m not going to classify this as a “boilover” just yet. It’s more like a time for the foam to peek over the side just to see what life’s like outside that kettle.
We added two more ounces of hops at the 5 minute mark. That’s a total of 5 ounces in this beer…and we’re not done! I have two more ounces to add once I move it to the secondary! My Oatmeal Stout only has two ounces, total.
After I measured the gravity of this wort and hitting my mark (using the refractometer), it was time to chill this wort down to pitching temperature. I still need to work on this part of my day as gravity can be a little thorn in my side. It took about 15 minutes to get this batch in the fermenter and ready to pitch. There isn’t much of a drop between the valve on my brew kettle and the top of the fermenting bucket.
A few weeks back I installed a dip tube into my brew kettle to get all of the wort out. I’ve modified the tube a little so it sits closer to the bottom of the kettle. After I siphoned all of the wort out, I was left with the trub and tiny bit of wort. This was a good addition to the kettle and I recommend it to anyone who is tired of dumping the trub and all into the fermenter.
Remember my “issue” in the mash tun I referred to earlier? While doughing in, the steel braid was knocked off of its valve connection. Of course, I didn’t realize this when sparging or during the mashing process. I at first thought I had a stuck sparge when it didn’t drain as it normally does. However, when I went to clean out the mash tun, I dumped out my spent grains and the braid fell out with the grains…whoops. I guess I need to address how the braid attaches to the valve.
To recap the day, it was one of the best brew days I’ve ever had! My mash tun “issue” didn’t really have any impact on my brew day other than an increase in sparge time. I was shooting for a 1.085 gravity and ended up with a 1.086! Now, it’s a waiting game.
Till next time,