Brew 7: Bock & Witbier

As a beer aficionado, so far I have tended towards the British, Belgian and American ales (india pale ales, abbey ales, stouts, browns, etc.). The only German exceptions to this has really been the hefeweizen which is very pleasant in the summer and the bock (or doppelbock) which I rarely buy, but always enjoy.

So, in order to expand my skills and taste, I attempt the witbier - a lighter, more floral ale and my first lager style - a traditional bock. Lagers are trickier because they require 4 weeks and a 10ºC atmosphere to ferment. Fortunately, I have such an atmosphere wherein to ferment: an empty, unused fridge in the laundry/furnace/brewing room. Alex has lent me his temperature controller:

I decided that since I plan to brew semi-regularly for the next few years, it is probably time I gathered my own equipment. There is something responsible about sharing equipment, but it's quite a hassle to drive across the city and borrow gear when Alex isn't using it. Amber and I went out one night last week and we picked up a 28.5L turkey fryer at Canadian Tire, copper tubing at RONA, and a 45L cooler at Target (which is liquidating their inventory - first time I ever went in there actually!). I picked up some incidental parts at RONA as I assembled things.

As a result I have a mash tun made of a cooler with a 1/2" hole cut at the base of one end where a copper pipe manifold fits into it from the outside and where a plastic hose fits on the outside. I couldn't manage to find the proper fittings for a valve, so I just use gravity to ensure I don't spill my wort. It barely leaks. ;)

My new turkey fryer serves as the kettle where I boil the sweet wort collected from my mash tun. I use a copper pipe coil as my wort chiller at the end of the boil to bring the temperature down quickly. One end connects to the garden hose tap outside and the other end drains into a bucket.

My chiller is pretty wimpy, but it still cools at a rate of 4-5ºC/min which is way better than filling the bathtub with ice and cold water and waiting 2-3 hours. Beyond that, I already had 1 primary fermenter, 2 carboys, and all the tubing, manual pump, bottling gear, stoppers, and airlocks.

Wyeast provides a great out for last minute / lazy brewers like me. I don't have time or spare wort to get a little yeast culture going the night before a brew.

My recipes came from Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew. Each brew session (I did one Sunday afternoon and another on Monday morning) takes about 4 hours, the most intensive parts are the cleaning before and after.

I wake up in the night after brewing and I just have to check to see if it has begun fermenting. My one primary fermenter holds my witbier which has a strong citrus aroma. I have an airlock (tube running to a bottle with water so the CO2 can escape without letting unsavory elements in) on my bock, so I have no idea how it smells. But it's doing the bloop bloop thing very nicely in the refrigerator.

I should be able to sample these in about 6 weeks - unlike my previous November brew which will not be ready until May.


kevininspace said...

I'm interested to know a little more about the temperature controller. As you know, I'm in an apartment/condo, and my only real option for temperature control is to find a mini-fridge large enough to keep my carboy, then use a temperature controller so that it's not at ambient (20-22C) temperature.

First, am I correct in my assumptions? (I'm assuming that I can't brew at ambient in my closet in my apartment.)
Second, what brand/type of temperature controller is this?
(If this is better suited to e-mail, let me know.) :)

Zaak Robichaud said...

Hey Kevin,

Temperature control isn't really an issue if you're brewing ales (80% of the types of beer you can brew are ales anyway). Ales include all the British, Belgian, Scottish, Flemish, etc. It's really only a bunch of the German styles that require lagering at about 10ºC. Ales brew quite nicely at 20-22ºC, though 18-20ºC is probably more ideal. If things ferment too quickly, you get more of a hot mouthfeel, more alcohol taste. But I don't think you'll get too much of that at 22ºC for most types of ale.

Zaak Robichaud said...

Oh, the temperature controller: 110V All-purpose Digital Temperature Controller STC-1000 with NTC Sensor. You can find it on eBay for under $20. You'll need to add a couple components from your local hardware store.

I strongly suggest brewing some ales before attempting the more sensitive lagers. See if you enjoy brewing before dedicating a mini fridge, temperature controller and corner of your home to it.

Personally, I enjoy most ales over lagers anyway.