Brew Day: Strong Scotch Ale (Beer #26)

November 28, 2011 by Jack

Last Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – I brewed a batch of Strong Scotch Ale (or Scottish Wee Heavy if that’s what you like to call it). The recipe was a tweaked version of the one in Brewing Classic Styles. The book builds a beer with an OG of 1.099 which yields an abv of 9.7%. I didn’t want my beer to be that big, so I rolled back the base malt to 16 lbs, shooting for about 1.080 SG or about 7.9% abv. To account for the beer having less malt, I scaled back the hop additions a bit, too. I maintained the same IBU-to-OG ratio from the original recipe. That is, the book calls for 28 IBUs in a 1.099 beer. 28 divided by 1.099 gives 25.477, which I multiplied by my target OG of 1.083 to tell me I needed about 27.5 IBUs. Not a huge adjustment – especially given the inherent uncertainty in IBU calculations – but I felt it was good to take it into account.

Now my last few beers have all suffered in mash efficiency. After racking my brain to try to come up with a solution, I settled on the crush of the grain as being the most likely suspect. For the past few batches the pre-crushed grain I ordered has come in very poorly crushed with nearly half the kernels being un-cracked. For this beer I paid closer attention to it. The grain arrived and sure enough it was barely crushed. Barely crushed barley. Get it? Meh. I don’t have to entertain you. Anyway, I knew I needed to crush this grain better before mashing it. I was dreading the thought of doing a pound at a time in a zip-top bag with a rolling pin when it dawned on me – I have a grape crusher. Maybe I could get the rollers close enough to crush this grain just a little better. I looked online; the Internet in all its wisdom told me it wouldn’t work. So I tried it with a pound of grain. It worked reasonably well. I dumped in the full 18 pounds of grain and cranked the handle. It was hard work and made a lot of dust, but at the end I had grain that looked more like it used to in past orders. And when the mash was completed I hit my target OG. I wouldn’t recommend crushing grain in a grape crusher, but it worked for me in a pinch.

With the grain crushed, I adjusted my water with salts to mimic the water in Edinburgh (according to Bru’n Water) and mashed away.

First runnings. Check out that awesome Scottish color:

The rest of the brew day went smoothly and the beer was happily fermenting a few hours later.

That’s not a bandage on the carboy; it’s how I’m insulating the HVAC controller’s temperature probe to get it to measure the beer’s temperature and not ambient temperature. It’s not perfect, but it’s working OK.

It turns out that WYeast 1728 isn’t much of a foamer. The blow-off tube wasn’t necessary for this one. Not even close. The krausen only grew to about 2″ and now it’s falling as fermentation finishes up. I’m kind of surprised that fermentation is slowing after just three days at 65F. Maybe it’s actually going hotter than the probe is reading. Or maybe the yeast just went fast. Or maybe it’s stuck. I’ll check the gravity after it really looks to be done. For now I’ll just leave it alone for a while.

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