Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tasting Notes: Andy & Juli's Weddingfest (Octoberfest-style ale)

This is a special surprise beer I made as a wedding gift for my cousin and brewing partner Andy and his lovely new wife Juli. On the oft chance he might read the blog or see it on Facebook, I did not write a brewday post for this beer.

The Weddingfest was a 2 gallon BIAB batch, which was my attempt to brew as close to an Octoberfest as I could without the time or ability to let the beer ferment at lager temperatures (high 40s-low 50s F). Octoberfest is also known as Marzen, which is the German word for March. The beer was traditionally brewed in March, clean lager yeast was used, the beer was then lagered (lager is the German word for store) in caves at cool temperatures during the summer, and then served in the fall.

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To get as close as I could to making a lager-like ale, I used German Kolsch yeast which is fairly clean save for a subtle sulfur flavor. Northern Brewer just came out with their Lederhosen Limited Edition Hoptoberfest Recipe Kit which follows a similar concept. The grist was roughly equal parts Pilsner, Vienna, and Munich malt. I know Andy found Samuel Adams Octoberfest to be overly malty and cloying, so I was going for a more balanced malt profile along the lines of Paulaner Ockoberfest. I kept my 2 gallon fermenter in a cooler with ice water to try and ferment the beer at as cool of a temperature as possible. To save time on bottling day I used Munton's Carb Tabs instead of a priming sugar solution. Here is the beer description I put on Untappd:
The groom always wanted to brew a commemorative wedding beer. For a fall wedding, an Oktoberfest or Marzen was the only logical choice for a style. The groom was overwhelmed with the logistics of a wedding beer. During the planning and buildup to the big day, when would he have time to brew? When would the beer be served? The night before? Would it be allowed in the reception hall? The bride certainly would want to partake, so the bachelor party was never an option.
To the rescue came the groom's cousin and brewing partner. This "Alt-Oberfest" was brewed to be as close to the classic German lager style as time and resources would allow. Inspired by traditional examples of the style, Andy & Juli's Weddingfest is malty, complex and more balanced than some American examples.

If I had done an iota of research on the product ahead of time I never would have purchased the carb tabs. After a little over two weeks of conditioning there were particles floating around in what was a previously clear beer on bottling day. The beer did have a nice persistent head. There was malt sweetness up front which the beer should have, but the finish was dry and sulfury. I am not sure if the beer spent too much time in the primary fermenter on top of the yeast that had floccuated and crashed the the bottom of the fermenter. Despite using the swamp cooler may have fermented at too high of a temperature. The re-used yeast may well have been old and mutated. Since I was using kolsch yeast I probably should have cold conditioned the beer after primary fermentation. If I were to do an "alt-oberbest" like this again I would certainly do that, or use a more forgiving yeast like Nottingham. When I have the ability to ferment at lager temperatures again the first two beers I think I will do are an Octoberfest and a Bock.

My girlfriend enjoyed the beer more than I did. I had a hard time finishing it and dumped the last couple sips. We saved one bottle and gave the rest to the newly weds. With homebrew, beer from the same batch can vary from bottle to bottle when it is bottle conditioned. Hopefully the beer will improve with a bit of age, and/or the gifted bottles come out better than ours.

Learn to make your own beer from The Would-be Brewmaster on Learn to Homebrew Day, November 1st!

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