Monday, April 24, 2017

Brew Day: 'Murica Brewed the Easy Way (Pre-Prohibition Lager)

There is quite a bit of overlap between homebrewers and craft beer lovers. Many craft beer drinkers see macro beer as an existential threat. Personally, I am more ambivalent. I wrote a post about how I would restore Budweiser to relevence a week before AB InBev aired the "Brewed The Hard Way" commercial during the Super Bowl.

After that Super Bowl ad aired last year a coworker jokingly suggested that I should brew a beer "The Hard Way".  I considered brew attempt to brewing a Budweiser-like beer complete with krausening, beech wood (or whatever tasteless wood I could find) aging, and truly brew it the "hard way".  In the end that beer ended up as a would-be brew.

I love lagers and my lack of equipment to control my fermentation temperature is the only reason I don't brew more of them. I still managed to win an award with a lager fermented at room temperature. When I saw my friend from HomebrewCon Marshall's exBEERiment showing a lager brewed with Saflager Lager (W-34/70) that fermented at ale temperatures had no discernable difference between a beer brewed at lager temperatures, that got my wheels spinning. 

As I thought about what I could brew to see what kind of warm-fermented lagers I could make, I wanted to make something more flavorful than Budweiser or another Standard American Lager. The first lager I ever attempted was a beer called Pesky's Pole Pilsner. Under the 2008 BJCP Guidelines it was a Classic American Pilsner, and under the updated 2015 guidelines it would have been a Pre-Prohibition Lager. I attempted this beer only a few short months after I started brewing. I made numerous rookie mistakes and made five gallons of undrinkable beer. This is a style I have wanted to take another crack at!

In almost all of my cream ales or historic American brews, corn had been my adjunct of choice as I really like the flavor contribution it brings. Eamon, my manager at Modern Homebrew Emporium attributes health issues he has experienced to GMO corn and will not drink a beer with corn in it. He does not have that issue with the other American adjunct grain of choice, rice. I wanted to brew something I could share with Eamon, while also using an ingredient I haven't used in several years. I look forward to comparing this beer with some of my other beers I have brewed with corn. 

Compared to corn which adds a noticable sweet flavor, almost like cream corn, at high levels, rice will dry out a beer. If you have ever drank Asahi at a sushi restaurant, the rice used in that beer contributes to the dry finish. In America AB and Coors use vast amounts of rice, while Miller uses corn. 

Now, I could have brewed a beer "the hard way", but some of my recent brew days have been hard enough. I wanted an easy brew! I never brewed the "hard way" lager because I have more beers I want to brew than I have time to brew them. By brewing this beer with extract my brew day is easier and it frees up time to brew other beers I want to brew.

At the shop we sell rice syrup solids,  an extract powder derived from rice. It lightens a beer without contributing color or flavor just like if this was an all-grain batch and I added flaked rice to the mash. I know of one award-wining brewery in Central Mass that uses rice syrup in their Cream Ale. In the spirit of an easy brew, rice syrup solids do not need to be mashed like flaked rice. Rice that isn't pre-gelatatinized like flaked rice require an added step called a cereal mash. 

This recipe is so easy there isn't even any specialty grains I need to steep. I could steep some Carapils if I wanted to give the beer a fresh malt flavor, but the shop turns over a lot of extract and I am confident that the extract I bought is sufficiently fresh. 

My vision is to have an easy-drinking beer where most of the flavor comes from the hops. As a historic beer I want to have some Cluster hop flavor. I don't, but a lot of people think Cluster has a catty flavor. I want to balance the flavor and aroma with floral and spicy Liberty hops. There will also be a small dry hop to help hide any flaws and punch up the hop aroma. 

Color looks decent before pitching.
No starter needed. Used a lager pitching rate
even fermenting at warm temperature.
I pitched two sachets of dry yeast when my wort was at 68F. A couple days later we had an unseasonably warm day and at the height of active fermentation, the fermenter did get up to 74F. Clearly that wasn't ideal, but at this point I am just going to hope for the best.

It's getting to be time to pump the brakes on brewing, and focus
on bottling (and drinking)
Hey! That's not your cat tree!!

I brewed this during a double brew day. Almost all of my fermenters are full. I am going to try to squeeze in two more brews before the weather is too warm to ferment with most American ale yeasts. After that I am going to take a bit of a break from brewing and focus on bottling everything up.

See the full recipe here

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