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Old 01-26-2009, 05:32 AM   #1
diatonic
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Default Need advice in preparation for first competition

I'm a total homebrew noob... I've only done 5 5 gallon batches since I started brewing again about 4 months ago... the last 2 I started doing all-grain.

Anyhow... while I was at my LHBS store picking up ingredients to do a second batch of Bee Cave Brewery Haus Pale Ale they gave me a flier for a competition that will be held on July 11. The main category for the competition is to do an organic Kölsch (6C)... though they're taking entries for 9 other styles in non-organic varieties.

I'm thinking of brewing the Kölsch, but am afraid if I brew it too soon, perhaps it will not age well. I do have a big chest freezer with external temperature controller that will allow fairly precise control of fermentation and lagering temperatures. Last year the winner of the contest got to have their recipe brewed by a local brew pub and served on tap there and in bottles at a local co-op. Anyhow, I think it would be a good way to get feedback for a beginning brewer.

I plan on brewing it in the next couple of weeks, doing primary fermentation at 55F until it completes, then put it in a 5 gal corney keg and lager at 33F until about 3 weeks before the competition... then force carbonate for 10 days at ideal pressure for style, then fill some bottles with a counter-pressure filler.

Is lagering for 3 months overkill?.. or will it just make for a better beer? Would I be better off to lager for a shorter period and have it in the bottle longer? Should I wait a while longer to start it? This will be my first attempted at a brew that is fermented on the cold side and lagered. I've been reading a bunch over the past couple of days on the style, and am excited to try it.

Any feedback is greatly appreciated!



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Old 01-26-2009, 05:40 AM   #2
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I haven't brewed a Kolsch, but I do pretty much brew every beer as if I'm going to enter it into a competition. Granted some of the brews I do are a little wacky, but there's always cat 23!



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Old 01-26-2009, 06:20 AM   #3
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IMO, the extended lagering won't do any harm at all and may actually improve the beer. I would suggest doing the primary fermentation at 62 F instead of 55 F. A kolsch should have some noticeable fruity esters and the warmer primary fermentation will facilitate their production using a kolsch yeast. Your lagering temp of 33 F is fine. I usually lager my kolsch at 34 F, but that's really splitting hairs and won't make any noticeable difference. You might consider bottling this entire batch the traditional way, not with the counterpressure filler. Let them carbonate naturally and the yeast will scavenge all the available oxygen in the head space theoretically enabling the beer to keep for a longer duration. Once the bottles are fully conditioned and carbonated you can return them to cold storage at lagering temps until the time for entering them in the competition. You could also bottle some of the batch and keg the remainder. Drink the kegged part while you are waiting. I've won gold medals on two occasions with my kolsch entries. It's one of my favorite styles. I don't know what an organic kolsch is. I'm guessing you would use only organically certified malt and hops. How would they know if you didn't comply? Oh yeah, one other thing. Use the best Pilsner malt you can find. I'd recommend using German or Belgian Pilsner malt. I've had good luck with Wyeast 2565 Kolsch yeast. Make up a big starter if you can. Good luck at the competition!

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Old 01-26-2009, 04:00 PM   #4
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Thanks for the info... do you think bottle conditioning is superior to keg conditioning, then transferring to bottles with counter-pressure filler?.. I was hoping to avoid sediment in the bottles, and have more precise control over carbonation level. Was planning on using o2 absorbing caps.

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1° - Simple Cider (2/15/2014)
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Aging in a wine barrel - En Perpetuum—Solera (1/23/2011)
Kegs - May the Schwarz-Bier with you (2/9/2014) — Cream of Three Crops Cream Ale (2/15/2014) — Test Depth American Stout (8/29/2013), Big Red Imperial Red IPA (1/19/2014), Ed Wort's Apfelwein (late 2012)

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Old 01-26-2009, 05:25 PM   #5
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When naturally carbonating (ie with priming sugar) there shouldn't be any difference at all as a keg is really nothing more than one big bottle. I'm not an expert on this topic in any sense. I was thinking you were going to force carb the beer in the keg and there's nothing wrong with that so long as you take care to purge the air thoroughly. I just read somewhere awhile back that bottle conditioned beer is supposed to be more stable and won't get stale as quickly. You should be OK with either method, but I would wait until the last minute if you go with the counter pressure method. Don't be concerned about sediment in the bottles. So long as you don't shake the bottles or handle them roughly the sediment will normally stick to the bottom of the bottle and there usually isn't very much of it as a result of the priming sugar. You will be leaving nearly all of the sediment behind when you rack the beer after the lagering period. If you lager the beer in a keg, then just transfer the beer to another keg at the end of the lagering. What recipe are you planning to use for this kolsch? The best ones have little or no malt other than the Pilsner. I like to add 1/2 lb of wheat malt to enhance head retention. Use very soft water. You can make your own using a 50-50 blend of distilled water and tap water. I also treat this manufactured soft water with 1/2 tsp of Calcium Chloride.

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Old 01-26-2009, 06:56 PM   #6
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I'm albout as experienced as you but would like to throw my 2 cents in.
I have a Kolsch in the kegerator right now. I don't filter, and I have noticed the last 1/3 of the keg (the top 1/3) has much more clarity. I'm not very good at waiting a long time to start drinking though....

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Old 01-26-2009, 07:43 PM   #7
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I was planning on carbonating with forced co2, just because I have the equipment and it seemed like no sediment would be cool. I got the counter-pressure filler with a used co2 setup I bought and it seemed like a cool option. The hefeweizen I did seemed to have uneven carbonation when I added priming sugar solution to bottling bucket - I think I was afraid to stir it too much because I wanted to limit oxygen exposure after fermentation was complete.

I believe the beer has to be submitted 2 weeks before the competition... perhaps I will bottle condition half of the batch and force carbonate the rest, then do a taste test shortly before submission time

I'm looking at 2 recipes. The one I'm leaning toward is this (though I need to adjust for my 70% efficiency). I'm a little concerned about the step mashing at different temps because I'm batch sparging in a Gott cooler. I could play around with steam injection to control temperature.
Black Widow Kolsch (All Grain) 6. It looks like he has won a lot of awards (though I'm sure my lack of experience/skill will affect it).

I'm also considering doing this recipe, though it seems like the Munich might push to the edge of the style guidelines...
http://beerdujour.com/Recipes/Jamil/JamilsKolsch.htm Jamil has won awards with that recipe as well. What do you think?

The competition guidelines for the organic aspect are that 95% of the grains used need to be organic. The shop sponsoring the event have the following organic grains that they sell: Breiss Organic 2-row (US), Breiss Organic Munich (US), and Weyermann Organic Pilsner (Germany). I'm thinking of ordering organic hops and any other necessary grains just for the heck of it, though they aren't requiring organic hops/yeast.

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1° - Simple Cider (2/15/2014)
2° - Nuthin
Aging in a wine barrel - En Perpetuum—Solera (1/23/2011)
Kegs - May the Schwarz-Bier with you (2/9/2014) — Cream of Three Crops Cream Ale (2/15/2014) — Test Depth American Stout (8/29/2013), Big Red Imperial Red IPA (1/19/2014), Ed Wort's Apfelwein (late 2012)

My brew rig is pretty much done :)
You should follow me on Twitter - My Brew Logs


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Old 01-26-2009, 08:16 PM   #8
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The method I use with the priming sugar is to boil a cup or so of water and dissolve the sugar in it. Pour this solution into the bottling bucket first, then rack the beer onto this solution. It will mix pretty well on it's own that way. Give it a good, but gentle swirl with the spoon as insurance. Just avoid splashing. Some oxygen will get into the beer no matter what during the bottling process, but the yeast will quickly consume it all during the conditioning period. That's the beauty of bottle conditioning. The beer should easily stay fresh for the two weeks before the competition. Hopefully they will keep it refrigerated as most organizers do. Allow the beer at least three weeks to bottle condition at room temperature. Two weeks is usually sufficient, but allow the extra week just as a precaution.

IMO, the Black Widow recipe is the best and it brought home the gold for me twice. OTOH, Jamil is a first class brewer and his recipe should also do well. Either would be a good choice, but my track record with the Black Widow makes me stick with it.

I would go with the Weyermann imported Pilner malt. I would suggest just sticking with a single infusion mash since you are batch sparging. My efficiency is also 70% based on the actual volume I wind up with in the fermenter. I'm using a direct fired RIMS system. Regardless of the fantastic efficiency some others claim, the reality is that 70% is actually a pretty good number. Some claim much higher efficiencies, but I don't buy it and it really doesn't matter so long as you know what to expect from your setup.

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Old 01-26-2009, 08:26 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ombre42 View Post
I'm albout as experienced as you but would like to throw my 2 cents in.
I have a Kolsch in the kegerator right now. I don't filter, and I have noticed the last 1/3 of the keg (the top 1/3) has much more clarity. I'm not very good at waiting a long time to start drinking though....
I know it's difficult to wait out the cold conditioning period, but it is worth the wait in the end. Yeast and other stuff suspended in the beer will settle out from the top down during the lagering/cold conditioning period. In a carboy you can observe this and watch it progress. There will be a very definite interface between the clear and the cloudy beer. The top portion will be crystal clear and the bottom cloudy. You'll be able to see the line move down as the conditioning progresses until its entirely clear. I like to shine a flashlight through the carboy to check on the progress. You can really see how the beer is clearing that way.

I always try to have some ales ready to drink while I am waiting for the lagers to condition. Makes it a lot more tolerable.
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Old 01-26-2009, 09:02 PM   #10
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Thanks for the great info... If I use a recipe found online, is it good etiquette to enter it in the competition with that name? i.e. Black Widow Kölsch, or do you give it your own name?



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1° - Simple Cider (2/15/2014)
2° - Nuthin
Aging in a wine barrel - En Perpetuum—Solera (1/23/2011)
Kegs - May the Schwarz-Bier with you (2/9/2014) — Cream of Three Crops Cream Ale (2/15/2014) — Test Depth American Stout (8/29/2013), Big Red Imperial Red IPA (1/19/2014), Ed Wort's Apfelwein (late 2012)

My brew rig is pretty much done :)
You should follow me on Twitter - My Brew Logs

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