So I did my first AG today, a NB Kolsch I had purchased way back in May. Very busy summer (new baby, basement finish, yada yada yada) so put off brewing until now.
Didn't know where I had left the kit instructions so printed a new set off the NB website the other day. Made my yeast starter (a big one, 4 litres) using Wyeast 2565 last weekend, intended to let it ferment out, chill it, decant most of the beer and pitch the slurry. No problem.
Purchased Beersmith yesterday to give me some help. Entered the grain bill from the instructions I just printed (9 lbs German Pilsner), the equipment I had, hop additions, etc. Was feeling cheeky so chose the "traditional multi-step mash" option instead of the single infusion. Using a 10 gallon AG system from NB (Igloo coolers) so my options for multi-step are boiling water additions or decoction. Chose decoction to get from protein rest at 122 to beta sacch rest at 149, hot water to get to alpha sacch rest at 158, then decoction to get to 170 for mashout. Beersmith gives me precise volumes for all the steps. I figure it's not gonna be easy, but should be doable.
My buddy who's also into brewing comes over to help out. He's brewed at least as much as I have, maybe more, and has done a significant number of extracts. Similar level to me knowledge-wise (not clueless but far from expert) and with the same love of and genuine interest in learning about brewing. Between the two of us we should be able to make this work.
So when he shows up I've pre-warmed the MLT so doughing in should be no problem. I told Beersmith the MLT would be at 72 but I've got it at 131 or something. Strike water goes in a bit over Beersmith's instruction of 129. We nail the 122 protein rest temp and I figure this can't get any easier.
Twenty minutes go by and it's time to head for 149. We're supposed to decoct 4.2 litres of thick mash and boil it. Since I started with 14 litres of water for my 9 lbs of grain instead of the 13.5 I told Beersmith I would use, I decoct maybe 4.5 litres instead. Bring it to a boil, add it to the mash...hmmm. We're at 142. Whatever, I have a kettle going for just this reason so we add some boiling water and hit 149. A little concerned about the mash thickness but I tell myself we will decoct again for the next step instead of adding boiling water like I had planned.
We take a stab in the dark and pick 3 litres to decoct. Takes us up to 152. Not very good. Pull some more mash, re-decoct, and now we're closer. A bit more boiling water to top up and we hit within a degree or two. Close enough, we give it half an hour.
Now we have to decoct enough to get to mashout temp. My brewsheet says decoct 3.72 litres. I figure "enough of this missing temps crap" and go with about five. Still well short of the mark, so we add some more boiling water rather than decocting again. Get close to the 168 range and mashout for ten minutes.
Decide to do a double-batch sparge after reading Bobby M's instructions. First runnings were 3.75 gallons. Even though Beersmith has told me to boil 6.71 gallons I decide on 6.5 because my yeast starter hasn't flocculated very well so I think I will just add most of it. I figure sparge twice with just under 6 litres each time and we'll be close.
Hmmm...pre-boil gravity is 1.050. I'm expecting post-boil of 1.048 or 1.050. I figure I must be the world's most efficient brewer and start thinking about who to thank first in the acknowledgements for my upcoming brewing book. So I'm gonna have a bigger Kolsch than I expected--c'est la vie.
Blichmann burner works like a champ during the boil, I run out of gas in tank 1 and hook up tank 2, which promptly calves out on me (neither tank 1 nor tank 2 has been in much use for a couple of years since we got a natural gas grill) so I steal the neighbour's BBQ tank and proceed after losing my boil for maybe 5 minutes, max. Boil it for something like 65 minutes total, miraculously remember my hop additions and Irish moss, and get it down to around 5 gallons. Immersion chiller, whirlpool, into the primary...hmm. This looks to be nicely under 5 gallons. It was a pretty hard boil so whatever--I still have my very big starter to add, which did get me to five gallons or pretty close. Before adding my starter the OG was 1.060. Like I said, bigger than I expected. I didn't re-take it after the starter was added but hopefully somebody will do the math for me. Mid-to-high ten-fifties?
Clean up was a bit of a chore (now I really, really understand why people say "If you're gonna do five gallon batches, may as well do ten.") but got everything taken care of and put away. Sat down at the computer and thought I would start a thread on my first AG. Vaguely remembered saying something about my Kolsch kit on HBT way back when. So I found the thread.
And I found something really, really interesting in that post:
Originally Posted by osagedr
Am picking up my AG equipment tomorrow and a NB Kolsch kit will be my first AG batch. Grain bill is 9 lbs German Pils and 1 lb Weyermann Pale Wheat.
Now...you may recall from above that the NB instructions for this kit I printed the other day said "9 lbs German Pils." No mention of wheat malt. Sure enough, the kit has changed since I bought it.
So I spent the day following instructions for a 9 lb grain bill when in fact I had 10 lbs of grain. For my first batch. With multiple decoctions. At least the sparge didn't get stuck.
Quite the first day of AG. Have to think about what I want to brew next!