German Ale, Double Decoction (all-grain)

Decocting away

Decocting away

I love German beers.  One thing that gets me is how many German styles retain such a distinct malty characteristic, while keeping the beer very light bodied without  a thick and “chewy” mouthfeel that more malty beers tend to take on. I decided to man-up and try a different technique known as a decoction mash,  where you pull sections of the mash and boil it to release some malty melanoidin compounds that, supposedly, will lend to that malty feeling.  It’s extra work, and some people say that it’s not worth the time and effort when you can just add other ingredients that yield similar effects. Welp, it’s time to test that theory out for myself. Super simple recipe in an effort to make that malt character really shine:

  • 8 lb Pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 lb Munich malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 oz Spalt hops (5%aa), 60 min
  • 1 oz Spalt hops (5%aa), 30 min
  • WYeast German Ale 1007

// Strike w/ 14 qt 140F, settled at 134, added 1/2 qt cold water to bring to 132 for 15 minutes.  Added 3 qt boiling water to bring to 142F, added 1/2 qt boiling to get to 144F and rest for 30 min total. Pull 1/3 of the mash (tried to get a thick portion, but in the end was a little runny), and slowly heat to 158F, sit for 10 minutes. bring to a boil for 10 minutes. The main mash dropped to around 136 while boiling, so the re-added mixture only got to about 152F. Pulled a 2nd decotion and held at 158 for 10, then brought to boil for 10. Collected ~6.8 gal 1.04 wort. Boil 90 minutes, chill to 75F, collect ~5 gal. Pitch decanted starter. OG 1.055 //

The yeast starter did not smell so great. Very sulfur-y and weird.

I basically went off of this site for my decoction reference, using the Hochkurz Double Decoction method. My temperatures were a little off here and there since my main mash temperature kept slipping, but heating the mash on the side for the decoction atleast ensured that 2/3 of the grain hit the 158F mark at some point.

20130317_132419UPDATE (3/23):  Overflowing with krausen after 1 day, which subsided after about day 3. After 7 days the airlock was still bubbling once ever 15 seconds, so I took a gravity reading and it was at 1.027.  I gave the primary a good shake to rouse the yeast, and also put a space heater next to it (ambient temp was 60F in the basement). The next morning the airlock was bubbling once every 5 seconds or so, and a nice thick layer of krausen came back (ambient temp raised to about 64F). Hopefully another week will be enough to fully attenuate..I’m getting impatient!

UPDATE (4/2): Racked to secondary when bubbling once ever 1:20 or so, after another week and three days (17 days total in primary). Gravity at 1.01. The yeast is still main suspended, so its got a little sulfur/egg/yeast in the nose, but a lot of good solid German malt character too. Taste follows the nose; definitely has some great malt body despite finishing so low in gravity. I’ve read that this yeast will remain cloudy until you chill the beer, so I’ll give it a quick few days in the secondary then move the keg.

THE VERDICT

When I racked to the keg, you could see a gradient forming in the secondary, where the yeast were beginning to flocculate – I decided to rack anyway, figuring the cold would only accelerate it.  Nope.  The yeast never fully dropped out, and it retained a very cloudy appearance even a month after kegging.  Wasn’t til after 2 months it really cleared up.  The nose is a little fruity/yeasty, giving it almost a Belgian blonde type aroma, but most of the sulfur smell died out over time, so that’s a plus.  I think some soft finishing hops would have lent well.

The beer is medium to light in body, and there is a veeeery subtle punch of maltiness. It’s tough to say whether it’s a contribution of the decoction or the little bit of Munich malt, but it’s not a drastic flavor by any means.  Greg over at foodandwineblog has grown fond of decocting his IPAs and darker beer, so maybe I’ll try that next to see the effects.

Overall the beer is pretty clean and refreshing and the recipe was on point. But, I think if I make this recipe with a lager  yeast, I’d get a much tastier and iconic German styled beer. This certainly isn’t bad, and a few people have said that it reminds them of Sam Adams’ Summer ale (not my favorite, but hey). Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under All-grain, German

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