It seems like all the holidays ran late recently. A late Thanksgiving, coupled with weather, work, and wellness, seemed to have me and my family playing catch-up during this past holiday season. I try not to miss an opportunity to brew over a holiday (like Thanksgiving) when I have the time off and I’m at home, but it just didn’t happen this year.
Fortunately, this year there is a late start to Lent: February 26. That gives me just enough time to put together a decent Doppelbock to have ready (hopefully) by the beginning of March and to enjoy during Starkbier season.
Now, I really like my Doppelbock. Unfortunately, it is takes a long time to drink a regular 5-gallon batch of an 8% beer. Not exactly the kind of beer that I can drink six or eight of during one night – unless I want to crawl up my stairs when I go to bed! The ‘I’m not getting any younger’ condition I seem to be noticing more regularly lately also includes not being able to tip them back the way I used to do even a couple years ago (let alone ten or twenty years ago!).
So I made the decision to make a half-batch of my Doppelbock this year.
This led to a logistic issue – my all-grain set up (a converted cooler as a mash tun and a propane burner to boil the wort) is set up for five gallon batches. I knew I could still mash in the mash tun, but I didn’t want to try boiling a smaller batch on the propane burner.
I generally have to collect about 7.5 gallons of wort when I’m making a five-gallon batch of beer. After 60 minutes of boiling on the propane burner, with the flame set as low as I can possibly get it on the burner – my evaporation rate is that high. Since I cook-off about 2.5 gallons per hour, I would have to collect five gallons of wort if I were to use the propane burner.
I opted for making this batch indoors on my gas range – something I don’t think I have done since I first fired up the propane burner – which happened to also be my first all-grain Doppelbock effort back in November 2014! As it turned out, the weather forecast didn’t look all the appealing for outdoor brewing (a lot of rain was forecast), so I was happy that I wouldn’t have to delay the brewing of this batch.
Here is the halved recipe:
- 3.0 pounds Pilsner Malt
- 2.5 pounds Light Munich Malt
- 2.5 pounds Dark Munich Malt
- 4.0 ounces Carafa II Malt
- 4.0 ounces Crystal Malt(60ºL)
- 10 grams (0.35 ounces) Magnum Hops (12.8% alpha acid)
- White Labs Bock Yeast WLP 833
Something that gave me pause as I was about to start brewing was that the bag was labeled to indicate it contained the Pilsner, Munich Light and Munich Dark malt, but it didn’t list the Carafa II or Crystal 60. Was it included?
Usually, I ask for all the malt to be bagged separately as a way to be sure all of my ingredients are delivered. But this time, I decided to group all of the Doppelbock malt together as ‘Recipe 1’ (I also ordered ingredients for an upcoming batch of Dortmunder that I plan on making). I started to think my brew day was going to be delayed because I didn’t see any indication of any dark malt in the bag.
I eventually turned the bag over and saw some small amount of dark malt and then realized that it might be pretty difficult to spot 4 ounces of dark Carafa II malt in eight pounds of lighter malt. I decided to go ahead assuming the dark malts were included, they just weren’t listed on the bag. I figured it would become obvious once I started mashing if I had the dark malts or not!
The predicted specs for this beer (using BrewPal) were as follows:
- Original Gravity: 1.086
- Final Gravity: 1.023
- 8.2% ABV
- 25 IBU
In addition to scaling down to a half-recipe, I was brewing with Magnum hops for the first time. I had received these hops as a ‘promotional’ item in one of my previous orders and had been holding on to them looking for an opportunity to use them. One thing I learned making the recent Scottish Ale, which also had a low target IBU, was that I should estimate and measure out my hops in grams. My digital kitchen scale measures to a precision of tenths of an ounce, but also measure in grams. Since one gram is roughly 0.035 ounces, I can be more precise weighing out odd amounts of hops in grams than in ounces. And a high alpha acid hop like Magnum lends itself very well to measuring out 10 grams rather than 0.35 ounces.
I mashed as usual in my cooler mash tun and collected about 3.25 gallons of wort to boil on the stove top. I didn’t think I would need more wort than this since I was not likely to get as rolling a boil on my stove top as I do on the propane burner, and I had a little better range of control of the flame intensity on the stove.
As I predicted, I didn’t have nearly as rolling a boil as I normally get on the propane burner. But at the end of the boil and after cooling the wort, I found that I had right at two gallons of wort in my fermenting bucket.
I was also short of my target gravity of 1.086, with my wort coming in at 1.080 as I was putting it into the fermenting bucket.
I think I may have left a lot of fermentables behind in the mash tun. My first runnings were right at 18.0° Brix, but at the end of the sparge, my last runnings were still pretty strong. The tail end of the wort I drew from the mash tun was at 15° Brix. I usually end up with my final runnings being in the range of 4° to 6° Brix. from the mash tun.
After two weeks in primary fermentation, I transferred it to secondary fermentation and lagered it for four weeks before I kegged the beer in a 2.5 gallon soda keg. The beer was carbonated by rolling it on its side for 1:15 at 30 psi.
I am extremely happy with how it came out – and find myself wishing that I would have made a full batch! A half batch seemed like a good idea at the time!