Monday, June 13, 2011

Brewing Up A Little History... Founding Fathers Ale

"Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants to see us happy." (Benjamin Franklin) 

     Many of our founding fathers brewed beer and distilled spirits.  In fact in colonial times, Americans probably drank more alcohol that in any other era. Spirits were an integral part of daily life throughout the colonies no matter the geographic or economic differences.  The English believed that water was bad for a person's health. Given the sanitary standards of the day, this was probably true. Beer consumption, especially, was seen as a healthy substitute for water.
Pre-Heating Mash-Tun and New
Water filter

     So, I've decided to brew up a slightly historical recipe for the 4th of July.  I found a recipe online that was extrapolated from Thomas Jefferson's ingredient orders for his home brewery.  I'm not actually going to be using any historical brewing techniques or anything that involved, but my goal is to brew something that might be similar to what would have been enjoyed in that era.  This recipe calls for barley, wheat, and one pound of molasses.  Molasses was a common adjunct in colonial beer because of it's common availability.  I am a little concerned about the addition of that much molasses for a 5 gallon batch, but I decided to follow the recipe the first time and maybe make adjustments for next time.
   So... Up until this current brew, I had been using my refrigerator to get the filtered water I use for brewing.  This normally resulted in the first hour and a half of my brew day standing in front of the refrigerator slowly filling a gallon pitcher, dumping it into a pot and repeating this process until I collected 8.5-9 gallons of water.  On my last brew day I ended up collecting the last drop of water I needed and then the water pump on the refrigerator went out.  That's how I found out that the refrigerator is not designed to work that hard.  So after I got the refrigerator fixed, I bought a water filter and hose that would connect and disconnect to the kitchen faucet.

     Now the process moves a whole lot faster.  I was able to finish collecting all the water by the time the tap water was hot enough to pre-heat the mash tun.  So I heated the water to my strike temp (168*F) and loaded the heated mash-tun with the water.  By the time I got all the grains stirred in, I was at my ideal mash temp of 154*F.  With my tea pot of boiling water I made additions through out the hour to maintain a constant mash temp for the full hour.
I ended up going with a thick mash (1.12 qt/lb) as I have with most of my recent brews.  During recirculation I noticed, with the wheat in this mash, that it took a lot longer to set the grain bed to get a clear wort run off.  In fact, I don't think I ever got it to run 100% clear.  After recirculation I drained the mash into the brew kettle with the bittering hop addition for a first wort hop (FWH) then started the first of two batch sparges at 170*F, recirculated and drained into the brew kettle. I ended up collecting 8.5 gallons of wort at a specific gravity of 1.048. After starting the boil I actually forgot to start the boil timer.  Because of this, I didn't start the 60 min. timer until 15 minus into the boil. That wasn't a big deal though as I was planning to do around a 90 min boil time on this brew anyway.

Adding the molasses to the boil
  As soon as I added the molasses to the boil the color went from a brown straw to a dark brown and I could smell the molasses.  Since molasses is relatively viscous, I poured boiling wort into the jar and shook to dissolve the remaining molasses and added that to the boil.     

Rapidly cooling the wort
With summer weather here in Arkansas it takes a lot longer to cool the wort than it typically would any other season.  I ended up cooling the wort off to 70*F in about 45 min. (not too bad). While cooling the wort I quickly cleaned the primary fermenter with the new carboy cleaner I recently got.  It's pretty neat.  The video below is a little corny but you can get the idea.

OG of 1.072 and next day strong ferment
After the wort was cooled and the fermenter cleaned and sanitized, I got an original gravity reading of  1.072.  That equates to about an 88%  overall efficiency on this brew.   I drained the brew kettle into the fermenter and started adding oxygen with my aquarium pump and diffusion stone.  Then I pitched at package of US-05 dry yeast and placed in the fermentation chamber at 65*F.  The next day I had a strong fermentation going.
Founding Fathers Ale Label
 So after transferring the finished beer to the keg (Final Gravity 1.020) and one week later it is ready to drink.    After sampling it I have to say surprisingly refreshing for a nearly 7% beer.  I would say that most of the molasses fermented out completely leaving a slight flavor but mostly contributing to color and dried the finish out a little.  I wouldn't be concerned about 1lb of molasses in 5 gal batch anymore. 
Founding Fathers Ale
Thomas Jefferson's
Molasses Wheat Beer