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Grain bill for Imperial Porter.


It’s been a busy weekend. For the first time since I started all grain brewing years ago, I have 3 fermenters full of fermenting beer at once. Several years ago was the last time I had 3 on the go and that was 3 kits for a party that we were having at the old cottage. The beer flowed and a good time was had.

One of the beers I have brewed in the past and really enjoyed, was a Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter. Brewed to 20 litres, this had nearly 10 Kilos of grain and 27 litres of strike water! The 50 litre mash tun was nearly half full with just the dry grain. This meant that the sparge water was only 11 litres so there was going to be a lot of goodness left in that mash.

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The porter boil



Instead of just wasting it, or getting a pretty weak beer from the second runnings, I decided to try an old technique which is a variation of the parti-gyle brewing method. Instead of using the first runnings for one beer, the second for another and the third for a “small beer”, I wanted to increase the alcohol level a little and change the character for the second beer.  Looking to get something in the abbey ale ball park for the second beer, I added another 2 kilos of pale malt, some Biscuit, Abbey and aromatic malt to get a wort that was going to be quite dissimilar to the first one. This was then topped up with more strike water and mashed again for another 60 minutes.




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The Imperial Porter


When the first boil was finished and chilling down, I sparged the second batch ready for another boil. Due to an issue with my boiler where despite scrubbing the element and it looking lovely and clean, it kept cutting out on me, I had to drain the boiler and leave the second batch in a fermenter over night until I could fix the boiler in the morning. The imperial porter went into the fermenter at 1.084 which was rather disappointing as my target was for around 1.100, however I have been having some efficiency issues for a few months now. You can also see that it was a lovely really deep colour and should make a lovely beer come the winter.

In order to fix the boiler and get it working again, it was time to turn to the old standby and get some strong descaler out. The element certainly wasn’t scaled up and as I now live in a very soft water area, having previously lived in a very hard water area, I was surprised it needed doing. It turns out that despite my element looking lovely and clean, it had managed to build up a thin coat of organic material that was just enough to cause it to trip out repeatedly. The descaler failed to remove any scale, as there wasn’t any to remove, however it did cause this organic material to lift up and it could then easily be wiped off even though previous scrubbing didn’t touch it. This got the boiler back into action and the second boil could commence.


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The abbey ale



I only added more pale grains for the second mash so all the colour came from the grain from the previous batch and it was surprising just how much colour was left in the wort and the alcohol level was quite nice despite my efficiency woes.


The second batch came in at 1.052 when it went into the fermenter. I had about half a vial of WLP570, the Belgian golden Ale yeast that I had harvested previously from a Belgian beer I brewed a couple of months back, and decided to add that and a pack of English Ale yeast to try and get some of the Belgian character but with it being a bit more muted.




8 Hours after pitching
8 Hours after pitching


I had previously given the rest of that yeast batch to a friend who offered to do a cell count for me, however they found out that the yeast was just too active at the time and had to put it back into cold storage. It seems that the yeast was still feeling pretty frisky after 2 months in the fridge as just 8 hours after pitching the half vial of Belgian yeast and a pack of dry English ale yeast, the lid of the fermenter was floating away on krausen.

In under 20 hours from pitching the yeast at 1.052, it had already got it down to 1.014! Talk about vigorous. This is going to sit there for 2 weeks to give the yeast plenty of time to clear up after itself as there is going to be no end of stuff floating about after fermenting that fast.




Sparging the AIPA
Sparging the AIPA


During the summer holidays I have taken Mondays off from work for childcare reasons, but that did mean that I was in a position where I could brew again today, so for the third day in a row, the garage was going to get all steamy from another brew boil. IPAs are very popular in our house, the American styles ones doubly so. With this in mind, two dark beer batches brewed over the weekend and as we were starting to run low of the last batch of IPA I did and my first try at a black IPA, whilst already rather nice, needs another week or two of conditioning, I thought I had better get a batch of IPA on as well.


I decided to start out by turning down the efficiency in my brewing software (Beersmith) by a couple of percent so that my results should, hopefully, better match the expected figures,  then went for a rummage through the hop freezer to grab all the bold citrusy hops I had left. I then realised that I had let myself a bit short on them after going mad in a recent £1 hop sale from one of the big suppliers here in the UK where I bought a load of more noble and piney / earthy hops.


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Got hops?

Never mind, I had some Amarillo, Chinook and could round it out with some Topaz and Keyworth Early. Recipe in hand another brew day started. This time, instead of fixing the boiler before getting brewing, I was determined to finish off filing out a tank connector so I didn’t have to keep swapping my tap from the large to the small mash tuns depending what size batch I was doing. This now means I can either potentially be mashing two batches at once or maybe sell the small mash tun.


I came out right on the target pre-boil gravity, so felt quite a bit better about that, even though I still had the same efficiency as before, at least I managed to balance the recipe out with what I achieved this time.  There were certainly a few hops in the boiler and this meant that I came in short on volume as they prevented me getting the last of the wort out from the boiler.


2014-08-11 17.09.06 HDR
The AIPA came in over 1.060



I’m looking forward to giving this one a go in a few weeks and seeing what sort of monster I have raised this time.


Now the cupboard is bare for big fuity hops, I’ve gone ahead and put an order in with Dean on ebid for some more of my favorites and some Mosaic which seems to be this years must have hop. Shortly arriving, will be some Chinook, Galaxy, Keyworth M (Mid season), Mosaic and Vic Secret. This will open the door for some more big IPAs next month.



Sarah is an experienced home brewer, a qualified BJCP beer judge, organiser of the Welsh National Homebrew Competition and sometimes Brewtuber under her home brewery name, Daft Cat Brewing