Polar Beer

It's been mighty cold in Dublin recently. Our normally boring looking estate turned into a winter wonderland carpeted with snow. While snowed in writing the crafty plans post I had just put in an order with The Home Brew Company, well the order arrived despite all the ice and snow. I got some free samples of odds and ends of various malts to try out with the order. Excellent stuff. With all the cold weather I decided to take advantage and brew an alt beer.
Alt style beer is made in Düsseldorf using a top fermenting ale yeast and the beer is then lagered at a cold temperature. Traditionally it was probably made in winter when the brewers could take advantage of the cold weather to lager the beer which would mellow out the fruity flavours normally created by ale yeast. My copy of Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher tells me that it should taste of toffee malt but it should be crisp with a blast of fresh herbal noble hops. Luckily The Beer Nut was off doing some field research on alt beer with Barry in Düsseldorf so that was useful for formulating the recipe.

I used lager malt and added a touch of wheat malt to give a good head. The caramunch and munich malt were tossed in with the hope they will give the beer some complexity and a nice toffee taste without being too sweet. I know what I'd like this beer to taste like but really I have no idea if this grain bill will achieve that. Part of the fun of brewing is finding out. I went with german Perle hops for bittering and Hallertau for aroma as they're a classic german hop. Hopefully the hops will balance the malt nicely.  

Grain Bill:
2.5kg Lager malt
Wheat malt: 500g
Munich malt: 500g
Caramunch: 500g
Dark Crystal: 60g

60 Minutes: Perle 7.1%AA 40g
15 Minutes: Hallertau Hersbrucker 3%AA 10g
Aroma: Hallertau Hersbrucker 3%AA 25g

Yeast: Safale S04

OG: 1.046

Mashed at 68 deg C for an hour.

There were no big problems with the brewday. I'm still dreaming of how things will be easier when I build myself a boiler, I could see on the day where having one could save me time and effort. The OG came out pretty much where I wanted it for a session strength beer between four and five percent alcohol. Since there was still snow outside I decided to try cooling the wort using the snow. I have read with envy about American home brewers who can dunk the pot in a snow drift to cool it. So we built a snow drift and cooled the pot outdoors. Unfortunately the temperature was taking ages to drop and I wanted to finish the day and clean up so I cheated and finished cooling using the wort chiller. 
I used Safale S04 as it will work at the colder end of the temperature range for ale yeast and it ferments quite cleanly. The beer is finishing the first week of fermentation in my cold downstairs room now. I'll move it out to my shed for a few weeks of lagering. Hopefully during that time the temperature will stay nice and cold. Who knows maybe we'll have more frost and snow to help it along. Though if it drops to minus ten again I might end up making eis beer

4 Responses to "Polar Beer" (Leave A Comment)

The Beer Nut says
January 21, 2010 at 1:37 AM

Nice title.

Sounds like a fun project.

I have some Hallertau Aroma hops at home and I've not yet figured out why I bought them or what to do with them.

Jo Simmonds says
February 3, 2010 at 3:46 AM

You've been nominated for a Sunshine award! : ) http://sewingisforgirls.blogspot.com/2010/02/sunshine-award.html

Boak says
February 7, 2010 at 2:13 AM

We used snow to cool a brew once. Our standard method is to put a sanitised deep saucepan in the wort and fill it with ice. You need about 13kgs to cool a normal batch , but it does seem to work much faster (and with less ice) than surrounding the boiler with ice, which we also tried.

Here's hoping the cold snap sticks around, as we're also making an alt bier.

Brett says
March 18, 2010 at 7:46 AM

We used the polar beer method of cooling just last month. There was about 6 inches of snow on the ground (Cincinnati, Ohio) and we built an igloo of snow to cool the pot.

Still took longer than I had hoped and we're looking to build a wort chiller for next time.