A Very Strong Ale in Three Easy Steps

800px-Walhall_by_Emil_Doepler

Fallen Viking warriors feasting in Valhalla. (Art in the public domain.)

One great thing about homebrewing is the flexibility. There are a lot of combinations of equipment and techniques that can be used to brew a batch of beer. For example, here I have devised a way to brew a very strong (11% ABV) ale, almost entirely from grains, with a full-wort boil, on your stovetop. The catch is that wort production is spread out over three brewing sessions. Although three brewing sessions might seem like a lot, the first amount of wort you produce doubles as your yeast starter, so you don’t have to do that. Secondly, because only a bit over 1.5 gallons (6 L) of wort is produced in each session, the heating and cooling times are quick and the amount of grain you are handling is manageable.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve brewed this beer before (twice) the “normal” way. And, I’ve used this technique (multiple lots of wort to fill a fermenter) on stovetop brews (double IPAs) before. However, I haven’t brewed this beer using these procedures. In the procedures, I give an option to use the brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) method or a mash with a sparging option.

Einherjar ale is very strong and malty, but well-balanced. Several things contribute to a low FG (considering the OG) and the hopping rate is just high enough to keep this from being too sweet. If you use nice honey (I’ve used orange blossom), the aromatics blend nicely with the malty aroma from the Vienna and Munich malts.

In case you’re wondering about the name, in Old Norse mythology, the Vikings who reside in Valhalla after dying in battle are the einherjar. (And who needs a strong one more than a dude who just died in battle?)

450px-Exhibition_in_Viking_Ship_Museum,_Oslo_01

(Photo by Grzegorz Wysocki, via Wikipedia, under GFDL)

Einherjar Ale

by Chris Colby

Stovetop Partial Mash; English units

 

DESCRIPTION

This is a strong (11% ABV) ale with wonderful malty flavor and aroma. Although it starts at an OG of 1.090 (or higher), the recipe and mash conditions yield a wort that ferments down around 1.016. This and the balancing bitterness from the Magnum hops keep the beer from being cloyingly sweet.

 

INGREDIENTS (for 1.67 gallons, to be brewed 3X to yield 5 gallons)

 

Water

ideally around 100–150 ppm Ca++ and less than 50 ppm HCO3

Malts and Other Fermentables (for an OG of 1.090–1.110, depending on your extract efficiency)

12 oz. US 2-row pale malt

2 lb. 8 oz. Vienna malt

8 oz. Munich malt

2 oz. aromatic malt

1 oz. crystal malt (60 °L)

1 oz. black malt

1.0 lb. honey

12 oz. cane sugar (sucrose)

8 oz. light dried malt extract

Hops (28 IBUs total)

German Magnum hops (28 IBUs)

0.25 oz. (of 12% alpha acids), boiled for 60 minutes

Yeast (for an FG around 1.016 and an ABV around 11%, depending on OG)

Wyeast 3787 (Trappist High Gravity) or White Labs WLP530 (Abbey Ale) yeast

(no starter required)

Other

1/4 tsp yeast nutrients

1/3 tsp Irish moss

4.5 oz. priming sugar (for 2.3 volumes of CO2)

 

PROCEDURE

First Brewday

No yeast starter is required. Heat 1.5 gallons of strike water to 151 °F in your brewpot. Place the crushed grains (4.0 lbs./1.8 kg total) in a large nylon steeping bag and submerge slowly in water. Use a large brewing spoon to poke around at the bag and break up any clumps of grain. The temperature should settle into 140 °F. (Don’t worry about hitting this temperature exactly.) Immediately begin heating the mash to 148 °F. Stir mash almost constantly while heating. Heat at a rate of roughly 2 °F every 3–5 minutes (so ramping up the temperature takes roughly 12–20 minutes). Let mash rest for 20 minutes at 148 °F, then heat 168 °F at the same rate as before. Total mash time is roughy 50–60 minutes.

 

BIAB Instructions

While mashing, heat 1.5 gallons of water to 168 °F in a separate pot. Stir hot water into brewpot at end of mash, swirl bag around for about 5 minutes and then slowly lift it out of the brewpot. (You will need heat-resistant gloves or to tie the bag to a broom handle or other sturdy rod.) Let grain bag runoff drain into brewpot. When flow slows to just drops, set bag aside and heat wort to a boil.

 

Mash w/ Sparging Instructions

While mashing, heat 1.5 gallons of water to 168 °F in a separate pot. After mash, lift bag out of brewpot and place in 2-gallon beverage cooler. (You will need heat-resistant gloves or to tie the bag to a broom handle or other sturdy rod.) Scoop or pour wort from brewpot into cooler until full. (If a little wort remains in brewpot, that’s fine.) Recirculate wort by drawing off 2 cups and wort and pouring it back on top of grain bed. Repeat six or seven times or until wort clears significantly. Then run off wort by collecting 2 cups of wort from the spigot and placing it in the brewpot. Add 2 cups of  168 °F water to top of grain bed and repeat until you are out of sparge water. Then drain remaining wort in cooler into brewpot. Heat wort while you are collecting it and bring wort to a boil when finished.

 

Combined Instructions

When the boil starts, you should have roughly 2.5 gallons of wort, which you will boil down to 1.67 gallons. When the boil starts, wait until you see the first bits of hot break form (or 5 minutes elapses, whichever comes first), then add the hops and boil for wort 60 minutes. Add the Irish moss with 15 minutes left in the boil. With 10 minutes left in the boil, stir in the sugar, honey, malt extract and yeast nutrients. Dissolve the sugars first in a bit of wort before stirring in, to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the brewpot and scorching. Keep a pot of boiling water handy and don’t let your wort volume dip below 1.67 gallons.

After the boil, cool wort to 68 °F and transfer to fermenter. Aerate thoroughly and pitch yeast. Ferment at 68 °F.

 

Second Brewday

You should have 1.67 gallons of wort fermenting when you start your second brewday. If it is not fermenting, aerate the wort in the fermenter before you start producing the second batch of wort. Generate 1.67 gallons of wort as you did yesterday. Cool it to 68 °F. (At a minimum, the fresh wort should be within 10 °F 5 °C of the fermenting beer.) If the beer is strongly fermenting, simply siphon the fresh wort into fermenter. If the previously made wort is not fermenting, or just getting started, siphon the fresh wort into the fermenter and aerate the combined worts. Do not pitch more yeast at this time.

 

Third, and Final, Brewday

You should have 3.34 gallons of fermenting beer when you begin the third brewday. Generate the new wort as before. Chill and siphon the fresh wort into the fermenting beer. Do not aerate unless the fermentation is really struggling. You should now have 5.0 gallons of fermenting beer. Continue holding fermentation temperature at 68 °F until fermentation slows to a crawl.

 

Conditioning

When the fermentation slows greatly, almost to the point of stopping, swirl the fermenter (or stir with a sanitized spoon) to rouse the yeast and let the fermentation temperature climb a few degrees. Do not splash or aerate the wort in any way when rousing the yeast. Stir just enough to get the yeast back in suspension. Do not repeat this step. When the beer stops fermenting, let it sit at fermentation temperature or below for two weeks to condition. Keg or bottle and carbonate to 2.3 volumes of CO2. Let beer condition cold for 2 weeks before serving. If your fermentation went well, this beer conditions quickly. It also holds up well when aged.

 

OPTIONS

If you want only 3.34 gallons (12.6 L) of the beer, just skip the third brewday. If you only want 1.67 gallons (6.32 L), only do the first brewday. You can also combine the ingredients from all three brewdays and brew the beer normally. You will need a big (1.0-gallon/4-L) yeast starter, however.

 

Einherjar Ale 

by Chris Colby

Stovetop Partial Mash; metric units

 

INGREDIENTS (for 6.3 L, to be brewed 3X for 19 L)

 

Water

ideally around 100–150 ppm Ca++ and less than 50 ppm HCO3

Malts and Other Fermentables (for an OG of 1.090–1.110, depending on your extract efficiency)

340 g US 2-row pale malt

1.13 kg Vienna malt

230 g Munich malt

57 g aromatic malt

28 g crystal malt (60 °L)

28 g black malt

450 g honey

340 g cane sugar (sucrose)

230 g light dried malt extract

Hops (28 IBUs total)

German Magnum hops (28 IBUs)

7.1 g (of 12% alpha acids), boiled for 60 minutes

Yeast (for an FG around 1.016 and an ABV around 11%, depending on OG)

Wyeast 3787 (Trappist High Gravity) or White Labs WLP530 (Abbey Ale) yeast

(no starter required)

Other

1/4 tsp yeast nutrients

1/3 tsp Irish moss

130 g priming sugar (for 2.3 volumes of CO2)

 

PROCEDURE

First Brewday

No yeast starter is required. Heat 5.7 L of strike water to 66 °C in your brewpot. Place the crushed grains (1.8 kg total) in a large nylon steeping bag and submerge slowly in water. Use a large brewing spoon to poke around at the bag and break up any clumps of grain. The temperature should settle into 60 °C. (Don’t worry about hitting this temperature exactly.) Immediately begin heating the mash to 64 °C. Stir mash almost constantly while heating. Heat at a rate of roughly 1 °C every 3–5 minutes (so ramping up the temperature takes roughly 12–20 minutes). Let mash rest for 20 minutes at 64 °C, then heat 76 °C at the same rate as before. Total mash time is roughy 50–60 minutes.

 

BIAB Instructions

While mashing, heat 5.7 L of water to 76 °C in a separate pot. Stir hot water into brewpot at end of mash, swirl bag around for about 5 minutes and then slowly lift it out of the brewpot. (You will need heat-resistant gloves or to tie the bag to a broom handle or other sturdy rod.) Let grain bag runoff drain into brewpot. When flow slows to just drops, set bag aside and heat wort to a boil.

 

Mash w/ Sparging Instructions

While mashing, heat 5.7 L of water to 76 °C in a separate pot. After mash, lift bag out of brewpot and place in 2-gallon (8-L) beverage cooler. (You will need heat-resistant gloves or to tie the bag to a broom handle or other sturdy rod.) Scoop or pour wort from brewpot into cooler until full. (If a little wort remains in brewpot, that’s fine.) Recirculate wort by drawing off 2 cups and wort and pouring it back on top of grain bed. Repeat six or seven times or until wort clears significantly. Then run off wort by collecting 2 cups of wort from the spigot and placing it in the brewpot. Add 2 cups of 76 °C water to top of grain bed and repeat until you are out of sparge water. Then drain remaining wort in cooler into brewpot. Heat wort while you are collecting it and bring wort to a boil when finished.

 

Combined Instructions

When the boil starts, you should have roughly 9.5 L of wort, which you will boil down to 6.32 L. When the boil starts, wait until you see the first bits of hot break form (or 5 minutes elapses, whichever comes first), then add the hops and boil for wort 60 minutes. Add the Irish moss with 15 minutes left in the boil. With 10 minutes left in the boil, stir in the sugar, honey, malt extract and yeast nutrients. Dissolve the sugars first in a bit of wort before stirring in, to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the brewpot and scorching. Keep a pot of boiling water handy and don’t let your wort volume dip below 6.32 L.

After the boil, cool wort to 20 °C and transfer to fermenter. Aerate thoroughly and pitch yeast. Ferment at 20 °C.

 

Second Brewday

You should have 6.32 L of wort fermenting when you start your second brewday. If the wort is not fermenting, aerate the wort in the fermenter before you start producing the second batch of wort. Generate 6.32 L of wort as you did yesterday. Cool it to 20 °C. (At a minimum, the fresh wort should be within 5 °C of the fermenting beer.) If the beer is strongly fermenting, simply siphon the fresh wort into fermenter. If the previously made wort is not fermenting, or just getting started, siphon the fresh wort into the fermenter and aerate the combined worts. Do not pitch more yeast at this time.

 

Third, and Final, Brewday

You should have 12.6 L of fermenting beer when you begin the third brewday. Generate the new wort as before. Chill and siphon fresh wort into fermenting beer. Do not aerate unless the fermentation is really struggling. You should now have 19 L of fermenting beer. Continue holding fermentation temperature at 20 °C until fermentation slows to a crawl.

 

Conditioning

When the fermentation slows greatly, almost to the point of stopping, swirl the fermenter (or stir with a sanitized spoon) to rouse the yeast and let the fermentation temperature climb a few degrees. Do not splash or aerate the wort in any way when rousing the yeast. Stir just enough to get the yeast back in suspension. Do not repeat this step. When the beer stops fermenting, let it sit at fermentation temperature or below for two weeks to condition. Keg or bottle and carbonate to 2.3 volumes of CO2. Let beer condition cold for 2 weeks before serving. If your fermentation went well, this beer conditions quickly. It also holds up well when aged.

Comments

  1. Interesting approach. I’m almost certain it would ferment more cleanly for those without temperature control, as the ferment wouldn’t get as warm in the smaller batches. It might also ferment to a lower FG if you time the additions properly so the yeast didn’t glut on all of the sugar at once, like saving simple sugar additions for later. But it might be all the same to the yeast in this case since you are still adding maltose each time. It would be an interesting experiment to brew these as identically as possible in a split batch and a single batch.

    Also, it sounds like it would be a fun way to split a batch between multiple people to go beyond what each could do on their own.
    – Dennis, Life Fermented Blog

    • Chris Colby says:

      Yes on both counts. It’s easier to control fermentation temperature in smaller batches. And, sometimes very big beers are brewed in a way similar to this to lower the osmotic stress on the yeast. This beer isn’t so high-gravity as to require that, but it might help a little.

  2. Interesting concept! (Splitting the wort into 3 additions to give the yeast time to grow).

    Would this be worth attempting with even a “regular” beer, in order to skip the starter process? I do primarily BIAB brewing and sometimes no-chill (for my beers that don’t have a lot of late hopping). No-chill beers get run into “cubes” while still hot and the wort is stable in those cubes for quite a long time.

    If I ran my wort into two 2.5 gallon “cubes” on brewday, then let them chill overnight, I could run off one into a 6 gallon fermenter the next day, pitch a single smack-pack or vial of yeast, then wait another day or two and add the second 2.5 gallons of wort into that fermenter. By staggering the wort addition, could I get healthy yeast activity without the need to make a starter?

    • Chris Colby says:

      Yes, you can do this with regular strength beers. The first half of the wort would double as the yeast starter. Check a pitching rate calculator to see if you’re pitching at a reasonable rate. At 2.5 gallons, you should be able to pitch with one smack pack or tube with no problem for most beers.

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