Our grandfather was certainly his own man. He had his views and opinions and was never afraid to share them or make excuses for them. When he was a younger man craft beer wasn’t exactly a thing yet. In those days at a bar there would often be a price for a domestic beer (Budweiser, Miller, etc.) and a price for an import which usually came in a green bottle. The imported beer would usually be a bit more, but the import was perceived to be of a higher quality which was likely why that was what Pa Chalifour liked to drink.
The local Budweiser brewery is located in Merrimack, NH. When the textile mills were in their hay day, the Merrimack River was also among the most polluted bodies of water in the country. Pa Chalifour was certainly old enough to remember how the Merrimack River would change colors every day depending on what color dye the mills were using. I am sure the water used to make Budweiser is perfectly safe, but he would bristle at the notion of drinking a “Merrimack River Budweiser”.
One of the recipes I always wanted to brew from the Complete Joy of Homebrewing was the Heiniestella European Delight. The recipe is exceedingly simple:
6.6 lbs (2 cans) of the lightest unhopped extract you can find 1.5 oz Perle hops – 60 min .5 oz Liberty hops – 2 mins
Use a lager yeast if you can get your temperature cold or use a clean ale yeast. However, the cleanest ale yeasts don’t flocculate well, so you may want to use some gelatin or isinglass to get it to drop bright
Last year, right around the anniversary of Pa Chalifour’s passing I thought brewing a beer that Pa would have loved would be a great way to honor him. The beer would also be ready for us to share with the entire extended family at our annual Christmas gathering.
I made a few key changes to the recipe. I converted the original extract recipe to an all-grain recipe by replacing the extract with Belgian Pilsner and Carafoam Malt. The Heiniestella would finish around 4.5% alcohol by volume (ABV), too small for our tastes, so I increased the grain bill hoping to finish around 6.5% ABV.
The big challenge we had was that we did not have the ability to ferment the beer at lager tempertures, in the mid 50F range. The California Lager WY2112 strain has a clean lager profile at temperatures as high as 65F. The trade-off is the low attenuation meaning less of our fermentable sugars will be converted to alcohol, so the finished beer will be sweeter and fuller-bodied than if we used a yeast with higher attenuation. I balanced that by using the leftover 0.5 oz of Liberty hops (assuming they came in a 1 oz bag) as a dry hop addition.
The finished beer didn’t conform to a particular style due to the alcohol level and hop flavor, but it was excellent. We have a large extended family, and we kicked the 5 gallon batch in no time. For this year we brewed a 10 gallon batch, plus the 5 gallon beginner, all-extract version I came up with and had already brewed for Learn to Homebrew Day.
It had been a long time since we brewed a 10 gallon batch and the rust showed. We also didn’t have our digital thermometer to keep track of our mash temperature. According to the refractometer our starting gravity was only 1.043 where it should have been 1.064. If that reading was accurate that means we ended up with significantly less fermentable sugars than I had hoped. The beer may only finish between 4.0% and 4.5% ABV. I am not sure why our efficiency was so poor. I suspect that our mash temperature was too high and/or we sparged too quickly. This was our first batch with our new screen in the mash tun so the water may have ran off more quickly that it did with the old screen. A sparge arm may be worth investing in as well to control the flow of water on top of the grain bed.
If the ABV is low it won’t be the end of the world. It just shows how important and how challenging it can be to come up with a process, dial it in, and repeat it every time. Extract is idiot-proof in that regard since the maltster who made the extract already extracted the fermentable sugars from the grain. The beginner version may well be closer to the intended beer than the “more advanced” all-grain version. It will add another dimension to when I compare and contrast the beginner version of the recipe with the all-grain.