I Repeat Myself

Posted on 08.08.10 9:13PM under Brewing, Events, Stories

In home brewing, much of the fun comes from making whatever you want whenever you want. But sometimes you have to make something a certain way, and that presents its own challenges.

With Oktoberfest coming up it is only right that there be a party, and with a party it is only right that homebrew be served. So here I am, making six batches destined to be served at a huge Oktoberfest event. The first two were made today. That gives me two more sessions, spaced two weeks apart, to make two more batches each session, and still give the last batches a full month from grain to glass prior to the big day.

Today was the Oktoberfest brew day. Two batches of O-fest-style Ale are in fermenters. Obviously they’re meant to be the same as each other. But I realized that while I have repeated some recipes from time to time – even sometimes with only a few months in between – I never really went for two of the same beer in separate batches side by side. I mean, these beers will be had one after another. They have to be as close as possible.

In taking on the Ofest challenge, it was clear I believed that I could do it, but this belief was based on blind faith. I’m happy to say that so far my results are good. I brewed two batches with the same volume and same gravity. That’s really saying something. This represents a level of repeatability previously undemonstrated.

I generally have a pretty predictable efficiency. I know basically where I’ll end up. Planning for 80% rarely lets me down. But it fluctuates a bit from batch to batch, and I don’t honestly know exactly why. Could be water ratios, could be sparge method, could be temperatures. It’s hard to say.

Today, however, both batches came out at the end of the day with the same gravity and the same volume. This bodes well for the final results regarding the sameness of these two beers. The IBUs will be the same. The colors appear to be the same. They might just very well turn out the same. It will be interesting to try them side by side in a double blind test to see if I can tell the difference between the two.

The difference, if any, will come from fermentation. One resides in a smaller 5.5 gallon carboy with little head space. Thus it could take on less O2 than the one in the big carboy before foaming over, and besides that the carboys have slightly different geometry – the big one has a larger diameter.

At least for now, they’re both the same temperature, and neither shows any activity. If one does take off before the other, there could be another opportunity for variation. But only time will tell.

So for now I’ll show some discipline and wait for them to make it through their fermentation process to see just how same is same.

Read Comments

  1. Posted by BobbyO on 08.08.10 10:22 PM

    You could take a cue from the folks who make Scotch: a week before it’s time to consume everything, when all is said and done and all six batches have become beer, blend them all together. That way you’re guaranteed to have uniformity.

  2. Posted by Keith Brainard on 08.09.10 7:15 AM

    That is my last resort, though making a perfect 50/50 mix could present its own challenges.