Ring that Bell!

What do you do when you have a can of Belgian yeast that has been in the refrigerator for too long?  Well, if you're smart, you make a starter and THEN make a beer.  I did one of those two things...

As usual, I was a bit on the fence about what to make next. The options were incredibly varied give the yeast on hand.  Since we're heading into summer, I didn't want to go too crazy though...at least, not just yet.  Since I have a black IPA just about ready to drink I thought something not so dark in color might be a good choice.  I've also had some REALLY good lighter/session IPAs lately.  While I didn't go the IPA route, I did go pale - Belgian pale. Kind of a pale (hoppier) take on my Bell Lap Blonde.  And, as with the current trend, I pushed the hops in the the latter part of the boil. The goal is to for a fresh, slightly fruity, summer quencher of a beer.

The weather was great this weekend for brewing. Low 70's by the afternoon and the boy was ready to brew...especially after my daughter seeded the idea earlier this week.  I managed to get down the brew store a couple of days prior and picked up enough to do a 4 gallon batch. Why 4? Since I have  a 5 gallon carboy, I like to leave room at the top for the krausen instead of using a blow-off tube.

Best 3 year old mash assistant ever!
 The mash was pretty straightforward, but I'm still getting more heat retention than expected. By all calculations, my strike water temp of 167F should have been knocked down to the mid to low 150's by the cool grains and cooler.  But, for whatever reason, when I opened the cooler after about 20 minutes, it was sitting just shy of 160F.  I ended up leaving the top off for a bit, pulled a little of the runnings out into a pot to cool, dumped that in, and knocked it down to 154F and it held there the rest of the time. Hopefully it'll still ferment out well.

...And I'm spent....grains, that is.
First hop addition, prior to boil.

 In addition to moving most of the hop additions to the latter part of the timeline, I also shortened the  boil time to 60 minutes instead of my usual 90 minutes.  2 reasons: I thought I might be a little short on propane and 90 minutes gets long when you're chasing a 3 year old...though he did REALLY good for this brew day.

As far as the additions and boiling down goes, everything seemed to work as planned. At the end of 60 minutes, all the hops were in, the volume in the kettle looked about right, and once I had cooled it, the gravity reading was right where it should be...perhaps even a couple of points high, which is ok by me!

And now we wait....very impatiently, I might add.  The can of yeast I had was WELL past its use by date. 18 hours after pitching, I haven't seen any action in the air-lock. But, the carboy did seem to be maintaining a little bit of warmth relative to the room it was in and when I cracked the can, they seemed to be ready to jump back into solution. Hopefully all of that just means that all the little Belgian yeasty beasties are charging themselves up for the fun part.

If all goes well, I'll definitely harvest the yeast. It's billed as a "workhorse" type - good for everything from blondes to quads - so I'm certainly willing to put that to the test.  Perhaps it's time to take another swing at the belgian smoked imperial porter....or even use this one for DIPA and see what happens!