Altbier

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Next up will be a German Altbier. Alt in German means Old and Bier means Beer. So for us Americans this is a Old Beer. Although the name doesn't sound appealing on it merits, It's not that hey this beer is nasty 5 years old beer, it's that the Style is Old. So old as a matter of fact it predates the discovery of Lager yeast. Although, I don't ever recall having tasted an Altbier and even finding a altbier here in the US might be very difficult. But on my quest to understand and brew German beers, I find this style very intriguing.

Current synopsis:
Although I'm sure there are many varieties to the altbier style, two primary distinctive varieties exist that sparked my interest. Northern German and Düsseldorf of the lower lower Rhine region.

The current production of altbier for all of German has significantly declined from it's hayday, to less than 5% of all beer styles produced annually. However in the town of Düsseldorf there are a few pubs that produce only one beer exclusively. One pub produces exclusively altbier, with the exact same recipe they have brewed for over 800 years. It's my understanding that they roll a wooden barrel out of the cellar through the pub and tap it with a simple faucet. They serve steins from the gravity fed faucet.

This experience is explained in one of the books I have (Brewing Classic Styles) see attached pic. What a way to make a living... Why can't I have a job like this? Drink beers from all over the world and write a book or two 😭.

As I read the snippet, and the following recipe, it sounds Devine. That is until I read the IBU of 45. IBU = international bitter unit, is a measurement of how bitter the beer is. Good Lord man, that's way off the chart for what I would consider a drinkable beer. I prefer an IBU of around 10 to 12 with an absolute maximum of 20 and even at 20 I don't even want a second swallow unless I find some other quality that interests me. But I usually pour the beer out.
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If there is one thing I learned about German beers so far, is that Munich and Pilsen base malts, in varying precentages, make up most of the grain bill and the use of German Noble Hops in varying quantities are used exclusively. The four varieties of the four noble hops are, Hallertau, Saaz, Spalt, and Tettnang. So for me, when I see a German beer recipe if it doesn't contain both Munich and Pilsen base malts and at least one of the 4 German noble hops, I immediately question it's authenticity.

This Cowboy Altbrier recipe with it's use of Magnum high alpha acid hops, is highly suspect to me. It may make an absolutely Devine beer for a "hop head" but I'm not a one of those hop goblins.
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Also, the use of Liquid Malt Extract (LME) is something I simply do not like to brew with anymore. It's so difficult to work with... It goes straight to the bottom of the kettle where it's easily scorched if you don't turn off the flame under the kettle and stir until your arm falls off. It's about the consistancy of molasses in January and next to impossible to get all of it out of the jar even with piping hot water. So if I did a little tweaking I think I "might could" brew an acceptable (to me) Düsseldorf Altbrier.

It's also interesting to note the author's difficulty with the use of hops to brew a representative Düsseldorf Altbrier he enjoyed so much.
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After much reseach, I crafted an altbier recipe that I think will turn out to be a decent brew. I chose German noble hops Hallertau because I already like the bittering flavor it produces with German pilsner malt. For aroma I'm going with German noble hop Spalt, because of it's medium aroma intensity, that's pleasant and hoppy.

I'm calling my recipe Copper Altbier, it should turn out to be 11~12 SRM (Standard Reference Method) which is a nice copper color. I'm shooting for a good house brew to keep on tap year round, like the pubs do in Düsseldorf Germany. This will be a lower alcohol content brew and hopefully a nice ballance of bitter and sweet. I'm sure I'll tweak it some as I brew it more often.

This is my first all grain recipe. But feel free to copy & brew. If you need a recipe for Dried Malt Extract (LME), substitute the 10 lbs of pilsner whole grain for 6 lbs of pilsner LME. Perform a mini-mash for the 1 lb of Carmel whole grains in 1 gallon of water @155 for 30 minutes.
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This is how it should look when it's ready to drink. Copper body, with a light copper colored head, a Copper Altbrier.
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for LME mix it with some of your kettle contents before adding to help make it easier to incorporate. will be much easier...
 

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for LME mix it with some of your kettle contents before adding to help make it easier to incorporate. will be much easier...
LME is a pita no matter what you do with it, it's just thick sticky goop. There ain't much liquid in Liquid Malt Extract.
 

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I had to change up a couple of ingredients for the brew based on availability from ritebrew. It happens... No biggie, this is more of an experimental beer than anything... My order has shipped and should be here the middle of next week. I plan on brewing my copper Altbrier all grain next weekend. It'll be a good lower gravity brew to try out new brew gear for the first time and feed the chickens and turkeys at the same time.

Final recipe exported from Wort for Android
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My ingredients are in. Since I haven't had time to mess with my old hand crank grinder, I went ahead and had the brew shop owner grind malts for me @ an additional .10 a lb. But I got a .20 a lb discount for ordering over 10lbs. So I still came out ahead of the game :)

This should be interesting... It'll be my first all-grain attempt and with a self created recipe. Time to put prior experience, book learning and study into practice. Wish me luck.

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I'm quickly coming to the conclusion, that I need to build myself a brew house. I'm thinking something small, detached and on skids, something like an 8'x12' with a 8' tall ceiling. So I can load it on my lowboy trailer and move it easily, for when we move deeper into the woods.
 
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I brewed my all grain German altbier today and I can't believe I hit my post boil target gravity. I had an excellent brew day, more later...

Post boil starting gravity 1.052
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In order to brew all-grain, the first problem I had to solve was my city water. Although water chemistry is a deep wide vast subject and tweaking water for specific beer styles is just as vast. Until I learn more, i opted for a simplistic solution. I suspect the water most of us having come into our homes from the "city" falls into the same category as mine. Smells like chorine, leaves "hard water" chalky white spots when it evaporates. I pulled the annually required CCR (consumer confidence report) for my water department. Although it showed no violations set by the EPA. It offered no help in determining what is or isn't in my water.

So I called the water department and asked a couple of questions. After poking at them, I was able to get a little more info. My water is hard limestone sourced so the white spots are limestone. That's great because limestone water is good for alochol production. But the bad... Our water is treated with Chloramine. Chloramine is effective at preventing all kinds of bacteria growth and is next to impossible to remove from water, it's some nasty sh1t.

Equipped with this limited amount of information, I set out on mission impossible... how to "fix" my water for brewing without spending massive amounts of money on expensive to maintain reverse osmosis water filter system. I happened to stumble across a RV filter that connects to a garden hose. The filter is charcoal based, filters to 150 microns. After hooking this up to a drinking water hose and following the instructions, my water tasted a lot better. I did a quick boil test and there were no white spots left in the bottom of the pan after the water boiled off. I was very happy with my $8.99 quick fix. Just look at that beautiful filtered water in the bucket.
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However my water even after using the RV filter still smelled of chorine. I know it's that damned chloramine. Unlike chorine, chloramine will persist in water even after boiling. It's very difficult to eliminate. However in one of my brewing books, I remember reading something about chloramine and chorine. After re-reading that section from the book, I discovered that 1 campden tablet (potassium metabisulfite) will remove chloramine and chorine from upto 20 gallons of water.
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Being highly suspicious, I tested what I read... In one pan I added 1 gallon of tap water and 1 cup of table sugar. In another pan I added 1 gallon of RV filter filtered water, 1 cup of table sugar and 1 scoop of potassium metabisulfite which is equal to one campen tablet. I then heated both pans to 170 degrees and maintained 170 best I could for 10 minutes. I then cooled both pans to 75 degrees in cold water. Then I added 1 pint of sugar water from each pan into two clean and sterlized quart canning jars and added 1/2 a package of cheap ale beer yeast into each jar, I fixed a sterile lid and ring to each jar so they could burp, then I went to bed.

When I got up in the morning the filtered and campden treated jar was fermenting like crazy but the plain tap water jar was dead as could be. Man was I happy, happy, happy... Horray I finally figured out how to use my tap water to ferment. In the past I ruined 10 gallons of sauerkraut and I highly suspect killed numerous baby turkeys with my tap water. Now I won't have to buy bottled spring water from the store to ferment:)

Potassium metabisulfite (Campden) is used to sterlize the must when making wine. However when brewing beer you boil the wort to sterlize it. Potassium metabisulfite is available cheaply at any local Homebrew store. It gasses off from wine must in 12 hours, then you add petic enzyme, then after 12 more hours add the wine yeast. I'm not a scientist... But my understanding is that potassium metabisulfite leaves behind a very small amount of potassium and sulfates, which is harmless to most everyone, unless you are alergic to sulfates. Anyways you can read more about it here https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potassium_metabisulfite and here https://www.google.com/search?q=potassium+metabisulfite&oq=potassium+me&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l3.8168j0j7&client=ms-android-verizon&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8#sbfbu=1&pi=potassium metabisulfite
 
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CrealCritter

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That’s cool- glad it worked so well. Makes me happy to have well water.
To have good quality well water is a blessing. Especially in today's day and age. With all the inorganic crap we produce that doesn't breakdown for centuries and contaminates water sheds. For you to have good clean uncontaminated well water is a blessing.

I know the younger generation is all about Google for finding answers. But for us who still like books, it's how I found the answer to my water problem. And the proof is in the crazy strong Altbrier German Ale Yeast ferment going on in the bucket from my "city" tap water. It's hard for me to believe still, but it's fermenting like crazy at 60 degrees - yes!
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We'll see what the beer tastes like when it's done and ready to drink. I mean my modified "city" water may make some totally nasty beer. If it does... I'm pretty confident, that I can correct the "city" water now, to make it into something that makes a decent brew. On the other hand my modified "city" water may make a decent brew after being modified as is. We shall see...
 
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