Monday, October 21, 2013

Homebrewing Albany Ale

Look ma, I'm brewing!
Good thing I had my Albany Brew Crafters hoodie – it was chilly out.
If you’re a beer lover and you live in the Capital District, no doubt you’ve heard of the Albany Ale Project by now. It was started by local beer historian Craig Gravina and his Canadian friend Alan McLeod to chronicle the history of brewing in Albany. From the early days of America until Prohibition, Albany was one of the biggest beer cities in the country, brewing all kinds of beer, but the most popular was something like a light-mild, known as Albany Ale. Craig and Alan have been attempting to document everything they can about what went into these beers, though the recipe varied over time and between breweries.

Back in early September, Craig partnered with Ryan Demler, the brewmaster at Albany Pump Station, to brew an early 20th Century version of Albany Ale - “Amsdell’s 1901 Albany XX Ale.”  The recipe was based on files found in the archives at The Albany Institute of History and Art, but not an exact replica since some of the details just weren’t available. In fact, the tapping of the first cask of Albany Ale in over a century will be held at The Albany Institute on November 2. It will then go on tap at the Pump Station and several bars and restaurants throughout the area.

albany ale 001
The Homebrew Emporium’s recipe for DIY Albany Ale
Roger Savoy, the owner of Homebrew Emporium in Rensselaer, came up with an all-grain homebrew recipe based on the Albany Pump Station’s version. He published his recipe in the store’s latest newsletter, and already local homebrewers have started making their own Albany Ale, including former Times Union reporter Jimmy Vielkind who brewed an extract recipe with Craig Gravina himself.

albany ale (2)
Scott prepares his all-grain homebrew
Scott Mitchell, a fellow member of Albany Brew Crafters (and regular commenter on this blog), wanted to take a stab at the all-grain recipe. This gave me an idea for a homebrewing experiment. Since I wanted to make an extract Albany Ale homebrew, I thought it would be fun if we both brewed our beers in tandem. So, on Sunday, I brought my homebrewing equipment to Scott’s house and we brewed side-by-side. It’s pretty interesting to see the difference between extract and all-grain in close proximity. This video should give you a good idea of what I mean:

As you can see, it was a fun and interesting process. Though the directions weren’t exactly clear and straightforward. First of all, the ingredients mistakenly list 2-Row malt when it’s actually 6-Row malt. Secondly, the ingredients call for .25lbs of “invert sugar” (not the same as table sugar or Belgian candi sugar), but the directions say to use 1lb of raw sugar and 3 tablespoons of water. We got confused and thought that meant you had to use one pound of invert sugar per brew, which is what we wound up doing (that’s FOUR TIMES the recommended amount – oops!).
melted turbinado sugar in water and lemon juice
The “invert sugar” (turbinado sugar melted in water and lemon juice).
I bought a 2lb box of “Sugar in the Raw” turbinado sugar, which we heated in a pan on the stovetop for about a half hour. We only added 6 tablespoons of water, which gave the sugar a crunchy, thick, applesauce-like texture. We kept adding water and a little bit of lemon juice until it thinned to the point of a maple syrup consistency. We didn’t even bother measuring it when we added it to our brewpots – we just eyeballed it.

What’s also weird is that you need actual corn syrup in this brew. The recipe calls for .625lbs of it, though it’s much easier to measure when you realize that’s equal to 10oz (good thing I had my food scale). I’ve never used sugar or corn syrup in a homebrew before, so I’m curious to see what affect they have on the final product (I’m thinking this is going to be a very sweet beer).

Since I brewed with liquid malt extract, my wort was dark brown, while Scott’s all-grain was more of a maize hue. My gravity was also higher at 1.066 compared to his 1.052. My wort was quite bitter and gritty whereas his was slightly sweet and cleaner. Our friend Ryan brought us a vial of East Coast Yeast “Old Newark Ale” to use for fermentation, which is probably close to the type of yeast used back in the Albany Ale heyday. Both of our vessels are fermenting in Scott’s temperature-controlled chamber. The starting temperature will be quite low at 60 degrees and it will be slowly raised over time. We’re not planning on doing a secondary fermentation. Scott will be kegging his brew while I’ll be bottling mine. We’re both eager to see how they’ll compare in terms of taste, body, and alcohol.
There will be an Albany Ale homebrew tasting event at the Albany Pump Station on November 10 from 4 to 6pm. I actually wasn’t aware of this event until recently, mostly because the promotional material about it seems to be limited to the store’s newsletter. Had I known about it earlier, I would’ve brewed my own Albany Ale much sooner. I’m not sure if it’ll be ready in time.
My extract brew boiling.
My extract brew boiling.

Here’s the recipe I used for my extract brew:

MASH (45 minutes @ 130-152 degrees*):
1lb Briess 6-Row malt
2lbs Corn Grits
1oz black patent malt
*the directions didn’t say how long to steep the grains for an extract brew, so we guessed.

BOIL (3.5 gallons @ 60 minutes)
60 minutes 6.6lbs Muntons Marris Otter Light liquid malt extract
30 minutes Irish Moss 1 teaspoon
20 minutes 1lb inverted sugar (melted turbinado sugar)
20 minutes 10oz corn syrup
15 minutes Yeast energizer 1/2 teaspoon

60 minutes 1.5oz Cluster
1 minute .5oz Cluster

East Coast Yeast ECY10 “Old Newark Ale”

5 gallons tap water

NOTE: The ingredients for the extract version cost $44 for the malts, hops and extract, plus another ~$3 for the sugar and corn syrup from the supermarket.

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