I have to give full credit to that name and the label to JWalk4 on homebrewtalk.com. His puns are truly masterful. And a thanks to m00ps for the quote that became the second half of the beer’s name!

harry_sally

It pretty well sums up what I made this past weekend.

I sometimes have totally unrealistic expectations for me beers.

I have an exact combination of flavors in my mind that I’m hoping to achieve, which is usually a very good thing. My problem is that they can be mutually exclusive, or at least damn close. This weeks brew was based on my recent jonesing for good crisp pilsners and kolsches… kolchen…kolschi? Whatever.

I also like highly floral hop aroma mixed with a balanced hop bitterness and a biscuty malt backbone and a thin crisp body with very little sweetness. I want a beer that is beautiful and rounded in it’s simplicity. I want perfection.

Well having only made about 8 all-grain batches, I’m about as far from perfection as Donald Trump is from having a full head of hair: nowhere near, but faking it.

Last week I was attempting to combine the crispness of an Oktoberfest or Kolsch with the malt profile of an Altbier with the hops of a pale ale. The yeast jury is still out to lunch but whatever they’re having smells great!

This past weekend I was going for the crispness and balance of a pilsner with slightly more floral hops nose and no lagering (since I don’t have the ability to control my fermentation temperatures beyond a swamp cooler yet).

But wait? How can I achieve the clean fermentation and low ester of a pilsner without the cool temps. My theory is that it’s all in the yeast.

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By following the method prescribed in my Yeast Starters for Dummies article, I produced a 15% overpitch of WY1056 yeast and used the 500mL vitality starter method to ensure that the wee beasties were hungry and rarin’ to go!

They were so excited and active, in fact, that I had full krausen within 1 hour of pitching at a pitch rate of ~1 million cells/mL (the “hybrid” pitch rate recommended by homebrewdad. I filled my swamp cooler with water and set my AC to 68 degrees. The water temperature has measured a stead 65 degrees F which should produce a decently low ester fermentation, particularly if it occurs fast enough since esters are produced most heavily in the lag phase.

My hope is that I end up with a highly attenuated, crisp, bitter, dry, light beer with just enough malt flavor to balance out the 34 IBUs.

Speaking of IBUs, I should probably explain my recipe and tell you about a few goofs during the brewing process. Here’s my base recipe which I ended up not totally following.

Grain Bill
8 lb Pilsner malt
1 lb White wheat malt
0.5 lb Carapils
4 oz Acidulated malt

Hop Schedule
90 minute boil
0.5 oz Saaz @ 60 minutes
1 oz Saaz @ 45 minutes
1.5 oz Saaz @ 10 minutes
1 oz Liberty @ flameout

Yeast
WY1056 in a big healthy starter aiming for 1 million cells/mL

Vital Stats/other info
OG 1.050 FG 1.010
ABV 5.3%
34-43 IBU (depending on calculation method)
Full volume no sparge BIAB mash at 149’F for 90 minutes
Fermentation 1 week in primary at 65’F, 1 week in clearing vessel at 65’F
Fining with gelatin
Bottling and aging 3 weeks

Things started to go wrong right off the bat with the strike water. Not horribly, just enough for happy accidents or terribly catastrophes can be the only result.

I had originally planned to simulate the Pilsen water profile by using 6.5 gallons of 100% reverse osmosis filtered water and adding 0.7 grams of gypsum to add just a bit of calcium for the yeast and sulfide to accentuate the hops. Unfortunately muscle memory took over, and I added 1 tsp (3.8g) of calcium chloride as well. This shouldn’t be a big issue as it boosts my calcium level to 47ppm which is a good healthy range for yeast. But It also boosts my chloride level to 72ppm which might result in some off flavors with such a (hopefully) clean tasting beer.

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See all the minerals!?!

I also added 3.2mL of lactic acid to help acidify the mash in conjunction with the acidulated malt. According to the Bru’n water spreadsheet, my pH should have come out to 5.2 on the nose.

I shrugged off the mistake and began hoping for the best and began the mash as usual. At 89 minutes through the mash I realized that I had forgotten the acid malt!

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Cursing my own name, I ran to the kitchen and thought about how to rectify the situation. Since I had already mashed for 90 minutes, and all the sugars are hopefully converted, adding a bit more time won’t hurt anything. So I put in 6 ounces of acid malt instead of 4 and added an extra 30 minutes to the mash time. I’m hoping that this compensated for the mistake and leads to the flavor that I’m shooting for.

I also found that tying my brew bag around a broom handle, then suspending it between two chairs allowed me to twist the bag instead of squeezing it.

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This resulted in a MUCH higher than expected efficiency of 77%! This meant that I overshot my OG by 4 points and hit 1.054 so the beer will be slightly stronger than anticipate, but no matter.

Beyond that, the boil and chill went perfectly. We spilled a bunch of wort on the floor while transferring to the fermenter due to not paying enough attention to the drain hose. We pitched the starter at high krausen in 500mL, sealed the lid and put it in it’s cool bath.

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After sixteen moppings (it was only four, but it felt like more), the floor was no longer sticky and we could finally relax and wait for bubbles.

We didn’t wait long, as bubbles started issuing from the blowoff tube after only 1 hour! That is the shortest lag time I have ever experienced, and since I didn’t drastically overpitch, I have to credit the vitality starter. These yeast were chomping at the bit apparently!

So now we wait the long wait and see if all my hoping and scheming will result in the beer I’m after. It’s light colored. It’s thin and crisp and clear. I won’t lager it. I didn’t use a kolsch yeast. I slightly over-hopped it. I have no idea what it is. It’s not a kolsch or a pilsner, I just want it to be delicious.

Cheers!

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