Doppelbock 2017

>> Friday, January 05, 2018

Today I'm brewing a style that I've never brewed before, a Doppelbock. I don't know why it's taken me so long to get around to brewing this's just kind of a casualty of my tendency to brew ales more frequently than lagers. The 2015 BJCP guidelines describe this style as follows:

Overall Impression: A strong, rich, and very malty German lager that can have both pale and dark variants. The darker versions have more richly-developed, deeper malt flavors, while the paler versions have slightly more hops and dryness.

Comments: Most versions are dark colored and may display the caramelizing and Maillard products of decoction mashing, but excellent pale versions also exist. The pale versions will not have the same richness and darker malt flavors of the dark versions, and may be a bit drier, hoppier and more bitter. While most traditional examples are in the lower end of the ranges cited, the style can be considered to have no upper limit for gravity, alcohol and bitterness (thus providing a home for very strong lagers).
Since this is my first time brewing the style, I'm going with a recipe based on Jamil Zainasheff's recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. I'm brewing this beer as a 2.5 gallon batch rather than 5 gallons...just in case things don't turn out well.

Some key points to remember, because of the colder temps and therefore more challenging fermentation environment, lagers require big healthy pitches. Doppelbocks are big high gravity beers as well, so a large pitch of healthy yeast is extra important. For this beer I went with two smack packs of Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager yeast in a 1.6L starter on a stir plate.

Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today.

7.0# Avangard Munich Malt Light (8L)
2.0# Weyermann® Floor-Malted Bohemian Pilsner
1.0# Weyermann® CARAMUNICH® Type 3
20g Hallertauer (60 min)
4.1g Hallertauer (30 min)
Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager
Wyeast nutrient

Water - To 7 gallons of distilled water
1.2g - Epson salt
3.2g - Baking soda
7.1g - Chalk
Note: I don't use the full 7 gallons of brewing water, but I need to maintain a certain level so that my heating elements aren't exposed.

Mash - As is somewhat typical for the style, I'm going with a decoction mash. This does add some complexity to the process, but it's not too bad and it goes a bit quicker with small batches.
  1. Mash in for an initial rest at 125F for 10 minutes.
  2. Pull about 25% of the mash for the first decoction. The decoction should be thick; try to leave most of the mash liquor behind. Raise decoction to 155F and hold for 15 minutes, then increase to a boil and hold for 15 minutes before returning decoction to mash.
  3. Maintain mash at 155F for 45 minutes.
  4. Pull second decoction (25%) and bring to a boil for 15 minutes before returning to mash.
  5. Maintain mash to 168F for 10 minutes, then proceed with sparge.
Boil - 90 minute boil.

Fermentation - Chill to 47F and pitch yeast.
  1. Ramp temperatures up to 50F over 3 days.
  2. On day 9, start raising temps for diacetyl rest at 62F for 3 days.
  3. Gradually drop temps to 40F over 7 days.
  4. Condition at lager temps for 2-4 months.
Brewing Notes
Friday, after-work brew sessions are always fun and go a little later than I hope, but thankfully no issues. The color on this beer is a gorgeous deep copper. OG on this came in at a whopping 1.099.

Update 1/6/2017
I was able to chill the wort down into the high 50's by whirling and using my immersion chiller. I left it in the ferm chamber overnight to get down to 47F. I aerated the wort then pitched my starter this morning and this evening I'm seeing positive pressure in the airlock and hints of krausen in the fermenter, so things seem to be off to a good start.

Update 4/15/2018
For the most part, I really like how this beer turned out. The one flaw is the gravity finished too high. I wouldn't call it cloying, but there's definitely some sweetness there and I noticed it before I even sent it off for judging. I'm pretty sure this is tied more to the decoction than issues with yeast health/pitch size. I'll definitely brew this one again and try to dial things in a bit.

Update 1/12/2019
This beer scored well at 2018 NHC, but it didn't medal. It ended up taking silver at the 10th annual Beehive Brew-off. Tonight, I found out it took gold at the Big Beers, Belgians, and Barleywines Festival in Breckenridge, CO. I tasted one a couple weeks ago and I think the sweetness has dropped a bit. Regardless, next time I brew this beer, I'd prefer the finishing gravity be a bit lower. Still, I'm excited this beer is getting some recognition.