Rye Barrel Adambier

>> Sunday, December 09, 2018

Today's recipe is for an Adambier and is based on Hair of the Dog Brewing Company's interpretation of the style, simply named Adam. In fact, this recipe reportedly comes directly from Alan Spirits at HotD via Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef. We're brewing this beer as a group project, and by "we", I mean Brandon, Jeff, Nate, and Rob (me). Some previous group projects included our buddy Ryan, but he lives in Texas now so Nate jumped into Ryan's spot. This is going to be a huge beer that will be consumed slowly over a few years, so it's a good one to split with friends.

Adambier is one of those nearly extinct historic styles that most people have never heard of and there really aren't a whole lot of commercial examples out there (HotD’s Adam is the only one I’ve ever seen packaged for sale). Standard guidelines are pretty scarce as well. I first heard about the style when I was doing my pro-am Cahoots Flanders Red with Uinta Brewing. They had brewed up a batch of Adambier for some special events including GABF. In fact, a small portion of the Adambier made its way into the final Cahoots blend (one port barrel filled roughly 50/50 with Flanders Red and Adambier). The style is essentially described as a German lagered version of a Barleywine. Note, I said “lagered version of a Barleywine”; it's an ale that's lagered, rather than a beer brewed with lager yeast. It's very likely that this beer was cold-aged in order to round out the flavors and let some of the hot alcohols mellow.

As for descriptions of the style, the Maltose Falcons seem to have the most complete write-up on their club site. Other sources describe the style as a marriage of malt, sour, and smoke, but I doubt the sour was very pronounced and probably wasn't even intentional when/if it occurred. Similar to an Old Ale, the sourness is likely subdued and the byproduct of extended aging on wood rather than something akin to a Flanders Red where acidity is integral in defining the style. One thing that is consistent is the description of smoky character which dates back to a time when all malt had at least a little bit of smoke character from direct-fired kilns. This recipe uses peat-smoked malt, something that almost every professional brewer as well as homebrewer will tell you to steer clear of due to its overwhelmingly intense smoky character. This is my first time using this malt and I can tell you my hands smell smoky just from bagging the two and a quarter pounds for this recipe.

Even with the smokiness that is likely to come from the peat-smoked malt, this style is all about the malt. Malt, malt, and more malt is the name of the game. We're using Imperial Tartan yeast for this batch, which is a yeast strain known to emphasize malt character in finished beer. This beer is going to spend some time in a rye barrel from Sugarhouse Distillery once primary fermentation is complete. I'm not sure if it's the char, the micro-oxygenation, or a combination of the two (most likely), but there's definitely some magic that takes place in a barrel...softening, conditioning, rounding flavors. If you don’t have a barrel for a beer like this, consider charring some oak cubes and adding them to secondary.

Well that's enough talk. Now to the recipe as we're making it today. Due to the high gravity, this is a bit of an advanced beer. If you're stumbling across this recipe and you're a first-time homebrewer, I would not recommend starting with this recipe. 

Recipe size: 15 gallons
Target OG: 1.134 - As gravity increases, efficiency drops. I doubt we'll get to 1.134, but it's going to be high regardless.

The total recipe is listed below. Due to volume restrictions in both the mash and the boil, we will most likely divide the mash and boil in half. Fermentation will be divided across three fermenters.

55.00# Gambrinus Pale Malt (yes, that’s one full sack)
5.43# Briess Bonlander Munich Malt (10L)
2.25# Simpsons Peat Smoked Malt
3.75# Crisp Light Crystal Malt (45L)
0.56# Castle Chateau Black Malt
1.13# Crystal Pale Chocolate Malt
6.0oz Northern Brewer (90 min)
4.5oz Northern Brewer (40 min)
6.0oz Tettnang (10 min)
(6) - Imperial Tartan A31 (yes, six of them)
1.5 Whirlfloc
3t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient

Mash at 155F, 120 minute boil, start fermentation at 62F and ramp up to 67F over 5 days.

Considerations - Due to the extremely high starting gravity, you really need to ensure your yeast are as healthy as possible. Yeast starters, yeast nutrient, and proper oxygenation before fermentation starts are all very important. Additional doses of oxygen are fine up until you start seeing signs of active fermentation. I specially ordered yeast for this batch to ensure it was as fresh as possible. Make sure your mash tun is large enough to accommodate the entire grain bill. A giant whisk may work better for mixing and breaking up doughballs than a traditional mash paddle.

Brewing Notes
We're still in the middle of mash #1. This pushed my mash tun to the max. I had the flow set a little higher than normal to ensure a consistent temp throughout the mash bed, but I started seeing signs that it was compacting. I went ahead and reduced the flow, then stirred the mash to reset the bed. More to come.

Part 2: Petty much the same as the first half of the mash. Gravity came in at 1.114 (26.8 P). We lost a little bit of wort on the hop spiders. First fermenter got a little over filled, second fermenter filled exactly 5 gallons, and the last one was around 4 gallons. Long story short, we're a little shy of 15 total.

We did a 2nd runnings beer as well. We threw a variety out late addition hops including Centennial, Cascade, Simcoe, and 2017 Hop Hash; nothing that will ever be repeatable. Post-boil OG was about 1.035. It was pitched with US-05.

Update 1/1/2019
This beer was transferred into the rye barrel today. The barrel has a fair amount of headspace. I think it could easily handle another 2-3 gallons, so I may brew up a top-off batch. Before filling, I purged the barrel with CO2. As for other process info, see below.

Ideally, you should be refilling barrels within a couple days of emptying. This barrel sat empty for an extended period of time, so it needed to be rehydrated. My standard procedure is a modified French method where I fill the head with 180F water and let it soak for about 10-15 minutes. The barrel is then flipped over and the process repeated on the other head. Lastly, I fill the barrel with 180F water and let it sit for about 30 minutes before emptying.

I also tend to wax my smaller barrels. The intention in doing so is to reduce oxygen permeability so that it's mimics the oxygen transfer relative to surface area of larger barrels. For 10 gallon barrels, I wax 75% of the staves. For 15 gallon barrels, like this one, I wax 50% of the staves.

Note: I originally  indicated we were putting this into a bourbon barrel; it's actually a rye whiskey barrel.

Update 1/15/2019
I finally got around to kegging the 2nd runnings beer that we've been referring to as Jr. It's got a ton of hop flavor and aroma. It's kind of a murky light brown color, maybe a bit lighter than a typical British Mild. I added some gelatin to try to improve the clarity. Body is on the thin side.  I probably wouldn't be super happy if this was the beer I was trying to brew, but as a "free" 2nd running beer, it's not bad.

Update 7/1/2019
This beer was kegged yesterday.

Update 7/10/2019
I pulled a small sample off one of the kegs tonight. This beer is really tasty, but it is very apparent that it's a really big beer. I wouldn't call it "hot", but it's definitely big and boozy. I think it will likely age very well, which is good because it's going to be a sipping beer. 

Update 12/26/2019
This beer recently took a silver medal in the 2019 Utah Brewfest competition (small local comp). It was entered in Specially Wood-aged Beer as a Rye Whiskey American Barleywine. I also entered it in 2019 Beehive Brewoff as an Adambier (also barrel-aged); almost all the judges commented that they didn't know much about the Adambier style, so it seems to be safer entering it as a Barleywine for competition purposes.