Brewing Stone 03.03.03 Vertical Epic Ale at Home

by Lee Chase

Alright, now this is going to be a little different than last years (OK, a LOT different!!). By now you might know that these “Vertical” beers are not just the same recipe as each other, they are designed to be quite different than each other. We are not trying to make the recipe as difficult to brew as possible (we’re not doing triple decoctions, or aging them in oak barrels for 3 years… yet!). Instead we’re just trying to make what we think is a great beer, and have a little fun in the process. So read on, and do the best you can. That’s kind of what I did…

So, the same kind of disclaimer as last time: This is the all-grain recipe. If you are not too familiar with home brewing you may want to consult a book like “The Joy Of Homebrewing” by Papazian for some insight. Also, there is a lot of info on the web for conversions, equations and the like.

Quick Stats

Starting Gravity: 19 Plato (1.078sg)

Finishing Gravity: 3.5 Plato(1.014sg)

ABV: 8.2 %

IBU: 48

If at all possible (and at Stone, it is) put on the Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys song “What’s a Matter with the Mill?” (Lyrics: Took my wheat down to get it ground / the man who runs the mill said the mill’s broke down/ what’s a matter with the mill? / it done broke down / what’s a matter with the mill? / it done broke down / can’t get no grind… tell me what’s a matter with the mill.):

First, try to gather these malt and grains:

Pale 2-Row Barley – 89.45%

Unmalted Wheat (Red Soft Winter, flaked) – 6.8%

Special B – 2.5%

Chocolate Wheat Malt – 1.25%

The chocolate wheat is a strange one, but your local supply store should be able to get it.

For hopping and spices, you will also need (appx. for 5 gallons):

Warrior (17.8%aa, .666oz in boil)

Centennial hops (.2oz for dry hop)

Coriander

Alligator Pepper (aka Grains of Paradise, or Paradise seed)

Mash

Mash the grains in to reach a rest temperature of 150f. We added a little extra barley hulls to help with the run off, because the wheat on this batch (no husk) coupled with no protein rest makes for a bit of the “better safe than sorry” argument. We added 40#s into 2200 pounds of malt (or about 2%). This won’t make much difference in character, but can make the run off a little more predictable. I have found that the use of some down-home sounds from the Hot Club of Cowtown can also help to influence a smooth run off and a faster conversion.

Give it an hour or so to convert, then sparge it with water at about 162F. We keep it cool to avoid some rough characters that can be leached from the husk otherwise. Don’t go too cool or you will increase the viscosity of the wort and slow/stick the run off.

In the Kettle

You best not over sparge. At 19 Plato starting gravity, you don’t need too much water! Collect your wort and bring it to a boil. You can check your gravity before you start the boil. Factor in that you are going to evaporate off a little, and see if you think you are close to your target. You want to achieve a full rolling (radical) boil, and what we have found to help is putting on the Gogol Bordello song “Radical.” Believe it or not: It can get the temperature up to 214 degrees if it is loud enough! My theory is that the Russian sound makes the wort think it is colder than it really is, so it lets in a little more heat than normal….

Hops

Give it a total of 90 minutes of boiling, adding your Warrior 15 minutes after the start of the boil. Go ahead and let the Gogol Bordello play out while you are getting the spices ready. About 10 minutes before the end of the boil, you will want to add some kettle finings like Irish Moss or Whirlfloc-G.

This gets only one hop addition during the boil, for bitterness only. After the boil time ends, cut the fire and give it a few spins with a spoon to get a little whirlpool started (don’t slosh it out on yourself!).

Now that it’s hot but not boiling, and whirlpooling a little, you can add your spices. For a five gallon batch, add .53 oz Alligator Pepper and .45 oz Coriander (both fresh ground well). Give it about 10 minutes to steep while it is resting and letting the hops, trub and spice settle. Then it is time to cool, pitch and ferment! But wait… it gets a little more complicated….

The Yeast

This part is a little strange (not unlike a lot of Belgian beers ). I did a lot of research on what yeast worked well with the style/flavor profile I wanted to achieve. I pitched about 6 different styles of Belgian “abbey” yeasts into their own fermenters, all with the same wort, and tasted the results. The yeast I chose was the abbey strain 500 from White Labs. With this yeast, I still thought that the phenolic character was a little over-the-top, and wanted to mellow it out. That may be achievable with a cooler fermentation, but I was delighted with the balance struck when the same wort fermented with our house yeast was blended 1:1 with the beer from the Belgian yeast strain. This gives an assertive yeast flavor, but doesn’t keep the hops and spices from showing through. So, to pitch this batch for fermentation, split it up into 2 equal size batches. A few selections from a Hank Williams Sr album will surely touch on the hardships of a split-up. Pitch one with the abbey and the other with the yeast you cultured out of a bottle of any of the Stone bottle-conditioned beers. Or ask the guys at white Labs what would be a similar strain to our house yeast.

Ferment these at 70F and then blend back together. They will again join together as one, but not until the fight is over.

Dry Hopping and Spicing

Take about .2oz of both Coriander and Alligator Pepper. Mix in as little water as will submerge them or allow them to mix into a slurry. Heat them up to a boil and throw them into the fermenter. At the same time, add .2 oz Centennial to the fermenter. Let these hang out for a week, then rack and package either into a bottle or a keg. The spices will be more apparent than the hops, but the hops will add a bit of complexity… and we all love some hop aroma in the mix.

Now the hard part… wait for 10 years to see what happens. Or just enjoy it when you feel the time is right.

Try your hand at brewing all of the Stone Vertical Epic Ales. Homebrew recipes for each can be found at:

Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale

Stone 04.04.04 Vertical Epic Ale

Stone 05.05.05 Vertical Epic Ale

Stone 06.06.06 Vertical Epic Ale

Stone 07.07.07 Vertical Epic Ale

Stone 08.08.08 Vertical Epic Ale

Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale

Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale

Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale

Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale

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