Brewing Stone 05.05.05 Vertical Epic Ale at Home

by Lee Chase

This year, the Vertical Epic has taken another turn…but this time toward the simpler! I wanted to highlight a couple of things with this brew, with particular attention being paid to the future flavor development of the beer. You know, keeping it fairly simple, but making it relatively high-alcohol and full of flavor. Having had a bit of this in March, this baby was still a little young—actually, more like not-yet-born if you factor in the bottle-conditioning time required—but had a huge fruity yeast flavor (phenolic), some tasty chocolate notes, and a really pleasant texture, all of which improved as it warmed up. So below you will find the not-so-difficult-to-brew recipe to construct your very own 5 gallons of Stone 05.05.05 Vertical Epic Ale. Hope you enjoy it!

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 Charlie Papazian for some insight. Also, there is a lot of info on the web for conversions, equations and the like.

So, you will need the following ingredients, in the related amounts:

Pale 2-Row Malt – 89.75%

Caramel 150L Malt – 9%

Chocolate Wheat – 1.25%

Amarillo Hops at 8.2%aa at about .25 oz per gallon.

Clear Belgian Candi Sugar – 1.5 oz/gallon

#550 White Labs Belgian Yeast

NOTE: You’re aiming for 20 Plato for your wort

So, as you set up, picture yourself in a “good-beer” wasteland: a town so small, so remote, and so out of touch, that you are not just a homebrewer—you are a wanted criminal for brewing! If you are caught, you’ll be forced to stay here…and your zymergic-future will be very dry and boring (kinda like America before President Jimmy Carter.) So queue up some Gogol Bordello, the gypsy punks that take Ukraine traditional music and give it even more life. You want “through the roof ‘n’ underground.” If you are sharing beers with your brewing assistant, you can sip on a Stone Imperial Stout for that Russian feel inside and out, but there’s a long road ahead… perhaps a more entry-level beer suits you better. No, wait. The stout’ll be fine. You have all of this written direction right here to help you out through the brew day. Let the Gogol spin as you heat up some water.

Now, you’re set up, and ready to brew. As you probably know from the previous Stone Vertical Epic Ale recipes, water heats faster to Mambo. So if you are waiting around, try the Perez Prado trick, and jam some “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” and “Mambo#8.”

You got all the malt milled, and the water is hot (170° F will do). Mash that stuff to get a rest of 146° F. Mix it well, straight infusion style. Let it rest for 1 hour as you get the fermenter cleaned and the sparge water ready. Some good mash-rest music: “Junko Partner” by the Clash (any Clash will help maintain the temp, and a little Calcium Sulfate will help stabilize the enzymes), followed up by a side or two of the Specials. Goes nicely with a Stone Pale Ale…or a Stone India Pale Ale if you weigh more than 150 pounds… I don’t. Stone Levitation Ale, please.

Now you’re ready to sparge. Keep the pH below 6.5 if you can. A little food grade phosphoric acid will help out, but a little is all it takes. If you can’t test pH, no sweat—skip the acid; the chocolate wheat and C-150 malts will keep the pH low. Just don’t sparge too hot—keep it below 165° F.

Collect your wort, but don’t sparge too much. You want to keep the gravity up, cause you’re aiming for 20 Plato (1.083 SG). Too much sparge, and you’ll be boiling forever to evaporate the wort in order to reach your gravity. And do check your gravity on this stuff.

The best way to be sure you reach your gravity is to collect your wort, pull out a sample to check the gravity, and measure the kettle volume. Your volume (at the start of the boil) multiplied by the gravity, divided by the gravity you want will tell you the volume you should aim for.

Add your hops. You want to aim for 45 IBUs using this calculation:

IBU x 3.785 = grams /gallon
AAxU.F.x1000
(where AA=Alpha Acid as a fraction, (8.2%AA=.082)
and U.F. is the Utilization Factor, say .25)

You want the bitterness to be right. To assist you with the math and science, spin the Hepcat album “Right On Time.” It’s scientific, man. Calculate your hops to meet the target beer volume. Your Alpha Acid will determine what you need to add. Take the time to calculate it and weigh it out with a gram scale. Sure, you say “a gram scale?…those are like $100!!” But trust me, it is one of the best things you can do to dial in your bitterness. Someone in your local HomeBrew Club might have one you can borrow. They will let you borrow it, too. They like beer, and you’re making beer. They’re your kind of people! Barter!

It’s probably about time for getting the fermenter sanitized, so do that while the boil is happening (75 minutes from the first hop addition). For sustenance, a ½ pint of the last runnings is pretty nice, but very non-Atkins (you don’t care). Keep moving on the fermenter, and get that thang sanitized.

After your boil is finished, check the volume to see what you didn’t evaporate. You may need to correct your gravity with a little clean water (to bring the gravity down) or added boil time (to bring the gravity up)…or not. Whirl that sucker to get some solids separation, then chill it down (about 70° F). Rack it, aerate it, and pitch the yeast.

After the fermentation is over, you should wind up with a gravity of about 1.015 sg (about 3.8 Plato). Chill it down, then get it off the yeast. Let it settle for a couple weeks in a secondary container, then rack it into bottles. You’ll want to add a little bit of sugar to get the CO2 to come around, bottle-conditioned style. Be sure you get it right or the bottles will blow up.

Give it a warm place to re-ferment in the bottle… that should take a couple of weeks, then it is ready to taste.

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 03.03.03 Vertical Epic Ale

Stone 04.04.04 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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