April 5, 2013

Salivator Doppelbock

I've always been a fan of the rich malt bombs known as doppelbocks but it took my wife a little while to come around to the German parity of other malt bombs around Europe like scotch ales, quads, biere de gardes and barleywines. She went from almost spitting out her first sip of Optimator to raving about Live Oak's fantastic doppelbock, Liberator when we hit the Live Oak tour early last month. Unfortunately it's hard to find many doppelbocks in the Dallas area, even during the traditional lenten season. We have Optimator and Salvator available year-round. While they are both great beers and staples of the style I miss having some variety available. Now that my wife will enjoy some doppelbock with me and I have temperature control available for lager brewing I decided to take my first leap into lager brewing with confidence by taking on a bigger style than the typical session strength lagers. I'm equipped with the avalanche of lager production knowledge from New Brewing Lager Beer and ready to take the icy plunge.

Doppelbocks are normally given a name with an -ator at the end. This beer was named in honor of somebody who I won't name (not my wife) who spent his whole first time drinking drooling and complaining that the alcohol made him salivate. Hence we decided to call this beer Salivator in his honor. If I had the artistic skill to make beer labels I'd make a drooling goat on the label since bock beers are often associated with goats since bock is German for goat. Ok, enough personalizing the beer, let's talk about some beer.

When I sat down to plan out this beer I thought about what style of doppelbock I was after and what flavors I was looking for. I think of doppelbocks as falling into two camps. There's the Salvator style, which is very sweet and bready. It reminds me a lot of English barleywines. Then there's the Optimator style, the more common of the two, which is more focused on darker malts and carries those raisin, chocolate, coffee, prune, plum flavors. I like both but the darker take on the style seems like a more interesting brewing experience. When I looked around at different recipes to use as a template it made the most sense to follow Kai Troester's recipe which is itself a modification on Optimator. The modifications I made to his recipe were slight and really only reflected the ingredients available and my brew set up. His recipe should be a good backbone to evolve a recipe towards my own preferences.

This recipe will not only be my first lager but it will also be my first attempt at using one of the strains from my yeast project for a full scale beer. It took a little over two weeks to grow up a pitchable quantity of yeast just for one gallon of lager. I'm rolling out this Pschorr strain (which is effectively the same as East Coast Yeast's Festbier strain) so I'm hoping it does the job. Maybe a less significant milestone is that this beer represents my first beer using Bru'n Water for my water profile instead of EZ Water Calculator that I have used for the past couple of years. I'm hearing a lot of good things about Bru'n Water. Ok, the beer has a fancy back story and now I've talked about my objectives with the beer so let's move on to the details.

Finally, the actual doppelbock recipe

So I'll start off with the basic recipe details and then I'll separately talk about the lager process and the mash. This recipe is just a one gallon recipe.


Batch size: 1 gallon
Est. OG: 1.08
Est. FG: 1.011
Est. ABV: 9.2%
IBU: 18.5
SRM: 17.8
BU/GU: 0.23
Efficiency: 74%

Grain bill:

76%  2lb., 6oz Munich II (9 SRM)
16% 8oz pilsner malt
4%   2oz caramunich II
2%   1oz caramunich III
2%   1oz aromatic malt


Water profile: See below
Infuse 6.25 quarts of water at 155F for 35 minutes at 147F
Decoct 1quart and raise to 158F for 15 minutes, then boil for 10 minutes
Add decoction to mash to raise to 156F for 40 minutes
Batch sparge with 3 quarts at 170F
Pre-boil volume: 1.27 gallons


90 minute boil
0.10oz Belma [12% AAU] at 60 minutes
0.05oz EKG [5% AAU] at 60 minutes
1/4 tsp Irish moss at 10 minutes


Cool wort to 46F
Pitch Pschorr lager yeast from 1 liter starter with nutrients and a lot of aeration of wort
Maintain at 46F until gravity reaches 1.018 then raise to 65F for diacetyl rest until gravity reaches terminal gravity

Transfer to secondary for lagering
Lager at 38F for three weeks
Fine with gelatin the last two days
Bottle with fresh yeast and age bottles for 4-6 months

Now some more details about the process

The recipe

The recipe for the grain bill is almost identical to Kai's recipe but instead of the caraaroma he uses I went with aromatic because I couldn't find caraaroma at the time I bought the grain. I know the two are different but aromatic works well to create a malty feel in a beer so it's a good fit in the recipe. Kai's design is to create complexity by layering in different munich malts, which makes a lot of sense. I've seen many doppelbock recipes that have a lot of US/UK crystal malts and special B. I see where the special B would work in creating those raisin flavors but I'm suspect that the flavor profiles of US/UK crystal varieties are the correct flavor profiles in a doppelbock. I chose not to add any special B into the recipe because Kai discusses that the fruit flavors should develop by aging the beer so I'll trust he knows what he's talking about and if I want more raisin I can always make that decision the next time I brew this.

I thought I would comment briefly on the hops as well. I wanted to slowly put all these Belma hops I have to work in bittering additions. The problem is that my scale only measures in 0.05 ounce increments (it does grams but I don't want to go back and forth between ounces and grams during the brew day for fear of accidentally adding too much or too little of an ingredient, which I have done before). At 0.10 ounces I'm too low on IBUs and I couldn't get enough by adding the hops earlier in the boil so I'm just supplementing the Belma with a little EKG out of my stash of EKG that I also need to use since it's a 2011 batch. Any other hop would have worked fine as a bittering charge.

The water

As I said earlier, this is my first attempt at using Bru'n Water instead of EZ Water Calculator to develop a water profile. Bru'n Water is a fantastically complex tool but is set up to allow very easy adjustments because it has basic beer types you can select for a water profile rather than the typical process of picking a geographic water profile and hope you know the appropriate way to adjust that water to your needs. It's definitely a more complex tool and suggests more work adjusting the mash and sparge to meet the appropriate style water profile. Using the "brown malty" profile and inputting the grains for the beer I will adjust the distilled water I use for brewing with:

Mash adjustments:
0.8 grams epsom salt
0.4 grams kosher salt
0.4 grams calcium chloride
0.4 grams chalk

Sparge adjustments:
0.4 grams epsom salt
0.2 grams kosher salt
0.2 grams calcium chloride

Which gives me an overall profile of:

Calcium 44ppm
Magnesium 13ppm
Sodium 26ppm
Sulfate 51ppm
Chloride 72ppm
Bicarbonate 81ppm
Mash ph: 5.5

The mash ph is a touch too high, I want it down around 5.2-3. The amount of lactic acid I need to adjust the mash is so small I would never be able to measure it so precisely that I could make the addition without getting the mash too acidic. Normally I would contemplate an acid rest to make this adjustment but because of the mash technique that's not a viable option. Instead I will use a little white vinegar to make a very small addition and measure the ph with the vinegar additions with those low tech ph strips. Vinegar isn't a great option for acid additions because it has a distinct flavor but when adding a few milliliters it won't make a noticeable flavor impact.

The mash

The traditional mash process for a doppelbock would be the full triple decoction mash with an acid rest, a protein rest and saccharification rests in the high 140s and again in the high 150s. I opted to adjust to a less involved mash schedule here for a few reasons. The major reason is to avoid the protein rest. After talking to the brewers at Live Oak, who make fantastic German lagers, they only deploy a protein rest when using undermodified pilsner malt because the undermodified malt has excessive protein that needs to be broken down. The concern with using a protein rest on well-modified malt is breaking down the grain too much and losing the body and head that a small amount of protein provides. Since I'm not using undermodified malts I wanted to skip the protein rest.

That creates a problem for performing an acid rest around 90F. I can't do a decoction that jumps from 90F to 147F because I would have to boil so much of the grain in the decoction I would have very little enzyme remaining to convert the rest of the mash. Munich malt isn't known for it's powerful diastatic power so denaturing a lot of the enzyme in the decoction would only add to that problem. I could do an infusion to make the jump but I couldn't get enough water in the acid rest to activate the enzyme responsible for the acidification. I'd just have damp grain. I could start the mash on the stove and go through the acid rest and apply direct heat to move up to 147F. Although this is a plausible solution the danger is that the heating would be too slow and I would end up with a short protein rest as the mash heats through the 120-136F range but if I heat too fast I might overshoot my desired saccharification temperature and end up getting too warm. It's more of a danger on a smaller batch where there is less thermal mass to keep an even heat. I'd probably consider this approach on a larger batch of beer but given the greater risk of problems on a one gallon batch it doesn't make sense. Instead I'll just add the acid to adjust the ph and go from there.

So having stripped out those steps I am infusing directly into a first saccharification rest and then I will perform a decoction to move up to 156F. That will allow me to get some of the benefit of a decoction mash without inviting the problems discussed above. I'll have to pull the decoction a few minutes into the mash so I can give it a little bump up to 156F to complete conversion and then give it time to boil to break down the grains. The total mash time is 75 minutes, which should ensure complete conversion between the two rests. Then I'll sparge out and get to boiling.

Fermentation and Lagering

The magic of lager beers is all in the fermentation and lagering. It's also where the flaws in the beer can appear. I'm particularly concerned about avoiding diacetyl because it's a terrible flaw and my wife is particularly sensitive to it. To make my life easier and avoid running two fridges unnecessarily I am going to use my kitchen fridge as a fermentation chamber. We keep our fridge at 46F which is right at the bottom end of the temperature range for this yeast (at least according to ECY). I plan on letting it ferment down to 1.018 and then bring it up to 70F for a diacetyl rest while fermentation ends.

Once fermentation ends and the diacetyl rest is complete it will be time to lager. Normally I'm not a secondary kind of guy but I want to harvest all that delicious lager yeast so I'm going to rack to a second fermentor to lager so I can wash the yeast. I plan on lagering at 38F for three weeks in my normal fermentation chamber. I'm pretty sure I can maintain that temperature. I'm not sure if I can get it lower but I'll see how it does at 38F before trying a colder lager. Three days before the end I'll fine with gelatin for some extra clarity. I'd like to lager the doppelbock for several months but I can't afford to give up my fermentation chamber for that long. I think I'll have a decent beer after the lagering and fining. I'm going to age the beer until November so that will be more than enough time to let age assist the beers in further clarifying and developing a mature flavor. I'll probably put the bottles in the fridge in October so they stay at 46F for a month and smooth out just a little before consumption.

Brewday Notes

Trying to measure tenths of a gram is virtually impossible. Lots of eyeballing the amounts. On a plus side, my mash temperatures were right where they should be so it seems I finally conquered my problem with low mash temperatures on my smaller batches. On the other hand I ended up with way, way too much wort so I will have to boil longer to get down to the right volume.

Gravity readings:
First runnings: 1.056
Pre boil: 1.040
Adjusted "pre boil" after initial boiling to reduce the wort volume: 1.065
Post boil: 1.072

Visible signs of fermentation by 10-12 hours.

Fermentation Notes

Gravity reading 4/12/13: 1.050 - about what I expected after a week, expecting another 2-3 weeks of fermentation at 46F. Will check gravity again next week. Some foamy krausen on top but not a thick layer like ale yeast. Flavor is young beer -- yeasty, diacetyl, acetaldehyde, slightly acidic.

Gravity reading 4/23/13: 1.034 - roughly halfway through expected fermentation after a little over two weeks. Looking for gravity to drop below 1.020 before contemplating warmer temperatures for diacetyl rest. No perception of diacetyl in gravity sample. Tasted sweet, bready, caramel. Visible signs of fermentation continue -- bubbling up from bottom of fermentor and thick krausen -- so no concerns yet of stalled fermentation at this temperature.

Gravity reading 5/1/13: 1.022 - gravity is dropping about a point per day which is a little slower than anticipated but I am fermenting on the very low side for this yeast so it's not alarming. I intend on checking back on this beer on Saturday and hopefully it will be sitting at 1.020 or a little lower and I can pull it out for the remaining fermentation to occur during a diacetyl rest and help clean up the beer a little before lagering.

Gravity reading 5/6/13: 1.019 - gravity is still dropping which is a good sign. It's at the point where I want to go ahead and let it ferment at warmer temperatures so I will let it finish fermentation at 70F and try to get it down close to the expected 1.011 FG before lagering. The krausen mostly dropped out over the weekend but I'm not sure that means anything with lager yeast.

Gravity reading 5/8/13: 1.018 - slight drops in gravity at warmer temperatures. I'm looking at a few weeks of warm aging before I have space to lager this beer for a few weeks so I'm not too worried if it takes a while to get closer to expected terminal gravity. Likely will not check gravity again for another week.

Gravity reading 5/11/13: No change in gravity so I am going to assume this beer is done fermenting. I snagged a 75% apparent attenuation which I feel is pretty good for the strain and what I gave it to work with. Will look at lagering once fermentation chamber is free in 10-14 days.


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