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Pale Ales, Hefeweizens, and IPAs! Oh my!

So, it's been a while since I've posted anything in this blog. In fact, it's been nearly 5 months. This has mostly been due to the birth of my new son, Aaron, who was born on June 2, 2011. He's four months old now and I'm just coming out of the new parent/new job fog enough to be able to start catching up on the incredible back log of things that I would like to do, like update this blog. One thing that hasn't lagged though, is my actual brewing. Even though (up until today), I hadn't updated the site at all since May, I've been brewing right along. I've brewed the Propagation Pale Ale again, I've brewed a new recipe, the Heisenberg Hefeweizen (more on this in a minute), and, just this last weekend, I brewed another new recipe, the Neuralizer Imperial IPA. Also in the mean time, the parti-gyle brewfest I had in May in which I brewed the Limbic Libation Barleywine and the Aftershock Amber Lager, has resulted in some of the better beers I've ever made. The Limbic Libation, even in the five short conditioning months it's had since brewing, turned out so smooth and so balanced, that I'm definitely going to enter it into competition next year. The Aftershock, after three months of lagering, has really turned into a dangerously delicious beer. Everyone who's tried it has loved it, and my buddy Ken says that he, "...could drink irresponsible amounts of this."

Overall, it's been a very successful brewing year so far. The move to all-grain brewing has proven to be very rewarding and a lot more fun than the traditional extract/partial mash brewing I was doing before. Now, I'm going to be pushing the envelope on past recipes, as well as brewing new recipes to test the limits of all-grain brewing. Next up, I think, will be the Dark Matter Doppelbock, re-conceived as an all-grain brew complete with decoction mashing. I'm looking forward to that one. Now a little more on the Heisenberg.

One of my good friends and colleagues, Tobi, got married recently. He's German, and he loves German beers, and is very picky about them. I wanted to make a custom beer for his wedding as a wedding present, so we conspired to make a traditional, yet flavorful Hefeweizen. He bought about 10 different German Hefeweizens, and we tasted all of them. He told me which ones he liked and which ones he didn't. It turned out that he liked the traditional yeasty character of Hefeweizens, he liked body in the beers, but didn't like sweetness. Out of that extensive tasting, I came up with the Heisenberg Hefeweizen.

The recipe itself isn't that remarkable, other than the fact that I put flaked wheat in the mix to give me some unmodified starch in the beer. What makes the beer remarkable is that I used a double decoction mash schedule to extract the sugars from the grains. Decoction mashing involves removing a portion of the grains from the mash (mashing is the process of extracting fermentable and unfermentable sugars from malted grains) and boiling them (carefully). This is one of the oldest methods of mashing, and also the most time and resource intensive. But, there are clear advantages to doing things this way. By boiling the grains, you burst starch granules, which improves the modification of sugars in the mash tun, for one. But, the process also creates melanoidins in the wort, which gives that great flavor that you find in the ends of a roast. The best part of developing melanoidins in beers, is that you can ferment a dryer beer, and the it will still have significant body as a result of the decoction. So, this is what we did.

I'll say that the beer was a hit at the wedding (I sadly couldn't be there), and upon tasting a bit myself, I was really happy with how it turned out. I'll be re-brewing this in March and submitting it to the NHA competition, for sure. Naming the beer was interesting as well. I wanted a very German sounding name, but it had to be geeky, in keeping with all the other names of my beers. So, the beer was named after the Heisenberg Uncertainty Priciple, "...which states a fundamental limit on the accuracy with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, such as position and momentum, can be simultaneously known. In other words, the more precisely one property is measured, the less precisely the other can be controlled, determined, or known." I thought it would be apropos since this beer has two seemingly conflicting properties: dryness and body at the same time. The more you pay attention to one, the more elusive the other flavor. Plus, once you drink this beer, you'll be uncertain whether you've ever had a Hefeweizen before.

I was very pleased with how this beer turned out, and I was so happy that it was German approved by the droves of Germans that were at Tobi's wedding. I wish I could have been there to get feedback directly, but alas, I was traveling the world with my family at the time. In any case, congratulations Tobi, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to create a really great beer.