Modifying Your Monster Brew

This Month’s Question: How do I modify my wort from the Monster Brew at Smog City Brewing?

Answer:  I hope you are all planning to join us at Smog City Brewing Company’s Second Annual Monster Brew, Saturday, January 24h, 2014, from 7:30 AM to 2 PM hosted by our very own Jon Porter. We’ll be brewing up a batch of Pilsner-based wort. Where it goes from there is up to you! We’re hoping to have as many variations on the theme as possible for upcoming events such as the 20th anniversary, Southern California Homebrew Fest, club meetings and summer party.

The recipe for the wort is in the text box. About 2/3rds of the wort is German pilsner malt, based on Smog’s Little Bo Pils. A bit of Cara-Pils, Vienna malt and wheat malt round out the grain bill. Apart from that, the recipe is light-colored and minimally hopped. This gives YOU the opportunity to spice it up, using your own creativity as broadly as possible. The wort will have a starting gravity of 1.052, with 22 IBUs of bitterness and a color of about 4 SRM. A lot of different beers can be made out of this. With a bit of tweaking, you can make just about anything. Here are some ideas on what to do.

1) Pick a yeast. The wort comes unpitched, so at a minimum, you have to get some yeast for brewing day. As formulated, the wort will make an excellent Pilsner if you pitch with German Pilsner yeast such as White Labs WLP800, or Wyeast 2007. Of course, this means you need to have a lager fridge or other cooler to pull this off. But, you can also pick something like a German ale yeast and make a Kölsch or and American ale yeast and make a blonde ale. Whatever style you go for, I suggest making at least a 1 quart starter a few days before the Monster brew.

2) Boost the bitterness or hop flavor. You’ll have to do this if you want to get to IPA range, and I also recommend it for Pale Ale, ESB, Robust Porter, Altbier and several other styles as well. Boil up a small amount of water and add hops to make a hop tea. Boil for at least half an hour with high alpha hops to raise the IBU level, and for best effect, use pellets rather than whole-leaf hops. To calculate the bitterness, use these numbers: Each ½ oz of 12% AAU pellets will boost the bitterness by 15 IBU. Boil for 10 to 15 minutes with your favorite hop variety to boost the flavor. Note that this will boost the IBU level by a smaller amount.

3) Dry hop it. The recipe this year has a low level of Saaz finishing hops, but not enough for the citrusy American styles. You can go American for American Pale or Amber Ale, British hops for ESB, or you can go with Continental Noble hops for something like Saison.

4) Make it stronger. Styles such as Maibock or Belgian Tripel can be made by adding some malt extract or Belgian candi sugar. Just boil up a small amount of water and extract and boil for about 10 to 15 minutes, to make sure it is sterile. Cool, and add to your fermenter.

5) Make it weaker. If you are into session beer styles such as Bitter, the gravity will be too high. You can cut the gravity by adding some water. This is a great way of increasing the yield of your brewing day, and you may need a second fermenter to hold the extra volume. For best results, the water should be sterilized by boiling ahead of time for a few minutes. Note that the dilution will drop the bitterness level too, which will fit some, but not all of the lighter styles.

6) Make it darker. Pick a dark grain like roast barley, Special B, chocolate malt or Carafa. Steep in hot water, then strain out the grains and boil the liquid. Voila, instant dark beer! I made a great porter and Schwarzbier the past couple of years with this approach.

7) Make it malty. Discover the magic of melanoidin malt to make some of the malty German lagers styles such as traditional Bock, or Munich Dunkel. I’d even recommend a bit if you are making a Maibock.

8) Do combinations of the above. Suppose you want to make an American Barleywine out of the wort. Boil up some malt extract, add some hops to boost the bitterness and flavor during the boil. Cool and add to the fermenter. Then, dry hop in secondary.

The attached table has a list of some of the interesting combinations you can do. I came up with 20 variations without even breaking a sweat. You can probably come up with even more.
You’ll want to pitch your yeast as soon as you get your wort home. For most of the variations, you should plan on adjusting the wort at the same time, though you could wait a day or so. Make sure you get it going before primary fermentation is done, since the yeast will need to work on the additional materials.
So, start whipping up your recipe now. Hope to see you on the 24th.

Smog City Monster Brew #2
Recipe for 16 Barrels (496 gallons):
• 660 lbs German Pilsner Malt
• 55 lbs Cara-Pils
• 55 lbs Wheat Malt
• 55 lbs Vienna Malt
• 26 lbs Acidulated Malt
• Summit 32oz (FWH)
• Saaz 48oz (15 min)
• Saaz 48oz (Flame Out)
• Target OG – 1.052
• Target SRM – 4
• Target IBU – 22

StyleYeastGrain / SugarHopsFerment
German LagerLagerCold
Bohemian LagerLagerCara-PilsSaazCold
American LagerLagerCold
Vienna LagerViennaMunich or ViennaCold
MaibockBockMelanoidin, LMECold
Traditional MaibockBockMelanoidin, LMECold
DoppelbockBockMelanoidin, LMECold
Munich DunkelMunich LagerMelanoidin, MunichCold
SchwarzbierMunich LagerCarafaCold
Cream AleCream AleCool
California CommonCA LagerCrystalNorthern BrewerCool
AltbierGerman AleCrystalTea / HallertauerCool
Blonde AleAmerican AleMedium
American Pale AleAmerican AleTea / Dry AmarilloMedium
American AmberAmerican AleCrystalTea / Dry AmarilloMedium
IPAAmerican Ale or EnglishCrystalTea / Dry AmarilloMedium
Brown AleEnglishCrystal, ChocolateMedium
Dry StoutIrishRoast BarleyMedium
Export StoutIrishRoase Barley, LMEMedium
Imperial StoutIrishLME, Roast BarleyTea / GoldingsMedium
Old AleEnglishLMETea / FugglesMedium
BarleywineAmerican Ale or EnglishLMETea / CentennialMedium
Wheat BeerWeihenstephanWheat MaltWarm
WitSpices: Corriander & bitter orange peelWarm
Belgian Pale AleAntwerpBelgian BiscuitWarm
Belgian DubbelAbbeyDark Candi Sugar, Special BWarm
Belgian Dark StrongTrappistDark Candi Sugar, Special B, CaraMunichWarm
TripelGoldenLight CandiWarm
SaisonSaisonDry hop SaazWarm