Last Brew of the Year
There's an old Christmas song called “Last Month of the Year” (The Blind Boys of Alabama do a rousing version) that runs through the twelve months in call-and-response seeking the month in which Jesus born. They eventually reach December and sing for joy in celebration of the holiday.
And so it is for me. I tick off each month's seasonal releases, paying no mind to maibocks in May. I skip over the kolsches of spring and the saisons of summer and I push pass pumpkin ales in October. All in favor of the Christmasy delights of December.
From George Gale's very English version to the appropriately named Peculiar Yule from Nøgne Ø, to Anchor Christmas and the one I'm trying to clone now – Jubelale from Deschutes, I love the blend of alcohol warmth, fireplace smokiness, hop bite, not to mention the often-present chocolate, dark fruitiness and range of spice that some of the best Christmas ales exhibit. Jubelale hits them all and is a deeply satisfying ale with, I think, broad appeal.
And so I'm trying to make my own version.
But, as usual, life is intervening, to wit, leading up to my brew day I couldn't get all the hops I wanted. Also, I forgot to ask for some of my grain to be crushed. I always forget to pull my yeast out of the fridge in time for it to come to room temp, and, I have to squeeze this brew in between bedtime for the kids and, well, bedtime for Dad.
So a-problem-solving I go.
I researched some hop substitutes. A web search returns a bunch of charts that list appropriate hops that you can swap for each variety. Say you don't have Chinook on hand but want a similar effect on your beer, go with Columbus or Nugget and you should be all right. Wild about Opal but can't find it at your home brew shop, Styrian Golding should impart an Opal-like quality to your brew.
As I said, there are a number of these lists but one I can recommend can be found right around the corner. It's clear, filled with useful information and it can be sorted by beer style.
As for not having crushed my grain. I scrounged around the house looking for anything to help me crack open my un-milled barley. I first thought of Ye Olde mortal and pestle but could not find our heavy duty one. The tiny one I did locate would not have been up to the task of crushing the amount of grain I needed.
I glanced next at my coffee grinder but then had a vision of terrible coffee tomorrow morning and caffeinated Christmas ale in a couple of weeks. Not sure which is worse.
Then it hit me! [And here, dear reader, you are sworn to secrecy]. “My wife's spice grinder should do the trick,” I surmised. Whether, in fact, it would or would not I did not know but regardless I had to act fast. My brew was in motion and my wife is extremely territorial about that thing so I had to jump on it before she got home from work.
Unfortunately for her, it worked perfectly. The grinder cracked those husks perfectly, creating not too much flour and a light, fluffy grist. It worked so well I may even have to use it again. Assuming my wife doesn't find out. [I should note I was only grinding about 7 ounces of grain. A large grain bill would be unworkable in a spice grinder.]
Seriously, don't tell my wife
The strike water hit temp just as I ground the last bit of grain and now mash-in is complete. All the grain from this fairly complex grist (five types of grain) are now doing their thang.
Vorlauf and sparge went fairly smoothly and my various hop additions went according to plan.
I boiled (sans lid) for 60 minutes and am cooling as I type. All seems in order for this surprisingly smooth last brew of 2015.
I'll see come tasting but in the meantime have a great holiday season and here's hoping you hoist a Christmas ale this December.Last modified on