Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Dark Malt 5-8L
Somewhere between Vienna and Munich lies this unique malt. If you just run the numbers, you’ll see that this is darker than Schill’s Kolsch malt, but lighter than most Munich malts. As someone who has purchased 55lb sacks of Kolsch malt in the past, I figured I owed it to myself to get in on a large quantity of the good stuff. It shares many of the Kolsch malt’s characteristics, but manages to elevate and exaggerate the bready, malty, crackery character even more. The mash yielded aromas of bread, saltine crackers, crusty toast – all the kinds of things desirable in amber-to-brown lagers. Friability was extremely high – the grains crumble and powderize very readily.
I set about to create as much fermentable extract from 30 lbs of this malt as possible. Infusion started at 142F, with a 30 minute rest. Shortly after doughing-in, I pulled a thick decoction and began heating it to boiling. As the thick decoction rose in temperature, aromas of raisin bread spread with caramel came out. I ventured to taste the resultant liquid – it had a full, syrupy body with a smooth, pale-Munichy flavor.
Pumped recirculation and added heat raised the temperature of the main mash to 148F for 30 minutes, as the decoction boiled. When the decoction went back to the main mash, the whole affair went up to 158F, and held there for 20 minutes. Heat and recirculation came back on to raise to mash-out. Part of the schema here was to create precursors for oxidation by-products in the package. In my mind, a good biere de garde should have a bit of oxidation, offset by a somewhat substantial alcohol presence. By increasing the oxygen pickup in a few steps, my goal is to get those flavor compounds with less aging requirements.
Sparging and the like were all standard affairs. The highly-efficient decoction kept the pH in line the entire time. By sending the high gravity wort sailing 2-3 feet from the mash tun into the boil kettle, even more oxygen pickup was ensured. Runnings consistently came out above 20 Brix; at around 10 Brix the kettle was up to 13 gallons, and it was time to collect for my biere de mars.
Bieres de mars are strange beasts – Markowski makes reference to emphasizing either the malt or the hops, and using a healthy amount of wheat. There’s no wheat in this one, but the emphasis is definitely on the hops. I like to think of it as a sessionable biere de garde, but I also like hops, so I took some liberty with this version. The now-discontinued Wyeast 1338 European Ale is taking the lead to help push the malt out, but I wouldn’t bat an eye at using Wyeast 1007 or 2124 in its place. Brettanomyces has appeared in some commercial versions that I’ve tried, and it would be most welcome with some highly tannic European hops, like Brewer’s Gold or a massive amount of Hallertau.
The main event was the biere de garde. A simple 4 ounce charge of UK Bramling Cross at first wort collection yielded berry-fruit aromatics with undertones of cedar and fresh hay. Perfectly paired with a French country-style ale. Boiling yielded even more sumptuous mixing of rich malt and rustic hops. The runnings into fermenters were crystal clear and deep orange. A split ferment – one half got Wyeast 3725 Biere de Garde, a clean, malt-forward yeast that works quickly and gets out of the way; the other half, White Labs 072 French ale and 644 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois. The White Labs French ale yeast is a good one as well – perhaps a bit more aggressive than the Wyeast, but still just as quick to get out of the way. I anticipate olives, brine, and geosmin-esque earth from the young Brett, with complexity emerging in the package.
The final drips and drops of this champion mash yielded 2 gallons of 1.012 wort. I boiled it down (no hops!) to 1.5 gallons at 1.020, chilled to 100F, then pitched an older pack of Lactobacillus. Experience and Jess Caudill from Wyeast show that little gravity change or apparent activity occurs with straight-lactic worts. I anticipate allowing this version to age in the plastic for however long it takes to get an appropriate level of sourness. It will then get blended in with the rest of the batches, to taste.