Christmas already … the story of the beer that escaped

One of the best parts about being a brewer is that you can make special beers for birthdays and anniversaries and Christmas. And Christmas beers are particularly special because you can go for it in a big way. So I have started brewing the Bolthole Festive-ale beers.

I currently have 2 in mind: a dark and a light, both at around 10% abv.

Festive-ale Dark is going to be an Imperial Stout; black, rich and bittersweet

Festive-ale Light is going to be a pale Tripel; blonde, light and spritzy (is that a word? … ’tis now)

Both of these beers will require a double mash: mashing half the malt in the water (liquor in brew speak) to extract the sugars and then mashing the other half of the malt in the same liquid (can’t call it water anymore). This gives a double concentrated wort (original gravity of about 1095).

Both beers are going to have a lot of hop character, but in different ways: the Dark is going to be hopped with “big” american hops, bitter and full. The Light is going to be hopped with more floral hops, less bitter, lighter and fruity (but still 10% abv).

Both beers are going to need a pretty robust yeast to ferment all that sugar down, so I’ll be using a Belgian abbeye yeast (the sort of thing the Trappist monks use in their strong ales).

I’ll be bottling them in two sizes: 750ml champagne size bottles for sharing and 330ml for when you only want a small one.

Did a trial brew on the Dark last week and it escaped! … from the kettle during the boil partly due to incompetence (I turned my back for 2 minutes) and partly due to the high sugar content. And it escaped from the fermenter because the yeast was so happy with such a rich sugary wort it got carried away and filled the fermenter and climbed out through the air lock, across the floor and made a break for freedom (clearing up that sticky mess was fun!). Not got as far as tasting it yet, but I will report back.

This 10 second real time clip gives you an idea … the liquid in the air lock was originally clear, before the escape.