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The 23 Pound Monster

by Bill Bunning

Recently I got together with Paul Harwig at the Brewmeister to help him get a little creative in the beer making department. His goal was to create a big beer with the first runnings of a mash and a small beer with the second runnings. He figured he could get 23 pounds of grain into his 10 gallon Gott cooler fitted with his false bottom. The grain bill was:

Since he was pushing the capacity of the mash tun, he limited himself to a single-step infusion mash. Mash in was with about 6.5 gallons of 165 degree water. The temperature stabilized at 153 degrees F. This left room for about 2 gallons of water for a mash off at the end of the mash. Conversion only took about 30 minutes but we let it go a little longer just to be sure. We added 2 gallons of "hot" (don't know the temperature) water and raised the mash to 160 degrees. This sat for about 15 minutes before we began recirculating and sparging. We collected about 6 gallons of wort and set it to boil. Hops were added to about 75 IBUs since we were aiming for a barley wine/strong ale. This boiled down to between 4.5 and five gallons of 1.086 wort. Meanwhile, we added another 8 gallons of 160 degree water to the grain and let this mash again. This settled about 152 degrees. This sat until the first batch was out of the boiler. We checked for conversion (it was), and ran this wort into the boiler. We even had some sparge water ready so we could collect about 7 gallons. The amazing thing about the runoff was that after we had collected enough for the boil, the runoff gravity was still about 1.018. This was boiled up and hopped to about 35 IBUs (planning on producing a bitter). Final gravity after the boil (down to 5 to 5.5 gallons) was 1.042.

The whole process took about 7.5 hours. Not bad considering we produced two separate beers. Paul plans on bottling about 1.5 gallons of the strong ale and letting the other 3 gallons age in his oak barrel for a while. Should make an interesting beer.

As you can see from the procedures above, it's fairly easy to make a high gravity beer from an all-grain recipe. What you need to do to get the gravity really high (above 1.100) is to collect all the runnings and boil it all down to 5 gallons. Using the above beer recipe, if I had collected all the runnings (13 gallons) and boiled down to 5 gallons, I could have created a beer with an OG of 1.124, one robust Barley Wine. Figure on boiling for about 5 hours and having a boiling pot big enough to handle the 13 gallons though.

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