Oktoberfest and Festbier – A Lesson Learned

Long story short, always check your scale reading before measuring out grains or hops!

Ok, now the medium length story.

My son-in-law decided to throw an Oktoberfest party in his backyard this September and approached me about us doing a couple easy drinking, lower abv German beers for the party. We’ve got about three months to properly lager a festbier and an Oktoberfest. I had most of the base malts already and only needed to pick up some hops and yeast. Easy enough, right?

Once I returned from the homebrew store with the extra ingredients I started up the strike waters on both burners. After measuring out the grains for milling I was curious as to why the buckets seemed so full… No alarms yet. Mashed in my 15 gallon kettle and things looked a little full, but not bad. Mashed into the 10 gallon kettle and it was right to the top. What the ????

Ok, so no bells are going off, only slight confusion over why there’s so much grain? I was pretty sure I followed the grain bill to the letter. There was 7 lbs of Maris Otter and 7 lbs Munich. Ok there. The Festbier was 10 lbs of Pilsner malt. Why was this feeling like a Russian Imperial stout?

While we’re waiting for the boil to commence (after a heavy extraction of grain from both – BiaB), I start measuring out the hops. I absently place a 1 oz. packet of hops on the scale and look at the readout… .033. I look at the bottom of the numbers and in very tiny letters I see “gr/mg”. Oh shit. The scale was set to metric so all of the base malts were basically multiplied x2.2.

We decided to carry on, not worry, and had a home-brew. The Festbier finished out at 8.4% and kept most of its flavor, just a bit sweet. We’re lagering that and will be splitting it with lemonade to create a shandy around 4.2%. Should be fine.

The Oktoberfest is another story. Wrapping up around 9%, this one is so overly sweet that I’m not sure it can be saved. I wish I would have thought about adding more bittering to help battle that but it didn’t occur to me until fermentation was finished. Many have suggested brewing a second, lower batch and ferment to near dry and blend. We’ll see what happens.

Redemption

So still needing more beer than 9 gallons of shandy, we rebrewed both batches and things went much better after checking the scale setting 😉 Both have been in the fermentation chamber and cooking along quite nicely now for 10 days and have reached terminal gravity. Oktoberfest/1.014 and Festbier/1.010. I’ll warm it up for a couple days (d-rest) to insure there’s no diacytl then cold crash it for two more at 32º. After that it’s a transfer to keg and put in the cellar until early Sept. for one final transfer and carbonation.

They both look, smell, and taste as expected (whew!) and can’t wait to try them both later this summer.