I'm wanting to try an experiment.
It being March, I feel it's time to brew up a nice bock/Oktoberfest for the fall. I'm a big fan of letting a lager condition for many months before drinking it.
The trick with lagers is that I need to propagate my yeast. In other words, I need more yeast than a standard smack pack will give me at pitching time in order to brew the best possible beer.
Toward that end, I'm wanting to create something small that I can use to grow my yeast.
Something I've never had the chance to do is split a batch of beer and ferment it with two different yeasts. I'm wondering if I can't take this opportunity to do just that - ferment 4-5 gallons of a batch with an ale yeast, while splitting off a gallon to step up my lager yeast.
First thing I need to is find a lager yeast and an ale yeast that can ferment at the same temperature, ideally somewhere in the 50's. This is because I only have a single mini-fridge that can be devoted to fermentation, so both vessels will need to sit side-by-side at the same temperature.
I'm leaning toward Wyeast 2206 (Bavarian Lager) as my lager yeast, as it's safe up to 58 degrees, but I could easily use Wyeast Oktoberfest 2633 again - it worked very well for an Oktoberfest last year.
On the ale yeast side I have a bit of flexibility, but I'm leaning toward Wyeast 1728 Scottish ale yeast. I've used this strain before with great success, and it ferments as low as 55 degrees cleanly.
Now that I've got that sorted out, I need to pick a recipe that will work well both as a lager and an ale. To be honest, I don't really care if the lager portion turns out as well, since it'll be less than a gallon and primarily just as a yeast starter. Still - if I'm going to make the effort, I might as well give it my best shot. No point in wasting good potential beer!
My initial thoughts are to brew something that is European, with English hops and clean, crisp flavors. I think that is a nice safe range that would really help accentuate the differences between the yeasts. This will be hard on me, since my favorite beers usually have big, bold flavors, but I'm willing to sacrifice in the name of science. Science!
I'm thinking an Irish style red is probably my best bet here. Malty, lightly roasty, very little hop bitterness - a very clean beer.
A base malt of Maris Otter will give me a little malt backbone. Some roasted barley for color and roastiness, and I'm thinking a little melanoidin malt to really emphasize the maltiness would work well. I'm thoroughly tempted to throw in a bit of the Belgian Kiln Coffee malt I have on hand, but I'm going to save that for a darker beer.
So, the recipe I'm going with (for a 6 gallon batch):
10lb Maris Otter
1lb German Melanoidin Malt
.25lb Roasted Barley
.5oz Challenger Hops (60 min) - 10 IBU
1oz Glacier Hops (15 min) - 9.2IBU
mash temp around 155 to keep some malt backbone and sweetness
The goal is to wind up with a beer around 5% alcohol and about 20IBU with a light roasty taste, red color, moderate to low bitterness and, with luck, a very light minty/English note from the Glacier hops at the end. I haven't had the chance to brew with Glacier hops before, but they're described as a nice middle ground between Fuggle and Willamette. Those are both traditional English hops that would be appropriate for this style, so I'm feeling pretty safe with my choice. Challenger is a standard English bittering hop that should provide pure bitterness and not much else.
Having spent the past hour typing this up and finalizing the recipe in my head, I have to say, I'm pretty excited about this. I could have this turned around and drinkable by April, and this sure sounds like a nice springtime beer. I'll update once I've had a chance to brew it.