“When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, I’ll be There” -James M. Black, 1893
(Note: before attempting this recipe, check the birthdate on your ID to make sure it’s okay for you to proceed.)
* Boil a gallon or three of water (don’t add salt). At sea level, this occurs at about 212 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a thermometer, watch for the little bubbles. Bring it to a rolling boil (called the boil roll). I was told the purpose of the original boil is to get the water past your eyes, which makes little sense since I never get in the kettle. In fact, during the boiling, I maintain a proper distance as steam tends to fog up my glasses.
* Turn down the heat so that the water remains hot, but isn’t boiling. At this time, add in your crystal malt and toasted barley grains into the water to steep. I tend to steep longer than some folks do because I live at the bottom of a hill.
* Mix in about seven to eleven pounds of (barley) malt syrup or other fermentable sugars (depending on how much roll you want for your “yeast rolls”). Use a ladle–do not try to stir it with your hands, unless you’re absolutely sure they are clean–check under your fingernails for possible contaminants. If using your hands, make sure you roll up your sleeves. The temperatures tend to dissuade me from that sort of thing as they approach the boiling point of water, but then, I’m not as tough as some of you might be.
* You can use dry malt extract instead of the syrup, or in addition to it. I usually use some as an additional kicker. Be careful. Whatever that fine powder gets on will become sticky. If not careful, when finished you might need to go over everything in your prep area with a warm damp cloth, including the ceiling.
* Add a few cups, or several pounds of crystal barley or other specialty grains, depending on flavors, textures, and the color you’re attempting to accomplish. My personal regular mix is the sans kitchen sink, but others may want lighter hues and body. I’ve found the time it takes to steep allows me a chance to smoke my pipe. Lately, I’ve found that if I let it cold steep a couple of days, I’ll have time to smoke my pipe several times. The grains and how they have been processed will cause some variable factors in color and potency. If you choose to measure by the cup and not sure which cup to use, use a big one. An old pair of panty hose will make a good straining bag for the barley (make sure the nylons are reasonably clean before using them in this manner).
* Always take the panty hose off before using them, as the loose grains could otherwise stick to your skin after steeping in hot water. It could also create a space problem unless you are brewing in a bathtub. Besides getting all gooey and sticky, you may find very hot water to be less than comfortable for any extended period. I hope repeating this caution will not be necessary.
* Add bittering hops early, and finishing hops later. I use different hops at three different times in the process, but if you wish, you can use the same hops for all stages. There is a reason for this, but I don’t know what it is. Panty hose can also be used for the hops as well as the barley just like a tea bag, or you can buy a commercial hop sack. Use the part of the hose normally worn on the feet and calves instead of the hip and waist sections, unless you intend to use a lot of hops. If your spouse see’s you doing this, expect them to roll their eyes. If the ones you are using would not fit her, she may ask you to explain where you got them. Do NOT over look this, as it could have consequences.
* Other adjunct fermentables such as brown sugar, sorghum, and honey may be added if you desire, or you can use extra malt kicker. The use of rice, corn, or wheat is allowable although it is an offense to stricter old German standards that call for just barley, water, and hops. Oatmeal is not recommended at all, whether flakes or steel rolled, due to the tendency to turn your yeast roll into a paste. But you can use some rye if you like.
* Bring the wort to a boil stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn. I like a yeast roll with full body and flavor, so I recommend at least a pound to a pound and a half to two pounds of fermentable sugars per gallon of finished product. The yeast you will roll later into your mix should help nicely to convert these sugars to ethanol. I do hope the benefit of that effect does not escape you.
* After the wort has boiled, let it cool–the quicker the better. Then, pour it into a fermenting vat and adding as much room temperature water as needed to bring the volume up to the amount of “yeast roll” you expect it to yield. I usually do about twenty-three liters (approximately six gallons) at a time. That way, I won’t have to cook every day.
* Once cooled to below 70 degrees F (so as not to kill or offend the yeast), it will be time to roll in the yeast. I use one of several kinds of ale yeasts, but that is how I roll. Before rolling it into the wort, roll it around a bit in the package so it will be a loose powder instead of a clump. Open the bag or envelope of yeast, And with your fingers, roll the contents out so it spreads over the top of the liquid in the vat. I call this procedure the “yeast roll”, and it should be done gently. Some brewers use liquid live cultures, and others rehydrate dry yeasts before adding. I’ve had no bad experiences with just rolling it on the surface in powder form.
* Try not to splash it on any clothing that requires dry cleaning. Some say “pour”, sprinkle, or “toss”, but I like to say “roll”. Otherwise, this would be a recipe for “yeast pour“, “yeast sprinkle”, or “yeast toss”.
* If you wish to know the efficiency rates of the work your yeast is doing, use a hydrometer to determine the specific gravity of both potential and final essence levels–some folks use the acronym ABV to describe the essence contained. With those levels noted, some simple arithmetic will help you identify potency. If you intend to bypass this step, always hide your car keys from yourself before indulging in the finished product.
* Expect a lot of carbon dioxide to be given off as a byproduct. Make sure you have a vent for this, otherwise your vat is liable to explode splattering your yeast rolls all over the ceiling and walls. The vent should be a kind of water valve so contaminants from the air don’t get back into the vat. There are wild yeasts and other fungal spores in the air that could render your yeast rolls a bit funky. I usually use a very large airlock (hose running into a gallon jug of water) for the first few days, as commercially available airlocks are often too small to handle the way my yeast rolls roll and rock.
* A sample of the finished product may also be called a “yeast roll“, or “barley pop“, and a friend of mine calls them “chicken sodas” to confuse the children, and keep them from wanting any before dinner.
* In about five to ten days, siphon the liquid off the sediment of dead (or dormant) yeasts that have settled to the bottom of the vat. Some folks bottle at this time, but I like to transfer it to a secondary settling vessel for another five to ten days. When bottling, I like to use sanitary or reasonably clean bottles. Dirty ones can cause an infection to your brew, so it’s usually not a good idea to just let the dawgs lick ’em clean. Then, roll with it.
* There are still some live yeast cells in the brew, which is a good thing. If you add a few ounces of simple sugar to your mix at bottling time (one to one and a quarter ounces per gallon), the product will naturally carbonate itself in the bottles while conditioning. If you put too much priming sugar in the mix, your bottles could explode requiring that you to deal with the mess, the extent of which will depend on what else was in the room at the time that now needs to be cleaned, replaced, or just painted.
* Allow at least two or three weeks for conditioning in a cool dark place after bottling. Four or five weeks can be better. Unless you have an ample supply of older product ready to drink, conditioning time requires you must get control of the inability to postpone gratification.
* After proper conditioning time, move your yeast rolls to a refrigerator. The time spent taking it to refrigeration and retrieving it later needs to be calculated into your cost of transportation. This allows some of the carbon dioxide to dissolve better so your rolls won’t go flat too quickly. There is a commercially available ale called “Fat Tire”, which is nice, but “Flat Tire” is not a good idea.
* Some folks collect the sediment to keep an ongoing live yeast culture. But you should not attempt this unless you know what you’re doing. For that matter, most things in life would do better if folks understood what they were doing, but we’ll not attempt to cover all of that right now. If you intend to dispose of the trub in the bottom of brew vats, you can roll the yeast sediment into either a compost heap, or a commode. If you keep hogs, you can add it to their feed, but don’t ever feed it to the cat.
* I’m probably enjoying a yeast roll right now while you read this. I’ve found it’s good for whatever ale‘s you.
No biscuits were harmed during the creation of this recipe.