Our goals for the brew were pretty straightforward: We wanted to try a protein rest and a two-stage infusion mash (I may have that term wrong), and we wanted to get a better handle on how the mash and the boil affect the final color of the beer. In this spirit, we chose a recipe for an Irish Red. Irish Red, according to the American Homebrewers Association, are characterized by a caramel sweetness, medium body, and possibly low level of hop aroma and fruit-ester flavors. Based on the recipe, which I will post tomorrow, I think we'll definitely get that kind of flavor.
We mentioned to Bob, the Homebrew Store Guy, that we were thinking about trying a protein rest to improve head formation. He mentioned that this probably wasn't necessary, since commercial maltsters pretty much do this for you by modifying the barley adequately (more in a future post). I didn't believe him, really, given the information that I had at the time. So how did we resolve this dilemma? We called Bob, the Beer God, who a) works for Briess, a malting company, and b) gave us a 50lb bag of Briess base malt. If anyone would know the content of the malt, it would be him.
So we called, and indeed, he indicated that the Briess 2-row is essentially already modified. Any protein rest that you do will simply cut the medium-sized proteins into really small proteins, which might actually reduce the efficiency of your mash.
FYI: A protein rest is a simple, usually 20-30 minutes mash at a lower temperature, between 115 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit. It is meant to allow Really Big Proteins, which have huge molecular weights and contribute very little to the finished beer, to be chopped up into smaller proteins, which facilitate the slicing up of carbohydrates in the mash. We'll go into mashing in more depth at some future date.
In the end, we avoided a protein rest, and instead did a two-stage mash. Again, more about that in a later post about mashing. I'll also talk more about lautering (note: It's called a "sparge arm," but the process is called "lautering.") and gravity in a later post, since we started caring about that yesterday as well.
So in sum: Some things happened yesterday, and I'll tell you about them later. Except the protein rest stuff, which is above.