Saturday, August 15, 2009

Brew Party

Last night I had a “brew party”. Some of my neighbors have been drinking my homebrewed beer over the last year and they were interested in the process. So last night I invited over the fellas to watch me brew. Well, not only did the guys show up, most of their wives showed up as well. In addition to brewing a hoppy American Wheat, we managed to consume over 2½ gallons of beer.

The night started off a little rocky. While pouring the pilsner malt into the grain mill, the bag tore and most of the 5 lbs. of pilsner ended up on my driveway. Not knowing what kind of chemicals might leach off of the driveway, I decided that I couldn’t use that grain. Unfortunately that led to me having to change the recipe drastically. Calling an audible (because I had no more pilsner malt), I decided to rob 5 lbs. of 2-row from my next batch.

My next issue arose when I started trying to mill my grain. For some reason, my drill no longer will turn the crank of my Barley Crusher. So I proceeded to dig through my crap and found the hand crank. I milled 11 lbs. of grain (5 lbs. wheat malt, 5 lbs. 2-row and 1 lb. of flaked wheat) by hand. Shoulder is a bit sore today

In the past I’ve had trouble hitting my mash temperature (usually on the low side) so I heated my strike water about 5 degrees higher to try to compensate for the heat loss in the mash tun. Well, I was shooting for 152 degrees and ended up at about 156. I quickly added about ¾ quart of ice which brought my temperature down to about 144 – oops. I then had to add boiling water to get it up to about 151. At that point I left well enough alone.

With all of the issues I had, I totally lost my head and forgot that I batch sparge. Instead of pouring a few gallons of hot water into the mash tun and stirring I basically did a crappy fly sparge by pouring quarts of hot water through a colander onto the grain bed. Then to make matters worse, instead of consulting the recipe that I worked up, I tried to do it from memory and I used 2 oz. of Amarillo and 2 oz. of Liberty instead of one from each. So instead of @23 IBU, I ended up with @45. I think that’s going to be quite a bit too hoppy for this beer (I’ll like it, but I was hoping to brew something to appeal to lighter beer drinkers, like my wife, who has never drank my beer).

I had a great 60 minute boil (I was planning to boil 75 with the pilsner, but scaled it back after the Great Grain Spillage Incident) with no boil over, for a change.

My next issue came when trying to cool the wort. My immersion chiller sprung a leak last time and I haven’t fixed it yet, so I tried to cool it with an ice/salt/water bath. I got it down to about 110 degrees before melting all of the ice and deciding to stick it in the refrigerator for the night. This morning it was down to a nice 62 degrees, so hopefully no gremlins crawled into the kettle overnight.

I transferred the wort to the carboy, aerated it, put it in a water bath and pitched a packet or US-05 yeast. Hopefully I’ll have a quick fermentation and we’ll be able to drink this bad boy in three weeks or so.


Russ said...

Just out of curiosity, since you mentioned you tend to come in low on your mash temps, what do you use to calculate your strike temp? I had the same problem with the temps that Beersmith tells me, but I found that the calculator at the Green Back Rackers webpage ( usually tells me around 4°F higher and I almost always hit my target using their calculator.

Keith said...

I started out AG using Beer Tools, but I was consistently low. I've recently switched to the free calculator at and I have been closer. I'll check out and see how it compares. Thanks for the tip!

Russ said...

No problem. Oh, and for the record, it's Green BAY Rackers, not Green BACK Rackers as I typed in my initial comment. As a Bears fan, I shouldn't care about screwing up their name, but since they have a great webpage I'll cut 'em some slack. ;-)