Its Alive! Success, Failure and Happiness in Brewing
So, we promised a lot of new articles this week. I especially promised to have a Walking Man Brewing review up by today. But alas, there were some magical developments last night that prevented me from visiting the computer to do a write up.
As you might know, two of our Beer Blotter writers are brewing beers on a home system that they created a few months back.
The product is beginning to flow and we decided to drag you along for the ride. We also believe that our readers can be an excellent source for information on brewing and bettering your finished product. So please give it a read and chime in if you have any info to help us.
The Event & The Opportunity.
Last night, our famed kickball team was forced to forfeit a game after our editor was injured by a bit of excessive play on the other side. Luckily, both teams are forfeiting – and deservedly so for that team. Best of luck to our editor as she overcomes her mild head injury. Get better Jess!
Anyways, the early departure allowed us to return home to find our good friend Timperial Stout, home from a day of brewing Lazy Boy Brewing‘s Imperial IPA (cannot wait to try this!). Tim and I decided to unearth the fermentors that we deposited in the basement a few weeks back – and sample our first batch of beer.
We had truly feared contamination after a troubling conclusion to our first brewing experience with the new half-barrel system that we built. Our chilling process was exacerbated, our yeast measurements were shoddy at best and our transfer process was forced to happen after-dark, causing all types of concerns.
We also had tons of problems keeping solids from entering the boil, which made the wort a bit earthy. We have since developed better techniques to prevent solid insurgence.
The Beer Recipe.
For our inaugural beer, we chose a nice solid, summery IPA. We wanted to keep the hop profile simple, yet tasty. We also selected a malt mix that focused on one type of pale malt, but a lot of it to reach an optimal range of 7% alcohol by volume. This beer includes crystal malt, cara-pils, and pale malt. The hop list includes Magnum, Cascade and an abundance of Amarillo.
The Result. Beer.
We racked the fermentor and slid a small portion of the beer down into a pitcher. The beer had stopped bubbling and fermenting several days prior, so we were concerned we were a bit late on racking. But I recently read an article that shows that leaving the beer on the yeast a bit longer has a marginal impact on the beer’s taste.
I take a whiff first – it smells like beer. Nothing incredible about the nose, but it smells a bit skunky, though not overwhelmingly so.
Then I take a sip, convinced that the smell was encouraging. First take: not bad, not at all. Second take: I actually enjoy this beer. I take another deep smell and a big sip, swishing the beer around my mouth. I am met with strong tones of sweetness, hefty bitterness and a deep fruity finish. I am a happy man.
We took some measurements. Our original gravity was 1.066 and we finished at 1.012, exactly as we had set out to do. The ABV rang in at about 7.1%, again what we were looking to do. The color was a nice golden copper (probably a 7 on most charts) and the clarity was above average. The amount of unfiltered residue was minimal as well.
We were seriously surprised on the finished color and clarity, especially after we had termed the beer as “Pond Scum IPA” during the brewing process. The beer seemed to really clear up throughout fermentation.
The Remaining Dilemmas.
So, we are ready to drink the 8-9 gallons that we yielded (a poor yield, but we’ll get better). But the goal is to correct some of the common problems that many Seattle home brewers probably face:
(1) How do we chill the wort with a hose temperature of 78 degrees!?
Using an immersion chiller is difficult in Seattle. Our ground water is only about 78 degrees, which is higher than what we want to chill the beer to. This time, it took about 1.5 hours to get it chilled. Thats dangerous.
(2) How do we manage the yeast?
We are using recycled brewery liquid yeast (thanks to great friends). Because of this, we need to find a good way to (a) determine the amount of active yeast particles in the liquid and (b) figure out how much is needed for our batch.
We will continue to work and figure this stuff out – but Beer Blotter’s 1st Anniversary party is this November and we plan on brewing our own beer for the big extravaganza. So, any help from you brewer readers out there is greatly appreciated.