Sunday, February 20, 2011

Yesterday's crazy brew day

Yesterday was a funny kind of day, because I had a really nice plan to brew a small, 2 gallon batch of mild ale using slightly different methods than usual that would hopefully require less cleanup than usual. Little did I know that my plans would totally backfire on me (well, not totally, but you get the idea).

Instead of doing my cooler mash as usual, I decided to just mash in a grain bag in my 5 gallon pot and batch sparge as usual. This would leave the grain nice and contained and wouldn't require me (or Claire) to spend the tedious time cleaning out the cooler mash tun (which both of us are getting better/faster at, but it's still somewhat of a pain especially with nowhere to compost the grain, which is the ideal way to dispose of it). Anyway, I figured that since I was just mashing in my pot anyway, why not just put the grain bag in and bring the pot up to heat, right? Wrong. Well, it would have worked had I not tried to BLAST the heat and bring it up to mashing temps as fast as freaking possible. After about a minute, I noticed a burning smell in the air. Then I noticed grain floating up from the bottom of the pot into the water. Oh shit. I had burned a huge hole in my grain bag.

I removed the bag from the water, transferred the grain and water into my large pot, and proceeded to heat it up again (slowly this time), stirring the grain constantly to prevent any scorching. Basically, I got it to my desired mashing temp, but even with insulating the pot, temps seemed to be all over the place in the pot during the mash as I moved my probe thermometer around, even with copious stirring. Now, I assume the thermometer was just freaking out a little bit, but I still am not totally sure how consistent my temps were. Every time the temp went down too much, I would fire up the burner again to even the temp out. This caused the center to be really hot (sometimes upwards of 200°F), but it would even out again once I stirred the whole thing. I really only had to fire up the burner about 3 times throughout the hour-long mash, because my pot holds temps pretty well. After that, I had to lauter and sparge by using a lot of creativity, but I managed to get the grain and such out of the wort, so that was good. Basically, I'm really interested to see what the body/flavor/ABV of my beer will be like because of all this. I am hoping that my odd shotgun methods will give it the depth of character of a decoction mash beer, and I am hoping that the burnt grain bag will create no more than just a light smokiness in the beer, but alas I won't know for another week. Whew, so there's my story.

I ended up with just under two gallons of wort at the end of the boil, and I pitched an even amount of WLP 002 into the my two gallon jugs. The sweet, unfermented wort did taste pretty good, so I am really hoping that this brew day will create a delicious mistake à la Toll House when they invented the chocolate chip cookie. You never know, if this beer is a total revelation, I just might have to repeat all of the crazy stuff from this brew day to recreate it authentically. Or I might have to settle for adding a little peat malt and doing a real decoction mash...

Well, it looks normal, right? In fact, I ended up with a damn pretty brown color:
At the end of brew day, I was exhausted and ready to just call it a day, but I decided to take some samples of the stout and weizenbock. Holy schnikees were they good. The stout tasted amazing for only a week in the fermenter (that was sort of the point of a low gravity stout), not to mention already being nice and clear and the weizenbock...let's just say for its ABV I can't believe it's tasting this good being this young (three weeks fermenting right now). The stout had some amazing mocha flavors with a great clean finish, and the weizenbock basically tasted somewhere along the lines of fruity chocolate chip banana bread, with some nice warming from the alcohol content. They were SO GOOD! I offered tastes to my host, Mr. Matt Clark, and even though he was in the shower I insisted he try them so I shielded my eyes and passed him the tasting cup. He was thoroughly impressed and all of a sudden quite excited to be paid in beer for his hospitality. This makes me really excited to bottle and drink these beauties. Stay tuned for the release of these wonderful ales!

Review #1 on 4/13/11

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