Sunday, June 22, 2014

Adventures in Homebrewing

Good evening,

I'm about 8 hours away from a flight to Minnesota, and I'm finding myself unable to sleep. It could be the excitement of the flight, but it could also be the nagging thought that I haven't blogged in almost a year! This is unacceptable, and about to be changed.

Our Backyard Brew Setup
Yesterday was the Summer Solstice, and so I found it cause to celebrate. I didn't celebrate with a huge bonfire, but with a very small fire, lit under my brew kettle. I did a Summer Solstice Homebrew Marathon! I have been homebrewing steadily now for about eight months, and had a few trial batches (some great, some interesting, and one catastrophic) in the year and a half preceding my purchase of some decent gear. I have several friends who would like to get into homebrewing, one of whom has just purchased some gear himself, and so we consolidated our kits and spent a day out in the sun brewing three (hopefully fantastic) beers! It was a memorable day, indeed. I'm thinking of making a tradition out of it.

We started out by brewing a Hefeweizen. Personally, I have an affliction with brewing only dark beers. I'm not sure why, but if I have chocolate or roast malt, I generally incorporate it into my recipe. I made this recipe to prove that I have the willpower to leave the dark malts out of a beer, and I am glad to say that I stayed true the course. My hef recipe is fairly simple, I just use wheat malt and pilsener malt in a 60:40 ratio, roughly (7 lbs and 5 lbs, respectively), throw in some Hallertauer hops at boil for bittering, and pitch some Weihenstephan yeast when all is said and done. Since I was working with someone who was brewing for their first time, I kept it simple. I have read that decoction mashing is the way to go with a Hefeweizen in order to get more clove aroma and flavour out of the yeast, but I have never attempted it before. Showing uncharacteristic prudence, I thought that it would be folly to bring it into play at the time, so we simply used an infusion mash. And so, roughly 5 hours after arriving at Pat's house, we had a beer in a fermenter, waiting for the yeast to do its work!

IPA Mash!
Our next brew was an IPA, which we mashed in around 1:45pm, the perfect time to have some grilled meat/veg skewers and a growler of Beyond the Pale's Hashtag Trending White Session IPA. Delicious... Ahem. This recipe contains 2-Row Pale, Victory, and Carared malts; Galena, Amarillo and Xythos hops, and some Wyeast American Ale yeast. This was the most complex beer we brewed, as we had to add hops for bittering, flavour, and a few rounds of finishing. The hardest part about brewing multiple beers in one day for us was staying on top of cleaning the equipment for the next batch, and timing the mash to ensure that we wouldn't be needing the brew kettle before we had fully chilled and transferred the wort. We did end up steeping the IPA grains for a little longer than we had anticipated, but this was an experiment, and as far as homebrewing goes, a small mistake can change the beer from its creator's original intent, but it shouldn't ruin the beer (knock on wood). We learned from this mistake, however, and our transition from second to third beer went much more smoothly.

Wort from our Stout
Our third and final brew (we're looking at a 7:30 start time, roughly) was a Stout. I have brewed this bad boy once before, and it turned out very, very well. Rich and chocolaty, with a few coffee undertones (Chocolate malt is the star here), this beer was a winter favourite for myself and those who tend to get samples of my work. The only feedback I received was that it was a bit thin, so I took steps to improve upon the existing recipe. This brew consists of 2-row pale, roast and chocolate malts; Golding hops at the boil, and WYeast Irish Ale yeast. This brew went off without a hitch, as we had gotten the hang of the new brew setup, had worked out a system for transitioning from the chillage (I know, it's not a word) of boiled wort to lautering the newly mashed wort into the brew kettle, which meant no long-run mash time. Now that the three brews are fermenting happily, I'm starting to count the days until they are bottled and ready to drink! Twenty-seven remaining...

Our brewing marathon ended around 11:30pm, at which point we hit up The Wood on Wellington for some delicious, deep fried food to fill the huge void left in our stomachs. The food and beer were delicious, but sitting and relaxing at that point of the night triggered some serious exhaustion. A marathon brew is hard work! At the end of the day, we were happy, slightly inebriated, exhausted, and excited for next weekend when we brew two more batches! Expect a more well-documented post about next week's brews. Until then, I should probably go to bed, as I must be at the airport in 5 hours.

Until next time...
S.B.