Thursday, August 20, 2009

Brew Day

I am always tired after a brew day. Today is no exception. It is a long day of cleaning, watching and waiting for water and wort to boil, stirring, rinsing, and dumping, and cleaning again. I enjoy the process though, and it would seem that the enzymes and yeast have the real work. It was nice to have something to do, and have something else to focus on.

Today was an unremarkable brewing day, but it wasn't without its differences and problems. My friend has been wanting to brew with me for a while, and he was able to obtain freshly dried Cascade hops from a friend's harvest. It is always nice to brew with someone new. We brewed my standard red ale recipe, but we upped the hop schedule a tad to celebrate our hop bounty.

Now, I regularly use "whole" leaf hops in my system with no problems, and prefer them to pellets, but these hops clogged my system's strainer making for a messy last half hour of trying to strain and remove the cones from the boiled wort. My only idea as to why is the possibility that "whole" hops from the brew store come somewhat pulverized to leaf form. These hops were "whole" cones. I also wonder if by not shredding or pulverizing the cones, if it makes the hops somewhat less effective. The aroma from the nice fresh hops was nice, though, and I hope it translates into our beer.

Interestingly, we achieved a slightly better mash efficiency than I usually do. I can not pinpoint what exactly was done differently in process, but the grains came from a different homebrew shop, and therefore the grind was different. I am convinced that I need to invest in a good mill of my own.
Right after a stainless steel conical, yeah right.

I use glass carboys for fermentation. I someday would love to purchase a nice stainless steel conical fermenter, but they cost something in the order of $700 or more, and one of my kidneys probably isn't worth that much. It would be nice to be able to harvest or dump yeast from the bottom of the cone, or to test the gravity using a valve, but I would miss watching the yeast ferment the wort. It is always nice to watch the wort clear and the hot break to settle out, and watch the first strands of or globs of yeast appear at the top (ale), then bubbles, then an active raucous foam. Meanwhile, the yeast in suspension clouds and swirls in the wort, like a storm on Jupiter. The airlock begins to bubble away releasing the carbon dioxide, and the smell of beer or bread is in the brewery.

And over periods of a few days to a week or two, the transformation happens. Each day there is something different to see; the color changes, the bubbling slows, and the foam on the top dissipates. The yeast falls to the bottom and the beer clears slowly from the top to the bottom.

As I said, I will miss my glass carboys if I ever can upgrade, but it will be nice to not have to split a 12 gallon batch to two carboys. I don't know if I will be able to resist popping the top from time to time to sneak a peak at my boys at work.

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