After another double brew day (2 consecutive batches), I sat with my brother in my biergarten/brewery sipping a West coastish red ale from Rock Bottom and asked him this question:
What went right? His answer: Everything.
He was right, most everything went according to plan, and a double brewday was completed in just about 7 hours (including lunch and more than a few tastings). Notably, we had no extra "help", we had pretty easy recipes, and we were unrushed. It certainly was a pleasure to brew.
That isn't to say we didn't have problems. We undershot on our gravities by a few points one by exceeding our volume, the other for no apparent reason. I formulate our recipes on an 80% efficiency, as our efficiency runs about 80%-85%...we agree, that we need better control of our kettle volumes and our evaporation rate....it shouldn't be difficult to accomplish....just another data point to focus on controlling.
When we started all grain brewing, we were just feeling lucky to get beer, as we got better, we started hitting gravities (in general), and then we made equipment upgrades to better track and control mash temperatures, added a mill to control our own milling (and save money by buying in bulk), and focused on getting our pitching temps lower quicker, and added a bunch of tools (pumps, mash paddle, etc.) that speed our brew day or make it safer (avoid lifting, retiring our carboys)....I think we are dialing our new equipment in, and can focus on our brewday processes again and making better beer.
A couple of items for us to ponder are how we can increase the efficiency of our pump (we had some trouble getting it going....maybe adding a bleeder valve on the pump out side), measuring our kettle volumes better (just by devising a system and paying attention), and standardizing our equipment so that we don't have to figure out how we have to change our hoses for each successive step.
We had talked about expanding our systems tri-clamp fittings (thus standardizing all of our fittings). Expensive, but might speed/make less confusing the processes between mash/sparging. We also talked about adding a second pump....which still feels excessive/expensive....but again, might improve processes.
Anyway, we brewed some different stuff. Our first batch was a Mild Ale, but it was a historical recipe (from 1909) when Mild Ale was the opposite of Old Ale, instead of low gravity. I call it a Throwback Mild (got the recipe from the Brewer's Publication Style Series on Mild Ale by David Sutula (1999)). We were looking for something different and this beer at about 5.7% ABV and 67 IBU....is something a little different for us....
Our second beer was supposed to be our Red Ale....but I decided to re-Irish it (it had been an American Red and recently a west coast style red)....and change what we used to redden it, and lightened it a tad....so....by the time I got done with it.....a totally different beer we have never brewed.....
Last night before bed, I went downstairs smelling beer.....not a great sign. I can usually smell the fermentation when entering the store room, not on the stairs.....our throwback mild ale (with London III yeast) was billowing clouds of yeast all over the floor....after damage control, I placed the billowing keg in a large plastic bin and finished cleaning it up this morning when the billowing subsided....it was a combination 1.060 beer with too much volume and using an English (top cropper type) strain.
Looking forward, I still need to fix a keg, and I am a keg shy for these two batches....and I am itching to brew again. Where are my friends when I need them?