beer

As with everything in Maryland, Spring decided to take it’s time and prevent me from getting outside to make beer.  I tried to tough it out during the winter, but damnit, it’s just too cold to be huddled around a propane burner when I can just stockpile before the big freeze hits.  So on this very nice and breezy 70° breezy day, here I am, outside for the start of the next brewing season.  And hey, the kids will finally get some color (go vitamin K), making what I like to call Wheaticus.

Wheaticus started out as clone for Sam Adams Summer Ale.  Through trial and error, and modifying the recipe to my liking, it took on a life of it’s own, and with that, deserved a name.  Although the name implies that it is a wheat beer, it is only comprised of 39% wheat, with the rest made up of US Pale 2-Row and Crystal 20°.

Everything started off like any beginnings would, with mass chaos and lack of planning.  Although I had all of my equipment, and used it many times before, taking a couple days to check everything, re-clean all of the hidden places that seem to be never ending, and more importantly, making sure you have everything!  I was diligent about ingredients, anything I didn’t have on hand, I took note of and headed out to the local homebrew store to buy.  Come Sunday morning, I was weighing out all of my material, getting equipment in order and setting up.

As I was just about to start heating up the hot liquor tank, I noticed that all three of my propane tanks were empty…..doh!!!!!!!  So in a mad rush I ran out to find only one store in the area that had any propane left.  Remember, this is the first nice weekend we have had since the onset of winter.  It would figure that there would be a spike in propane sales.  But for all it’s worth, I found propane and learned yet another valuable lesson.  Even if you think you have everything, there will always be that one important piece that will go wrong on a great brew day.  That is just how great beer seems to be made at this household.

With all of the commotion that comes with the holiday season, I am a few days late getting this post out.  But, without fail, here are the events from Saturday.

As you are reading this, you can probably conclude that civilization as we know it still exists and everyone is thriving as good as they can with the down turned economy and day after doomsday forecast.  I decided to have my own brew party with a couple neighbors, who both have drastic difference in taste for beer.  So without fail, I decided to undertake something that I have never attempted before, brew two beers on the same system in the same day.

If that isn’t enough, the weather decided not to hold out and dropped to a brisk 35-45 degrees with gusts of wind throughout the day.  If I was any less dedicated to making 20 gallons of beer, we would not have been out there in this weather.  Needless to say, we started set up at 9 AM and dove right into the first batch.

Our first batch was for the hophead in the group.  It was a clone from Anderson Valley Brewing Company called Hop Ottin IPA.  This 10 gallon batch used an insane amount of Columbus and Cascade hops.  So much so, that I thought the recipe was wrong when I was at my LHBS buying the ingredients.  The morning was a bit chilly and the wind kept us modestly covered up.  Even with the wind and bone chilling cold, my burners worked without flaw.  My only real concern was the Igloo cooler I use for my mashtun.  I was worried that the cooler wouldn’t hold temperature in a cold environment, but was I wrong.  The temperature only dropped 1 degree in an hour and made for a great runoff.

The next batch was one of my favorite recipes, a chocolate oatmeal stout.  Things weren’t exactly progressing as fast as we thought, and with the days at their shortest of the year, the impending doom of darkness was creeping up on us.  The cold air started creeping into our souls made for a less-than-desirable end of a brew day.  The back yard gets very dark at night, so I was forced to bring my car around back and finish off the brew day by headlight.

All in all it was a great brew day.  I was able to teach this fine hobby to a couple neighbors and aspiring hombrewers, and for my efforts, got 10 gallons of beer and a new found respect for the cold of December.

As I go into my first winter of actually wanting to actively brew all-grain outdoors, I was sceptical that it may be a little too cold to do so.  I’m quickly approaching my first brew day in December and it looks like the weather will actually stay in my favor.  For once I’m glad we haven’t had our first snow yet.

My primary concern will always be the Igloo cooler I converted into a mash tun.  This sucker holds heat like a champ, but I’m not sure how well it will do in conditions under 50 degrees.  My initial thoughts were to make the typical bad choice and fire up the propane burners in the basement.  But with kind recommendations from the wife, I decided that may not be an option.

Once the weather dips down where the cooler will not effectively hold temperature, I may just have to figure out a new system, or a hybrid indoor/outdoor setup.  Of course, this whole dilemma would be a non-issue if we lived in Florida :)

Today started off pretty good.  It was a brisk 45 degrees outside and plenty of sunshine.  At this point, I had brewed enough on the current setup to have all of my numbers dialed in and I could concentrate on just making great beer consistently.

After all of the equipment was setup and the water hit temp, I mashed in and quickly discovered that I was 10 degrees over my initial mash temperature.  I have never encountered this situation where the water temperature only dropped 4 degrees!  I quickly started stirring with the lid open to get down to a reasonable temperature before I started extracted tannins.  After about 10-15 minutes, I noticed the temperature wasn’t dropping at all.  I checked my thermometer and realized in that very instant that it was defective.  Mother of all shitty things!!!!  So, after it was all said and done, I was actually 10 degrees below my target temperature at 145.  I guess I should never trust a thermometer that falls victim to a rolling boil several times.

After that entire ordeal was said and done, I still came within 3 points of my bre-boil gravity.  Who knows, mashing at this lower temperature may just give me a flavor profile that I’m happy with.

As usual, the boil, well, it boils.  There’s not much going on for this hour unless I lose a thermometer to the hot liquid death.  At this point the sun has gone down below the other houses and the cold is starting to creep in.  Still a nice day outside, and I figure, it will help cool the wort that much faster after flameout.

As I boil the wort, I find it very efficient to clean all of the other equipment that I have used througout the day up to that point.  It makes the very last part of the cleanup that much easier to manage.  Plus, who wants to spend an additional 30-40 minutes after the yeast have been pitched and are comfy, warm, and eating all that great food you just provided them.

So, all in all, even with the temperature SNAFU, I will chalk this up to a successful brew day.  Having a computer out here with me makes things much easier.

I have been a fan of DuClawcraft beer ever since my move to Maryland in 2007.  A few years back, they designed a fantastic Toffee Nut Brown Ale called Eu4oria

Euphoria by DuClaw

This is the original label for Euphoria by DuClaw. http://www.duclaw.com

as a seasonal beer.  It is very sweet with a nice dry finish with very low biterness.  Needless to say, this became one of my favorite beers.

This beer was so popular that it was changed to one of the staple beers at the restaurant.  I usually take two growlers with me and Eu4oria is always in one of them with a random beer in the other.

I was searching around Maryland Homebrew pricing some malt and I came across the website’s recipe page.  Low and behold, there was a section for every DuClaw beer in production.  Was this a gift from beer-heaven?  This solved the problem I was facing in about a year when we are potentially moving far from this area.

So now the beer has been brewed, and from what I could tell as I was racking the beer into a keg, it’s going to be close, but just not the same.  Of course there is still a two week conditioning phase and carbonation to change the flavor profile.  The only change I made was a 1/2 pound of Crystal 80 malt as opposed to 1/2 pound of Rye malt.  Not sure how much that will actually change the overall profile, but time will tell.