Wort chillers, Irish moss and oatmeal mash. An evening of firsts.

We brewed our first batch of beer on August 25, 2012. Last night, we brewed our 7th and 8th batches – this homebrewing thing seems to gaining a strong foothold in our lives. I freakin’ love it..

We’ve made a bunch of mistakes over these first two months, but so far all the beer has been drinkable (and some of it’s actually pretty good, IMHO).  Special thanks to our spouses (Nat, Gwen, Carrie and Amy) for letting us take over garages and kitchens these past weeks.

Last night’s brewing session was an adventure as we experienced a number of firsts. For one, we brewed our first 100% Taft Canyon Brewers Recipe – an Oatmeal Stout. After reading a ton of different recipes for stouts, I decided to create one of our own, borrowing heavily from Charlie Papazian on technique.  I was nervous about making the mash – we’d steeped grains before, but had never taken the mash steps that a good oatmeal stout apparently requires.

Stirring the mash. Why is this so fun?

Stirring the mash. Why is this so fun?

This turned out to be one of the most fun parts of brewing I’ve experienced – and I can’t wait to do it again. I found that replacing extract fermentables with specialty grains is extremely rewarding, even though it adds significant time to the overall brewing process (about 75 minutes in this case). The difference in aroma and perceived freshness is significant and it makes this aspect of brewing seem more like cooking than chemistry.

Oatmeal Stout Mash

5.25 lbs of grains in 2 Gallons of Water at 135 degrees. Not sure if this is how its supposed to look, but it smelled incredible.

As I started this mash, it appeared that my ratio of water to grains was off. I had about 5.25lbs of grains in 1.5 gallons of water and it wasn’t enough to cover all the grains. Fortunately, I had more water already at the correct temperature (135 degrees) and added another 1/2 gallon.

Not sure why, but I was actually surprised when this began to look like a Stout.

Not sure why, but I was actually surprised when this began to look like a Stout. This is right before I added 4 pounds of liquid dark malt extract.

Another first last night was the use of Irish Moss, a natural clarifying agent that gets added the wort toward the end of the boiling process.  It smells like dirt or, as Michael put it “smells like a swimming pool at the end of the summer”. We’ll see how it works.

And the final “first” of the evening was using our new wort chiller. Man, I wish we’d had this two months ago. Granted, I had to weave a garden hose through a maze of Halloween yard decorations and under my garage door to hook it up to the chiller, but it did the trick. It took about 15 minutes to get the wort down to the right temperature to add the yeast.  Michael was brewing up an IPA featuring Warrior Hops and his wort was done much faster than mine. As a result, his batch took the wort chiller maiden voyage.

Wort Chiller

The Wort Chiller doing its thing on the Hop Warrior IPA – reducing cooling time by 75 percent.

So, as of today, we have 5 brews fermenting. Two in primary, one in secondary, and two in bottles. And three are already in the fridge.  I’ve never looked forward to winter so much before…




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