Happy New Year everyone. The holidays sure do take a toll, but we did manage to brew up a couple new batches over the holiday (and more importantly deplete our current stock of homebrew sitting in our fridges). Hopefully you all found some time to brew as well. So I have certainly caught the “all-grain” bug and it seems I just can’t wait to brew up another batch to keep working out the steps. When I am not brewing, I find myself working out the finer details of recipes; adjusting grains and hops to hit certain gravities and bitterness; reading about the differences between Crystal Malt and Honey Malt, and trying to figure out how to work each into my recipes. I guess deep down I really am a gear geek and tech weenie so I love all the tools, gadgets, and technique that goes into all grain. Steve saw this and warned me it would be something I would geek out on. As a fly fisher, I seem to gravitate to hobbies that that have subtle nuances to them (and seem to have a plethora of items that I can continually spend my money on). I do see a great similarities between fly fishing and brewing beer, especially fly tying. If you have ever tied your own bugs, you know the painstaking patience it takes to get the pattern just right…finding the balance between the head, body, wings, and tail…but then, to actually catch an honest-to-god fish on a fly you tied yourself…This is the same feeling as brewing up your first batch of beer and realizing it is actually an honest-to-god beer…and not that bad to boot…And once you have some success, you’re hooked. All you want to do is perfect the art. Trick more fish…trick more friends into thinking you can actually make beer…wait you are actually making beer. They both have recipes, and specialty stores where you can buy more materials that you could ever hope to use or know how to use, but that is the beauty…we are all beginners at the start, and then intermediates for the rest of our lives. It’s a few talented individuals who truly reach that expert brewer level…and that is what we all aspire to…and that is what keeps us, or at least me, brewing.
At the start of the break, I took another stab at my first all-grain beer – Irish Red. I changed around a couple of ingredients, and since I know this beer is the launch of what promises to be an interesting journey with many twists and turns, we needed a new name. And what a better name than Ulysses, by Irish poet James Joyce. Simultaneously Steve and Michael brewed up a Jonas Porter partial extract with plans to add cherries during fermentation. We had a good sized crew with Michael, Jamie, and my dad Jim joining in. We’re starting to get the hang of the mash, and we were able to do an official batch sparge this round. We actually ended up with an efficiency of just over 60%…That’s double what we saw in the first attempt at the red…Score 1 for calibrating your thermometer.
A week later, we racked both beers, and added about 2 lbs of cherries. We’re going to let that sit for two weeks and see what happens. Our first journey into fruit.
Last weekend, we had Jonathan over for another brew session. He was working on a Pale, and I wanted to revisit one of the early styles we brewed – Saison. This time, I decided to go all in and work with Turbinado (Sugar in the Raw), coriander, orange zest, and grains of paradise (what the hell are those???) and formulated The Saison Also Rises. I must admit, I was feeling pretty giddy as I added all these spices to the boil…Maybe it was the fumes from Jonathan’s stove…
It was Jonathan’s virgin voyage with TCB, and with his new 15 gallon brew pot. I know it is now legal in Colorado, but I never thought I would have pot envy. Efficiency on the Saison was 70%…the target number I have been trying to hit! For the sparge, I drained slower than usual. I normally would just open the valve and drain as fast as I could. This time I opened the valve just above a trickle for all three drains (first mash drain and two sparge drains). I also did a 10 minute rest after Mash Out, and each Batch Sparge. Yes, this took a long time but I think it was worth it. After we pitched the yeast, Jonathan whipped out an O2 bottle and air stone to aerate his wort. That guy has all the cool gadgets. It was impressive to watch how the oxygen really jumped up his wort. Looks like there is yet another toy that we need to add to our growing brewing arsenal.
After a bit of a comedy of errors involving leaky valves, lost ingredients, and thermometers we didn’t trust (once trust is lost it must be earned back), we ended our brew session around 12:30am, just in time to get a few hours of sleep before heading to work.
Be good and brew adventurous.