Twenty Gallons in Two Acts

Act I Scene I – Steve’s Kitchen with a clean keg and 5 gallons of TCB Imperial IPA w/ Midnight Wheat. Enter Steve and Keith, empty glasses at the ready to taste the soon to be carbonated beer. Although flat, this beer has some hop muscle behind it. A few days under CO2, and this will be a tasty beverage. Ten minute to rack the IPA into the keg, close it up, and we were done.  Damn, kegging is easy. Why did we ever bottle?

Act I Scene II – Steve’s Garage. Steve and Keith are now joined by Wes, David, and Ryan. I have been hearing a lot about SMaSH brewing (Single Malt and Single Hop) and wanted to give it a shot. This is a great way to really figure out how your hops and grains taste and interact. While a red doesn’t lend itself to a true SMaSH, I wanted to continue the journey of Ulysses.  Subtract a few specialty grains and you’re left with pale malt and roasted barley for color.  Focus in on one hop variety and we now have a “smashy” recipe.  This should be a true test of how the pale malt, barley, and hops combine to make a beer…oh the anticipation…But why let the adventure stop with the grain and hop bill? Why not give a yeast starter a try? And what about aerating the beer after pitching (I saw Jonathan do this to a few brew sessions ago…how freakin’ cool was that?).  For the yeast starter, I mixed up 900ml of water and DME and Yeast Nutrient in a flask and heated in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  After the “wort” that was created cooled, I pitched the Irish Red yeast, covered the top of the flask with foil, and hoped it might actually work. Without a stirplate, I had to swirl by hand as often as possible (every few hours during the day, and once or twice in my dreams).  Lots of foaming the first 12 hours…I am sure I lost a number of yeast cells from overflow (apparently determined yeast is immune to the sealing power of Reynolds…). Sunday night (about 48 hours after I mixed up the starter), I pitched it and then broke out the old aquarium air pump and brand new stainless steel airstone.  Let the aeration begin…

Act II Scene I – Back to Steve’s Kitchen – Enter Wes, Steve, and Keith. Clean bottles and Starsan at the ready, it’s time to bottle Wes’ Belgian Dubbel.  For those of you who don’t know the backstory here, we had a popped bung with this beer.  Belgium yeast ferments fairly aggressively and overwhelmed the 6 gallon fermentor’s airlock…Twice…And of course, both Steve and I were out of town when this happened, leaving Gwen to deal with this (love ya’ Gwen!!!).  After numerous SMS and phone calls, Michael was able to save the beer by scrounging up a blow-off set up from our brewing equipment.  At bottling, it has a nice malty flavor and is well balanced. A few weeks in the bottles should do it just right. All in all, this Dubbel should turn out great.

Act II Scene II – Steve’s Kitchen – Wes, Steve, and Keith, each beerless, having drunk much of the beer in Steve’s fridge. More clean bottles (remind me again why we bottle?). On to the Saison Also Rises.  As an English major, I thought this was a pretty clever name…Hemingway and all…plus Saison is not the easiest to pun.  Some of you might agree. But just as you have to consider all the possible ways a name will be shortened when you name a child, so it is with beer. Much to my chagrin, Steve astutely pointed out this was “SAR”s beer!!!
“Hey man, grab me another bottle of SARS from the fridge”…Bad.

Well, there you have it – Twenty gallons of beer in two acts.  And that’s not including what was consumed. One of my favorite things about homebrew: it always tastes better the more you drink.

Be good and brew adventurous.



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