Brew-in at the LHBS

Yesterday, the Sudzers held a brew-in at Beer & Winemakers, a local homebrew shop. It is a chance to get together with club members and show off your brewery. If you have read some of my previous posts you will know that my brewery is in transition from average-homebrew-size to double-homebrew-size. I have the big pieces of equipment, but not the stuff to efficiently connect the individual vessels. Despite this, and in defiance of previous infections, I packed most of my brewery into the car – resolute to make a full batch.

In order to take advantage of my shiny new counter-flow chiller and false bottom for my kettle, I needed to stop off at the hardware store. There I picked up some copper fittings and hose clamps to connect the kettle and CFC. Since it has been ten years since I last soldered copper, I hoped someone among the brewers there could refresh my memory. The beer path of my chiller was also a little tweaked from a storage accident and I feared the fittings might not set into place properly.

I arrived 20 minutes after the prescribed start to find only Roger St. Dennis set up and mashing. Always jovial, he greeted me and pointed to where I could set up. I was thankful to have a spot near the shade – the previous week was hot and sunny. There were customers, mostly neophyte brewers, checking out our equipment and asking questions about the process. I poured a beer from the jockey box.

Despite being determined to make beer that day, I did not have a recipe. I am beginning a search for a stellar bitter recipe and the owner at B&WM helped me get a start. Off the top of his head, he recommended these ingredients:

Fermentables

  • 20 lbs Maris Otter
  • 2 lbs Crystal 35L

Hops

  • 3.0 oz Goldings 5.1%AA 60 min
  • 1.0 oz Goldings 5.1%AA 10 min

I choose White Labs Dry English Ale yeast and the hopping schedule. I poured a beer from the jockey box.

He erred towards the malty side, but even with my brewery’s 68% efficiency that put the OG -about 1.056 – well above range for an ordinary bitter. I could have used half the fermentables and come out at the low end of the gravity range. Not to worry – I like big beers too.

I heated 9 gallons of strike water to about 160° F and mashed in. The only thermometer I brought that day had a tiny dial, so these readings are approximate. I hit around 155° F for my sacc rest and called it good. I poured a beer from the jockey box. While the hot water did its thing, I chatted with customers and set about other brew-day tasks.

Since my 15-gallon fermenter does not travel well, I resorted to two dirty 5-gallon glass fermenters. Cleaning those bottle-necked vessles is a real pain in the ass, but PBW worked well for me. Another beer from the jockey-box. Many people asked questions and I was happy to explain the whole brewing process.

Even with the extra distractions, I remembered to heat up some sparge water in time for mash-out. My crappy software recommended 8 gallons sparge water, but I only brought a 5-gallon HLT. I decided to make due and heat two batches of water to get the correct volume. The first was ready on time and the second shortly afterwards. The brew-day was quickly progressing. I poured a beer from the jockey box.

While waiting for the kettle to boil, I talked with a machinist about how to best handle my bent chiller outlet. We decided that it would be best to shove a hose way up onto a more sturdy part of the outlet and clamp it down. This worked and I was able to solder a hose-barb on to the other end; ugly, but water-tight. I poured a beer from the jockey box.

Hops were added according to schedule and fermenters were sanitized in time. The new chiller worked superbly and I employed ye ol’ shake the fermenter for aeration trick. 30 minutes later, my equipment was clean and put away in the car. The bar-b-que was going and I relaxed until my brew-day buzz wore off before driving home.

Twenty-four hours later, one fermenter is running and the other is just picking up steam. (I think one got more O2 than the other.) I have a crawl-space that maintains about 70° F which should produce a fruity ale. I will report on the process as newsworthy events develop.

–Dean