Sunday, January 15, 2006

I thought this was Sunday the Fifteenth...

I made two batches of beer today and they were both fraught with difficulties. The main job was an Irish Red Ale with 30 % rye in the grist. This was an all grain beer and I made 10 gallons of it. The second beer was a kit beer that my friend and frequent brewing partner, Jeff, got for a present and wanted to make. It was an extract kit for an amber ale. We made five gallons of that.

The day started off well, as I had made two half-gallon yeast starters the day before and they were both bubbling away when I started heated the strike water for the mash. I doughed in and hit my target temperature right on the money! I pulled the mash tun off the burner and started the sparge water to heating. As anyone familiar with the term SNAFU knows, the best time for an equipment failure to occur is right when it will do the most damage. When I placed the hose o the hose barb of the sparge water tank, the bulkhead fitting began wobbling. As I watched the water dribbling out of areas that water shouldn't dribble, I wondered what could have happened. It turns out that an o-ring had failed and the bulkhead fitting was loose because the o-ring had fallen off the fitting.

I ran in and got a ten gallon cooler and poured the sparge water into it, while Jeff held off the deluge as best he could. Luckily, I had spare parts and tools handy and we had the fitting repaired before the water cooled appreciably. We were back in business. The sparge went well and I collected almost ten gallons of wort which was then set to boil for an hour.

Seeing that there would be a lull in the action for awhile, I went in to sanitize our three fermenters. I siphoned an iodophor solution into the 6.5 gallon carboy and let it sit awhile before transferring that solution, in turn, into the other two fermenters. After awhile, I started the siphon into the next fermenter and, while it was filling did some other odd job. You guessed it, I forgot about it and had about a gallon of sanitizer solution on the floor before I noticed it.

Long story short, a couple of other problems during the day led to a scorched and stained enamel stovetop and a VERY long boil in the kit beer to get the volume down to five gallons (which worked so well we got it down to four gallons). These in turn led to a very long cleanup and an amber ale on steroids (O.G. 1.072).

Well, the good news is I now have nearly fifteen gallons of good-looking beer fermenting away in my dining room! One is an Irish Red Ale with a fair amount of rye in it, for a special spicy extra kick. The other is an Amber ale that was boiled down to a very concentrated (and dark) four gallons. It will probably more closely resemble a Strong Ale.

Grain bill for the Rye-rish Red Ale

11 Lbs. Briess two-row Malt
6 Lbs. Weyermans Rye Malt
2 Lbs. Briess Crystal 10L
.5 Lbs. Dingemans Special "B"
.25Lbs. Briess Roasted Barley
1 Lb. Honey

3 Oz. E.K. Goldings (60 min.)
1 Oz. E.K. Goldings (20 min.)

Mashed at 151 for 90 minutes
Boiled for 60 minutes

O.G. 1.050
Yield about ten gallons

February, 7th update:

I have now bottled all the beer and it all came out just great! Half of the Rye-rish Red Ale was kegged and I've been drinking it for a week. It is fabulous! The taste is slightly hoppy, with an accompanying tang associated with the rye, yet the malt profile is evident, with a toasty caramel flavor that shows up distictly in the aftertaste. The Amber Ale/Strong Ale is distinctly vinous in character, with rasins and currants dominant, though a hint of English hops presents itself to balance the brew.

Looks like we've got two winners, here!

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