Strong Scotch Ale

February 4, 2011

Beam me up… Accidents seemed to follow me this brew day, luckily none which could spoil the beer, and all of which could be cleaned with a mop.  Yes, I seemed to had an issue with keeping the wort where it belonged, and not where it didn’t. Which I was able to successfully clean up before the wife returned home.

Rule one of brew day:  Pay attention.  If you don’t, pots collecting runoff will overflow.

Rule two:  Hoses and collection tubes should also be moved with care.  If not, spillage will happen with the same result as breaking rule one.

Rule three:  When removing hoses and collection tubes for cleaning, make sure they are free of sticky wort.  Otherwise similar results to breaking the above two rules will occur.

Other than spending a portion of my brew day mopping up what seemed to be the same mess, in nearly the same spot, everything went quite well.

Mash finished up on time, gravity – spot on, caramelization went great, volumes – perfect.

Gravity finished up at 1.082, fermentation started to slow bubble within 12 hours, and switched to rapid in 2 days. Yay for Strong Scotch Ale!


TV viewing pleasure

January 30, 2011

So after a day of travel, the Discovery channel gave me a nice gift. An hour long show titled “How Beer Saved the World.” Very interesting show, fun brewing history. And lots of ideas for homebrewing. Will post on experimentations when I start some.


Decoction mash… Oh boy.

January 30, 2011

With Bock being the next style on schedule for competition at my local club, I decided to attempt an old brewing technique called decoction mash.

The short of it is this:  decoction mashing comes from the old days when the brewers had mash vessels made of wood.  Which was great and all.  Wood was plentiful, easy to build with and could build large vessels for holding large quantities of liquid.  Wood was great, until you needed to heat up the substance inside.  The way brewers would get around this is to remove a potion of the mash inside, heat it up over a smaller metal kettle, then add it back in.  Stir and repeat until desired temperature was achieved.

As a home brewer today we typically don’t need to go through this as we have metal mash vessels, or electric heating elements available to us.  Wooden mash tuns are a thing of the long past.  But those inventive brewers of old were onto something.  With the various temperatures the large mash went through, different enzymes activated, and bringing the portion of the mash to boil caused caramelization of different sugars at different steps in the saccharification process.

*Nerd alert* will have a part on definitions.

This gives the beer a rich malty taste and aroma, which is desired in a Bock style beer.  Hence the reason I went the extra mile going through the fun of decoction mash.

My brew day started as any other day.  Woke up, made coffee, started water heating up, cracked grain, dove in.  Except the drill battery was low and I had to hand crank the remaining 4 pounds of grain (no biggie).  I added my grain to the strike water and was near my target of 100 degrees, was at 105.  I then had to get the rain up to a warm 122 degrees.  Normally if I had a metal mash tun, I would simply place it over the stove and slow rise, but since my mash tun is a converted plastic cooler, I decided to add hot water to bring it up.  My target was to bring the temp up one degree a min.  30 min later, I was at 122 (do the math)  I then let it sit for about 20 min.

Next step is to remove about 1/3 of the mash and bring it up to 158 degrees and let rest for 30 min, then boil.  Since it was absolutely arctic outside, I was brewing inside on my stove with a whopping 15K BTUs.  30 min to bring to 158, wait 20 min, 20 min to bring to boil, boil for about 20 min.  Add back into mash, rinse repeat one more time.

Finally got to start heating up the sparge water at about 6 hours in.  Now I just collect the runoff bring to boil, add hops, pitch yeast and godisgood.  After 11 hours, I completed the cleanup and returned all the equipment to it’s proper storage space.  Though the yeast I pitched was a bit slow to start, I hope to see if a 11 hour brew day is worth it, maybe in the summer with my outdoors burner.



January 29, 2011

So since brewing is actually quite scientific, below is a helper.

Liquor – In brewing we don’t use water.  Well, actually water we use for brewing brewers call liquor as it may have been treated with minerals.  Water in the brew house is what is used to clean equipment.  This helps avoid confusion.

Strike Temperature – Is the temperature the initial liquor is heated up for the first mix with the grain.

Grist – grain

Mash – The “soup” that is created when liquor and grist is combined.

Mash tun – the vessel in which the mash occurs, typically has some sort of filtering on the bottom to allow for wort runoff.

Wort – sweet liquid which contains all the sugars from the mash.

saccharification – the process in which enzymes break down complex starches and turn them into simple sugars.

godisgood – what the monks called fermentation before microbiologist discovered yeast.  Turning liquid into beer? God is good!

Alpha Acid – The chemical in hops which adds bitterness to beer.  Is very important otherwise beer would be overly sweet. Also acts as a preservative.

Specific Gravity – The measurement of the amount of stuff in suspension in liquid.  In brewing the aforementioned stuff is sugars and some un-fermnetables.   Measurement is taken by a Hydrometer or refractometer.

BTU – British Thermal Unit.  Measurement of heat output.


And so it begins.

January 29, 2011

This is my trip into the digital world by dipping my toe into the world of blogging.  I have been home brewing since 2007 and started all grain brewing in 2008.  Like most home brewers I am also part inventor, either from necessity or from being cheap.  Cheapness, incidentally is a major reason for starting to brew at home.  I did find myself spending a lot of money on good beer.  Not that my wife and myself drink a lot, but we do enjoy good beer, not the fizzy yellow stuff.  I found that with a few hours of effort I could produce beer tasting as good or better than the craft beer I could purchase in stores for a fraction of the cost.

Of course cheapness alone isn’t enough to bring a fun hobby into a passion.  My like of building things to make my brew days more “efficient” and the science behind brewing tickle the engineer within.  The history and culture behind brewing also tickle the intellectual inside as well.  I have found a wealth of information on the internet, TV documentaries, and books to immerse myself in techniques practiced by brewers for hundreds of years, new ingredients , experimental techniques, and a variety of flavors.

And so before I delve deep into the ramblings of a passionate brewer, I shall end here.  Have to save some for later posts.