Monday, September 3, 2012

The lowdown

Welcome to Suds Anonymous! Where you can read the ramblings of a craft beer lover and home brewer! Ill be doing my very best to update the site weekly with happenings, beer reviews, and home brewing mishaps/adventures.
Each Friday, on my twitter account (@sudsanonymous), I do #fridaytryday in which I will tell you what particular libation I’m enjoying, where I am enjoying it, and provide a brief review. It’s my intention to take those #fridaytryday posts a bit deeper here on the site. Along with more in-depth beer reviews, I’ll also do my very best to include reviews and information on the fine establishments in which I’m enjoying my beverages of choice.
Along the way I’m also going to do my very best to pass on information regarding events in the area as well as posting links to other (and most likely better) beer blogs.
Occasionally I may allow some of Knights of the Nectar as I like to refer to fellow beer lovers and myself (actually I just made that up, do you like it? Be honest… No? You’re right, that’s terrible. But, its staying in). Which really just means that I’ll probably let some of my beer and brewing buddies chime in from time to time. You know, to keep things fresh around here.
I’ll try to be as knowledgeable as possible but, as most of you craft beer lovers out there are aware there’s tons to know and tons to learn. So, as I learn and experience things I’ll be passing it on to you! Exciting right?
So. To get things started, I figure I’ll begin with some information regarding my most recent homebrew. This past Saturday night after very graciously (and very much unhappily) agreeing to be the driver for my wife and sister-in-law, I decided I needed to brew. I just NEEDED to brew. I’ve had my equipment cleaned and ready to go for a couple of weeks and just hadn’t had a chance to fire up the burner. So, after watching my wife and her sister enjoy a few drinks I decided that it was time to pack them up and get home. After all, I NEEDED to brew.
Of course we didn’t get home until late, so I didn’t start my brew until around midnight which was fine by me. The plan was to brew an IPA, though I made a huge mistake right off the bat. I started steeping my grain in too much water. In a moment of confusion, I started my boil with 5 gallons of water instead of the standard 3. I could have saved it had I not already began steeping my grain. So, I figure “lets keep going, the beer will be lighter and that’s okay. I’ll just call it a session IPA.” For those of you who may not know, any form of beer with a lower alcohol content (usually 4-4.5%) may be refered to as a “session” beer, in that you can drink a few in a drinking session and not feel an extreme alcohol effect. i.e. you don’t too hammered too fast.
Anyway, after that the boil went very well. Until it was time to chill the wart. Chilling the wart is important because if your wart stays hot for too long it has potential of growing harmful bacteria. The problem with wort chilling is, there isn’t a great way to do it at home if you havent invested (which I havent) in a wort chiller. Without some type of wort chiller your best bet is to drop your hot kettle into an ice bath. Which if I’m being honest really doesn’t work all that great. I’ll be buying a wort chiller very soon, and I will of course let you know how well it does the job.
I brought my wort inside and dunked it in my kitchen sink, misjudged the amount of water that would displace and spilled water all over the counter and kitchen floor. The water in the sink heated to the temperature of the brew kettle almost instantly so, I spent the better part of an hour spraying water around the outside of my kettle in an attempt to cool it down. Brewing beer at home really IS fun, I’m just a complete novice.
once my beer was chilled to a reasonable 120 degrees (100 is ideal but I have the patience of a 6-year-old) I brought the wort back outside to funnel into my recently inherited (its only necessary for me to tell you how recently I got it because this was my first brew using a carboy and there are a few things I didn’t know) carboy. It’s at this point my second big problem begins. I have nearly 4 1/2 gallons of wort when you should normally have 3. At the end of a normal brew one typically adds to gallons of fresh water to the wort to aid in chilling. I did my best to add as much water to the carboy as possible (which was probably too much),pitched my yeast, lugged the brew down to my basement and went to bed.
Upon checking my brew the following morning I was met with a blowout. My airlock had popped due to pressure and the beer had run out of the carboy onto my basement floor. I re-sealed the carboy and went about my day. Later that afternoon, it blew again loud enough and hard enough to blow the airlock against the basement ceiling which startled the dog, who started barking and waking my daughter. Amidst the confusion, I decided that there must be WAY too much pressure in the carboy and dumped off some of the beer. The theory there was “if I give more room for the pressure in the bottle, it might stay sealed.” A fine theory though, now I’m pretty confident that I dumped off my yeast which has completely halted fermentation. What I didn’t know is that depending on the gravity of the beer, it’s generally a good idea to use a blow off hose. What that means is instead of sealing with an airlock, attaching a hose to the carboy where the beer can blow off into a bucket making less mess.
So, that’s where I stand currently after this weekends brew. I’m planning on giving the beer a couple of days to see if fermentation takes off again but it’s not looking too great. I’ll most likely have to pitch my yeast again. I’ll bring you updates as this story develops…

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