Monday, November 21, 2005

Weekend Brewing Extravaganza!

Yesterday, I decided to make beer. Twice.

I'll probably regret this when it comes time to bottle*, but I decided to make two batches yesterday. Though this meant being in the kitchen from about 3 in the afternoon to about 10 at night, it was totally worth it for no other reason than I only had to clean up once.

Plus, I got to spend most of the day making/drinking beer.

I figured with Christmas coming up, and the fact that (for once!) M and I aren't flying anywhere this year (I love both our families dearly, but seriously, I was starting to dread Christmas because of the traveling--and that's just not healthy), we should be well-stocked with seasonally appropriate homebrew.

The first batch was the 2005 edition of my nearly famous Mole Porter (recipe included in link). This year's batch is almost identical to last year's except I dropped the jalepeno and didn't split the dried chilies. The beer kept getting spicier as it aged, to the point where I didn't really think it tasted like a "mole" porter as much as "capsacin" porter.

Hopefully these modifcations will result in more nicely balanced beer.

Next up was a beer tentatively named "Christmas Caramale". Inspired by the many holiday offerings of America's great craft breweries, this is a pretty basic, lightly hopped mahogany ale, nothing too fancy, except I spiked the wort with some freshly made caramel (just sugar heated on the stovetop--hard work, but kind of fun). Also, I didn't clean the brew kettle between batches, leaving a tiny bit of the residue from the Mole Porter boil to go into the Caramale. I'm hoping that just the slightest hint of the smoky/chocolate/cinnamon/vanilla/spicy flavors of the porter will seep into the background...we'll see, I guess.

The recipe is as follows:

2 lbs 80L American Crystal
1/4 lb roasted barley
4 lbs plain amber malt extract
fresh caramel made from 2 cups granulated sugar (see below)
1 oz Cascade (4.9% alpha, in boil for 30 min)
1 oz Mt Hood (6.0% alpha, in boil for 20 min)
White Labs English Ale yeast

Grains were steeped for 30 min at 150 F in 2 gallons of water. I made the caramel during this time by putting 2 cups of sugar and maybe half a cup of water into a stainless steel frying pan, and heating it up. The water may have been superfluous (it has to boil away before the sugar can caramelize) but my theory was that it would help get all the sugar heated up at more or less the same rate and lessen the chances of burning it. (I may be completely full of it on this.) The key to this seems to be to keep the sugar moving, use moderate heat, and don't let it clump up. I did this with a pastry scrapper, but be advised that it will get pretty hot. A sturdy metal spatula is probably best. But I didn't have one handy. Anyway, you have to continually "cut" the sugar to keep big hunks of it from forming. Eventually, it will start to brown, and once it gets hot enough, it will liquify. (This took about 15 minutes on medium heat). Be VERY careful with that stuff--if it is in liquid form, it is REALLY hot, and if it gets on your skin, it will immediately harden, burn the living shit out of you, and not come off very easily. (I have a blister to prove it.)

Once the caramel is more or less homogeneous, you want to move it very quickly from the pan to the wort, which should be boiling or close to it by now. As soon as the heat comes off the pan, the caramel will start to harden, so you have to do it fast, and know that you won't get 20-30% out of the pan in time anyway. (I scaled up the amount of sugar to use with this in mind.)

After hop additions as indicated above, the wort was cooled to 75 F, diluted to SG of 1.055 (about 4 gallons total volume) and the yeast was pitched.

I'll let you know how it turns out. Depending on how it smells after the primary, I might add some dry hops for aroma to the secondary.

*I can already hear some of you out there saying "why don't he keg?" The answer is manyfold, but in addition to space considerations (our house is really quite small), I find bottles more convienient in the drinking stage. Much easier to transport and disperse among people. If I ever get to a point where I spend more time brewing than I do drinking, I might look into kegging.


  • At 8:18 PM, Blogger chris said…

    They make a device for transfering carbonated beer from a keg to bottles. It runs about $40, but it's what I'll use in the future if the need arises to do so.

    I haven't seen them yet, but I was thinking it might be really cool to do this with the new Coke bottles that they've been advertising that are glass and resealable. I figure the cap is probably the standard plastic bottle cap. You'd get the coolness of clear glass (no fermentation required in-bottle) combined with a resealable beer bottle. It's be cool for short term storage, aka taking it to other people.

  • At 5:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was just thinking about doing two batches in a day. I was wondering if you had any timing issues. Were you mashing the second while boiling the first? Did it ever get too hectic to where you had to let something go other than "according to recipe"? I figured that if I did this, I might wind up needing to sparge the second batch about the time I need to cool the first. That could be a problem.

  • At 9:48 AM, Blogger Brian said…

    I started heating the water for the second mash after I started cooling the wort from the first. As I was using a copper coil heat exchanger, which really speeds up cooling, and diluting the wort with fresh cold water (I don't have the space for full mash), the timing for this was good. I sparged the second batch right after pitching the first, and the timing was pretty much "by the book" (+/- 5 minutes).

    I thought about overlaping them more--I do that sort of thing working in the lab all the time--but I decided it wasn't worth the risk of messing up a whole batch. Maybe when I've got a bit more experience.

    Besides, I had pretty much resolved to spend the evening on it anyway.

  • At 1:39 PM, Blogger Ben, aka BadBen said…

    I've only brewed twice in one day once this past year. I had to use my old mash tun and actually, the two brews were almost synchronized together, with the 10-gallon batch falling slightly behind the 5-gallon batch.
    I probably won't do it again for a while...I had to really stay on top of things to multi-task two all-grain brews at once. I do like to "have a few" while brewing, but I didn't dare imbibe during this one until they were both safely in their fermenters.


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