Eye of the Loon: Snowy Brew

Despite wind and snow, the brew day for Eye of the Loon Red Ale went off without a hitch yesterday. I made a few changes to the process this time around that ended up helping out quite a bit, and hopefully will make for a tasty brew.

I wanted to brew out on the back porch again this time, like I did with Three Wise Men Stout, but 3-4 inches of snow falling meant I had to brew in the garage. It still made for a great view from the brewery.

The major change this time around was switching over to a batch sparge from a nearly full- volume mash. This means that I split the water into two groups, strike and sparge water. The strike water is used for the normal mash, and after it is drained out, the sparge water is added to rinse any remaining sugars off the grain. This usually results in a more efficient brewing process.

I busted out my old 5 gallon pots to heat up the strike water, getting it right to temperature very quickly. I also preheated my mash tun for the first time by adding a couple cups of boiling water to the tun and letting it sit for awhile. This keeps the mash temperature from dropping too dramatically over the mash.

My calculations for heating the strike water were slightly off, heating it to 165F degrees instead of 168F which resulted in slightly undershooting my mash temp.

While the mash was doing its thing, I started heating the 4.75 gallons sparge water in the 5 gallon pot. This made carrying the pot from inside to the burner very tricky, and I realized I need to speed up my timeline for a bigger brew kettle so I can use my 7.5 gallon pot for this.

Once the mash finished up, I drained off the first runnings and suspended my mash bag off the bottom of the tun to drain as much liquid as I could. Then, once the sparge water was ready, I carefully carried it back inside and added it to the mash tun with the grains. I gave it a good stir, then let it sit for another 10 minutes before draining it into the brew kettle.

A bit more liquid, that I drained from the bag was added to the kettle as it was heating to reach my desired preboil volume of 7 gallons. This is the most I had fit into my 7.5 gallon kettle, and once again I was wishing for a bigger pot. I knew I wouldn’t have much headspace for a possible hot break, so I had to add a few drops of Fermcap to make the boil less intense.

As you can see in the picture, I had a new piece of equipment for the boil. This hop screen allows the hops to contact the wort in the kettle to add in bitterness while containing most of the funk that usually ends up on the bottom of the kettle. This makes for an easy drain and clean up.

The boil took awhile to get going in the cold and I’m sure the Fermcap didn’t help either, but once it started I started my timer and tossed the hops in the filter. A puffy green foam built up in the filter, and I had to stick my spoon in to stir it up a bit and make sure it didn’t clump up too much.

Once the boil finished up, I pulled the hop screen out and let it drain for awhile so I could get as much liquid as possible. This takes a bit longer than I thought, so I may need to rig up something to hold the filter above the pot to drain so I can get other stuff done and be ready to transfer.

I siphoned the wort into my cube to let it cool overnight. The siphoning process without an auto-siphon is a real hassle, so I will need a valve on my my new kettle to make the process easier. Might need to add one on this pot too.

After that, I did my usual cleanup routine so I could finish up brew day and get ready for transferring into the fermenter the next day. I took a sample during the transfer for an efficiency reading as was very happy with what I saw. My past few brews have been in the mid-60% range, but this time I hit just above 73% efficiency. Beating my recipe build of 70%. I think a lot of the improvement came from the batch sparge, but also from a better understanding of my equipment and better sampling practices. Allowing samples to cool makes for more accurate readings.

I will post updates throughout the fermenting process, and am excited to be able to drink this beer before St. Patrick’s Day.

Cheers,

TJ

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