Brew Day for the 2012 Hop Clearance

Today was brew day for the 2012 Hop Clearance and it could have gone much better. I forgot to put the false bottom in the brew pot (that’s step 1, even before turning on the burner).

So, the weight of 19 pounds of grain and the heat from the bottom of the brew pot burned a hole in my BIAB grain bag. Spilling out all 19 pounds of grain loose into the mash water. Thankfully, I had a leisurely 90 minutes before I needed to separate the soon-to-be spent grain from the soon-to-be hot liquor. In an effort to maximize my ‘it came to me in the shower’ chances – I grabbed my gym bag and headed out for a quick 30 minutes on the spin bike. Once on the bike, the answer was clear:

  1. grab the spare grain bag
  2. binder clip it into the unused large, rectangular, Igloo cooler
  3. dump the contents of the brew pot into the grain bag in the cooler
  4. put cooler on bar stool and drain back into freshly-cleaned brew pot

It worked slick and the walls of the cooler provide excellent resistance in squeezing every last drop out of the grains and into the brew pot. This process showed me the value of a separate mash/lauter tun and spigots – even for BIAB (admittedly this does mostly defeat the purpose of BIAB).

With the hot liquor ready for boil, I turned back on the outdoor burners and tidied up. Fifteen minutes later the temp was still reading 140°F. Oh sure, it’s only 16°F outside and the heat of mash has melted the snow off by back patio – but push through little turkey fryer – we gotta reach 212. I dove into the depths of the summer storage side of the garage, extracted the propane tank from the grill, and tagged it in. Fifteen minutes later – still 140°F. With both tanks giving up, it was time to take 6 hot and sticky gallons of grain juice into the kitchen to boil.

The Power Burner on the range quickly brought on a boil, and I prepped my first hop addition and an impromptu recipe tweak. Turns out my 4oz bag of Northern Brewer was hiding .8oz of Saaz. Fine. This is Hop Clearance – throw it in. It does mean, I don’t have as many IBUs as I planned, so while we’re here, let’s move the 10AA Centennial from flame-out to 45min. That’ll give us 10 IBUs back.

Then, I remember it’s January – which means the outside water’s been turned off for 2 months. Which means it’ll need to get turned back on, and hoses attached, to chill the wort. Now I have something to do between dropping the Irish Moss and flame-out. Perfect.

Through all of this, the starter of Headwaters waited patiently. I pitched them around 4pm and by 7:30 there was a nice solid krausen across the entire fermenter. Win.

With all the gear, the kitchen, the back patio clean, and Hopville’s calculators giving me a 73% efficiency on the mash (hitting 1.108 rather than the estimated 1.114) I’m tentatively optimistic on this one.

BTW – the fermenter smells fantastic.

Update 7 January 2013:

It’s been so long since I’ve brewed that I’d forgotten how wonderful fermentation smells.

Update 5 April 2013:

Turned out ok. Hops seem to be quickly fading. Overall, grainy/husky and less body than I’d like. I’m finding the strong finishing bitterness quite enjoyable. Barely any carbonation came through. The 12.8% ABV is quite prominent. I’m interested to see what the judges at the NHC think this weekend.

Update 18 Apr 2013

Received a 21 & 25 @ NCH Round 1. Higher than I anticipated. Primary fault identified by the judges: acetaldehyde (caused by weak yeast). Both judges describe the hops as low – glad I put so many in.