“How will you grow or change as a homebrewer this Spring? How will you embrace your Spring fever and channel it toward your homebrewing endeavors?”
Byron at homebrewbeer.net poses this month’s Fermentation Friday topic. I’ve been a little busy the last w months with a new baby, but that dovetails nicely with my change. I’m working on setting up a tiered brewing system that utilizes gravity’s sweet love to move water from the hot liquor tank in to the mash tun, and that same gravity to lauter the sweet wort in to the brew kettle.
Sure, there’s the initial investment of time to build the setup, but then I’ll be able to step away from the lauter with a little more confidence to interact with the kinders during the lengthy brewing process. And the research and design process is fun.
Oh, and I’m going to start brewing 10 gallon batches. I’m now set up to do so and look forward to having doubly productive brew days.
Yeast and I have had a tenuous relationship. It can be a bit of a prima donna, knowing how essential it is to process of brewing, and probably knowing that I spend too much time focusing on the hops. It all started with my first solo batch of beer, with the canned extract that came with a packet of dried yeast. The beer was abysmal due to a wicked bacterial infection, and I started using pitchable yeast exclusively for years. I switched between White Labs and Wyeast, though I had a strong preference for WLP0001.
For me, pitchable yeast was the single most expensive part of my brew day, so a few years ago I started looking for ways to reduce that cost (I know… who’s ever heard of a frugal brewer?). I tried both yeast washing and reusing yeast cakes, both of which were successful but I haven’t stuck with. I have stuck with using yeast starters though, and that continues to be one of the defining parts of my process. I’ve even simplified the process of making a yeast starter to ensure that I pitch a healthy population of yeast.
The last 2 years I’ve switch completely to dry yeasts from Safale and I’ve been very happy with the results. Granted, I’m making a starter with the packets, but the process is cheap, simple, and has proven easier than washing. I haven’t been able to convince my brewing pals to switch yet, each for their own reasons, but I’ve been very happy with all three varieties I’ve tried, and expect to continue using them unless I try some style that requires a different strain.
It’s time to start thinking about the new year, and I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect on starting a new beer. Specifically, the yeast. There are dozens of ways to inoculate your beer, and I’m sure everyone has some story behind their method. Are you a smack-packer, a pitchable vial user, a dry yeast re-hydrator, or do you let nature take it’s course? Do you make a starter, or do you pitch from the package? Do you cultivate your own strain of yeast that you salvaged from some special bottle smuggled from some distant land? Is there any dogma attached to your methods, or do you go where the wind carries you?
Please share by the last Friday of the month, December 26th. Don’t let November happen to you – post early and post often!
October’s Fermentation Friday is hosted by Pfiff. The topic is:
It’s time for y’all to whip out your best homebrewing horror stories. Extra points for tales of woe told in true campfire fashion, and head straight to the front of the class for a bonus handful of candy corn if there’s a deliciously ironic twist in the end.
Well, gather ’round because I have one of the most frightening, lurid tales. Deep in the dark basement is where I store my homebrewing equipment, right next to the crawl space. In fact, there are some small holes in the partition between the safe part of the basement, and the dark, dusty, and recently-radon infested crawl space. One night recently, I wandered down in the dark to check on the laundry when I noticed a dulled sheen on my brew kettle nestled beneath the open stairs. Normally it sparkles in its stainless glory. Something was wrong.
I stepped closer, straddling the pile of towels and linens waiting to wash, and was mortified to discover the cause. A layer of dust and dog hair had settled on top of my equipment, all of it. The equipment hadn’t been used for so long that had not only it developed a cake of dust, but it had started growing hair.
Oh torment! Have I been such a neglectful homebrewer that my equipment is evolving in a Lamarkian rate to find a meaningfun existance? I leaned in close to the kettle, whispered in it’s ball-valve “I’ll brew again! Just don’t leave! I’ll stop buying all the Full Sail Doppelbocks at New Seasons!”
Then, I traced a finger over the lid, hoping to soothe it, and was relieved to find that the dust and hair came up on the tip of my finger. This wasn’t permanent at all, just a dusting of neglect, a sin I could redeem myself of.
“What, in the opinion of others, is the best beer you have ever made and why?”
I posed this question on my blog and had one response. I was fairly certain the answer was going to be the Alberta Arts Pale Ale; a fairly simple pale with Simcoe hops that I brewed as a combination motivation and thank you for friends and family who helped us move on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year (in May!). It had popular acclaim among family members, who typically don’t go for the hoppy beers, but it had enough crispness, and enough being a cool liquid going for it that it won me the most compliments from imbibers.
As Joe pointed out, his favorite was probably the beer I brewed for his wedding. I’ve brewed for several weddings now and get similar comments, so that’s always a good way to score points with friends. Plus, there’s so much latent emotion that getting your beer hooked up with the revelry never hurts. Heck, now that I think of it, one of the last weddings I took beer to left me with lots of compliments on the beer I made from complete strangers. I didn’t take count though, so I can’t definitively say which was my most popular beer.
When I first read this topic, my immediate answer was “sanitize twice!” However, I’ve just brewed with someone for the first time and I think the most reassuring thing is that the brewing process is really quite simple. Sure there are lots of rules, but overall, once you see the process, it’s really easy to brew. And, once you know the process, you can try new things, make tweaks that suit your setup and more.
Here’s a snap shot of the process. Maybe calling it simple is misleading, but maybe a road map will help the first timer.