Saturday, July 17, 2010

Brew day: Hoar Frost Oktoberfest

As I noted a couple weeks ago, we've got lots of beer to brew and the baby will be here any day so I decided to knock out our Hoar Frost Oktoberfest today. Sure, it's a little warm (94°F with a dewpoint of 67°F as I type this) but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Last year I decided to brew a more traditional Oktoberfest, or more specifically the kind that's generally found in Germany, which is basically a slightly ramped-up Munich Helles. I went half Pilsner malt and half Munich malt and it turned out to be a very tasty brew. This year I decided to give it a little more of an Export feel (exported O-fests are what we tend to find here in the States; they're slightly darker and have a slight nutty/toasty quality to them) so I added a touch of dehusked Carafa III malt. And because it's hot and I'm lazy I did a simple infusion mash rather than a decoction.

I mashed in at 9:45, overshooting my target temp of 154°F by a degree. Around 10:30 I started to recirculate but noticed an awful lot of grain coming through. That's when I realized my damn manifold had disconnected. (This is a too-frequent problem with my mash tun, but I've yet to figure out a good way to permanently connect the manifold to the tube since the manifold is PVC and thus I can't just use a hose clamp.) Anyway, I had to dump out half the mash, reconnect the manifold, and then dump the mash back in. Only set me back about ten minutes, but still a pain in the neck.

Anyway, by 10:40 I was recirculating. I started collecting my first runnings at 10:55 and had collected 12.5 gallons by 12:10. I boiled from 12:10 to 1:40. I ended up at 1055, two degrees short of my target gravity. I think this was due to a low evaporation rate because of the heat and humidity, which meant I did collect a higher volume than expected. (Quick math tells me that, had I collected my calculated 10.5 gallons instead of the 11 I actually got, I would've had an O.G. of 1058). No biggie.

Now, things did get a bit interesting when it came time to cool the wort. As I mentioned above, it was hot today, and I finally came up with an idea to cool things down to lager temps: I bought a submersible aquarium pump. Specifically, I bought this pump (pictured to the right). Then, the night before, I threw a carboy full of water into my garage fridge and filled three buckets with water and threw them in the freezer. When it came time to chill, I threw the water and chunks of ice into a cooler and pumped water from there to my plate chiller. Seems perfect, right?

Well, there was one slight problem: the pump wasn't as strong as advertised. It claims 258 gallons/hour, but I did a test afterward and was only getting 180. That was enough of a difference from my garden hose output that I had to slow my wort outflow to a trickle and even then only got down to around 62°F. As such, 1.) I'm going to take the pump back and (hopefully, if they'll let me) exchange it for this one, which claims 1315 GPH and comes recommended by another guy in my homebrew club; and 2.) for now I had to throw my carboys into my chest freezer set to 30°F so I can drop it to around 50°F before pitching.

Anyway, if all goes well I'll pitch a yeast slurry courtesy of Doug and Tracy at Metropolitan Brewing before I go to bed and we'll be rockin' in the morning!

Hose info

Anybody out there reading this, you can file this post under "stuff that is not remotely interesting to anybody else but Russ needs to put on the record for future reference."

Anyway, I'm going to be replacing the hoses in my brewery so I figured I'd record the dimensions so I know exactly how much to order in the future. Here it goes...

3/8" thermoplastic tubing:

Kettle to pump: 3'
Pump to valve: 1.5'
Valve to chiller: 3.25'
Valve to HLT: 6.25'
Total: 14'

3/8" clear high-temp tubing:

Chiller to carboy: 3'
HTL to mash tun: 2'
Total: 5'

That is all.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bottling the baby beer: a family affair

So, a couple weeks ago we brewed our baby beer (by which I mean the beer we'll be passing out when our third child is born, not a beer FOR babies). Yesterday--two weeks and a day before the due date--we bottled five gallons and kegged the other five. The traditional Hefeweizen finished at 1014 and tasted surprisingly clean; there was some clove and just a little banana, but frankly next time I might ferment at 66°F instead of 64°F just to get a little more of that classic Hefe character.

Since we've been kegging for over four years now, I tend to forget what a pain bottling is. Fortunately, I had a little help. Initially, Jonas helped me load bottles into the dishwasher:

Then, after the bottles were cleaned, Dorrie helped sanitize them before I filled and capped them:

All in all, we ended up with 49 12-oz. bottles and one 750 mL bomber (which we'll take to the hospital with us to celebrate). Now we just have to wait for the baby to make her grand entrance!

Friday, July 09, 2010

FotoFriday #24

Taking a hydrometer reading.

Friday, July 02, 2010

You can read it in the Sunday papers

Okay, so technically it's not a Sunday paper, but lots of people read the Chicagoist, right? Sure they do! And the Chicagoist just happens to have named Metropolitan's I-Beam Alt their beer of the week. I even get a shout-out (though I'm pretty sure the only way I qualify as a "master of the Altbier style" is if you define "master" as anybody who's actually been to Düsseldorf). Anyway, you can check out the full story here. Thanks to everybody who's managed to track down a pint or two... There are still a few kegs floating around the city, and hopefully it'll be back soon!