Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Solved Mystery

So our Novemberfest party was this past Saturday (thanks to everybody who came out!) and while things went well overall, we ran into one glitch... About three hours before the party, after changing my kegerator lines and cleaning all my hardware, I hooked up all my beers and when I poured my first pint of our Hoar Frost Oktoberfest there was a sound that was somewhere between a whoosh and a gurgle, and the beer shot out as mostly foam.

My immediate thought was, "Not again!" You see, at our Novemberfest party two years ago we debuted our kegerator. I was all excited to show it off but due to a wonky new CO2 regulator all of my beer was way overcarbonated and I had to pour everything into pitchers so people weren't drinking cups full of foam. This year I started carbonating my Oktoberfest by leaving it at 30 psi overnight but I do this all the time and never ended up with overcarbonated beer.

While I couldn't figure out why the beer was overcarbonated, it seemed clear that it was, so I started shaking the keg and purging every five minutes or so. This seemed to help a little but not much. By the time 6pm rolled around I had no choice but to pour half a pint, let it settle, then top it off--and even then it still had an overly ample head. The keg was gone by 11pm so obviously people were able to make due, but nonetheless I was both disappointed to serve overcarbonated beer and puzzled as to what exactly went wrong.

Now fast-forward to tonight... I'm kegging our Snow Squall Christmas Ale, which obviously requires cleaning and sanitizing a keg. I just happened to pick the keg I used for our Oktoberfest beer, and I also just happened to lose my deep-well socket to take off the out valve. As a plan B, I figured I could put the keg under pressure and run some Oxi-clean through the valve.

So what happened when I did that? Same whoosh/gurgle. At that point I realized it wasn't my beer... it was the keg. And my immediate first thought was that it was missing the gasket along the top of the dip tube. A second search turned up the socket I needed and when I pulled off the out valve, sure enough, there was no gasket. Don't know if this will ever happen to anybody else, but just in case I figured I'd post about my experience. As a brewer, when something goes wrong my first thought is always that it's the beer, but don't forget that it might be the equipment.

Anyway, while I'm blogging, a few other post-Novemberfest notes . . . First, I'm guessing we're the first people in the history of Chicago's South Side to ever fly a Baden-Württemberg flag in front of their house. . . . Second, for the first time in the history of Novemberfest all three kegs kicked. While I'm thrilled that everybody liked our beer that much, it meant that I never got a chance to sit down and take notes on our first-ever Novemberfest beer. Just going from memory, I thought it was a very tasty beer. It was definitely hoppy, along the lines of a really hoppy Maibock, and the ounce of Hallertau I used to dry-hop wasn't even that noticeable. My only disappointment was that the 25% rye wasn't that noticeable; I'm thinking cutting down on a Munich a bit might allow it to stand out more. Otherwise I thought it was a success, particularly for being my first shot at a somewhat experimental beer. . . . Having all three beers kick also means we need more beer, stat! As such, I'm planning on brewing our None More Buzzed Coffee Stout this Saturday. . . . Finally, I kegged our Christmas ale into the Frink keg today; the gravity was 1015.


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