A Batch for Superstars
One of the biggest problems I have with brewing is figuring out how to get rid of all the beer I make. When I started doing the scheduling for my next batch, I realized that if I started in early December, I could have a batch ready by the time that Superstars Writing Seminar 2014 came around. Since I'll be meeting up with a number of friends I don't get to see often, I wanted to bring them some of my home brew to try. Completely selfless, I know. 😉
Brew Day (04Dec13)
Unfortunately, the only way to work out our schedules to get Christmas together, my lovely and I wouldn't have many mutual days off this month. This means that I was stuck with a solo brew day. It, however, wasn't all that difficult. I took a trip to the homebrew supply store and picked up two recipes. At first, I wanted to make the German Octoberfest, but part way through reading the instructions, realized that it used lager yeast instead of ale yeast. The major difference is that while ale yeast ferments at room temperature, lager yeast needs a colder environment to survive. Alas, I do not have a spare fridge sitting around, so I'll have to return the kit until I can find an old fridge for cheap on the internet.
So instead, I pulled out my second kit and went about brewing the Belgian tripel.
Today's brew went very well all things considered. I picked up from a recruit for my day job that if the brew kettle is left covered during the steep time, it'll likely retain the correct temperature without need for heat input from the burner. I tried this by heating the water to 165 degF (the upper end of the steep range) and through the course of the 20 minute steep, the temperature droped to 162 degF. Success! Not surprising, the Blichmann burner did a great job at heating the wort to a boil, and because I was paranoid this time, I was able to keep it from boiling over. However, I couldn't seem to maintain the boil on the burner, so I had to go back to the stove in any case.
For some reason, my wort never came back to a "roiling" boil, but it did come to a gentle boil with some effort, so I took that as good enough for my purposes and continued on. I also learned today that though the wort chiller effective, it still has difficulty lowering the temperature because the cold water out of my faucet isn't all that cold to start with. I was able to scrounge up some ice, but I need to be sure to have a bag handy anytime I brew in the future.
Also, unfortunately, it appears that my brewing thermometer is broken. I'm going to try to fix it later, but it is currently reading 100 degF as ambient temperature. This, alas, is definitely not the case. It seems to be stuck at this value too, as I had to confirm my wort's temperature with a mercury thermometer. I guess it's what I get for using a cheap meat thermometer, but even so, I regret nothing. I can get another for just as cheap.
Though I brewed this one by myself tonight, it is looking like my lovely will need to rack by herself next week when I'm in training. I'll let y'all know when that happens!
Racking Day (13Dec13)
It was a very busy week here in San Antonio. I had out of town training, so my lovely girlfriend volunteered to rack the beer. As is the way of such things, something came up and she had to rack a day later than originally planned, but that won't hurt anything in the long run.
I talked to my lovely, and she said that there wasn't an unusual amount of trub in the primary fermenter. We talked about reasons the liquid level could be lower than normal, and the only conclusion we came to is I accidentally bought a bigger carboy when I got our second one. The issue is trapped oxygen. At the beginning, you want oxygen to allow the yeast to grow and multiply. When the fermentation starts and you are producing alcohol, you need an anaerobic (oxygen free) environment. This is why we rack "silently". Oxygen present during fermentation will introduce funky flavors, but since honey saw the airlock on this carboy was bubbling a little bit the first day, and carbon dioxide is heavier than oxygen, chances are most of that head space is now carbon dioxide rather than oxygen. I could put marbles at the bottom of the carboy to take up space, but at this point, I don't want to loose the cushion of carbon dixoide. We'll see what happens.
She also forgot to take the specific gravity reading, so there is no way to calculate ABV at the moment. Very little fermentation should be left, so we'll get an accurate final gravity on bottling day.
Bottling Day (23-Dec-13)
A few days ago, my lovely girlfriend and I took a trip to the homebrew store to pick up our next batch of fermentables and to acquire bottles for our Tripel and Dunkelweizen. We were very lucky! We were able to buy the last three boxes of bottles. There were not enough beer bottles for the cider, so we'll get to experiment with wine bottles instead. For more details, see the VAC cider page.
Bottling went smooth again this time. My lovely handled filling the bottles while I was in charge of capping and ensuring she had a steady stream of bottles to fill. It went a lot faster than when I bottled the holiday ale last time and the company was much better too! It seems that bottling is most efficient with two, I'm not sure having a third person involved would really add anything as the bottle neck (har har) is the filling process.
We spent a bit of the bottling debating if there was a scent of banana on the beer. I didn't think so, but honey did, so we were a bit worried that the head space in the secondary fermenter had introduced an off flavor. Neither of us could taste it, so that's good at least. We'll have to see what it tastes like after it ages. For those who are curious, the final gravity ended up being 1.021.
(OG - FG) x 131.25 = (1.073 - 1.021) x 131.24 = 8.625%ABV.
Now we just need to find a closet to age and carbonate in for a few weeks.