Adventures In All- Grain

First ever beer brewed? Check. Second beer brewed properly? Check. Legendary home-brewing status achieved? Not even close. Time to play with the big boys and brew our first all-grain!

Before we got too far into our first all-grain brew, we delayed the brew date a little longer so that we could do some proper research on what it was we were actually supposed to be doing. There was a lot more to know this time around and we were being extra causious. We learned our way around a mash tun and plate chiller we’d borrowed (again, THANKS JACK!!) and even ventured into constructing our own recipe. We’d also spent countless hours reading and watching YouTube how-to videos. Things were shaping up and, unlike our first brew, we felt we were prepared. Or so we thought.

Mash Tun Filled!
Mash Tun Filled!

For this brew we had planned for simple IPA using only Cascade for our hops. We decided to brew a “full bodied beer” which meant we’d “mash in” (steeping the grains for you non brewers) at a higher temperature. This would also mean we’d need more grain as well. We had read that it’s best to slowly add the water and grain bit by bit. What we didn’t realize was that you should have a nice layer of water BEFORE you start adding the grain. So, by the end of the mash, all that thick doughy grain at the bottom of the mash tun had made its way under the false bottom and was now preventing any wort (none fermented beer) from draining out of the tun. This is what you call a “stuck mash” and, let me tell ya, it sucked. We’re talking three hours to drain the mash tun kinda suck. Eventually that painfully late night ended with the yeast being pitched and the fermenter being transported down to Jesse’s basement to do its thing. It would be clear sailing from here on out. Right?

Not exactly. I said that we used Jesse’s basement for our fermentation room, but what I forgot to mention was that we were brewing in the middle of a cold January. Unfortunately for us, that part of Jesse’s basement was not known for its heat retention. Needless to say we were freaking out after we racked (transferred) the beer into the secondary. Why was our gravity still so high? Were we going to end up with a 3.5% IPA? Fun fact: if yeast is too cold it’s not going to ferment much of anything. So, after our initial freak out, we moved the carboy to a warmer climate. Luckily things finally kicked into gear and the airlock began bubbling like it should. While we were at it we had also noticed, from our gravity sample, that this beer was seriously lacking in the hop aroma and flavour department. We decided to give dry hopping a try and threw an once into the carboy for good measure. Disaster avoided!

You can dry out the grain to use for making bread and other great snacks.
You can dry out the grain to use for making bread and other great snacks.

The results were not bad actually. I think Dennis described it best as “a good entry level IPA for the none hop head”. Bottom line was, even with all of our trials and tribulations, we ended up with something that was miles ahead of the two extracts we’d previously brewed. We would end up doing one last extract brew, but from here on in it was all-grain for us.

Something good was happening here, but we didn’t start to really tap into our full potential until our local brew club threw out an interesting challenge.

Check back soon for our next post “The Challenge“.

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