Getting back to the basics

It wasn’t long ago when we were talking about how much we were about to “ramp things up” and all the contests we were about to enter with our “dialed in recipes”. Since then you may have noticed an absence in posts and not as much going on with our Facebook page. There are a few reasons for this, but the long and short of it is “life happened” and as a result much of the forward momentum we had needed to reigned in for a bit while more important things were attended to. Yes there are more important things in our lives then brewing beer. Not many, but they do exist.

So what’s been going on? Well things did ramp up considerably in the brewing department. Last weekend we have over 30 gallons of beer kegged and ready to be bottled/consumed. However, only 10 of that 30 gallons got bottled and or saved for later. What happened to the rest? DUMPED! If you’ve never dumped a batch of beer (which we hope you never have to do, but it’ll probably still happen) it’s one of the more soul crushing things that you can do or witness. It’s not really the monetary loss, but rather the amount of effort that went into all aspects of the brewing process. All of those things go through your head while you witness your frothy, handcrafted creation pour down the drain.

Minutes before everything went wrong. Look how blissfully happy we were!
Minutes before everything went wrong. Look how blissfully happy we were!

It was the crescendo to what has been a string of weird and not so great results from our last bunch of brews. Version 2 of our Black IPA? Some how it managed to taste more like a porter with hardly any hop or dry hop characteristics at all. The new ESB? Not bad, but also missing the dry hop character. Version 3 of our Porter? Sour. Version 2 of our Cream Ale? Also Sour! What the frick is going on here? Did somebody open our fermenters and hock a loogie in them or did we fly too close to the sun? Luckily it appears to be neither of those and more about what we changed.

Luckily with all of those brews we know (because of our relentless note taking) that each one of them involved a new part or a change to our normal brewing routine. Black IPA? Fermentation stalled and we re-pitch the yeast. Also we bagged the dry hops rather then just dumping them in. ESB? It was a 10 gallon batch so we used a different fermenter as well as bagging our dry hops. Porter? Also had to re-pitch, but we took a lot more gravity readings before racking which could lead to a higher chance of infection. We also waited until the yeast was completely done before racking which means there’s not even a small amount of CO2 protecting the beer in the secondary. This increases the chance of infection even more. Given that we carried that habit over to the Cream Ale, we can start painting a picture of what could have happened and how we might be able to prevent it next time around.

Unfortunately “could” and “might” don’t really fill us with enough confidence to go ahead and simply brew the same beers with the same new equipment, using the same new processes. The chances that one of those changes affected the results are still too high for our liking. This means that for our next brew day we’ll be “kicking it old school”. No more fancy shmancy keg turned fermenter for the primary. No more waiting until the final gravity is hit before racking to the secondary. For this brew we will be going back to our more laid back (and slightly impatient) fermentation schedule using our tried and true equipment. Will we still make changes to our brewing setup and process down the road? Absolutely! However, from here on in we’ll be adjusting our brewing process and equipment just like we adjust our recipes. One change at a time.

Cheers!

SVB

One thought on “Getting back to the basics

  1. Pride Craft

    Dumping beer sucks! I avoid doing secondary unless there is a really good reason for it (I only do secondary for my bourbon porter when I add bourbon and oak chips). I dry hop (in muslin sacks) straight into primary after initial fermentation is finished. This eliminates a racking and I’ve never had an issue with getting good hop aroma on my IPAs. Pretty much if you are adding anything that will float (not sink into your trub), consider just adding it to your primary.

    Like

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