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Mykel Obvious
09/06/06 09:07 AM  
The Beer from Hell!!
Or, why you should be careful what you name a brew!!!

Well, I brewed my Belgian Golden Strong ale Sunday, and the only thing that went right was the weather!!! Beautiful balmy 82 F and I was working in a nicely shaded spot… perfect, I thought. How can one man be so wrong and still remember to breathe??

This was my second all grain batch, and my first attempt at a multi-step infusion mash. I have since come to the conclusion that I am NOT ready to move past single infusion batches at this time. Live and learn… I was running with minimal equipment on this batch… one converted keg for a combo HLT/Boil kettle, and my 10 gallon Rubbermaid cooler as my Mash Tun. I had some buckets and an 7 gallon pot for transfers and wasn’t worried too much about getting it all together in one place for the boil… little did I know!!!

So I add the 15 lbs of Castle Pilsner to my mash tun, dump in my 3.5 gallons of 146 F water, stir and… crap… I over shot my 125 F strike temperature by 5 F, as it seems the average thermal mass listed in ProMash is a bit high for my setup… (I will run the numbers and find my actual thermal mass as to not have this happen in the future)… not a real problem, I just added ½ a gallon of cool water and got it where it needed to be… I’m strong, I will persevere and no matter what else happens, it will still be beer when I’m done!!

The second problem arose when I realized my 20 minute protein rest was up and the water for my next infusion was only up to 160 F… this is considerably lower than the 210 F I had figured on when I set up my mash schedule. Ok, I thought to myself, I’ll just push the protein rest to 30 minutes and let the water heat some more… all well and good, but it was only 175 F at the 10 minute mark… (Note to self: hook up the other burner and convert another keg for a HLT so this doesn’t happen again)… but I’m strong, I will persevere and no matter what else happens, it will still be beer when I’m done!!

So I do some number crunching and figure out an amount of water that will get me to around 140 F for a short rest and not thin the batch out too much at this stage… I want to be able to do a final rest at 153 F and finish my conversion there… hmm, that’s funny... 135 F… damn, well, not a total loss…I’ll turn this into a 10 minute rest and just crunch some numbers and jump to 153 F on my next infusion (Note to self: hook up the other burner and use the 7 gallon pot for emergency decoctions as needed so this doesn’t happen in the future)… but as I’ve said before, I am strong, I will persevere and no matter what else happens, it will still be beer when I’m done!!

So with my now boiling water, I add the 1.5 gallons to bring me to my much needed 153 F… well, whadda ya know… 148 F… now how did that happen… and crap, I’m out of water too… (Note to self: Make sure you add ALL the water to the HLT, including sparge water and a bit extra to account for evaporation, so that this doesn’t happen in the future)… but yet again, I am strong… and I’m sure it will still be beer, no matter what else happens!!!

Screw it, add enough water to the kettle to make SURE I have the 4.5… no, now it’s 3, yes 3 gallons to sparge with… good, now that’s hot enough and the last rest is done… time to vourlaf and dump my nice clear first runnings into a bucket and get ready for my easy-peasy batch sparge… collect 1 gallon… hmm, still kinda muddy looking, ok, so I’ll just do it again… well, maybe the 3rd gallon will clear it… start adding that back while I collect the 4th gallon… ok, starting to clear up nicely… hey, where did the wort go?? Dribble, dribble, drip, drip, drip… damn, looks like it’s stuck… ok, not a problem, I can fix this… blow into the drain tube… blurp, blurp… ah, that’s bett… nothing… blow… nothing… get the spoon, cuss, whine, call the Bazooka T Screen foul, foul names and start stirring… well, there it goes, but it is thick and muddy again… should we give it another go… sure, I say, why not… we love that clear wort… muddy… muddy… glorp… blink, blink… spoon, cuss and stir… Be strong… It’ll be beer if I have to strangle it!!

Ok, got ½ of it drained… start adding the sparge water as I am fed up and will NOT let this get the better of me… Just get it in the damn boil kettle and start the 90 minute boil… it’ll all be fine then… so there it is, all 8 gallons of soupy brown mess… crank her up, and when we hit boil, drop in the first of the hops… Ok, where the hell are my hop bags… there are the hops, but the bags are?? Nowhere to be found… well the ol’ Bazooka T should filter out some and I’ll just deal with the rest when I rack it to secondary… no big deal… so I do my second addition… boil, boil… add Whirl-floc, moist blonde candi sugar, Servomyces.. drop in the immersion chiller and boil a bit more… ah, that smells nice… flame out, add the last of the hops and start the chill… Hey, where the hell is all the ice?? Crap, I bet my brother used it for a weekend boating trip or something… no big deal, I’ll just shoot down and grab a few bags from the quick stop on the corner… Strong! Beer Damn You!!

Chill nicely down to 80 F before the ice is all gone and I start hitting things with a hammer… get it in the carboy, just get it in the fVcking carboy and throw some air to it… flip the lever and there she goes… woohoo… a bit green from the hops, but what the hell… what the hell is right… why did it stop?? Ok, blow and pray… blow and pray… nothing!! Grrrr… Ok, scrape the Bazooka with the spoon, that should do it… glub, glub... scrape it some more… glub… fVck, fVck, fVck… yank that piece of crap off there and give me a damn beer before I kill someone!! (Note: First beer of the day)

Well, there’s 5.5 gallons of dark green crap in my carboy… the hydrometer says 1.100, but I’m betting it would be MUCH lower without the hops and trub floating in it… I was shooting for 1.079, but who the hell knows where it really is… what the fVck… run the pump for 30 minutes and dump in the fVking yeast and make it beer, strong or not… at least I haven’t cried yet!!

So I get it all together… the yeast is in there and it’s got air and all that crap… have another beer and add my blow off tube… where the HELL is my blow off tube?? It was here last week when I pulled it off the last batch… I know it’s around here somewhere but I can’t lay hands on it to save my life… call my brother on his cell… yeah… in the boat as an emergency siphon tube, that’s the PERFECT place for it… screw it, cut the bottom off the air lock and drill ¼ inch hole in the top and letter go… it’s worked in the past, what’s the worst that could happen??

So yeah, I get home this morning from visiting a girl I know and now I’m cleaning beer off the ceiling, walls, floor and mirror that was sitting too close to the carboy… I now have 2.5 gallons of wonderful smelling brew doing it’s thing quietly in the corner… it’ll be beer if nothing else goes wrong… but for some reason I have a vision of bottling a single 16 ounce swing-top of the best beer I’ve ever made and never, ever being able to duplicate it LOL

I guess that’s what I get for naming the beer Lucifer’s Hammer, huh?

Be Strong… Make Beer!!!

mikey

Mykel Obvious - Head Bottle Washer What Is In Charge Of Caps for Old Coyote's Bad Mojo Biohazard Brewery

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"I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer."

Brendan Behan

Dsanborn
09/06/06 09:26 AM  
Re: The Beer from Hell!!
It'll be the best tasting beer ever!

Great post and a good reminder that the journey isn't really the fun part - surviving it is.

cheers, scamborn

SteveG
09/06/06 09:43 AM  
Re: The Beer from Hell!!
In general I had been hoping to attract posts that were more relivant to advanced brewing topics - need to rethink that! Awesome post, I almost never get through the really long ones but this was a breeze! Mikey, have you ever hung with an all-grainer during a brewing? I put my system together following an event at a homebrewer-friendly pub. They had someone from a brewshop come in and make a batch, it gave me a chance to see the process. In the end the system I put together looked nothing like his, but the principles were in place.

Blow-off tube taken to siphon gas - priceless!!

N8
09/06/06 10:55 AM  
Re: The Beer from Hell!!
Sorry for your misfortune Mikey, but that was great! That's the way start a work day, with a good laugh. I've had that kind of brew day when i was figuring out my all grain system. It happens to the best of us.

I do think you might have been over-thinking it during some of the process. I've got a friend who has a small poster over his brew system, "DON'T PANIC". It's helped him make better been. Just remember, RDWHAHB.

Also, I've heard somewhere in the past, that malted barley WANTS to become beer.. so, it will become beer at some point.

Better luck next time.

Cheers to Lucifer's Hammer!

TedJ
09/06/06 12:26 PM  
Re: The Beer from Hell!!
Sounds like a typical brew day from the past. The good news is that you have probably had close to your worst day and future days should be better (until you try a triple decoction mash). You will learn to be better prepared (lots of boiling water), learn to ignore some issues (20 minute rest that turns in 40 minutes, so what), and accumulate some more equipment (what every homebrew really wants). Of course, you will have some of these problems reoccur (expect that) and you will discover some new solutions and new problems.

You are not in the beer production business, you are doing this to learn the mysteries of brewing, have some fun, and forget about your other chosen profession. During your adventure, did you think about your job even once? I seriously doubt it. And of course there is that one golden pint that you may end up with. That is the prize, share it with your friends and retell the "Beer from Hell".

SteveG
09/06/06 02:04 PM  
Re: The Beer from Hell!!
Those are great points Ted, the most valuable asset I feel I have is years of observed cause and effect. My first go was not the headache yours was, but it was no cakewalk. As I recall I didn't realize sparge water needed to be hot! My second time I stupidly thought I could run sparge water out of a plastic bucket with one of those plastic valves things at the bottom. Imagine my glee at the scaulding wort death ray that came raging out when the valve folded!

But it gets better...

...until, as Ted said, your first triple decoction. 15 years later and I still avoid those.

SteveG
09/07/06 07:33 AM  
Re: The Beer from Hell!!
Hope you don't mind Mykel, I thought this story was so entertaining I posted a link to it on the other BBB.
Mykel Obvious
09/08/06 08:04 AM  
Re: The Beer from Hell!!
Not a problem, Steve! I love to share the pain LOL... I want everyone to know, the thing I was most miffed about was not having 15 lbs. of fresh grain and another day off to try it again right away :-)

later,

mikey

Jim Busch
09/12/06 03:14 PM  
Re: The Beer from Hell!!
hilarious story! Hang in there....

a few tips, hope these are helpful.

Castle Pilsner malt is described as highly modifed and easy to use in a single infusion mash, so one suggestion is to repeat your brew but just aim for a single infusion at 152F for 60 mins. You can add boiling water to reach 170F/mashout after the 60 min rest, and by doing a mashout you might find your lauter screen works better at clearing and your sugars will run out of the tun easier.

Also, even if you do want to do a step mash, stick with 144F for 15-30 mins, 156F 30 mins, 170 and lauter. You really only need a protein rest for wheat beers these days or if you use very low modified malts from Bohemia.

Over time, you may decide that its more flexible to mash in a stock pot (or converted SS keg) and stir while heating. This gives you max flexibility in mash programs and the ability to add heat without adding more water and diluting the enzyme pool.

And lastly, if you dont have a blowoff tube (or a large enough one), just leave the fermenter open. Put foil on top if you wish. Airlocks are not as important as most homebrewers think and in fact open fermentation is great in many respects.

Cheers,

Jim

 
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