Thursday, April 5, 2007

Transition to Better Brews

In the last post, I talked about my initial failures, that I'm sure most new homebrewers go through. This post gets into some small transitions into better brews, and the beginning of a more intense interest in brewing my own beer.

By initially, and quite accidentally, venturing into the extremes of beer styles (fizzy brown water and tar-like black sludge) I must have learned more of what NOT-to-do than what to-do when making beer. I definitely didn't want to make any more light fizzy water, nor, slip down into the darkest depths of the scary Goat’s Scrotum/Tumultuous Porter.

Another beer style I wanted to explore was an IPA. After searching online for recipes, I stumbled upon one that looked BIG and complex. It was listed as an all-grain recipe, but I used a partial mash equivalent. It was called DC’s Rye IPA. Little did I know that Denny Conn’s recipe has been brewed by more home brewers than probably any other. I followed the recipe as close as possible, and ended up with something I could proudly say was a fine glass of beer. Most everybody complimented. I remember David and me stringing up huge teabags of grains (looking for a photo that may not exist anymore) and squeezing out every last bit of sweet golden goodness. It fermented like crazy with foam oozing out the blow-off hose like lava from a raging volcano. Using my new 6 gallon primary carboy, it was also the first time I could see what was going on in there. A truly amazing sight. It really looked like it was boiling in there.

It came out to be around 6.2%. It had wonderful body, color and taste. With premature bottling, it also had great carbonation (almost like a Belgian). Great hop bitterness and aroma. Overall it was a dramatic improvement to all my previous attempts. So finally I could say I brewed some quality ale. Thanks Denny Conn for a solid recipe. This success had something to do with learning from past experiences and utilizing a higher proportion of fresh grains and hops.

Better equipment = better beer and lots more fun!...

Two pieces of equipment has made brewing even more enjoyable. The 6 gallon carboy for primary fermentation allows me to see what’s going on in there, and also results in a larger net volume of finished beer. To this day, I’m not sure why most photos of home brewer’s primary and secondary carboys are not filled to the top (maybe someone can answer this). I’ve always filled the primary to the top so that I can fill the secondary to the very top. I pretty much always end up with a full 5 gallons. And I always adjust recipes for 6 gallons cause that’s how much is going into the primary. All-in-all, I love the bigger carboy.

Second is the immersion chiller. Being a bit of a DIYer, I thought it would be fun and challenging to make my own. Ace Hardware had all the parts (coiled copper tubing) and I simply wound the tubing around a rigged large glass bottle. It really makes a HUGE difference...only 15min/pot. Though it wastes a lot of water, it sure saves lots of time. I notice even shorter chill times in the winter when the pipes push through icy cold water. Another thing I learned early on was to preheat the coil before setting it into the boiling pot.

The total success of DC's Rye IPA got me thinking about brewing more beers like this. But, before I could brew again, I already put together an all-grain system. Click here to read about going all-grain.


Travis said...

I too did the DIY wort chiller. It turned out great and still works like a trooper today...funny story though:

First time I go to use it, I am all concerned that my connections are going to come off and I am going to get water in my brew. It's night time and I am out side on my deck. I hook the chiller to my hose connection, the opposite end is tucked under the deck. I turn on the hose full blast and I see the exiting end flailing around like a loose firehose so I run over to keep it form going in my brew. I grab onto it bare handed and gave myself second digree burns.

That whole concept of the wort chiller colling the brew...and the water coming out being hot hadn't sunk in until that point. Lesson learned.


Ted Danyluk said...

Wow, that's crazy. What a way to learn a lesson...ouch! Yeah, it's super hot water shooting outta there.

I brew inside on the range, and we try to use all that hot water for cleaning the equipment. It could also be utilized for other purposes like filling the bathtub. Hmmm...I might just try that...the thought of sitting in a hot bath with a homebrew at my side and a good book after a long brew day looks like a pretty good idea.

I mean, why let all that super hot water go to waste ya know?