Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fermentation Friday - 5/09 - Brewday Joy & Stress

A year ago, Adam at Beer Bits 2 launched what's called "Fermentation Friday." On the last Friday of every month, a nice round-up of homebrewing bloggers write their story on a common theme. It's been very interesting reading everyone's brewing perspectives.

I've been invited to host for the month of May. While honored and excited, I've also been struggling to find a theme. It's taken me a while to come up with a topic. I realize I didn't leave much time to write about this, but the truth is, the topic literally just came to me.

I've been wanting to write about brewing beer in terms of being a science, and an art form. But, I think that's a better topic for my own writings in the future.

So for something a bit more light and fun, this month's topic revolves around the brewing activity itself. Brewing is an extremely rewarding endeavor, especially after sipping on the end product...a delicious pint of cold carbonated beer. But in the process of making it, its not always "a walk in the park." I'm interested to hear about what areas in the brewday bring joy and stress. So the questions are...

a. What part of the your brewday brings you the most JOY?
b. What part particularly brings out a good deal of STRESS?

So before, on, or even a bit after this Friday, May 29th, please share your story here in the comments section, or include a link to the post in your blog.

I will follow-up with a round-up of all contributors.

Brewday Joy

I do a lot of preparation before brewday like the filtering and collection of water in gallon jugs, recipe development, recipe research, setting up & checking equipment, and crushing grains the night before a typical 5am start time. All that preparation only builds the anticipation for another good brewday. Like I've said in the past, I enjoy the process of brewing even more than drinking fine tasting beer itself.

Brewing to me is a long and drawn out culinary creation, and I love the practice of using my good olfactory sense throughout the whole day. The smell of freshly crushed malted grains is dry with a virgin malt scent. Character malts definitely enrich it. The hot mash smells like oatmeal and is usually when I fix myself some breakfast. As the wort flows into the boil kettle it has a rich sweet scent with pale worts being clean and dark ones having rich chocolate and roasted overtones.

The best part is when the wort is just about to boil. At this point, thick steam begins to rise, and within, a full malty sweetness unleashed into the air. Good, so good it is! I also love noticing how the bittering hops smell hoppy in the beginning but fade away beyond the 30 minute mark.

Brewday Stress

Among various spontaneous causes for intense stress, like wort dripping from the mashtun through the crack in the floor and into my down stairs neighbor's light fixture, there is one major cause that I depend on every time.

I run full wort boils on the stove in my kitchen. Sometimes there are two enormous kettles stretched over all four burners. With roughly 36,000 total btu's, maintaining a boil isn't what I'd call fun. In fact, I must keep the lids only slightly ajar to keep a vigorous boil.

There are many reasons we boil our worts vigorously for about an hour. During this hour, one gallon of liquid volume is boiled off, and it's important to prevent the steam/condensation from re-entering the pot. So its a double edged sword for me in my kitchen. I need to keep the lids on, but continually wipe them every 2 to 3 minutes during the whole boil (x2 with 2 pots).

Wiping lids is something I've gotten very used to over the years. It's basically a 6th sense for me, so while I prep other things, I know when to return to the lids. Also, if there are any helpers with me, they easily become "Lid-man." So this is a guaranteed cause of stress during one of my brewdays.


Matt said...

I typically enjoy the brew day - everything from hanging out with my wife and whoever else cares to show up, to the actual process of brewing. So outside the good company, to me the most joy comes when the cooled wort hits the fermenter and the yeast is pitched. I can also say the smell of wort and hops brings quite a bit of joy too! Stress typically comes from temperature-related things, like making sure the mash/sparge are the right temp, and the wort gets cooled quickly to pitching temp. Cheers!

Adam said...

Thanks Ted. Interesting topic, should be pretty easy for me to write about too :-)

j_webb said...

I dig the actual smell of the wort as it boils. Im a hop-head so its almost always pungent. It is also fun when that first beer is carbonated and ready to drink, especially when you SCORE and really like the results. This is when "self-back-patting" and "'ataboys" are appropriate.
Stress?...maybe trying to come up with enough bottles to keep pace with my brewing obsession. I guess I am going to be forced to start kegging...

seeandyspin said...

here are mine:

joys: understanding the ingredients, the boil
stresses: LME, filtering/vessel transfers

Brew Dude John said...

Great topic!

Here's our post:

It's set to publish at midnight on the 29th.

Jason said...

Thanks Ted for hosting this month! Great topic. I think I could have written a book about each question!! Below is the link to my post.


Steph Weber said...

I loved this topic! Here's my contribution:


Jake said...


Here is my contribution,



Hi Ted,

Here is my post for this month!

Matt C.

Rob said...

My post is up here. And it's kind of about homebrewing! Thanks for hosting this month.

travis said...

Count me in:

Peter said...

Thank you for hosting! Here's my contribution:

Chris: said...

Thank you for hosting and here is my post

Adam said...

Here ya go! :-)

Keith Brainard said...

Here is mine.

Thanks for hosting!

Sarah-Ji said...

The bigest joy of brewday for me is that if it's on a Sunday, Cadence and I get to go to Jimmy John's for sandwiches!

The biggest stress of brewday for me is that if it's on a Sunday, I have to do church w/ Cadence by myself or if we skip church, I still have to keep Cadence out of the kitchen.

--The Wife behind