Brewing Beer


Brewing Beer is such a fun and rewarding hobby.  I began brewing in the summer of 2008.  My first batch was brewed from extract.  I bottled and enjoyed it immensely, mainly because I had brewed it myself.  I converted a freezer into a four tap kegerator, and have brewed most of the batches since then for the keg. 

The times I brewed fluctuated and I could not get into a brewing rhythm nor find any consistency.  Some of my beer was good, some was awful, and a few were so-so.  Not making good beer is a horrible motivator for making more beer.

How I got started brewing again

Flipping through a few Zymurgy and Brew Your Own magazines one day in September 2013, I found some scientific and geeky articles written on brewing science.  Since I am statistically and scientifically minded, and my professional scholarly work as well as my personal enjoyment of brewing had become stagnant, I decided to combine the two and rejuvenate the hobby that I hold dear.  Since I also like writing, which has also become inactive, I’m making an attempt to throw that in the mix as well. 

The first steps were to change a few things and energize a dormant homebrew club in Kirksville.  After thinking on a name for the club, I woke in the middle of the night with a “Eureka” moment as the name Kirksville Guild of Brewers popped into my head.  We would be the KGB. 

Thanks to Jerry Jones for much of the help on this logo

Although I dived right in and poured a lot of initial energy into defining what this club would be about, we took it slow and steady to gauge whether or not a club like this could exist.  It definitely could.  We are now 17 members strong and have a KGB bank account.  Transfers for t-shirts have been ordered.  The t-shirts will be here soon.

Beer Brewed

I’ve been consistently brewing beer again since October 5, 2013.  I brewed two Northern Brewer kits: The Rebel Rye Porter and the Anarchy in the UK British-Style American IPA.  In November, two more: The Tongue Splitter and the Kiwi Express IPA.  Sometime in December, I had four of my own homebrews on tap for the first time since I can remember. 

Erin surprised me with all-grain equipment for Christmas so I could finally begin brewing all-grain.  In early January I brewed another porter that would take the place of the Rebel Rye, and later in January I brewed a red ale reusing yeast from a previous batch.  This was the first time I experimented with that, and I found it exceptionally easy.  It only saved me around $6. 

On February 5, I brewed a version of Two-Hearted Ale from Bells that I will brew again and again until I perfect it.  This beer is the reason I will be taking very detailed notes every time I brew.  On the 16th of February I brewed my own made up recipe for the first time using a single malt (2-row Rahr) and a single hop (Amarillo).  In early March, I was able to enjoy four all-grain beers on tap for the first time. 

It won’t be ready for the KGB March 22nd meeting, but I brewed a Fixed Gear (Lakefront) clone on February 22.  It was supposed to be the red ale entry for this month.  Even though I could rush it, I already have a red that I will submit, so I decided to be patient and let it continue conditioning. 

Yesterday (March 13), I finally took advantage of my Spring Break and had an “all things beer day”.  I brewed The Plinian Legacy, an all-grain kit that is Northern Brewer’s tribute to Pliny the Elder, one of the best beers in the world.  I also bottled my porter and red ale so I could create some keg space for the Fixed Gear clone that I’m about to keg and The Plinian Legacy.

The Plinian Legacy

One of my main difficulties in all-grain brewing is using the correct amount of water in the beginning so that when you are done, you have very close to 5.5 gallons (or whatever your goal end volume is) to ferment.  There are brewing calculators for this, which I used.  Here were my estimates for the mash:

15.25 lbs. of grains * 1.25 qts/lb = 19.0625 qts ~ 4.75 gallons
So, I heated 4.75 gallons of water to a strike temperature of 165°F and put it into the mash tun along with the grains for a 60 minute mash at 151°F (I used this brewing calculator to help me determine the temp).  The temperature was very close to that when I put the lid on the mash tun.
To mashout at 170°F for 10 minutes, the brewing calculator informed me I needed to add 2.5 gallons of boiling water to the mash (you need to do this slowly as to not scorch the grains). 
Easy math shows that I have used 7.25 gallons of water thus far.  Since I want to end with 5.5 gallons, I need to add 5.5 to the amount I will lose to the grains and boil off.  I estimated that I would lose
15.25lbs * 0.10 gal/lbs = 1.525 gallons
to grain absorption and 1 gallon to boil off. So, 5.5+1.5+1=8 gallons will be the quantity of water I should use.  Since I already used 7.25 gallons I heated 0.75 gallons for the sparge water. 
In hindsight, the boil off was underestimated since 1.1-1.25 gallons boiled off.  I also underestimated the loss to absorption by about the same amount.  The post mash volume was ~6.25 gallons which was shy about .25 gallons (since I was calculating a 1 gallon boil off, I needed 6.5).  The volume right at the end of the boil was barely over 5 gallons, so again, I underestimated the boil off.  Paying close attention to these values this time will definitely help when I brew again. 
As I was reading “Yeast” by White & Zainasheff that day I employed two more strategies with this beer.  The first, I chilled the wort to a temperature below at which it would be fermenting.  My beer will be fermenting at 66-68°F so I chilled it as close to 60°F as I could get it. “The benefit of this process is controlled yeast growth, which often results in better overall yeast health” (White & Zainasheff).
Since it also had a high OG at 1.080, I aerated the wort with pure Oxygen using a stone, and then did it again in the morning (16 hours later).  “In those cases, where yeast need large reserves to ferment the beer to completion, a second addition of oxygen between 12 and 18 hours after pitching can make a tremendous difference in attenuating the beer to the desired level” (White & Zainasheff). 
I followed the tips, so we’ll see how it comes out in another month.

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