Lookin’ for some hot break baby this evening

posted on January 8, 2009 in beer review, homebrewing

Last night was my first attempt at brewing all by myself.  In fact, it was only my second attempt brewing at home.  It was also the first time I tried to use my new wort chiller and refractometer.  And I chose to brew a lager (which I previously wrote were more difficult than ales).  Probably the easiest type of lager to brew, but a lager, nonetheless.

And, I tried to make guacamole in the meantime.

Guess how it turned out?*  No, not the guac, the guac was actually pretty good.

Center-left: My foil - the guac that undid the best laid plans

Center-left: My foil - the guac that undid the best laid plans

The beer on the other hand, well…that’s a bit of another story.  Of course, I don’t actually know how it turned out; I’ll have to wait an entire month to see if my mistakes actually hurt my beer, but let’s just say I’m less looking forward to trying this batch than MinR Ale.  OK, well I’m quite curious, but in a curious-about-what’s-in-your-tissue-after-you-blew-your-nose sort of way, not a what’s-inside-Willy-Wonka’s-Factory sort of way (I’m watching that movie right now; it’s all I could think to write).

Things started out well enough.  I bought 3 gallons of reverse osmosis water from the Davis Co-op and steeped my crystal malt grains.  I steeped them for half an hour though I am not sure if my water ever reached the suggested 170 degrees F.  Last time I brewed, John commented that my thermometer didn’t seem to be working properly so I didn’t trust it at first.  So, there was problem one, though a minor one.

After removing the steeped grains, I heated the wort to a boil and added the Ultralight malt extract from my MoreBeer kit (Palmer recommends pale malt for steam beers, and I think I would have preferred this, but am sure Ultralight will do just fine), turning the heat down so it didn’t scald the pot.  When I turned the heat back up I added the 2oz of Glacier (bittering) hops and waited for the lovely hot break.  It’s not true a watched pot never boils, but it is true that it can be a bit long boring (especially 3 gallons) - so I entertained myself thus.  I apologize for not sparing you my singing voice but you can at least be thankful I edited out the portion where I spontaneously donned a horrible Sarah Palin impression voice.  I am no Tina Fey.  Though I do have sweet black glasses.

After the hot done broke (ha), I turned the heat down, made sure it was still steadily boiling but wouldn’t boil over, set my timer for 50 minutes, and…ran out to get some tomatoes for my guacamole.  In How to Brew, Palmer lists the “Murphy’s Laws of Brewing” (in the online version, he only lists one, but includes the cool story of how “Murphy’s Law” became famous).  Well, in his next edition, he should include the law “if one is still new to brewing, don’t try to make guacamole while you should be preparing for the next steps”.  I know, I know, guacamole is so easy to make, and the store was just minutes away and all I had to get was the tomatoes (that’s what I thought!) - but trust me: bad idea.  Though I had 50 minutes, I still had to wash my wort chiller and figure it out, and finish sanitizinig everything.  Meanwhile, I was so distracted by the guac I didn’t remember that at 20 minutes left of the boil (not 10 like I had set my timer for), I was supposed to insert my wort chiller and the whirfloc tablet.  Instead, I added the Willamette (flavoring) hops on time (10 minutes left) and hastily added the forgotten whirfloc tablet with only about 4 minutes left.  If my beer’s too hazy, I can probably blame it on that.

I also totally flailed on the wort chiller situations.  In several ways.  First, I inserted it with only a few minutes left in the boil and mistakenly (stupidly) thought that “insert wort chiller” meant to also turn it on.  Only in hindsight did I realize that I was only supposed to insert it to sanitize it, and turn it on after the boil was done.  I know - this is where you’re supposed to sarcastically ask where I went to school.  Sorry, like I said, I had a lot on my mind.  I think this combination of adding the whirlfloc tablet too late and turning on the wort chiller too soon could have pretty catastrophic effects on my beer - making it both hazy and contaminated.  Maybe that’s what I’ll call it.  More than that though, while I was away fussing with my fermentation bucket, the hose from my wort chiller let loose from the sink and sprayed all over my floor.**

There were other problems too, but I am certain I am boring you at this point.  There is, however, one thing I did right: Oskar Blues’ Old Chub Scottish Ale is a great brewing beer - the fact that it comes from a can just makes you feel like you’re that much more blue collar.

Lookin' Good Old Chub.

Lookin' Good Old Chub.

I’ve heard a lot about these beers and had been dying to try them; thankfully, the good beer buyer at the Co-op, Tom, recently started carrying Oskar Blues’ beers.  I plan to do a post about the canned craft beer movement soon enough.  For now though, let’s just say they please me :)

*I know I’m not supposed to technically use a question mark there but I did want the “going up at the end” inflection a question mark confers.  I apologize for those of you reading this that aren’t as easily perturbed by grammatical errors as I (or is it me?).  Ugh, that’ll kill me.

**I read a piece in Brew Your Own about green homebrewing (Oct. ‘08) and they had some good tips about trying to save water used by your wort chillers.  As suggested, I tried to save as much water as I could to do things like water plants and run a load of laundry, but it is really astonishing how much water those things can use.  Email me (beermaster@beermeabeer.com)  if you’d like more of the tips.

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  1. “hazy and contaminated” would be an amaaaazing beer name. h&c.

    Comment by saaaaasha — January 25, 2009 @ 5:57 pm

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