With summer nipping at our heels, the desire to brew and BBQ is getting too strong to ignore. Family plans shifted and I found myself alone last weekend. We are putting a new deck on the house in a week and will welcome the new deck with a smoke and (hopefully) a new BBQ table built by my dad. I figured one last brew on the old, wooden deck was appropriate and it might just be ready in time for the smoke out.
I bought a half sack each of Maris Otter and Canadian 2-Row malts through a group grain buy on the HBT forums. I’d never brewed with Maris Otter before, so I figured I would do a simple SMaSH (single malt and single hop) brew. Marris Otter is a British grain, so I thought it should be paired with Fuggles and Nottingham yeast. Correspondingly, the working name for this beer was M’uggle ESB. I crunched the numbers in BrewTarget to come in approximately for an Extra Strong Bitter. However, it looks like this beer is moving in another direction, as you’ll see.
I could have called this brew “Shoulda Known Bitter” as I had my doubts about whether it was smart to start a brew at 5:00pm on a Saturday. I returned from taking Mandie and The Turtle to meet her folks and the drive back took much longer than expected. Bt I sallied forth, set up my new brewadder and keggle, laid out the hoses and began to heat my strike water. Snce this is a new system, I still don’t quite have a handle on all the dead space and losses. A SMaSH is the perfect brew for a new system; simple and cheap.
The first calamity hit when I realized my Little Giany pump wasn’t … well, pumping. I tried moving it, elevating the hoses, dropping the outlet, choking the outlet, and almost threw it off the deck. Nothing could get the pump to lift the 177degree strike water up to the mash tun. Oh well, I sighed, man brewed for thousands of years without the benefit of electric pumps. I lifted the mash tun to the ground and drained my strike water into it. I then lifted the HEAVY mash tun back to the top of the six-foot brewladder. I then started my timer for the mash, just as I heard the burner “poof” as my propane tank died! A quick trip to the store to exchange the propane (and grab dinner at McDonald’s since I hadn’t eaten in about six hours) turned into a 90 mnute mash time before I was able to relight the burner and heat the mash-out water. So the grains got an extra half-hour in the hottub.
I manually drained the mash-out water (180 degrees F) into every pot in the house and into my fermented (10 gallon antique root beer keg) before vorlaufing a few pints and draining into the keggle. As I climbed the ladder with pot after pot of scalding water up to do the mash-out, I could see the sky darkening and hear rumbles in the background. “Self,” I told myself, “you have come this far. Don’t pack it in just yet.” I completed the mash out and collected my full runnings for the boil.
I luckily had the forethought to break down the brewladder and bring all of my other equipment into the kitchen, leaving only the keggle, burner, and propane tank to chance the rain.
I expected to do a 90 minute boil to concentrate the flavor. So I boiled for a half hour before adding my buttering Fuggles (an ounce and a half). Just after those went in, I started to feel the slightest drops of rain. Thinking about the round cookie sheet in the kitchen, I grabbed it and tossed it over the keggle, but on the rim to allow the steam and DMS to hopefully escape. The second hop addition (three-quarters of an ounce) made it in with 20 left on the boil. … Then the sky opened up and there was no way. I could keep the burner from going. I never got the last three-quarter ounce hop addition into the brew, but figured I would drop the pellets in shortly before racking to my secondary or bottling. The raindrops stung my neck as I dragged the burner and keggle carefully toward the sliding glass door.
Without chilling anything, I hooked my shortest hose to the keggle drain and dumped whatever was in the keggle (I estimate about 8-9 gallons) into my ten gallon fermenter. (NOTE: I am fermenting in a stainless steel keg. DO NOT do this with glass or plastic!!). I another first for me; no-chill brewing. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I lugged the burning hot keg (ouch!) up the stairs (ouch!) and set it in the bathtub in an ice bath. But I kew I wasn’t going to be at pitching temps until morning.
Once morning came, I checked the fermometer strip and it read 68/70 degrees. Close enough for my tastes on this brew. I lugged it back down into the basement to pitch the two packets of rehydrated Nottingham, stuck a gas disconnect on the post and stuck the other end of the hose into a jar of sanitizer. I then showered and went to church. I’ll fess up to praying a little that my whole evening wasn’t for naught.
By the time I returned, there were signs of fermentation and a bubble every few minutes. By evening, the jar looked like a proper from a Frankenstein movie, chugging away with a glub-blub-blub. I must have done something right.
While draining into the fermenter, I managed to grab a sample and put it in the fridge over night to chill to 60. the specific gravity reading was 1.048, which comes in short of the planned 1.051′ but not by much. I still expect this won’t be an ESB, so we’ll just call it a pale ale by now.
Temps have risen to off the fermometer scale, which is not ideal, but without temperatue control, there’s not much could do. I’m letting this one ride. Nasty Notty esters may work out for this SMaSH. Gravity reading last night was 1.010, and thermally active bubbling has stopped. I’ll let it sit another week before bothering it again. I may rack to two cornys for brite tanks and dry hop one and not the other. Not sure at this point.
Well, that’s the story of my calamity SMaSH. Present name is Tornado Ale-y. But I’m throwing around a few Thor ideas.