Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Moving again: FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU$#($*&K!

Sometimes I really think I am dumb for being a homebrewer. Not just an average beer-obsessed homebrewer, but one that does not own an home and insists on brewing multiple beers that take over a year to age.

All the beers above, except for one carboy, were down in the crawlspace of our home, which meant I had to crawl down to a soot-covered, uneven dirt floor where I can barely crouch, and lift them over my head through a 2x3 foot hole above me. Luckily none of them broke and all my major arteries are still intact.

That was just the stuff in the crawlspace. There was also a large deep-freeze kegerator, a dorm fridge, various bottles both empty and full, and 9 cornies which all had beer in them. And a metro-shelf. And 3 keggles. And the propane burner, and lots of little stuff.

This is my last move in Portland, unless we for some reason buy a house. I'm seriously thinking about pairing down the homebrewing equipment to a single 10 gallon system, and brewing less often. It would seem to fit in better with the fact that I am brewing at work now.

Don't even let me get started on moving out the 3 garden beds and laying down sod! Damn, I need a beer. Right now. Cheers.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Alameda's Hop Harvest brew 2010

Due to being busy with brewing at Alameda and preparing for a move to Northeast Portland, among other things, I haven't really found a lot of time to homebrew recently. I thought I'd snap a few photos on my cell phone of our fresh-hop brew at Alameda and do a quick post about that. Please excuse the low-quality photos. If you can't tell here, the hops were actually a quite vibrant green color.

Our head brewer, Carston Haney, has a bunch of hop vines growing in his front yard, with an assortment of varieties. The easiest way for us to deal with fresh whole hops at the brewery is to turn the mash tun into an insanely oversized hop-back, since we don't have a trub dam in the boil kettle to keep them from clogging up our heat exchanger. Below is Eric, dumping about 20 pounds of fresh hops into the mash/lauter tun.

Here's what they looked like before the wort went in: Very nice looking cones.

After a short whirlpool, we pumped the wort over onto the fresh hop bed. The transfer took about 15 minutes and then we sent it right to the fermenter (through the heat exchanger of course).

We also used quite a bit of pelletized hops in the boil: Columbus for bittering and Perle for flavor & aroma. According to my crude math skills, the 20 pounds of fresh hops we used in 5.5 barrels of beer would be about the same as a 9.7 ounce addition in 5 gallons of homebrew. That's pretty good, but obviously it wasn't enough to provide the full IBU contribution for this beer, even if we could have used them in the boil kettle.

The beer came in at 1.065 O.G., and the simple grainbill of Golden Promise and a smidge of flaked oats should give the hops a ton of room to shine. I'm pretty excited to try this beer as soon as humanly possible, most likely straight off the side of the fermenter after 6-7 days of fermentation.

As far as my own progess at Alameda, I have been feeling really good about getting the brewdays down. I brewed a double batch of pale ale this weekend with no help, and I feel pretty confident with my technique. Mashing in to the proper temperature was one of the more daunting parts of the learning process, but I have that locked down now. I have had some screw ups too of course, for instance one day I accidentally left the cold water valve open during mash in, and by the time I caught it, the best I could get the mash up to was about 140 (we normally mash in at 154). I'm not sure how that mash managed to convert properly, but it did. Luckily this brew was half of a double batch of IPA, so it was blended with another beer and it only came in a few points lower in final gravity than it normally does.

I could tell you about more near fuck-ups that I have done, but it might be more fun just to let you use your imagination. It can be tough; there are so many things to keep your mind on at once, and so many things that could possibly go wrong. It's just part of the learning process to make some mistakes here and there. Of course I want to be perfect all the time but that's just how it goes. The beers are turning out great, I'm learning a ton from some great teachers, and my sanitation regime has been impeccable! That's about the best anyone can ask for.