Beer Quotes & Wisdom

You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline-it

helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear

weapons, but at the very least you need a beer. -- Frank Zappa

Monday, December 7, 2009

Brewing the Best of Show at BRBP

In response to popular demand (one request), I will now recount my brew day at the Broadripple Brewpub and the brewing of 2009's Indiana Brewer's Cup BoS, Susie's Sweet Stout.


The day started early and I had no idea what to expect as I pulled into the parking lot of the BRBP. Having been told that one of the perks of winning Best of Show was that your beer would be brewed at the brewpub. I kind of figured it meant that I would basically get to be present as it was done.

The door to the brewery was open and stuck my head in to see nobody around, so I went into the bar area where I was introduced to Kevin Matalucci the head brewer. I had the final bottle of Susie's Sweet Stout with me for him and in order to see what it was like, he opened it and we had a taste. Considering it is basically an oatmeal stout with lactose (milk sugar), it made a great way to start the day. Beer, its not just for breakfast anymore.

Kevin led me back into the brew room and gave me a tour of all the cool stuff then asked if I was ready. I said "sure", and he handed me a 55lbs. bag of grain and told me to put it up on a platform about 5' high next to the mash tun. Not necessarily an easy task for a 5'6" person to do. You can't really push a limp sack of grain. He then had me climb up onto the platform and told my the knife to cut open the bag was on top of the tun next to the port.

I was beginning to suspect that I wasn't just going to be an innocent bystander. He told me to take the knife, cut open the bag and put the grain into tun. This process was a bit easier as the opening in the tun was only about 4' off the platform.

By the time I had dumped the bag in, there was another bag behind me. About 400lbs. of grain later, Kevin said it was time to measure out the specialty grain. Up another set of steps to the scale & milling room and it was time to stir the mash. He handed me a hoe and what seemed about a day & a half later, I had sufficiently mixed up the 550lbs. of the once dry grain that was now wet and much heavier.

During the mash, Kevin showed me some more cool stuff and let me try to use the tri-clamps. Here's the sign of a pro. He could whip those things on with one hand, I could of used three.

He showed me where the secret button is to turn on the pump to fill the kettle (its about ten feet off the ground and you reach it with a pole). And after a couple of practice pokes, I was ready for the next step.

After attaching the sparge ball to the top of the mash tun and sparging, the transferring from the mash tun to the boil kettle was a 2 step process. The trick was balancing the flow out of the tun with a valve into a collection tank and running the pump with the 10' pole to send the wort to the kettle. Taking an OG reading and with a full kettle at boil with the first hop addition, there was not much to do but eat lunch. A braunschweiger & bacon sandwich was fantastic!

More hops, then it was time for Kevin to do some work. Due to insurance legalese and stuff, I wasn't allowed to handle the industrial strength sanitizers. So Kevin did some more one handed tri-clamp tricks and started the severe cleansing process of the fermentation tank. He transferred the yeast from it's tank to the newly cleaned primary. He also handled all the connections for the boiling hot wort as it was sent from the kettle, through the chiller & into the fermentation tank.

I made the mistake of asking him what he did with all the spent grain. He had me follow him around to the other side of the building, where there were many big trash cans. He told me to grab 4 empty ones and take them into the brew room. He handed me the rake again and said the spent grain goes into these trash cans where its picked up for cattle feed. Opening up the door on the side of the mash tun revealed a very thick bed of wet grain. I started to rake it into a trash can until it was full and d-r-u-g it off to one side.

As I was filling the 3rd can, I realized that I could get all that was left in the tun into it. There was a perfectly good empty can that Kevin apparently thought I would need sitting there, and I began to wonder just how full I was supposed to make them.

Apparently about 33% less than I did . I don't know what the percentage gain 550lbs. of dry grain increases by when it has been soaked for an hour, but if you divide that by three, its a lot! Its a good thing they had a hand cart to move the cans back around to the other side of the building.

But the day wasn't done yet. Next was time to clean out the mash tun. Lots of spraying, moving the false bottom out, more spraying and putting the false bottom back in and there was nothing to do but wait for the tapping party.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable and exciting experience. Kevin is a great guy to spend the day with, and I sure have a greater appreciation for brewpub brewers, doing this day after day to allow us to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Blessed is she who gives birth to a brewer.

You can read my account of the tapping party at the blog for the Barnhart Barista & Group Therapy, in the October archive.

Stay tuned for the upcoming adventures of my 1 year of fame and the brewing of Susie's Sweet Stout at the Half Moon in January.

1 comment:

Warm Beer, Cold Women

Beer Is Good