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

Friday, April 23, 2010

Larry's Half Moon Big Brew

On Thursday, very early in the morning, Jon put me to work in the Half Moon brew house to brew up a batch of the award winning Susie's Sweet Stout.  Jon had all the grain gathered up and set out the night before, water heated and everything ready to go when I arrived at 7:45 in the morning.

After a quick explanation of the intricate manifold with its myriad of switches & levers and a brief lesson on the tri-clamps for the hoses, we did a sanitizing ritual with very hot water through everything we would be using that day.

After re-arranging the hoses and clamps and I was ready to start the heavy end of the day.  Or what I thought would be the heavy end of the day.  297 pounds of grain had to be loaded into the mash tun.  Fortunately only 55lbs at a time. 
Then came the mixing/stirring of the now wet grain.  Using a fancy "hoe" and reaching all the way to the false bottom of the tun I had to pull the grain to the top and make sure there were no dough  balls and everything was evenly mixed.

In the following hour, Jon had me move some more hoses around allowing me to work on my one-handed tri-clamp technique and get things set up for the yeast transfer that was to come later.  Eric M. arrived with his video camera to document the momentious occasion.  We also sampled a bit of the Susie's Sweet Stout that I brought from the secondary at home for a sample of what we are shooting for.   It is from the batch I brewed a few days earlier that will be the featured beer at this year's Indiana Brewers Cup dinner. 

As we began the sparge, Jon said we should expect it to take about two hours.  It was during this part of the day that I got to learn about the finer points of dealing with very finicky valves.  Trying to balance the flow of sparge water to the flow of wort to the kettle was more than a litle time consuming.  Anything more than the slightest nudge of a valve would completely throw the balance off.

Then the excitement began.  With all the specialty grains and 55lbs of oats, the run-off from the mash tun became more of a trot-off, then a stroll-off until finally reaching a walk-off.  Jon said "we'll" have to break up the grain bed.  So grabbing the fancy hoe, I reached down to what felt like a bed of clay and began to dredge the false bottom.  Making sure that the entire bottom of the mash tun was clear of the plug that had formed, the wort began to flow again.
For a bit.  Then it was time to do it again.  Remember when I said that I thought the heavy part of day was the loading of the dry grain?  A second round of raking soaking wet, densely packed grain through a thick mash put the lifting of bags in its place.  The third time, Jon took over the raking and let me handle the touchy valves.
Needless to say, the 2 hour sparge turned into a 3 hour sparge.  The advantages of having temperature controlled equipment became very apparent.  It also let us get the wort up to a boil quite quickly as we could heat what was already in the kettle as we struggled to get the rest out of the tun.

Once we had the volume needed for the boil and got it all up to boiling it was time to add the lactose and hops.  You know how the boil really kicks up when you first throw in the hops?  Well try it with 5 1/4 barrels of boiling wort that's only a couple of inches from the top of a kettle that's at chest height.  Frantically spraying it with the hose only seemed to make it angry, so Jon hit the switch for the pump to whirlpool it and bring it under control.  Then it was time to take a break, relax and have a microbrew and lunch.

All too soon I was informed it was time to clean out the mash tun.  I'd played this game before down at the Broadripple Brewpub.  So I felt OK when Jon said all the spent grain would fit into two trash cans.  In Broadripple I had put twice this amount into 3 cans.  I could barely move them, and Jon had some nice dollies to roll these tubs around.  So with some raking, spraying, scrubbing, spraying and some more scrubbing & spraying, the mash tun was ready for another day.

But now it was time to stop the boil and start the chilling & transfer to the fermentation tank.  This end of the day was pretty straight forward.  Nothing very exciting to speak of, except even with the reluctant sparge, the OG was spot on the money.

Clean up of the kettle is much easier as it has a spray ball inside it that nearly makes it self-cleaning.  Heat up some water, dump in some detergent, pump it around and through the myriad of pipes & tubing and the day was done.  Except when Jon handed me the hose to do some more spraying of pretty much everything including the floor.

All in all, a very interesting & exciting day.  I'm anxious to taste it when its tapped in 3 or 4 weeks.  It'll be the penultimate event in my 1 year of fame as winner of Best of Show at the 2009 Indiana Brewers Cup.

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