Sunday, September 24, 2006


Nightmare Stout

I have never been moved to tears from frustration when brewing an all-grain batch of beer before - until tonight. I am quite convinced I found an alternative formulation for concrete, and it takes the form of my ill-fated pumpkin stout recipe. I ultimately ended up getting the b@stard brewed, but with severe compromises and consequences... Of which I will enumerate below.

Let's begin with the recipe (10 gallon intended formulation):

12 lb Maris Otter 2-row
4 lb Munich
4 lb Flaked Barley
8 oz Muntons Black Roasted Barley
8 oz Muntons Chocolate Malt

1 lb Rice Hulls

2-3 Pie pumpkins, roasted @ 350 degF for 1 hour (about 8-10 lb of pumpkin mush)

2.5oz Whole Northern Brewer hops, 7.1%AA (60 min)
2 small cinnamon sticks (5 min)
2.0oz East Kent Golding (Flame Out)
0.33oz Pie Spices (Flame Out)

So there it is. I am quite convinced that 4lb of Flaked barley and 10 lb of pumpkin was pushing my luck for a single mash tun... perhaps even for 2. It all mashed just fine and converted without a problem. I had so little room left in the mash tun that I actually pulled 8qts of thick mash and did a quick 20 minute decoction to bring the whole thing up to 162 deg F. Then the horror began.

I cracked the valve to begin the vourlauf and collected about 2qt before flow stopped entirely. I opened the valve entirely... nothing. Nothing coming out. At this point I had only added a half pound of rice hulls, so I added the other half, scraped the cement off the top of my false bottom, let it settle for another 10 minutes, and tried again.... with the same result. I couldn't get the stuff to sparge AT ALL. Long story short, I ended up employing my 10 gallon kettle, another mash tun, and ultimately a friggin 2 qt collander and my wife to just get the liquid off the grain bed. I collected 13.5 gallons to boil... but with only a 55-60% efficiency, which meant I had to add 2 pounds worth of DME I had laying around (for big yeast starters) just to get the wort in the right ballpark gravity.

Boiling there was ton of grain matter and protein churning around due to my way substandard (albeit necessary) sparging technique, and when the whole hops got added it looked like a big bubbling cauldren of disaster.... and it was. I managed to get the boil completed, and after a relatively reasonable cooling duration and whirlpool began runoff... at which point the Northern Brewer whole hops joined forces with the other crap in my wort and formed a concrete layer ontop of the false bottom. My 1/2" valve and tubing was letting through a mere trickle... would have taken like 3 hours just to fill the fermenter.

I rushed downstairs, grabbed my metal spoon again, shoved it in the sanitizing bucket for 10 minutes, and then proceeded to scrap the hops off the false bottom... flow resumed normally, but tons of crud ended up in the kettle. At the end of it I was just so damn disgusted with everything that I just dumped EVERYTHING into the fermenter to get enough liquid volume (like 11-11.5 gallons) and pitched my damn yeast. I figure the $#!t will settle out and I'll siphon off as much as I can.

So, lessons learned from today? You betcha.
  1. Pumpkin beers are prone to stick (DUH!)
  2. Listening to someone rave about their pumpkin stout recipe on a homebrew forum... NAIVE
  3. Mixing adjucts like Flaked Barley and Pumpkin in significant quantities... STUPID!!
  4. Attempting to brew more than just a 5 gallon batch of pumpkin beer, particularly in a single 10 gallon mash tun ... STUPID!!
  5. Trying to do all this on a stout backbone where you CAN'T FRIGGIN SEE WHAT'S GOING ON... MAJORLY STUPID...

And with that... I believe I am going to take my lumps and go to bed, and pray that tomorrow brings me something other than grief from my homebrew. Considering my Oktoberfest took a tumble out of my friend's truck sitting out front of my house AS HE WAS BRINGING IT IN to get tapped... after sitting in his fridge lagering peacefully for 6 months... I've had quite enough beer-related drama for one friggin weekend. I need sleep or a bullet, and at this point either is probably welcome.


Friday, September 15, 2006


Watch your froth

I found this article on the website.

Anger over Church advert which puts Jesus' face on beer glass

An advertisement featuring the face of Jesus as a 'miraculous' apparition on a beer glass has caused anger among critics who say it undermines anti-binge drinking campaigns.

The image of Jesus in the froth left on the sides of an almost empty pint glass next to the words 'Where will you find him?' will spearhead the Churches' Advertising Network (CAN) festive campaign to encourage church-going this Christmas.

The poster makes reference to the worldwide trend for finding holy images in everyday objects from the face of Jesus in a frying pan, to Christ on a fish finger, the Virgin Mary on a toasted cheese sandwich and even Mother Teresa in a cinnamon bun.

The creators of the new poster said it was aimed at provoking "thought and debate" among young people about where and how people find God. It would be accompanied by a series of radio advertisements in which young people talk about their spiritual beliefs.

But the Rev Tom Allen, a 'mission priest' who works with young people criticised the message the image was giving out: "On the day when a Government commissioned report suggests that rather focus on drugs education, schools and youth work bodies should be educating young people about drink, CAN launch this particularly obtuse poster," he said on his website.

However, CAN chairman Francis Goodwin said he hoped the poster and radio advertisements would spark a debate about God.

The campaign will use the youth forum website to encourage discussion. He said: "The message is subtle but simple - where is God in all the boozing at Christmas?

"For many, Christmas is just drinking and partying and God is excluded, yet many young people are interested in finding deeper meaning and exploring faith.

"We hope the link to myspace will offer another venue for them to discuss their feelings and debate the issues."

The image of Jesus on a beer glass is the latest in a series of controversial images created for CAN, a group of Christians of all denominations working in the media and advertising.

Previous campaigns include a poster depicting Jesus as the revolutionary leader Che Guevara and one suggesting Mary was having a "bad hair day" when she discovered she was pregnant.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Harvest Time

Over the past week I've picked most of the hops I was growing. My Libery this year totally sucked... I didn't even bother harvesting them. The cones are ridiculously small and I got almost no yield. I think next year I will either relocate them or try to fertilize the crap out of them.

So my growing totals for this season were as follows:

3.0 oz Nugget
1.5 oz Magnum
4.5 oz Cascade

I think I could get a much better Cascade yield if I just had more height to give them, but since they only have about 4' of fence... the yields probably suffer significantly.

On a related topic, Freshops should have their 2006 harvest (all except Saaz) available by Sept 22 according to the owner, Dave. I am probably going to pick up a pound each of Warrior, Simcoe, Columbus, and maybe 2 pounds of Amarillo. I'm also considering 8oz of Pacific Gem just to try them - they sound really tasty from the description. I have been checking their online store daily to see if the Columbus and Amarillo are available yet... apparently Sept 22nd is the magic date (a quick call to Freshops got me this info).

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


... to those who wait

Brewed February 19th, Choking Sun Stout has finally found its way to my right-most tap handle tonight. I kicked the keg of Hell's Bells Belgian Pale and Choking Sun makes its debut. And despite being warm... I like it. Alot. It turned out nice... although I suspect the Cascade hop aroma and flavor has diminished over time. I remember trying it many months ago from a bottle-conditioned "bonus" from the couple cases I sent to my cousin in Atlanta, and it definitely has changed with time. I do have a bottle of "Gonzo Porter", courtesy of Fool Circle to compare against.... I will probably do that with him next weekend when he is here brewing our next collaborative effort - a Pale / Barleywine combo.

It has been a long time since I had something dark on tap - I've really missed it. While summer beers are good and all... The dark stuff is where I really flex my brewer's muscles and shine, I think. I love the roast...

The best things come...