There’s always something special in the air on brew day. The sights, sounds, and smells of life are amplified unmistakably. On this day the air was unusually light and empty, void of weight and texture. Mother Nature decided to draw a line in the sand and we were there waiting to cross it. This brew day the elements would be harnessed on our terms and we weren’t leaving until the Earth was bleeding Baltic Porter.
Old and new beer allies rendezvoused at the Steiner Brewification Research Compound with the explicit mission of creating an amazing Porter – the likes of which they had never had before. Hello, My Name is Regulars (Sydney and Lauren) and one Hello, My Name is NOOb (Jens Nordseth) gathered to help fill this day with new activities, thought-provoking questions, team collaboration and plenty of laughs. And here is the tale of their adventure….
The day started as all good brew days start – with preparation. Matt and Keith looked over the master plan for the day, counted ingredients, finalized thoughts on the new procedures and sanitized everything in sight. It was a happy time. Sydney a delightful tune as she measured and crushed all of the specialty grain (4.5 lbs of it!) and put water on to heat for the Mash!
One of the new things these brave adventurers for this brewing session was the ‘Partial Mash’. This was their half-way step between Extract Brewing and All-Grain brewing (like the professionals). The goal with Partial Mashing is to convert the starches from our raw ingredients (Oats, Smoked Malt, etc.) and turn them into sugars to use. It is a difficult process, requiring a steady temperature of around 158° F for a full hour! Jens was a GIANT help in this process, as his steady hand and mind helped keep their situation under control as the temperature fluctuated. They tried moving back and forth between hot and cold burners, they even tried wrapping it in a blanket and were also almost ready to keep in the oven at a constant temp. to keep it under control! The hour finally ended, and upon tasting, they had a good sugary mash to sparge (rinse).
Sparging is really just a fancy word for rinsing at a specific temperature. However, it does a BIT more than rinse the grain, it also helps stop the enzymes from converting the starches and helps to seep out ALL of the sugars that are present. Above, we can see Lauren and Sydney slowly sparging the grain and collecting the yummy wort. Next, the team gathered the mash into one pot and poured it all into the big 7 gallon brew pot that would be the primary kettle for the rest of the brewing day. From there, Keith used his burliness and added enough water to reach 6 (or was it 6.5?) gallons and helped lug it outside to await the next step of the beer’s life.
… Which started at the brand new ‘Hello, My Name Is Brew House’! 12 ft. high, 64 square foot interior and beautiful views that make you fee like you are in someone’s backyard. The new Brew House also sported a fancy 7 gallon brewing system, 100% propane burners, real wood table and chairs and a grandiose backyard grill. Everything anyone really needs for a good beer brewin’! … Including a wizz at beer and hops calculation. Below, we have Sydney measuring out the proper amount of hops and additional ingredients and making a handy chart for us to add these guys during the boil.
During the boil, the wort achieved a delicious brown color, reminding all those around of bubbling soft chocolate. It also gave off a strong barbecue sauce/Worcestershire sauce smell… not sure why. The smoked malt? The roasted malt? Argh? But whatever the source, it is known that neighbors for miles around could smell ‘something’ wonderful brewing on 74th street that afternoon. Also, since the boil is pretty much known as intermission for brew day, they all had a chance to try out some old favorites that have been aging in the cupboard: ‘Balrog, the Wee Heavy’ and ‘The Steiner Bloodline: Red Ale’. Both of which, they noted, aged VERY nicely. Especially, however, the Red which is now a fantabulous session beer!
Anyhoo, 60 minutes later, the boil ended and they we were in the thick of cooling downtheir 7 gallons of awesomeness. They used their world-renowned immersion coil chiller to cool the wort its maximum, and shockingly enough, it only took roughly 15 minutes to cool down all this wort! When it reached under 70 F, the whole crew hunkered down and helped pour that sucker down the funnel and into its new home. But not without filtering it first. Let me tell you, there is some nasty stuff left over after a boil/cool down that you do NOT want in your beer. And Matt knows from experience – see above, as Matt prepares to eat the left-overs. 2 seconds later, it was in his mouth, and 3 seconds later, it was helping to fertilize the flowers. A healthy mix of spent hops, extra grain, old proteins and miscellaneous other chemistry compounds all gathered together do NOT taste good, no matter who tells you it is. So, rest assured, they filtered it all out and the beer was as clean as could be… and as large as could be. You see, they planned for the boil to boil off about a gallon of excess water… but it didn’t. Only about a 1/2 gallon boiled off! What to do? What to do? They had too much wort to try to squeeze into our carboy – Oooh, what to do?! Well, there is where the party gathered their efforts, gave it all and spat out every idea that came to mind. Somebody eventually had the awesome idea to just use the bucket (which holds 6 gallons), that we way they could make use of all of our delicious wort and the 2 liter yeast starter that was needed to ferment it all! A quick pour of the wort, then another pour of yeast and the beer was locked up and ready to go for fermentation! All was well with the world and the beer was done brewing. Now all they needed to do was wait for it to ferment.
So, there ends the tale of brewing the Baltic Porter at the ‘Hello, My Name is Beer’ brewery. We can already tell that the beer will be something magical, and it was all because of the help of our wonderful brewing crew. Though it was Jens’ first day, he will DEFINITELY be asked back to brew again. And as always, Sydney and Lauren were at top of their game – incredibly valuable assets to have for any brewery.
Thanks guys for your help.
….. or is it? ….. what the fermentation is stuck?!
TO BE CONTINUED!
-Matt, Brewmaster and Tale-weaver