After every Beer Brewing session I am destined to walk away with something new learned, some new-found idea of better brewification, some ‘dammit! I should have thought of that!’ moment. And after brewing Janey 2: the Rose-Hipped Pale Ale (my second try in making this beer), I found that my big educational smack to the head was: I need to PAY ATTENTION and take notes! No matter how good my beers are turning out, I am NOT the cock of the walk, I do not have a fool-proof process and I cannot just hang out, have fun and let the ingredients turn themselves into a great beer on their own. I feel like a bad Beer Parent who says “Here, little guy, here’s a pile of toys, blankets and food… hope you grow up nice and strong!” Here’s the rundown on how I reached this conclusion…
First off – I my mind was divided between three duties – Brewing Beer, Sanitizing EVERYTHING and Entertaining my guest brewers, Josh Hayes and Cameron Post. Usuually these are tasks distributed between Keith and myself (Keith usually sanitizes, I brew and we both play monkey), however, for this Beer Brewing, Keith couldn’t be there, so I had to do all three. This wasn’t really that bad, but I’m just not used to it, so I got a little sloppy.
We started out the day bottling Bruce 2: The Smoked Porter. We had to finish up scraping labels off the used bottles ( yeah, we’re cheap). Then we racked the beer into the bottling bucket, added the proper amount of priming sugar and put ’em all in bottles. The guys were great and the bottling process went very smoothly. Though, I’m not really sure if the proper amount of priming sugar went into the bucket. Cameron in the proper amount (I think), but because I didn’t write down exactly what was added, I have a way of double-checking. Currently (as I write this blog) the beer still hasn’t carbonated, but there could be multiple factors at stake, so… we’ll see!
As for the Brewing, it was all pretty standard. We seeped the grain instead of mashing it (didn’t have any grains that needed to be converted) and did a full boil. However, a problem start to show its face when I was too busy sanitizing, etc. and didn’t check/write down exactly how much water went into the pot for seeping, how much was boiled off AND ultimately how much went into the boil kettle. We did some basic calculations throughout, but once again, I didn’t write it down so that I could double-check. The BK line said about 6 gallons, but I can’t be sure… so, I could have accidentally added/less more than I needed. After the boil, we were left with under 5 gallons of wort. So, here either a LOT was boiled off or we didn’t add as much as I thought. When transferring the wort to the fermentor, I decided to leave behind all the extra hop and break material so that I would have a cleaner end product. We transferred everything but the last 4 cups or so of wort into the fermentor… including 4 cups of sugars that I needed for fermentation :(. We then added enough water to the wort to make up for the amount that boiled off and brought the whole amount up to 5.25 gallons. So, in effect, I left behind 1/4 gallon of wort and added 1/4- 1/2 gallon of water, sufficiently watering-down my beer without even realizing it.
Now, I am left with a beer that is a lot thinner than expected (though still very tasty), and I’m not exactly sure what went wrong. And to think, this could have all been prevented if I just Paid Attention to every step and Took Notes an EVERYTHING! Double-checking and thinking the process through as it happens is key to processes this delicate (I know, I just called BEER delicate :)) In the past, I didn’t have to take notes, because I focused more on the beer than the people helping, but now that a year of brewing has gone by and I am Brew Master extraordinaire, somehow I think I am ‘better’ than ‘Paying Attention’! Ha! Knock me down a few pegs, why don’t ya Beer!
But, enough about the ‘lessons’ and things that went wrong. The day was actually more of a triumph than a let-down! For One: We welcomed in a new brewer, Josh, who fit into the Beer Brewing scene like a glove – he played the part of Wort Mugwump with ease and took some amazing photographs (these are all his!). Cameron made his triumphant return since his help on the Steiner Bloodline Red and embodied the role of Master of the Elements like a pro. Also, we had an crazy amount of small hop additions (which I think will give the beer a nice round hop taste), and I am currently Dry Hopping the beer with 2 oz of whole leaf Cascade Hops and 1.5 oz of Rose Hips! I love any chance to Dry-Something a beer! Though the beer will be a bit thin, I think it will have a nice character in both taste and aroma… actually, due to it’s lighter body, it will probably be similar to the first Janey! I tried to steer away from the thinness and make a slightly bigger beer without the bitterness, but oh well. Hell, maybe I accidentally created a great beer without knowing it!
Overall, good day, good lessons, good people, good fun, good beer and good… good… goooood. ahh!
-Matt Steiner, Head Brewer.
For a full smattering of Josh’s amazing brewing photos… click HERE