Epic Brewing Weekend 2012

After much debate (see previous post), BCB decided to go ahead with it’s epic brewing weekend. And while I am very tired this morning and looking forward to a few days without yeast starters and wort chillers and hop bags, I am pretty proud of us for pulling it off.

Friday night we made our first starters. Of course, I was distracted and had a bit of a boil over. We don’t often have boil overs (usually only when DB gets distracted watching and critiquing what I’m doing rather than tending to his own pot of boiling wort) but I hate them because they stink and they put a ring of hardened burnt malt extract on your stove that is absolutely impossible to get off. (Add scrubbing the stove top to the agenda for the day…)

Saturday we made an early start and had the WeizenKat bottled by 10am! (Honestly, what’s the point of doing brewing tasks that early? You can’t even have a homebrew at that hour!) It smelled great, if a little strongly of bananas and bubblegum, and tasted pretty good, too. We got the usual full complement of bottles (6 x 12 oz, 24 x 22 oz) -since there was only 1 ounce of hops in the recipe and it only fermented in the primary, there was very little volume loss.

Next up was brewing our first beer of the weekend – Big Ginger’s Barleywine. (It was supposed to be an Imperial Red Ale, but we overshot the gravity {O.G. was 1.100!!!!!} so we changed the name a bit…) By this point, it had started to drizzle, so we busted out a canopy that my dad, ever the resourceful pack rat, had found abandoned on the beach. It may be missing a few parts, but it gets the job done…

We did decide to use the hop bag for Big Ginger’s – my new rule is, if the recipe calls for 5 oz or more of hop pellets, use the hop bag. It makes straining the wort and racking to the carboy so much easier. I wonder if anyone has done a study on the decrease in alpha acid utilization using a hop bag versus just tossing them in? I’ll have to look that up…

Because the temperature had dropped, our ground water was pretty cold and we chilled to temp in 10 minutes! At some point, I’d like to get a plate chiller so we use as little water as possible, but our immersion chiller makes pretty quick work of it. We racked, pitched, and put the beer in the tub in the guest bathroom. I actually managed to stop DB from putting way too much wort in the carboy and we had room for both yeast starters!

Then, Saturday night, we had to make two more yeast starters! At this point, I was seriously doubting the sanity of “Epic Brewing Weekend 2012” but, as we were past the point of no return, there was nothing I could do about it.

Sunday morning we bottled the Pliny the Elder Clone. With the absolutely huge hop cake in the bottom of the carboy, we were sure that we wouldn’t get nearly as much beer as usual and sanitized far fewer bottles than we normally do. And of course, we got way more beer than we expected and were scrambling to find bottles mid-operation. As DB loves this beer and it tasted and smelled phenomenal, we were not displeased with this development.

Next up was brewing our second beer of the weekend – Barbara’s Blaster. We changed the name for my mom, although perhaps other people don’t think it’s as cool to have a beer named after them as we do… I’ll let you know what she says. It was still drizzling and cold but we had left the canopy up and were good to go. Again, we used the hop bag as the recipe called for 5 oz of hop pellets. This turned out to be a really good decision as, mid brew, we decided the recipe didn’t look hoppy enough and added another 2 oz of Simcoe. Brew Pal calculated the IBUs at 80 – we’ll see if we overshot the mark and brewed another beer that I won’t like.

Because of our crazy brewing schedule lately, we have to ferment this beer in a 6-gallon bucket – something we haven’t done since we switched to Better Bottles. DB is now taking this as permission for him to purchase more carboys and I am doing my best to convince him it’s probably not necessary – but I think it may be a losing battle.

Both beers are in the tub in the guest bathroom (actually a surprisingly effective place to ferment to control blow-off spatter) and bubbling away. I took a video last night of our crazy fermentation, but it may be awhile before I figure out how to load it to the site.

All in all, it was a very successful brew weekend and I’m glad we did it. I fear, however, that I have lost any leverage I may have had. When DB next asks to do a double brew weekend, I can no longer say that it would be too hard or too much work because we did it and it wasn’t that bad. That’s the problem with pushing yourself as a brewer -or as a mom or as whatever you may happen to be – once you get to the next level, there’s no going back. But I’m not too upset about it… 😉

Here are some pictures from “Epic Brewing Weekend 2012”:


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