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Chaos Brewing 101 - A little less than a happy high
komos
komos
Chaos Brewing 101
In my closet, tucked behind the heavy winter coats, there are two fermenters happily burbling away. Sunday, a small meeting of minds and hands recreated recipes for a pseudo-Oktoberfest (ModernBrewer) and a Mugwort Ale (Buhner). For my first attempt at brewing without the Mentor, things went surprisingly well, though not without incident. In the school of chaos brewing in which I’ve been trained, no day would be complete without bizarre and unexpected occurrences.

I got up early and did most of the cleaning and sanitizing prior to the arrival of any guests. Once Sonya and Sean appeared, the equipment was air-drying and the ingredients for the Oktoberfest had been laid out. I made breakfast – french toast, strawberry compote, caramelized pears and coffee – so we could begin the day with happy stomachs. We ate, talked about pottery and vegetarianism and job hunting, cleaned up, and got the wort to boiling. All that went off without a hitch.

Stage 1: Equipment Failure
The problems began when I accidentally nudged one of the carboys with my knee as I walked past it. It was barely a tap, but it was enough to knock it into the other next to it at what I’ve guessed was a particularly sweet spot. There was a kind of glass-on-glass CLUM followed by a quiet shattering noise, and when I looked down, I saw that a hole that was as big as my head had been knocked into the glass just below the neck of the carboy. This was less than pleasing, especially since the carboy was one of the legacy fermenters that Clay had left behind.

Stage 2: Lost in the Jungle
This all got cleaned away by the time we hopped the wort. My team left to retrieve two new members, leaving me to inspect the second carboy for glass fragments and tend to the fire. I left the kitchen to take a call from Pete, who called me with his spotty cell. As I attempted to figure out who he was based solely on hearing every third syllable he spoke, the wort hit critical mass and boiled over. A sticky hop resin coated the pot, the burner, the stove, the toaster, the (list goes on…) I managed to clean most of the mess and get the pot to a new burner by the time everyone else arrived. This was where I cracked my first beer. I deserved it.

Stage 3: Snake Attack!
The wort cooled sufficiently, and we began to siphon. This was proceeding smoothly until Drew stepped away from the pot momentarily. The end of the hose that had been in the pot slid out, and then the weirdness happened. Somehow, as I tried to reach for it, the other end drooped into the wort in the funnel and the flow reversed itself, arcing a spray of not-quite-beer in a most distressing way.

Stage 4: Dropsy
The hops pellets turned out to be a little more prolific than I had anticipated and we ended up creating a dual filtration system to cope with the funnel clogging that was happening. As we were working with this, Jen very suddenly said, “I think I need to sit down” and then staggered (with assistance) towards the living room. The official report is that she swooned, though there is some suspicion that there was a certain degree of dehydration involved.

So in spite of it all, this batch and another were successfully completed. We drank and talked well into the night, somehow surviving on beer, cheese, and bread. This all made me happy.
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Comments
clayrobeson From: clayrobeson Date: September 9th, 2003 11:50 am (UTC) (Link)
YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!

You've been there for some of my more precious fuckups in brewing, but I don't know that I ever told you about my first batch, where it took me nearly three hours to get the wort into the carboy because of strainer clog. That's before I learned to use cheesecloth to hold the barley'n'at.

:D
komos From: komos Date: September 9th, 2003 12:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

I think you did mention it. ^_^

In my head, I'm working up a production schedule and all... thinking that I might just make it part of my weekend rituals. That's on the ambitious side, though.

Did you use pellet hops much? I was surprised by the amount that the strainer pulled off, and I think that a fair amount still made it past filtering. Right now, some of the excess seems to be getting blown out through the tubing, but I'm concerned that there's enough left in the fermenter that it will make the beer bitter or at least chewy. Should I just trust that it will be left behind in the trub?
c_m_i From: c_m_i Date: September 9th, 2003 12:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I think you did mention it. ^_^

If you were to go weekly, you'd need more carboys. And those guys never seem to last. ;)

When it comes to bottles, will any do, provided they're cleaned?

-ia.
komos From: komos Date: September 9th, 2003 12:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I think you did mention it. ^_^

If I can get on a schedule where I brew as I bottle, it would look a little more like an every other week thing. Or something. The biggest hitch I can see isn't the number of carboys, but the cost of ingredients.

And you know that a big part of wanting to do it more often is to have an excuse for drankin'company.

I'm pretty sure that we can use any standard bottle that doesn't have a twist-off cap. It's just a matter of cleaning them and (because I'm anal), getting the label glue off of them.
esmerel From: esmerel Date: September 9th, 2003 01:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I think you did mention it. ^_^

I usually toss my hops into a grain bag - I don't worry about straining. If the rack into bottle/keg is done carefully, I get very little goo into the beer itself.

Oh, and I always use hop pellets. Haven't tried anything else yet :)
komos From: komos Date: September 9th, 2003 01:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Delicious Tea

So with a recipe that called for adding hops at three different points during the boil, I'd be using effectively three teabags for hopping?

Might try it. Straining wasn't difficult, I'm just concerned that it wasn't thorough enough.

And one of these days, I'll actually take a gravity reading. I promise.
esmerel From: esmerel Date: September 10th, 2003 12:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Delicious Tea

mm tea.

er.

I admit to laziness. I have a large grain bag. I just toss the next batch of pellets into the grain bag on top of the others when the time comes.

Actually, it really hadn't occured to me to do it any other way. :)
komos From: komos Date: September 10th, 2003 12:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Delicious Tea

Speaking of tea, Clay and I attempted to make a mint kvass before he left, but it was aborted after primary after we had discovered an infection that made the beer smell like cheese.

While beer can be good with cheese, no beer should actually smell like cheese. Trust me on this.
esmerel From: esmerel Date: September 10th, 2003 12:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Delicious Tea

EW.

also: EW

Not to mention: EW

I've had a cheese that smelled like feet. It was foul. I threw it away. :)
komos From: komos Date: September 10th, 2003 01:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Delicious Tea

Yeah. Initially, we were thinking that the aroma was interesting, and then the entire kitchen became saturated with it. That's when the wretching began. We couldn't dump it fast enough.

This second mugwort attempt has me a little intimidated in the face of the great flood earlier this year. Based on what I've been reading, I'm pretty sure that was caused by an infection as well, and I'm afeared that it's just going to happen again.

I suppose I should just be more careful.
esmerel From: esmerel Date: September 10th, 2003 01:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Delicious Tea

One word: Sterilize. =)

That is the one thing I try really hard to make sure - I've had really good luck so far, no infections.
komos From: komos Date: September 10th, 2003 01:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Delicious Tea

It is a good word, but I always feel like I forget something.
bushidokelt From: bushidokelt Date: September 9th, 2003 08:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just wanted to add that I had a great time despite being goaded by eye_abstains into drinking/eating the "Ass reaper" hot sauce. Moreover I would add that I ejoyed delicious treats prepared by the author and sampled some fine homebrews created by, I believe, "the master." I liked the "golden brew" the most (could it be because I had just eaten the hot sauce?)...
komos From: komos Date: September 10th, 2003 06:15 am (UTC) (Link)
It's true, the golden ale was one of Clay's creations, though I think that was one of the brewing days you attended. It all started with his crazy idea to double the malt extract in a Belgian-style ale. Sadly, we didn't save the recipe, so recreating it will involve some guesswork. I'd be inclined to add more hops to better balance the sweetness. It is very good, though.

Since I'm of a mind to do a kind of mini-Oktoberfest once the beer has fermented, I'll probably cook up some sauerkraut and wurst for folks.
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