Monday, January 21, 2013

All-Nevada harvest ale (or, the worst brewday ever)

Yesterday I brewed up a beer that I've been looking forward to since harvesting my first year Cascade and Centennial hops way back in August. A number of factors kept me from brewing this beer earlier (weather, sickness, vacations, etcetera), but most importantly, I was waiting on the right malt.

We have our very own maltster in Reno, Lance, who buys locally-grown barley and malts it himself in a converted garage. The quality is second to none, and it was always the missing puzzle piece in a locally produced beer.

The beer itself is a loose SNPA clone using locally grown ingredients. I bought twelve pounds of Copeland malt (a nice 2-row base malt variety) that was grown in nearby Yerington, and along with the 5 ounces of Cascade and half-ounce of Centennial I was able to grow last year, all I needed was a little water and yeast. Of course, if I had the technology, I'd culture some S. Cerevisiae out of the local air and be 100% local, but for obvious logistical reasons I'm using a packet of US-05 for fermentation purposes.

Of course, sometimes life throws you a curveball. Or seven. It was only 7 degrees Fahrenheit when I started brewing (around 9AM) and as a result, most of the pipes and hoses were frozen, which meant that I had to fill up my HLT in the kitchen sink. To make matters worse, the extreme cold caused the propane tank, which I was storing on the side of the house, to freeze to the ground. I was able to think on my feet and poach the other tank from the barbeque. After that, things started to go right - until I began filling my MLT during the sparge. It was only then that I noticed my ball valve was leaking - I probably lost half a gallon of wort before I noticed it. Oh well!

One thing I tried with this brew that did go as planned was boiling a small portion of wort in lieu of adding specialty malts. Lance doesn't have the equipment or time to make his own crystal malts, so instead of sacrificing the "all local" mantra I decided to borrow an idea from my friend Rick and take some of the first runnings and boil them on the stove for about two hours to get tons of kettle caramelization.

Anyway, I was able to proceed with the boil, hop additions, and chilling process without any more hiccups - until I went to transfer the beer. I have a screen on my ball valve that I use when I brew with whole hops, but of course, I couldn't use the ball valve that day due to the aforementioned leak - so I spent nearly an hour struggling with an auto-siphon trying to get the wort out from the whole hop goo it had become.

As a final "hooray" moment, I took a gravity sample - 1.088 - I'd come in way over gravity and way under volume - I probably only had about 3 gallons of wort. I was able to top it off and get a much more appropriate gravity afterward. I will be fermenting this at 64 degrees for the next week or so before a light round of dryhopping, and then it's off to the keg.

More pictures from the brewday:


2 ounces of homegrown Cascade hops for the bittering charge.

Boiling a gallon of wort down to sticky caramel.

After 2 hours, it was like syrup. And tasted amazing.

I ended up having to chill in the front yard, as the backyard hose was still frozen at 2:00 PM.

SG before dilution. Way too high!

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