Monday, August 24, 2009

Brew Two!

I consider myself to be pretty lucky, being that I live only about a half hour's drive from a great homebrewing supply store. Many brewers may never see the inside of an actual brewing store, since so few exist and it may not be worth the drive when you can simply have your ingredients or equipment shipped right to your house. But if you are blessed, like me, and happen to live near a store, then you know how fun it is to just walk around in there and check out all the cool toys!

At my local store, it usually takes a couple of minutes for the owner to prepare and package my ingredients, during which time I am free to wander around like some kid in a candy store, ogling all the supplies, dreaming and scheming of future brewing projects. About a year ago while waiting for my grains to be crushed, I came across these really cool 1-gallon glass containers and I purchased two of them, along with the corresponding rubber stoppers. They have proven to be a great asset to my brewing arsenal, and I have used them to make yeast starters, brew mead, and most importantly, make small batches of beer.

At first I would only brew "experimental" batches with new, strange ingredients, thinking that if the beer came out nasty, at least it would only be 1 gallon wasted, instead of dumping a full batch. Around that same time was when I got my kegorator, so the 1 gallon brewing system was great for producing beers for competition that could be bottle-conditioned instead of worrying about the messy transfer from the keg (I don't have a "beer-gun" or other designer keg-to-bottle tool). I even built a small, 2 gallon mash tun, which worked great for these tiny batches of beer. The only problem with my miniature brewing system was the time involved to brew.

Even the most efficient, energetic all-grain brewer needs at least 4 hours on brew-day, and depending on what methods are used, up to 5 or even 6 hours! Why would you spend all that time to make 9 bottles of beer?!! So that's when I came up with the "Brew Two" concept. Since my 1-gallon system was completely separate from my 5-gallon, why not make two beers every time I brewed, one full batch for kegging, and one small batch for bottling? Any time that I had available for brewing I would barely expend the tiniest bit of extra energy, but get way more out of it. So now I have much more room for experimentation, and now I have more of a variety of beers around in case I grow tired of whatever happens to be on-tap at that moment (my kegorator only has one tap).

So the other day I had another "Brew Two" session, during which I made 5 gallons of "Graff," a sort of hybrid mix of beer and cider, and 1 gallon of "Liquid Sunshine" Pilsner. My local homebrewing club is having a Pilsner competition in October, so I figured the Liquid Sunshine would be ready just in time to compete. I know I said I was going to make Jonny's "Backyard" Bourbon-Oaked Ale my next brew, but when I saw fresh-squeezed apple juice on sale at the grocery store, my recession-scarred mind said, "hey, lets go for a more economical recipe this time." Since I already had some yeast in my fridge, I managed to get the ingredients for both batches for about 25 bucks.

I got the Graff recipe and instructions here, and changed it very slightly to this:

2 lbs pale malted barley
1 lb crystal 60
4 gallons Mott's Fresh-Squeezed Apple Juice
1/2 oz Spalter hops (30 minutes)
1 packet Safale US-05 yeast
5 teaspoons Fermax Yeast Nutrient

And here's my recipe for 1 gallon of "Liquid Sunshine":

2 lbs pilsner malt
4 ozs cara-pils
2 ozs vienna
0.2 oz Spalter hops (60 minutes)
0.2 oz Spalter hops (30 minutes)
0.1 oz Spalter hops (15 minutes)
1/2 packet Saflager S-23

My little 2-gallon mash tun filled to the brim at mash-out:

Bag of spent grains:

Left pot is pilsner boiling (I used a 100 minute boil to avoid excessive dimethyl sulfide production), right pot is Graff wort portion just about to start boiling:

Sweating over my two brew-pots, but enjoying the very first taste of the Belgian Dubbel! (came out awesome!):

After about 6 hours at room temperature, the pilsner makes it way into the bottom shelf of the fridge, active and happy:

I put the Graff into the "brew closet," wrapped in a moist towel to keep it cool. One other quick note: after using 1/2 a packet of Saflager for the pilsner, I dumped the rest into the Graff! I'm hoping the towel evaporation technique will keep my fermentation temperature in the upper 60's, allowing the lager yeast strain to add a touch of fruity character. We'll see what happens, right now both beers are fermenting aggressively and I will, as always, report back on their progress.

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