I hosted a big ol' brew event in my backyard today. Several people showed up and over twenty-five gallons of wort was brewed. For my part, I brewed-up six gallons of Northern Brewer's Winter Warmer.
I more-or-less repeated the technique I used last time on my Nut Brown Ale: the massive banjo burner heating my converted keggle filled with eight gallons of water. I was somewhat distracted from the process by dint of hosting a multi-brewer party. There were three other propane burners going full-tilt (one all grain, another all grain "in the bag" and an extract) and an equal number, again, of spectators.
My first problem came when I was adding the extract syrup. It came in three plastic jugs which, owing to the middling temperatures, was quite viscous and took considerable coaxing to get into the boiler. And, as luck would have it, my tank of propane chose that exact moment to run out of fuel. So in the middle of decanting the syrup I had to stop, switch out propane tanks, and return the wort to boil. Consequently, the whole process took more than 15 minutes and, I later discovered, caused some of the syrup to scorch on the bottom of the boiler (due to insufficient stirring). In the future I might separately warm and decant the syrup into a mixing bowl or some such to ease its addition to the wort.
The debacle with the syrup caused me to extend the boil by a few minutes because I wanted the T-10 minutes hops-addition to get its full ten minutes at boil. It then took nearly twenty minutes to chill to 100°F but at least that part went well. Ian used a recirculating pump in an ice bath to chill his wort down to below 70°F and I may copy that technique in the future (less water usage - but it requires a supply of ice) (which will actually be quite easy to come by in the winter!). It had cooled to 68°F when I finally pitched the yeast (Danstar Windsor Ale Yeast).
Ian also brought over his refractometer which I am strongly considering purchasing. So much easier than messing around trying to decant a cup of wort into a hydrometer cylinder. And it only uses a drop of wort! He says it needs constant calibration but I still think it's worth the trouble.
Here's Ian's write-up of the event and the beer he made.
And Xn took some pictures.
At the end of the day, Ian made some ten gallons of wort and distributed it to whomever wanted to take some home and ferment it. Consequently, I have the last gallon in my fridge (which is about 45% settled trub) which I will start fermenting just as soon as I drive over the brew store and buy another airlock and a bit of yeast.
[Tuesday, October 9] The beer spent all day Monday making a huge mess of the blow-off tube. The beer was sitting at a nearly-ideal temperature so I'm not sure what caused this (I have never used this particular variety of yeast before). It was so vigorous that the stopper had actually been pushed up and the integrity of the seal was compromised. I'm not sure if I sure be too worried about it since there was so much internal pressure I find it unlikely any amount of outside air could have sneaked in. In any case, the fermentation has more-or-less completely stopped today and the foam cap has disappeared back into the beer. I'm going to make a gravity measurement and, if it's too high, see about restarting the yeast.
[Thursday, October 11] S.G. 1.035 (by refractometer) and the beer has stopped fermenting. I added a couple tablespoons of "yeast energizer" and shook the carboy up a bit.
[Saturday, October 13] No appreciable change, so I made a 400ml yeast starter with 100g of dried malt extract and WYeast 1728. and pitched that into the carboy.
[Tuesday, November 13] Despite its poor performance heretofore it was well past time to rack this thing into secondary. I ran out to NB and picked up a 1/2" Auto Siphon (I had been using one of these siphoning carboy caps, but, quite frankly, it sucked) (to be fair, it might have been the connection between the racking wand and the tubing that was allowing too much air into the tube but since I had two pipe clamps holding it on I find that pretty unlikely). The new Auto Siphon worked beautifully! I practiced by siphoning a bunch of sanitizing solution around and I never felt like it was underperforming. Anyway, the Winter Warmer is now in secondary and the SG dropped a little to 1.033 (which, you know, is still higher than it should be but I don't think I'm going to get it much lower). In a few weeks I'll bottle this regardless of its alcohol content (it smells just fine).
[Saturday, December 29] And... six weeks later I finally decided to put this one in a keg. I was going to bottle it but, instead, I'm going to bottle a different brew so this one gets the easy treatment. The SG had dropped a bit further (1.027/1.028) giving my a little less than 4% ABV. So neither did I hit to OG (1.069) nor did it ferment as low as I would have liked it to. Oh well! At this point I just want the carboy back to fill with something else.