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A Brewing Recap, Plus Tragedy

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/27/2013 at 04:17:51 AM


This past Sunday, I brewed up my first partial mash in some time.  I really love the control that all grain gives me, and would likely never choose to do a partial mash again... but my family gave me a gift certificate to Austin Homebrew for Father's Day, and the special at the time included your choice of a few partial mash kits.  My wife wisely went with the "dark ale" kit, which is essentially an American brown ale.  Of the choices, this definitely would have been the one I would have made for myself.  Kudos to the woman for knowing my taste (despite the fact that she doesn't care for beer whatsoever).

The brew day itself went pretty smoothly.  It felt funny mashing a mere three pounds of grain in my big cooler, but I really didn't want to deal with a grain bag and such.  I did have some challenges in keeping the mash hot enough due to the lack of thermal mass, but I added a little hot water a time or two and called it "close enough".  After all, I had five pounds of liquid extract to make up any body issues with.

My brewing buddies - sons aged five, three, and two - largely ignored the brewing process, except as an excuse to play outside.  I say "largely", because apparently, hop additions are one of the most fun activities known to man.  They kept asking me when it was time to add the hops, and they oversaw the addition of every single pellet for both the bittering and aroma additions (this batch had no flavor addition).  My two year old also made it a point to munch on some of the grains before I started the mash.  Eating a few kernels is a pre-brewing ritual for both of us.

This brew would be my first experience with dry yeast.  The kit included a ten gram pack of Mauribrew ale yeast, which I rehydrated prior to pitching. 

All in all, I felt like the day went really well.  I did a great job of cleaning up - which isn't always the case for me.  I even managed to dump the spent grains from my cooler and get it fully rinsed out while I was doing the boil.  I set the cooler upside down on my sawhorses to dry in the sun, and was pretty proud of myself; more than once, I had completely forgotten about the spent grains, and had to pay the consequences of dealing with that stench later.

My ground water was pretty hot on Sunday (to the tune of 80 degrees F), so once I got the wort down to 85 by use of my immersion chiller and a cold water bath, I stuck the wort in my fermentation chamber.  Just before midnight, I pitched my yeast with the wort still at 74 degrees.

The next morning, I expected serious fermentation when I got up.  I've gotten accustomed to the great response I get from making good starters and aerating the wort with pure O2; I always have vigorous activity within six hours, and have seen it in as little as three.  Instead, I had a very thin layer of krausen and a few slow, scattered bubbles in the airlock.  That evening when I got home from work, it was much the same - slow bubbling, puny krausen.  It took until the next day before I had regular bubbling, and I never got more than an inch or so of krausen.  It ended up taking five full days for active fermentation to complete in this 1.053 beer, which seems fairly slow.  As long as the beer is good, though, who cares?

I did have one piece of bad news related to this brew - bad enough that I could almost classify it as a tragedy.

We've had a very rainy summer this year, and this week has been no exception; it has rained pretty much every day this week.  As a result, I've left my cooler outside all week.  It's upside down, so I'm not really worried about it.  I figure that I'll bring it in this weekend once it's fully dry.

Thursday evening, my wife called me as I drove home.  "Did you mean to leave your mash paddle outside?" she asked. 

WHAT?  Of course I didn't mean to leave it outside!  I realized that it must have been up on the sawhorses, next to the cooler, and I somehow managed to overlook it.

"You're not going to like this," she said.  "It's covered in mildew."

I won't repeat the curses that came out of my mouth.  I just felt sick.  I love that paddle - my wife gave it to me for Christmas.  It's a beautiful piece of maple, with barley leaves routed into the blade, and my "brewery" name carved into the handle. 

At least, it was beautiful.  It's now darker in color, and is covered with nasty, greenish black spots. 

She offered to replace it, but I would hate to have to do that.  This thing was not cheap, and I feel like it is special.

I can tell you this - white vinegar does nothing to help mildewed wood.  PBW does help remove it from the surface, but it requires a pretty fair amount of scrubbing... and you can still see faint stains deeper in the wood.  For it to be right, I will obviously have to sand it, which I will start doing this weekend.  That will be a major pain, as I am not really sure how I can effectively sand inside the barley leaf cutouts - to say nothing of the carved letters.  Sadly, I see a little warping in the handle, as well, though that might have happened eventually with time.

Color me sad.  A prized possession has been damaged - perhaps permanently so - because I am simply a moron.

Tags for this post: partial, mash, paddle, sad, AHS, brewing, dry yeast

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I feel for you, the gifts from the wife are always the best ones.

Looking at the comments, you sure get a lot of spammers to your page. Just strange.

posted by POB on 8/19/2013 at 03:53:49 PM

Another great read. And I can understand the moron part. I've left plenty of things out in the rain or just outside on an ungodly humid day. They were covered in mildew. Took loads of bleach to clean it.

posted by Jimmy on 10/02/2013 at 07:27:33 AM