On Monday evening Tiffani’s dad flew in from Oakland and arrived at Philly International just after 8pm. This morning we combined my need to buy more ingredients with a need to go clothes shopping for our 9-year-old daughter who seems to be growing at an exponential rate. After I finished paying for my supplies at Keystone we stopped in at Stone & Key Cellars to have some Haymaker Mead then over to Chili’s for lunch. A little clothes shopping and a quick stop at Corropolese for some rolls and we were headed home. Due to our busy schedule I didn’t start brewing until 4pm today.
Today’s beer was an American Amber that I wanted to play around with in preparation for a duel in November. Shaun Brasseau and I decided that we would like to fill one of the empty duel slots and he let me choose the style. I generally pick something that I never or rarely brew because, well, the whole point of the duels is to challenge each other. I’ve always interpreted that as an excuse to challenge myself at the same time. On that note, I would encourage all of our members to adopt the same outlook. Yes, we make it a competition and pick winners, but the point is to hone our skills and broaden the scope of what we would regularly brew. And if you are afraid to enter the duels because you might embarrass yourself, just take a look at my record over the last couple of years. I’m pretty sure my record is something like 2 wins and 6 losses and a couple of them were completely lopsided in the voting. How has that benefited me? First of all, you have to remember that even the lopsided duels were not an indication that I brewed a bad beer. One in particular, an American Brown Ale duel with Cindy Serdikoff, ended with me receiving 0 or possibly 1 vote in my favor. No one, however, was pointing out faults in my beer. Rather, they were commenting on what they liked so much about Cindy’s beer. I took those notes and made a point of incorporating those taste preferences into other dark beers. Cindy’s Brown Ale, by the way, has gone on to win multiple Gold medals against much heavier competition, so I was pretty much doomed from the get-go. Secondly, it taught me the one lesson that I feel has improved my brewing tremendously in the last six months or so–slow down! As I stated yesterday, once you get used to your system it’s pretty easy to find time to brew without sacrificing everything else around you. It took me a long time to learn that lesson, so I always had a nagging feeling of guilt when I brewed that I wasn’t spending time with my family. Therefore I kept putting off my brewing until the last minute when I absolutely had to to fulfill an obligation. Inevitably that meant brewing a week or two at most before I had to present my beer. I always got it done, but it wasn’t ideal. Now that I brew ahead of time it allows to me to really let the yeast do their work, taste the beer as it progresses and not package it until it reaches its peak.
So how did today’s brew go? Only time will tell, but I definitely didn’t slow down on this one. I did let myself get rushed because of the late start and made some mistakes. The first and biggest one I noticed after I lautered. I took a pre-boil gravity reading that came out much lower than I anticipated. I adjusted with some DME, but couldn’t understand what happened until I walked past my scale and saw that I left the final pound of Vienna sitting in the bowl on the scale. I thought I would steep it to at least get the flavor character but found that I was out of muslin bags. I ran up to the kitchen only to find that we are also out of cheese cloth. Eventually I just decided that I’d let it go and see how it ends up. This was never intended to be the beer that goes in the duel, so as long as it’s drinkable I’m okay with it. My second mistake was dropping a racking cane behind my laundry tub which is also my only source of water downstairs. I didn’t want to get all yucky on the dirt floor, so I reached over and behind the tub. When I did I knocked it off balance and ended up disconnecting the drainpipe. Thank goodness for floor drains, otherwise I’d have been in big trouble! Unfortunately I then had to get down on a muddy floor, not just a dirty one to reconnect the pipe. Everything else worked out fine; I still finished up in 4 hours; and now I’m going to bed. See you tomorrow!