Brewing with the Kids

OK.  I admit up front that the title is completely misleading.  While my family does occasionally show an interest in my brew days, they are generally uninvolved.  The title of “Brewing with the Kids” is in direct reference to the fact that my parents (normally our summer daycare providers for our two youngest) are on a cruise for the next 10 days, so I took that time off in order to be a stay-at-home dad for the week.  This is the introduction to what I hope to be a daily blog entry from Sunday, July 15th through Friday, July 20th.

As part of my vacation I would like to brew as much as possible (ideally at least once a day from Sunday through Friday).  I would also like to document my efforts, successful or not, in order to encourage members to find their own brewing “happy place” and show that it’s okay to be relaxed about the process and even okay to drop the ball completely at times.  That’s not to say that I don’t want to make the best product I can or that I don’t like entering my beers into competitions and receiving feedback.  I do.  It’s just that I brew because I enjoy brewing and I usually enjoy the results.  I believe that’s true of all Stoney Creek members.  We have a common interest in constantly learning how to improve our brewing, but most of us are doing it simply out of a passion for brewing and creating the best beer we can for ourselves and our friends.

That being said, I will now give you a brief description of my typical brew day:  My process does not change much at all, so this way I won’t have to recount the same procedures each day.  To begin with, I heat a full volume of strike water in my 7 gallon kettle to the appropriate mash-in temperature on an induction burner.  I also have a 4 gallon kettle and second induction burner if necessary for bigger beers.  While the water heats up, I measure out my grains and then crush them at the tightest setting on my Cereal Killer mill. Once the water reaches the proper temp (usually around 158 or 159F) I perform a no-sparge, single infusion mash (at 152F if I’ve done everything correctly) in a converted Igloo cooler with a kettle screen attachment.  After mashing in, I head upstairs and do whatever I feel like (or is next on my list of chores) for an hour or so.  After the hour is up, I vorlauf and then drain the wort back into my kettle.  The kettle goes back on the induction burner and I start to heat up to a boil.  While the wort gets up to a boil I clean up my mash tun and paddle and make sure I have my hops and any other boil additions ready. Once I reach a boil I start my timers and various additions.  At 15 minutes remaining I insert my immersion chiller in order to sanitize it.  At the end of the boil I put the lid back on and begin chilling.  I usually get down to around 75F in about 25 minutes.  From there I rack into a sanitized carboy in which I place an airstone attached to an aquarium pump.  Once the transfer is complete, I add yeast and either leave the carboy in the basement or place it in my old kegerator/current temp-controlled fermentation chamber. Lastly, I clean everything else.

Please note that I have also included a picture of my brewhouse.  Yes, my brewhouse is my dirt floor basement with cobwebs in the joists.  Contrary to appearances, I really do straighten up that area on a regular basis, but my workbench is even more regularly used as the catch-all location when someone takes something to the basement and doesn’t have a specific spot for it yet.  I could have organized everything neatly before taking the picture, but the whole point of this is to show that you don’t have to kill yourself creating the perfect sterile work environment.  I spend plenty of time making sure I have clean and sanitized cold-side equipment.  Other than that, I don’t worry much about what condition the rest of the room is in as long as I can get to everything I need and work relatively comfortably.  One of the big advantages of the induction burner is that I never have to worry about a boil-over.  Therefore, I don’t need to hang out with my brew.  I use all of my waiting time to get other things done, even if it’s just catching up on “Luke Cage.”

I hope you all enjoy watching my progress throughout the week and look forward to sharing the liquid results with you in the next couple of months.