Monday, November 26, 2007

A Shropshire Lad

Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.

A.E. (Alfred Edward) Housman was born in England in 1859 and died in 1930. A Shropshire Lad is his most famous work. The selection is from number LX ("Terence, this is stupid stuff:/You eat your victuals fast enough;/There can't be much amiss, 'tis clear,/To see the rate you drink your beer."). Housman was a classicist, specifically a professor of Latin, for most of his life. The poem is a long, melancholy rant on the vagaries of life, and the healing power of a good brew. Well, maybe the numbing power! There is a reference at the end to Mithridates, who--supposedly--inured himself to the effects of poison by ingesting small doses throughout his life, and thus could not be killed that way. I wonder if it works for alcohol.

Ale, man, ale's the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world's not.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pity the Fool!

In the bottle and keg today--Pity the Fool Porter! I wound up with about 4 gallons total, I primed with dextrose (50 g for the 2.5 gal. keg and 1.5 oz. for the bottles) boiled in a cup of water. Set aside a 4-pack for my pals K & K on the occasion of K's birthday. These vessels will condition for about a week, depending on temperature, then head for the fridge for another week. Can't wait.

Monday, November 5, 2007

It's all worth it!

Sometimes brewing days are long and slow and a pain-in-the-arse. Like yesterday. My mash got stuck, I had to scramble to extract the sugars, it was a big mess. Because I'm on this "no-sparge" kick, I do TWO mashes (my vessel only comfortably works with about 10 lbs. of grist) which takes TWICE as long. I did not vorlauf (re-circulate) the extract, like I normally do, because I needed to save some time, but it seemed to come out OK. So, yesterday, I mashed 18 lbs. of malt, including a "kitchen sink" melange of specialty malts for color and flavor--my goal was a robust porter.* I managed to get 3-1/2 gallons of extract at about 1.080, to which I added 3-1/2 gallons of liquor to make 7 gals., which boiled down to 5 at 1.055. My yield, at the end, was about 4-1/2 gallons of wort. I used 2 oz. of whole Willamette hops for bittering (60 mins.), and pitched Safale-05. It is fermenting nicely this morning. Long, tiring day. BUT, I remembered WHY I brew my own when we busted out the Rye-P.A. My birthday is the 13th, and my good pals H & D are coming to visit us this weekend, and I wanted to be able to drink this beer for both events. So, we had to check it out. The result? Heaven in a bottle! Indeed: a crisp, spicy-sweet rye flavor layered on a rich, malty base with a clean, dry, hoppy finish. Wow, it is a GREAT BREW! (The photo is my kettle, w/paddle, on the double burner.)

*Pity-the-Fool Porter (in honor of B.A. Baracus of the A-Team)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Grind

Yes, it is the tried & true workhorse of many a homebrewer, the Corona mill! I "got crankin' " yesterday for today's brew. As you can see it was a gorgeous autumnal day. That is a redwood 2 x 6 the mill is clamped to, and the plastic patio chair is just the right height. I can sit next to this set-up and leisurely grind away. Some day I suppose I'll get an automated roller mill, but that's quite a spendy item, and I'm not ready to take the plunge. The Corona crushes the grist a bit too much, but my small-scale system is forgiving, and I rarely have trouble with the mash. I admit my extraction rates are pretty low, but the run-offs rarely get stuck. This new kick I'm on, the "no-sparge brew," will require quite a bit more grain, and a higher conversion/extraction efficiency would be nice, but I'm not going to sweat over it. I'll be posting more picture of the scheme here at FSB over the next several weeks, so stay tuned!