May 19, 2008
The homebrew club I belong to is planning on doing something very cool. Many members of the club are brewing their own version of a Russian Imperial Stout, a very strong beer which stands up well to aging. One of the members of our club recently started his own brewery (more on that in a future post), and happens to have a number of bourbon barrels sitting around that he’ll use for aging of certain beers.
So each member who wanted to participate has brewed some Russian Imperial Stout, and all of those beers will be blended after fermentation and aged in one of the bourbon barrels for 10 months. It should be a very cool thing to be a part of.
Due to the strength of the beer, it needs to ferment at least 3 weeks (preferably 4) to be ready to be added to the barrel. This past weekend was that 4 week mark, and our plan was to brew on Saturday morning. Between my brother-in-law (Dustin) and I, we were brewing 10 gallons, so that when the beer is complete, we’ll each get a full keg out of it.
I was running late, so Dustin started the brew without me. By the time I arrived, the mash was just about complete, and it was time to transfer our mash tun from the floor onto the rack we use during the sparge. This mash tun, of course, had 10.5 gallons of water, had 40 lbs of grain, and itself weighs about 20 lbs. All in all, it probably weighs 150 lbs when completely full, as it was on Saturday.
When I arrived, Dustin had placed the wooden handle of a rake through the handles of the mash tun to lift it. I looked at the rake, and thought to myself, “that doesn’t look as sturdy as the handle we usually use”, but I didn’t say anything. We picked up the mash tun, and started walking over to the destination. We got to the destination, started lifting the tun, and CRACK!
40 lbs of grain and the entire jet-black imperial stout mash ended up on the garage floor.
That cut our brew day very short. We didn’t have time to go out and re-start the brew, and that means it’s pushed out until this weekend. It has to be done this weekend, or we miss the window for the group brew, and they’re expecting us to have that beer ready, as having less than the expected amount will screw up the whole process. This is now twice as hard, because Dustin will be gone all weekend, so I need to find an extra pair of hands to help out, and still end up brewing in his garage. All while not pissing Joanna off, since it was SUPPOSED to be the last brew day for a few weeks, and now I’ve got to do it again.
About the only bright point was that we kegged & bottled the IPA. There are a few competitions coming up, so we really needed to get that done. It’s not fully carbonated yet, so I don’t have any real tasting notes. It did come out a bit higher in alcohol than intended (at about 7.5%, rather than 6.5%), but overall appears to have fermented cleanly and is on its way to where it should be.
But oh, how I wish I had stopped and told him to use a different, more sturdy, handle!
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