Yes, you heard it here for the first time: Sheet Brewing. Up to now, I’ve been a BIAB guy, keeping my brewing set up simple and inexpensive, creating some pretty good beers. One recipe even won an award, so I’m doing something right. But like any home chef or brewmaster, you’re never satisfied with the status quo. Improve. Tweek. Play. innovate. Why? Cause, well, there’s always room for improvement to take it to the next level. So in that spirit, I decided to modify my brewing rig to include a second vessel for mashing and lautering.
See, BIAB (brew-in-a-bag) is a one-vessel system invented by the Aussies, mostly because they have limited access to water in the outback. Using drapery voile sewn into a bag shape to hold the grain, it cuts out one or two steps normally taken in a three vessel system, but still creates very good beer. My issue with it has been wort clarity pre-boil, and efficiency. There is no end of debate about these issues in the brewing forums, and with patience, BIAB beer rivals any other beer brewing method. But it takes more time for the beer to clear once bottled. I’ve discovered that vorlaufing and sparging help with wort clarity and brewhouse efficiency.
Essentially what I did was use a sheet of voile to line a picnic cooler, then mash in my grain. Instead of investing in a custom made BIAB made to fit my cooler, I simply used a 3′ x 4′ sheet for a proof-of-concept trial run. (See pic). Once done, I gather the 4 corners of the voile and dump the spent grain into a plastic garbage bag, which is then gladly whisked away by a local pig farmer. (I think she owes me a few pork chops by now.)
So, I’ve coined a new phrase (or acronym): BIAS – brew in a sheet. No need to sew up the voile into a custom fit square box… the sheet actually washes out SO much easier because of its flat shape; no nooks and crannies to fuss with. Seems like a trivial difference, but hey – I’ll take credit for it!
So now, I mash into my picnic cooler for 90 minutes, drain the wort into my brew kettle, recirculate through the grain bed manually till the wort is clear, then sparge with 170F water to get my boil volume. The result is much clearer wort both pre and post-boil, and really clear beer after bottle conditioning for just a few days. My Irish Red Ale (which I have dubbed “Perky Redhead“) is quite good. Next up to add into the mix is a recirculation pump so I can transfer wort from the BK, up to the picnic cooler for continuous recirculation through the grain bed. See, that gives me time to open you up another beer… So, don’t be shy and drop by for a pint!
Cheers for beers,