Back to the basics for this dude…

So, yes – it’s been a while since my last blog post here, but I certainly haven’t stopped brewing.  Just today I upgraded WordPress itself (the software I use to publish this site) and a few of the plugins… they were getting old.  I guess the blame for my tardiness (ahem! – “laziness” is more like it!) can be passed off to Burnstown Beer’s Facebook page, where I tend to hang out more than here.  FB is good for quick updates, but not so much for detailed posts like this one, which tend to be more of a storytelling platform.

So, for anyone who cares, my brewing methodology has evolved over the past while, going from simple to complex, and back to simple!  In the quest for better and more consistent beer, I dabbled in vorlaufing and a  two-vessel process that only added complexity and time to my brew day.  Let me explain: by using a picnic cooler as a mash tun, I was able to more closely emulate the steps that the commercial big boys use to make beer. 

Vorlaufing is the process of using a pump to recirculate the sweet wort (which is what you have after soaking malted barley in hot water for an hour).  It flows through the grain bed, filtering out the suspended grain flour, supposedly clarifying the wort.  Did it work for me?  Well, sorta kinda… But not enough to make it crystal clear.

The other reason for using a picnic cooler is for sparging, which is the process of rinsing the grain with hot water and adding that to your wort.  It increases efficiency a little bit, cuz it extracts whatever sweet wort is still in the grain bed.  Did it make a difference?  Well, sorta kinda… but not enough to justify the added time and complexity. 

So after a season of vorlaufing and sparging, I started to get bored of the tiresome way I was making beer… and getting dismayed at the six-plus hour brew days.  Back to BIAB!

Necessity being the mother of invention, Brew-In-A-Bag originated in Australia where water can be scarce.  Leave it to the Aussies to simplify and innovate at the same time!  This is a one-vessel process that only takes up about 4 hours start to finish, which suits me fine, and it’s the process I first used when transitioning from malt extract beer kits to all-grain brewing back in 2013.  I’m enjoying brewing more, and results-wise, the proof is in the pudding so to speak.  After the final 60-minute boil is done, the hot wort cools overnight, and voila – it’s very clear by the next morning, which was the goal for vorlaufing and sparging in the first place.  Using whole-leaf hops that I grew instead of commercial hop pellets help with clarity as well.  See pics below.

So, check out my “What’s Brewing” page to catch up on my beer pipeline contents – you’ll see I’m having fun with both old and new recipes.  It’s supposed to be nice tomorrow (above zero C) so I’m trying a clone recipe of a popular Irish red ale brewed by a certain microbrewery not too far from here, where the brewmaster gave me an important hint about my recipe.  (Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.)  Really looking forward to those results – I’ll post the results here.

Cheers for Beers!

–jim

I let the grain fully drain for about 15 minutes.  After this, then the 60 minute boil…
After a 60 minute boil, it’ll cool off overnight.  Most of the particulates settle to the bottom, resulting in clear wort.  Off to the fermenter!