Saturday, April 14, 2012

Getting Caught Up

Well, it has been along 4 months since my last post. My job usually gets in the way and I let my brewery become unproductive for a while during the winter. Actually the brewery just goes into conditioning mode. Last winter I made a Pilsner, taking advantage of the cold temperatures. I actually fermented and lagered it in our downstairs bathroom. I opened the window a bit, and put a towel under the door to keep the cold air out of the house. It turned the room into a pretty good lagering fermentation room until my wife tried to go in and discovered what I was doing. I then had to take it out to the garage and figure out how to keep it from freezing. It turned out pretty good. A little bit of sulfur flavor, but I learned a lot about lager brewing. This is the F/T Seafisher and the object of all my efforts during the winter when it is back here in Seattle for our annual maintenance. The other 10 - 11 months she is fishing in the Bearing Sea and Western Aleutian Islands off Alaska.

Since my last post I have done a little brewing and have had to work out a few more kinks in the brewery. For Christmas my wife's uncle Patrick sent me an extract with steeping grain kit in the mail. This kit was called Sympathy for The Devil Red Ale from Bluff Street Brew Haus in Dubuque, Iowa. My wife is a red head, but I'm sure this was just a coincidental name... Anyhow, I brewed this up as soon as the Seafisher left town. Since it was an extract kit and I decided to just follow the instructions I was able to brew this on my kitchen stove This was a half boil, meaning I only was going to be boiling 3 gallons, then topping off with 2.5 gallons of cold water to reach my 5 gallons for fermentation. I had just gotten back from snowy, windy, cold Dutch Harbor and had the house all to myself. The brew day went very quickly, I am always shocked at how quickly extract brew days are compared to the 4 - 6 hour all grain brew days I'm use to. Nothing very notable happened during the boil. I was able to try my new refractometer that I got for Christmas from my wife. I had always used my hydrometer for my original gravity readings and all readings after that. This means I'm dumping 3 or 4 beers worth of wort and beer throughout the whole Process! This refractometer allows me to take my initial readings using only 2 drops of wort. Really easy to use. I know my Beersmith brewing software has a tool which I think will help me use the refractometer after the fermentation. Alcohol refracts differently than water which will cause the readings to be off. Generally its better and more accurate to use the old hydrometer for later gravity checks. 

This fermentation went without any problems. I was done with it after a few weeks and then it went straight to the keg. I had thawed out my kegerator while I wasn't using it to get rid of the built up ice over to coils. After the ice was gone I discovered the thermostat dial on the back wall. Since I had been having some problems previously with the beer freezing inside the kegs I decided to turn the dial down. After a day or two in the kegerator I decided that I had set the dial way too low since it was almost colder outside the fridge than it was inside. I turned the dial a little bit colder and left the keg in there for a few more days. I hadn't hooked up the air just yet to carbonate which as it turns out seems to have been a good thing. I opened the fridge to find this little beauty staring back at me! FROZEN SOLID! Shocked, I couldn't believe it. So the keg got to spend the night in our living room for the next couple nights while it thawed out. I hooked up the CO2 to make sure the keg hadn't been damaged and it held the pressure for another day before I put it back into the fridge. In the meantime I had put a thermometer into the fridge to get the stupid thermostat figured out. I put the beer in again and set it to carbonate. After a week, I pulled a pint off. Flat. No carbonation what so ever. I stuck it back in and cranked the pressure up to 30 PSI. I checked the valves to make sure the keg was actually pressurizing, all seemed to be normal. I checked the beer again in about another week. Flat. I set another keg I had laying around that had been conditioning for a while and let it carbonate in the fridge for a week while I left the Red Ale keg on another connection outside the fridge. Within the week the second keg had carbed up perfectly, but the Red was still flat. tasted great, but flat. The only thing I can figure is that something must have been damaged in the freeze. Now I will be transferring this beer into a different keg, and looking at all the parts of the keg to see what is happening. This keg might just get turned into a lagering fermenter that I can fit into my new larger fridge.

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