Saturday, February 6, 2010

English Brown and A Visit to the Emergency Room

It started out as a normal enough brew day. My friend Jesse came over to the new house to brew together. He put together a Belgian Golden Strong AG recipe with a twist. We've both been excited about trying wine yeast for a few ales, either solo or blended with an ale yeast. Jesse did a very straightforward base malt grain bill and tossed in an ale yeast to get the fermentation started. As his beer ferments, he's going to add the wine yeast (which should take over the ale yeast) along with some sugar additions. I'm excited to try it when it's done, but will leave the details to him in case he decides to blog about it elsewhere.

I'm in the middle of fixing my mash tun. I just picked up a new false bottom from our awesome new Milwaukee area Northern Brewer store! (I'm all about supporting local business, and we have some wonderful people running a nice homebrew store, Hop To It, here in Racine as well. Hop To It hosts our local club meetings in the basement as well, which is cool.) Anyway, as a result of the mash tun repairs in progress, I did another batch of the extract Northern English Brown recipe I put together in the meantime. In my previous post I used the same recipe, but with my Bugfarm III yeast cake. This time, I used the White Labs Irish Ale Yeast I had originally intended for the recipe.

As a side note, I picked up some Victory Wild Devil that we enjoyed along with some of Jesse's recent Bitter he brewed. Both were tasty and I'm looking forward to the rest of the Wild Devil bottles currently in our cellar. While brewing I also baked my first batch of sourdough bread with a starter I made a week beforehand. In the end it wasn't very sour, but I didn't give the dough more than 2-3 hours to rise. Next time I'll let it rise overnight to give the bugs more time to do their dance. All in all it was still yummy bread though.

I'd love to say the brew day was otherwise uneventful, but that was not to be! I did manage to break our nice glass mixing bowl while baking and cut my finger on the resulting glass shards. Jesse also cut a finger on his brewing equipment. Here's where things started getting messy. Jesse's wort was chilling in the basement with my immersion chiller, and my batch was in its last few minutes of the boil (I started brewing significantly later than he did since he was doing all-grain. That worked out fine though with time to bake and cook up some thai yellow curry with pork for lunch.) I took my spent grain to the backyard to dump it for the critters. February in Wisconsin isn't the easiest time of year for animals to find food I'm sure. As I turned to go back out front I managed to turn eye-first into a low hanging pine tree branch! I'm not talking a little poke either, this batch of needles got me full on in the eye. With one eye closed, we managed to haul my kettle downstairs to get it chilled. (Jesse burnt his hand on the steam on the way down.) We ended up sitting in the bathroom trying to rinse out my eye and rub aloe (luckily my wife keeps a couple plants of it growing in the house year round) on Jesse's burns while we each already had a bandaged finger! I couldn't help but laugh. . .

After waiting about an hour with no improvement, with both beers chilled and in their respective fermenters, I had Jesse drop me off at the local Emergency Room on his way home. In the end I was diagnosed with a decent sized corneal abrasion right in the center of my right eye. They sent me home with a big eye patch on. Now, here I am one week, 2 ER visits, and 3 ophthalmologist appointments later, finally able to see well enough to type this article. I'll spare the medical details, but it's been a royal p.i.t.a. All I wanted was a quick brown ale to restock the cellar a bit since I've been spending so many brew sessions lately on sours that won't be done for over a year, and in the end I have an extract batch that will (assuming I figured out the deductibles right for our health insurance) have cost around $400. I know extract batches tend to run a bit more expensive, but that's overkill!

I ended up having my wife pitch the yeast for me later that night since I was in bed on the verge of temporary blindness when she got home, but left it in our 60F basement for the first night. After longer than usual lag time I moved it upstairs where it is more like 66-67 right now.

The only other interesting thing to come out of this was that I really was pretty much non-functional for several days and couldn't even see well enough to get down the stairs. As a result, I left my big brewpot uncleaned witht he dregs of the wort in it sitting in the basement for about 4 nights. (I made sure to at least give everything that comes near the wort post-boil its usual cleaning/sanitization before heading out to the hospital.) When I went down to clean out the pot this week the little bit of wort sludge had, probably obviously by now, grown an interesting bacterial pellicle and started to spontaneously ferment. While dumping it down the drain, I got a good wiff of it and though it still smelled somewhat sweet it also had a really neat overall odor, nothing at all off-putting. I'm tempted now to try a spontaneous basement fermentation down the road with a straighforward recipe in an open bucket, at least to begin with.

I just posted the brown ale recipe in the previous post as part of the Sour English Brown, but here it is again with the few changes that apply to this batch:

Northern English Brown

brewed on: 1/31/10
OG: (I didn't take a reading on this one due to my eye injury, but I estimate it was around 1.044 due to the small change in amount of extract used.)

12 oz Special Roast Malt
8 oz Crystal 40L Malt
8 oz Victory Malt
4 oz Pale Chocolate Malt
6 lbs Extra Light liquid extract

1.2 oz Kent Golding @ 5.1% - 60 minutes
.5 oz German Hallertauer Hersbrucker @ 3% - 5 minutes

WLP 004 Irish Ale Yeast

Steep grains in 1 gallon for 3 minutes at 154F.
Sparge with gallon or so.
Bring 6-7 gallons (enough to end up with just over 5 gallons) of water to boil, add extract & hops as scheduled.

Pitched at ~60F with little activity. Raised to 66F after 2 days & activity picked up.

2/14 - Moved to basement where temp is around 60-62F.
2/21 - SG @ 1.012. Delicious. Sample had a malty nuttiness w/ slight sweetness, (but not syrupy or showing "extract" twinges.) Can't wait to get this bottled and carbed.
2/27 - FG 1.012. Bottled w/ 3.25oz corn sugar.

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