Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vanilla Bourbon Stout...I hope

Ok, here it first post AND my first "serious" beer. Join me on this magical wondrous process I like to call "a lot of freakin' work."

After having the Vanilla Bourbon Stout at Steamplant Grill, I knew I had to make my own. So I donned my finest (pronounced "only") chef jacket and got ready!

I gathered up all of my ingredients, mostly courtesy of Rebel Brewer, although the liquid malt extract came from Midwest Supplies, and got to work cleaning everything.

With that trivial formality out of the way, it was time for some real fun...putting grain in socks! Ok...they weren't socks, they were muslin bags, but you gotta admit they kinda LOOK like socks :-) I put the grains into a bag because in my unique case I don't really have a way to strain them out once I start this whole process, so this worked pretty handy.

Once my grains were all socked...err..."bagged", it was time to go out to the garage and get the boiler fired up.

That's heard me...that's 240 volts I'm pumping through this thing baby. No sense doing something halfway, right? So with the power on and the dial turned to the highly descriptive and helpful "8", I waited...

Anywho, it didn't take long (or maybe it didn't SEEM like long since the wife and I were alone in the garage together...anyway) and my water was up to temperature.

In goes the grain soc..."bag." These grains are going to steep for about 35 minutes.

As soon as I threw it in, I was pretty amazed at how remarkably similar this thing was to a huge freakin' tea bag. A beautiful amber color almost immediately started leeching out into the water, and it even smelled vaguely reminiscent of freshly brewed tea mixed with a good cup of coffee. It was neat.

Anyway, with that going, it was time to get my liquid malt extract softening up. I threw it in a large pot of water and turned it on "Low." I probably could have gone higher, but I was going more for "liquid malt extract" and not "liquid melted plastic jug."

"BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP." Oop! That sound meant it was time to fish my grain bag out.

My freaking huge, now-swollen, heavy, ohpleasegoddon'tletthistearopen grain bag.

And then we crank things up to 11! Well...10 in this case...but if there HAD been an 11 on the dial I would have turned to that. I mean unless 11 was only, like, halfway or something, in which case I would have turned it up all the way. But then I still would have called it "turning it to 11" even though 11 was half way and...oh forget it...

Yay! It boiled! That meant it was time to through in ye olde malt extracts.

Both of them, if you please...

Then I threw the lid on (don't need garage junk floating in to my brew!), set the timer for 70 minutes for the whole boil and went in to get my hops ready. Some of you may have caught my little faux pas in the previous sentence. Being as it was already starting to push 11 o'clock at night, and I had spent all day working, then all evening mudding my bathroom that we're re-doing, I was exhausted and didn't figure it out...let me say it again. "Then I threw the lid on..." can see where this is going.

Well sh(post garbled...some text may be missing)

Ok, well...I still had 3 gallons in there and I had only filled it up to 3 before adding my malt extracts, so that means I should have only lost a bit. I can either give up now (and I've just blown $50) or forge ahead and hope for the best...quitters drink Keystone, so I forged ahead. There was 60 minutes left so it was time to add my first batch of hops, the "Cluster" hops.

After sitting in the corner and rocking back and forth for a little while, nursing my wounded pride (everything had been going so well!) I gathered my wits about me, stuffed them back in my pockets (...where do you keep your wits?) and got my Irish moss soaking. The Internet is divided precisely in half on whether this is actually necessary, but I figured 1/2 cup of water costs me approximately $0.0000200234 so I threw caution to the wind and went for it.

When I had just 20 minutes left on my timer (not pictured, but trust me, it was still there) I threw in my East Kent Goldings hops.

Five minutes after that, my Irish moss was looking oh-so awake and happy, so I celebrated by dumping it in boiling beer.

The last 15 minutes went by and it was time to top off my wort with cold water and bring it down to pitching temperature!

Hmm...after consulting my chemistry books it seems that nature was not, in fact, just "giving me the finger"...3 gallons of boiling water doesn't seem to want to cool to 70 degrees simply by adding 2 more gallons of 50 degree water, no matter WHO you are. No problem, I just dumped a bunch of ice in the sink with it along with some water. Hey, it works for ice cream machines, it ought to work here! By my calculation, if an ice cream machine takes about an hour to FREEZE crap, this ought to chill to a paltry "room temperature" in about 10 minutes.

Good Lord...what do you mean it's 4 o'clock in the morning! Where am I? Crap, did I fall asleep in my clothes again? Gaa!! Why does my back hurt? Oh, seems I've been sleeping on the floor...hmm, well, time to check the beer again.'s 85 freakin' degrees. The house is 60 degrees, the stupid boiling-over bucket is surrounded by ice water that I've changed twice and the best I can do is a public swimming pool...time to consult the internet and see the maximum temperature these beer bugs can survive at. Seems that they can live in 85 degree environment, and I know it will cool someday (probably about the same time the universe ends in a heat-death whimper) so I transfer to my carboy, pitch the little buggers, throw in the air lock and stumble to bed.

(Note, there is no hose there. Gravity is weird in my kitchen and beer actually flows out of the bucket that way.)

So at the end of the day, between a boiled-over wort, a slightly too-warm yeast pitch and goodness knows what ever else I did or didn't do while delirious with sleep deprivation...I'm REALLY hoping this batch turns out good :-) I'll let you all know as time goes by. Happy brewing n' stuff!


  1. Great post! Too bad about the boil over hopefully you salvaged enough wort to turn a good beer. Also sounds like you are going to need to find a way to cool your wort faster. But grats on your first brew.

    I like the touch of class you bring to brewing with that white jacket(Is that your name embroidered on the chest?). But if you want brew like a pro you are going need a little more facial hair. Think big, shrewd and gnarly. That's where all the pros gain their brewing savy.

  2. Hey, thanks man! The thing's bubbling like a fool right now, so I'm not terribly worried. Last night I also went ahead and boiled up another pound of dark DME I had lying around and poured it in. I'm sure it's going to be just fine.

    Also, yeah, that's my name on the jacket :-) Courtney got it for me about a year ago. As for the beard...hmm...gonna have to think on that.

  3. GIVE IN TO THE BEARD!!!! No one can escape it...


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