Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pumpkin Havoc: Chaos in Homebrewing

Wow! What a weekend of homebrew activity.

I had no intentions of brewing a beer this month, but Deana wanted me to put together a Pumpkin Ale and who am I to argue that. Of all the things she could ever ask me to do, brewing beer is one I'll never turn down. All guys should be able to make their lady happy by brewing beer. So, I put on my thinking hat, came up with a recipe, and went out to buy all the ingredients.

The first fiasco, although minor compared to everything else, happened the day before brew day when I was putting together my yeast starter. After I had my wort cooled down I opened the bottle of White Labs WLP011 and it came splooging out of the container like a high school boy on the biggest day of his life. I'd estimate that at least half of the bottle ended up on my hands, but at that point what are you going to do? Besides, the whole point of a yeast starter is to build a bigger colony of happy yeasties so if I lost some I'd get them back over time anyways.

When brew day came around, I churned through the process like the champion underwater basket weaver I am. I'm always an overanxious brewer and inevitably I always forget to do something. I add something early, I add something late. It's never anything catastrophic but it's not perfect and it drives me nuts. Not this time. This brew day, I took the time write out my steps one by one to ensure no screw ups. And guess what? I didn't screw up.

When the end of the boil came it was time to get serious. I picked up the 3 ton pot of hot wort and started the trek from backyard to basement. Eventually, after penguin walking everything to the basin I placed the wort chiller in the pot and started the cool down. While all of this is happening, I'm flying high and congratulating myself on a job well done. I brewed a beer without making a mistake and I cooled the wort down in record time. All I had to do was get the wort into the carboy, add the yeast, and let the little guys enjoy the sugar buffet. I called upstairs to Deana to hold my funnel not knowing that the real fun was soon to begin.

Deana came downstairs, held the funnel and I picked up the pot to pour. For some reason this particular batch of beer felt extremely heavy and I was having trouble getting it high enough to pour properly. My first attempt was not so successful and I ended up spilling some wort on the floor and on my feet. It wasn't the end of the world, but I hate to lose any of my hard earned nectar and I really didn't want to have to clean the floor or have sticky feet. As I attempted to start pouring the wort again I noticed a rush of warm water coming across my feet. I hadn't yet picked up the pot high enough to start pouring so all this new found liquid I'm standing in prompted me to ask the question "What the hell is all this water on my feet?" And that's when I turn around to see a baby tsunami coming at me from the toilet. You see, when you have the washing machine on and draining, your wort chiller dumping off who knows how much water during the cooling process, and tree roots in your plumbing system you didn't know about blocking all of the water, you end up with a lake in your basement.

I didn't know what to do. My first reaction was "crap, I need to get this beer in the carboy or it's going to get  infected." But then I realized there was a basement full of other things I didn't want ruined by water so I waddled the still full pot of wort as far away from the new lake as possible and began the process of moving other essential items like clothes out of the way. Once everything that needed saving was saved Deana busted out the shop vac and started sucking up the water while I got back into beer mode. By now, I'm in a hurry and just want to be done with everything so I pour the wort into the carboy waaaaaaay too fast. My super spill into the carboy created a ton of bubbles that came rushing back out landing in the new water front property we just created. I looked at Deana and we started laughing acknowledging our amazing luck. Finally, I got the yeast added in and I crossed my fingers that everything would turn out okay.

After 3 hours, I returned to my basement to find the beer fermenting away at a rapid pace. I've never had anything start fermentation that quickly or vigorously. The carboy I was using  was brand new and so of course I didn't have a blowoff tube that fit properly. I braced myself for what was to come. When I woke up the next morning, I found my airlock laying on the ground and the carboy oozing like a 6th grade science project. Putting the airlock back would have been pointless, so I sanitized some foil and put it on top to try and prevent anything from landing in the carboy while it went berserk. As I type this, I still haven't been able to put the airlock back on.

The only good that has come out of all of this is that it helped me create (what I consider) to be a cool name for the beer. Pumpkin Havoc is a beer I'll never forget brewing. From step one all the way through the final step it has been a trying situation. Let's hope that despite all of the chaos I still end up with a tasty beer. I deserve it after all of that. I guess I'll be adding "ensure plumbing is in working order" to my brew day checklist from here on out.

1 comment:

  1. Oh yea. We've had a few that probably weren't that quick, but after about an hour of being in the closet you can see it just going on its own.