Brew #15: Assistant Brewmaster takes over

(JD wants me to tell you that the numbering system is brews since we’ve been brewing in Taylor. We brewed what seems like a million times at Ian’s house in Austin, but this is our 15th brew in my back yard.)

JD’s mom, Ginny, is in town from Albuquerque this weekend to help us learn to use Quickbooks. We’ve had lots of fun and brewed twice. Yesterday though, at the very end of the day, JD was carrying a full carboy (the big glass jugs) of beer around the side of the porch on his way to the kitchen and it just shattered in his hand. The bottom pretty much detached from the top — no idea why. He sliced two cuts in his fingers. They bled like crazy for a little while, but he’s OK. It was scary though.

So after a trip to CVS, we now have a very well-appointed first aid kit, and I took the lead brewing today, which is something we’ve been talking about a lot lately anyway. Usually I help with a few things but don’t do every single thing like JD does. But today was my day!

So let’s teach you how to brew. (JD is out picking up Thai food so let the record show, this may not be completely accurate since it’s just from my memory).

Step 1: Measure your starting water (it’s OK to wear jammies for this step).
Step 2: While the water heats up, get out your scale and measure the grains (defer to Brewmaster for correct amounts). This time we made a pale ale and it had some special honey grain.
Step 3: Mill the grain. You’re just trying to break the hull open.We use a drill so we don’t have to hand crank it all so it takes a few minutes instead of 10+ minutes like before.
Step 4: Add the hot water to the mash tun and stir it up, making sure you get all the way to the false bottom, so it doesn’t get any dough balls in the bottom that didn’t get mixed in.

Step 5: Keep an eye on the temperature to make sure it’s between 145 and 155 while you mash
Step 6: Sparge. You add the second batch of hot water to the grain and basically wash the excess sugar off the grain and add to the volume of water
Step 7: Once you’ve run off all the water, you boil it and add flavorings like hops and honey  (this is my favorite part because it goes from smelling like cream of wheat to smelling hoppy or whatever flavor it is)

The pecan trees are leafing out!

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Lucky to have Miguel and JD’s help cleaning up along the way. Today we brewed our batch in a record-breaking 4 and a half hours thanks to everyone doing their part.

Step 8: Once the boil is complete, you quickly cool it down. We use big copper coils that run water through them, first it goes through a bucket of ice water, then goes into the beer. Hot water runs out of one side, while we pump cold water in the other side with a fish tank pump.

We’ve been making bread with some of the dehydrated and then food-processed spent grain. It works much better than using the wet grain. It doesn’t mess with the consistency of anything, just provides a healthy dose of fiber and nutrients.

And voila! Almost-beer! It sits in the fermenters for 3 weeks or so before we bottle it, and then it’ll sit in the bottles for another few weeks if you are naturally carbonating, or a few days if you are kegging with CO2, before you can drink it.

Of course I didn’t actually get an ‘after’ photo – whoops. Will show you next time.

Aside from brewing, Friday we went to Curb Side Coffee House, the newest (and only or one of the only) coffee shop in Taylor. They had a pre-opening party on Friday evening and then Saturday morning they were doing a soft-open. JD and I went to get a coffee and eat our 80 cent breakfast tacos from a little tiny shop with no name and a very long line. We sat on the curb out front and we knew every single person who walked by in the 15 minutes we were there. It was very small-town nice and made us feel good to have chosen to build a little life in Taylor.

We also bought antique tin (or aluminum?) measuring cups at a little antique shop. I’ve been using cute ceramic painted ones from Anthropolgie but they have a little dotted line painted on the inside about 1/4 inch from the top, and I was wondering if that line was where you were supposed to fill to, or if it was the top. Well at the line, it was about 1/4 cup short, and at the top, it was about 1/4 c. over! Silly things. So now we have $2 antique, and accurate, measuring cups.

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