Glen got the ingredients for a Blueberry Chocolate Stout and so we brewed again on Sunday. As winter approaches we’re all starting to crave darker, heavier, beers just a little bit more; and this should fit the bill quite nicely! Now that we have the equipment this too was a ten gallon, unmilled all-grain, batch. This is quickly becoming our standard operation. The recipe also called for toasted oats, so that was a nice change of pace, and something I have never used in beer before. However, the big change this time around, and the theme of the day, was preparedness!
Something we’ve been trying to do as we really dive into this craft is that we constantly want to push ourselves and learn new things about the brewing process with each batch of beer that we make. We are always trying to improve. Typically this has meant trying something new each time we brew; from starting out with mashing and our first all-grain batch, using a plate wort chiller, 10 gallon batches, using electric pumps to move liquid around, to grinding our own grains. There are definitely learning curves here to all these things, and many times we just flew by the seat of our pants and figured it out as we went along. Sure, this Blueberry Chocolate Stout had some new and interesting ingredients like toasted oats, real chocolate, and blueberry extract flavorings, but nothing crazy. No, on Sunday, the biggest change to our brew-day operation was preparedness and note taking.
Ok, ok, I’ve mentioned it twice already, get on it with it! What is this preparedness mumbo jumbo you keep talking about? I’m so glad I asked! What I really mean by preparedness is setting yourself up to take really detailed notes about the whole brewing process. If you want to take good notes you’ll have to start by setting up and getting ready before hand. I liken it to keeping a good follow-through in a golf swing or a basketball shot; you can’t have a good follow-through unless you start before hitting/releasing the ball.
This is what we did; I have a chalkboard in my garage where we brew, and before we turned on any burners or ground any barley, I took the recipe and I transferred it to the chalkboard. I wrote out every step that we needed to do, along with important details like how much water to use, what the target strike temperature of the water should be, the flow rate to sparge at, how long a task should take, every last detail I could think of. And guess what? I still forgot some steps and we had to scramble and squeeze them in when we actually did remember during the day. I also got a notebook and wrote everything down there as well so that we could go back and refer to it later if/when the chalkboard is erased. When we completed each step, I wrote down the time of day next to it instead of just checking it off. Here are the notes I took on Sunday to give you an example:
6 Guys Brewing; Blueberry Chocolate Stout; 12/13/2009
- 2:00 – Mill Grains: 16.5 lbs.
- 2:55 – Toast Oats (15 min @ 325°)
- 2:50 – Preheat Mash Tun
- 2:59 – Heat Water for mash: 6.6g @ 165° Actual: 170°
- – Add 2 tbps. Ph Stabalizer
- 3:00 – Mash (add grains) for 60 minutes @ 150° Actual: 154°
- Started recirculation immediately with pumps
- Stir top 1/3rd half way through
- 3:55 – Sparge: 9.8g @ 177°
- 4:05 – Sparge rate of 6min/gal – total sparge time of 60min.
- 5:00 – Total Wort Volume: 12.5g
- 5:21 – Boil: Hot Break Occurred
- 5:21 – Add 2 oz. Target Hops (60min)
- - Add Clarifier (whirlfloc) (20min)
- 6:18 – Add 2 oz. PA Cocoa (5min)
- 6:30 – Cool wort and fill carboys
- 6:59 – Pitch Yeast – Carboy Coozie = White Labs; T-shirt = WYeast
- Gravity Readings: Pre-boil 1.050 ; Post-boil 1.038
Note: Italicized steps/notes indicate forgotten steps or actual results that differed from our intended target goals.
Having a detailed plan ready that was written out where we could glance at it during the brewing process I really think was a big help. This was a very relaxed brew day, we even had some time to watch a little football! I also believe that this should help us be more consistent in the future.
A couple ending thoughts/notes… It is a little interesting/strange that the gravity reading we took after the boil was less than before the boil. The target original gravity was 1.053, so we are little low, and I’m not quite sure how that happened. We split our 10 gallon batches into two 6.5 gallon carboys for fermentation. This time we decided to try a little experiment and use a different brand of yeast in each one. So the first carboy got a White Labs Burton Ale 023 yeast, and the second got some Wyeast Ringwood Ale 1187 yeast.
I have high hopes for this beer, and I think it will turn out to be another successful day of brewing. There is always room for improvement, but being prepared and note-taking are here to stay for us 6 Guys.