Test Batch #7 went into the conical without a hitch. I was able to avoid writing another chapter in my short autobiography, Brew Day Disasters, at least for a week. Searching for inspiration, I decided to brew an ale with wild rice, wildflower honey, and big doses of Citra and Sterling hops.
Brewing, just like anything, can be much more fun if you are inspired. A lot of time can be spent searching for that.
The bar recently tapped into a firkin from our friends at Empyrean Brewing Co, a Scottish ale with heather tips. This was our second firkin event, but our first with an English beer engine! The beer engine is a hand-pump tap that creates the smoothest beer I’ve ever encountered. Earlier this week, when pondering both the success of these firkin events, new breweries about to pop up in the city, and the weight of those giant Sanke kegs, I decided to buy some firkins. That means Test Batch #7 will start a new trend (perfect for a tiny brewpub): Firkin Fridays. Inspired by the magic of firkins, I was looking for a strange ingredient for the next batch.
I settled on wild rice, paired with wildflower honey. A hop-bursting knockout punch of Sterling and Cascades should provide some powerful aromas. Brewing with fermentable ingredients other than malted barley is called adjunct brewing. A certain big Missouri brewer uses a big portion of rice in their mash, much to the chagrin of fellow brewers. Brewing with adjuncts predates the big 3, however. It was a perfectly acceptable, and tasty, addition that would help clarify the beers of pre-Prohibition era brewing. Furthermore, Belgians and Germans have been brewing with wheat for centuries, offering the thirsty masses witbier and hefeweizen.
Unlike malted barley, these adjuncts lack the necessary enzymes to convert their starches into sugars. In most instances, these adjuncts cannot exceed half of the malt bill, otherwise starches would remain forever locked away in that sticky goo that used to be your mash. Malted barley is the engine that drives the beer making process. Or maybe that’s the brewer, and the barley is the gasoline. Either way, you need it.
You also need inspiration. Having someone beautiful to brew for does the trick for me. Here is my wonderful wife helping me in the brew room:
Test Batch #6 will be our final Sanke, artificially carbonated, cold beer for a while. I will be converting the brewery so that I can package firkins instead, served through an English hand-pump system. I am looking to naturally carbonate with fun fermentables, such as honey, molasses, caramel, fruit, and other sugars.
Perhaps I will return to Sanke kegs when the style demands it, such as lagers, Kolsch, hefeweizen and other styles best served cold (and super-carbonated).
Brewing went well, but even the best brew days necessitate a large amount of clean-up. I tend to leave out all the stories about mopping and sweeping, but it is my primary job. Keeping the floor constantly clean and sanitized is a necessary task, as a pre-emptive strike against bacteria and wild yeast. It’s not all bad, though, because hey, free beer!