Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Brew day: Quarter Life Crisis

Connor has been bugging me for quite awhile to make cookies with him. Saturday, while I was giving blood, he finally gave up on me and convinced his mother to make cookies with him. The picture to the left is what I came home to, a little baker with oven mitts and an apron on. He is a pretty cute chef. Just for the record, I was planning on making cookies with him this weekend. We just have not had time the other times he has asked.

But, that is not what this blog post is about. Today, we are talking about Sunday's brew day. On Sunday, I brewed up my Quarter Life Crisis Hoppy Red Ale.

It is really hard to declare any home-brew a favorite over another. As I've heard quite a few brewers say when asked to name their favorite beer, "my favorite beer is the one in my hand". But, if you made me tell you my favorite beer, usually my answer will be Quarter Life Crisis. It is big and hoppy with a malt complexity that IPAs just don't have. I love the Imperial (or West-Coast) Red style, and I think my Quarter Life Crisis is as good as any commercial example of the style. I like it very much.

But, at the moment, I only have one Quarter Life Crisis in my inventory, and I've been telling myself for quite awhile that I need to do another batch. On Thursday, I finally stopped by the Brew Hut and purchased ingredients to brew another batch so that I could brew it Sunday.

And, that is just what I did.

This batch was my first all-grain version of QLC. It was also my first 5-gallon batch of the recipe. One of the reasons I switched to BIAB was because my 5 gallon mash tun would not be big enough to do full-sized all-grain batches for my higher alcohol beers. My 8-gallon brew pot is obviously bigger than my 5-gallon tun.

The brew day went pretty well. I hit all my gravity numbers at acceptable volumes, but I think ideally I would have an even bigger vessel for mashing the grains for this recipe.

My 8-gallon brew pot was great for mashing Gringo Cerveza JalapeƱo Cream Ale (1.046OG, 4.69% ABV) and Summer Lovin' American Wheat (1.052 OG, 5.99% ABV), but QLC has an OG of 1.072, and you might be able to tell from the picture to the left, that much wet grain is pretty bulky. You probably can't tell from the picture, but might be able to imagine, that much wet grain is also very heavy. I was able to fit the grain plus about 6 gallons of water in the mash. That left almost 3 gallons of water for a sparge, which I did in my 5 gallon mash tun. The fat, heavy, wet bag of grain was difficult to get into the gott-cooler, and I spilled some of my precious sugar-filled wort moving the bag to the sparge vessel.

Like I mentioned above, I hit gravity numbers, so it did not cause any kind of real problem with the resulting wort. It was just more difficult than it seems it should have been.

The boil went well. Absolutely no issues over the 90 minute boil. One thing I did a little differently this time was I used another bag to hold the flavoring hops in the boil. The bag was smaller than the BIAB bag, but bigger than the hop sacks I've used sometimes in the past. The idea here was to easily filter the hop material (there are a lot more hops in this recipe than any of my other recipes), but still allow the hops to "swim free" for the most part, allowing decent hop utilization. The filtering part seems to have worked really well, and I think I got  more wort because of considerably less gunk on the bottom of the pot. Not sure how my utilization actually compared, but the wort sample did taste hoppy, so I guess it was decent.

It was a hot, sunny day in the upper 80's or maybe even in the 90s, and my chiller did not get the wort as cool as I would like. As I mentioned in Beer Model Brew Day, I might want to invest in a pre-chiller to help chill on these hot summer days. I would put my pre-chiller in an ice bath so that my chilling water would be much colder. I think that would help quite a bit, but I don't know how much colder I'd be able to chill with this pre-chill method.

This time, though, what I ended up doing was putting carboy into my chest freezer for about half an hour (might have been more). This got me from about 72 down to around 62, which is a perfect pitching temperature for an ale. Note, I do know that lots of brewers will say that 72 is a perfectly acceptable pitching temperature. I just have had better results when I pitch either right at or a little bit lower than fermentation temperature, and I've had much better results starting fermentation in the low 60's than I have had fermenting at or above 70. So, I guess until I make or find an inexpensive pre-chiller, I have an acceptable plan - B.

Now, back to brewing the bigger-gravity SheppyBrew all-grain recipes, I am back to thinking that I need a 10-gallon gott-cooler to use as a mash tun. But, I am sort of thinking it would be just fine to use my BIAB method inside the cooler so that I don't have to do any modification on the cooler. Not only would this mean less up-front work, but also, one of the things that appeal to BIAB for me is that there is no danger of a stuck-sparge. All-grain wheat and rye beers and beers to which I add flaked oats will not have that risk. I suppose I'm just a bit gun-shy after the last time I tried to brew Phat and Tyred Ale (see Worst brew day ever?).

While I was cleaning up from my brew day, the beer model and the brewing assistants planted perennials on Sunday. Unfortunately, very few of the perennials that we plant in the front ever come up perennially. I guess the beer model still thinks that perhaps this is the year that the plants will survive to come up in the future. I think she is planning on making watering the plants one of the jobs on the kids' checklists so that at least they should get enough water through the summer. I guess we'll see. If they don't survive, I guess there is always next year. She is a Cubs fan after-all.

Here is the Quarter Life Crisis carboy fermenting away:


  1. So, what kind of cookies did they make? And I like the brew model's perennial choices :)

  2. They made chocolate chip cookies. I believe it was just the recipe on the bag of chocolate chips. Delicious.

    I like the perennials she picked too. I'll like them even better if they come up next year and the year after.

  3. Some are annuals, though. My guess is they won't come back next year. But won't I be surprised if they do!