A Bad Brewer Asks: “What The Heck Is That I Made??”


I am a bad brewer. I think it’s important to brew to make sure you have a hand on the paddle, a sense of what yeast might actually expect from you. That being said, though people have admired my beer greatly, I know the truth. I’m a bad brewer. It has a lot to do with the effort I put in compared to the output I get. I brewed from five to eleven last night to make a pre-boil 16 litres. Subtract from that some for evaporation, for trub, for that last bit the hose won’t reach, for the unintentional spilling while filling and all the other sources of wort loss. I’ll be lucky to end up with 12 litres. And look at that photo – what sort of technique is that suppose?

Not that this was unintentional. No, back in 2002 or so, I used to brew in a sort of parti-gyle way making multiple runnings that are later added back together again with a further gravity adjustment, making a strong syrup and cutting it with sterile water before the fermentation stage. That got me up to 40 litres per brewing session. That mean around 50 bottles and a keg. It also meant way to much drinking beer at hand even with those new friends that suddenly identify themselves to the home brewer. I’ll be doing sit-ups until about 2011 to make up for that little error in judgment. alive1Funny how I realized almost immediately that the skills I had gained to make my first four pound batch of the best cream cheese you’ll ever eat were going to be my downfall. I ended my cheese making career there and then. But I have brewed badly for yeast, off and on.

But what sort of 16…err, 12 litres of beer do I have. I started with an all grain ESB kit, brewed it a bit thick so that it came away with an OG of 1.055 rather than my usual 1.040 or so. And I threw in 350% of the suggested hops plus two star anise pods as well as 1/8th of a cup of molasses and then pitched Wyeast 1968 London ESB yeast. I think this might turn out to be Crazy Old Man Ale. Maybe it’ll turn out great, if the fermentation ever actually begins. Hopefully by Thursday morning, I’ll be watching a fierce roaring mass of yeast farts through the carboy’s glass wall giving off the first scents and sense of what the heck is growing in there.

Update: 6:00 pm, Wednesday. It is churning now! Given the rate of activity, the dry yeast was likely unnecessary but never a bad call to be safe and kick start the batch.

One thought on “A Bad Brewer Asks: “What The Heck Is That I Made??””

  1. [Original comments…]

    Keith Brainard – February 19, 2008 9:46 PM
    That’s a lot of random-looking piles of grains there, but 1.055 is cool, add the molasses, and you’re up nearing big beer territory!

    Triple to quadruple hops is outstanding!

    I like the Crazy Old Man Ale idea. You might want to call it Bitter Old Man Ale, since it will likely be a killer bitter monster if you really put that much hops in there. And when I say “killer bitter monster” I mean that in the BEST possible way.

    Star Anise? Hmm… I don’t know how that tastes. But hey, why not! This is experimental brewing at its best!

    My brain hurts when I try to figure out how much beer you have, since you put it in some strange unfamiliar units. Oh, I see, that’s like three gallons. OK.

    By the way, you can NEVER have too much beer on hand. NEVER! If you ever find yourself in that dreadful predicament, feel free to send me all your excess beer.

    Finally, there’s no such thing as a bad brewer. OK, maybe that’s a lie. But you should still brew beer as much as possible!

    Alan – February 19, 2008 9:50 PM
    My brewing inefficiency is part of my overall weight loss plan. Star anise is a licorice flavoured spice. I had it in the boil just for 25 minutes or until I could just smell it. I also realize that I threw in two extra ounces of Target, a high acid hop. This may well be a bomb. The Recipator tells me I may be looking at an IBU of 72.

    Ethan – February 19, 2008 11:22 PM
    Did you throw in those Targets all at once? At the beginning, middle or end of the boil? That’ll make all the difference, of course. If you used the Recipator, then you probably have a good estimate. 72 IBUs is pretty stiff, no question- unless that yeast gives up early and leaves you with a fair amount of sugar, anyway. One thing you might do is add some malt extract during fermentation- yes, that’ll beef up the abv, but it’ll also beef up the residual, unfermentable sugars to match the IBUs.

    Anyway, for kicks, I’d say you’re working on an Imperial ESB by the naming convention of the day. Or maybe an EESB.

    Alan – February 20, 2008 8:00 AM
    I link it’s a DESB as that is a bit dumber. Nothing like the double extra special things in life. And I had to hit the panic button as how, 30 hours after finishing off the wort, there was still no action so I poured in the Windsor dry yeast to get this damn thing going. After all, no one wants my DESL.

    Travis – February 20, 2008 10:50 AM
    I had an ESB I called Mother’s ESB as it was about 48IBUs. I named it Mother’s ESB after the song Mother by Danzig because it was not very ESB at all. It wound up tasting more like a darker IPA. I would liken the color to the Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye and the flavor to an IPA (take your pick).

    The point is, it was nowhere near an ESB, but that was what I set out for originally so I called it that. While most of the folks in my brew club pointed out it wasn’t an ESB, they all seemed to like it.

    Also, we did a porter with anise. Nick liked it, but it’s been taking a long time for the flavor to grow on me. I used anise seed one time in a stout and liked it a lot so I am not sure what it is about the star anise I am not digging.

    Alan – February 20, 2008 10:57 AM
    Back around 2001 I had a beer called Hop and Glory by Ash Vine mentioned here that was an English IPA with a nod to licorice in it. That was what I was thinking about. I have no idea what I was thinking about when I threw in that little bit of mollasses.

    Adam @ Beer Bits 2 – February 20, 2008 3:06 PM
    Yah…we should start a club or something, Bad Brewers of America. Can’t remember the last time I didn’t make a mistake during brewing. Not that it bothers me, cause it turns out just fine most of the time. Course maybe your better than me. You’re using the all grain method šŸ™‚ Somehow I think all grain brewers seem like “real” brewers to me. I’m just a poser šŸ˜‰

    Regarding the expectations of yeast, hey they’re hungry. Honestly they don’t really seem to care much. I think its because after a few generations the offspring can’t remember how bad of a job I did supplying them with the right nutrients. I think I’m taking advantage of the little buggers. Don’t tell them though, they might go off and get another job making alternative fuels or something.

    eac – February 20, 2008 6:47 PM
    Slow start- did you aerate it? Yeastie beasties need O2 to start gearing up for fermentation. Or as Josh said: underpitching definitely sets up a long lag phase. Those patchable tubes and smack pack, despite what they say, aren’t really the right pitching rate for 5 gallons/12 litres

    In any case, 30h isn’t great, but I wouldn’t worry… yet. I’ve had fermentations that took 48h to start! Anyway, now that you’ve thrown the dry yeast in, I’d definitely give it a bit of time before trying anything else.

    As to the larger issue- brewing “to style” is great and fun and all that, but as everyone else points out: so long as you’re willing to drink it, you’re ahead!

    Alan – February 20, 2008 8:02 PM
    Plenty of aeration and the batch is off and churning as noted in the update. From all I read Wyeast 1968 is a tardy yeast anyway so the combo may work out to be interesting – a bit more attenuation with still some fruity malt left over.

    Alan – February 20, 2008 8:22 PM
    My seven year old son is inordinately pleased to know the carboy is full of wort and trub.

    Paul of Kingston – February 20, 2008 10:02 PM
    It’s the description of the yeastie beasties farting out CO2 and pissing out alcohol that sends my kids into fits of gross-out laughter. Watching the fart-o-meter (airlock) boil really gets them howling.

    Travis – February 21, 2008 2:17 PM
    “Course maybe your better than me. You’re using the all grain method :-)”

    All grain brewing just gives you more to screw up šŸ™‚ People think that all grain brewers are “purists” and are really into it. But I know the truth, we’re just cheep. A bunch of penny pinching old (some of us young) misers looking to cut that “per-beer” price down under $.10


    Alan – February 21, 2008 2:57 PM
    Hey Travis – where are you guys getting your raw materials. Paul and I just put in an order with out supplier which is a mail order outfit from Saskatchewan. It might be simpler to go in with Syracusans.

    Alan – April 13, 2008 11:23 AM
    Update #2: I sort of forgot this carboy until last night when I dropped it into growlers with a very light hand on the priming. Aiming for sub-1.5 prickly carbonation only, the star anise appears to have worked really well with the twiggy bittering hops. I didn’t bother checking the final gravity but it was pretty dry. Primed with buckwheat honey to add even more earthy goodness.

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