Quarterly brewing anyone?

Well, it was bound to happen sometime - I finally brewed again!  It just happened to coincide with a weekend that the girls were away on a Girl Scout function.  So, Tanner and I got to work right after our hearty breakfast of pancakes and sausages...and eggs...and fruit.  Yeah, growing boy.

First things first - Strike water!  Tanner beat me to the hose.
Flannel ✔ Brew t-shirt ✔ Rubber boots ✔

But, I was the one with the grains. Fall has arrived, so it's time for a porter. Once things were heated up, it was time to mash.  It was meant to be a full 5 gallon batch instead of my usual 4. Funny thing though. When I ran the Will It Fit In My Mash Tun calculator, it turned out that my cooler/tun was about 2/3 of a gallon small. So, thick mash time. We filled it just shy of the top, stirred it as best we could, and called it good.  It was definitely thick, but there was still a good amount of water in there.

I should have stuck a fork in there. ;-)

The mash time flew by, aided by yours truly trying to get some yard work done before sparge and boil time, and before the rain came in. Yes, we were expecting rain...and Mother Nature did not disappoint.  More on that later.

In previous brew days, I've always been able to do the sparge step in what seems like a reasonable amount of time. But, something caused this batch to settle in a bit more than usual. It never became completely stuck, but I was VERY happy to get to the point where I was on the last of my water and could justify stirring everything up to try and get it to open up a bit. It was still a bit slow, but things finished out in what seemed like a quicker flowing manner.

Slow and steady

As mentioned earlier, Mother Nature decided to let a little love fall from the sky in the form of rain showers this day. I was thinking they'd be light, passing, and nothing a Oregon guy (or his beer) couldn't handle. After a couple of very light sprinkles, it was clear things were going to get a bit heavy, so with Tanner's help, we retreated to the covered deck (shhhhh...don't tell the wife).  We still had to move things a second time when the wind really picked up from the west, but that was just a small adjustment.

The boil came quick and Tanner did his usual spot on job of helping with the hops.  This particular beer is featuring some Phoenix hops that I was given a while ago.  The hope is that the mysterious chocolate profile comes through...but even if it doesn't, the aroma was very balanced and will hopefully work well.

So much hot-break!

The boil went along very well. No boil-overs, volume looked about right as the time wound down, but funny thing - the OG ended up being significantly higher than anticipated.  I calculated it out based on previous efficiency at 1.062(ish).  It clocked in at 1.075, which took adjusting to almost a 75% efficiency to make the calculation work...which just doesn't happen with my set up.  I'm thinking the thicker mash had something to do with it, but it'll take more batches to confirm.

So, that all went well enough. I had just about 5 gallons of what could be a tasty, strong, porter ready to ferment. After some discussion with Imperial Yeast, I chose to use their A10 Darkness yeast. It sounded perfect for this batch as well as future batches of other beers I'd love to do.  What I didn't plan for was a truly aggressive initial fermentation. I figured a blow-off setup was necessary, but I ended up waking up to an over flowing (foam) gallon container. Swapped that one out for a mostly empty one with about an inch of sanitizer in the bottom, thinking things would slow down. I was all sorts of wrong.  That one filled up at LEAST half full before I decided to swap it again. Since it had sanitizer though, that container had to be dumped along with the initial one.  So, bye bye almost an entire gallon right off the bat....and who knows how much yeast along with it!

The set up.

Things have settled down a lot at about 48 hours in.  There is still plenty of stuff in suspension, but I'm going to give it until the end of the week before I check to see where it's at.  I'm really hoping it ferments out appropriately, but that initial volume and potential yeast loss has me concerned. We shall see though.

Up next? Belgian something again. The previous batch turned out great, I still have the yeast, and plenty of other hops to be used. ...but I will definitely be planning for the whole blow-off situation better...or getting a bigger vessel.