Monday, December 18, 2006

Brew #28 Belgian Dubbel

The other day (December 16) I brewed a Belgian Dubbel all-grain kit from Northern Brewer. It was a real party, as Heidi, John, Sylvia, and Steve came over to hang out, watch, help brew, and help drink the Irish Red (#25) that was on tap. (The Winter Warmer (#26), incidentally, ran out yesterday.)


  • 10 lbs Dingemans Pale Ale
  • 0.5 lbs Dingemans Caramunich
  • 0.25 lbs Dingemans Special B
  • 1 lb Dark Belgian Candi Sugar
  • 1 oz Hersbrucker (60 min)
  • 1 oz Saaz (1 min)
Mash Schedule
  • 60 mins at 153 degrees.
  • Volume of Wort: 5.5 gal
  • Treatment: Oxygenated for one minute
  • Yeast: Wyeast #1214 Begian Ale Yeast
  • O.G.: 1.050

The actual mash schedule given in the recipe is more complex, but I wasn't sure how to go about that, so I used the simpler one above. I used 13 quarts of water to the 11 lbs of grain for the strike water. The temperature in the pot was 180F, which yielded a strike temperature of 154F. I was very happy to have gotten the temperature so close to where I wanted it.

I made 5.5 gal of sparge water, also heated it to 180F, and collected 6 gal of wort for the boil. There was maybe half a gallon of water left in the pot when I poured the wort into it; I think that helps explain the low specific gravity.

I did get a yeast scare. The kit was sent to me during a cold snap, and while we all thought the Wyeast package swelled a little bit, 24 hours later there was no fermentation visible. That was the case as of 2:00am this morning! I was all ready to make a trip to the local homebrew shop for an emergency replacement today, but this morning at 8:00 there was a beautiful creamy foam on the top. The wee yeasties had decided to make a useful contribution to the universe after all! So, we have a lag time of 36 hours...!

Possible reasons: it may be that the yeast was damaged in transit by the cold. (There is a "DO NOT FREEZE" warning on it.) It could be that the yeast had not warmed sufficiently and merely got shocked when I added it to the fermenter. I will try to remember to take it out earlier next time.

I'm expecting this will be a lower-alcohol brew. That's fine by me, as long as the flavor is nice. The Irish Red was also lower alcohol, and it was nice to have that around because we could all have more of it than would have been wise had it been a higher alcohol version.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mean People Suck

Monday was a very very full day. I gave two final exams, and received a nice surprise at the department holiday party: I'd been selected for the Teacher of the Year award for the department! It is nice to feel like people appreciate what you do.

My web server went down at about noon though, and I could tell by the way it went down that it involved files missing. When I got home, I discovered it wasn't just files missing. Someone had broken into my apartment and stolen my computer! And right during finals week, when my students need to be accessing the course materials I have posted online.... They also got my digital cameras.

It could have been worse. I wasn't home when they entered: surprised burglars are bad news. They don't appear to have taken any of my financial stuff; a ziplock bag full of credit cards was tossed to the side where they took the computer, and all the quarters were still in the drawer. And they did do me one favor, unintentional though it may be: they left my backup device. With that I was able to get things back running again relatively quickly. Without it, it would have taken several years to recover from the damage. I'm setting up an off-site backup solution now. As the proverbs goes, "trust God, but tie up your mule".

How they broke in was surprising. I've known for a while that the window is usually the point of entry. There is a window by the back steps. It had some hooks on it so that it would not open more than four inches. What they did was take the top window and pull it down very hard, busting the hooks off. They then climbed over the window and into the apartment. The police advised me to get some bars for the window, install them, and worry about how the landlord feels later. Probably not a bad idea....

We'll see how the State Farm people handle this. The cameras and the old cell phone were insured with a no-deductible replacement policy. Hopefully the policy is worth it....

Friday, December 1, 2006

Brew 27: Carmenere/Cabernet Sauvignon

This is another Wine Expert Limited Edition kit. The grapes were from Chile, Maipo Valley. Brew #24 is still in the V-Vessel, and will be bottled Real Soon Now, so I tried an experiment; I ordered some Better Bottles with ports, racking adapters, and high-flow valves. Those adapters are expensive! I think it's because they use a special plastic for it. All I know is, I'm really looking forward to not having to siphon, or worry about sanitizing when I want to draw a sample.

This wine comes with a lot of oak, and some bentonite. It was the bentonite that made me think of using the Better Bottles to begin with. Bentonite is a clay, and in the past it had clogged up my v-vessel. So I tried using a 6-gallon Better Bottle as a primary fermenter.

First observation: there is a reason they say in the instructions to use a container that can hold 8 gallons for your primary. There is not much room left over once all the stuff is added. I placed a carboy hood on it and left if for the next day.

This morning, I took a look at things and noticed that there didn't seem to be that much activity. I pulled the stopper from the carboy hood and it was like opening a coke---a huge amount of pressure had built up! I'm glad I checked it; had I left it for the day it likely would have popped the hood, or worse. Once nice benefit though; with all that pressure, I have good verification that the racking adapter and valve assembly is sound.

So, stats on the wine: I took a S.G. reading, it was as 1.120. In one week I will need to rack this to the V-Vessel.