September 22, 2004

Adventures in homebrewing

I had it all planned. The ingredients were here: Belgian Biscuit malt; Car-Munich Malt; Victory Malt; 80L crystal malt; hops. The Belgian yeast started was in full froth. And the grandparents had my son. Let there be homebrew!

First, the mash. Grains and water stabilized at 150 F for 30 minutes. I sparged the grains with 160 F water into the brewpot and added enough water to increase the volume to 5.5 gallons. I cranked up the propane burner and started the boil.

Once the wort was bubbling nicely, I tossed in the kettle hops. 45 minutes later, the flavor hops were added. Last came the aroma hops. I dropped the immersion chiller into the boiling wort during the last 10 minutes to sterilize the copper tubing. Finally, I turned off the gas, hooked up the hose and started the water flowing to rapidly cool the beer.

And here's where the process broke down. It turns out that, unbeknownst to me, one of the clamps connecting the input hose to the copper tubing had come partially loose. I didn't notice because (a) water was flowing OUT of the chiller nicely and (b) I had a top on the brew kettle to prevent any foreign objects from entering the beer. Little did I realize that water could be the foreign matter.

Imagine my surprise when I looked inside the pot. I had a much greater volume that I expected. All of my efforts to sanitize and sterilize the equipment had just been pissed away. 2 gallons of water fed through a garden hose had entered my fetal beer. Ugh. Decision time. Dump $30 worth of malt, hops and yeast, or just say f**k it and ferment the crap anyway. Guess which one I chose?

My plan was to clone a delicious beer that the New Belgian Brewing Company produces, maybe "Matt Tire". The new name of this brew should be Biohazard Ale. There is some minute possibility that the beer will be drinkable AND good. Part one isn't difficult; people drink Sterno, for God's sake. Part two is probably a goner. Contaminants from the hose, chlorine from the 2 gallons of unfiltered water dumped into the wort. Oh well. Dump it now, or maybe dump it later. I remain optimistic that the batch will be pretty good. However, I think it's going to have a short shelf life.

This was to be Alliance Beer #2A. Looks like I'll be re-brewing it soon.

Posted by Physics Geek at September 22, 2004 02:12 PM StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!

This physics geek had the exact same experience 3 weeks ago on a Irish Red Ale brew. It came out just fine, though, so there is still hope for your Matt Tire.


Steven H. at littletinylies is a homebrewing physics geek. So are you, and I caught the bug from another physics geek. Does beer cause physics or physics cause beer, I wonder?

Posted by: Rattweiler at September 22, 2004 03:26 PM

I'm of the opinion that the same twisted part of the brain that makes us WANT to be physicists also wants to solve the equation for the perfect beer. As we have not yet solved that equation, the research must continue.

As I mentioned, I'm still hopeful. I'll probably drink it regardless. Data points for the research, after all.

Posted by: physics geek at September 22, 2004 05:45 PM

If it's not half-bad, I'll take some. I've been known to drink Milwaukee's Best :-)

By the way, I forgot - I still have a couple of your bottles. If you need those back, send a mailing address to

Posted by: Harvey at September 22, 2004 06:11 PM

I've noticed that most of my fellow P-heads have a wide streak of hey-thats-cool-lets-fiddle-with-it-damn-its-broke running through them. They (we) remind me of nothing so much as the wizards in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.

I haven't noticed the same thing in the other, lesser sciences.

Posted by: Rattweiler at September 22, 2004 06:14 PM

I did notice a similar streak in my chemist friends. However, chemistry and physics are the same at a molecular level, so maybe we're not really different sciences. P-chem anyone?

I forgot about those bottles, Harvey. I might be asking for them back, if you don't mind dropping them in the mail.

Posted by: physics geek at September 22, 2004 06:26 PM

Don't mind at all. But you will need to e-mail me a snail-mail address.

Posted by: Harvey at September 23, 2004 05:08 PM