I think everybody should be part of a brew club if you have access to one. The amount of knowledge, support, and comradery toward the hobby is a real motivator. I am part of a brew club known as the Downriver Brewers Guild. We are an older brew club; 24 years old to be exact. There is a minimalist approach to this group. This has appeal to me. A majority of the beers shared are traditional and designed to style guidelines. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Mike, you’re far off from your traditional styles and guidelines. How do you fit in?”. True many of the IPA styles that love to drink and brew are seen as a trend or fad, there is much to be learned around the basics. A classic lager is one of the hardest beers to brew. In the same fashion, a nice lawnmower pilsner will never go out of style. The club brings this information to me in the same fashion as how I bring the radical stuff to them.
When we spoke of doing Big Brew Day, I was excited. I’ve been with this club for nearly 2 years and we’ve only had outings recently. This is a great step in getting out there and having some exposure. Our LHBS, Adventures in Homebrewing, put on the event. A few brewers and me took the reins on this one and ran with it. What we decided to do was, in my opinion, a fair compromise of old school meets new school; A double-mashed olde ale. Getting an early start, I loaded up my half of the needed equipment, and headed to pick up my brewing assistant for the day. His name is John and he is the Michigan Beer Guy. Check out his site and the BEER NUTS PODCAST to learn more about John. He’s an all-around good dude.
10 gallon batch
Vermont Maple Sap
Black Strap Molasses
Split Batch – US04 / WLP007 Dry English Ale
We arrived on site and unloaded the equipment. Michigan spring is in full effect. Today was a 50 degree sunny day with 20mph gusts of wind out of the north. We got set up, I walked over to the store and milled nearly 36 pounds of grain. We were brewing the largest volume of the biggest beer of all the brewers on site. That’s a pride point. This also would be the largest batch I’ve brewed to date. It’s always good to step outside of your comfort zone. It makes you grow and adapt. In the world of brewing, it’s clear as day that you need to adapt to what the people want or you will go the way of the dinosaur.
We began by heating our strike water to 180F to heat both of the 10 gallon mash tuns. We then mashed in with 6.5 gallons of 170 degree water to reach a mash temperature in each tun of 155F. We mashed for roughly 90 minutes while our large volume of sparge water heated. Both tuns were run off to the 15 gallon brew kettle. We sparged each tun over the course of the next 90 minutes and collected roughly 12 gallons of runnings.
Just in time to start the boil, Murphy arrived on-scene and the wind kicked up tremendously. We were not able to maintain a flame on our burner. This forced us to relocate to the backside of a building so we were shielded from the wind. Luckily, this worked and our 90 minute boil went on without any issues. Nugget hops were added at the 60 minute mark to pull in 40 IBU. 1lb of black strap molasses was added at the 5 minute mark. The birch sap and maple syrup was added at flame out. We began chilling immediately using my baby immersion chiller. This chiller is sufficient for small batches, but it took about 3 beers and 2 tamales time to chill to 110F. I’ll need to upgrade this if I want to go larger.
This beer weighed in at a 1.085 at temperature. Using the brewer’s friend conversion chart, this beer clocks in at an OG of 1.091. I racked half of the finished product into 2 carboys and drove home to clean up. Following cleaning, temperature was just right to pitch the yeast. I aerated each vessel with my drill attachment and added an addition of yeast nutrient. My Speidel fermenter received a double pitch of Safale US04 yeast, while the beer bucket received a triple pitch of WLP007 Dry English Ale. The beers are stored in my cellar at a temperature of 64F.
Hours later, signs of fermentation were present. In the middle of the night, I was awoken by my carbon monoxide alarm going off due to the off gassing of the beer. I had to attach a blow off tube to each vessel. I chuckled a bit and went back to bed.
My plan is to agitate the vessels and add a half tsp of yeast nutrient every other day until fermentation finishes. Once the beers reach terminal gravity, I will allow them to rest for one week until signs of any off flavors are gone. From there, they will be separately racked into a secondary fermenter to condition. I anticipate to bottle these beers, naturally carbonate them using munich DME, and allowing to condition in my cellar until the holidays come around.
Updates to follow at that time. This will be a great beer for years to come.
What did you do for big brew day? Let me know in the comments below.
Cheers! – Mike