Amber Waves of Disaster

Every now and again if you brew with regularity something is bound to go wrong or several somethings in this beers case.  As I progress through this blog I think it would be a disservice to not share my beer failures and hopefully what can be learned from them. I give you my worst brew day ever.

A few months ago when the NHC Gold medal recipes were released in Zymurgy Magazine, an American amber recipe that was mainly hopped with Mosaic caught my eye.  I gave it a go and the beer was excellent.  I added some Nelson Sauvin to the late additions and dry hop.  The beer reminded me of Modern Times, Blazing World without the IPA level bitterness.  I did a small batch and the beer was gone quickly leaving me wanting to brew it again.

Fast forward a couple months and Im ready to brew the Amber again.  This time however I planned on moving the beer in the Red IPA direction for competition.  My brew day started the night before when I milled my grains, filled my HLT and measured hops and water additions.  My mash went as planned, I tossed my first wort hops into the kettle and began my fly sparge.  Then I went back inside to get some breakfast together for my boys while my wife slept in.

I generally know where my valves need to be to match my sparking rates but I do like to check in every few minutes at the start of the sparge. This is where my brew day starts to go dramatically wrong.  IMG_6792

I had forgotten to close my boil kettle valve… Thankfully, I had only lost .25 – .5 gallons of wort and it seemed as if there was no hop debris from my FWH in the mess on and under my table. I closed my valve did a quick clean and went back to my boys.

So a minor bummer but no major crisis.  Can you imagine what that would have looked like if the valve was ope 45 minutes instead of 5? I can…

Disaster number 2.  So my boil kettle thermometer sticks around 160° and prior to this day it either hadn’t or I didn’t know.  My morning coffee had done it’s job and I was now ready to well take a break.  With my kettle at 160° I had no concern of a boil over before my work was done.  Did I mention I left the lid on the kettle too?

I have no pictures of the carnage that I witnessed but but just picture 3 gallons of hopped wort dropped from about 6′ onto your floor.  I had to move a quarter of my garage and tear down my whole brew setup in order to clean… and I was left with about 3 gallons of wort with an undeterminable amount of hops left in it.

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After an hour and a half of cleaning I decided to just toss some random freezer hops in the remaining wort and see if I could salvage a beer.  When all was said and done after dry hopping I was left with a 1.6 gallon batch from my original intended 6 gallons.

Disaster 3 was more of a dissapointment than disaster I suppose.  After the beer went into the keg it got buried under a couple of others and everytime I thought about pulling it out, the reminder of that terrible brew day and my assumption it would be bad just kept the keg buried.  After 2 and a half months I had kicked the kegs on top of the amber and finally pulled a pint.

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It had the taste of a beer that had just passed it’s prime but was obviously quite good about a month earlier.  The cara malts had overtaken the beer from the hops as well as a bit of oxidation.  I was pretty bummed because the beer was likely pretty close to the original that I really enjoyed.

Moral of the story disasters will inevitably happen and sometimes disaster brew days can be salvaged.

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