Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Full Mashy

It's (almost) officially summer. With the winds dying down and the cicadas in full buzz, lawnmowers are kicking into gear every afternoon, sending clouds of gnats into sillouette against the ever-blue sky. Diving swallows and bickering sparrows, the occasional hoot of the northwest tree octopus, the creek's all dried up and the deer are napping in its rocky bed...

Behold! The tower of ten-gallon terror!

While for most people the commencement of "beer weather" means throwing a six-pack on ice and whiling away the eve in the backyard hammock, but for us it means something wholly other. As inspired by the local brewing guru (Griz, that is), these near-dog days are the perfect opportunity for some outdoor, return-to-nature-even-if-it-falls-in-the-lauter-tun all-grain homebrewing.

Yup. She is a-spargin'.

We're still devoted partial mash brewers, don't get me wrong. A grey winter's evening wouldn't be the same without keeping the place warm and fogging up the windows by putting a brewpot through a two-hour boil while baking a pizza in the oven, the smells of the sweet malt and yeasty dough mingling in microbiotic bliss. But when we can't bear the thought of adding even more heat into the furnace of a summer's day, we know it's time for some all-grain action.

Every outdoor brewery
needs a badass guard dog.

Doing it outside provides a number of benefits over indoor brewing (not the least of which is the excuse to do something outside): 1) space isn't as much of an issue - when you're doing a gravity-based vertical lautering system, the sky's the limit, 2) it gives you an excuse to pull out the 100,000 btu propane burner, 3) you don't end up using a ton of chiller water since you can use it to feed the plants, and 4) it's not as big of a deal if you happen to mistakenly knock over a kettle filled with 12 gallons of sticky-sweet wort.
To the extract or partial mash brewer, with your one or two pots and a bag for your supplemental grains, this configuration must seem somewhat Rube Goldberg-ian in its process of converting malted grains to a viable wort, but trust me - this is a simple set-up compared to some you can find out there. Simply put, there's an insulated hot liquor tank at the top level which holds the sparge water, a bit of hose leading to the rotating sparge arm, a mash/lauter tun made from a Gott water cooler, and a false-bottom outlet to the kettle. Hot water in top, grains in the middle, wort on the bottom - yes, it is that simple! For the little extra money you spend in gear, you quite quickly make it back up with your savings on grain versus malt extract.

Just chillin', yo.

And, everyone who's done it will be quick to tell you that the trade-off between time and energy spent and the quality control you have over your final product is well worth it. If you're looking for an excuse to spend a few hours kicking around in the backyard next weekend, consider grabbing a couple grillables, stacking your lawn furniture (preferably away from trees with vivdly scented leaves - I still haven't found much use for a bay-flavored beer), and firing up the burner for a little brewing au naturale. It's especially effective if imitating your favorite Belgian farmhouse brewer...



Blogger Ben, aka BadBen said...

Great photos, man. I've got a "brew dog" also.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well written post. My system is almost identical. After brewing a couple of thirst quenching milds, I did an eleven gallon batch of Saison. Next up is an Abbey Single.

10:20 AM  
Blogger Adam said...

Thanks for the insight :-) I've been thinking about going all grain...maybe you will inspire me in this area too!

Thanks for the write up.

7:44 AM  

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