May 042009

Well, thanks to our gracious hosts J-Dawg & Mike , my brewing drought is over and the first batch of 2009 is bubbling away! The group brew was a great time – eleven people turned out, four batches of beer were brought into the world, and numerous microbrews and homemade Buffalo wings were devoured by all.

A rainy day did not slow us down as J-Dawg & Mike’s spacious garage gave us the shelter we needed to get on with the festivities. I was brewing an Old Specklen Hen clone I picked up from Maltose Express. I got a bit of a late start because I was busy drinking beer and chatting, but once we got underway it was smooth sailing. It was a pleasure to take a break from the complexity of an all grain brew – I didn’t measure, didn’t take any gravity readings, just followed the directions in the kit (ha!) and concentrated on having a good time.

My Big Brew setup

My Big Brew setup

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May 032009

Big Brew 2009 poster

Big Brew 2009 poster

Yesterday was the AHA’s Big Brew 2009 – National Homebrewing Day. I’m actually a day late here, but that’s because I’ve been invited to a group brew at J-Dawg’s house (of Hoptastic Bastard Ale fame). I’ve never attended a group brew before, and I’m looking forward to it.

I wasn’t originally planning on brewing today at J-Dawg’s – I figured it would be too large a production to get all of my gear out there, and I would most likely make a few mistakes along the way due to being distracted by the food, beer, and company at the event. I was going to just show up and hang out, but I realized I’m really, really jonesing to brew, and sitting there watching everyone else brew would likely drive me mad. So, I decided on a compromise – reckless brewing.

I usually like to control every last variable in my brewing – as I’ve gotten better at the craft, isolating and experimenting with the little things has given me greater control over the final product. I usually obsessively plan each brewday, down to precisely how much water will be lost to evaporation or absorbed by my grain. Hitting my predicted numbers is a sort of game – I have never had a brewday where I hit everything spot on, but I’ve come close, and the better I get to know my system, the closer I get.

So, you can see how this would not lend itself to an enjoyable Big Brew experience. I’m going there to have fun – to celebrate the craft with other brewers, and to have a good time doing it. In a sense, the brewing is actually secondary – we’re not there to make perfect beer, we’re there to remind ourselves how much fun brewing really is. To this end, I’m using an Old Speckled Hen extract kit I bought from Maltose Express around Christmas and never had a chance to brew. Doing an extract brew (partial boil, even!) will bring me back to my brewing roots and cut down on the time, effort, and amount of equipment I need to bring. I’ll be able to have fun and remember our motto: “Relax, Don’t Worry, Have a Homebrew!”

Ingredients might be a bit old? Who cares. I probably won’t exactly hit my predicted gravity, or have my steeping water at exactly 155°F? No worries. I have a feeling the beer is going to take care of itself, and everything will be just fine.

I’ll be Tweeting (Twitting? Whatever the kids are calling it these days) on location at the group brew, and will post some pics and hopefully a funny story or two when I return.