I recently stumbled upon an older article from the NYT about Maine’s breweries, Down East, by the Pint of the Vat. While it’s a little dated, I still find it to be an enjoyable read:
We were just inside the front office of the D. L. Geary Brewing Company, where two black Labs lounged among the cubicles. The sound that followed, as we passed through a plain door into the back brewery after half a day on the road, was even sweeter, in its own way: Thaddeus Mullen, a stubbled 35-year-old brewer in a T-shirt, jeans and Boston Bruins hat, looked up and said, ”You guys want a beer?”
Enjoy the trip through Maine on a whirlwind brewery tour.
After my previous experience straining my mash using a kitchen strainer, I decided to build a lauter tun.
At first I had planned to buy a large cooler and either use a braided steel hose or make a CPVC manifold to strain the mash through, but I suddenly remembered reading about making a system using 5 Gallon buckets.
I flipped through my books, and found information about the Zapap lauter tun system described by Charlie Papazian in the Joy of Homebrewing.
It looked easy to make, and I didn’t even have to use large hoses or drill the drains on the sides as I was planning to use some extra buckets that I had leftover from my days of fermenting in my True Brew buckets. I decided that I would give this “free” solution a shot.
Drilling the bazillion holes in the bottom of the inner bucket turned out to be annoying, but it was over and done with in under an hour (which happened to be while I was mashing anyway).
I set up the buckets as shown in the photo, and away we went. I pulled through some liquid until it clarified (called the vorlauf process), slowed down the flow, and dumped the cloudy wort back into my mash bucket. Then I opened the flow on the top bucket, containing clean, hot water, and stood back to watch.
What I saw was a completely hands-off experience of sparging my mash, dumping out into my boil pot. I didn’t have a good method to see when I should stop sparging, so I waited until the wort got lighter in color, and called it good.
Dry hopping can be a very effective method for getting that wonderful hoppy aroma and flavor in your beer. I began this practice a little over a year ago, and combined with a good bittering hop in the boil, provides a good balance of bittering, taste and aroma.
This past batch, the same hop variety was going in for flavor and dry hopping, and I purchased a 2oz. package of plugs.
What a mistake.
I failed to realize that the plugs were larger than the opening of the glass carbouys I use for my secondary, which made it quite difficult to get the dried hops in. I ended up using a butter knife to break the plug in half laterally, and then shoved it through the opening as best I could, the thinner plug discs allowed for some flex to fit through the opening.
I have no idea how they will perform as far as the flavor and aroma go, but I do know I will make sure I have whole or pellet hops for my next dry-hopping.
I brewed my first all grain batch of beer yesterday, and I know that next time I will significantly change one part of my process.
This past batch, I used a strainer system to separate the grains from the sweet wort after mashing was complete. Not only was this a royal pain, but it smacked of inefficiency, and I was left feeling like I hadn’t gotten as much out of the grains as I could have, even after relentless sparging of each successive strainer full of wort. [Edit: I did hit my target gravity, but it just didn’t feel right]
I know from my reading that the grains form a natural filter if left to settle on their own, so why mess with that? Next time I will employ a lauter tun system, likely by sacrificing one of my plastic buckets to drill full of holes to create a false bottom for one of my spigot-fitted buckets. Finally, a real use for the 3 extra buckets sitting on my porch!