Category Archives: Nervous

Long time…

…both since I wrote on the brew blog (or any other blog for that matter), and since we put some beer down. It took several months after my daughter Coraline was born for us to get back into the brewing routine, and when we did the beer languished in secondary for a really long time.

Back in August we started a Russian Imperial Stout. Looking to imitate my favorite beer on Earth–Rogue’s Russian Imperial Stout–it was a spendy batch, with nearly double the ingredients for those voracious yeast to chew on.
With that well under way, we also put an IPA in the works. We’d done one late last year, and it has been among our most popular brews when sharing with friends and family. The intensely hoppy beers of the Northwest have been growing on me, I have to admit. I’m still most fond of the dark beers, but some nice, spicy, hoppy beer doesn’t go down wrong either.
So that got us up until the end of September, with both batches in the secondary when life suddenly exploded. Weeks flew by, we were out of town, swamped around the house, didn’t manage to catch Andrew for ages, and before I knew it I couldn’t exactly remember when we’d made that beer in the secondary. Every once in a while it’d bloop┬áin the corner. There wasn’t anything green or pink or orange growing, but I felt guilty for not treating my beer right. It deserved to be bottled and enjoyed.
This past weekend we finally got together and bottled (along with brewing a rather pale looking batch of Amber–we’ll see how that goes). There was a great deal of tension as we got the first bit of the beer into a glass to sample, then move it on into the bottling bucket. Would it be ruined by the long sit on a small layer of yeast? Would the light and time in the carboy have flushed ten gallons down the drain?
Hallelujah! The Russian was excellent, even flat (we prime in the bottles). The IPA also showed no ill effect from the time in the carboy, although it was a little sweeter than I remember the recipe being before. Hopefully it’ll smooth out in the bottles.
So there’s an answer for those who might be wondering how long you can have a beer sit in secondary. Three or four months doesn’t seem to be an issue, though I’m not likely to try that experiment again.

“The yeast died!” — A first batch brewing story

Brewing can be a nerve-wracking endeavour when you’re starting out. Here’s a story from our first batch, since dubbed “Passable Porter.”

We did the brew on Saturday. Happy little newbies that we were, we thought we’d done a pretty well. No major screw-ups, nothing spilled or contaminated.

We shuttled the bucket off to the utility room, uncertain of whether it would make a serious mess or smell bad (it was our first batch–brews have since moved inside). Since the inception of the brewing plans, that room had been the intended home for our beer. But one thing we hadn’t thought through was the temperature. It was actually quite a bit colder there in October than might have been good. Regardless, we set the bucket there, and by Sunday the yeast had taken off. Oh the joy of hearing that burbling!

Monday rolled around, and I headed in to work. It was a normal day until the phone rang. My wife had called to tell me that the beer had gone silent. Not slowing like we’d expected, but a dead stop already.

Panic! I remembered reading about beer perking away for days, sometimes even weeks. What could have happened? I immediately suspected the utility room was at fault. It had gotten awfully cold overnight. That must have killed the yeast. I forgot entirely that some yeasts can even be frozen without harm. I was certain the cold had brought our fermentation to a premature end.

What a terrible afternoon. The joy of completing our first successful brew turned sour in my mouth. I fretted about it until I got off work, and finally broke down and called the folks at Main Street.

Turns out that it isn’t unusual for a batch to only go for a day, especially with the type of dry yeast we were using. We moved the porter to the secondary, bottled and eventually sampled. It wasn’t perfect–merely passable–but despite my nervousness, the yeast had not died.