Hob Knob Brewing Company

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Scotsman Wee Heavy Brew Session was a brewing nightmare

So last night was pretty much a brewing disaster by all accounts, save one - at the end of the night (well morning to be exact), we had a wee heavy that was fermenting and should be ready to go by August. Really looking forward to trying it, because it'll be our first beer with an ABV closer to wine (around 10.2-10.5%) than beer! It's a tough balancing act to keep the malty characteristics of the beer in line without it creating a burning sensation from the high ABV.

The biggest area I've been struggling with in all grain is my final volumes. I use a computer program called beersmith to help me estimate final volumes (like boil volumes) etc.

Things started off bad. I go to crack my grain with my corona mill, and get the bright idea to put a bolt in the crank (instead of the crank), and use that to turn the mill. It worked perfectly until I cracked the steel housing on the mill! Some JB Weld and about 2 hours of waiting and permanently installing the hand crank solved that problem, much to the chagrin of my shoulder.

Once we have the grains cracked, it's time to mash. Beersmith says to add the water at 164 targeting a mash temp of 150. Well, it drops to 161 instead of 150, so I'm losing precious enzymes. Not that big of a deal, but not that happy that beersmith was off by 11 degrees. A few ice cubes brought the temperature down to 151, and I let it sit for an hour.

Attempting to keep my HLT water temps up for a fly sparge after my first batch sparge. I failed to realize that thanks to the 2 hour delay, I'd lost a ton of water to evaporation.

About this time, my march 809 pump blew it's housing. I don't know what the problem was, but it sounded like a screw had dropped. Of course when I reached down to fix it, the pump fell all of 4 inches and the weight of all the brass attachments cracked the damn plastic housing!

So while I was waiting for my 2nd sparge water to heat up, I replaced the housing on the pump - another hour gone. I let the second sparge sit for about 45 minutes in the mash tun, and drew it off to the kettle via gravity since the pump was out of commission. Of course, I didn't keep track of how much water I put into the second sparge because I was pissed about not having enough water and having to wait for that and about the problems with the pump (which has been nothing but problems and a huge hassle - now I know why there are so many gravity fed systems - gravity never fails...pumps always fail). When I pull the 2nd sparge into the kettle, I overshot my pre boil volume of 7.7gallons, and end up with close to 9! Crap! My boil time then get's extended from 90 minutes to 120 minutes in order to burn off the excess water, and get my abysmal starting gravity (1.055!) higher in sugar concentration.

After boiling all the way down to 60 minutes, things went rather smoothly from there. The pump was fixed. The cooling went like a charm. The only problem was I ended up with 5.5g instead of the 6g I was hoping for. Final starting gravity after the boil was 1.097. Right in line with where I wanted to be!

So at 6am, I decided to clean up. Since I've gone to all grain, I've picked up some mice in the garage who enjoy taunting me throughout the brewing process. Apparently, they're also the smartest mice in the world, because they avoid the traps and poison. I keep my grain stored properly, but that doesn't mean they don't get the benefit of the few kernals that fall to the garage floor every so often. I've declared war on the rat bastards, and they'll soon meet their maker.

After all is said and done, the brewery's clean, and I've got a fine wee heavy fermenting. I'm really looking forward to giving this brew a try in the near future! The one good things about night's like last night is that after everything, you're still left with a ton of great beer!




  1. Sounds like one hell of a brewday. I hope it pays off with a batch of great beer.

  2. Yo! I use Beersmith and was confused to hear you only lost 3 degrees when you added your grains? What kind of MLT are you using? What size was the grain bill?

  3. I'm using a converted igloo 10g cooler with a stainless steel perforated false bottom (you know, the one you see at construction sites). It works AWESOME at holding in the heat. Thinking about upgrading to a RIMS system eventually that would be expandable for bigger batches, and greatly help with some step mashes.

    The grain bill on the wee heavy was about 22-23 lbs of grain (20 marris otter, and then about 2lbs of specialities) Final gravity of the brew turned out to be 1.099 which I was happy with. Can't wait to try it in a few weeks!