Friday, April 15, 2011

A Double IPA Photo Shoot: Racking Day

This post is the result of our photo shoot for Phase #2 in the brewing process: Racking Day.

Yes, I know. This is the longest, most drawn-out four-part series ever. But I'm getting there. Slowly. Like a herd of turtles.

This is the day in which we move the beer that has been fermenting for a week in its primary fermentation vessel (read: big plastic bucket) to the home it will inhabit for the new two weeks (read: big glass jar).

One of the things we needed to do with this beer (besides moving it off the gunk you'll see later) is to add another round of hops. A process known as dry-hopping. And, as you might guess, the result of this exercise is extra-hoppy beer. Because, you know, there's....more hops. (Ah, there's that liberal arts education shining through right there.)

Starring: A bag of hops, waiting for its debut
Hops. In a bag.

Now it's time to get everything else set.

One nice thing about Phase #2: it's pretty easy. We need to wash and sanitize the new fermenter, of course. But the star of the day is the long tube we use to get the beer from the big bucket into the big glass jar. We also have a siphon that makes the whole suction thing much easier (sadly, I didn't take a picture of it).

Equipment for this stage. Basically, a hose. And another air lock for good measure.
Once all this stuff is clean, we get to the fun part: stuffing a bigger-than-you'd-think bag of hops into a hole with a diameter of a couple of inches.

Yeah, it was more work than we'd thought it'd be. The following photo is the result of a lot of upper body strength, more than several four-letter-words (some newly-invented), much giggling, and a serious conversation about how we're going to get the bag OUT of the fermenter once all this is over.

Add to that a whole ton of commentary about what bodily function could have produced something that looks similar to this (yes, we're fairly juvenile):

Stuffing the hops bag into the secondary fermenter
Once the hops bag has been fully inserted, it's time to add the beer from the primary fermenter, using the tube, the siphon, and a bit of patience (it takes a while for 5 gallons of beer to flow through that little, tiny tube!)

Beer and hops in the secondary fermenter
By the way, in the middle of all this, we did draw off a sample for testing purposes (both gravity measurement and a bit of a taste). Although, I must admit that you have to be pretty serious about your beer brewing craft to look at this and want to drink it:

What beer looks like at this point. That would be mud.
It actually isn't as bad as it looks. There's still a lot of stuff suspended in that beer that will settle out as it ages. That's part of the reason you do a secondary fermentation. If your finished beer looks like this, then that's a look I hope you're trying for. Otherwise....yuck.

But, frankly, it could be worse. Here's what the inside of the primary fermenter looks like after the beer has been siphoned off (and yes, feel free to feel sorry for whichever one of us gets stuck cleaning THIS up):

The aforementioned "gunk"
(Here's a hint: Michael usually handles clean-up. Bonus for Shannon!)
So here's something important to know: beer and light are a bad combo. I don't know if any of you have ever experienced this, but beer that has been exposed to light takes on a definite rotten-egg smell and taste. That has to do with the hops, actually. Once exposed to light, hops start doing funny things that make your beer taste really bad. The official term for this is "light-struck," but most people refer to it as "skunked." If you want to try this for yourself, pour yourself a beer, set it outside in the sun for about 20 minutes, and then try it. Be prepared for some serious stink, y'all. It's NAS-TY.

(Another option is to buy beer that comes in clear bottles and has been stored in a lighted cooler at the liquor store. Pretty much the same effect. This is the main reason most craft brewers and homebrewers put their beer in dark bottles. The more you know.)

Well, anyway, one thing you may have noticed about the glass fermenter in the earlier pictures is that it's clear.

And that's bad.

So, your options are to 1) store your secondary fermenter in a dark place, or 2) cover it with something. You can buy a cover, or you can make your own, assuming you have ANY talent in that area, which I Do. Not. (Not can ask my mom.) But someday, I'd really like to have a decent cover. One can dream. Or, one can enlist the assistance of a mother or husband (yes, really) who sews.

In the meantime, I have no choice but to be all about the lawn-and-leaf-sized garbage bag with a hole cut in the top for the airlock to fit through. I made that hole myself, thankyoumuch. (And I said I had no talent...)

My fermenter cover. Classy, no? I'm all set to brew or to rake leaves.
And so it sits. Just like that. For two weeks.

My final photo shoot installment will be the bottling process. And that's just a crazy day. Mostly because a) we choose to bottle our beer instead of kegging it, and 2) our dumb kitchen can't accommodate anything we're trying to do here.

But we persevere.

1 comment:

  1. oh wow, i hope you were able to get that hops bag out of there without breaking a carboy or something!
    we put the hops in loose - it's still a gigantic mess, but at least it doesn't involve a process scarily akin to shitting... ^_^