Today I record my brewing experience with the 47th batch of beer. It is the 40th recipe and only my 2nd extract based recipe. It is a sorghum based, gluten free beer. I had hoped to make this to share with my friends and family who deal with Celiac disease so that they may have craft beer without worrying about symptoms. The brew day went as a typical brew day goes, but shorter due to the elimination of the mashing step. My friend Kody helped and got to learn more about the brewing process today. So with two guys brewing there should be no reason I can’t make a successful batch of beer today!
Aside from the obvious sorghum selection, I needed to decide on a style, water chemistry, yeast strain, and then hops. After about 45 minutes I had everything set. It would be an American Premium Lager (BJCP 1C) so I would be looking for the following numbers:
og: 1.046 – 1.056
fg: 1.008 – 1.012
ibu: 15 – 25
srm: 2 – 6
abv: 4.6 – 6.0
As far as water chemistry would go I would look for the following numbers:
I got my water chemistry pretty close, just a little low on calcium and sodium, but I accepted and moved on. Then would be hops. Typically, for the style, there is a very low to medium-low aroma from the hops but floral or spicy. Hop flavor wouldn’t account for much, either: none to low. Bitterness gave me a little more room to play with: low to medium. So I read up a little more on hop profiles and alpha to beta acid ratios and decided on two hops. I would use Sterling for bitterness and also for a small amount of aroma, and also Saaz for a small amount of aroma. I know it would possibly end up with too much hop aroma, but it seems as though the rules on hop aroma are slightly bending to the favor of the hops being more acceptable, even in larger amounts. During the boil sanitized the fermenter and brought the yeast (smack pack from Wyeast) up to room temperature. Even though this was a lager, I had decided I wanted it to start fermenting warm and then I would cool it down so that I could build up a healthy yeast cake before fermenting at cooler temps which would slow the yeast down. This temperature schedule would also provide the healthy cells I needed to make sure there was no diacetyl before lagering. Everything went as planned, infact the numbers were really good:
I had assumed a yeast attenuation of about 80%, which is typical for my beers, so that would mean the finished gravity would sit at about 1.010, which would mean the assumed alcohol by volume would be 4.5%.
Perfect. My numbers were right on the mark, thanks to my spreadsheet full of calculations, formulas and data. My time building that beautiful piece of work had been paying off. Now it was up to the yeast to do it’s job, which I had full confidence it would do. had. That sentence doesn’t even deserve the proper capital “H” because I’m so annoyed with the yeast that never started!!!!
Well, let’s review: made the recipe, brewed the recipe, sanitized the fermenter, the yeast smack pack expanded, pitched the yeast at the correct temperature, but still no activity, 5 days after pitching.
Days like this just make me want to throw the towel in and forget the whole endeavor. Why keep trying when miscellaneous occurrences of evil brewing gnomes hijacking my yeast produces a flat, non-alcoholic, somewhat pungent mixture of water, hops, sorghum, and yeast? I could could choose Red Dog or Hamms if I had preferred swill. Why push myself to make more if it would fail, costing me my time and money, and the obvious discredit to my brewing experience.
Then I’m reminded of a quote from one of my favorite movies, “Why do we fall? So as to learn to get back up.” Getting back up sometimes feels good; a return to the situation that originally caused the grief which sought us to our end can provide the possibility to become the victor over our failures and shortcomings and become triumphant in both body and mind. So even though there sits on my counter, a carboy full of wort that will not ferment to beer and continues to remind me daily that somewhere along the process I failed, I am reminded to get back up, dust myself off, and keep on keeping on.