Sam and I brewed up our last batch of Charlottesville homebrew on March 30. There, I said it – maybe now I can finally get this post out! I have been putting off writing this blog post for a while now. I procrastinated for so long that that same batch of beer has now fermented, been kegged and carbonated, and is on tap in our kegerator. As we prepare to move away from our home of more than a decade, I struggled so much with how to adequately and eloquently encapsulate those feelings that I just didn’t even start. I didn’t start when we dry hopped the beer, I didn’t start when we kegged the beer, and I didn’t start when we poured our first glass from the tap. Can you guess what my coping mechanism was in grad school? The universe works in mysterious ways, however, and as an awesome/poetic/fitting end to Sam’s homebrewing career in Charlottesville he brewed a collaboration double IPA with Dave Warwick from Three Notch’d!
First off, many, many, many thanks to Dave and everyone at Three Notch’d for being so welcoming and supportive of homebrewers! Speaking of, they have a lot of great events coming up this week as part of their American Craft Beer Week celebrations, including beer classes, beer trivia, and a homebrew competition, so check them out! We will definitely be out for the Hog N’ Brew Fest on Saturday when Sam’s brew gets debuted!
Dave was generous (and trusting) and gave Sam pretty much free rein with ingredients and styles. I wanted to take the safe route and brew up our saison, which I feel is one of our more “popular”, tried-and-true recipes, but not Sam. He wanted to go big and brew a double IPA, a style that we had never brewed before, so he read a book about IPAs from cover to cover, crafted a recipe, and we brewed up a pilot batch at the end of March. We kegged it over about a week before Sam’s brewday with Dave, and although we were happy with the hop profile, we were anxious for Dave’s critique. On the big brewday, I brought a Grolsch of the double IPA over for everyone to taste. Dave noted some diacetyl, which our untrained palates had missed (although now that we’re looking for it it’s more obvious), and wanted to up the hop additions but otherwise left the recipe largely intact. We dubbed this brew Thunderhead, in a nod to our IPAs – White Cloud and Black Cloud. In residency speak, if you are having a great call night with few admissions, you are a “white cloud”. If you are having a terrible call night full of emergency pages and codes, then you are a “black cloud”. I think that Thunderhead 2.0 will benefit greatly from being brewed on a professional setup and fermenting in a controlled environment. Our DIY all-grain system on-the-cheap has served us well over the years, but we are definitely starting to see the cracks and inefficiencies more clearly now. We knew that we were going to be upgrading our system in a major way after the upcoming move, and I think Sam just brewed on his dream system!
So here’s the setup, from left to right: hot liquor “tank”, mash kettle, and boil kettle. Given that there was a GIANT hot liquor tank on the other side of the room, however, they ended up using this smaller hot liquor tank just for sparge water. These are 40 gallon kettles, and they brewed three back-to-back all-grain batches for a total batch size of 120 gallons. The system is so efficient and streamlined, however, that the whole brewday was over in about 8 hours!
To give you an idea of the scale of the brew and ingredients (not much compared to Dave’s normal system, but it’s a whole helluva lot to us homebrewers!), this is how much grain was used for each batch:
The mash kettle wasn’t directly heated since the volume of mash was large enough to retain most of the heat. Dave also has the Blichmann false bottom on the mash kettle, which further helps with the efficiency of the mash and the clarity of the final product. I think adding a pump to our future setup will be crucial, as this allowed them to recirculate the wort during the mash, move liquid from kettle to kettle easily, and do a continuous sparge – all things that we are currently NOT able to do.
Finally, everything gets pumped over to the glycol-jacketed fermenter *drool*…. Also, you’ll notice that the fermenter is hooked up to an oxygen tank to provide additional oxygen for the yeast (a 3NB proprietary strain that ferments at a ridiculously fast pace). What an incredible learning opportunity and experience – we can’t thank you enough, Dave!