Day 209

We’re into the last two weeks of the year, and some of our class scheduling is being juggled a bit.

I have mentioned before that the Teaching Brewery can only accomodate a third of our class at a time, which is why, back in the fall, we were split into Teams A, B, and C. It turns out that because of the number of weeks in a school year, Team C (my team) was going to be jobbed out of a brewing day. So today, instead of going to Brewing Equipment first thing in the morning, half of Team C (me included) went to the Teaching Brewery instead, where we started brewing up our “graduation beer”.

(Yes, we don’t graduate for a year, but the plan for this beer is to have it mature in an oak barrel for a year.)

Brewing was a bit more complicated than usual–the recipe called for a “stepped” infusion–that is, the temperature of the mash starts low, and is gradually raised in a series of steps. This allows each type of enzyme to operate at its own optimal temperature for a bit, the theory being that the breakdown of the starch and proteins in the grains should likewise be optimized.

In addition, the recipe called for a decoction mash–removing part of the mash water and boiling it, then adding it later on to raise the temperature of the mash. So as soon as we had mashed the grain in, we removed several litres of the mash water and simmered it on a campstove.

That was it for our half of Group C, because the other half arrived at that point and told us it was our turn to spend some quality time with Gordo Slater.

In Brewing Equipment, Gordo laid out some scenarios for us like, “I drink your beer regularly. The one I had last night wasn’t snappy.”

Hmm. Does “not snappy” mean the beer was flat? Oxidized? Was the pH too high? Did some cleaner get left in the bottle during rinsing? Do we have a problem in the filler?

When we started to come up with ways to fix the problem, Gordo made the point that when something isn’t right, we can try to fix it by treating the symptoms, or we can find out what the root cause is and fix that instead.

On to Chemistry Lab, where we tried to analyze the colour and clarity of our Campus Ale & Lager. Both analyses use machines that measure how much light is scattered as it passes through a sample of the beer. The machines gives you numbers, and  simple calculations gives you the relative colour of the beer or its clarity.

My final results didn’t quite match up to our beers’ profiles, so perhaps the calculations weren’t quite as easy as I had thought. Back to the calculator…



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