Day 374

When I was a small child, everything in my life was huge. The house I was born in was the size of a castle, my backyard was acres in size, and the neighbourhood stretched for miles. I moved away when I was still very young, and didn’t revisit the area again until I was an adult. Wow, everything had shrunk. My castle was a tiny single-storey bungalow. The backyard was perhaps 25 metres across. The neighbourhood was three or four small streets.

I had the same feeling today walking into the Teaching Brewery–everything had shrunk. Because my summer brewery had equipment five times larger, everything in the Teaching Brewery looked so small and cute.

But it was time to brew beer, no matter what size of system. Actually, this year, we will be mainly concentrating on the small 50-litre pilot systems, demonstrating that we can turn classroom theory into a drinkable batch of beer. We will also be working with much less hands-on supervision–Brewmaster Jon Downing and his assistant will still be there, of course, but mainly as observers.

Like last year, we have been divided into three teams of ten people (A, B & C), with each team in the Teaching Brewery once every three weeks. In addition, each team was split into two 5-person sub-teams, one assigned to pilot system #1, and the other to pilot system #2. (I am on Team A1).

Next semester, we will have the opportunity to demonstrate some brewing creativity, but for this semester, we will be confined to brewing three standard styles on the pilot systems–dry stout, hefeweizen and ordinary bitter–according to a brewing schedule drawn up by Jon Downing.

Last year, Jon provided all the brewing recipes, but this year we will be creating our own recipes. Our challenge will be to both plan a brewing regimen and then brew a beer so that it conforms to the style’s specified parameters for appearance, original gravity, volume, aroma and taste.

We had already submitted recipes last week for the three basic styles, so the first step for Team A1 was to compare all five of our recipes and decide on which one to use, or perhaps whether to bodge together elements from several of the recipes. Because there is limited space to work on the pilot systems, we also had to choose two people to actually brew the beer. (The other three members would be assigned to other tasks in the brewery: brewing First Draft beers on the large system, cleaning tanks and kegs, packaging, or inventorying supplies. If you are thinking, “Hey, I’d rather brew on the pilot system than count bags of grain”, Jon warned us that he would only be marking the efforts of the two people brewing on each pilot system, based his observations of whether the brewers knew what they were doing, if they were working as a team, and how they responded to the various brewing challenges that inevitably arise at the most inopportune moments. So, brew on the pilot system and feel Jon watching your every move, or enjoy a relaxing day cleaning/inventorying/bottling.)

Team A1 was scheduled to brew a hefeweizen today, so we had already compared recipes and had bodged together a Frankenstein. (For the record, 55% wheat malt, some Vienna malt–that was my contribution–and pilsener malt, and a kilo of rice hulls to try to prevent the wheat malt from gumming up the lauter tun.)

I was nominated as one of the two people to brew on our pilot system–yay! Oh wait, this is for marks. Shoot.

Brewing a Hefeweizen

My brewing partner watches our second batch of hefeweizen on the boil.

First problem–we wanted to use Perle hops, but alas, the Teaching Brewery had none on hand, so my partner and I had to quickly recalculate how much Northern Brewer and Hallertau to use as a substitute. Although we were using rice hulls, we decided to further reduce the probability of lautering issues by starting the mash with a “protein rest” at 45°C–this, in theory, prevents the wheat proteins from coagulating. After the protein rest, we would then raise the temperature to a more normal mash temperature.

Whether it was due to the rice hulls or the protein rest, we encountered no lautering issues at all, but we ended our first sparge a bit prematurely based on a small miscalculation on my part, so our first batch was a little low on volume, and the specific gravity was a bit high. On our second batch, we ran out of hot water just as we started to sparge–it seems like everyone in the brewery needed hot water at the same time. Once we had more hot water, we guesstimated an increase to sparge volume which, in theory, should have brought the overall batch back to spec. And it did. Or might have. (It will be hard to say exactly until the beer has finished fermenting. But things looked pretty good at the end of the brew day.)

And of course, my partner and I had to think of a name for our beer. We decided on Vice Populi–“Vice of the People”. (See, “weiss“–German for “wheat”–is a homonym of “vice”, which is a near homonym of  “Voice of the People”, which in Latin is vox populi. Hence Vice Populi.)

Okay, I admit it sounded a lot cleverer at the end of a 9-hour brewing day…

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One Comment on “Day 374”

  1. Canageek Says:

    Now here is a beer name I can appreciate.

    I asked the 3 people in the chemistry lounge with me. They’ve all heard OF Gilligan’s Island, but never seen it. I’ll keep asking around.


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