Tuesday, November 08, 2005


While we are on the subject of alcohol, and anomolies, here is one:

Homebrewing beer in Oklahoma is illegal. OK is one of the few remaining states yet to incorporate Federal law into State legislation. This means that, according to the relevant law, the brewing of wine or mead is permitted, but not the brewing of beer. In fact the statute expressly forbids the production of any alcoholic beverage not expressly allowed for in the law. The Federal position (now adopted by most states) permits the brewing of up to 100 gallons of beer per adult in the household. This is for home consumption by friends and family, and, I think, you can give it as a gift. The department that regulates these matters has stated it has no intention of attempting ever to enforce this law.

So if anyone asks, we make Beer Wine, ok?

For those who don't know, the US history of alcohol generally, is a pretty chequered one. The effects of Prohibition are still evident all over the place, and nowhere moreso than here.

At risk of serious trouble, I shall mention, very quietly, religion. Some of the Baptists in this state (the Buckle on the Bible Belt), believe that the Communion Wine of the Christian world, which represents the blood of Christ was, in fact, unfermented grape juice! What is interesting about this story, which appears, at first sight to be apropos of absolutely nothing at all, is that this interpretation is new. It is not mentioned in the bible, and was never mentioned by the Southern Baptist Churches until around the time of Prohibition.

Prohibition was bad law. There is no doubt about this, and it was rightly repealed. I do find it a little curious tho, that, at the same time as referring to the laws of God, as determined in the Old Testament, we are also told that the Church's response to being denied their Communion Wine is, in some way an indication now that ALL alcohol should be avoided. The *turning of water into wine* parable must be a little ... ahem ... inconvenient!

Anyway .... homebrew.

We do it, allthough if anyone asks, Jodie does it!

We were due to *do it* last Saturday. We had the ingredients and, for the first time *Stateside*, I was going to attempt an All-Grain brew. We specifically chose a brew designed to be the all-grain version of the partial mash recipe we tried last time. The end result of the last batch was great, and this one ought to turn out a little more complex, but essentially the same. If it doesn't, either the technique isn't working well, or the recipe is formulated wrongly. We shall see.

The last couple of weeks have been spent trying to convert a 5 gallon Rubbermaid drinks cooler into a mash tun. You knew we were close to achieving this when the last couple of trips to Home Depot cost under about $3 a time. I have been trying to get a cooler for weeks, and was determined to find one for $10. Just when I had resigned myself to spending $20 at Target, I found one, brand spanking new, at the local flea-market ... it seemed somehow, providential. So, various plumbing fittings later, I had replaced the tap with a ball-valve and fitted a mesh-screen on the inside. In the end, the screen failed .... more later!

Our friend Rick was keen to see how it all came together, so brewing was fixed for 12 noon last Saturday.

We ran a little late. Rick arrived at about 12.30, just in time to consume a large, and very welcome, fried breakfast, but the fateful hour couldn't be put off.

My brewing equipment is an odd collection of stuff put together with no money, but lots of imagination. I have two 100 cup West Bend coffee percolators each capable of heating 4 gallons of water to 180F. They came from Jodie's sister's house. They had been left in the garage by the previous owner along with a bunch of stuff that made the place look like a *meth lab*. Anyway, the relevant authorities declared it safe and I inherited these two machines, both brand new and unused. At my best I can't drink that much coffee, so we will use them as HLTs (Hot Liquor Tanks). Also from the same source is a borrowed turkey fryer. The last batch required only a three gallon boil. We can do this in the kitchen, but this time I wanted to boil six gallons, and the 54k btu burner is ideal.

Add this lot to the previous equipment for making *partial mash* brews, and we have what is needed to brew *all-grain*.

All went well until the sparge (rinsing the sugar from the grain). The strike water temp hadn't quite been sufficient for 154F, but future batches will be easier. Two quarts of boiling water added gave a mash for 45 mins at 152F, and I could live with that. Incidentally, at the end of the mash, the temp had held at 152F .... well done Rubbermaid!

The first few quarts were returned to the tun, and then the worst happened .... it stuck and no amount of *jiggling* was gonna make that wort flow again. After a few minutes swearing and poking around, I dumped the entire mash into the handily placed bottling bucket, and removed the completely collapsed mesh screen. I poked around the kitchen for something to use, and found one of those loose-mesh pan plastic scrubbers. Jamming this around the outlet, we dumped the mash back into the tun and proceeded to sparge. I was not hopeful, but it worked.

The rest of the process went to plan, but I was worried about the extraction we had achieved with our, less than textbook, method! Still, the colour in the boil kettle was good, and it smelled great.

At this point (just before the boil) I wondered was the specific gravity was going to be, so I measured it. This was a pretty stupid thing to do or, if not stupid, then at least pointless at this point however .... 1022 .... you are kidding me right? Jeez! ... even BudMillCoors starts out better than that! It was probably one of the lowest moments of my brewing career.

Jodie was serene, Rick was still eating breakfast .... so ... I engaged my brain.

Hang on .... there is over six gallons in the kettle, and it's very hot. Quick check with brewing software suggested that cooled, and reduce to five gallons, we might be ok (it suggested 1048, but I didn't put too much store by this).

I need a wort chiller. Four bags of ice in the bathtub cooled the kettle to 75F in 30 mins. That's pretty good, but ice isn't cheap, and it's not convenient either. The rest went to plan, and at around five o'clock just shy of five gallons of wort was in the fermentor, pitched with Wyeast 1968 at 75F, and at an original gravity of 1052. The target OG in the recipe is 1051.


As I type this, it has just been moved into a glass secondary and is in my brewing fridge at 65F. The specific gravity is 1012.

And hey Jodie .... As you will read this before you get home tonight. It tastes great!

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