May 5, 2013 by drandmrso
Last weekend was absolutely gorgeous. The sun was shining, the grass was greening, and all of Minnesota seemed to be waking up after a long, extra-snowy winter. Thanks to a friend, we scored free tickets to the Twins game and soaked up the sun while enjoying not only a Twins win, but a friend-turned-Babe The Blue Ox win in the mascot race!
It was glorious. On our way home we stopped at Northern Brewer, a great homebrew shop that also sells lots of supplies online, and picked up a kit for a summer wheat to kick off the season right. Then, five days later, on May 2, this happened:
We got over a foot of snow. In May. After we had already had a 70+ degree day. I grew up in Minnesota and have lived in the midwest my whole life. I understand snow is a just part of how things work around here and I try not to complain about it. But a foot in May? It’s absurd! We were not the only people on our block to stick it to the man and not shovel our sidewalk after the storm came through. (Relax, city ordinance enforcers and pedestrians: it’s all already melted, anyway.)
In order to keep positive and focus on what must be a fantastic summer after such a horrid winter, we declared Saturday a brew day and tackled the Tallgrass Halcyon Wheat kit we had picked up from Northern Brewer the week before when it had actually felt like summer was going to happen.
Dr. O has been brewing his own beer for a few years and I’ve taken on the role of Assistant to the Brewer for the last several batches. The batch yesterday was a bit more advanced than any we had done before as it required a partial mash. That means (more or less) steeping grains in hot water to create delicious sugars for the yeast to munch on during fermentation. While Dr. O studied the recipe…
…I made a giant tea bag with the grain.
This was also our first time brewing using a turkey fryer that I got Dr. O for Christmas. The appeal of the turkey fryer is that you can set it to a certain temperature and it holds there, as opposed to brewing in a kettle on the stove where you are constantly turning up and down the burner to keep a steady temperature during the more temperature-sensitive points in the brewing process.
The turkey fryer was a great success! Since we didn’t have to stress out about checking the temperature of the mash every two minutes, we enjoyed a delicious ice-cream snack with malt powder (residue from the dry grains before they got mashed).
Once the mash was done we had to sparge it. Which is, in my opinion, a hilarious word for “run hot water through the grain bag to get all the rest of the sugar into the mash.”
Then we added enough water to bring the total to about five gallons and brought the whole thing to a boil. This is another advantage of the turkey fryer: trying to boil five gallons of water on our electric stove was a drag. The fryer had no issues at all! Once it was a’boilin’, we added hops and more malt. Then the whole concoction boiled for another hour, we added a final dash of hops, and then cooled it all down with a wort chiller. (Wort is the beer before it is beer. Or, all the liquidy goodness minus the alcohol. A wort chiller is a coil of copper pipe that you stick in the wort and run cold water through to get the wort down to a yeast-friendly temperature quickly.) Final step of the brew day: transfer the wort to the fermenter and add the yeast.
Over the next couple of weeks, the yeast will munch on all the sugars and create alcohol, thus making the wort more beer-y. Then we’ll transfer the more beer-y beer into bottles with a touch of priming sugar to create carbonation. And a couple of weeks after that–if all goes well and Minnesota weather realizes we are not actually living in The Game of Thrones–we’ll be sipping a deliciously alcoholic and carbonated wheat beer in our beer garden in the backyard. I think putting up with a little snow will have been worth it, right?