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First try at all-grain brewing

Posted in Beer on June 26th, 2011 by Chris

Yesterday, I made my first attempt at all-grain brewing. Things went well enough, but I did make a few mistakes. Luckily, nothing that should prevent the final product from turning out good … just weaker than I had hoped. Here are the results and some thoughts. On a side note, I’ll be updating the Wee Heavy recipe to reflect actual usage. I will also be adding a glossary page, a suggestion from my wife after proof-reading this post.

The first thing I did was weigh out the ingredients. To weigh the maple syrup, I zeroed out the scale with an empty jar. Then, weighed the maple syrup. Turns out a pint is about one pound, so that’s what I used. The grains I weighed all at once adding 2 oz at a time of each of the specialty grains. While I was measuring everything out, I got the strike water on the burner. I used 9 qts of strike water at 170F. After mashing in, the temperature had dropped to 150F, so I added in the extra 2 qts that I already had on the burner just in case that happened. But regardless, it still ended up at 152 F … 3 degrees shy of where I was targeting.Either way, there was nothing more to be done … so I let it sit for 60 minutes.

The most interesting thing about the mash tun was that, without a valve, some of the wort was in the drain tube while it was steeping. So I could see it darkening with time. I tried to take a picture but the pictures really doesn’t do it justice.

After the 6o minutes were up, I drained the wort into a bucket. The SG was 1.066 @ 150 F which corrects to 1.086. But, after draining, I measured only 1 gallon of wort (with nearly 3 gallons going in). So, I tried to make up for that with additional sparge water. I heated 13 qts of sparge water to 180 F and dumped it in. I quickly realized it was more water than I had thought, but it was too late to go back now. I stirred it up really well and let it settle for 10 minutes before draining. The sparge water came out at a SG of 1.020 @ 152 F which corrects to 1.039. This was lower than I had hoped, but I think it was because I used too much sparge water.

With that out of the way, the rest was no different than previous batches of beer. I brought the wort up to a boil and added in the hops. During the boil, I also added the maple syrup. After terminating the boil, I took another gravity reading and it was 1.071. I was targeting 1.09, so it’s lower than I had hoped, but in the end that still works out to about 7% alcohol so it should still be good … just not the 11% Wee Heavy that I was targeting.

Final thoughts: The grain absorbed more water than I had anticipated, so next time go heavy on the strike water . It also lost a few degrees more than I had thought, so error higher … you can always let it cool down. And lastly, add only enough strike water to get up to the final volume targeted. On a bright note, the $5 mash tun worked perfectly! So, I’ll go ahead and work through the how-to video and get that posted within the next few days.

So, for anyone wanting to try all-grain … good luck! I hope my mistakes help someone make a better batch of beer. I plan to make another batch soon, so it should go much smoother then.

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Simple Mash Tun

Posted in Beer on June 18th, 2011 by Chris

Today I put together a cheap, simple mash tun. I spent under $5 for the entire thing. I’ll do a how-to write up in the near future after I use it a few times to make sure I like the final product. Once I do that I’ll add a link on this post, so if there is no link … there is no how-to yet!

The parts consist of only an old cooler, some tubing, and a tee fitting.

I got the cooler from a friend for free. It looked pretty nasty inside with rust stains and spot. A few minutes scrubbing with an acid wash cleaner and it all but disappeared. You can see the before and after pictures below.

The tubing I used was polyethylene e so it is food grade and I’ve used it before for other things (like maple sap).

Next up, all grain brewing!

Enjoy some pictures.

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Aging Beer

Posted in Beer on June 17th, 2011 by Chris

Just to clear the air, I’m not talking about your Grandpa’s beer, or walkers and canes … I’m talking about aging beer like you would age a fine wine. To bring out the complex flavors, subtle notes, and tame the wildness of a fresh red wine. And the same things that make a good aging wine (sweet, strong reds) make for a great aging beer. The stout I brewed is strong, malty, and full of complex flavors. More flavor that some like in fact …. so when I was down to a single 6 pack I decided to stash it out of site withe with Wild Red wine aging in our pantry.

Now, it’s been three months since I stashed it away and I’m pulling the first out for a try. I hope to keep them in there and pull one out over the next year and a half as an experiment to see what happens. Will is age well? Will it continue to improve or reach a plateu? Will it start to go bad eventually? (Skunky stout sounds really bad)

So, what is the result after three months?


When I first bottled this stout, the oak flavors came through the maltyness nicely. But, once it had carbonated it was overpowered by the heavy stout. With age, that all seems to be evening out. At first sip there is a rush of malty oak flavor, followed by a subtle bitterness in the back of the mouth. The oak comes back as a lingering flavor, slowly fading until the next sip.

When it was fresh, one stout was all I could take because the malt flavors seemed to linger and build over the course of the glass. Now, they seem to have mellowed a bit to the point where it’s finishing more cleanly and I could keep going … especially it was wasn’t so tired.

Looking forward to my next stout in another three months … *sigh*

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MacKay Clan Wee Heavy

Posted in Beer on June 7th, 2011 by Chris

UPDATE:  I edited the recipe to reflect what I actually did, even though it didn’t match my target. It’s in the primary right now so if it doesn’t turn out good, I’ll make a note here. Expect to see another try soon.


So, this is all about brewing experiments …  so, let’s go all out.

My next batch will be my first try at all grain brewing. And, it’ll be a 2 gallon batch of Wee Heavy. I know … livin’ on the edge, right?

Here is my planned recipe, I’ll update it as needed and welcome any comments.

MacKay Clan Wee Heavy (3.5 gal)


10 lb – American 2 row malt

1/8 lb – Peated malt

1/2 lb – Biscuit malt

1/8 lb – Roasted Barley

1/8 lb – Black Patent malt

1 lb – Pure Maple Syrup

1/4 oz Centennial hops (45 min)

1/4 oz Cascade hops (15 min)

1/4 oz Cascade hops (5 min)

Scottish Ale Yeast



Stike water @ 170F (11 qt)

Rest @ 152F for 60 minutes

Batch Sparge @ 180F (13 qt)



OG: 1.071

FG:  1.024  (est.)

Bitterness: 17 IBU

Color: 20 SRM

Any thoughts, comments, or suggestion are welcome!

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