Hi all! You might want to read my first post on this very cool project to catch you up on what the group is doing.
Since that last posting, a lot has happened. In order to fill the bourbon barrel, everyone in the group contributed either 5 or 10 gallons of home brew. Many gathered before Christmas to start their batches:
I was away and made mine at home.
All totaled, there are nine individuals contributing ten different batches of beer. This past Saturday, we all met to fill up the barrel. But before that could happen, each batch was taste-tested by the group. You know what they say about one bad apple! Nobody wanted to be the one who inadvertently made a bad batch of beer which would of course affect the entire barrel. Even the most careful brewer can brew a batch of beer that is off in some way.
Now these guys are all good and I don’t think anybody really expected a completely fowl batch. What it really came down to was subtlety. It was amazing to me how different variations can come out of what was essentially the same ingredients. The ways a beer can turn out slightly different are vast and include whether you went all-grain or used an extract, the exact timing and quantity of ingredients, type of water used, health of the yeast, temperature and conditions during fermentation and the amount of time a beer sits before being transferred into secondary (to get it away from a lot of the dead yeast cells).
Bret McGowne has been organizing all of us from the start and summed up the tasting on Saturday quite nicely:
“A big thank you to Steve and Travis McDonald for bringing some of their homebrew and helping with the blind taste tests. They were a HUGE help!
We took hydrometer readings and sampled each batch. The hydrometer readings ranged from the low 20s (1.20 or so) up to the low 30s (1.30 or so). The sampling revealed a variety of flavors from “on the money” to a few that had a bit of a green apple flavor and one that was described as smelling like burned hair. In the end, it was decided that the green apple beers just needed some more time with the yeast and they were added to the barrel.
The burned hair beer may or may not be suffering from autolysis which is a function of leaving the beer on dead yeast too long. We racked that beer to two carboys so we could let it age and see if the problem with it could be solved by a little more conditioning time. Depending on how that aging goes, we can decide if we want to use that batch as our “top off” beer or not. If not, we may be looking at brewing another 5 or 10 gallons so we can hit our volume and account for evaporation losses.
We also added 5 gallons of boiled and cooled water to try and correct our short volume. The barrel right now is still probably 5 – 10 gallons short on volume.
On Monday of this week (2 days after we racked to the barrel), Stan took a hydrometer reading and tasted the blended
beer. He got a reading of 1.021 and said it tasted just fine. He didn’t detect the green apple flavor and said he drank the whole hydrometer
sample since it was so good! There was just a hint of bourbon flavor in it and no sign of the oak yet.”
In listening to the group and their discussions about beers and breweries and processes, it was clear to me how much more I need to learn.