Brewing BIAB for Brad Smith at NHC 2012

I’ve been sitting on this post for over 6 months, time to post it I think 🙂

The 2012 National Homebrewer’s Conference (NHC) was held in the Seattle Area.  The local clubs were heavily involved.  At some point I was asked if I could help out at NHC by brewing a Brew in the Bag (BIAB) beer for a talk being given on BIAB.  Without hesitation, I said yes!  I can whip out 5 gallons without a problem.  I was already going to do a keg or two for club night.

Then I found out they wanted me to brew a BIAB beer, and…  this is where writing or talking about this get interesting, what do you call a non-BIAB beer?  “Normal” seems pejorative to BIAB and “other” seems wrong, so I will say non-BIAB which is accurate, but flawed (see next paragraph).

So now they’ve asked for me to brew a BIAB and a non-BIAB beer.  The did offer to have someone else brew the non-BIAB beer, but  I knew that to have a good side by side test, 1 brewer really ought to do both.  Of course, I did not mention I had never brewed a non-BIAB, All Grain batch before… (see even “non-BIAB” is flawed since it could be partial or extract…).  Never one to shy from over-commitment, I thought it was high time to see what I was missing, and use this as a forcing function to use a mash tun.

I chose to brew my standard All Cascade APA since I had a bunch of Cascade Hops and it was my default experiment brew.  Also it a clear beer which should help show that BIAB beers are not cloudy.  And, and this become more important later, if it was not up to par, I could always drink it myself.

I needed to borrow a cooler or other mash tun.  As my deadline was looming I was failing to locate the tun.  Finally, after asking for help,  Steve Antoch came through and lent me his igloo converted cooler.  Now I was all set to brew 5 gallons of BIAB and non-BIAB beers.  I had recently bought a second turkey fryer and I was set to go side by side.

That’s when the email came in with a “ok you going to brew 10 gallons of each,” message. Gulp!  Around now I suddenly made the connection that the “guy” was I brewing for was Brad Smith of Beersmith.  Double Gulp!  I should really think about this stuff before saying  yes…

I considered,  the cooler was big enough for a 10 gallon batch; I just needed to plan for a longer day.  I had 4 large carboys, and I should have 3 kegs, plus 1 that was full of barrel brew, so I needed to buy an extra one or two.

I planned out the day.  I bought rice hulls since i tend to grind to flour and i had never ground for cracked grains (see my setup ). This is when I had to make a call… Do i grind both batches the same  or different?  I chose “same” which meant lower efficiency for BIAB than normal for me.

So I started with the BIAB batches by laying out hops.  That’s when I discovered that I do not have enough cascade hops for 4 batches….  So I had to modify the hop schedule.  I decided to add 1 oz. of  Amarillo to the brews.  Originally I had planned on no dry hopping but then I forgot the 1 min addition on the first batch, so dry hop it was for all!

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Normally, I sparge/rinse my BIAB by pouring hot water as it sits in a strainer (see photo).  I basically heat water in a kettle until it is close to 170 and then pour it onto the bag and often get back many points of gravity.  To try to keep things simple, I did not do that.

I managed to hit both BIAB batches at 1040 (BTW here ‘s a hint, don’t start two batches at the same time, since I only have 1 chiller).

For the non-BIAB/cooler batch, I did an infusion mash while heating sparge water on the extra turkey fryer.  I dumped the wort in the main pot, added the 170 water  for 15 minutes, and then mixed the worts to get the OG the same.  I hit close to 1040 for both starts.  When I was done, one was 1042 and the other was 1047 so there was some boil off difference.

This means the cooler was more efficient than the BIAB which is unusual.  Normally I see 90% efficiency with the BIAB method (not 67%).  This is probably due to the coarser grind and lack of sparging/rinsing.

From there I added US-05 (hydrated) to each carboy and let them ferment.

After 2 days I got another email, turns out Brad Smith was giving two talks, and the conference was wondering if we had enough for both talks, which would be 20 gallons of each…  I had to say no finally.

Right before the NHC I had to kill and clean my kegs (one of those is “work” 🙂 ).   As I only had three, I was going to have to scramble to borrow one (kegs get scarce right before the conference).  That’s when I remembered the spare from Tom Schmidlin from when we kegged the club barrel brew…  This was also one of my mistakes…

I brought all four kegs to the hotel, scrambled to find them right before the talk, and then tapped one of each type.  Except now one of them was just not the same.  So I tapped another one from the same type, and shared it during Brad’s talk.

There were differences between the beers, but they can be attributed to the efficiency issue.

We had enough beer for both talks and I took the weird keg home.  That’s when I remembered I had previously used that keg for barrel beer and planned on filling with more barrel brew, so I didn’t need to clean it, I had just purged it…  Lesson learned.  And while different, the blend was awesome, another lesson learned…

Overall we proved that brew in the bag made the same beer.  Brad gave a great talk, people enjoyed the beers, and I learned I have no need to invest in the mash tun.

And if people think I’m slack for taking a year to get this post up, Steve just picked as mash tun up last week… 🙂

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