Thursday, April 15, 2010

So that's not why it's called a Grain Bed?

When they're making "Trouble Brewing: The Movie", probably about this time next year, there'll be a moment when the last of the skilled tradesmen leave the scene and the morning sun glints off a pristine and shiny brew kettle and the there's a moment of silent reflection, before one of the three main protagonists who remain on the scene, turns to the others and says something cheesy and Hollywood like " let's see what this brewery can do", before there being high fives all round. Which is a perfect example of why Hollywood movies are better than real life. The reality was of course that when the moment came when we were ready to start our first brew, we were all too busy with a myriad of other things to even notice the absence of a stirring John Williams soundtrack. (The main Trouble Brewing site has our contact details for any of the major movie studios who are almost certainly looking to pay us a big pile of money for the exclusive film rights, and as you can see, I'm happy to be involved and to hopefully get a credit as script editor.)

The brewing machinery hadn't even time for a proper polish either to give it that Hollywood gleam, but since making beer was the aim and not hosting a presidential reception, though which I'm sure is something that is only a matter of time too, we didn't concern ourselves with it. We'd previously concerned ourselves with the making the inside of the equipment very clean indeed, as is only proper if our aim of brewing pristine beer was to be achieved. Anyway to be brief as I can, (which isn't something comes easy to me, it'd be akin to a bear riding a unicycle, it can be done but it doesn't come naturally), The brewing process goes something like this: grain and hot water into the mash tun, leave for a bit, add more hot water and send over to the kettle, bring to the boil for an hour, and add hops at various intervals, finish boil, chill and send into the fermenter and add yeast. And though I think my attempt at being brief and non-technical went well, it did serve to detract horrendously from bringing the skill of the brewer into the equation, as there are innumerable parameters that can make all the difference between the bland and the delicious. Not least of which are the choosing the right grains and hops, something that I think, in my admittedly biased opinion, that we managed to achieve.

What I also think my brief description of brewing misrepresented, was that it made the brewing process seems fairly straight-forward, however on brew-day number one, it was quite the opposite. We learned that heating a 2 meter high tank of water takes a long time, and that if your brewery has a pumping system that was seemingly designed by Erno Rubik you have to be paying a lot of attention to make the water go where you want. Though we managed by dinner time to have kettle boiling away, and not just to make tea, though we did this also, though not using the brewing kettle for the tea making, that'd be a touch of unwarranted overkill. After the boil was done and we had another go on Erno's crazy pipe-work we had cold water pumping through the heat exchanger and were ready to cool the contents of the brewing kettle that was just coming off the boil. Alas, the time taken in heating the water earlier was nothing in comparison to the time taken to cool the boiling wort at the other end of the process. So about 18 hours later, or so it seemed, and after reminding ourselves about once every two minutes to have plenty of cold water for the next batch, the beer was cooled and in the fermenter, with the yeast added and some of us contemplating sleeping on bags of used grain that we'd cleaned out of the mash tun rather than face the long and tired drive home.

Despite the long first day I'm already looking forward to the next day's brewing, I'd imagine it'll be a much improved process when we apply everything we've learned from brew day one, in fact I've already ordered the John Williams tape in anticipation...

p.s. We're also twittering, or tweeting or whatever the hell it's called. I expect the next missive on that latest medium will be to announce the existence of this missive on this medium, no doubt creating some kind of feedback loop that'll probably destroy the Internet.