Brew day – Citrazilla IPA

Citrazilla India Pale Ale versus the Noob

Homebrewer’s Log Brew Date April 1, 2011

I am a noob (id est, a newbie, beginner, novice, greenhorn, and wet behind the beers) Citrazilla IPA is my fourth all-grain batch of ale brewed. Kinks need to be ironed out of the system–a system that is still being amassed and I am not yet familiar with.

There is a saying about fishing that the worst day fishing beats the best day working.* Perhaps you could commandeer the fishing line sentiment and say the worst day homebrewing beats the best day working. ** Such was the case yesterday, and the end result may prove drinkable. Time will tell all.

My first batch of 5-gallon Citrazilla IPA turned out great. For that batch I use a single propane burner, a Zappap lauter tun from Charlie Papzian’s Joy of Homebrewing book, and one 8-gallon pot. Recipes of version 1 ( an all-grain from Bader Brewing Supply with only a minor addition of 8oz flaked barley) and version 2 (Citrazilla) are available (feedback on Citrazilla would be greatly appreciated). I tweaked the recipe for the second batch replacing white wheat with red wheat for enhanced head stability and mouthfeel (both head and mouthfeel rate highly in my books).

Stepladder, a must. Aforementioned brew frame stands 5 feet tall and with the keggle it is 7 feet overall. The top tier is for the HLT, mid-tier holds the mash keggle, and the bottom-tier is for boiling the wort (the liquid that will become beer after fermentation)

Since that first batch of Citrazilla and this one, I have added a metal-fabricated three-tiered brewing frame with three burners (btu output per burner unknown) plus two converted kettle/kegs (the portmanteau kettle/keg being the inelegant term of–wait for it–“keggle”) as well as the other various and sundry items (thermometers, miscellaneous food-grade plastic buckets, two plastic carboys, hydrometer, two kettles).

I cleaned my keggles and finally got a flame under the hot liquor*** tank (HLT) keggle on my setup at 9:30 AM. A little late but not bad.

Making beer. How it’s supposed to go

People have been brewing and drinking something like beer for 10,000 years; so it’s relatively easy to make:

  1. Soak malted grain in hot water (aka mashing).
    In all-grain brewing partially milled grains (primarily barley usually) soak in hot water liquor for various times, depending on what the brewer wants to accomplish (or how accomplished the brewer is–in my case, noob).
  2. Boil the liquid  wort produced from the soak.
  3. Add flavoring (usually hops) during the boil.
  4. Cool the wort
  5. Add yeast
  6. Let the yeast ferment
  7. Drink

Challenges of the day:

  1. Difficulty filling HLT
  2. Trouble making proper mash temp
  3. Breaking glass thermometer in hot liquor tank
  4. Wort chiller sprang a leak at the fittings during boil (sanitizing phase for chiller) which doused the burner flame and cooled the wort
  5. Propane tank tanking with 20 minutes left on boil

Before we consider the challenges of the day, let us take a moment to appreciate just a great day to be alive and this view for a brew day:

Challenges of the day (expanded):

  1. It proved difficult to fill the hot liquor tank. Okay so I learned something. I learned I probably shouldn’t use 5 gallon jugs to fill the hot liquor tank amongst the rafters. Lifting 5 gallon jugs of water above 7 feet in the air was difficult enough, but then the water surges from the jug’s mouth. The surges hit the joists and ended up washing some of them, which is probably not a good thing to do (although it may add to the flavor).The recipe for Citrazilla IPA called for a mash (the porridge-like mixture of grains and water) temperature of 151F (66C or 339K) for an hour. As you might be able to tell from the picture, filling the HLT presents a challenge. Each keggle weighs approximately 35 pounds (~2.5 stone). If you fill it with 5 gallons of water, it weighs about 5 and 1/2 stone (77 lb or 35 kg). Unless you have outstanding upper body strength, you cannot fill it and then put it in place over the highest burner–talk about keggle exercises!Note to self: in the future use a 1 gallon jug to fill HLT.
  2. Getting the mash to exactly 151F. Certain mash temperatures unlock particular enzymes in the malted barley. These enzymes break the grains’ proteins into sugars that yeast can eat.The mash tun’s (keggle) false bottom is so high, it needs 3 gallons of water before a single grain gets damp. It needs 7.1 gallons of hot liquor to get a decent looking mash (porridge-like look). I had (note past tense) a candy thermometer for the job; with a slow-to-rise and quick-to-drop indicator. The grains’ temperature caused the water temperature to drop more than I anticipated. I checked the temp in the HLT to add “hot liquor” to the mash to bring up the mash temp and…
  3. Mistakes were made.” As I brought the thermometer out of the HLT, I did not quite clear the keggle’s rim and tapped glass on metal. Metal wins that contest. Bits of glass and the metal counter-weight pellets dropped into the HLT, making its use inadvisable.
  4. More “mistakes were made.” The Wort chiller sprang a leak. Wort chillers quickly cool the hot wort.  The one I use is a copper tubing arrangement with fittings for hoses. Cold water enters, hot water drains out. Some brewers connect their hoses to sink faucets. Since I was brewing on the patio, I decided to use the regular garden hose. I hooked it up and tested it under pressure. No drips. It’s good to go.To keep from contaminating the wort, chillers get dropped into the boil. The water faucet in this house is down three flights of stairs so I decided to charge the hose and open the exit when the time came. You see where this is going don’t you? Noted. “Mistakes were made.” The hot water built pressure in the couplings and water (from the germ-laden hose) geysered from the coupling. I tossed rags over the leak. But by then the spray had already doused the burner flame and cooled the keggle.Seventy minutes into a ninety-minute boil, there were still several hop additions (one addition every five minutes) to go. Except…
  5. The propane tank was nearly empty.  shaking the tank gave the flame renewed vigor for twenty seconds before it quieted again.

At 5:15 PDT the yeast was added to the cooled wort. Time will tell if the beer will turn out okay. The alcohol the yeast produce will kill anything that might make someone sick, so no worries there. But will it taste okay? We will know in about a week. All in all, a great day. I learned about my new brewing system and lived to tell the tale (see the first and second footnotes). what more can one ask? Okay, yes, a decent homebrew to drink while listening to the tale.

Come back next week.


*Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you. I have seen fishermen who needed to go to hospital emergency rooms often enough that I question the veracity of the saying, while embracing the sentiment.

** I didn’t end up in the emergency room. When you work with 15 gallons of scalding water, propane, not to mention heavy and awkward-to-hold objects, well the possibility exists that it may not end well.

*** In brewing cant, if it’s for brewing, it’s not “hot water”; hot water is only for cleaning. Therefore, the hot water is actually hot liquor.


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