Last week we talked about some easy steps you can take to jump start a new project or endeavor when you’re a beginner. If you’ve been following us on our journey to brewery-hood, you know we’re beginners in more ways than one these days. Beginners of all things, masters of none. YET. ;)
Well today we wanted to talk about beginning to brew on our new system. You might remember our recent brewery upgrade from the old trusty 15-gallon DIY setup to the far more delightful Alpha Ruby 1bbl Brewhouse from Ruby Street Brewing. If you’re a brewer, you know how hard it can be to “graduate” to a bigger system. Growing into a new system means learning (a lot of) something new, adjusting your temperatures, scaling your recipes for new efficiencies and hot utilization, and really just getting a feel for how your brew days go.
The first time we brewed on the Alpha Ruby was on Big Brew Day 2019. It was such a cool day. We took it slow, focused on our steps and spent some time hanging with a few friends in between all the cleaning (as the old saying goes, brewing is what you do when you’re not cleaning!). The brew day overall was a success, however we experienced some issues during fermentation while we were out of the country and relying on generous helpers to keep an eye on things for us and adjust the temp daily. The Grassroots German Pils did not turn out how we had hoped. Are you surprised? I’m not! And I was okay with chalking that one up to a learning moment. We’ll meet again one day, Grassroots…
Fast forward a few weeks and we have brew day #2. On this day, we brewed Mountain Loral Blonde. It was designed to be a perfectly quaffable beer for the blazing Texas summers. I wanted it to be crisp, light, slightly citrus aroma from the Loral hops. I wanted it to have a moderate mouthfeel from the small addition of oats, which would also add visual interest in the form of haze. It should have a slightly sweet malt notes from a touch of honey malt, but not enough to overpower the 2-row base malt. Overall, this beer was intended to be all about the slight hop aroma and crisp clean finish.
Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out quite like I had hoped. Best of intentions, right? After a post-mortem, here’s what I think happened. The mash-in was done at too high of a temperature and by the time I got it under control, it was too late, the damage to the design had been done. The amount of residual sugars resulting from the high temps, combined with the oats in the grain bill, created a heavy mouthfeel, overpowering the desired hop notes. In my opinion, it turned out too malt forward, lacking in the desired Blonde style crispness.
These first brew days on the new system have proven that each system has quirks that can only be learned by brewing on them. The Alpha Ruby, while amazing, is still just a system. It is no different from any other system in that it, too, is subject to human error. With this system, the need to overheat your strike water to compensate for your mash-in is almost non-existent. The HERMS system really takes care of the mash more than I am used to and this batch taught me just that. I am planning on brewing the same beer again without changing anything, just hitting our temps with the designed beer. So stay tuned for what I’m hoping will be a report of a very delicious beverage.
We’ve had two more chance to brew over the last couple of weeks and have applied our lessons-learned, improving not only the brewing experience, but also the beer produced. We’ll definitely have plenty of beer ready to sip on and share in the next week or so. Needless to say, the 3rd brew was a charm!
To all my fellow perpetual beginners – prost!