It was with that brewing misadventure in mind that we set out on a more recent journey. I've turned a lot of folks onto the joys of homebrewing, most notably my brother and my cousin. Both brew exclusively using extract, and when I mentioned that I had done some all-grain brewing, they were interested in a demo. For the non-beer-geeks (although I can't imagine any have gotten this far into this blog), the difference between extract and all-grain brewing is like making orange juice from concentrate vs. fresh squeezed. All-grain isn't all that much more complicated, but it is a serious time commitment, which is why I don't do it all that often.
This batch (recipe below) went off a lot better than its name sake, at least in the original brewing. The process took forever because my lauter tun runs slowly, but after 8 hours and more than a few high-test samples along the way, we pitched the yeast slurry.
That's when the problems started.
See, the more yeast you use, the better your beer is likely to turn out. In addition to fermenting the beer, yeast overwhelms the bad stuff that can grow in beer, making it less likely to spoil. The more yeast, the better. So, I had been creating a yeast starter, slowly growing up the number of yeast cells for almost a week, and rather than a small vial of yeast to start with, I had more than 1/2 of a gallon.
But, I forgot about one thing. Volume control.
The fermentation vessel I used holds nearly 7 gallons. The beer filled about 6. The yeast filled another 1/2 gallon. Usually, there's enough head space in the carboy that the yeast, which gives off a thick, sludgy head called krautsen, has enough room to expand. So, imagine my surprise when I opened my closet door and the krautsen had shot its way through the airlock and all over the closet floor. And imagine my frustration when I realized that the previous owners of the house had drilled a hole to pass the cable through the floor, meaning that in addition to everything that had covered the closet floor, there was another mess waiting for me in the basement.
A bucket of oxyclean, a few disapproving stares from my wife, and a new overflow airlock installed and all was back to normal. The beer has been fermenting for about a week and will go into the keg next weekend, with enough time to be ready for this year's St. Paddy's Day celebration. Hopefully this batch will be worth the trouble, but don't look for Grandson of Lights Out Stout any time soon.
Son of Lights Out Stout (All-Grain)
8.59 lbs 2 row pale malt
1 lb flaked barley
1 lb roasted barley
2 oz Perle hops (6.5% AA) at 60 min
1 oz Perle hops (6.5% AA) at 60 min
White Labs WLP004 Irish Ale Yeast
Mash for 90 min at 153
90 min boil