I had an interesting time brewing over the weekend. I stopped by the LHBS* to pick up the new Brewer’s Best Holiday Ale kit. (It’s a higher gravity spiced ale. If you’ve had any number of micro-brew “Christmas” ales, you know the style.)
So, Saturday afternoon I set about brewing the kit. It was pretty straight forward to begin with, but I ran into some problems later in the process. For some reason, when adding the spices I threw them directly into the boiling wort. I don’t know why I made this mistake, since I have a mesh “hop” bag that I’ve used for spices before. When it came time to transfer the wort into the fermenter, I had a problem. I couldn’t just pour it in, like I normally do, because of the orange peel floating in the wort. I tried pouring it through a colander, but the residue from the hop pellets kept clogging the holes in the colander. I kept having to un-clog the holes, or try pouring the wort gently over the edge so that I could pick out the orange peel bits before they made their way into the ferment (some of them did).
The whole thing was a major pain. Plus, one of the big dangers that brewers face is contaminating the batch. Foreign microbes can do bad things to fermenting beer.
Sunday, when I came back from rehearsal with Call it Karma, I checked on the fermenting batch. The top (plastic lid) of the fermenter was bulging up from pressure inside. The airlock was clogged. I quickly yanked the airlock out to relieve the pressure (although, I wish I had grabbed a towel to hold over it first, as foam from the krausen sprayed out and onto the wall of the closet where I keep the fermenter). After the initial “Phhwhhooshhh!!!” of air and foam, foam continued to slowly come out of the hole. I grabbed my siphon hose (after quickly mixing up some sanitizer and cleaning the hose) and rigged a “blow-off” tube.
The funny thing was, after I all of these problems, I wasn’t the slightest bit worried. A few months ago, things like this would have had me panicking and running to the online forums asking “Did I ruin my beer?”
They have a saying in the forums: “Relax, don’t worry, and have a homebrew.”
Basically, if you follow general cleaning practices, and keep your equipment clean and sanitized, it’s really hard to ruin a batch of beer. I’ve only had a couple of batches not turn out right. One was because the temperature during the fermentation got too high, the other was because I was experimenting with the recipe (although, some people did like that particular batch, I wasn’t that fond of it).
*Local Home Brew Supply