Monday, May 14, 2012

The Homebrew Think Tank

On my short list of awesome professions, "Brewer" has an esteemed and deserving place.  Who wouldn't want to get paid to make, taste and purvey beer?  [I know that it's not that simple and issues like creative control, unrealistic hobby-to-profession expectations, monetary woes and many others complicate the above statement, but that's for another blog post].  Earning a similar place on my list is "Think Tank Scholar."  Think Tanks (or Policy Institutes) produce policy papers that are basically learned recommendations on a myriad of topics.  Think Tank Scholars get paid well (an average $160,000 by one estimate) and are perceived (correctly or not) to have pretty undefined job responsibilities.  Do they sit around all day thinking?  Reading a bit and having an occasional meeting about Middle Eastern agriculture or Maritime Law?  Chatting in the cafeteria about how NGO's mismanage resources in urbanized African cities?  I like jobs with flexibility of space and discretion of time management.  But the real reason I like the idea of Think Tanks is that there's an inherrent intelligent collaborative requirement to their success.  I like sharing ideas with other people who have something to offer in return.  More often than not their views change me in a meaningful way.

Homebrewing is poorly served by isolation.  You can make a beer on your own: formulate the recipe, manage the brew day and fermentation, condition and drink the final product.  But it would be hard to learn from the experience beyond a certain point.  We need other people to bounce ideas off of and to learn from.  For me, the best results have consistently come when collaboration takes place.  I need input from other brewers to add to my own knowledge and help me make decisions.  In this way, homebrewing is like a Think Tank.  You make connections with other informed individuals and base your decisions on the shared understanding that results.  If you're smart, you rely on those individuals to guide you through crises or make "policy" decisions.

I brewed a Kate the Great clone this past February after tasting Lewy's and being really impressed with its flavor and complexity.  I added bourbon soaked oak cubes to it in early May and watched as the yeast slowly ate away at the original gravity of 1.104.  However, for the past three weeks there's been almost zero airlock activity.  I took a gravity reading this past weekend and there had been no change.  The beer was stuck at 1.030.  I know that I'm pushing the limits of WLP001 with the high alcohol content, but I was hoping to get down in the mid-teens before bottling.  I called Lewy for advice.  Do I repitch?  Raise the ambient temperature?  Bottle at the current gravity and risk bottle bombs?

The next day, there was a package on my porch.  A small, soft, ice-filled cooler containing two packed-full vials of washed WLP001 from a previous fermentation that Lewy had done.  He had gathered it and dropped it off for me-just because he's cool like that.  I let the yeast free rise to ambient temperature overnight and then pitched it into the KTG clone.  It's a pretty good solution to a stuck fermentation problem and I'm hopefully optimistic about it working.  In case you didn't know, they serve beer in the Homebrew Think Tank cafeteria, and I'm buying rounds.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad my rescue pack could be beneficial to your KtG fermentation woes. Plus racking a fresh beer off its cake on the same day always helps. With the amount of brewing I've been doing lately I almost always pour about 2 viles worth of fresh yeast off the cake to wash.

    Just expect me at bottling time to show up with a couple of 22oz (Empty) bottles. :)


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