The question of what to brew next is a delicate one. I currently have 11 kegs, in two of which I am bulk aging mead of some kind. In eight of the others, I have, or soon will have, a batch of beer, including one beer I am similarly bulk aging (a dark Saison for the fall).

The seven other beers are not particularly being reserved for later, not being bulk aged, and they’re not all full — I have one keg with probably a gallon of RyePA left in it, and a Golden Strong Ale that is, really, about half a keg. (But at nearly 10% alcohol, I doubt I’ll drink it up soon, even if I give 500ml sample bottles to friends.)

This puts me in an amusing position, since I am supposed to brew up some beer for a party in a few weeks. The beer I have on hand is not necessarily appropriate for this party, so I’ll be brewing something new — not sure what yet — and of course, the fascinating question is, how to decide, and how to clear the keg space.

Beer-lovers out there are guffawing even now, but the fact is, I can’t just drink the kegs dry. Kegs hold 5 gallons of beer, and that’s not a small amount.

I will be having a few friends over tomorrow night, assuming I can get my gas tank refilled — it ran out the other day — and of course I will be decanting samples for a few people out of the emptier kegs. But production is way ahead of consumption chez Gord, and this is set to become an issue soon. I suppose it’s good news for when summer hits, and it’s too hot to brew often — I will be able to relax and enjoy what I’ve made, without fear of running out — but on the other hand, summer will be a time when I’m not as busy as usual, and while I plan to do a lot more writing, get some exercising in, and travel a bit, it’s also a great time for me to get some brewing done.

Ah well, I suppose I could always go back to bottling some batches. Bottles, I have, in numbers sufficient to handle a fair number of batches… though, as they say, when one begins to keg, one really does not feel like going back to bottling.

As for brewing plans, I am going to take it easy and do a Belgian Wit next. (It would be a double-batch, but I still haven’t set up a proper double-batch capable mash tun so it’s going to have to be a single batch.)

Following that, I think, probably a a parti-gyle with barleywine or a Belgian tripel from the first runnings, and a capped-mash for second runnings so I can make something like, say, a stout.

(In fact, I say first and second runnings, but what I mean is, a big mash to get me up to 6 gallons of barleywine-strength wort, and then a capped mash, plus some malt extract or sugar or whatever, to get me a nice moderate, roasty stout.)

We’ll see: once I have the Wit bubbling away, I can worry about what follows. The stout and the wit, though, could easily be ready by the party I’m brewing for, which is what I’m aiming at.

I simply must figure out a better way to store yeast, however: I have a ton of it accumulated in the communal fridge, in the lounge, in various states — mostly fresh-enough — but it’s taking up a lot of space! Had I a spare fridge, the whole door would be full of jars with samples of yeast in them.

7 thoughts on “BrewJuggling…

  1. “when one begins to keg, one really does not feel like going back to bottling.”

    Why? Just curious. Bottling my first batch (a kit weizenbier we’ll be adding some ginger brandy to at bottling as a flavoring agent) soon, thinking about the future.

  2. Val,

    Well, it’s what I’ve heard from most people who keg, but your mileage may vary. (I know some excellent brewers who mainly bottle.)

    For me, it’s the relative ease of kegging. Especially if you are pressure-carbonating, there’s no need to deal with priming sugar, no need to sanitize a bunch of bottles, no need to muck about with bottling to the right level in each bottle: you just clean and sanitize the keg, siphon the beer into it, and seal it under pressure (set it and forget it). Provided you’re handy with your sanitizing solution, and have a proper amount of beer for your keg (ie. no need to bottle remaining beer) it’s a 15-minute operation as opposed to an hour.

    Also, the beer isn’t pressurized by yeast, so once you run off the dregs (which come out in the first few pints from the keg) the beer should be much clearer… and it’s easier to clarify a whole cloudy batch in the keg, too, with say gelatin finings, where in a bottled batch, you’re kind of stuck with cloudiness.

    Some people nonetheless bottle certain batches, like their Belgian ales. I suppose I will end up doing that… also bottling things that need to sit for a long time might be a good idea. (Though I’m also likely to run them through a clarification stage, in a keg or carboy, from now on, if style-appropriate.)

    The main downside with bottles is they take up more space, and require more cleaning after use, as well as more prep before/on bottling day.

    That said, I wish I had a proper capper: for a few Belgian brews, I’m eager to bottle them to the proper (ie. higher) levels of carbonation, but I can’t cap the brews in the Belgian bottles I have since I don’t have a capper.

    BTW: it’s neat that you’ve started brewing. All the posts on good homemade beer got you curious, or were you bitten by the bug for some other reason?

  3. Thanks for the insight on kegging. I appreciate it. I’m musing about whether I might just purchase a keg instead of buying a big thing of bottles for when my first batch gets decanted, mainly because I might want to transport it on a bike. I’ll likely want to make maybe 10 bottles worth in bottles, but I don’t relish the idea of having to drag our crappy van out to where my friend who has taught me so far lives if we can just take transit with bikes and tie a keg to my rear rack or borrow a chopper from the chopper gang with greater cargo capacity.

    As for why I started brewing . . . I had already been interested by your posts (especially when you first mentioned jaggery, yum) because I like food, and those of another friend who homebrews helped as well. I also know two other people who homebrew besides, one of whom has given me a glass or two since I’ve known him. So I’ve been interesting to me for a while. But one day after I was posting about it, my friend offered his kitchen and help, and we had a long, tiring, awesome brewday, where I helped him with his batch and he helped me with mine (a kit, as noted). So the impetus for getting off my butt was having a teacher, and I am very thankful to him for it. ( : The local homebrewers shop folks are also a fund of information. Short version – reading, tastebuds, opportunity.

    I also intend to make a batch of Ethiopian honey wine soon as my first quickmead, I just have to buy a special ingredient first, a root called gesho.

    1. Ethiopian honey wine… wow. Is that using tef? I saw an episode of a TV show where Dogfish Head used tef (spelling) to make a honey beer for the celebration of the anniversary of Miles Davis’ Bitches’ Brew. I have longed to mess with that honey ever since. I don’t know gesho root, but I think it was used in the Dogfish head beer too, in the “Ethiopian beer” side of the recipe. (It was a blend of two beers.) Yep, google says Gesho was the bittering agent for that half of the brew.

      Exciting times. I gotta say, carrying a keg on a bike would be daunting to me.

      EDIT: Ooops, it was tej, which is the mead you’re talking about, right? But I think the honey is called that too, or something. It looked gorgeous on the TV… pale and rich and beautiful.

      1. By the way, transporting kegs or bottles… take the van. Trust me. TRUST ME. Me, I don’t even take kegs on the subway if I can help it. (Sometimes I can’t help it, but I’ve learned: one, not two kegs, and a gas tank comprise my subway limit. I just can’t do it with two kegs. It’s TOO much for a subway ride… especially if they’re not empty.)

  4. Got it. Will take the van ( :

    As for t’ej, I got a recipe out of my friend’s copy of Extreme Brewing, I think it was. Therefore likely from the Dogfish Head folks. Honey, not teff, but yes, the bittering agent is gesho. I was interested in making a small batch of shortmead as my first unsupervised brew, Carlo Rossi/gallon bottle size. T’ej is such a thing. No waiting around six months to see I’ve screwed up; finishes in a month.

    As it is, that first kit brew is coming up on bottling time . . .

  5. Right, tej (t’ej?) is one I’d like to try make. I made some JAO mead in a Carlo Rossi gallon jug. It turned out okay, but harsh back when. I’m hoping it’s mellowed, now that I’m down to the last bottle.

    All of which reminds me, I should clean my two remaining dirty kegs — I have a cyser to keg, and a Saison. :)

    Let me know how your brew goes!

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