So Saturday, February 2 was brew day for my Irish Red Ale. One of my favorite things to do is write new recipes and I was happy to do this when I started all grain brewing. New ideas, exploring what makes the style, and best of all, I get to mix base malts for new flavors rather than just settling for malt extract. Don't get me wrong, extract brewing is all fine and dandy and I did it as my main method of brewing up until recently. I have always wanted to do all grain because it gave me a better sense of control over my recipes, and a chance to do Pilsners, which I have yet to do. Getting back to the Irish Red, this is a style near and dear to me, feel the exposition coming?
Back in 2006, when I had first started brewing, I was loving everything about it. I decided that I wanted to make an Imperial Irish Red as my second brew. I tried to write a recipe, getting ideas from information online, etc. And when I went to my LHBS the owner talked me into changing up the recipe. At the time, he had a pseudo brew on site/ferment at your house sort of thing going on. So we brewed up his version of the beer, utilizing one kind of hop that I don't even remember. The beer was called Drunk Leprechaun, and ran about 7%abv, I think. When the beer was ready, I invited friends over for my Irish Red on St. Patrick's Day. Everyone loved it, I was proud of it (Even though it wasn't really my recipe.) and decided I would enter the competition the LHBS owner was holding in May. I stuck a case of bottles in the fridge and lagered it.
Ah, the old competitions. I thought all home brew competitions. For these competition the LHBS owner would rent out a space, and require that all entrants either have a keg to enter or a case of bottles, I thought this was the norm for home brew competitions. Then he would charge a fee at the door, and you would get a tasting glass. This made you a judge. People would pour in (get it?), get a tasting sheet, and try your beer. It's a lot of beer to give up, but it's also a lot of fun. And I got to hock my beer and tell people about it. People kept coming up to me and asking for my beer, telling me it was really good. I was excited. But sadly, this part of the story turns ugly. Several problems all happened as a result of this.
1. I was new to home brewing and didn't know the rules. At the end of the day I took a wine jug and filled it half way with 2 different beers, an imperial stout and a maple porter. This was a HUGE no-no and the owner of the home brew shop was pretty up set with me over this. To add to this, my GF had gone into the competition without paying and found herself a tasting glass, which looked bad but I had seen him admit two random girls without asking them to pay at the end of the competition.
2. My beer had won first place. I got $100 to the shop, and my beer would be brewed by the local brewpub that was re-opening! Alright! No, not alright. I lost the recipe, so we had to guess at the hops as it was the LHBS owner's red ale recipe with more malt extract. When my beer was done and on tap, my name wasn't on it at all. They just took the name Drunken Leprechaun and ran with it. I don't care now, but at the time I was very angry.
3. When I went to collect my $100, the owner just kept tabs on it himself and shorted me. I had only spent about $55 by my math, but I couldn't say anything because of the earlier jug of beer situation.
All in all, winning felt like losing this time. Let's move on from the sadness that was 2006 and into the happiness that is 2013. Brew day, what a weird one it was. Here is my recipe.
6 lb Marris Otter
4 lb Golden Promise
1 lb light Munich malt
1 lb Vienna malt
1oz UK Kent Goldings, 6.6%AAU for 60min
Irish moss @10 min.
1.5qt or water per pound, 1.5 times that for sparge.
My mash was a little odd, I ended up too low in the mash (140's) so I added 1 gallon of boiling water and brought it up to 152F and held it there for about an hour. In reality my target was 154F, but I only have so much control over cooling temp. That being said, it was overall one of the worst brew days I have ever had. The beer went fine, it was all of the other events that just killed it for me.
Besides my strike water being too low, something else had happened that day. Patty, my girlfriend, had found some coupons that were $7.00 off 5 Primo gallon water jugs of from Kroger, which in the long run would allow me to purchase the water for $0.39 a gallon after I used up the Primo brand water. Once I paid and got everything to the car, I was putting the water in my trunk and broke one of the 5 gallon jugs! I am sure the employee sitting on the bench had a good laugh at this, I would have. I managed to get it out while there were 3 gallons, but nonetheless, I still had to deal with the situation and spend $5.00 more on water. Once I got home I ran into another issue much later. I was walking into the garage and managed to kick our 2 cup, Pyrex measuring cup. I am pretty sure that's it for my problems. I should have taken more pictures to document the brew day, but I didn't, all I have is this picture of the boil.