Summer 2017 LEVEL UP!
Wow this summer has been flying by! So much has been going on with TCB in the past few months so again, I do apologize for slacking on the blog front. I do promise to pump out a good amount of content in the coming weeks so please stay tuned! LOTS OF THINGS HAPPENING OVER HERE!
First off, when we set out on this journey we wanted to really go through all the steps of homebrewing as throughly as possible. We wanted to hone in our skills from the ground up. Starting from the most basic of techniques using extract kits, exploring recipe design with partial mash techniques and finally making the jump over to all grain brewing. In the short lifetime of Terra Costa we have been able to accomplish everything we set out to do last year.
In June we brewed our final batch of extract/partial mash beer. We wanted to do something special for the last one and we found some old recipes for traditional German Rye beers, aka "Roggenbier". We were inspired by the winter rye we had planted as a cover crop for our hop bed over the winter. The rye started to sprout this spring and it was really cool to watch it grow. We'll definitely be experimenting more with growing rye and other barley next year. Anyway, when it comes to summer/spring beers people may not exactly think of a spicey malty beer but, everything kind of fell into place with this one and really there was no other beer I would have wanted to make for this time of year.
When we were coming up with names for this beer we embraced our love for puns. Rye rhymes with eye and whales are very symbolic creatures of life on the Azores Islands. Whaling was a huge part of the economy in Azores for many years. Once Azores joined the European union in 1982 they had to give up whaling due to the fact that Europe formally adopted a ban on commercial whaling in 1982. It took a few years to enact this new law and whaling officially ended in 1984. Whales still provide cashflow to residents of the island as whale watching is now a very popular tourist attraction. The spring is prime time to get a close up look at the giant whale species (Blue Whales, Humpback Whales, Ballen Whales) which is another reason why Rye of the Whale will now become one of our spring staple brews. Rye of the Whale came out great, it's very drinkable and I look forward to sharing it with many of you soon - it seems to be aging really well.
Brewing this beer was little bittersweet. It was a great feeling of accomplishment to power through our last partial mash beer. It allowed us to take a step back and see the progress we made over the past year. I was also extremely excited to build some new gear and move on to more hands on techniques. It was kind of sad though to think that I probably wouldn't be using our old brew pot (the pot my grandma uses during the holidays to make pounds and pounds of pasta/ the pot my grandpa used to cook up fresh crabs during summers on the boat). Im sure i'll find some use for it though. I was also pretty nervous to dive into all grain brewing for the first time. I've been doing tons of research, reading tons of books, listening to hours of podcasts about this process. The possibilities are endless with all gran brewing so it seemed to be something I could really get lost in. But, through all of this research that feeling of anxiety seemed to be a reoccurring topic amongst homebrewers who are making this leap. Everyone who shared that same anxiety all came out on the other end saying that it was pretty easy and very rewarding.
Once Rye of the Whale was bottled up and stored in our beer cellar, we started working on our new all grain equipment. This took a little while so we were out of brewing new beer for a few weeks. BUT we did receive a bit of awesome distraction to keep us motivated. Every year Brew Your Own Magazine, a top homebrewing/beer publication runs a contest for the best homebrew labels. I had submitted many of our beers from this year for the competition to see where we stood with the rest of the pack. We didn't win however, much to my surprise as I was flipping through the magazine I stumbled across a column featuring our label/story for our Coffee Porter, "Cafe Faialense". I was over to moon to see this...This write up was our first major recognition in a popular homebrew/beer publication. It will absolutely be framed and hung somewhere. Looking forward to coming up with more ideas with our buddy Sal to try and place in next year's competition.
Ok, so now back to the all grain equipment build. First up, we needed a much bigger brew pot. Ive been looking into some shiny stainless steel equipment from a company called SS Brew Tech. I feel in love with their brew kettles and managed to get one. That was the easy part.....When it comes to mash tuns and hot liquor tanks the combinations of equipment are endless. Some homebrewers opt for the traditional picnic cooler with some washing machine hoses, others go for the Gatorade style water coolers and some go for some old beer kegs. I was leaning towards the picnic cooler build and had made a list of the material I would need.
Literally the day before I planned on heading to Homedepot to pick up my supplies I just happened to hop on Craigslist and do a quick search for some used homebrew equipment. I stumbled across a guy selling some old beer kegs with the tops already cut from them at a reasonable price. I reached out to him to see if they were still available and managed to talk him down on the price a little. It turned out to be cheaper than the picnic cooler build I had originally planned on doing - it obviously would look a lot cooler too!
After watching many YouTube videos of how to build a keggle mashtun I made my first attempt of installing some valves. Well...I failed....it was a little tougher than it looked. About three more trips to Homedepot I finally managed to pick up the correct drill bit I needed and we were able to construct our new mashtun! If anyone has any questions on how we built our keggle feel free to shoot an email to us (TerraCostaBrewing@Gmail.com) happy to help.
Now that our rig was complete it was time to brew our first all grain beer. This specific beer has been on my mind for a long time. It had to be extra special since it would be our first batch on the new equipment. We stuck with a simple Pale Ale. Something with an easy/straight forward grain bill and something very drinkable. I named this beer "Lupo" after my grandfather who passed away in 2011. Lupilin is a yellowish powder found in hops. Lupo was my grandfather's nickname. See the correlation here? I knew that a Pale Ale would be a good beer to share with him if he was still with us. Im sure he would make me brew this batch for him a lot so he could share it with his friends down at the marina and brag that it was named after him.
The days leading up to brew day was exciting. Along with the research around the all grain process I have also been looking into building yeast starters. Now....mind you I did not enjoy science in school and did not pay attention but, I enjoyed every second of playing around with my Erlenmeyer flash and stir plate. My teenage self is definitely making fun of me right now...
Luckily I had a good group of friends come over to help with the brewing. There was tons of cleaning and guesswork involved and honestly I dont think I could have gotten through the long day without the help of everyone. So thank you guys! Everything was going really well....our keggle mashtun was holding temperature better than anticipated and the mash rest was just about wrapped up. I hooked up the hoses to do my transfer into the brew kettle then everything seemed to go wrong. I opened the valve on the mashtun to start the flow and NOTHING HAPPENED. Stuck sparge. Seems like I got the wrong false bottom....We had three of us physically pick up the mashtun and filter the wort into the kettle by hand. Once we started filling the kettle with wort the thermometer that was mounted on the new kettle started to leak. After some troubleshooting we were able to stop the leak and move onto our boil. The rest of the brew day went according to plan. Even though the process did not go smoothly by any means it still was a blast. I feel like you learn more from mistakes than any other way. A new false bottom has since been ordered and "Lupo" has already been bottled and is conditioning in the cellar as we speak. Looking forward to drinking this beer and sharing the story of our first all grain brew day.
Oh and how can I forget about the cookies we made! Spent grain is awesome....I found a recipe for spent grain chocolate chip cookies that were a hit. Sorry for those who didn't get a chance to try them. We will definitely be making more cookies and bread with our spent grain from future brews. If you are a homebrewer and want to know how we made these cookies feel free to reach out and we'll share the recipe!
Now that we are in August I did want to give you an update on our hops that we have been growing. Take a peep at the last blog post where we posted a picture of our plants just poking out of the ground. Its crazy what one year of maturity can do to these plants. Our Nugget hops took off this year. I took a look at them this morning and found a good amount of cones. We should be harvesting these very soon.
Whats next? Well.....I have been brainstorming around some ideas for a new beer to add to our flagships brews. There is a tea plantation on our island in Azores which is the only tea plantation in Europe. I had the idea of making a black tea IPA and was able to obtain two bags of this tea. We will be brewing up a batch this week which will be called "Cha Bomb". Stayed tuned for the release of this beer....you're not going to want to miss this one. As soon as "Cha Bomb" gets into our fermentors we are going to get cracking on our fall beers which means the return of the popular, "Devils Kettle"!
So this post turned out to be pretty lengthy....I really need to get better at posting these more often. I was going to add another section covering some exciting traveling we have been doing but, Im going to save that for another post. Keep an eye out for a recap on our trips to Portland, Greece, Italy and Germany!
That's all for now...CHEERS!
-The Terra Costa Team