Grain-Stuffed Cornish Game Hen on Brown Ale Rice Pudding

I decided to get a little decadently rustic tonight . . . my first full day at home in weeks – and time to prep!  Chocolate Stout Grain-Stuffed Cornish Game Hen on Brown Ale Rice Pudding with Carrots, Cranberries, and Mushrooms.

Roasted Game Hen on Ale Rice Pudding

Roasted Game Hen on Ale Rice Pudding

Okay, so I did this at the beginning of June and never finished the post…just found the unfinished draft (thought it was up weeks ago!)…guess it’s time to finish it up!

As this was a bit of an experiment (and just serving myself), I stuck to a single bird.  Start with thawing and unwrapping your Cornish game hen (really, just a small chicken).  Rinse it thoroughly, inside and out.  Check for giblets (not usually included in a game hen, but often held in plastic if they are there).

Soak the bird in a beer brine for 2-3hrs, tossing or rebasting regularly.  Use 12-16oz brown ale, 2-4 Tbsp malt vinegar, and a few whole cloves and peppercorns with some bay leaves.

Brined Hen in Roast Pan

Brined Hen in Roast Pan

Season inside and out with salt and pepper (I also used some bay leaf, paprika and a small amount of granulated garlic and onion powder).

Seasoned Stuffed Game Hen

Seasoned Stuffed Game Hen

Pin or sew the neck opening shut, upend, and stuff with dried spent grains (I used grains from my Black Imp Quintipple Chocolate Stout).  Pin opening shut (don’t sew this one just yet) and set aside to let rinse water and meat juices start soaking into the grain while the rest is prepped.

Game Hen Stuffed with Spent Grains

Game Hen Stuffed with Spent Grains

I used Basmati rice for this recipe, as it has a nice light, neutral flavor and does not get super-sticky…wild or long-grain domestic rice works quite well too (although more hard and will make more of a rice-side than a rice pudding texture).  Try to avoid super-soft or super-sticky rices, like jasmine…also try to avoid strongly-flavoured ones, such as domestic brown rice (we’ll be adding more than enough flavor).

Measure your rice by pouring it dry into the bottom of your roast pan until 1/4″-3/8″ deep (which will end up coming close to halfway up the side of the bird, when all is said and done).  Mix in some light seasoning, maybe 1-2 tsp.  I used whole black peppercorns, a pinch of Herbes de Provence (a French blend of green herbs mixed with lavender), and a small amount of crushed coriander.  Avoid adding salts to the rice at this point – salt will make the rice “skin up” in the hot liquid and make a harder rice than we want (some salt will come off of the bird, anyway).  I also added 1 Tbsp of brown sugar.  Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly.

Add in 1 can of sliced carrots, perhaps cut in half if large.  I know, I know, canned carrots don’t taste nearly as good as fresh ones (and are missing most of the nutrients), but for soups and quick-bakes, I don’t have the patience to blanch/parboil them ahead.  The canned ones give that nice carrot sweetness and a nice soft texture.  This is primarily a soft-textured dish, so I really didn’t want anything too crunchy involved.  Add 1 can sliced mushrooms or 1/2-3/4c sliced fresh mushrooms.  Throw in a handful or two of dried cranberries for some bits of zip (again, if they are large, you may want to cut them down a bit).  Mince up a fresh garlic clove or two and stir it all together thoroughly with 1-2 Tbsp heavy cream.

Adding Beer Brine

Adding Beer Brine

The first time I made this, I had placed the bird, poured the brine and more beer over it, then added the rice mix back in.  While it worked, I tried it differently the next time and it worked much better.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo the second time around.

Push the rice mix into a mound in the center of the baking pan.  Here’s the fun part.  Hold your game hen neck-down over the mound and gently open the stuffing-flap.  Slowly pour the beer brine into the ass end of the chicken so that is flows through the spent grains, drains out the neck hole, and pours down onto the center of the rice mound.  This can take a few minutes, depending on how tightly you packed the grain and how sealed the neck hole is – the slower it goes (as long as it DOES go), the more flavour you will get from it.

When the dripping has (mostly) stopped, set the bird down and sew the buttflap shut.  Push the rice mixture to the edges of the pan and nestle the bird into the center.  Push the rice mix back down to form a fairly level layer all the way around the bird, covering the entire pan bottom that is not in contact with the chicken.  The liquid level should be about halfway up to the level of the top of the rice.  Remember that more liquid will drain from the bird and carrots, while some will be soaked up by the grain and cranberries.  Accounting for this, add a little beer or water if you’re concerned it’s too dry (but remember that if it’s too wet, your rice will be a soggy mess…and if it’s too dry, it’ll burn).

Cover the pan and roast at 375*F for 45 minutes.  Pull the pan out and uncover.  Brush a little melted butter or olive oil over the bird.  Sprinkle on a little smoked paprika or dark chili powder.  Visually inspect the rice.  If it looks like it needs it, lightly fluff with a fork (VERY lightly) and/or add a little water.  (If it looks too wet, there’s not much you can do to fix it, so start thinking about another quick side dish.)

Return to oven uncovered for another 15 minutes (until skin is crisping, juices run clear, and the thickest part of the meat measures at least 165*F).

Game Hen Nicely Crisped

Game Hen Nicely Crisped

Remove from oven.  Lift bird from the rice and set on large cutting board.  Unpin/unsew neck and butt.  Scrape out the spent grains and toss away (we want the flavours and scents, not the crunchies).  Using large chef’s knife or cleaver, Cut bird in half down the breastbone and spine.

Game Hen Split with Grains Removed

Game Hen Split with Grains Removed

With a large fork, lightly toss the rice mixture to break it up and separate it from the bottom (there will generally be a little burned down that you don’t want to mix in).

Place half game hen onto each plate.  Spoon rice pudding on the side.  Drizzle edges of plate with Sriracha.  Accompany with a small dish of Pub Pickles.  Serves 2.

Cornish Game Hen on Brown Ale Rice Pudding with Carrots, Cranberries, and Mushrooms

Cornish Game Hen on Brown Ale Rice Pudding with Carrots, Cranberries, and Mushrooms

Complimentary Pairings:  We need rich, malty ales to enhance earthy root vegetable notes – everything in this dish lives within +/- 8-10 inches of the soil line and we want our compliment to bring out the full, rich darkness of the soil itself and the warmth of the sunshine.  I would serve with an English brown, Vienna/Märzen, Belgian dubbel, Roggenbier/Rauchbier, Scottish ale, or sweet/oatmeal/imperial stout to bring up the caramelly/melanoidin, chocolatey, and roasty/smoky notes, all of which have fairly low carbonation levels to allow the flavours of the beer and the dish to mingle freely.  Be careful of going too far into the same flavour spectrum.  An English mild, alt, or bock would just get lost next to the dish.  A full-on Scotch ale would be sickeningly sweet and cloying after a few bites/sips.  A dry stout or schwarzbier would seem sharp and acrid/astringent next to the umami-heavy flavours and oils in the dish.

Contrasting pairings:  To contrast flavours, we need crisp, light ales/lagers to offset the dark, earthy notes with brightness and palate-scrubbing carbonation to reset the palate.  I would serve with a not-too-hoppy pale ale, Kölsch, Berlinerweisse without syrup, or a Bohemian pilsner.  A Belgian golden strong could be interesting, but the carbonation of a tripel would be more appropriate.  A bready ESB or a malty Belgian singel or English pale ale would not have the right crispness to offset the flavour profile, but too much hoppiness could make for an unpleasant pairing.

Complex Pairings:  This dish could be enhanced by pairing with:  earthy funkiness to let the root veg flavours shine; enhancing spice, roast, or toffee to boost the seasonings; sweet/tart/sour notes to balance the very umami-heavy flavour profile; and some nice carbonation to reset the palate.  I think any of the following pairings would give an attentive diner/imbiber plenty to ponder and experience:  saison/biere de garde (enhancing spice, contrasting citrus, high carbonation), Flanders red (enhancing berry and oak, contrasting sour, low carb but acidity serves similar purpose resetting the palate), gueuze/lambic (earthy funk of course, sour/tart brightness, high carb+acid), barleywines/old ales (each is so uniquely complex….).  The flavours of a dunkelweizen could certainly take the entire dish in a new direction.  I think an oud bruin or weizenbock would run afoul of the same “getting lost” problem of the mild and alt to properly stand out.

Seasonal Pairings:  This would make an excellent dish at any time of year, however, root vegetable flavours are most reminiscent of autumn and winter cooking.  This would pair beautifully for Thanksgiving with any of the autumn seasonal beers such as harvest ales, pumpkin ales, and oktoberfests (avoid the fresh-hop IPAs/IPLs, though) and a side of cranberry sauce instead of the pickles.  Christmas ales provide a rich, dark maltiness and loads of spices and preserved-fruit flavours, which would certainly suit a Christmas dinner (as would a Belgian dark ale).  Likewise, later in the season, the maltiness and spices of winter ales would suit as wonderful pairings without the decadence of the fruits from the Christmas beers.

I hope you enjoy (I certainly did!)

Let me know what you think – if you give it a go yourself, send me tasting notes and a pic of how it came out!

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Distribution Sales Begin!

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to write a new post.  Time for a quick update on the Stark Brewing Company activities!

We are currently shipping out Milly’s Oatmeal Stout and Mt. Uncanoonuc Cream Ale.  We have TTB labelling approval for kegs of Milly’s, Mt. U, Tasha’s Red Tail Ale, and Bo’s Scotch Ale.

Three shipments of kegs (15gal half-barrels and 5gal logs) have gone to the warehouse at Amoskeag Distributors.

Amoskeag is still getting their inventory/sales software updated to include our products, so distribution has been slow to start and we are relying on marketplace rumour to find where kegs are ending up.  The TAP in Manchester and Penuche’s in Nashua are confirmed to be serving Stark brews.  Todd is updating the Stark Brewing Company page on Facebook as accounts are confirmed.

Even more exciting, we have received labelling approval for 22oz bomber bottles of both the Milly’s Oatmeal Stout and the Mt. U.  We have black Stark logo collar labels and full-sized bottle labels.

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We have also shipped out 40 cases (12 bottles per case) of each beer to Amoskeag to start delivering to retail accounts.

(After a lot of trial-and-effort, our bottler is finally working right…the auto-labeller, not so much.  How long do YOU think it takes to hand-wipe, -label, and -package that much beer?)

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We have another 50 cases of stout and 70 cases of cream ale packaged and mostly labelled at the brewpub.  We are proud to announce that in addition to growler fills of anything on tap (generally 17 or 18 house beers to choose from!), we now have bottles available to take home from the brewpub (cool new shirts too).  Tentative price point is $6.99 per 22oz bottle.

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In fact, the first bottles have begun moving!  Pictured above are the buyers of the first direct sale of Stark Brewing Company bottles.  Amoskeag has started moving them into stores.  As might be expected from anyone who knows the Manchester area, Bert Bingle of Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett was one of the first in line to be stocked.  Again, Todd is updating on the Stark Facebook page as accounts are confirmed….I think were past 15 accounts a few days ago.

I’ll to put up a few short posts about our new in-house releases before I get back towards the backlog of 40+ posts I owe y’all that are half-written.  😉

Until next time, raise those pints high and drain ’em low!

Brewery Intern: Day 12 (I Wanna Mount U)

It was another brew day today, so we started early at 9.  I started to hook up hoses, but the burner was being ornery again.  Bryan had already been trying to reset it for 20 minutes or so and passed it off to me to watch the lights on the box and walk around to hit the reset every few minutes.  Not really long enough to accomplish much of anything else.  After about half an hour of tapping the igniter tube, adjusting the flue venting and blower fan, and resetting the box, it finally fired up and got the water heating.

The hoses and pump were set up and then we dragged the grain sacks into position.  It was an early morning and the coffee hadn’t kicked in yet, so some of the hoses needed to be moved around.  The sacks were opened up and the grain augur lowered.  The water wasn’t nearly up to temp, so some time was spent moving kegs around, straightening up the Grundy Room, and preparing some backup kegs (the smaller 5 gallon logs to fit into the kegerators out in the bar) of the Chocolate Stout and the Crabby Apple Ale (which includes some apple cider).

Once the water was close to strike temperature, the input hose was attached to the side of the hydrator and the flow was turned on.  As in the past, we preheated the mash tun and filled it up to just a bit above the false bottom before was started sending the grain up the augur.  The augur chute dropped into the top of the hydrator and the wetted grains fell down into the mash tun.  The oar was constantly moving to avoid any doughballs in the mash.

After the water was shut off, the mash was let to rest.  Then recirculated by pump through the sparge head to set the grain bed.  Once the sight glass ran clear and clean, the sparge water was turned back on and the pump started to move mash to the kettle.

The Mt. U (short for Mount Uncanooc) beer is a cream ale. It has a fairly light grain bill and hop schedule, so it is correspondingly light in colour and intensity.  It is a pleasant introductory beer with a bit of flavor that is good for wooing macro beer drinkers into craft beer.

With the light recipe, the boil, chill, and transfer went very smoothly without any memorable complications.  This time, Karen ended up cleaning out the mash tun while I clambered into the boil kettle to clean it out.

The kettle is much more awkward to get in and out of than the mash tun for a few reasons.  The manway hole is much smaller – and much closer to the ceiling.  Although there are lots of pipes and such around, nothing is strong enough to use to brace yourself, which makes it awfully hard to get your feet and legs up through the hole without becoming unbalance and tipping over.  This effect is significantly magnified by being tall, as I can attest.

For an extra bonus, there are no handholds or footholds inside the kettle, and the opening is above your head.  The one safe brace is a bolt through one of the old mill ceiling beams.  Attached to it is a length of plastic-coated steel cable that is clamped in a loop at the end to drop through the kettle hole and use as a step to get high enough to pull yourself out.

That awkwardness of getting in and out aside, I much prefer cleaning the kettle to the tun.  I can stand up inside, it’s much less claustrophobic, not nearly as hot, and much less messy.

Tired from a long day, we cleaned up everything else, paused for a few pints and went home to rally for the next day’s cleaning.

(Once again, catching up on posts – photos will be added soon.)

Brewery Intern: Day 11 (Russian Imperial Moves)

A busy day today, we started by firing up the kettle with some warm water left in it from yesterday.  Thankfully, the machine spirits of the burner flame were appeased to ignition by the application of sacred unguents and the sacred rubber mallet of correction, as the appropriate holy words were chanted over the box of indicator lights.

As soon as the ritual had concluded successfully, I set about getting the hoses down and hooking them up to brew kettle through the pump and to the Grundy Room access pipe (that goes through the walls and over the hallway).  I also ran the second pump into the Grundy Room and set up hoses for both transferring water from the kettle to fill the tank and to recirculate the cleaning solutions.  We ran through the cycles of caustic, acid, and iodine (with all of the appropriate rinses) as quickly as we could.

As soon as some CO2 pressure had blown out the last of the iodine, we moved the hoses in the Brewhouse to move the half batch of Russian Imperial Stout into the newly cleaned Grundy tank.  A few switches and levers and off she went.  It was a beautifully quick and complication-free transfer (although the fact that we don’t filter our stouts helps a lot).

The moment the FV was empty, we immediately swung things around again to use the tap water feed and the kettle water to alternately rinse and clean the FV through all of the caustic, acid, and iodine cycles.

After packing everything up and handling a couple of brewery tours, we sat down for a few pints….and swapped out an empty keg or two while we were there, talking with the customers.

Sorry I’m so behind on posts…I’m trying to catch up with some content – I’ll come back and add some photos soon.

Brewery Intern: Day 10 (Hosing Everything Down)

Back for Monday and the routine starts again.  Craig already had the kettle heating up when I got in and were out of sight, so I got to work clearing space in the Grundy Room, moving kegs around, and pulling out the keg washer.

As I was gathering up hoses and tri-clamps to hook up the pump and keg washer, the guys were busy in the office.  While finishing up rigging the pump (to pull the outflow of the kettle over the hallway into the Grundy Room for the washer’s basin), Karen showed up.

Being the detail-oriented person that I am, I’ve developed the habit of shutting off the gas and beer valves on each keg tap on the washer before connecting or disconnecting a keg.  Bryan and Craig don’t bother, happy to save a few seconds of effort in each cycle.  All three of us have a habit of draping the taps off the sides where they are easily located.  Today, they gave Karen a quick run-down of the washer and she and I got started washing kegs.

After disconnecting the first set, I did not notice that Karen had left one of the taps draped over the front of the keg washer….with the valves left open.  Not thinking about any cause for concern, I brought in the next set of kegs and hooked up the first one.  I opened the valves to what was theoretically a closed system (except for the drain) to have the keg empty its tepid, stale contents directly onto my denim-clad crotch from point-blank range.  As it was under pressure, it blasted right through the paltry protection of my jeans and soaked me to the skin – from hip to hip and down to my right knee.

By late afternoon, the liquid was finally maintaining my body temperature….and finally started to dry 7-8 hours later.  Thankfully, my jeans were dark and didn’t show much after the first hour or so (which of course had to be during the lunch rush)!

We finally got through cleaning all of the kegs and Karen had to take off.  Bryan and I stuck around to empty out the bright tank of John Stark Porter into the newly-washed kegs.

Had a few pints and headed for home….hopefully will add some photos soon.

Brewery Intern: Day 08 (Smoother Runnings)

Today’s brew day proved much smoother (and much shorter) than last week’s for a number of reasons.  Rather than doing a partigyle brew to produce two different beers in half batches, today we were doing a single full-size brew.  It also helped that the kettle burner decided to be cooperative today.

The plan was to re-brew the Milly’s Oatmeal Stout to replace the batch we had drained from the fermentor the day before (which was now serving on tap, replacing the batch that had kicked just a few days before).  This stout is one of the eight flagship beers that will be promoted through the Stark Mills distribution agreement – and will even have its own custom tap handle (we are supposed to see a prototype tomorrow)!

We arrived and got the warm water in the kettle from last night heating up again and positioned our pumps and hoses.  While waiting for the grain delivery truck (actually, our biggest delay of the day), we took apart and cleaned the fittings on a few corny kegs and tested the fittings.  Once the truck arrived, we brought two pallet-loads of grain sacks in by hand, checked them in, and separated the ones that we needed for today.

Once the grain was set, we started moving quickly, getting the mash tun heating up with hot water through the hydrator.  I dropped the grain augur to the floor after the specialty grains were measured out.  Karen and I switched positions this time and she dumped the grain sacks into the augur with Bryan’s help while I stirred the mash and talked with Craig.  That is, until we got through the barleys and the oats started to come up the augur . . . and quickly jam it.  Yee-haw!  The rest of the oats were hauled up to the top and dumped in directly while I stirred.  Then (after disconnecting the power) I unclogged the augur with a screwdriver.  A four-inch diameter pipe was clogged with nearly a foot-long mass of flaked oats compressed into a near-solid cork.  By the time I was done, I had filled nearly half of a brew bucket with oats to stir in.

Milly's Oatmeal Stout in the Boil Kettle

Milly’s Oatmeal Stout in the Boil Kettle

The lovely roasty dark mash settled nicely, recirculated nicely, and (other than a brief near-stick during sparging) lautered evenly until our brew kettle was filled.  We drained off a bunch of the remaining sweet wort to play with while the kettle finished heating up to a boil.  We all had half a glass or more of the syrupy roasty chocolatey malt candy goodness.  I mixed up a chocolate Malt Cola that I passed around. We passed a pitcher off to the kitchen to have fun with – with Bryan reporting hearing the word “marinade” being muttered before he exited the kitchen.

RECIPE: Malt Cola


30-60% sweet wort (bolder British malt flavors work best)
40-70% cola soda (the more citric Coke works better than Pepsi)


Add cooled wort to soda and gently stir before adding ice. Adjust blend to taste.  I like it best with a bit more soda than wort.

Dark roasty worts such as stouts and porters make it more of a chocolate cola, while worts from bitters/milds/browns will be more of a caramel cola. More caramelly worts would also be appropriate blended with a traditional root/birch/ginger beer.

Raking the Spent Grain out the Manway

Raking the Spent Grain out the Manway

I measured out the 75 and 60 minute hop additions, and we got to raking out the now-drained mash tun.  The spent grain was loosened from above with the oar and pulled out of the manway with a heavy-duty garden hoe to fall into plastic 55-gallon drums and trash cans.  The grains were packed down in each bucket to compress them as much as possible.  As each bucket was filled to within inches of the brim, it was loaded on a hand cart and wheeled through the twisting path of ramps and tight corners through the function room, kitchen, and back of the house areas to exit at the back door near the dumpsters.  As the buckets began to pile up, a call was placed to our regular farmer to come collect it for feed for his farm critters.  There is so much heat stored in this amount of grain that even at the below-freezing temperatures that we’ve had lately, it will take days to cool off enough to start to sour.  (We filled about 9 of these big barrels with the heavy, wet, spent grain – which had weighed close to 1,100 pounds while dry before the mash . . . I hope I don’t need to break out the thermodynamics equations for you to get the idea that there’s a LOT of hot mass in each of them.)

I measured out the next additions of hops and put the boxes away before climbing through the top hatch into the mash tun with a bucket, a green scrubby, and the garden hose.  I sort of lost track of time for a while, drenched with sweat and water spray, not able to hear much of anything outside except when I occasionally stuck my head out of the top.  Eventually, I got the four panels of the false bottom turned up and everything inside the tun sparkling and shiny and clambered out with surprising ease.

Top Hatch of Mash Tun

Top Hatch of Mash Tun

Once on the floor, I could see that the others had finished up carting out the spent grain and had gotten the yeast from the Grundy Room to warm up for pitching.  I measured out the Irish Moss and Bryan dumped it in the kettle, along with a couple of gallons of older yeast that we weren’t going to pitch to act as a nutrient.  The final hops went in a bit later and we started the whirlpool.  After the whirlpool was allowed to rest, we started draining into the fermentor.  I opened the manway hatch on the FV and popped the lids off of the two corny kegs of yeast we were to pitch.  The yeast that we had pulled the day before proved much more frothy than we had thought – after overnight settling, the kegs were only half full.  While I was working the yeast loose and dumping it through the hatch, a third keg was retrieved and depressurized to find similar settling.  The third keg also went in before the hatch was sealed up and the blowoff hose was rigged to the top port.

As the kettle drained, we could see that unlike the brew day last week, this brew had formed a nice, solid cone of trub.  Actually, once we had filled the fermenter, drained some to a bucket for gravity readings, and let the rest down the drain, the pile of hops and break was very solid.  It took quite a bit of force to blast it away, layer by layer, with the jet blast from the cleaning hose.  Bryan climbed in this one for the cleaning while we took apart and cleaned the yeast kegs.

Cone of Trub from Whirlpooling

Cone of Trub from Whirlpooling

After everything was cleaned up, we checked on the status of kegs with the bar, replaced the root beer keg, and were done with our brew day.  When possible, we try to have the brewers stay at least through the end of the happy hour.  The staff likes us to be on hand to swap kegs and taps . . . and the management likes us around to answer questions and give brewery tours.  So, dutifully performing my role, I had a pints of the oatmeal stout that we transferred yesterday (decidedly less over-roasted and much more balanced than the previous batch) and mingled amongst the patrons before heading home.

Tomorrow is the Certified Cicerone Exam, time to do some last-minute studying!

Brewery Intern: Day 06 (Kegs, Casks, and Yeast)

Today started with doing some rearranging in the Grundy Room and restacking the full kegs, including moving a few into the cold storage in the back of the house.  We put a few feet of water in the kettle to heat, got the keg washer pulled out, and hand-trucked a pile of 14 kegs from the back door up to the Grundy Room.

During all the walking around, I said something to Bryan about noticing how much the brewery smelled like hops today, joking it must be leaking out of the fermentors with the fresh IPAs from Friday.  Turns out….yup, literally.  FV1 hasn’t been used in some time because the coolant coil in the top half isn’t working right.  We only put a half batch of HFR IPA in it, so the lower coil was just fine (as we found out, unfortunately, on Friday) – however, the heavy rubber gasket around the manway door had torn a bit on the side (and the fill level is currently well above the bottom of the manway door).  Bryan actually sounded relieved that a small amount of IPA was appearing in the edge of the seam around the gasket (which is why we could smell the hops so much).  He pointed that he first noticed the blowoff tube wasn’t bubbling and freaked out that the beer still wasn’t fermenting after nearly 3 days – after spotting the leak and pulling a sample to test gravity, he was much relieved to find it was fermenting just fine.

Once the water was up to temp in the kettle, I got to work running kegs through the keg washer cycles (something that continued through the early evening).  During waits for cycles to finish, Craig and I took the empty metal cask of Apple Cobbler offline, cleaned it, and pried the bungs out.  We took apart and cleaned the beer and gas lines, as well as the cask breather.

Cask Breather

Cask Breather

Later on, we brought out a metal cask of Pumpkin Bread (a sour pumpkin ale blended with a portion of dark porter), set it up on the stand, and installed the saddle (a specially-designed cooling coil that drapes over the top of the cask under its jacket).  Craig hammered a soft spile (porous wooden peg) into the hole in the center of the plastic bung to allow some carbonation to escape through the pores of the wood.  After judging sufficient pressure had off-gassed, he pulled the spile out and screwed the attachment to the cask breather into the bung hole.  While the cask was allowed to rest, a line cleaner solution was mixed up and pulled through the hand pump for a bit before allowing to rest with flooded lines.  The hand pump was pulled periodically for an hour or two before clean water was pulled through to rise.  Craig hammered in the tap, installed the hop filter, and reconnected the line.  We pulled the hand pump until the water was replaced by beer, then poured a couple of samples.  It was lightly sour (but my palate might still be wrecked from judging the sour category at the Boston Homebrew Competition two days ago) and tasted like gingery pumpkin cookies.

Cask Breather Spigot on a Cask

Cask Breather Spigot on a Cask

We carbonated a keg of the house root beer (non-alcoholic) and put it on tap, kicked the last keg of oatmeal stout, and replaced a keg of American pale ale.  We taste-tested the Hopzilla from last Friday: still very yeasty, quite bitter, very piney hops up front (lots of Simcoe in this one) and took gravity readings of the oatmeal stout in the fv (which, of course, ended with tasting….quite roasty).  We took apart, cleaned, and pressure-tested 3 older 5-gallon corny kegs that are used for yeast – then dumped a bit of trub from the fv (fermentation vessel) full of stout and filled two of them with fresh yeast, leaving a fair amount of head space.  After settling, we will pull another 5-10 gallons tomorrow too.

After cleanup and putting the keg washer away, I did some more keg re-stacking in the Grundy Room and pulled most of the freshly-washed Sanke kegs back in.  It was getting late, so before I left, I helped Craig start filling kegs from one of the large holding tanks.  It was acting as a serving tank and had about 6.5 barrels left, so the first keg filled was stacked and tapped immediately to keep the barfront functional.  As I left, Craig was filling the rest of the kegs and planning to rinse out the tank before he left.

Tomorrow is planned to wash that holding tank, fill it with oatmeal stout from the fermentor, and clean out the FV once it’s empty.

Brewery Intern: Day 04 (Swap Them Hoses)

The slow filtration of the red ale last night meant that Craig and Bryan went home after the late-night staff meeting without cleaning the fermentor. The planned brew day for today was postponed until tomorrow. Today, we cleaned.

Today also marked the start of two new interns:  Ashley (a home kombucha fermenter) and Karen (a homebrewer and another member of the Brew Free or Die homebrewing club), both eager to get brewing.  The owner/brewmaster also left for a ten-day vacation today, leaving operations of the brewery in the hands of Bryan and Craig.

I hung back for a good portion of the morning, as Craig isn’t the loudest speaker.  He was doing a lot of the introductory explaining that I had already heard, so I was getting chemicals, putting away hoses, etc. while he was talking.  The burner for the boil kettle was extra ornery starting up this morning, requiring a couple of resets and some judicious *ahem* calibration with a mallet.

Ashley and Karen got some practice connecting and moving triclamp fittings as we cleaned the 14bbl fermentation vessel by:  draining it, rinsing it, adding cold water, recirculating the water, draining it, pumping in hot water, adding caustic, recirculating, draining, rinsing, pumping in more hot water, adding acids, recirculating, draining, rinsing, adding yet more water (this time, pumping in some iodine sanitizer), recirculating, then pumping the iodine into FV#1 (which has been on standby), recirculating that, and finally draining.

Fermentation Row

Fermentation Row

We also took apart and cleaned a Corny keg with short tubes that is used for yeast collection.  One of the quick-disconnects (QDs) had a persistent leak that we spent a little while troubleshooting before solving with an extra o-ring for better compression in the fitting.

We went over the plan for the brew day tomorrow before leaving for the day to let the brewers shop for parts to order.  The plan is to do a split batch:  mashing and using the first runnings for one beer, then adding more grain and mashing again to pull the second runnings for another beer (that might need to be boosted with a little sugar, depending on mash efficiency).  The brewers will be in early at 9am to start setup of hoses, measuring grain, etc. and the water should be mostly heated tonight.

A long double-brew day tomorrow, then off to Boston in the morning to judge at the Boston Homebrewing Competition on Saturday!

Brewery Intern: Day 03 (Filtration Blues)

A shorter day at the brewery today (for me, anyway).  We cleared excess pressure from two of the grundy tanks that were previously cleaned and sanitized.  After washing/sanitizing all of the plastic plates and sealing grommets, we loaded up the plate filter with cellulose pads and flushed it full of water.  After allowing the water to absorb into the pads, we tightened the filter and repeated a couple of times to ensure good seals.

Plate Filter

Commercial Plate Filter

While water circulated through the filter and transfer hoses, we dumped the last bit of trub from the bottom of the conical fermentation vessel into a bucket until the beer ran clean.  A feed of CO2 was applied to bring the headspace in the fermetor up to 15psi over 10-15 minutes.  After taste-testing the output water, we shut off the water and connected the filter to the pump, then connected the pump to the fermentor.  Once the gas pressure was up, we opened the valves and the beer began to flow.  Down the drain.

The first bit of running beer was still mixing with the water embedded in the filter pads and being diluted.  After a couple of taste-tests, we shut off the flow and connected the hose to the first grundy tank and fired it up.  The beer began to flow into the tank and excess CO2 started bubbling out the blowoff.  It took a while, but eventually, the grundy tank filled up.  As it was finishing, a customer ordered a 1/4 barrel of beer.  Fortunately, we had just cleaned and sanitized one two days ago and we promptly filled and carbonated it for him.

Then we hooked up the second grundy tank and recommenced flow, adding a bit more CO2 to the fermentor to avoid vacuum, and engaging the pump this time.  After about 1bbl of flow, it slowed to a crawl (while we were having lunch, of course).  After a while, flow picked up slightly, but it was still another 5-7hrs before the filter would finish.  There was little else to do (the brewers were planning to do some online research and shopping for parts) other than baby-sit the filter, so I was done for the day.

UPDATE:  Plans had been to brew tomorrow, but I just got a txt saying otherwise.  The filter took too long to get the FV (fermentation vessel) cleaned tonight too (and brew day water heats overnight for an early start), so brewing has been bumped ahead.

Brewery Intern: Day 02 (Scrubby Grundy)

Bryan and I finished up yesterday by filling a number of kegs and emptying a Grundy tank in the process.  Today started with Craig and I cleaning and sanitizing the Grundy to prepare it for refilling tomorrow with an Irish red.  There is a lot of swapping of lines, running and monitoring of the pump and water temperatures, as well as fill level/pressurization of the tank.

Grundy Tank

Grundy Tank

One of the pumps started with a small leak that started spraying into the housing, so the other pump got dragged back and forth for double duty (pulling hot water from the boil kettle or recirculating the Grundy tank contents).  After breaking the pump down, we gave it a thorough cleaning and relube, before reassembly and a test had it apparently running better than it has in months.  As soon as we get a couple more c-clips in, the plan is to break down the other one for the same treatment.  A log (5 gallon Cornelius keg) of Scotch ale was carbonated for Craig to take to a tasting event this evening – however, it was cancelled, so the keg is ready for the barfront to tap when needed.  Swapped out a couple of spent kegs for filled ones, some discussion of general procedures, potential equipment upgrades, and hop contract planning filled up a good portion of the in-between time.

Thanks to the snow today, we shut down early and I was home for 3:30 today.  Nice to have a couple moments to plan some of the next round of homebrewing activities, then back in tomorrow to filter a fermentor off to the freshly-cleaned, -sanitized, and -pressurized Grundy tank.  Looks like the plan is to be brewing a batch at the brewery on Thursday, after the fermentor is emptied and cleaned/sanitized.  I did manage to snap a couple of photos in the Grundy Room today – we’ll see about getting some into this and last post.  If I find the time this evening, I’ll post up a brew day entry as well.

Cheers!