Most of you probably don’t know this, but there are many scientific discoveries that were made by brewers. In fact, it was a brewery in London during the sewage problems of the 1800s that provided insight into the bacteria problems in the water. The people at the brewery were not getting sick because they only drank beer, which had undergone a boiling process. Those around the brewery were getting sick from the unsanitary water that was plagued by rotten sewage. But enough about that.
What is a stout beer? Stouts are dark, sometimes bitter beers that are brewed with roasted barley and malt. The barley is often roasted to the point of charring. This provides a “burnt” type of flavor that can often taste like coffee or chocolate. These beers can be all over the map in terms of hoppy-ness. But the main character of a stout beer in the roasted flavor.
An oatmeal stout is a variant of a stout beer that is brewed with steeped oatmeal added to the steeping grains. The addition of the oatmeal gives this variant a sweeter, smoother finish. Also, these have a more mellow character than a standard stout. The roasted character, however, remains in the beer. Some popular oatmeal stouts include Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout and Young’s Oatmeal Stout.
My Beer: Newton’s Oatmeal Stout
Way back on September 11th, in honor of our awesome country, I brewed beer. It was my first time brewing a beer while using the steeping grains. Basically the steeping grains add about 30 minutes to the brewing process. You put a bunch of crushed grains like barley and malt into a sack and soak it in hot water for about 20-30 minutes. Then this becomes the base liquid for the boiling wort.
After you’ve steeped the grains, which is rather like steeping a tea pack in hot water, though on a much grander scale, then you can begin to brew the beer. The kits I have used have said to bring a gallon of water up to 170 degrees and use it to rinse the grains. So I simply pour the gallon over the grain sack and catch the water in the boiling kettle.
The wort boils for about 45 minutes, during which time the hops are added. After 45 minutes you’re basically done. You bring the beer down to about 115 degrees and add in enough water to bring it to about 5 gallons. Next you pitch the yeast, which is a fancy way to say you add yeast to the liquid. Then seal it up with an airlock and you’re good to go!
The original or starting gravity of my stout was 1.047. This isn’t a very high gravity, but stout beers aren’t known for being high gravity beers.
After a week in the fermenter I transferred the beer to a glass carboy. I let it ferment and age in the carboy for about three weeks and this past Sunday I bottled it.
Bottling is the worst part of the process. I don’t buy bottles, so I have to de-label them, which is a big pain. Then you’ve got to make sure your 45-50 bottles are clean, so I run them through the dishwasher without detergent. After that I sanitize them using One-Step. In the meantime I transfer the beer back to the plastic fermenter, dissolve bottling sugar, add the dissolved mixture to the beer, and then I proceed to bottle 10 at a time and cap them.
For this batch I ended up with 46 bottles, one of which will remain on my shelf for all time. Doing a little math, if an average 6-pack costs $8.50, which seems on par with my FLBS (Favorite Local Beer Store), then 45 bottles (7.5 6-packs) would cost about $64. The beer brewing kit itself cost about $42. So I am saving $22! That’s a considerable amount. The downside is that I have 7.5 6-packs of the same beer. Is that $22 worth having so much of the same beer? (It is worth it if you can bring it to game nights and drink other people’s beer!)
My Newton’s Oatmeal Stout had a final gravity of 1.015. This means that the beer has an ABV (Alcohol by volume) of 4.2%. Therefore I should be able to slam a bunch of these bad boys and feel little effect.
I like to name all of my beers after Renaissance men. In my opinion Renaissance men are not necessarily from the Renaissance. Rather, these are people who happen to be experts or masters in many trades. Sir Isaac Newton was definitely a Renaissance man.
I could have chosen a pudgy character who more closely fit the bill of being “stout.” However, Newton seemed to fit the bill of being “stout” due to his contributions to science and his place in history. I suppose I could have saved Newton in case I ever brewed an apple ale, but I don’t think I’ll ever brew an apple ale. So Newton joins my Renaissance fleet that already includes Leon Battista Alberti (Amber Ale) and Benjamin Franklin (Honey Ale).
In a couple of weeks a new Renaissance man will join the team behind the guise of a Scotch Ale. Unfortunately William Wallace is not technically a Renaissance man, so I’ll have to choose a different Scot as the namesake for the beer.
If anyone has questions about brewing or beer styles or anything having to do with zymurgy, please let me know!
I’m starting a new feature on Boards & Barley called “Design Me.” These features will allow me to let my brain spew words onto this site in an effort to come up with a random game design. The idea here is to “exercise” my game design brain and “flex” my game design muscles. Consider it like practice. Athletes go and work out, lift weights, and other things like that. So as a game designer I think we should do the same thing. Bear in mind that this is an exercise and exercises are not nearly as elegant as actually seeing an athlete perform.
Normally Friday’s are review days here on Boards & Barley, but reviews aren’t very fun to write. So I’m switching to this design feature. Now there will be two review Fridays per month and two Design Me Fridays per month. I tweeted a request for a unique theme on which to apply a worker placement theme. The first person to reply wittingly mentioned castles, farming or railroads. Then they mentioned Smurfs. Then someone else mentioned smurfs. Who knew there was so much love out there for the little blue guys. However, the idea I found most interesting came from Tasty Minstrel and I’ll be going with this:
The Rolling Wort Boil
First of all, I really enjoy the idea of dice drafting and using dice as workers. It works really well in both Alien Frontiers and The Castles of Burgundy, the latter being one of my favorite games. Granted, they don’t necessarily use dice drafting, but the general concept is there.
So let’s start designing this game…
Brewing beer involves a few different things. You need to gather the right ingredients, gather the right equipment, have a facility, and possess skill in brewing. So let’s break each of those down into different parts of the game.
Here’s the grand concept, a thesis statement of sorts, for the game:
In The Rolling Wort Boil players must utilize the best dice for gathering ingredients and equipment, upgrading your facility, and perfecting the art of craft brewing.
Dice will be used for each of those things. There will be two types of dice. One type will be used to gather the right stuff. The other type will represent people and their skills. Let’s explore the former type first.
The Gathering Dice
I would design the game to be played where each round had a gathering phase and a brewing phase. In the gathering phase each player would roll a number of gathering dice. These dice would have different symbols on them. Those symbols could be grain, water, hops, or yeast.
Each player would roll their gathering dice. Then they would choose one die and pass the rest. They would then choose from the dice that were passed to them. This drafting would continue until all dice were chosen.
These gathering dice then form your team that you can use to go claim ingredients and equipment. What you’re trying to do while drafting is create combinations of dice that you can use. Players could, for example, collect three hops, which would allow them to harvest hops. If someone only gathered two hops, they’d still be allowed to place those on the worker placement spots on the board, but they would go second and get worse hops.
So the way it would work is similar to Alien Frontiers. You need certain combinations of dice to be able to harvest certain things. For hops it could be that you need at least three hops. For Yeast you might need three different symbols, one of which is yeast. Once everyone has drafted, then people could start claiming the worker placement spots with their combinations of dice. As dice are allocated to the board, the players would immediately harvest whatever their dice allow.
So through the dice drafting you are trying to create the best set of dice that will allow you to maximize your combinations, and thus harvest the best/most ingredients. I imagine the gathering of equipment would work the same way.
The Employee Dice
Here’s where things can get a little more interesting. Now we’ve got resources and equipment. We’re homebrewing in our garage. But we have a basic homebrewer with little skill. The employee dice will serve a few different functions. These include increasing skill, increasing quanity, and increasing efficiency. The trick here is that a pool of employee dice are provided by the game based on the locations where people placed their gathering dice.
So the depth of the strategy is not simply in gathering and using resources, but gathering resources so that you can get the employee die into the game that you strongly desire. Turn order would also matter in this case.
Let’s imagine you used three hops dice in the field that provided a “skill” employee die face. If that’s what you really wanted you would have to make sure you go first during the brewing portion of the game so that you can choose the skill die. Perhaps you knew you would not go first when choosing the employee dice. Then maybe you would have put your three hops dice into the fields on the spot that provided a “quantity” employee die. So there’s control over what your gathering, and the resulting employees.
These dice would then be drafted and utilized after the harvest.
How to Play
Each round of The Rolling Wort Boil (tentative name), would include the following phases:
- Dice drafting of gathering dice.
- Placement of gathering dice combos onto the board.
- Harvesting/gathering of ingredients/equipment based on placement.
- Pooling of employee dice from those placements.
- Drafting of employee dice in turn order.
- Usage of employee dice to brew and upgrade your facility.
How to Win
To win The Rolling Wort Boil, players must brew high quality or high quantities of beer. This requires them to maximize their ability to gather as many ingredients as possible, while also increasing their employee’s skills and upgrading their equipment. Each batch of beer they produce would be worth points based on the ingredients used, the skill of the brewer, and the level of the facility. I imagine the game would take 30-45 minutes, have a light-ish feel, and be best played with a Hefeweizen of IPA.
So there’s our first “Design Me” Friday. Any thoughts about the game design? What would you do differently? And most importantly, does the game sound like it’s any fun. Thanks again to Tasty Minstrel for the idea. I’m looking forward to the next Design Me in two weeks.
When it comes to home brewing there are two approaches to the bottling stage. The first is kegging, which is awesome, but very expensive. The second is bottling. Bottling can be nearly free and today I’m discussing my three step process to prepare bottles for holding your precious creation.
Step 1: Bottle Procurement
Everyone has friends. And if you share the other hobby that this blog covers (board games) then you likely get together and hang out quite often. Well, if you’re a home brewer this is a great opportunity for you. During our board game nights my friends typically each bring a 6-pack of beer.
Is it weird when at the end of the night I ask to keep their empty bottles? Not at all. One friend thanked me for taking his trash. But beware… here are some tips for successful bottle procurement.
- Don’t be sneaky. Just ask if you can have the bottles.
- Don’t take any twist off bottles since they aren’t good for home brewing. (Life tip: avoid twist off bottles if you enjoy quality beer!)
- On the drive home, put the bottles in your trunk. I can’t emphasize this one enough!
Now that you’ve procured your bottles (about 50 for a 5 gallon batch) you’re ready for step 2.
Step 2: Label Removal
This is the worst part of home brewing. If I weren’t also trying to save money by home brewing I would just purchase new bottles. But I’m guessing I’m not the only one out there who removes the labels from bottles so here’s how I do it.
I first fill my utility sink full of hot water. Then I place the bottles in there for a good half hour. The idea here is to soak the labels and get them ready to be peeled off.
After a half hour I take one bottle at a time and peel off the label. There will likely be some residue left on the bottle. To remove the residue I take a dish scrubber or dish wand and apply a little elbow grease.
This is sort of a buy beware point, though. Some bottles have great labels that basically fall right off. Others have very gummy labels that leave behind some terrible glue that is nearly impossible to get off. In Wisconsin I’m blessed to have the New Glarus Brewing Company in my back yard. They have the best labels ever! Soak them and they fall right off.
And the best part about labels that fall right off is that you can make some really cool art with them. Here is a collage I made with the New Glarus labels:
To get all the labels off and residue removed will take a little while. Be prepared to stand over the utility sink for a while. But once you’ve got the bottles all spic and span I like to move on to step three.
Step 3: The Dishwasher
Now that your bottles are free of all denigrating marks of previous ownership they are ready to visit the dishwasher. This step helps to remove any leftover residue from the inside of the bottles and helps to sanitize them as well. And for some reason I really like how they look all lined up in the dishwasher.
The key here is to run it as a normal wash cycle, but do not use any detergent. These bottles aren’t likely to be caked with peanut butter or broccoli or any other typical dinner fare. They were filled with beer. So they really only need to be rinsed.
So run the cycle a few hours before you are going to bottle the beer. That will give you enough time to let the bottles cool off from the hot dishwasher cycle.
Bottle Prep: Simple but Tedious
And that’s it! You now have bottles that are ready to go for bottling. I would, however, make one more recommendation. And that is to do one final rinse in your sanitizer before bottling, especially if these are sitting around for too long. Better safe than sorry. If you have a preferred method for bottle prep, please let me know. I’m always looking to get more efficient!
Now that I’m a homebrewer and it all comes so easily to me I figured that I might as well brew up another batch while the first is carbonating in the bottles. So I stopped at my local brewing store (Wine & Hop Shop) and picked up a kit called Bumblebee Honey Ale. I chose a honey ale for several reasons:
- I enjoy New Glarus’ Cabin Fever Honey Bock and Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss
- My wife enjoys honey beers.
- Brewing beers my wife enjoys helps justify my brewing endeavors.
- It’s almost summer and a honey ale would be refreshing on a hot afternoon.
I bought the kit and a couple other things to help with the hydrometer reading and I was ready to brew!
So on Saturday afternoon while the kids were napping and when I should have been mowing the lawn I brewed instead! This beer has a 45 minute boiling time. The 1 oz. of Cascade hops get added at the start. Then after 35 minutes a half ounce of the Czech Saaz hops are added. And finally after 45 minutes the rest of the Czech Saaz hops and the two pounds of honey are added.
Before I brewed my first batch I was incredibly nervous. Everything seemed so complicated, so detail oriented, and seemingly required perfection. This time around I just got to it.
One of the lessons I learned the first time around is how to better control the heat from the turkey fryer. During the first batch it kept foaming up. This time I was able to recognize when that would happen and I turned down the heat to avoid that.
As it was boiling my daughter woke up and came outside. When she got a sniff of the wort she said, “Ooh, yummy!” I’m not sure what to read into that. But I was happy that it smelled good to her. Later though, when I added the Czech Saaz and it smelled more hoppy, she changed her opinion and said, “PU!”
Overall this second brew went very well. I was able to refine my process and speed things up. I didn’t make as many mistakes. And I had a lot more fun. It’s already bubbling like crazy, which is a joy to watch. Seriously, I could sit in my basement and watch bubbles move through the fermentation lock for an unhealthy amount of time. I even took a video of the bubbles.
So the beer is fermenting nicely in the plastic Ale Pail. Next weekend I’ll switch it over to the glass carboy. I’m hoping to have this beer bottled and ready to go by the end of June. I may even bring some to GenCon in August (unless I drink it all by then)!
The only question is what I should name it. I am naming all of my beers after Renaissance men since I consider myself to be a mediocre one. My first beer I named after Leon Battista Alberti. I’m thinking I might go with something like “Ben Franklin’s Honey” for this one. I hope it turns out to be delicious, no matter what I name it!
If you’ve been following this blog then you know I’ve purchased my first beer brewing kit. 2013 just seems like a great year to get started. I’ve wanted to brew for about 5 years now. So it’s about time I leveled up in Manliness and actually brewed.
Two Saturdays ago I connected my propane tank to my turkey fryer and boiled some wort! It was an interesting learning process and I’m proud to be able to report on it today on B&B!
Some of us who run, and by “us” I mean “you,” have experienced something known as Raceday Nerves. It’s where you’re all nervous before you start a race. I’ve been there too. I ran a couple half marathons two years ago and have definitely had those butterflies. Why do I bring that up? Because for some reason I had a little pre-brew jitters. I guess it was because I was hoping to not mess up.
There was nothing I could do about the nerves so I just got to it. Here’s my homebrew setup:
It looks all shiny and new there. That lasted about 3 minutes until the flames started to cause the black paint on the turkey fryer stand to bubble, crack, and burn away! Yikes. And of course as the paint and the bolts were flaming my neighbor walked up and asked what I was up to.
Who wants to boil some Wort?
For my first brew I wanted it to be as simple as possible. That means I was brewing with a pre-made extract. This is a liquid that comes in a half gallon jar. You can see it over there →
Brewing this way is pretty “easy.” You just boil the wort for about 40 minutes, then cool it, put it in the fermenter and add the yeast.
Eventually I will get to the point where I’ll be choosing the grains and hops that I use so that I can brew actual, legit home recipes. But as a first timer I think I made a good choice.
In some ways it relates to board game design. I could have chosen to go with a complicated all-grain brew and thrown a bunch of awesome stuff in there. But it probably wouldn’t have all worked together, especially on the first try.
In board game design it seems like it would make sense to put a bunch of awesome mechanics together and expect an awesome game. But what ends up happening is you get a game where things feel non-thematic, unrelated, and almost like they’re work. *Cough* Archipelago *Cough*
So I didn’t want to put a bunch of awesome stuff together and hope for the best. I took this first batch as an opportunity to learn a little bit!
Gettin’ Hot in the Pot
With my wort warmed up and the water boiling I was ready to begin! I was pretty nervous about this part. Reading through the directions it was pretty clear that this part could involve a “foam over,” not to be mistaken with a comb over.
Fortunately my turkey fryer is a 7.5 gallon pot and I was only boiling 2 gallons of water and the wort. There were a few times that the foam rose up near the top. If I had been boiling it on the stove it definitely would have foamed over.
By using the knob on the turkey fryer it was pretty easy to control the heat to the pot. Therefore any time I saw the foam building I was able to turn down the heat just a bit and watch the foam dwindle. I was really thankful that I paid for the turkey fryer since it gave me so much peace of mind when boiling the wort.
Here a peek into the pot:
When the wort started boiling I added the Willamette hops. After 30 minutes I added a half ounce of Kent Golding hops. And then after 8 more minutes I added another half ounce of the Kent Golding hops. And two minutes later it was done!
Am I a Brewer Yet?
Once the wort was boiled and the nervous part was over with it was time to cool the wort. I filled my utility sink full of ice water and placed the whole pot right in there on a metal trivet. With active stirring it cooled the wort pretty quickly. In a previous article I had mentioned making a wort chiller. I may still do that, but this cooled it down in about 12 minutes.
The next part was a little tricky too. It was time to transfer it over to the fermenter, which is a fancy word for plastic bucket. Without much hesitation I poured it right in. It felt really good to be done with the boiling portion of the brewing process.
Here’s what I left behind in the pot:
So the beer was brewed. What’s next?
The Waiting Game
With the boiled wort in the plastic bucket (I just can’t call it a fermenter) it was time to wait. I was super excited about the waiting game. I was really looking forward to seeing some bubbles coming through the fermentation lock.
I was prepared to see no bubbles. My confidence in my brewing ability was so high that I was expecting to fail.
Fortunately a day later I saw the first bubbles! It was a great moment in my life. I put it right up there with taking the ACT for the fourth time in high school and that moment in baseball practice when I got hit, well… you know where.
So the bubbles, while exciting, really weren’t much to look at. I figured they would happen. I was just slightly worried that it would foam over through the fermentation lock.
Thankfully it did not. And I was able to move onto the second stage of fermentation… the Carboy!
Carboy is a Cool Word
So the next step is to transfer the beer over to the glass carboy. This doesn’t have to be done, but all the books and experts make it sound like it’s the right thing to do. So I did it.
I had purchased an auto siphon, which really made the transfer pretty easy. I hoisted the bucket up on a box and cracked it open. It really smelled good! I put the siphon in the bucket, being careful to keep it off the bottom, and then pumped and let it do its work.
Here’s how it looked during siphoning and after all was said and done:
I AM a Home Brewer! What’s with “Alberti?”
So at this point my beer has been in the carboy for about 4 days. It is a little cold in my basement where it is fermenting and I think that has caused it to ferment less than it perhaps should have. But the bottom line is that there are several gallons of my own beer sitting in my basement!
So the next step will be bottling at some point in the next week or so. That should be interesting. I bought a bottom up bottle filler, though. That should help the process a bit!
So why did I name it “Alberti Amber?” This beer is named after Leon Battista Alberti, who was a 15th century Renaissance man. I like to consider myself sort of a Mediocre Renaissance Man and so it’s fun to name these beers after men I look up to. Alberti is a favorite renaissance man of mine due to his Alberti Cipher work in cryptography. I have a little man crush on unsolved ciphers and maybe my beer will help me solve some of them. Probably Not.
So it’s been a fun, if nerve-wracking, process brewing my first batch of beer. I think the second time will go much smoother. Or at least I’ll be more comfortable with it. All I have to do is figure out what style of beer I want to brew next! Helmholtz Honey Bock? Franklin Cream Ale? We shall see!