I decided to brew on Thursday last week for a couple reasons: one, to make sure I got another batch in for the upcoming Blacksburg Brew-do homebrew competition; two, to make sure I didn't flake out on brewing over the weekend and put it off again like last weekend; and three, because I was curious if I could brew an all-grain beer at night after work, and still make it to work the next day.
Indeed, though I didn't start heating my mash water until 5:15 PM, I got in a quick and tidy batch and pitched yeast by 10:30. Will L., Mike A., Chris B., neighbor Chris all stopped by to make sure I got my money's worth proving point 3. No significant hangovers.
The greatest source of anxiety for me over the past 5 or so months and numerous batches of beer has been my mash tun, a problem I recently diagnosed as a combination of warped mash tun floor and flattened out false bottom. After much debate on how to fix the problem (and nearly buying a new Rubbermaid cooler), I settled on drilling 4 holes through the mash tun floor, inserting bolts and pinning down the warped floor with nuts. The remaining 1/2 inch of bolt sticking up provides some reinforcement for the false bottom should it try collapsing under a heavy load of malt.
This mostly did the trick, much to my delight. However, my efficiency wound up extremely low (56% vs. 75% planned), which I am partially attributing to the leaks I created in the tun by not using washers or gaskets of any kind. There really wasn't much liquid coming out, but it may have filled up in the space between the plastic. It also may have been some of the more concentrated sweet wort coming out at the beginning, causing a more rapid efficiency loss. At any rate, I'll fix it for the next batch and keep my fingers crossed.
The lack of efficiency jacked up my IBUs a little and it's going to be seriously dry beer if my alcohol gets where I want it to be. Another bummer which lowered the OG (but not the efficiency) was the fact that I only had 6 ounces of corn sugar around, and I had been planning on using at least 8 ounces. So in the end, the strong Belgian IPA I was going for is going to be a hoppy, yet moderate-strength pale ale, which may be a blessing in disguise. I'd been waffling between brewing something moderate for the Brew-do or something serious for the Brewer's Guild's "Imperial Anything" competition. While I settled on something Brew-do-centric before brewing, I was still concerned my recipe would approach 7% ABV. This one should be in the 5.5% range, and will also finish fermenting quicker so it will have more time to meld and carbonate before the Brew-do, Oct. 24. Works for me.
6 lb. Belgian Pilsner malt
3 lb. Wheat malt
1 lb. Aromatic malt
.5 lb. Carapils Dextrine malt
6.3 oz. Corn sugar
Glacier hops 1 oz. 60 min, 15 min, and 10 min and 2 oz. dryhop.
White Labs WLP 500 Trappist Ale yeast