I’m told it happens to everyone at some point in their homebrewing career. It could’ve been the lack of preparation, the poor planning, the surplus of hubris or a combination that led to this darkest hour. On July 14, 2013 I was forced to dump my first batch of beer. This was a beer I had been hoping would turn out excellent, but all the tell-tale signs of impending doom were there. I even chronicled them on this blog.
So between the boil overs, the spills, the distractions, the dry hopping and the seemingly endless fermentation, “Suicide By Hops” (fittingly) died a death of a thousand mistakes. It was still fermenting today (3 weeks later) with a 3 inch layer of hop crud on top and plenty of floaties suspended in the beer. Nevertheless, I tried to siphon some liquid off and it looked for a while that I might be able to pull a gallon or two of salvageable beer out of this mess. But more and more debris kept making it’s way into the siphon. After I pulled a little under 2 gallons I tried pouring the beer through a strainer, but there was too much suspended debris. I gave it a sniff to see if it would be worth it to try and bottle, but it didn’t even smell like an IPA. It smelled oddly sweet.
And so I dumped it down the drain. That sucked.
But I did learn from the myriad of mistakes. I learned that homebrewing, while part-art, is not a performance art. I made the mistake of trying to brew while distracted and it led to dumping the batch; a batch that was expensive and already would’ve yielded less beer than my previous batches. I learned that a little research and proper technique goes a long way. I learned to keep my focus on the task at hand. And I learned ignoring this can be an expensive mistake.
But I got to apply these lessons learned to the batch I brewed yesterday. I had ordered my hops and some of my grain bill online in anticipation of using it for the “Suicide By Hops” brew day, but it didn’t arrive in time. So I had a metric shit-ton of hops just hanging out in my fridge (along with two HopShot syringes). So I figured, “Hey, I messed up that last one; let’s try this again.”
So to use a well-worn cliché, from the murky, hop-crud ashes of a failed DIPA, arose a new, (hopefully successful) phoenix. I wouldn’t call any of my brew days “flawless” so far, but this was the closest I’ve had. I still forgot to add the Irish Moss to the boil (I put a little into the aroma steep and a bit more into the fermenter), and I didn’t take an OG reading (probably not a big deal since I bought a dual-scale refractometer), but the rest of the process was pretty dialed-in. I have high hopes for his beer now.
I’m going to do a bit more research on dry hopping to make sure I don’t repeat the hop-crud layer I had last time. I’m also going to get the yeast have a little more time to work it’s magic, but I’m encouraged by the solid krausen after 24 hours…
It’s fermenting slightly warmer (74F) than I’d like, and a little above the optimum level but not too bad. It’ll have to do until I can get myself a fridge for fermentation control. That’s the next step. Until then…