HomeBrew Batch 5 – What’s The Worst That Could Happen?

Last night I decided to brew my 5th batch – a clone of Big Sky’s Moose Drool.   I’ve never had this beer, but everything I’ve read about it online is rave reviews from fanatics who say it’s the stone cold nuts, so I figured I’d try to bang out a 2 gallon batch in my new 3 gallon glass carboy.   There are a number of Moose Drool clone recipes online, most of which are pretty similar.  I ended up grabbing one of them and scaling it down linearly to 2 gallons.  Yes, I am aware this isn’t scientifically 100% correct due to varying hop utilization, but to be honest, I didn’t really care.   I used this recipe which I uploaded to Hopville:

3.5lbs Maris Otter Malt

7 ounces Caramel Crystal 80 Malt

2 ounces Chocolate Malt

1/2 ounce Black Patent Malt

Hops:  0.3 ounces East Kent Goldings:  60 minutes

0.2 ounces Willamette: 10 minutes

0.2 ounces Libery 1 minute

So I heated up about 5 1/2 quarts of water for my 4 pounds of grain, and mashed them in my 2 gallon Igloo cooler.   After 60 minutes, the temp was still solid right around 153 degrees, which was good.   I put the paint strainer bag over my boil kettle, poured the mash mixture from the cooler into the bag-lined-kettle, then sparged and removed the bag of grain.   I think I erred at this point because I used about 2 1/4 gallons of sparge water (I decided to just double the sparge water I’d used in a 1 gallon batch of a previous brew, which I now see may not have been a genius move) – which was an issue because it gave me a diluted wort.   Now, a more experienced brewer might have just boiled for longer to reduce the volume, but by the time I realized that I had way too much wort, I had already thrown the EKG hops in, and I didn’t know what the effect would be if I boiled for an extra half hour – I didn’t want to risk over-bittering my beer.

Instead, I scrambled for a solution to “my original gravity is too low” issue online, since I knew that my original gravity was going to be way low, as a result of my essentially diluting my wort.    I had the idea of solving this problem how any good New Hampshire-ite would solve it:  with maple syrup, which I have on hand.   I found this Northern Brewer thread which claimed that 1 gallon of maple syrup weighs 14 lbs, and that the gravity contribution of maple syrup was 35pppg.   That is 35 points per pound per gallon, I believe.   Now, I had been imbibing a bit while I was doing this, so I set out to build a spreadsheet to calculate how much maple to add.

I guessed that my volume of wort was 2.5 gallons, and after cooling the wort I measured the OG at 1.042.   I needed 1.057, so I needed 15 points of gravity.   I calculated that 1 pound of maple would add about 14 points of gravity (35 pts / 2.5 gallons  = 14) , and then I converted 1 lb of maple into about 9 liquid ounces  – cause I don’t have a scale.   I didn’t account for the 2 cups of water that I dissolved the maple syrup in, and when I was done my new original gravity came to 1.053, which was in the ball park.    Backing into the calculations, it seems likely that I had closer to 3 gallons of wort, so the maple addition would contribute about 11 points of gravity, which is what I got.

I then ran into a different kind of beer calculus when I tried to solve the following equation:

1 beer + 1/2 bottle of wine + glass carboy with 1 inch opening + tiny little 3 inch funnel + 5 gallon boiling kettle = ???

Turns out the answer is “spilling tons of wort all over the outside of your carboy, wasting it.”   Pouring from the 5 gallon kettle into the 3 inch funnel was not a raging success.    This wasn’t the end of the world, as I only wanted 2 gallons in the carboy anyway (to prevent a blowout of my airlock), but I guess it probably would have worked out if I hadn’t poured the beer down the drain by accident.   I was also using my huge paint strainer bag draped over my little teeny funnel to strain the hops out.   I paused every 30 seconds or so to wash off my makeshift hops filter.  Hardcore beer geeks would probably have cringed at my process, as I introduced plenty of opportunity for contamination, but hey – what’s the worst that could happen?  I think it will work out fine.

In the end, I got a little more than 2 gallons into my carboy, which is churning away like wildfire today.   This is my first batch in a see-through carboy (as opposed to a plastic bucket), and it’s amazing how the mixture is alive – it looks like it’s boiling, almost – churning and in motion.

Hopefully, my late-addition maple syrup problem solving won’t bastardize the beer too much.  Again, I’m not especially concerned because maple makes everything better, and I’ve never had the original Moose Drool anyway.




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