Do you ever wonder what professionals in the brewing industry do on their off days? Well some of them, like Drew Huerter, homebrew. Last week I was invited over to Drew’s house, along with Brennan from Schlafly and Charlie from O’Fallon Brewery and Jeff (another excellent local homebrewer), to help brew up two different batches of beer. The first beer was a rye pale ale. The second beer was a very special beer, it’s going to be a wedding beer.
When you’re a Schlafly brewer and you’re going to get married, you get the privilege of brewing up a beer specifically for your wedding. In this case it’s Brennan that’s getting married and he’s decided to brew a American Brown Ale with a hell of a lot of hops. He wanted to homebrew the recipe first before brewing a big batch at The Tap Room. Brennan asked his friend Drew to help, as he is probably one of the best homebrewers in St. Louis. So I headed out on Sunday, which is part of my excuse for forgetting about the St. Louis gift blog, to brew with some of the brewers that make our local beer.
I arrived at Drew’s house on Sunday around 11:30. Drew had given me the heads up that since this was going to be a double brew day he was starting around 8AM. But a pillow was calling my name at 8AM on a Sunday. When I arrived the boil for the rye beer was almost complete as was the mash for Brennan’s brown. The copper device you see to the left is an immersion wort chiller, it uses cool water to cool the wort down as quickly as possible.
No sooner than Drew turned on the hose to start pushing water through the chiller it sprung a leak, which causes Brennan and Drew to find a way to clamp it. Hose water and cooled wort can be a dangerous combo. You’ve just spent a good amount of time sanitizing your wort, so the last thing you want to do is contaminate it with hose water. Little did we know that hose water would be the least of our concerns. Find out what else happened after the jump.
With the hot wort chilling, attention was turned to Brennan’s mash which had now finished converting and was ready to be sparged and boiled. In a picture to the right you can see how a good homebrew days works. Two guys work while 2 or 3 other jackasses sit back, drink beer and watch. In this case Drew and Brennan work while Charlie supervises with beer in hand.
I had checked the weather before coming over. I’m a bit of a weather nut so I’m always watching the radar and the local weather. I knew from looking at the radar that a cold front was coming and with it a line of thunderstorms. But in St. Louis the Mississippi and Missouri rivers can do strange things to storm fronts, so I was hoping that it may break up before it got to Drew’s house. Unfortunately, this was not the case because about halfway through the American brown sparge the skies opened up. To think, we were worried about a little hose water.
What happened next was something to behold. We scrambled to add extra tinfoil to the top of the cooling wort, we added tin foil to the top of Brennan’s brown wort that was sitting in buckets. We had to keep sparging the brown ale, we had to keep raiding Drew’s cellar and we had to keep drinking beer. Luckily, Drew was able to live up to the lofty slogan on the back of his hoodie, “Never Say Die.”
The rain eventually stopped, we were all pretty soaked and then the temperature dropped. We started boiling the brown ale and headed inside to warm up and dry a bit. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll warm up when you’ve had some of Drew and Jeff”s ryewine. It’s a 13.5% beer that features a malt profile that include 42% rye. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, I’ll make it easier to understand: that’s a hell of a lot of rye. It was a remarkable beegaryr that had the silky mouthfeel with a peppery rye aroma. I’m craving it right now.
The boil continued and we sat around Drew’s kitchen, drank and came to the realization that Brennan has no idea how to convert grams into ounces. I came to another realization, up until I started this blog I really didn’t know many of the local brewers. It came as a bit of a surprise to me to see just how tight-knit of a group they are. Here are three competing brewers working on a wedding beer together. I guess it shouldn’t have come as that big of a surprise, but it’s really cool to see.
As for the beer? Well, I’m sure it’s fermenting away as you read this and I for one can’t wait to try it out.