Group brewing

Yesterday’s was another time-delay post; I was in West Roxbury
brewing a imperial oatmeal stout.

My homebrew club has
discovered the joys of using a 60 gallon liquor barrel as a
fermentation vessel, but of course, homebrewers don’t have the
equipment to brew 60 gallons at a time. But the club
has several dozen people with the equipment to brew 5 gallons at
a time. So the organizing problem is how to get at least a dozen
people to brew their 5 gallons to the same recipe at the same

It isn’t anything that would have occurred to me, since I do
all my brewing on my kitchen stove. But the answer they came up
with last year and refined this year was to get people to bring
their equipment to somebody’s back yard and all brew together.
The way this works is that people with better access to their
back yards than I have have usually concluded that it’s faster
and less messy to do the boil on a propane stove in the back
yard. So in theory, everybody brings their stove, their
brewpot, and their mash-tun to the group brewing site. I said
that I could only bring the pot and the mash-tun (in my case a
10-gallon Gott cooler with a plastic false bottom), and they
assured me there would be an extra propane burner for me to

It was actually a brilliant piece of organizing. There were
about a dozen people brewing, and two or three other people
dropped by to be assistants or just hang out. Some people were
able to brew more than 5 gallons, so we ended up with a couple
of fermenters going besides the barrel, which will be used to
top up the barrel, and to provide a control to see what flavors
are being contributed by the wooden barrel.

They had the grain all crushed and measured, so when you were
ready to mash, you just took a bag and added it to the heated
water. The hops were similarly measured out in little bags for
the 60 minute, 10 minute and 1 minute additions.

One of the assistants manned the grill, so there were sausages
and sweet potatoes for lunch, and donuts, cookies, chile, and apples for breakfast and
snacks. Brewing is mostly waiting around between bursts of
activity, so it was nice to have people to talk to in between
the activity. And of course, you get to see everyone else’s
equipment in action. And we had ideal weather — 50’s and sunny.

My major reason for going was that I haven’t brewed since the
hip arthritis flared up, and I thought it would be good to get
back into it with lots of strong young men around to help with the
heavy lifting. I think they weren’t really any more necessary
than they would have been 15 years ago when I was brewing twice
a month or so. But there was an incident that would have lost
more wort if there hadn’t been assistants easily to hand.

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