When you make a beer, you want everything to go right. When you make the first commercial release for your brand, you want it to be a great beer. Thankfully, beer is a resilient thing – everything doesn’t have to go right for the end product to be a great beer. You could say it’s either ballsy or stupid to brew a first (U.S. domestic) release beer on a system you’ve never used before. But I’ve brewed seven commercial releases at breweries in Europe over the past two years on systems that I’d never brewed on before – and they all came close to (a couple better than) their target. So I went for it – a Double White IPA.
There was a challenge with the system, known as a “stuck mash”. That means you can’t push liquid through your grain, so your brew day goes from four hours to more like eight or more. A stuck mash is one of the most dreaded things a brewer has to deal with. Well, it was dealt with. And the fermentation went great. Dry hops went in, and a couple days later the beer was moved to the cold room to clarify.
Or, rather, the semi-cold room – there’s some unexpected AC issues. Ok, so most of the stuff should still settle to the bottom of the fermenter, and we can pull the yeast and hops off the bottom and package some reasonably clean beer. Another couple days in the semi-cold room in the kegs and the beer should pour fairly clear after a couple murky first pints – it’s a White Ale after all. We sally forth with optimism and cheer.
On packaging day we start drawing the yeast off the bottom so we can package clean beer, and it stops flowing. You know you read these horror stories about surgeons leaving things in a patient. Well, we had the brewer’s equivalent. Someone left a bit of equipment in the fermenter. It’s sanitary; it won’t screw up the beer – but it does mean the beer will be cloudier than I’d like for a few days, and there may be some hop matter in the glass. At least unless I gave it a week to chill and clear. But I don’t have a week – people (thankfully friendly people) are coming on Saturday August 1st at 2:00pm for a pour.
So, I tell myself, “Don’t worry Daniel. It’s still a great beer.” And it is a great beer – it’ll do for damn sure! Even with a couple flakes of hop matter, and a little haze from suspended yeast. Heck, if you’re a “real beer drinker”, that’s a free salad and a vitamin B supplement.