Clive’s Beer Blog – DIY Beer Brewing

January 21 – Beer Blog No.2

This house brewery, in a Welsh museum is close to intact. The copper, (far left) heated the mash liquor. I can’t be sure where the mash tun stood, but somewhere that could be fed with water from the copper. At the moment it is on the floor to the right of the steps. The large trays were for cooling the wort, prior to running it into a fermenter, underneath the trays. The spouted buckets were for sparging.

I mentioned brewing in a small space, in blog no. 1. It’s a problem many will face and when my family became fed up with me blocking the kitchen and odourising the house with wort smell and then boiling hops, a solution had to be found. The smell isn’t that bad so don’t panic, but we know how judgemental the friends of teenage daughters can be! Thus, we built a tiny brewhouse, which also served as a pantry, so I was allocated the sink and about 1 ½ m2 space – or about 16 sq foot for US readers.

Our planning department kept my plans to prove to incoming colleagues how wacky some residents in our town can be.

Why call it a macrobrewery? Large commercial breweries give their annual production figures in millions of hectolitres, microbreweries probably talk in thousands and I don’t quite manage 4 hectolitres or 90 gallons per year. But that serves me and the immediate family and friends.

Photographing my brewery is problematic with space and light considerations, but here is a diagram I made from a 19th century sketch. The process is described in the Craft of House Brewing.

This four stage system needs about 3 m height. The use of flatter vessels can reduce this. I always ferment in the boiler, which saves me a metre.
  • Avoid polypropylene (plastic) buckets. If they fail, you could be showered with boiling water. They were once considered OK, but I always had reservations. Cheap, cheerful and dangerous. Stainless steel boilers must take plastic from the boiling side of the brewery. A 2.6 kW tea boiler is perfect for preheating the mash liquor.
  • You can make your mash tun, or buy a converted insulated cool box.
  • 4kW is better for boiling the wort in the 50 litre stainless steel vessel. It will need a gas burner, to avoid point heating and some tricky wiring.
  • I haven’t used a purpose fermenter for years. I cool the wort in the boiler, adjust the gravity with cold water, pitch the yeast, cover and leave in a cool place until fermented out. I get away with this because I don’t brew so often and it is OK if my boiler is tied up for 10 days whilst fermenting.
  • Cool – I live in a temperate part of the world and could brew with care throughout the year. I don’t! Traditionally, one brewed between October and March, hence the occurrence in brewing history of March and October beers – the first and last brew of the season. Humid summer days are deadly for the sugary wort, the smell attracting fruit flies from the whole county.

And this is what it might look like.

The three stage gravity fed macrobrewery. The lower stainless steel vessel is both wort boiler and fermenter. The connecting tap from the grey mash tun to the boiler has been removed for maintenance. I built this one in a morning for a friend.

This is what you could be brewing. Get building.

A sample of a historic gyle, no longer made, but within your reach as a craft brewer.
The author, in his Craft Brewing Association sweat shirt, now looking faded, with the travelling brewing rig from Hahn on the front. Hahn claimed he brewed for the army while on manoeuvres. Early 19th century.

Published by Clive La Pensée

Clive La Pensée, ex-science teacher, recognised writer on history of beer, novelist, expressionist, dreamer, believer in never giving up, empathiser, hopeful for a future without class, gender or racial prejudice. It's tough and at the moment, one has to remember distance travelled, rather than where we are at.

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