May 18, 2010

Mistake Mistake Mistake Mistake

All great epic tragedies start out with the protagonist having good intentions. Unfortunately, protagonists usually suffer from chronic hubris and they manage to foul everything up and something usually dies and then the protagonist experiences catharsis and then suffers from regret for the rest of his/her days. I am the protagonist of this story.

I planned on a simple brown ale. I had obtained 7 pounds (3.15 kilograms) of Gleneagles Maris Otter malt. Gleneagles Maris Otter is a Scottish version of the English Maris Otter malt. I was stoked to try out this scarce floor malted barley.

Let me take a moment to tell you about a tiny little malting company from Blackford, Perthshire in Scotland: Gleneagles Malting Company.
In 1886, a bloke named William Thomson set himself up a new brewery. The bloke died during construction of the brewery. The business became W B Thomson Ltd in the summer of 1898 when maltings became part of the operations. The brewing industry slumped around that time, so the company also moved into aerated water and bottling. The company failed in 1915, but so did a lot of companies because there was a really big war in progress (for lack of a better name, we'll call it "World War I"). This war was so big that there wasn't even a football (soccer) game played in 1915-16! Times were tough. J & A Davidson & Co acquired the brewery in 1916, but sold to Calder & Co of Alloa in 1920. Eleven years later, Gleneagles Malting, who was selling bread at the time, leased the premises at Blackford for storage purposes only. But then Gleneagles Malting Ltd decided to buy the place sometime about 1950. In 2002, Crisp Malting Group was like, "I want it," so they bought it. Today, only two varieties come from Gleneagles: Maris Otter and Golden Promise.
(Special thanks to the Scottish Brewing Archive in Archive Services at the University of Glasgow for all this historically important brewing information.)

OK, back to how I ruined 7 pounds of precious malt:

I first made err on my strike temp calculation. I was aiming for a mash temp of 154 deg F, but hardly hit 140 deg F. I did not record my maths, so I am not certain how I was so far off. I decided to add a small amount of direct heat to my tun to bring the mash up to temp. I turned on the flame and then, like a twit, wandered off and got side-tracked. Two hours passed. Later, I realized that not only did I leave the heat on the whole time, but I also neglected the amount of water that would be absorbed by the grain. I sparged anyway because it otherwise would've felt like such a bloody waste. I used an English approach to sparging.

Here's the bloody stupid part: like a twit, I neglected to close the kettle valve before I started lautering into the kettle. I didn't have enough initial runoff to notice because the liquid rested below the level of the valve (remember how I miscalculated my water needs?). Well, when I began to drain my mashout, I again walked away to do something like make a sandwich. Upon return to the kettle with my sandwich in hand, my wort was ignominiously coating the floor! I felt the same way Napoleon must have felt when he met his inglorious end. With my head hung in embarrassment, I grabbed some Brawny paper towels and dabbed up the mess. Brawny promises performance and they performed gracefully in their sopping up of sweet floor wort.

Ready for some hubris? Disgracefully, I squeezed the damn paper towels into the kettle to recover as much sweet floor wort as I could. I started my boil as if I'd done nothing wrong.

I have one shameful gallon of the stuff in a glass jug.



Potential names for this beer include:
-Mistake Mistake Mistake Mistake
-Oedipus Wrecked
-Brawny Brown

Got any bad brewing stories to share?


  1. Man, that's terrible. Just be glad you didn't destroy your mash tun! Reminds me of the classic "forgetting to close the ball valve before dumping five gallons of hot wort into the kettle" mistake I've managed to do more than once...

  2. You could call it "Stick Around Brown".