Thursday, January 14, 2010

Into the Gray Days......

Winter in Polson, Montana.....

"These are some bleak days!"
I heard this as I was walking to work one morning. I stopped, looked around, and saw....

"hmmm, must be my diet" I thought.

Whatever the origin of this statement, the sentiment rang true with me.
Bleak days indeed.

For those who have never had the singularly unique experience of a winter in Polson, Montana allow me to serve you up a helping:
1. Cold, wet cold.
2. Occasional snow storm (wet or dry snow).
3. VERY cold temperature (5, -3, -32 degrees F) for several days (weeks) at a time.
4. Sudden, overnight melt so the next day EVERYTHING is wet, soggy, muddy and still frozen and very, very slippery!
5. COMPLETE and total overcast. The sky meets the ground, the ground meets the sky!!! Everything is monochromatic.
(every now and then though, the sky opens and slaps you across the face with its beauty!!!)
6. Back to number 1.

So this is the circle of life (strife?) up here in the glory of the Mission Valley!
Well, while a lot of the locals take this opportunity to clean their guns and practice their knots, I have taken this time to concoct a new (yes, BRAND NEW!!!) beer recipe for you, my loyal readers.

This beer recipe just happens to be a barley wine.
Please note: that's "w-i-n-e" not "w-h-i-n-e".
Seems necessary these days to point that out.
Anyway, this beer is a grain hog!
I mean, it puts out only half the volume of a normal batch but requires much more than the normal amount of ingredients!
It's designed to produce 5.5 barrels (that's 170.5 gallons to you and me, Timmie!!!) of 10% barley wine!!!!

(You may now fire off your guns.....I'll wait.......................)

I packed over 600 pounds of highly-modified two-row barley, munich malt, crystal malts, and a secret malt into our beloved mash tun, added the hot liquor and stirred! Then I carefully, slowly drained the glorious malt sugars out of the grain.

(LEGAL NOTICE: all water used in a brewhouse is referred to as "liquor". It is just water, but that's what it is called. Whadda' gonna do?!?)

This brew maxed out my hand-refractometer! (don't get excited....that's just a gadget I use to measure the sugar content of the wort and thereby, indirectly measure the alcohol potential.....pervert!)

Anyway it always strikes me as wonderfully unique whenever I brew a new beer, one that I have not done before, at least on a certain brewing system. Every brewhouse is different and reacts in a different way to recipes and procedures. It is actually pretty neat.
As I write this, the barley wine is chugging away in the fermenter; yeast consuming malt sugars, burping out carbon dioxide, excreting alcohol (I mean, why else ferment? HELLO!?!), and budding off other yeasty friends. This is where the alchemy takes place, in the fermentation vessel. Simple sugars converted to alcohol, gas, and a hell-of-a-lot of yeast!
Just cool.

Well, this beer should be ready in about.....oh.....maybe four months. AT THE SOONEST!!!
There are a lot of people who are of the mindset that any barley wine worth it's grain should not be served less than ONE YEAR after production.
Lucky for you, I'm not one of those nutjobs!

(I'll probably squirrel away a keg or two in my back yard!)

I'll keep ya' posted on this beers maturation but until then.....

I remain

Your Humble Brewer