First brew of 2012? Check. At least I can call it done.

I am usually pretty careful about ingredient amounts when brewing.  I also usually don’t get started until sometime after my coffee has kicked in.  Well, after doing this for 10 years, I’m pretty sure I am NOT going to get what it was that I’m after.

Yesterday’s errors are two part, one part me and one part supplier.  I ordered seven pounds of ‘flaked rice’ for two different brews over the next two weekends.  An American Light Lager and a Cream Ale.  Normally, for the Cream Ale, I would just use Minute Rice but since the cost of what my supplier charges for Flaked Rice and what the grocery store charges for Minute Rice was negligible, I went with my supplier.  When I received the ingredients from my supplier, I noticed that the rice simply looked like ground up rice!  I have never worked with ‘flaked’ rice before and not knowing what it was supposed to look like, I didn’t think too much of it.

Being this was a 10 gallon batch, I started my brewday a little early.  Before I got my first cup of coffee in, I had all the grains prepared and my strike water on the fire.  What I didn’t pay attention to was that I had all seven pounds of the rice mixed in with my grain.  I only needed five pounds or so.  I didn’t realize this little flub until about half way through my mash.  Really, this wasn’t a big deal.  It just means that I blew the style and the alcohol content would be higher than what I was after.  Still, perfectly drinkable.  I completed the mash and moved onto the boil.  Here is where it got ugly.

According to the software I was using, my pre-boil gravity, with the extra rice, should have been 1.037.  I took my measurement and wound up with 1.020!  That didn’t make any sense!  Maybe I used a LOT less of the two-row barley then I thought!  So, I measured what I had left.  Nope.  I had exactly what I expected.  Maybe I had WAY too much water in my boil kettle?  Nope.  Dead on with what I wanted.  Wow, okay well, if I brew it ‘as is’ I am looking at an ABV of 2.8 percent.  I may as well boil water and bottle that!  I mean, I know that Light Lager isn’t the most popular style for homebrewing and the commercial versions are usually rather tasteless but, I wasn’t looking to match them THAT closely!  Good grief, even THEY run an ABV of 4% or so!  Damnit!  At this point, I can either boil this beer down to about half of the wort that’s in the boil kettle now, which would take hours and probably taste like burnt coffee or, I can use some dry malt extract to try and boost the ABV to where it should be.  I only had about half of what I needed so I tossed it in.  This brought my pre-boil to 1.030, still really low for what I wanted but whatever, close enough and no choice but to deal with it.  I finished out my brewday and sat for the rest of the afternoon going over, in my head, my steps to try and figure out what it was I missed.

I started tinkering with the program to see if maybe I missed something.  At first everything seemed okay.  I had trouble with the program the week before with boil volumes but found a way to fix my problem mid boil.  It was my first time using the software and expected issues.  This time, those problems weren’t there.  Everything was right, until I started messing with the amounts of ingredients themselves.  On a whim, I removed the rice completely from the recipe and, according to the software, my pre-boil gravity went from 1.037 to 1.022.  Almost exactly what I experience during the brew!  I didn’t get any conversion from the rice.  It wasn’t, by definition, ‘flaked’.  It wasn’t pre-cooked or pre-gelatinized to make it mashable.  It was simply milled.

What I produced was an American Light, 3.2% ABV, single malt single hop (SMaSH) Lager.  Anyway, it’s fermenting away in the brew room.  How will it turn out?  Who knows but, next time, I am going to go with what I know and stick with Minute Rice.  “Perfect every time…”  😉




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