Barley Legal Big Brew at Iron Hill

The AHA Big Brew is officially in the books and Barley Legal threw one hell of a party. Think beer festival, tailgate and Cinco de Mayo all rolled into one. Toss in over 440 gallons of beer brewed by about 50 brewers and I’d call Big Brew a success. It was great to get out of my comfort zone and “mobile brew” a couple batches. Our gracious hosts at Iron Hill prepared over 300 gallons of 1.050 ish 2-row wort for brewers to use if they didn’t feel like performing a mash. I decided to do one 5 gallon all-grain batch, but also made a smaller 3 gallon batch from the wort prepared by Iron Hill.

The 3 gallon batch was a breeze: Boiled the 5 gallons of wort down to 3, added a bunch of random north western hops and pitched some Chico yeast. Nice and easy. For my all-grain batch, I decided to use a slightly modified version of the AHA’s Ardley Brown Ale recipe. The minor changes were made because I’ve decided to attempt a sour. That’s right… I’ve officially made the leap to bugs and bacteria. Since I’ve been digging this style so much lately I decided why not? The modifications to the recipe included:

  • Hop additions reduced to 1 oz of EKG at 60 minutes and 1/2 oz of Fuggles at 30 minutes to minimize any aromatic hops from clashing with the wild yeast.
  • Mashed higher than suggested at 153F. This was done to allow some residual sugars to remain for the slower fermenting wild yeast.
  • Used Belgian Ardennes yeast and the dregs from bottles of Russian River Consecration and Jolly Pumpkin La Roja… DROOL. These were all pitched at the same time. This decision was made after reading a great article by The Mad Fermentationist
  • Substituted a couple of ounces of amber malt with some white wheat malt since it’s what I had on hand.

The batch went pretty smooth considering the unfamiliar surroundings. I mashed with a much higher water to grain ratio to reduce the need for a third batch sparge. My mash temperature also dropped 3 degrees after 30 minutes, so I added some additional hot water to raise it back up. Other than that it was smooth sailing. What really impressed me was the club’s chilling station, which consisted of a baby pool filled with ice that had a pump and hose connections. My wort was chilled to 80F in 20 minutes. Hats off to Jim for putting it together.

Even though it was a busy day brewing I still had some time to make my rounds. Some of the all-grain setups within the club are incredible. I also got to sample some great homebrews and received some nice compliments about Rye Saison that kicked by the end of the day. Great food, prizes and awards given… there was even a goat. Hats off for everyone’s hard work in putting this together, but especially to the officers: Evan, Devin, Ryan and Cleteur. Also a big thanks goes out to Rick and Jeremy for setting up the three tap system to pour our beers. Don’t miss this event next year. It’s bound to be even better in 2013. Here are some candid pics I took throughout the day:

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AHA Big Brew – May 5th

The first Saturday of May is commonly known as the date of the Kentucky Derby. While thousands flock to Churchill Downs to enjoy the race, Mint Julep in hand, homebrewing enthusiasts around the world will raise a glass of another libation: Homebrew. The celebration is to commemorate National Homebrew Day and the comradery this hobby brings. Across the globe homebrewers of all levels will gather to compare techniques, share a pint and most importantly, brew beer.

As you can probably tell from the flyer above, Barley Legal will be celebrating at the same location they have for the past few years. If you’re looking for something fun to do on Cinco De Mayo, I strongly urge you to make an appearance at Iron Hill. You don’t need to homebrew to enjoy the day! There will be enough Barley Legal homebrews to go around. A facebook page for the event can be found HERE.

According to the AHA there was an estimated 6,700 homebrew enthusiasts gathered at 308 registered sites in 2011. Based on reports from these locations, a grand total of 14,800 gallons of beer was brewed. These numbers alone demonstrate how widespread this hobby has grown. I think it would be great to collect as many stories, pictures and accounts from Big Brew Day as possible. If you’re a beer blogger and plan to post about the Big Brew Day in your area, please drop me a line with a link. I’ll be sure to post a rundown of everything I receive.

For more information regarding locations, recipes and how you should celebrate National Homebrew Day, please visit the American Homebrewers Association’s page.