Satan’s Porter Brewing Disaster!

Last night, I had a bit of a mishap with the peanut butter porter (now dubbed Satan’s Peanut Butter Porter). Everything was going beautifully: the mash portion went off without a hitch; the first and second parts of the preliminary boil went well; I extracted all but one bag of grain without incident; then all of a sudden:

Brewing Disaster Number One

I dropped the last bag of grain, a bag filled with a pound of wort-logged flaked barley, into the mash tun (which is also the brew kettle in my small operation) and it exploded hot, sticky, black, delicious smelling wort all over the kitchen.

What you can’t see from that picture is that there’s wort on the lights, on the wall in front of the stove, in the stove, on the cabinet above the stove, all over the floor, everywhere.

The Cause

I caused this. I left the pot unattended, which allowed the almost-over-full bag of flaked barley to roll in the boiling mash and take the tail of the bag (the part where I tied it together) under the boiling wort. This made it near impossible for me to be able to pull the wort-logged bag (about the size of my head) out of the pot with my bare hands (boiling wort is hot).

I tried to lift the bag out using some grilling tongs, but they weren’t giving me the grabbing power I needed. I grabbed some paper towels, wrapped my hand in them and tried to lift the bag. All was going well until: SPLASH! the tail slipped out from between the paper towels and fell about three feet into the boiling pot.

In hindsight, I could’ve done two things differently: I could have used Mojo’s oven mitt glove things to handle the hot bag; I could have used the grilling fork (you know, that large, long, two-prong fork that comes with grilling utensils) to stab the bag and pull it out. All I needed to do was get it into a colander so I could let the wort drain and then throw the bag away.

Lessons Learned

Initially, I was furious. After a few minutes, and the liquid that hadn’t dried into a sticky mess already was mopped up, I calmed down and realized (with the help of the roommates) that this is 1) the first disaster we’ve had in around 15 batches of beer and 2) it is the perfect opportunity to learn something from what appears to be a bad situation.

After discussion with Mojo, James, Thea, and Myers, we came to the following solution: tie the grain bags (three cheers for the clove hitch!) to a 7/8″ piece of dowel rod and dangle them in the boiling water. This way the tails stay out of the wort and we have a handle strong enough (hopefully) to lift a pound of grain that’s been soaking in boiling wort, gaining mass for twenty minutes, safely out of the boiling mash and into the colander.

Take Two

I’ll be trying this beer again tomorrow. Tonight I need to go buy another round of specialty grain, fill the kegging CO2 tank, and rack the Kalevala Red Ale and Mojo’s Rye IPA to kegs for conditioning.

Overall cost of this disaster: a messy kitchen, hurt pride, and about $30.

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