3 months – 7 Brews – 500 tonnes of gravel
It’s been an action-packed period at Bucketty!
We’ve come a long way since the first batch and my last post. A journey of progress, heartache and hard lessons.
Let me break it up for your easy digestion.
Brewing & Equipment
The first three brews birthed from our machine were probably the best three beers that ever rolled over my taste buds. An IPA brewed with the old man, A Pale Ale (my first solo attempt) and a Steam Ale collaboration with my mate Dan, the keenest brewer I know.
With a stroke of genius, we coined the Steam Ale “DNAle”
Get it? Dan and Nick Ale…
Bloody poets we are.
Dan and I during happier times…
Anyway, we should have stopped there. Because the next four were shit-house.
Two of them went off so badly they couldn’t be drunk without closing your eyes, and the other two just weren’t that good. Drinkable, but not delicious.
Was it due to:
Details shmetails? Definitely
Recipe? Maybe… if we followed it
It’s hard to believe the rapid decline in quality across only a few batches. The first three brews were so good I decreed that any grain that touched our amazing beer making machine would convert into fresh alcoholic nectar, so amazing it would make your heart sing and legs dance.
But the beer gods taught us a lesson… four times in a row.
Dear Beer Gods,
Thank you, I have learned my lesson.
Cleaning good. Bacteria bad.
In my defence, the mash pump blew up and affected two of the brews. The failed pump meant we had to bucket the wort out of the kettle and into the fermenters, posing a big contamination risk.
Lloyd thinking he’d fixed the mash pump in the middle of a brew… he hand’t.
With another, I tried fermenting and carbonating at the same time using the pressure relief valve. It turns out this process may have stressed the yeast to a point of morphing into tiny skunks that skunked up a beautiful looking, perfectly carbonated glass of horror.
So for the next brew, we’re taking this shit seriously.
Boiling water + PBW + elbow grease + StarSan = Good preparation.
Also, no brewing at 11pm when we’re three quarters cut.
For the final (and most drinkable of the four) we brewed in the middle of a party, (to show off a little) and when it came time to chill the wort and pitch the yeast I found that forgotten to open a valve and I’d frozen the heat exchanger, which took an hour to thaw out… I then forgot to take the starting gravity. So I have no idea what the alcohol content is…
I know, I know… You’re starting to question why you’re reading a blog about brewing beer from a guy that is clearly an idiot.
Stay with me.
Redemption is near.
A couple of additional lessons learned from using the equipment over the past three months:
- Don’t go for a walk and leave the mash pump running. The crushed grain blocked the wort from circulating, which meant the pump ran dry and overheated. Smoke and swearing ensued shortly thereafter. (fortunately Alice sent us a new pump, all we had to pay was $200 postage)
- Diluting glycol into the cold liquor tank made a huge difference to temperature control. I can now chill to minus 12 and not freeze the lines.
- Carbonating inside the fermenter is harder than I thought. I still haven’t worked out how to do it properly and continue to force carbonate in corny kegs.
In the past three months, we’ve planted a few Chinook and Centennial rhizomes in addition to the five varieties already into their second year. We also installed drip irrigation and an extra 23,000L water tank as amour against the coming summer heat.
Oh, and we bought a tractor!
Twin tanks giving us almost 50,000L of water storage
500 Tonnes Of Gravel
We hired a local bloke, Phil Waterman Excavations, to grade and surface the road, install drainage, level out the future brewery site and create a small clearing for a farming shed to keep the tractor and a few bits and pieces out of the weather.
Phil did a bang-up job!
I’ve never seen such a majestic piece of flat dirt. The drive in is smooth and thanks to the new drainage, it should last decades.
During the process Phil used an astounding 500 tonnes of gravel to surface the road and area around the existing shed.
Roger, Lexi, Asher and Angell surveying the site of the future brewery
Check out the laser level pad in the background – precision at it’s finest
After the site works, we had the land surveyed by Marshall Scott Pty Ltd out of Cessnock. That lead us onto a meeting with Sydney architectural firm Urban Possible Pty Ltd who have agreed to put together an initial concept plan of the future brewery.
We’ll then invite the local Buckettarians to drop in, share a pint and give feedback on both the beers and future brewery before we head into Cessnock council for a pre-DA meeting.
It’s been heartening to receive quite a few emails with words of encouragement from the local community as a result of this blog. I’m mindful of wanting to be open and inclusive about the future brewery and I think getting together with everyone at the property, sharing a few ales and discussing what we have in mind should be a great way kick things off.
I’m told we’re still 6-12 months from breaking ground, which seems like ages… But I guess that just leaves more time for pilot brewing, hop farming and working out what the hell we’re doing!