Hot Enough For Ya?

Most of the US has been suffering from a real summer heat wave this past week or so, which has had a dramatic effect on the home brewing scene, at least on mine. I have not been able to bring myself to add any heat to my house, which is generally hovering around 82° – with dark shades down, windows open on the shaded side of the house, fans blowing out of upstairs windows, etc… It has given me a chance to catch up on some bottling and racking, though, and I currently only have 7 carboys full and no primary fermenters. The other reason for not brewing in this heat is that my water source is a shallow spring, which does get warmer in the summer months – probably 45°F instead of its winter low of 34°F. This has a dramatic effect on the wort chiller, slowing down my cooling time to almost triple – instead of 10 – 12 minutes, it can take 25 – 30 minutes to cool 5 gallons down to yeast pitching temperature. So, a pause in the action.

A secondary effect of the heat has been a rash of overcarbonated beers. In the last week I have lost 5 bottles and 2 mini-kegs – the bottles bursting, in one case all over the cellar, in another all over the floor and wall in the living room. The mini-kegs did not actually burst, but one end became distended and bent, and they launched themselves off of a shelf and onto the floor. Total casualty count: 12 oz. of Suffering Bastard Strong Ale, 24 oz. of a barleywine, and 24 oz. of a year-old Strawberry Blonde ale. I was able to salvage most of the 5 liters of Cherry Wheat Ale and another 5 liters of the Rye-P-A in the mini-kegs (in growlers and pitchers) but the kegs are not reusable. I think my wife is going to make a small-scale solar water-heater out of them…

I did get out and enjoy some beer as part of the 4th of July weekend. My wife and I went down to Boston to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park on Sunday, and although the Sox lost, it was, as always, an enjoyable afternoon. No, I do not pay $7.50 for a Bud Lite or whatever, but there is an Irish pub just behind home plate (heading up the right field line) where you can get draft Guinness, Harp and Smithwicks. Pricey, at $8.75 a pint, but relative to the other stuff, it’s a fair deal. If you look carefully, you can find Sam Adams and Harpoon in the park as well. And the Boston Beer Works is right there at the end of Yawkey Way. On our way back to the bus station, we hit the Rock Bottom Brewery for dinner (Stuart St. near the corner of Charles St.). Part of a national chain of brewpub restaurants, each one does its own brewing and menu according to local products and traditions. The menu is fine if you like steaks and seafood, but vegetarians and non-red-meat eaters willl have a more difficult time choosing a meal. AH, but the beer… My wife had a Munich Gold lager (an award-winner, in the Helles Lager category), I had the Improper Hopper IPA (very floral, bitter, a bit hazy, very tasty) and a cask-conditioned Dartmouth Stout (English-style), which was outstanding. In fact, probably the best draft stout I have had in many years.

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