17 April 2008

St. Cecilia Reports...The Latest in Homebrewing, and Some "Greening" Tips

The New Digs.

The St. Cecilia Brewery has set up shop in its new venue! I'm quite excited.

Running water is at hand. As is a small countertop for drying and storage.

Plenty of space to stow the empties. And who cares if a mess is made?

The unofficial brewery mascot. And note, at the top of the photo, a hot-plate I purchased at the church rummage sale for $6. Now the entire brewing operation can take place in the basement -- boiling, washing, filling, you name it. No running back and forth to the kitchen.

To celebrate the new space, the arrival of spring/warm weather, AND the first brewing since my Lenten hiatus, I'm firing up an IPA -- Sir Charles (Hubert Hastings Parry) India Ale (check back soon for a picture of the label).

I started the batch on Saturday the 12th. Here's the lineup:
6 lb. Cooper's Light malt extract syrup
1 lb. Northwestern Pilsen Dry Malt extract
2 lb. crushed grain: 75% German Vienna malt, 25% Biscuit malt
1 oz each Cluster, Buillion, and Brewers Gold hops
White Labs Burton Ale yeast.
The ABS wanted to give me California Ale yeast, but I opted for the Burton yeast, hoping for a more classic "English" taste as a result.

I'm pretty excited about the IPA, as is my Hop-head wife.

Although, it's time for a funny anecdote. After pitching the yeast and capping the carboy, I was excited to see the yeast begin to activate (the fancy word for frothy, bubbling, fermenting yeast is Kräusen) much sooner than most of my brews heretofore have experienced -- instead of a day or two, Kräusen was happening within a few hours. I'm not sure whether to attribute that to the cooler temperature of the room, or the temperature of the wort when the yeast was pitched, or the particular combination of ingredients. At any rate, it's been fermenting up a storm. This morning, I just so happened to come into the brewery room in the basement to collect a couple of empty boxes, and discovered that the airlock (which seals off the carboy and keeps the wee beasties out of the brew) had blow clean off the carboy -- the crazy yeast activity had clogged the airlock, and the force of CO2 being expelled from the carboy pushed the clogged airlock clean out of the neck, like a bottle rocket. No harm should come to the brew, I think, because so much CO2 is leaving the carboy that I doubt anything can enter into the batch. I'll have to keep a closer watch from here on out.

I'm also doing what I can to "green up" (or, should I say, "Blue up"??) my brewing process. I haven't yet ordered organic brewing supplies from Seven Bridges Co-Op (saving that for May or June), but there are some other things to be done:

1) Reduction of water use.

We're still suffering an extreme drought in NC. Water use is -- or should be -- a big deal
Instead of immersing all the various equipment in a tub of sanitizer solution, spritz the sanitizer solution and rinse.

Instead of washing bottles in the dishwasher, use the sink faucet bottle-washer adapter, and collect the water in a tub in your sink. Use that water for plant-watering or compost-moistening purposes.

Use greywater (see below) for non-consumable purposes (soaking labels off bottles, etc.)

2) Recycling of materials, particularly water.

Bottles are the obvious ones here (I have not bought new empty bottles since my very first batch in September), but it can go much further than that.

Reuse sanitizer water/solution -- after cleaning the carboy, tubing, etc, use the same sanitizer solution for bottles and such.

Spent grains not only make great compost, but also can be dried and used in homemade breads.
I've even used dried spent grains as a crouton substitute on salads. Dried spent grains are also a big hit in the bird feeder. The hop slugde can go in the compost bin or pile.

I'm also a big fan of taking the wort chiller water to the garden/yard (I do the same thing with the water I soak bottles in to remove the labels -- water which I have collected from my shower in buckets [aka "grey water"]).

NB. If you're worried about glue (or soap) residue from labels making its way into your garden veggies, check into setting up a greywater treatment (a miniature wetland, really -- it's amazing how many beasties get cleaned up just by filtering through root systems!). I don't have one of these things set up yet, but it's on my wish list. I should add that my shower greywater benefits from non-toxic shampoo and soap that I use.

I haven't tried this yet, but I bet I could take the water from my wort chiller (it's just water) and add it to the washing machine next time we do laundry. Or use it for non-dishwasher dishes.

3)Reduction of paper used.

OK, most homebrewers won't even need to worry about this one. However, those like myself who enjoy making labels for their brews must contend with the paper use involved. I've decided, instead of slapping labels (no more than 6 or 9 labels per page, depending on how big they are) on all 50-or-so bottles in each batch, to only print out enough labels per batch for my cellared brews, and maybe a couple that I give away (so one sheet of paper per batch, rather than upwards of 6 -- and with at least one beer brewed per month, those pages add up pretty quick).

At the end of the day, of course, homebrewing is quite sustainable without even trying to be, and without going nuts -- reuse of containers, no distribution to speak of (the petrol used to ship my supplies to me pales in comparison to loading cases of bottles on trucks and sending them all over the country), and no gross cleaning chemicals that most commercial breweries use. I'm sure I'm forgetting some aspects here, also.

Maybe I should look into kegging down the road -- that would be even more minimalist and resource-reducing.

1 comment:

Sara said...

You forgot to mention reusing the spent grains in bread baking, Master Baker.