The Joys of Being Small-Time: A First Mortgage Can Be Refreshingly Delicious

BYOB by | Aug 2008 | Issue #19
Illustration by Scott Murry

Coming up this month, there’s an epochal moment in my life that I’d like to share with you. I’m moving into my first house with my long suffering fiancé. No, that’s not the big news. The big news is that this means I can build a bigger brewery and start rolling out more barrels of beer! (Honey, if you’re reading this, I’m joking! Oh, and I love the new curtains!) [Guys: not really! The beer is what matters!] In the midst of this transition, the question occurs to me: Do I need to change? Are bigger batches the next step in happiness or is 10 gallons just too much commitment for this multi-keg guy?

These past 10 years, Stout Guy Brewing has been headquartered out of an apartment kitchen with a barely adequate stove and a floor not meant for heavy operations. I brewed batches with friends, but the beating heart was that 7,500 BTU range top and a few pots. There’s a perverse pride in being a serious 5-gallon brewer surrounded by guys with bigger systems.

Now I’ll have a backyard, and that means burners, pumps, and oh, maybe a HERMS! Right? Well, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Make no mistake though; the new kitchen plays no part in the brewing operation. So what’s so good about being small-time?

Small Batches—More Brew Days!
Why would I want to keep brewing small batches? I know it takes just as long to brew 10, 15, 20 gallons of beer as it does 5. The lazy man on the shoulder shouts at my insouciance: “We’re short on time. You’re just making more work for us, jerk!” But I enjoy the brew day; standing over the kettles, enjoying the steam bath and that rush of the first hops charge. With nearly 20 kegs, I have endless space ready for 5-gallon batches.

Small Batches—Styles and Experiments Galore
You may have noticed that I brew a lot of “experimental” beers. With more brew days, I gain the freedom to play. After all, tossing 5 gallons of bad beer is no problem. Heck, I can find use for that much beer in chili making. Trying a new style or recipe every batch is almost a given. And since the beer is consumed faster, I can tweak the recipe while the initial impressions ring fresh.

Bigger Batches—More for Me (or My Friends)
Typically, I don’t get to try much of my beer, as my friends gladly relieve me of it at a rapid pace. Brewing bigger batches means a keg for them and a keg for me. Oh, boy—just what my liver needs. Additionally, I’ve never had people over to brew with me. What’s the point if they don’t get any beer? Now, I’ll be able to repay everyone’s past kindness and host a brew session. They can even help me set up.

Bigger Batches—Easy Split Experiments
Large batches make a split-batch experiment easy. With 10 gallons and two carboys, I can pitch different yeast strains, use different dry hops, and spice or fruit one batch. And since the base beer is exactly the same, the experimental variable explains any perceived differences. This beats sussing out an effect from two different batches or fumbling with smaller volumes.

Maybe I’ll be a rebel and not switch up to bigger batches, but having the option is great. Now onto the next battle: convincing my little red-headed girl that every single beer glass is necessary. All 300 of them!

For 11 gallons at 1.067 (75-percent efficiency), 11 SRM, 69 IBU

Malt / Grain / Sugar
20 lb. Marris Otter
4 lb. Munich malt
2 lb. British Crystal 55L

Strike with 8 gallons of water and rest for 60 minutes at 153 degrees.

1.75 oz Summit (pellets) | 17% AA | 60 minutes
1 oz Centennial (pellets) | 8% AA | 15 minutes
1 oz Amarillo (pellets) | 10% AA | 5 minutes
2 oz Cascade (pellets) | 5.75% AA | dry hop (1 oz per 5 gallons)

WLP001 / Wyeast 1056 / US-05 (first carboy)
WLP565 (Belgian Saison), Wyeast 3711 (French Saison—limited availability)