Secondary Fermentation…

Yesterday I moved my porter from my primary fermentor to the secondary fermentor. I’d gotten different opinions regarding the secondary fermentor. Some said it really wasn’t necessary and that you could bottle the beer straight from the primary. Others said it was best to get the beer off the trub (settled yeast at the bottom of the fermentor) at the two week mark or you would get “off flavors.” I decided to go ahead and transfer my beer to a secondary.

The process went smoothly and didn’t take long. I sanitized everything and my auto-siphon gadget worked great. Two more weeks of fermentation and it’ll be time to bottle.

We had another Beer & Knitting night last Wednesday. This time we went to Novo, which is more of a restaurant than a bar. I was curious to find out how well it would work for us to casually knit and snack in a place that intended to turn their tables more regularly.

We’ve been selecting Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights for Beer & Knitting partly because it’s easier for us to find a table and not feel pressured to leave because of the crowds, and partly out of consideration for the business so we aren’t taking up space on a busy night. So far it’s been working out well and Novo was no exception.

We were expecting 6-8 people to attend. I found that bars can handle approximate numbers better than restaurants. Restaurants prefer a more exact number for your party. Novo took care of us very well anyway. They found a slightly secluded location that really worked out great.

There ended up being six of us. Novo has a great beer selection and an incredible Salmon Bisque. I had the Green Flash IPA and others had the Harviestoun Old Engine Oil SR, Unibroue Ephemere, and Stone Brewing Arrogant Bastard. All really good beers! For desert I switched to ice cream and port. I love port and Novo has a good selection.

Our cost per person was higher than usual at Novo, due to the fact that everything is so darn yummy and the cost of each item is just a bit more than the other places we’ve gone to so far. We ended up staying at Novo for about three hours and had a great time. We’re beginning to wonder if it’s possible to have a bad Beer & Knitting experience. We’ll have to keep testing to find out.

One thing I have to suggest strongly to all knitters it to be sure to tip your waitstaff well. If you’re going to take up a table for an extended length of time, it’s important to properly compensate your waiter. I try to tip in the 30% range on a Beer & Knitting night. The service we got at Novo was fantastic and our waitress deserved the extra compensation. I’d like to see knitter’s get known for being good tippers.

-Jenne Hiigel

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Concept Statement #2…

When I wrote my first attempt at a Concept Statement (see previous posts) for my book A Knitter’s Guide to Beer I did it too soon, according to Elizabeth Lyon. Since the Concept Statement is the second item in the book proposal after the Title Page, I figured it was the second thing I should write (after the Title Page). Well… I was wrong. The Concept Statement is Chapter SIX in her book Non-Fiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write. I was supposed to write the sections on Competition and About The Author before trying to summarize my book.

Okay, okay. I’ve done that now. So let’s give the Concept Statement another shot. I’ll call this one Concept Statement #2:

Knitting was historically a male craft. Brewing was a female craft. Somewhere along the way the gender roles for each craft switched, which explains why both genders are drawn to both crafts… and rightfully so! The processes of knitting and brewing are soul enriching and allow for limitless creativity. Pull out your needles and yarn, grab a pint of craft-brewed beer, and fire up the brew kettle.

A Knitter’s Guide to Beer will inspire and empower you to add brewing and/or knitting to your stock of craft skills, explains the wide variety of beer styles and flavors available, discusses the features of a bar or brewpub that makes it more knitter-friendly, and gives several suggestions for knitting project and beer pairing – to enhance your enjoyment of both. Written by Jenne Hiigel; homebrewer, former knit shop owner, and a follower of the revival of the craft brew industry since 1980.

My first batch of homebrew (a Porter) is fermenting nicely. One more week in the primary fermentor and then it will be time to transfer it to the secondary fermentor. I’m finding that patience is just as important in brewing as it is in knitting!

-Jenne Hiigel

It’s a Porter!

My first batch of homebrew is in the fermentor. It’s a Porter. I went with an extract recipe with steeped grains. I figured there was too much for me to learn to attempt an all-grain brew on the first go-around, and I was right.

The thing that gave me the biggest trouble yesterday was the ball valve that attaches to my brew kettle. It kept leaking. I had done extensive research on sanitation, brewing temperatures, and other details relating to the actual brewing, but no one told me about potential problems with a leaking ball valve.

I’m no plumber. In fact I have this fear of messing with plumbing, because I’m afraid I’ll make the leak worse rather than better. I couldn’t really justify calling a plumber, though, to fix my leaking brew kettle. After repeating the following sequence three or four times: 1) try to fix the ball valve connection, 2) fill the brew kettle with 3 gallons of water to test it, 3) find out that it still leaked, 4) empty the 3 gallons of water, 5) start over at step 1 … I finally came to terms with my frustration and decided it was time to overcome my fear of plumbing and learn more about it.

I took a break and went online to find some help. The answer, it turns out, is Teflon tape and not tightening the o-rings too much. After taping the threads more thoroughly and being careful with the o-rings, I finally got a brew kettle full of water that barely leaked at all. This was progress and was good enough to proceed with the brewing.

From then on everything went quite smoothly for a first-time effort. I loved the aroma of the boiling malt and hops, although my family may have a different opinion about that. I’m very happy with two bits of advice I had gotten in advance. The 8 gallon brew kettle was essential. Definitely give a bit of extra cash to getting a quality brew kettle of at least 8 gallons. (My brew kettle and I came to a good understanding in spite of the ball valve incident.)

And I strongly recommend getting a wort chiller right up front. The wort chiller was awesome and cooled down the wort quite promptly. I was able to get to fermenting temperature in about 30 minutes, rather than the several hours it would have taken with cool water and ice baths – not to mention trying to find something bigger than my 8 gallon kettle to put the ice water in!

Now the beer is in the hands of my yeast. I tried to keep things sanitized and at the proper temperatures throughout the brewing process, so I’m hoping all goes well. A couple weeks of waiting and then it will be time to bottle.

-Jenne Hiigel