There I was, citizens: I was enjoying the last gasps of Minnesota summer while brewing outside, I was drinking something from Maine Brewing Co., I was trying out some new hops and new yeast, I was smelling the roast happening at the coffee shop downwind, I was gristing some malt and heating some water and ruminating on a recent conversation with friends.
The convo (full disclosure: it was actually an email thread) was about a Kickstarter for a prospective fully-automated AG homebrew system with a four-figure price tag. Maybe you’ve seen it on social media; if you haven’t, it’s designed much along the lines of a bread machine or a full-auto espresso machine: dose out ingredients, load them up, push a button, and 2.5 gallons of hot wort comes out the other end a couple hours later. Chill with an ice bath, then ferment and serve in the same corny keg (included).
Our consensus was there’s certainly a Sharper Image-type of market out there right now, and the level of automation is very cool – but to an audience ready to spend that grade of scratch on a brew system, it’s pretty lame to remove the human from the hot side of the brewing process while not really offering anything new or even very helpful on the cold side. I fully acknowledge that my friends and I (homebrewers, Cicerones, beer folks to the nerd) aren’t the target market – you probably aren’t either, good reader. I won’t be buying one, but I hope these guys get off the ground. As one of us said: “It’s great for the ‘consumer goods’ side of home brewing, but really bad for setting people up to understand brewing as a science.”
I’d go further and say not just science, not just the art, but the whole craft – and I mean “craft” as in a skill cultivated with practice, time, and patience, not “craft” as in how many barrels you brew, with or without adjuncts. Craft doesn’t brook shortcuts. Ice baths and combo fermenting/serving vessels will not some primo Sharper Image nanobrew make. The very difficulty of and investment of time required for accomplishment at this and other things like it – smoking a brisket over oak splits, casting a fly line, throwing a spiral, tying an Albright knot, knocking somebody down with a right hook or a roundhouse – is what makes them worthy of effort and appreciation.
And as I stand in the early fall sunshine doughing in my semi-impromptu little BIAB mash, I think: come on, citizens … this isn’t that hard and that messy.
German IPA – can that even be a thing? It doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not, because I’ll bet you already know what I’m talking about, good reader, and have some probably-pretty-accurate preconceived notions of what’s in this recipe and what it’ll be like when finished.
Polaris – it’s my first time using them. As you may know, it’s a newer super-high alpha variety out of Germany with a very high oil content. The aroma of the pellets is menthol, wintergreen, green apple candy with a Hallertau-like herbal sweetness. It was also unbelievably waxy and sticky – trying to crumble up my little 4 oz brick into the addition doses was like trying to break a frozen fun size Snickers. Then I couldn’t wash the oil off my hands.
And the other stuff that isn’t hops that’s going into my low-fi, decidedly unautomated kettle and mesh bag and carboy setup: I’ve used the same percentage of crystal malt on couple recent batches and am really digging it – all the flavors with none of the sweetness or higher FG of larger percentages (plenty of color, too, from this darker roast). 1217 is a new one for me as well – this is my first time out with it and am excited to see what it do.
Target OG: 1.061
- 98% German Pils
- 2% Caramel 120L
- 154F for 75′
- 170F for 10′
- Polaris (pellet, 21.6% aa) at 60′ to 48 IBU
- Polaris (pellet, 21.6% aa) at 0′, at a rate of 5 grams/gallon
- Chill to 65F, O2 and pitch with Wyeast 1217 West Coast IPA
- After attenuation is complete, dry hop with more Polaris pellets at a rate of 5 grams/gallon for an additional 7 days or so