December 2017
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Brewday 34: Lake Walk Pale Ale

The Redneck Brutus 10 Clone

The Redneck Brutus 10 Clone

After a seven month hiatus from brewing (man, time flies), I finally carved out a day to not only brew, but to break in the new brew system.  After weeks of tweaking and testing and stressing, it was finally time to just get out there and do it.  So, without further drama, I present to you the Redneck Brutus 10 clone.

For those following at home, you’ll notice the addition of the Blichmann BoilerMaker brewpot-turned-mash tun.  After a couple of years of fiddling with coolers as mash tuns, I decided I wanted to have a mash tun that I could apply heat to instead of having to rely on hot water additions to bring the mash temperature up.  I also wanted the ability to keep the mash temperature fairly constant during the brew day.  And seeing that I couldn’t exactly put my cooler/mash tun over the burner to heat things up, I had two choices:  build a heat exchanger system to use with a cooler or just use a large pot with a false bottom.

As I’m somewhat lazy, I decided to go the large pot route as it has the added advantage of allowing me to heat my strike water directly in the mash tun, which saves having to transfer the strike water from another vessel.  Besides, the Blichmann does add a bit of bling factor, which clashes nicely with my keggle and old 10 gallon brewpot-turned-hot liquor tank.

The Control Panel

The Control Panel

Here’s how it works in a nutshell…  all three vessels have a temperature probe connected to the PID (proportional–integral–derivative) controllers in the control panel.  The PID controllers for the mash tun and hot liquor tank (beer speak for the pot that you heat water in…don’t ask me, I don’t make this stuff up) control a solenoid valve that turns the gas on or off in an effort to keep whatever is in the vessel at the temperature set on the controller.  The two pumps circulate the liquid in each vessel to prevent the stuff at the bottom (nearest to the flame) from getting to hot and to ensure that whatever is at the top of the vessel gets some heat too.  Once the mash is complete, the pumps are then used to pump the wort (the stuff that will become beer after yeast is introduced) from the mash tun into the boil kettle while the second pump moves water from the hot liquor tank into the mash tun to rinse remaining sugars from the grain.

Speaking of my keggle…  That one piece of equipment continues to be the weak link in the chain.  I decided to put a sight glass in the keggle so that I could more accurately measure the volume of the liquid without resorting to my oak dowel with graduated markings on it.  It also allowed me to more easily get the temperature probe into the kettle.  I tested it Saturday before I brewed and had no issues but Murphy and his lawyers decided to step in Sunday during the brew day.  For some reason, they decided to introduce a nice leak in the fitting which I had no idea about until 150°F wort had half-filled the kettle.

Fermentation in Progress

Fermentation in Progress

The other thing I need to overcome in the kettle is the ability to pump the wort into the fermenters.  I simply cannot manage to get the pump to work properly and end up having to revert to the old auto-siphon.  I’m sure it’s due to the sheer volume of hop matter in the kettle, but even with a screen over the pick-up in the kettle the pumping action is rather underwhelming.  I have several possible solutions in mind, it’s just a matter of implementing them.

All in all, though, the system is coming along nicely and once I get past the kettle issues, it will make the brew day much more enjoyable.  It’s definitely an adjustment in that I no longer have to babysit the HLT or the mash tun quite as closely nor do I have to worry about dumping scalding hot water from one pot into a cooler.  The added bonus was the 10% gain in extraction efficiency I achieved with the new mash tun, which more or less turned the pale ale I had set out to brew into a IPA due to more sugars being available for the yeasts to convert to alcohol.

If you’re interested in watching the progress of the fermentation, have a look at the Fermentocam, which is situated in the chest freezer I use for fermentation temperature control.  And no, fermentation isn’t pretty to those who aren’t into the brewing aspects of beer, but the end result is usually pretty tasty!

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