Homebrewing: Northern Brewer Imperial Stout

Posted on April 19, 2010 by

Homebrewing a stoutToday’s brew day taught me two very important lessons that I will never forget or take for granted again. Aside from making a very large mess all over my house, including the driveway, it was a very productive day, yielding me 54 more soldiers to drink and a bubbling fermenter with an Imperial Stout from Northern Brewer in it within 3 hours of racking the wort into the fermenter.

First things first, I had to bottle my Scottish 60 Schilling from Northern Brewer as well. Since both brews use the Scottish Ale yeast, I decided to reuse the yeast cake again since it worked the last time with the EPA. The first part of the day provided me with another 2 cases of beer to drink. But more importantly, a healthy amount of yeast to reuse on a big beer. It looked like a tornado went through our kitchen when I was done. I had cleaned bottles the night before so all my dishes were out and I had bottles every where. Add my bottling equipment on top of that and it was nothing short of pig sty.

On to the homebrew lessons I learned today.

The first thing I learned today is that no matter how much you know about homebrewing and how many times you’ve brewed, there is always a learning curve when you brew in a different environment. I really enjoyed brewing outside, but I found myself scrambling a couple of times because I had forgotten something or I was using water from the faucet on the side of the house instead of the sink.

Stout Boil OverThe second and more important lesson I learned is to never, and I mean NEVER pitch in 2 ounces of hops at the end of a boil in a vigorous, “Here are your hops, you boiling pot” fashion. I tossed my hops in quickly and at the same time and my wort spit them back at me and onto my driveway. I knew there was going to be kick back, but I didn’t expect it to literally explode like the old volcano experiments in elementary school did. Needless to say I was pissed, but another homebrewing lesson learned I suppose.

Have you learned any hard lessons in your homebrewing adventures?

Brew Day Journal Stats

Specialty Grain

.5 lbs Simpsons Roasted Barley

.5 lbs Simpsons Black Malt

.5 lbs Simpsons Chocolate


6 lbs Dark LME (60 min)

6 lbs Dark LME (15 min)


2 oz Summit (60 min)

2 oz Cascade (15 min)


Reused Cake from Wyeast Scottish Ale 1728


O.G. 1.076 | F.G.  | ABV:

Brewed: 4/18/10
Racked: 5/9/10

Review to come!

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  • http://twitter.com/mjbtompkins Matt Tompkins

    Hmmm…I would totally lick the stout off the driveway if someone triple-dog-dared me. It looks like tears running down from the garage.

  • mikebiewer


    That pretty much sums up how I felt when it happened. I feel so stupid, but whatever, its homebrewing and suppose to be fun right?

    Thanks for stopping in. Your comment helped me wipe those tears from my cheeks!


  • jezmez68

    Weird. How big is your boil pot? Maybe your boil was “too” vigorous? Were the hops frozen or something? This is funny, because the local brewer adds hops to his boil to prevent boil over from happening.

  • mikebiewer

    I use a 4 gallon pot, which is the first thing I'm going to upgrade, along with a starter setup. Anyway, yea, it was pretty vigorous at the end. Plus, I always get extra boil up when I add hops. I'm pretty sure that is a standard reaction. At least, from what I've read in “How To Homebrew” by John Palmer.

    Have you noticed that at all to?

    Thanks for the comment!


  • happs01

    Wow! That's nuts! But like you said, “lesson learned.” That's really an EXTRA stout you got going there. I can see how that could happen with a 4 gallon pot. Adding hops does cause momentary boil-up. You gotta watch that boil and adjust your flame accordingly.

  • mikebiewer

    For sure!

    I think the problem was I just dumped them in all at once really quickly. If I would have put a little in at a time and monitored the boil, flame was off, it was a flame out addition, I could have prevented this from happening. But like I said, I'd had a few beers and a hot toddy or two, so, you know a little buzzed and feeling good so I act as such.

    Lesson learned indeed. But the sound of my bubbling fermenter and the smell of hops in my basement reassures me that things are going to be ok!

    Thanks for stopping in and saying hi!


  • drawks

    Sounds like your boil is too vigorous, you only need to get a bit of “shape” to the surface. Boiling too vigorously can cause burnt wort on the bottom of your pot, a higher boil off rate which can make hit your gravity a bit more unpredictable, and you lose a lot more volatiles off the surface. I'd try dialing things back a bit if I were you and you should definitely step up to a bigger pot; one of the best things you can do to improve the quality and consistency of your beer is to always do full volume boils.

  • mikebiewer

    It was kind of vigorous at that point. I am still getting used to the burner my dad gave me. It was tough to regulate. I think I may have a valve issue, or my tank just didn't have enough left in it to give good pressure.

    I had a late addition of malt and I wanted to bring it back up to a boil. I didn't wait 15 minutes after the boil or turn it off. I basically brought it up to a boil, let it go vigorously for few minutes and cut the burner and tossed in the hops. The rest is in that picture.

    Thanks for the comment and advice. The pot is on my list for sure! I'm saving up, I'll be making a large upgrade to all grain at some point. Figure I'll keep doing extracts until I've got room for that. Maybe I'll just get a pot that I can use in the future to.


  • Bowow0708

     i was wondering im gonna recieve a baltic porter from northern brewer in about 3-4 weeks and i forgot to order a 5 gallon pot, but here i have a 2 gallon pot, can i still brew in the pot? im worried about the hop utilization and boil overs along with wort burning and everything else the could go wrong. and i know “relax don’t worry have a homebrew” but this is gonna be my first batch. do you have any tips or advise here?

  • Anonymous

    Well, there are a couple of options.

    One, go out and get the pot or just wait for a new one to come if you can get your ordered placed in time.

    Otherwise, yes, just relax. A 2 gallon pot is kind of small, at best, you’d be able to brew up 1.5 gallons worth. My suggestion would be to get a new pot first. If you don’t have enough water to boil you won’t get your extract to suspend into the solution, it’ll be harder to control boil overs and your hop utilization will be off. You could do it. But if your looking for ease, just get the new pot. I got a 4 gallon pot at Bed Bath and Beyond for like $30. That works for me. It might just be the best option to prevent anything bad from happening.

    Sorry, I could give you specific directions for brewing in a 2 gallon pot, but make it easy on yourself. Get the bigger pot first!


  • Jakesunkin

    Once tripped over wort chiller hose and dumped a whole batch onto the driveway before I even got it into the carboy. I was out about 40 bucks but I re-brewed it the next day and it turned out great. Lesson learned.

  • Anonymous

    LOL. There are a lot of these types of lessons to learn along the way…It’s to bad many pints of beer must be spilt to make great beer…


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