No Brewing Makes Mike A Sad Panda

Posted on June 10, 2011 by

I started brewing beer a couple of years ago with so much drive and motivation I had more beer than I would ever be able to drink. I got SO into brewing beer that I thought for SURE I would never give up homebrewing. It is just to darn fun, tasty and interesting. Alas, things changed for me.

Don’t get my wrong. I am by NO means quitting brewing beer, but I have to say that since I haven’t brewed a thing in over 6 months, I’m officially on a hiatus from brewing. Let me tell you why.

Brewing beer is by far one of the most fun things I have ever done. I enjoy pretty much every aspect of a good brew day, especially the beer :). But I recently found a breaking point. I found a point as to where it just isn’t fun and pretty much turns into a super chore for the day.

I live in a tiny, 2 bedroom corner unit apartment that just doesn’t have the space I’d like for brewing. Let me walk you through a couple scenarios here.

1. Take a look at this storage area for my brewing gear. I have been sequestered to using our spare closet that my cats shit and piss in to store my gear. Yea, that’s a great place to store gear that is used to make edible drinks that are highly susceptible to infections right? So basically this means that when I want to brew, not only do I litterally have to dig out every single piece of gear, but I have to go and clean it first. Sure, you must clean your gear before you brew regardless, but the level of cleaning is much different when you know your cats shit and piss in this room and there is SO much cat litter dust on your gear it makes me sick. I cannot, and will not give someone, one of my beers saying, here is where I store my gear. Gross.

2. Aside from that, when I take the gear into the kitchen to clean, I’m forced to work in a tiny little area that doesn’t allow me much breathing room. I’ve used my tub as well, which is all the way across the apartment to clean. Brewing in the small kitchen isn’t to bad. I’ve got stove, a big sink and a couple of different levels for gravity moving the beer. So I won’t complain to much about that. Except for when it comes to chilling my wort. Did I mention my sink doesn’t hold water and the water temp only goes down to about 70? Again, I’ve tried the bath tub, which works to an extent. Good enough that if I actually wanted to brew, I’d make it work.

3. Last but not least, where my beer ferments. This tiny little closet, that as you can see is full of junk, is where my pretty little beer gets to have its private time. This is the only closet that isn’t packed with a bunch of stuff we are storing for our first house and is the only walls that are not outside apartment walls. I cannot control my fermentation temperature at all. I don’t have any AC or central air here so I suffer from 10 to 20 degree temp swings depending on the weather. Babysitting my fermentation, especially without the right equipment to keep a consistent temperature is a chore I do not want to endure.

As you can see, I suffer from many challenges that I personally can’t overcome. I want to brew beer, but I have so much knowledge about the process and expect my beer to only get better, unless of course we have accidents or experiments, that I can’t, in my right mind, brew here. I’ll be tossing batches left and right because they won’t turn out due to infection, high fermentation temps and so forth. Plus the fact that each brew day consists of two full shifts of getting gear out, washing, then washing and putting gear away right of way has just turned my favorite hobby into a nightmare chore.

But alas! I am not quitting, I’m just on hiatus. I’ve been spending a bit of time with a local brew pub, learning from their brewmaster anything he will show/tell me. I have plans to check out a hop farm this summer and I’m starting to get some exposure to the Oregon Brewers Guild. Oh, and all my birthday and x-mas money is secretly being socked away for an All-Grain system as soon as we purchase that home.

So please, feel free to still contact me in regards to brewing. I love talking about it and I really need someone to live vicariously through while I suffer in my Portland shanty.

Cheers everyone.

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  • Jez

    Mike, you should check out http://brooklynbrewshop.com/  Not that you need to buy a kit or anything, but you could make some small batches by using the techniques in their “How to Brew” video.  Also, it might inspire/help to get you what you need to know about AG brewing on a 5-gallon scale.  The 1-gallon fermenting jug could be set on any surface in your home (wrap a dishtowel around it to prevent light skunking it/keep temps up). It will get you around 10 beers.  Something to try…

  • Anonymous

    This is a really great idea.

    Seems like a lot of oxidation could occur and controller temps for fermentation could still be difficult, but the whole process is a little bit easier and smaller which I might be able to find a better place for it in a different closet. You have me thinking now…Thanks!

    I’m not sure I like the $40 kits they have for 1 gallon of beer. But it is definitely a good idea on their part. I may need to just pull out my Beer Tools and see if I can formulate a 1 gallon recipe.

    Thank you very much for this.

    Mike

  • Brian

    Hey Mike, glad I read this post – I bought the kit you and Jez are talking about and it has worked out great for me as I have limited brew room as well.  I only get about 7 20-oz bottles per batch which is more than enough for just me.  I’m dealing with the same issues you highlighted too!  Anyways, I’m still new to the whole thing but am enjoying it nonetheless.  My question for you is if you know of a website or book that I can use to come up with my own recipes vice using the expensive ones from brooklynbrewshop?  I can get all the ingredients I need, I just haven’t found a site that helps me come up with custom 1-gal size batches.
     
    Also, the video on the brooklyn site says to make oatmeal out of the mash and then run hot water through it a couple of times to make the wort – is that because they’re all-grain batches?  Will it turn out differently if I steep the grain rather than use their method?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment and I’m happy you have found a way to do some brewing. I know how hard it can be to make recipes from scratch, especially if your new to brewing. I’m sure if you dig around on the net you can find out how to cut recipes down that you find into manageable one gallon batches. However, I find that most 5 gallon batches have a lot of ingredients, which makes it tough to cut down and tough to purchase. Who wants to purchase 1/4 of an ounce of grain?

    So I’ve been trying to keep it simple, one, maybe 2 grains, one kind of hops and I’m good to go. I personally have been using BeerTools, to make my recipes. It does a lot of the math for you. The only thing you need to figure out is your boil off.

    As for the oatmeal thing they are saying. It works, but I find that using a bag and strainer works for me. Sure, I won’t get the same clarity, but its much easier to manage and clean up in my small space. I am actually just going to make sure I use a secondary and I think that will clear up a lot of cloudiness as well. I haven’t finished my first batch yet, but I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    Hope that helps and feel free to contact me anytime!

    Mike

  • Doctor_Code_2000

    Dunno.  I live in a 1BR appartment – 675 sq ft.  The cat’s box is in the bathroom well down the hall.  I keep my smaller gear in a large lower cupboard with the shelving arranged so it can store my bottling bucket. 

    I keep two 6gal carboys on a small table that I made (about 16in x 36in) that is located along the wall by my front door (also the entry to the my kitchen and ‘dining room’ area).

    The only time I really wish I had more space is when bottling.  Even then, I bottle in large bottles, so 5gal is never more than 30 bottles away.  I usually have one carboy for wine, so it’s even less bottles (and more time).

    No one has ever condemned me for having a few brews on the table.  If they did, I doubt I would let them into my appartment again.  Most certainly, they would not be allowed to drink the fruits of my labor.

    When it comes to the tedium of bottling.  Invite a few friends over, crack open a few bottles from the last batch, and have them help with the new one.

    Or you could just keg it.

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