Friday, July 20, 2012

An Attempt at Homebrewing Consistency: The Patty Melt Syndrome

I have a favorite place I go to for patty melts. It is located in my home town and, aside from the fries (steak cut instead of the superior waffle), the basic components of the meal have not changed in over a decade. Every time I get the melt, it comes out the same way. Until I ventured out and tried other patty melts, i didn't realize how special that was. It's a simple dish that is surprisingly easy to screw up. The wrong bread, or cheese, or even amount of meat can make a patty melt completely inedible. Every so often, I torture myself with someone else's melt just to prove that point.

This isn't a patty melt blog, but this is what we call in the biz an "analogy" for brewing. If you are a commercial brewer or even a popular homebrewer, the best recipe in the world is only good if you can replicate it to the same degree of success. Not just the same ingredients, but brewing them for the same amount of time with the same temperature. With so many variables, it's easy to make one change that noticably affects the final product. Imagine if you bought your favorite beer every month, yet every month it tasted different. Would it still be your favorite beer? Would it still be the same beer?

Due to the recent success of the Saison I brewed in May, Wife has requested that more be made immediately. My first concern was the Patty Melt Syndrome; I want to provide the same great thing using a new raw batch of ingredients. I've been working on replicating my batch as exact as I can make it. This will be the first repeat batch on my all-grain system. Looking back at my original process for this brew, there are a couple of things I would like to thank past me for:

Pictured: Past me. I was going through a phase.
Thank You for Mashing Notes - Past me was adamant about taking notes, especially since this was the inaugural brew on the new mashing system. It's full of happy faces and scribbles. More importantly, it has things like starting mash temp, strike water temp, and water/grain ratio that really helped me dial in my mashing schedule.

Thank You for a Complete Ingredient List - Not only do I have the complete ingredient list, but I also have any substitutions made and the expected gravity of the brew jotted down as well.

Thank You for Detailing your Shortcomings - None of my brew days are perfect, but some are less not-perfect than others. Past me gave a harrowing account of how his strike water kept on missing its temperature. It reminded me how important pre-heating my mash tun is.

The one thing I wish Past Me had detail more of was a description of color, opacity, or fermentation activity. Right now, I'm looking at my new repeat batch and obsessively thinking, "God, it's quite cloudy. What it this cloudy before? Did it fall out after fermentation? It was nice and clear when I bottled it. Did I miss something? Why is it still cloudy? WHAT IS GOING ON?!"

I guess I'll just have to wait and see. Right now, the air lock is bubbling and the temperature is steady. I guess that's the best I can hope for.

Related Note: My Orange Stout and "Belgian-ey" Wheat are almost ready. Full report to come!

1 comment:

  1. The more advanced your brewing gets, the more it sounds like lab work (but with far tastier results). "Was it this cloudy last time? Did it crash out? Is that important?"