Despite my best plans, I do little brewing in the winter. I might make a batch for Christmas parties and the SuperBowl, but from February to April there is little brewing activity for me. The summer months are non-stop brewing months. Here’s what I’m doing to prepare!
Clean the carboys
I hate finding out on brewing day that the fermenter I plan to use is also the fermenter I said I’d clean later. The best way for me to avoid this situation is to clean everything in advance. Go figure! Part of my preparation is to run a cleaner (like PBW) through all my fermenters. I’ll still sanitize the fermenters on brewing day, but making sure they are all clean in advance makes future brewing sessions go easier.
Prepare the kegs
On the same line of thinking, the kegs need to be prepared too. This means cleaning and sanitizing the kegs, replacing all the o-rings, and testing the pressure on each keg in advance.
Somehow tubes that never leaked before, leak the following year. Seals on my larger fermenters never seal as well the following year. I check my wort chiller for leaks at the start of the brewing season by running water through it for about 10 minutes. This includes checking all the tubes for leaks. I also fill my larger fermenter with water to make sure it’s not leaking at the spouts.
Clear the hops
Hops are like kudzu, and they leave a ton of dead vines and leaves each year. I leave this in place over the winter to help insulate the roots, but it’s spring time. The dead stuff has to go. It’s also a fun excuse to see if any shoots are coming up, and cull any shoots your don’t want growing. My hops are trying to take over the yard in their yearly endeavor to choke me in my sleep, so there are always shoots to cull. This is also a good time to dig up any rhizomes you want to share with friends, or use to start new vines.
At any point during the brewing season I know what supplies I have on stock. This information falls out of my head as soon as the season ends. Check up on what grains you have left, how much sanitizer and PBW you have, and any other recurring supplies you need. This includes keg lube, Irish moss, carboy labels, and yeast nutrients.
Plan a list of brews
This is the fun part. I look over what beers I want to make, what beers needed improving, and the dates I need the beers. I make beers for park parties, office parties, an Oktoberfest party at the end of the summer, and a big Fourth of July party. Some beers take longer than others to make, so planning a schedule helps to insure you have the right beers at each party. For example, you might want a lager and an ale for a party in a month. If you can only make one beer at a time, you’ll need to schedule the lager first. If you’re making lots of beer for different event, a schedule becomes very important.
So what things do you do to prepare for brewing?
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