I recently picked up a Turkey Fryer and was getting ready to brew my first-ever outdoor batch, a Big Sky – Moose Drool clone kit that I picked up on a summer trip back home to Michigan. Everything up until this point went extremely smooth and right on schedule.
I finished off the batch and had my hot, sticky wort ready to be run through my counter flow wort chiller.
This is where I made my fatal mistake. I didn’t put a filter on the side-pickup tube and instantly clogged with hops.
In a panic, I took the wort into the house and put in on ice. As the ice was cooling down the wort, I went back outside to assess the situation with the chiller. I used a line cleaning brush and managed to get it back up and running.
I then took my wort back outside and began the chilling process again, this time with the wort having been filtered through a hop sack first.
This is where the fun begins… At this time it was getting dark and I only had a small patio light keeping things visible. I placed my kettle up high on a cement wall outside of my place to let gravity flow the wort down through the chiller. Everything was going smooth and the wort was coming out at about 70 degrees.
It wasn’t until I went up to the kettle to check on the wort levels that I noticed a HUGE problem. I lifted the lid and set it aside. I placed both hands on the handles of the kettle and peered into the kettle to see the wort level...
Unexpectedly and to my surprise, I began to feel something moving all over my hands, almost instantly enveloping them. I looked down and they appeared to be moving. I instantly freaked and panicked. I looked at the kettle and it had been completely overtaken by small ants. They were everywhere!! You couldn’t even see through to the stainless; it was like an ant ocean all over my brew kettle.
I disconnected the kettle from the bulkhead and set it far away from the ferment vessel. I looked down and noticed that there was still about an inch and a half of delicious wort that never got transferred to the ferment bucket. I was not going to risk getting a bunch of ants in my beer over it.
It pained me so much, what I did next, but I had to grab the garden hose and spray everything down. I washed away the ants in a quarter of a gallon river of brown deliciousness.
I took the remainder of the non-ant infest wort back inside. I topped it off with water, aerated and tested the gravity. To my surprise, I still hit my target OG of 1.055.
This batch has since fermented very vigorously with tons of air lock activity.
So here is my question. How does a shortage of wort affect an overall batch? Will my beer taste more watered down? Should I have not topped off to the full 5 gallons and maybe just made 4 gallons of beer? What can I expect? Is there anything I can do to make up for this lost wort? Should I even be worried?