I just wanted to relate my experience brewing this weekend.
My Brother and I brew 11 gallon batches, and split them, we have found this to be much quicker then brewing 2, 5 gallon batches the same day.
As we have both just converted to kegging recently, we came to the realization that we only have 2 kegs on tap, with nothing in the pipeline. The fear of having nothing available when those kegs blow was horrifying to say the least, especially since I am on vacation in 2 weeks.
So Thursday we decided to Brew on Saturday, the weather didn't look like it was going to be too horrible, we have always brewed outside, and take measures to ensure our warmth (Tarp city with heaters).
Anyway, we decided on a mild, for a quick turn around time, and agreed to run down to the HBS to grab our ingredients Saturday morning. Well Saturday morning came around, and it was freaking COLD! At 8am it was a whopping 8 degrees. I called my brother, we discussed the situation, and stupidly decided to brew.
Long Story short, by the time we got our ingredients and got set up to brew (Tarp City and all) it was about 11:30am, much later then we wanted to going, not too horrible, since our brews usually take about 4 hrs now.
Everything was going good, got our mash finished, got our boil going, everything was going to plan. We had a 90 Minute boil, and decided to go inside to look online (here) and warm up. When we went outside to check our boil, well there wasn't one, the propane ran out...Grrr. Not a big deal, we had a back up propane tank on the grill, so a quick swap and bam, back to boiling, minor setback, not a big deal. Go back inside, warm up for a bit, go back out, and once again, boil is dead. Propane tank is done. Being as that was the last propane tank my brother had, I drove to my place to grab one of my tanks (hurray I had one!). I don't live very far, bout a mile as the crow flies, but we are in the mountains, so it was still about 5 miles round trip. Get to my place try to grab the tank off my grill, and low and behold, the tank is FROZEN to my Grill! Not a big deal, but now the irritation is starting to build.
Got the tank free after a few minutes of pounding and banging and got our fuel over to my brothers house.
Hurray, we finished our boil!
Crap time to cold crash it.
We are very good about draining the garden hose to run to the immersion chiller. However, during our last brew, we didn't do a good enough job of it, frozen solid, no chance in hell of us using the chiller without taking all of the hose and dumping it in the hot tub for 10-15 minutes.
Well at this point, instead of trying to get the hose in the hot tub, we decided it would be easier and quicker to drop our keggle into the snow, we have had excellent success with this before in the past when we were doing 5 gallon batches. We should have thawed the hose.
Our typical time with the chiller of going from boiling down to 75 is about 7-8 minutes. When we tried the snow bank method with 5 gallons it took us about 10-12 minutes. Apparently the "thermoconductivness" (my word, I am using it) of a keggle with 12 gallons of boiling wort is pretty bad. Not only is 12 gallons of wort heavy as hell to be dropping into snow carefully so as not to spill, it also seems to take about an hr to get it to 90 degrees.
At this point we were just tired, and irritated. We called it at 90 degrees as being good enough, siphoned into the carboys, closed them, and left them till morning to pitch our yeast. We did no clean up, just left everything where it was and called it a day. My Brothers keeper, wasn't overly thrilled with this, but I think we were both past the point of caring.
Our 4 hr brew day turned into 7.5 hrs of brewing without actually finishing.
Word to the wise, do not brew outside when it is that cold, you will get much less propane out of your tanks (Lesson Learned!!!) And the best drained hose is worthless. Not to mention, your favorite beverage gets too cold to actually enjoy, had to set my beer on top of the little kerosene heater to make it drinkable (FU Coors and your blue mtns!)
I hope this huge post will help someone else from making the same mistake, we wont make it again (30 is a good temp to brew at