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brewing over a wood fire.

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kornbread

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With fall approaching I find my self wanting to cook something over a wood fire. My father-in-law used to cook a stew outdoors over a wood fired pot every fall. The stew was great, but to me, the real fun was the cooking.

He's long gone now and my brothers and I cook a stew outdoors every couple of years. But, they will not even entertain the idea of cooking over a wood fire.

So, I'm thinking of brewing a beer, maybe a porter, this fall over a wood fire. Has anyone here ever done it? If so, how did it go? What did you brew? Did any of the smoke flavor make it into the beer? If so, would I still need to include some smoked malt in the mash? I don't think I want a ton of smoked flavor in the beer. I want just a hint. And finally, would you do it again or was it just too much hassle?
 

JetSmooth

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I was wondering about this as well. I have a Big Green Egg, which would make for a good and sturdy fire pit. I can't se emuch of the smoky flavor getting into the beer, so adding a little might be good.

Someone on here was going to do an "authentic" period Scottish Wee Heavy, I think. Bitter with all kinds of crap like pine and boil over a wood fire for three hours. I think they were mostly kidding, but it got me thinking about this.

I just sold my kettle and am working on a keggle, so I don't know if I have the time to devote to figuring this out. But if you do, please update this thread! (Translation: someone has to try this and screw up first. :))
 

MetallHed

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An extract batch probably..

I would say have fun trying to hit your mash/sparge temps accurately with a wood blaze going...

but an extract recipe I could see being fine since all you're really doing is boiling. You could probably do steeping grains too on a lower fire, then adding more wood to get it up to boiling.

Why not?

:mug:
 

danon104

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And finally, would you do it again or was it just too much hassle?
If this was the deciding factor in whether or not most of us did something we would probably be in a different hobby.

That being said, Go For it. Rig up some kind of tripod so you can adjust the heat or get a good bed of coals going and then you can adjust he heat by moving the coals in and out from under the kettle.

And take LOTS of pictures.
 

kanzimonson

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This might be more than you're willing to do, but if you could rig up a mobile stand you could push and pull the BK over the fire to adjust the boil rate.

When I picture all this in my mind, I just see explosive boil overs, foam everywhere, fires constantly needing to be relit and rekindled. It would really take some trials to get this perfect, but sounds really fun! Maybe use a much bigger pot than you need to help with boil overs.
 

JetSmooth

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Hmmm. With a keggle, could you use a engine lift or something to move it over the fire and off?

Not that I have one of those or want to set it up on my back deck. . . . but still.
 

Revvy

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Go look at my pictured of the brochet in this thread https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f12/he...emorial-5-year-aged-barleywine-recipe-195096/

Pics from yesterday are on the last page.

I almost contemplated doing the second beer on the firepit, but didn't think the rack could have held the kettle and the wort. But even looking at the Brochet you will see how difficult temp control is to deal with. But on the other hand my friend "smitty" and I are planning to do historical brewing demos which would be over an open fire. But using a huge kettle supported over a fire.
 

Special Hops

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Would be neat to try once I suppose. But I don't think very practical. hitting mash temps would be very difficult. And no to mention the problem with boil overs....
 

nutty_gnome

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I would think that just the simple act of stirring the pot while its coming to a boil woulld be a difficult task. I wouldn't want to stand that close to a wood fire large enough to be useful with an arm out over it stirring for 10 minutes. Is there a way around that?
 

JetSmooth

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Yup. That's on my list of things to do as well. I figure I can place the granite stones in my Big Green Egg to bring them up to temp.

Just need to get a lagering chamber to do it right and reuse the stones during lagering.
 

MetallHed

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are you a hunter?

How about a deer lift rig to raise or lower the kettle.

I still think extract would be the way to go.
 
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kornbread

kornbread

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Right now I'm thinking of rigging up a tripod and hanging my pot over the fire. Heat the strike water, mash in the cooler as usual, heat the sparge water over the fire while the mash converts, then boil over the fire. I think trying to maintain mash temp over an open fire would just be too tricky.

I guess I need to think about a recipe.
 

v2comp

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Right now I'm thinking of rigging up a tripod and hanging my pot over the fire. Heat the strike water, mash in the cooler as usual, heat the sparge water over the fire while the mash converts, then boil over the fire. I think trying to maintain mash temp over an open fire would just be too tricky.

I guess I need to think about a recipe.
this is where I think we all over think this stuff, what do you guys think the early brewers did with their under modified grain and no thermometers? they still brewed beer and they almost certainly did it over an open fire. I have been thinking about this myself for a while now and I have a 25 gallonish black iron caldron I was thinking about using for a mash tun and boil kettle.

Im thinking about heating the strike water (for a thin mash) in the caldron over the fire with the coals on a piece of tin roofing that I can slide in and out from under the pot (coals in the middle of a 10ft piece of tin roofing) so I can pull it from both sides, add the grain and make an uneducated guess at temperature, wait a couple of hours, stir and then add water up to what I think will give me 13 gallons or so, stir very well and then slowly dump/pour through a large strainer/sieve into a cooler. once collected, I will empty the caldron, rinse with hot tap water and dump, add collected wort back into caldron and place back over the fire. boil for an hour with spruce additions and maybe some spices, lift the caldron out and sit in on a pile of about 10 big bags of ice and stir slowly until I think its close to pitch temp, rack into carboys with auto siphon and pitch yeast.
I know it sounds crazy, but in our homebrew club, thats nothing unusual. im sure 3 or 4 of us could manage this pretty easily.
if I can get some of those guys to help, I will give this a go in a couple of weeks. I will take pictures and maybe even a short video of the different steps. wish us luck that we dont give ourselves 3rd degree burns or spill it all out trying to transfer to the cooler..lol:ban:
 

Revvy

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this is where I think we all over think this stuff, what do you guys think the early brewers did with their under modified grain and no thermometers? they still brewed beer and they almost certainly did it over an open fire. I have been thinking about this myself for a while now and I have a 25 gallonish black iron caldron I was thinking about using for a mash tun and boil kettle.
You hit the nail on the head. And that is exactly like what my buddy Smitty an historical re-enactor of everything from the Voyageur period through the civil war (with I think some medieval/renn fest stuff thrown in) are going to start doing next year. He does both baking and blacksmithing at event, and since I taught him how to brew he wants to do that with me.

But it really is the KISS principal in action.

This guy is a legend in the historical brewing community.


I love his attitude, "I get what I get." It's sort of the RDWHAHB of historical brewing.
 
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wyzazz

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I was looking for just that very video, I knew I'd seen it here before somewhere.
 

Germelli1

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You are very welcome. I love how both articles hit their mash temps:

Bring your water to a boil and put it into the mash tun. When it has cooled enough that the steam has cleared and you can see your reflection in the water, add your malt to the tun. Mix it up well and let it mash for two hours
I used a small 3-gallon (11.4-L) pot and heated up about 21/2 gallons (9.5 L) of water on the coals. I heated up the water until it was starting to steam just to the point of obscuring my reflection, then I poured the water into a large pail containing my grains and oats
 

Revvy

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One of the hurdles I've yet to surmount in planning for this stuff....chilling the wort. No one really talks about it on anything I've come upon. Did they really just let it sit and cool? I've been tempted to disguise an aquatainer inside a fake barrel or something and do a "no chill" method. Just to get it out of the kettle and out of the potential for infection.
 

Revvy

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What we're looking at doing for weekend historical events is to do a Partyguile on Saturday- two beers from the grain, along with a brochet, burnt mead. Then on Sunday maybe do another brochet and then do a Stein or a hot poker beer, as the culmination of the weekend. Since it would be very very dramatic, and noisy.
 

wyzazz

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One of the hurdles I've yet to surmount in planning for this stuff....chilling the wort. No one really talks about it on anything I've come upon. Did they really just let it sit and cool? I've been tempted to disguise an aquatainer inside a fake barrel or something and do a "no chill" method. Just to get it out of the kettle and out of the potential for infection.
I'll vote for the "No Chill" option, I do it with most of my beers now and haven't noticed any ill effects.
 

menschmaschine

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Why not get a steel fire pit and put it on casters to wheel it in and out from underneath the mash to control temp? You'd have to rig up something for the mash tun/kettle to stand on to accomodate the mobile firepit underneath, but I remember reading somewhere that brewers used this concept (Belgium, I think).

Like this, but maybe lower to the ground:

 

DKershner

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I vote for taking the cauldron and sticking it 1/4 submerged on the side of a river or creek.

But no chill would be easier on your back.
 

Priemus

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didnt bother to read all the way to end ;)

Friend brewed over fire with lots of logs and smoke this summer, no smoke taste in beer.
 
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kornbread

kornbread

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didnt bother to read all the way to end ;)

Friend brewed over fire with lots of logs and smoke this summer, no smoke taste in beer.
Good to know. I guess I'll include just a smidgen of smoked malt in mine to remind me of the brew day when I'm drinking the beer later..
 

WPStrassburg

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http://gcvmblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/1803-walter-grieves-brewery.html

At the museum they are brewing al la 1800's style with wood fired kettle and mash tun. The cooling is done by putting the wort in 3 or 4 big 4'x8-10' copper pans with open tops then draining it to the basement into big casks.








Note: Not my picts, but check out his other photos for more of the brewery too.
Not quite open fire brewing, but still lots of flavor in the air!
 

LakeErieBrew

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This seems like it would be pretty "easy" to do Brew-in-a-Bag style. You could sit your kettle up on a few cinder blocks leaving a space to add/remove hot coals. I'm picturing a semi-circle of cinder blocks with the kettle on top. I don't know if you could build a big enough fire under there to boil a 5 gallon batch, but I think a 2.5 gallon batch would be do-able.

1. Get your kettle up to strike temp and add the grain.
2. Remove the coals from under the kettle.
3. Sacc rest...
4. During the sacc rest, build up a lot of coals off to the side to prepare for the boil.
5. Remove the grains and add enough coals to boil.

Seems pretty simple on the surface. Hmm....
 

Bswinter2

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I was thinking about doing the very same thing. I was toying with the idea of doing a decoction mash and then boiling on the fire. It would probably be a dawn to dusk at the peak of summer kind of thing, but it sounds like a good time to me! If you try it first, be sure to post pics and a review of your process.
 

JalaPeno

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I've brewed a DME Nut Brown on the firepit in the backyard. Controlled temperatures by moving the pot on the grill grate toward/away from the flame much like cooking on the grill with indirect heat.

You can expect some smoky flavor in the beer, but it worked great with the Nut Brown recipe.
 

TimboBrewbo

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I'm new here; and I apologize if I'm repeating something some one else has already posted. But in case I'm not, check out "rocket stoves" (Google it) and you brewers will find what you're looking for.

I happened across it and checked it out. So when my cheap-ass Korean propane burner crapped out on me out in northern BC this summer, I grabbed my jigsaw, cut into a 30 gallon barrel and, flattening a short length of rain gutter for a wood shelf, made a remarkably efficient and responsive brewing stove in less than ten minutes.

I should emphasize that I was frustrated, had the barrel and tools handy, and the "rocket stove principles" firmly in mind.

Again, let me apologize if this is old news.

And I should say that the rocket stove was designed to help desperately poor people more efficiently cook for their families. I salute the work of these men.

That said, the "Rocket Stove." so good at reducing the amount of hours and miles that Somali women have to endure gathering sticks for a cook fire, is equally efficient for suburban beer geeks who want to ease the reliance on foreign oil, and enrich the time they spend twiddling with the heat, and stirring the mash.

I made an intensely hoppy barleywine, and my wife followed up with a delightful pale ale on her own. The stove is remarkably responsive.

Sorry if you've heard all this before. Happy brewing!
Timbo
 

codyjp

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I'm new here; and I apologize if I'm repeating something some one else has already posted. But in case I'm not, check out "rocket stoves" (Google it) and you brewers will find what you're looking for.

I happened across it and checked it out. So when my cheap-ass Korean propane burner crapped out on me out in northern BC this summer, I grabbed my jigsaw, cut into a 30 gallon barrel and, flattening a short length of rain gutter for a wood shelf, made a remarkably efficient and responsive brewing stove in less than ten minutes.

I should emphasize that I was frustrated, had the barrel and tools handy, and the "rocket stove principles" firmly in mind.

Again, let me apologize if this is old news.

And I should say that the rocket stove was designed to help desperately poor people more efficiently cook for their families. I salute the work of these men.

That said, the "Rocket Stove." so good at reducing the amount of hours and miles that Somali women have to endure gathering sticks for a cook fire, is equally efficient for suburban beer geeks who want to ease the reliance on foreign oil, and enrich the time they spend twiddling with the heat, and stirring the mash.

I made an intensely hoppy barleywine, and my wife followed up with a delightful pale ale on her own. The stove is remarkably responsive.

Sorry if you've heard all this before. Happy brewing!
Timbo
Great post, and as a newb myself, welcome to HBT! The rocket stove is quite neat. I think I want one!
 
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