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Have you ever had one of those brew days where nothing went right? Guess what? So has everyone else! I have been brewing since 2009 and I still have more of those days than not. It seems to happen more often when introducing new equipment, which changes your normal configuration.
I recently converted my entire setup to use camlock fittings. For intermediate to novice range brewers, I would highly recommend this switch; it has dramatically advanced my brew day and allowed me to introduce even more equipment to my set up. With the addition of these new toys comes the potential of a new miscue. You would think, that over the years I would have figured out how much more vigilance adding new equipment requires. I get so caught up with using my new toys that it inevitably guarantees a brew day issue.

A Good Recipe Adds Interest To Your Brewday
My first issue with this particular brew had nothing to do with the actual brew day, but the days leading up to it. I was so fixated on getting all the new connections hooked up, that I forgot to check my supplies. Since I was making a pumpkin beer I wanted to mash the puree with the grains; I discovered this to be the best way for me while I was doing Brew in a Bag (BIAB). I grabbed my scale in order to measure the out the pumpkin puree. Turns out the scale was dead, and I was out of 9V batteries. I was off to the gas station for batteries. Upon my return, I realized I only had about 60oz of the necessary 90oz of pumpkin puree; off to the store again for more pumpkin puree. At this point, I should have cut my losses and delayed the brewday, but I was determined to use my new toys!

Have All Your Ingredients In House On Brewday
This brew of blunders was a mixture of adding too many new things to my routine and poor planning for the day. Up to this point, I had only made this recipe as a BIAB. I had not mashed with puree in this mash tun before, and it never even crossed my mind that I might get a stuck mash. Anyone who has ever had a stuck mash can sympathize with the 3rd degree burns that were sustained trying to 'unstick' it. Sticking your hand in to the 150 degree mash water to save your brew day sounds heroic but it is mostly just stupid!! I ended up just dumping the mash through a 5 gallon paint strainer bag after burning both hands trying to be a hero. What a disaster!
I was able to get through the boil without further incident, then set up my new pump, new chiller, and new thermometer that measures the temperature of the wort. Of course, it helps if you insert the thermometer into the port prior to starting the transfer. Have you ever seen near-boiling wort shoot 10 feet into the air, narrowly missing a nearby friend? Me neither, up until that point! Luckily, I quickly jammed the thermometer in to the port and the crisis was averted. The wort happily pumped in to the carboy at 68 degrees for about 15 minutes until the boil kettle was empty.

Honestly No One Likes Dealing With A Stuck Mash
Finally, I took a gravity sample, which read nearly 20 points lower than anticipated. Thank you stuck mash! I was also reminded that my hand still hurt from trying to be a hero. After a quick debate, I headed upstairs to boil some DME to increase my gravity. After 5 minutes of carefully monitoring the boiling pot for boil overs, I turned on the kitchen faucet to wash a few utensils. I think you see where we are heading here. Suddenly, I was treated to that fantastic hissing sound of wort hitting your burner followed closely by the smell of burning wort! I don't know what is worse, the fact I had a boil over, or the fear of my wife seeing the caked burnt wort on our brand new stove top.
At that point I threw up the white flag and called it a day; Better safe than dead at this point. I chilled the remaining wort, added it to the carboy, added the yeast, and waited for what I assumed would be a disaster of a beer. Four weeks later, I sampled the beer. To my surprise, it was not a disaster; I made tasty beer!

A Nightmare Brewday Still Has A Happy Ending
No matter how many things could possibly go wrong on a brew day, making beer can be pretty forgiving. Show off those battle-scared hands with pride and tell your buddies about the worst brewing day you have ever had! Then tell them how satisfying it was to drink that damn beer because of what it took to get it in that glass!

Pride, Persistence And Patience Make The Difference
Daniel Roy lives in Manassas, VA where he has been homebrewing since December 2009. Dan goes under the name "D_Rabbit" on the BeerBorg Forum and he's currently an officer of the Downright Obsessed Homebrewers! brew club where his all grain beers have won him 2nd place for his 'Grams Pumpkin Pie - English Bitter Base' and 3rd place for his 'Kings Porter - Robust Porter'.
Shhhhh...don't tell anyone it's not that hard! Next thing you know there will be over 3,000 breweries scattered all over the country!
This is Dan (probably should match my name on HBT to my Borg name)
No it isn't but at that point I didn't have the cold water hose set to the right speed or the pump so it was still coming out very hot! New toy and not dialed in.
Love reading brew day horror stories. It makes me feel less bad when I really screw up. That's why I made a few weeks ago:
I also had a day like that rercently (minus the "heroics"). Named the beer "Damage Control" and entered it into the Mayfaire Competition. Scored 36 points. Not bad.
Nice article Dan. Always good to share the good and the bad so people know they are not alone when things don't go as planned. Cheers.
It is always lovely when beer comes out the other side of a series of what feel like disasters. Interesting, I just made a pumpkin beer as well (for my wife, I swear). Personally, for a 4 gallon batch, I find 30oz of butternut squash and 15oz of pumpkin with some spices (1oz cinnamon, 1oz ginger, 1/4oz cloves) really hits the spot for a pumpkin ale without being way over the top or being mild.
Also mash the puree with the grains. BiaB is the only way to go though, I've heard of too many stuck mashes with the puree in the mash tun.
I was also reminded of how much sediment you get with puree in there. My 5 gallon carboy is filled to about the 4.25 gallon mark and it has at least a gallon of trub in it. A 1.086OG beer plus BiaB plus 45oz of puree = a TON of trub.
I think part of what makes it "hard" is that as a homebrewer you don't brew every week or every-other week, so you forget. Always helps to write things down as you're brewing and to plan ahead. My last batch (English Mild) I forgot to add 2 oz. of black patent, and the OG was high, so I steeped it & added it later, along with some extra water. Had some leaks (kettle, from Thermometer opening & water outlet from chiller), but made a note to get those fixed for next time.
The odds of a brew day disaster increase SIGNIFICANTLY when friends are 'helping' me. The beers go down a little faster and I am much more distracted. Every time I end up with a valve in the wrong position or a hose connected wrong or something, and make a mess and get burnt.
Yeah, I have that too. Which is partly why I don't brew with friends unless I am trying to show one of them how I brew.
That and I try to keep my setup as simple as possible. No hose connections to worry about with my BiaB setup.
Maybe someday if/when I retire if I am still in to brewing (and why the heck wouldn't I be?) and enjoying it, I'll move to very small batches and brew often. Especially if I can cut down the time in my process. Maybe weekly brews, but only 1-3 gallons.
Thanks Manfish! I took a few years hiatus due to relocating a few times but I am back at it and enjoying every minute of it.
Dan "d rabbit"
I had one of those days yesterday...not enough of an ingredient, my siphon hose broke, but it is fermenting very well.
My biggest disaster was with my third batch. I started out allgrain brewing from the start. My first batch I had some hickups the resulted in a low OG. Learned from that. 2nd batch, A+. 3rd batch, I thought everything went smoothly, but then I pulled a sample when I went from primary to secondary. It was terrible. Incredibly sour and yeasty... I thought I had an infection and that I was going to have to dump 5 gallons down the drain. Left it for a couple weeks, and tried it again. It improved, but still not great. So Rather than dumping it, I left it aside for nearly another month (until I needed the carboy, I have a few). Tried it and it was amazingly good. I received lots of compliments from friends. Long story short, off flavors can very easily go away if you simply give the yeast time to eat them up.