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The Beer Circle » Al's of Hampden, Brandy, Brew It Yourself, Pizza Boy Brewing Co., Tripel » My Brew Day at Pizza Boy Brewing

My Brew Day at Pizza Boy Brewing

The entrance to Pizza Boy Brewing

My fiancée and I are regular customers at Al’s of Hampden and when I told Al that I was engaged, he said that I needed to brew a beer for the wedding at the brewery in the basement of his pizza shop, Pizza Boy Brewing. We had several discussions back and forth on what type of beer I wanted to brew, and finally I settled on a Belgian Tripel aged in Apple Brandy Barrels with cocoa nibs. From there, Al and I cranked out a recipe that identified the malts, the yeast, and the hops, all leading to the desired flavor of a spicy tripel that will be balanced with apple and brandy flavors.

The day finally arrived that I could brew at Pizza Boy Brewing, and I couldn’t contain my excitement. For someone who only has four extract homebrews under his belt, the task of brewing on an industrial system can seem somewhat daunting, but I think the excitement overrode the anxiety prior to brewing. Al was more than helpful at every step of the way. We started in the grain room where we opened 55-pound bags of pilsner malt to put into the grain press. From there, we added the water needed into the mash tun. Again, not having done an all-grain recipe, all of these steps were new to me.

I'm adding hops to the boil.

After the mash was prepared, we transferred it into the lauter tun so that the beer can be self-filtered. Al’s BrauKon setup pumps the wort from below a false bottom to the top of the mash, creating a cycle that allows the larger particles to settle at the bottom and act as a filter for the beer. After some time, the beer began to run clear, and we transferred it back into the mash tun so that we could begin  the boil.

The boil is by far my favorite part of brewing. It’s where you get to add all of the ingredients that make the beer taste and feel the way that you want it to. Throughout this process, I got to add hops in three different stages for bitterness, flavor, and aroma. I also added in some Belgian candi-syrup and two 25-pound bags of cane sugar. All of the sugary additives are needed to feed the yeast, and our Original Gravity goal was 1.100. Following the transfer of the beer into the fermentation tank, we checked the specific gravity and found that we had hit our goal!

The finished wort (beautiful color!) being chilled and transferred into the fermenter.

During the process of brewing, clean up is needed and I think that Al was thankful to have someone else around to help with that chore. The spent grain was removed from the lauter tun and a local farmer stopped by to pick it up so he can feed it to his cows. We also had to clean out all of the left behind particulate which was mostly hops. As my fiancée Janine said, “It looks like baby poop.” After a final wash down of the brewery, the day was complete and absolutely satisfying that we hit our targeted gravity. Now we wait on the yeast to eat the sugars, poop alcohol, and burp carbon dioxide. Finally, the beer will be aged in an apple brandy barrel before being served to the guests at our wedding.

As if I didn’t say it enough yesterday, thank you to Al for the opportunity and I can’t wait to try the finished product. Cheers!

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Written by Jeff Kupko

Jeff is a traffic engineer that loves his beer, and especially loves trying new beer. As a student at the University of Pittsburgh, Yuengling was a staple and the beginnings of liking something better than fizzy yellow water. This has evolved into an entire hobby, with Jeff keeping a blog of all of the beers he tries. Vacations most certainly involve at least one brewery or bottle shop visit to gather a region’s coveted fruits. Now, Jeff has ventured into homebrewing, and there is probably no saving him from being engulfed entirely by beer. While Imperial Stouts and IPAs rank highest in Jeff’s eyes, sours are sneaking up on those styles, and Jeff loves to try all different styles. Find Jeff Kupko on Google Plus

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