It's still summer and it's still warm; albeit cooler than it was the last time I updated this page. Today I brewed what I hope will turn out to be a decent English Pale Ale or Extra Special Bitter. I'm calling this batch Leftovers London Ale. The "Leftovers" part of the name comes from using leftover grain from previous partial mash batches. The "London Ale" part of the name refers to the yeast I pitched for this batch, Wyeast #1968. The yeast was packaged in the new Activator pack; that advertises that the contents should be ready to pitch in as little as three hours. I activated the pack the morning that I chose to brew and by the time I had chilled the wort (about fours later) the package had started to swell about three-quarters of an inch.
A couple of weeks ago I picked up a five-gallon Rubbermaid brand beverage cooler at Menard's on sale for $10. I bought it to use as a mash tun and for the last couple of weeks I've been pondering just how to implement its use in my little brewery. I ended up fitting the cooler with a Zymico Kewler Kitz Basic Plus purchased from Northern Brewer. On the inside of the cooler I attached a stainless steel lint trap to the Kewler Kitz bulkhead using the tie that came with the trap. I still used my fermenter bucket (insulated with a heavy towel) as my lauter tun. No grains ended up in the wort and the lint trap stayed attached to the bulkhead. As far as partial mash brewing is concerned, the system worked pretty well, but as an all-grain setup I would want a higher mash efficiency (see my recipe notes.) The system is certainly an improvement over the first partial mash technique that I used in which I ladled the sparge water over the grains in the colander suspended over the brew kettle. All the parts for the mash tun, including the cooler, cost about $45. Again, the Kewler Kitz are availbe at Northern Brewer, and the other parts (half-inch hose, plumber's tape and lint trap) can be found at your local Ace Hardware store.
Something else I tried with this batch was a technique I've read about called first wort hopping. I read about this in Randy Mosher's new book, Radical Brewing. I added an ounce of Willamette whole hops to the first runnings of the wort that I collected in the brewpot. From what I've read adding these hops at such a point in brewing should add quite a bit of hop character. As the recipe for the London Ale shows, I also added some Kent Goldings pellets for bittering and the rest of the two-ounce bag of Willamettes. I'm eager to taste what effect first wort hopping has on this batch of homebrew. I suspect I might have to make this batch again without first wort hopping to really notice anything.