It all started with my first brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) brew day. I can hardly relay how excited I was to get going with it. A friend that has been brewing all-grain for a long time and I were settling in and getting the equipment ready. He had previously been brewing BIAB as well so I was pretty calm.
Adding to my excitement was that this batch was meant for my wedding brew, among a few others, to be served to the guests. We decided to do a simple English bitter, nothing too complicated. We fire up and mash in, all is good. Everything is going so well that we open a couple of brews and relax. I keep checking temperature periodically with a digital thermometer, and fire up the gas stove to push it back up to the 150–154 °F (66–68 °C) range, as the pot was not that well insulated.
A little more drinking and relaxing and it’s time to mash out. As I start to pull the BIAB bag out of the pot I notice an unpleasant, burnt smell and I feel the bag is stuck! Further inspection revealed the bottom of the bag had caramelized and is now glued to the bottom of the brew kettle. We decided to try and scrape the bottom of the aluminum kettle as gently as possible to release the bag with minimum damage to both the kettle and the bag, then reassess. As we’re scraping away, the bag tears . . . at first, just a small tear but then, with the weight of the grains pushing against it, it became a flood. Well, at least the bag is out, right? Wrong, a huge piece is still stuck to the bottom!
As we had no means of filtering away the grains (no replacement bag to speak of, or vessels big enough to contain the entire volume beside the kettle) I had gotten every pot in the house and started straining with a metal strainer until every pot was filled to the brim. We managed to scrape away what remained of the bag, but
a big ugly scorched mark with burnt residue had stubbornly stuck to the kettle bottom.
Well, relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew . . . we fired up the kettle again and boiled the wort collected from all the pots. It went to fermentation with no further incidents after that.
A couple weeks later, time to crack open and see some results. As soon as I open the bottle the cap goes flying and I nearly lose an eye. A huge surge of brown, murky liquid followed and I realize that I will not be serving this in my wedding after all. But wait, a light bulb is turned on in the recesses of my mind. I don’t want people to drink this, obviously, but what about slapping on a nice label and gifting it to the guests – most will never open it anyway. So I get to work and make a label for the bottle with a personal inscription in my handwriting. Now, that will assure they don’t open it.
Wedding day arrives, and as my new wife and I mingled with guests after the ceremony, a friend that was tending the bar whispered in my ear “the brews we brought are all out!” As it turns out, I miscalculated what the guests of a small wedding will drink on a Friday morning.
“Can we serve the blue capped bottles, you know, the ones with the inscriptions on them?” Well, what’s the worst that can happen? The bottles are opened by some of the guests at the bar and gushers follow, one after the other. As man will be man, they each think the previous one was at fault and they can do it better, and so the sentence, “Let me show you how it’s done” had been repeated again and again that day, to the loud laughter of other guests.