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The Belgian Mare Says Hello!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Some Numbers from the Boiler Firing

Ah yes, the first firing of the boiler is now a memory of success.  For readers of a more technical bent, here are some numbers from the event:

From match to first boil: 3hrs.

After the boil was established, the firebox was closed down and no more wood added. Boiling continued for 2hrs.

Water temperature was 140 degrees F 13hrs after the cessation of boiling.

The fire used surprisingly little wood and was very efficient leaving little ash and producing no visible smoke for most of the test session.

Clearly, letting the wort sit overnight will not cool it sufficiently to be run into the fermenter. We will need to find some other means of cooling the wort, whether chiller, coolship of something else.  Any suggestions? 


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Adventures In Boiling - It Works!

First smoke out of the new chimney!

Loyal Readers, you are well aware that I have been working with laser -focus on getting the brewery functional.  Only a few days ago we finished the chimney. Today we passed a milestone when we fired the boiler for the first time.  Our good friend Tom Coty came over and he and I fired up the boiler for the first time.  With no idea how this would work, we put match to wood and prayed...

Ready for the match!
Firing the boiler for the first time was an intimidating task.  What if something went wrong or an insurmountable flaw was found in the design?  Those were questions I did not dare to ask.  In my mind I knew I needed to focus and boiled down (note pun) the task to its essence:  can we get water to boil or not?

Nothing else means anything.  If we can boil water, we can brew beer.  If not, then we wasted a butt-load of money.  This was do or die.  Nothing less than the viability of our whole brewery venture was at stake.

To put things simply-It worked!  We managed to raise a boil and hold it for two hours.  There were a few glitches, but nothing we can't fix.  What a relief.  At this point, everything else is secondary.  We have a boiler and it works!

First fire under way!
It was such a relief to have the boiler work.  When designing it, I could find almost no information, so I based my design on sugaring evaporators.  In the end it worked and that is all that matters.  A big thanks to all who helped make this possible!  We are well on our way to being a real brewery.

Friday, September 20, 2013

We Have Valves!

Great news!  The valves and fittings arrived today.  That means that on Sunday we will test the boiler for the first time.  Let's see what kind of heat we can raise!

The new butterfly valve.  What a stainless steel beauty!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Chimney & Trapdoor

Things continue to move along here at the Belgian Mare.  Still, I did manage  to brew a couple of beers.  The first is a pale ale.  I kegged it and sampled it a few days later ( a bit too early).  It is very good, though I see room for improvement.  The other brew is a lager that is still in the fermenter.

Towering stainless steel!
Now for news on the brewery.  On Sunday, our old friend Danny came out and we finished installing the chimney.  His skill has really helped move this project along.  Once we are officially open we pretty much own him his own batch.

The secret cellar entrance!
The second accomplishment is that we now have a trapdoor in the sales/gallery area.  This is something I have been hoping to get done for some time.  With my new hammer-drill in hand, I set to the task.  It took longer than anticipated, but we now have a trap door instead of a gaping hole.  Progress and safety.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

11,000 Visits & Chimney Work

Wow!  So this venerable old blog has passed the 11,000 visitors mark.  Pretty amazing that people have looked at what I have to say that many times.

The other big news is that we have started installing the chimney.  Actually, it is pretty much installed.  All that is left is to install the weather shield and cap.  Originally, this was all to be done by a professional.  However, after being rescheduled several times and having an alternate contractor bail out, we decided to do it ourselves. Once having set our minds, I purchased the necessary parts and borrowed a roof ladder.  

Now roof ladders are interesting things.  They are ladders with a hook or hooks at the top.  The idea is that the ladder lays flat on the roof with the hook over the ridge.  The hook secures the ladder and one may crawl up and down the roof ladder in perfect safety.

In reality, roof ladders are a true test of one's mental and cardiac fortitude.  The ladder itself creaks and flexes with a nerve-shredding  rhythm while the hook slides up and down with the tempo.  So one finds oneself ascending toward the peak of the roof with bulging eyes glued to the undulating hook.  With each upward bounce of the hook, the climber's heart beats faster and inches a little farther up their throat as the hook threatens each time to come clear of the ridge and send the climber shooting into space on a magic ladder ride.  But each time the hook stops just short of sending the climber into oblivion and returns to its original position to begin the torture anew.

After a knocking a few years off my life on my first two trips up the roof ladder I wised-up and figured out a way to better secure myself and the ladder. As far as we have progressed, I need only take a few more trips up the roof ladder to complete our chimney.  And it is a darn good thing too!