This coming Monday is our first wedding anniversary, so we decided to take a few days off of work and head out of town to celebrate. We decided on Fredericksburg for our destination and booked one of the guest houses that the Cottages at Limestone on Main had to offer. We left in the morning and drove down to Hico to have lunch and pie at the Koffee Kup. From there, we went down to the Real Ale Brewing Company in Blanco and took the brewery tour and did some beer tasting. It was a really fun tour, and I got to talk to the brewmaster about using souring bugs in my homebrew. Maybe some time soon I’ll do something sour.
After that we headed over to the cottage and got checked in and unpacked. The cottage is a decently sized open bedroom/living room/kitchen floor plan with a full bath. The proprietors are really nice, even rescheduling our breakfast for tomorrow due to us needing to be on the road a little early for a hike.
For dinner we went over to the Fredericksburg Brewing Company for dinner and some more beer. I also got a growler filled with their porter, it might get drunk this weekend, but if not it’ll come home and get finished off then. That was about it for today. Tomorrow, we’re heading for Enchanted Rock and then a nice dinner…
Reese, Heather, Aunt Sandy, and I went up to St. Maximus for Liturgy in the morning, bringing the rings, crowns, and icons with us so that Father Justin could bless them. After that I took Reese back to the hotel and went home to start getting ready.
I got up to the church a little earlier than I’d expected, which turned out to be good because I forgot my cufflinks. Thankfully, Mike hadn’t left yet, so he grabbed them and brought them with him when he headed over. We got everything set up in the church, did some last minute prep work in the hall, including getting the beer kegs on ice and set up, and then waited for everyone to start arriving. The cakes arrived and got set up thanks to our minions, a couple teenagers from the church. They looked great and we couldn’t wait to cut in to them. As it got closer to the starting time, Mike and I got changed into our kilts, and took our places in the church. Due to a miscommunication between the bridal party and us, we were both waiting for the other group to let us know that we were ready. After getting that sorted out, the service started. Heather looked great, actually making me pause a little to regain my composure as I met her at the back of the church. We got through the service without anything major going wrong, and worked hard to keep our composure during the receiving line afterwards. It was great to see all of our family and friends there.
We then went back over to the hall and started the reception, with a great introduction thanks to Mike. The food was great, our minions helped keep everything flowing nicely, and the homebrew was a hit. We got to cut in to the cake and fed each other little pieces without turning it in to a food fight. Then Reese and I cut the groom’s cake and I fed a little to him. We continued to nibble on some food and circulate, talking with friends and family, for the next few hours. When it was time to close things down, our families and bunch of the people from church pitched in to get the hall cleaned up and everything packed up to head back home. We are truly blessed with some great people in our lives.
Then we headed home and crashed out as exhaustion finally won out over the excitement of the day.
I got the last three batches of reception beer (the red ale and two batches of hefeweizen) kegged today. I’m not able to fit all five kegs in the freezer so I’ve got one of the hefes cooling down and carbonating in the main keg fridge. The other four are in the chest freezer, with the temperature set at around 50F. I’ll move the CO2 over some time later on in the week and get the rest of them carbonated. As for now, I’m totally beat. Moving 50 – 60 pound carboys and kegs around for a few hours wears on you.
Well, mostly done. I finished brewing it and pitched the yeast a couple hours ago. It’s in the freezer, hopefully there’s not too much of a lag time before the yeast kicks off. I saved the hefeweizens for last because they need the least amount of aging. Two weeks from now they go in kegs and we’re done. I’m beat, and this isn’t even close to the workload a professional brewer has.
The first two batches of beer for the wedding reception, the brown ale and the stout, are now in kegs. All in all, the chest freezer fermentation chamber and the Better Bottles worked out better than I expected. The only hitch was that I started running low on CO2 while purging the kegs. So I ran down to Mr. G’s and picked up a second five pound cylinder. Now I shouldn’t get caught with no CO2 again.
This morning I did probably the most technically challenging beer of the set, the red ale. I haven’t had much luck with them, consistently turning out brown ales instead of getting that red color. When I was at Homebrew Headquarters picking up the ingredients, I got some tips on another way to do it. So instead of steeping the roasted barley along with the rest of the specialty grains, I waited until everything was out and I was bringing it up to a boil. At that point, I put just the roasted barley in a hop sack and repeatedly dunked it until I got a color that looked good. It may be a little light, but it’s going to be a lot closer to red than my previous attempts. Yeast has been pitched and it’s in the old fermentation chamber since the stout and brown ale are still in the chest freezer. They’ll get kegged tomorrow or Monday and then I’ll be ready to do the hefeweizens.
Mike let me know about a deal on a chest freezer at the local Sears. I’ve been wanting one for a while and with all the brewing that I’ve got to do for the wedding reception, it was needed. It’s an 8.8 cubic foot model, which will comfortably hold two carboys, meaning I’ll be able to get all the reception beers done. Now I’ve got to pick up the temperature controller and other parts and ingredients for the first beers and then get started.
Mike and I kegged the peat-smoked porter this afternoon, and while most of it went well, I ended up with a bruised big toe nail. The beer is going to be delicious, in fact it already is, and I missed my target gravity by only two points. I’ve got a couple bottles filled and capped, carbonating for the Reddit Homebrewing Competition as well. As for the toe, as I was putting the keg in the fridge, it snagged on the box of soda cans and one fell, edge first, on to the base of the nail on my big toe. It’s nice and bruised, and a little sore, but I guess that’s me suffering for my art.
Everything fell in to place today, so Mike and I got started on the peat-smoked porter kit. Everything went perfectly, though I couldn’t get a good gravity reading thanks to the ridiculous amount of trub that just wouldn’t settle. I’m just guessing it’s about on target and calling it good. It’s in the chiller now, yeast has been pitched, and we’re just waiting for fermentation to start.
It’s been sitting in the primary for two months now, and I need to get another brew going, so it was time to move it to the secondary for some more aging. It smells delicious, is a nice golden/reddish color, and is still generating CO2, so there’s still some activity. I didn’t get all of the kräusen cleaned up from the emergency blow-off incident, so there was a fuzzy mess on the outside of the carboy. Because of that I didn’t take a gravity reading. I’ll do one when I brew this coming weekend.