Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Boil Order Imperial Porter - Double Brew Day All The Way Part 2

The following is a tale of a brew inspired by both tragedy and triumph.  Tragedy because the events that caused this beer to be possible, have also caused me and several others to no longer have jobs.  Triumph because these same events allowed me to have a double brew day, put all that "job" stuff behind me, and put an interesting spin on this imperial porter I've been meaning to do.  It's kind of a "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" sorta deal, only this time life gave me flood water and I'm gonna make beer out of it.

I live in Ames, IA and during the months of June and August, we have had lots and lots of rain.  The pizza restaurant I manage(d), Happy Joe's, sits along the squaw creek and is the first business to be affected by flooding in Ames if and when flooding happens.  I had a strange, certain feeling when I came in to work that night that it would be my last day working at this restaurant.

When I came into work at 5 pm, the water was already halfway up the back parking lot and rising quickly.  There was no rain in the forecast, and the rising water was from rain we had gotten earlier that day north of us.  The creek was predicted to crest below what would put water in the store, so we had not sandbagged.  Beings that we have a flood wall in place around the restaurant that was built after the floods of 93', sandbagging and keeping the water out of the store is a fairly simple and easy process...if you do it BEFORE it starts flooding...

About 8 pm that evening the forecast changed.  It went from no rain to 2 inches of rain overnight.  This would definitely be enough rain for the water to get in the store, so the flood wall was put in place 2' up along the back and sump pumps were readied.  Shortly after that they changed the forecast again to 2"-7" and the calvary was called in to finish assembling the flood wall in the back and begin work on the front.

The storm arrived around 9:45 pm and the rain was even more heavy than predicted.  I don't know what the total rainfall was for the evening, but by 10:00 pm, the water had already come around to the front of the building and was entering the front doors of the store.   Long story short, we sandbagged until 2 am in one of the most amazing storms in terms of wind, rain, and lightning that I had ever witnessed.  Probably one of the dumber things I've ever done in my life considering that I was waste deep in flood water with lightning striking literally across the street every other minute.

After 2 AM, with the flood wall built up completely in both the front and the back, with the sump pumps all running as best they could, it was just a matter of waiting for the rain to stop and seeing how high the flood water would rise.  The owner and a couple family members stayed in the store to man the sump pumps overnight.  I waded out of the store, which at this point in time was surrounded by 3-4' of water on all sides, and went home.  I was tired, soaked, covered in dirty flood water, and ready for a beer.

I stayed up that night watching the river gauge and knew that things were not going to be well the next morning.  I guess the call was made at 3:30 am to abandon ship when the water was an inch away from topping the flood wall.  The owner had recently had hip surgery so I was tasked with going in to break down the flood wall, let the water out, and see what the damage was.  This gallery is what I found.  Happy Joe's After Flood 2010

I spent the next few hours biking around town, checking out how the rest of Ames faired.  Here is a link to that gallery.  Ames Flood 2010

In addition to the flooding, all the water mains in Ames broke that night, draining the town's water towers and causing flood/river water to back up into the system.  A boil order was put into place for the safety of everyone in town that lasted about a week.  I've been interested in doing goofy things with beer recently and one of my first thoughts was that I should make beer with this water.  Being faced with unemployment in this job market, I figured one of the last things I should be spending my money on now was making beer and pushed the idea out of my head.  That afternoon, I was carrying the burner out to my car to deliver it to Adam, who was brewing that evening, when Devon rolled up outside the house and said with a very serious, but sarcastic tone of voice,

"So have you thought about it?"
"Thought about what?" I responded.
"Making beer out of Ames Flood water."

I laughed and told him that I had but didn't I didn't give it much more thought.  I dropped the brewing equipment off at Adam's and went home.  Adam came back later that night to get something I forgot to drop off, and the idea was once again brought up to use the boil order water to make beer.  This got me thinking.  Three beer guys thinking it would be proper to take this opportunity and use the events of the flood for the good of the land and make beer?  Gotta be some sorta sign.   I forgot that I had all the ingredients to do an imperial porter.  All I had been waiting for was carboy space due to lack of carboys caused by a recent obsession over sour beers.  Despite the thought of no incoming income, the plan was put into action.  I would go get more carboys and brew beer with the boil order water.  It had to be done,  So I did it.

boil order imperial porter
Imperial Stout


Type: All Grain/DME boost
Date: 7/13/2010
Batch Size: 5.50 gal
Brewer: Raymond Wagner
Boil Size: 6.91 gal Asst Brewer: johnny walker
Boil Time: 90 min Equipment: Brew Pot (6+gal) and Igloo/Gott Cooler (5 Gal)
Taste Rating(out of 50): 35.0 Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00
Taste Notes:
Amount Item Type % or IBU
2 lbs 8.0 oz Light Dry Extract (8.0 SRM) Dry Extract 15.15 %
10 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 60.61 %
2 lbs 8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM) Grain 15.15 %
1 lbs Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM) Grain 6.06 %
8.0 oz Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM) Grain 3.03 %
0.50 oz Chinook [11.50 %] (90 min) Hops 15.9 IBU
1.00 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] (60 min) Hops 36.1 IBU
1.00 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] (30 min) Hops 27.7 IBU
4.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] (Dry Hop 3 days) Hops -
0.50 oz Chinook [11.50 %] (0 min) (Aroma Hop-Steep) Hops -
3.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] (0 min) (Aroma Hop-Steep) Hops -
1 Pkgs Irish Ale (Wyeast Labs #1084) Yeast-Ale
Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.086 SG
Measured Original Gravity: 1.084 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.022 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.019 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 8.41 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 8.51 %
Bitterness: 79.7 IBU Calories: 378 cal/pint
Est Color: 53.5 SRM Color:


3:00 PM  Heated up strike water.  I'm pounding pumpkin beers like its my job.  O'Fallen's pumpkin beer is awesome.  I should top my glass with some whipped cream.  It's like pumpkin pie in a bottle.  Speaking of pounding pumpkin beer, I screwed up and didn't pre-heat my mash tun and ended up mashing in low @ 149.  I immediately ran about 2 gallons of the strike water off (its PURPLE!?) and heated up to ~170 then re-mashed-in and mash temp is @ 154.  More proof that I'm awesome.

3:20 PM  Mash is underway.  I have a feeling this beer is going to prove to be difficult.  Time to relax.  More pumpkin beer while them enzymes do their thing.

4:50 PM  Hungry.  Upstairs Wendy's friend, Diana, is bringing over some chicken breasts to grill.  Sparging is slow going, but it's not getting stuck like I originally thought it would with as thick of a mash as I had going.  We need more pumpkin beer.

5:08 PM  Going to get more pumpkin beers.

6:00 PM Coals are going.  Steaks, taters, n' chicken going on shortly.  STILL sparging.  STILL drinking pumpkin beer.

7:05 PM Slowly bringing wort to a boil.  I need to evap some of this.  The wort is all the way to the top of my kettle...  If I'm gonna get thru this one, I better switch back to coffee.

8:30 PM  Oh double brew day all the way.  What does it mean?  It means I'm an idiot.  Why do I do this?  I've done this before and said never again...yet here we are, 30 minutes into the 90 minute boil on my second batch.  Surprisingly I did not have a boil over.  I'm ready for bed and I'm supposed to go to a tee pee party tonight?  I don't even really know what that means, but I can pow wow with the best of them.

10:00 PM 1.078 OG.  Pitching london 3 yeast slurry along with the irish ale yeast starter.  I originally planned on using the irish ale, but the tube i got was waaaay past the best by date and took 24 hours to start going in the 4 liter starter.  It didn't appear to create that much new yeast and I don't want to underpitch this beast.

11:29 PM  Rest of the cleanup can wait till tomorrow.  Looks like a meth lab in my house.

9/04/10 Racked to secondary on top of 4 ounces of cascades. gravity is @ 1.020

9/15/10 Bottling Day Notes

Lots of hops in there, I don't know how many gallons I'm going to get.  This is causing me to question how much sugar to use for carbonation.  I'm going to target carbonation for 4 gallons @ 2.4 volumes.  I can't imagine I'd leave behind much more than a gallon.  Hopefully I'll get more, either way it happens I shouldn't under or over carbonate shooting for 2.4 @ 4.

FG reads 1.019 I'm very satisfied with the taste.  When I tasted it initially, before racking onto 4 ounces of hops, it was immensely bitter and acrid...not balanced at all.  The 4 oz of cascade has really balanced that bitterness leaving the beer really smooth with lots of roasty, malty deliciousness that is surprisingly not at all boozy for the 8.5% abv advertised.  I think this is going to be really really good.

UPDATE 11/6/10 These are great.  I'm having a hard time letting these age as long as they should.  This beer is not for someone who doesn't enjoy a good amount of hops either.  It pours a thick opaque black with a nice dark tan head on it that hangs on all the way down the glass.  I swear the tan head is tinged green from the 4 oz of dry hop cascades but I'm sure that's just my imagination or a hallucination brought on by something in the boil order water.  This beer sings hops, perhaps a bit too much but it's still young and I'm sure within six months, some of that hoppyness will subside.  Some would prob say its too carbed for a porter but I say to them, fuck you.  I like it.  Definately brewing this again.  Call/email/text me or whatever if you're under a boil order!


  1. a long, sad and interesting post but I felt you left maybe the most obvious (home brew wise) detail out. What the hell did you do to that water to make it suitable for brewing? Seems pretty murky in the pictures. really cool idea

  2. hey paul, thanks for the comment and good question. It's not like i went out and scooped up actual flood water from the ground to make the beer with :) The beer was made with tap water that was deemed by the city of ames to be unsafe unless boiled. when you make beer, you boil the water for at least 60 minutes. (in this case, 90 minutes)I don't know how long your actually supposed to boil water for for it to be safe to drink but i figured the 90 minute boil would be enough to take care of any bacteria that would be harmful.

  3. Hahaha! Thats hilarious! I wondered if people would assume it was straight flood water. Now I need to sample some next time I'm off.

  4. We totally should've done a shitty beer with shitwater, though. I'm kicking myself for thinking it was too gross.