My first attempt at an all-grain brew. (Spoiler: it didn't go well.)
This started off bad and didn't really get any better. March 23 was our scheduled Big Brew Day in which several people come over, bring their equipment, and we make a lot of beer. I decided to try my first "brew-in-a-bag" all-grain beer. The first problem was that there was some three feet of snow on the ground (and on the decks), and it was a anti-balmy 0°C outside. BRRR.
The cold weather made it difficult for me to maintain the correct mash temperatures. Ideally I would have steeped my grains for an hour at 152°F (the "saccharification rest") followed by a ten minute steep at 170°F (the "mash-out"). I overshot the sacch temp by ten degrees or so, but I managed to hit 170 for the mash-out. The sixty-minute boil proceeded uneventfully. Chilling the beer was actually a bit quicker than usual (due to the cold, cold, cold ambient temperature). I had some clogging trouble while decanting the wort to the carboy. I need to get a screen for the interior pipe of the pass-through valve.
I ended up with ~6 gallons of wort (which is one gallon too many for the amount of grain I had). This, and the poor sacch rest, contributed to the low OG of 1.034 (the goal OG was 1.044). Next time, I will start with less water (I started with eight gallons here).
Oh, yeah, it gets better. I put the carboy (primary fermenter) in my office to try to maintain a 68°F fermentation - but the thermostat on the space heater must have gotten jostled because, the next morning, the office had risen to 80°F and the carboy was showing 78°F. The top of this yeast's range was 75°F so I'm sure some damage was done by having the beer spend the first half of its fermentation quite a few degrees above the optimal range.
In April I racked the beer to secondary (6 gallons into a 5 gallon carboy). I bottled the difference into three bottles and added a bit of priming sugar to each. A couple weeks later I chilled and opened one of the bottles. It was terrible! Neither my brother nor I could even finish a glass of it. I'm hoping that the extra eight weeks of resting in secondary mellows this beer out enough to be drinkable. (Side note: sxoidmal tasted it and actually liked it. I gave him the other preview bottle.)
Finally, today, I racked the remaining five gallons into a keg and am currently force-carbonating it. If it's not any better, I think I'm going to donate this keg to Vice City (along with the new Cream Ale) to see if they can trick some
suckers con-goers into drinking it.