So it began, my third brew day, in the wee hours of 3:30 AM. A sleepless night previous, parting kisses to my lover and child, out the door and on the road by 4 AM. I’m getting better at making time, and by 8:15 I was in Krebs, OK, ready to start Moody Brews‘ second beer, an Imperial Belgian-style Porter named Sixes and Sevens.
Weeks before were filled, once again, creating the label with my sister. An old photograph was rendered down, transposed, and drawn in digital form set against an art deco inspired backdrop of alternate shadings. Images were redrawn and second guessed. Is it minimal enough? Until it was. I always want the beer to speak for itself. Too much can be too much.
But I digress.
This batch was to be the largest volume of grain Choc has ever fit into their 50 barrel brewhouse. Over two tons of Maris Otter, Biscuit, Aromatic, Caramel, Black, and Chocolate malts were mixed with Oats to make one complex and high gravity (concentrated) wort.
Mixed and lautered, it was sent to the kettle to boil. We exceeded our target original gravity, and I found myself much more comfortable with this brew.
Brew days are in truth rarely perfect, especially so with new brews. Countless pieces of equipment have to function in unison, a millimeter of difference in the size of the barley kernel can have major, deleterious effects on milling and brewhouse efficiency…and we haven’t gotten to the human component yet. This brew day was exceptionally smooth, and we were all in good spirits throughout the day.
I felt less like an outsider there. I was learning more and more about the machinery and Choc staff. “Mikey,” one of Choc’s brewing assistants, had even made my (Belgian) lover a purse from a bag of Belgian barley we had used in our very first Moody Brew of Half Seas Over.
Before I knew it, we were mashing out and moving the wort to the whirlpool. And at this point, my friends, is when you know you are on the downhill slide, not out of the woods just yet, but getting there. Another trailer was loaded with 5 tons of wet, spent grain. 5 tons! It’s still the most incredible part my brew days at Choc, actually seeing the amount of grain we use. I come from brewing on a small brewpub system (3.5 barrels), and there I would manually rake out the grain into large garbage tubs. All two of them. It’s a different sight altogether seeing a whole trailer filled with grain.
The fermenter was prepped, loaded with my favorite Belgian yeast strain before we “knocked out,” chilling and sending aerated wort to the fermenter. And then, without a hitch, Moody Brews’ second offering began to ferment, in brewer speak “wort” began its process of becoming “beer.”
Using appropriate British malts for a Porter, increasing them to an estimated 10% ABV concentration, fermenting not with clean English yeast but with spicy and complex Belgian yeast, I have settled on the name Sixes and Sevens, a very old British slang term. In Chaucer’s time, it meant in a state of disarray, but it can also mean at great risk, likely originally stemming from gambling. I don’t like to say I push the envelope in craft beer. There are plenty of people who want to claim that mantle now. I prefer to say I push myself as a brewer. Either way, risk is involved, but so far, the brew was executed as well as it could be. Now, will the beer ferment cleanly, attenuate appropriately? Have I dry hopped with enough cacao nibs? Is the wort composition as chocolately and toasty as I want it to be? I won’t know these answers until bottling day. The time between now and then is the anticipation, the mystery, the magic of brewing craft beer.
We anticipate offering Sixes and Sevens by the first week in December 2014.
–Josiah Hunter Moody,
Crafter of Beer, Worker in Progress.