Day 13 and 14 – We make beer in the Arctic !

Saturday arrives with cold and some wind, but no rain to worry about. Waiting to brew our ale was a little like the Mount Everest climbers, we sat and waited at high altitude camp and prayed for the weather to break before the final push to the summit. That may be a pretty extreme analogy , but nonetheless very true. With winds over 20 mph , it is very difficult to concentrate enough btu’s under the mash tun and boil kettle to make the brewing process work.

My brewing system was designed at home and utilizes 3-55 gallon stainless steel barrels and professional Asian Wok burners , the burners output is about 275,000 btu’s , and one 100,000 btu burner for keep up the mash tempurtures. 40 lbs of liquid propane fuels the brewery and a D/C to A/C converter helps run the pump for moving hot liquids.

The day was still cold and windy , but we did our best to stay warm and block the wind around the burners and kettles. Lance and John piled rocks up to build a wall of wind protection and Irina and Nastia outfitted their camera’s with garbage bags to keep any stray rain out.

The first part of the day seemed to go very well , first we heated mashing water , about 45 gallons to mix with the grain to start extracting sugars from the barley. Then we added the grain to the tun to create an oatmeal like mixture. Adding water that is near 155 degrees , makes the starch in the grain convert to simple sugar ( some other science at work here too , but not for this blog) . The mashing process takes about an hour to ninety minutes to allow the starch to convert to simple sugars ( the yeast will eat these sugars and produce carbon dioxide and alcohol as a by product of fermentation later on) .

About 3 hours into our brewing day ,and we hit a snag…. the strainer at the bottom of the mash tun ( like a colander you would use for spagetti , colasped under the weight of all the grain this ale needs to have such a high alcohol content. In the world of brewing , it is often referred to as a “stuck mash ” or in this case an equipment failure. Either way , the flow of liquid was stopped and buried under nearly 100lbs of grain ( this colander is located at the bottom of a drum ) .

After nearly 2 hours of fiddling around, we transfered the grain to another barrel and uncovered the colander. fixed the problem and started to brew again. The day was long and difficult , plus the added weather conditions and by the time we finished 9 hours had elapsed. My team was cold, a little wet and most definitely exhausted. Everyone pitched in to help clean up and stow the gear back carefully in the trailer. Our day of brewing was over , and beer was in the fermenter and we celebrated by going to bed, the day had beaten us down .
Again and again we looked out at the angry sea and reflected on the stories and journals of sailors who had feared the sea and ice in the 19th century , it gave us hope to continue on and realize our difficulties paled in comparison to those courageous explorers who had braved the elements and put aside fears of death and icy conditions. Our mission was simple in relative terms, all we needed to do was to brew some beer…in the summer of the southern arctic.

Day 14 , two weeks from our send-off party we had brewed our beer and started our long journey back home . The day was again riddled with cold and rain , and we all had mixed feelings about the place we had been for 4 days… 4 days in the crappiest of conditions to just brew some beer? …yes, a magical end to one guy’s dream ..the team had completed the mission and it took every ounce of energy and patience to get the job done.

8 Responses to “Day 13 and 14 – We make beer in the Arctic !”

  1. chris cummings Says:

    Congratulations team!!! Be safe on the return.

  2. Congratulations!! Safe trip home to you and the beer!


    Congratulations! I’m so proud of you all. Thank you for sharing your adventure with us.


  4. kgbkramer Says:

    looking forward to “kicking the mash”with you guys upon your return.
    Let us know when you will hit the Pa / NY border.
    Ride safe.

  5. This is wonderful news. So proud of you! Enjoy every moment.

  6. Thinking of you freezing up north prevented me from complaining so much about roasting at Musikfest every day. Safe travels home.

  7. Woohoo! What a journey! And, it’s not over yet. =)
    Safe returns.

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