When Homebrewing Gets Crushed (And Uncrushed) – Working With What You’ve Got

Sometimes things work out exactly as planned. For instance, I recently brewed a strong golden saison for a birthday celebration, which, through evaporation I did not take into account with a new propane setup, resulted in a stronger than average strength beer. While the alcohol by volume exceeded my intentions, what was produced was a potent but balanced beer that partygoers enjoyed so much they finished off the bottles I had brought.

I wanted to replicate it.

So I reordered the ingredients. But not from my usual source (the Funky Buddha Homebrew Shop in Boca Raton), but rather from an online retailer that had a pretty good special on both shipping costs and the Big Mouth Bubbler fermentation vessel.

When the grains, hops, and yeast arrived on brew day, I went to work, setting up my strike water and preparing the ingredients. It wasn’t until I was about to pour all of my grain in that I noticed the large bag of grain marked as ‘crushed’ was, in fact, whole malt.


With the smack pack enlarging, and my set aside brew day already here, I decided ‘to hell with it’ and ventured into the realm of crushing grain in plastic Ziploc bags with a rolling pin.

Needless to say, it was a pain in the ass. But I mashed in, and continued on, wanting to brew this beer. So my efficiency would be a little low, so what?

But I wouldn’t know. For when it was time to lauter, what do I find? My hydrometer broken in pieces.


I continued on blindly; lautering, boiling, chilling, and pitching… leaving it ferment warm for about 2 weeks, then cold crashing for a while and siphoning it to a keg.

What come forth from this experience was a beer that was, on the surface, a kind-of Belgian alt bier. It was crisp and effervescent with a bit of a juicy character… but lots of medicinal off flavors.

In other words, possibly drinkable, but not something that I would want to serve.

What’s next? The aim of producing an actual German styled alt bier for a gathering in October. Hopefully that one will turn out well, and I will make sure this time to purchase my grains from my very reliable local homebrew shop.