Outdoor BRR-ing in the Winter
"Captain" Mike Orloski
Brewing beer outdoors means we are dependent on fair weather. That means no
precipitation or blustery wind gusts. We can deal with the cold. The frigid
temperatures don’t have to stop the carboys from being filled, it just creates a new
set of challenges that can be overcome. Don’t let the thought of winter discourage
you. Just as you snowshoe, ski, and snowboard being prepared will always get you
through the toughest tasks. I made a Pale Ale last week on a day the temps hovered
below freezing. It worked out great and I’m happy I did it.
Watching the weather report is the first step. Pick the right day where the temps will
be within reason with light to no wind. Even if the day starts out below 32 F a lot of
times the sun comes out and it warms up a bit.
As in every batch, the night before gather all your equipment and measure out the
water needed to have them ready for the morning. This time of year it’s a good idea
the drain the garden hose and keep it in the garage so it’s not frozen when you need
it. That way in the morning you hook it up when you’re ready to go. If it’s really cold
you’ll have to set the nozzle to let the water run slowly to prevent it from freezing. I
remember one year it read 18F on the speedometer and I had to turn up the trickle
because it was making an icicle that clogged the flow.
There are ways to cheat Mother Nature and it’s called Outdoor/Indoor brewing. I don’t
have a HERMES or RIMS set up so it’s “gorilla” brewing for me. Once I dough in with
the mash tun cooler I bring it inside where it’s warmer so the rest temp doesn’t drop
dramatically as it would do outdoors.
I heat up the mash-out water on the kitchen stove, stir it in the tun then bring it back
outside. Vorlauf then sparge right into the kettle for the boil. You can go inside to
warm up, oh I mean to record your notes, weigh out the hops, or spoon out any
It takes less time and water to chill the wort in the winter so keep an eye on the
temperature. If the fermenter has been sitting outside for a while it too will be colder
than usual. Make the proper adjustments.
By the time you pitch the yeast, it is later in the day and probably getting colder.
Have some buckets of warm water for the cleaner and sanitizer. That will help out on
the hands. You could use dishwashing gloves. A hot water hose outside would be a
blessing for the cleanup.
Always remember safety is a priority. Freezing temps mean icy patios and deck
stairs. Use caution and be aware. And most importantly, have fun!!
Note: If you're new to home brewing be sure to check out
Captain Mike's guide for beginning brewers here on BeerNexus.
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