It’s Friday morning. The sweet, nourishing scent of lightly roasted malts steeping at precisely 151°F fills the brewhouse and wafts into the cellar, balancing against baby plumes of dust from Mosaic and Cascade hops pellets meticulously ticking 22.3, 22.4, 22.5 pounds on the scale—ready for dry hopping fifteen barrels of IPA once I can take a step away from the brew during its boil. The world seems right.
Boil starts and first hops are in. Time for a quick gravity check on my IPA tank before dry hopping. It’s day 5, gravity reads 1.022… wait, let’s try that again—1.023… fresh sample, filter, spin the hydrometer… 1.022. Oh crap! Taste it—sweet…. Shake the blow-off, no bubbles. What now? Should I still dry hop and hope the fermentation picks back up? Rouse the cone with CO2? How? Why? I need a breakfast stout.
Sound like a familiar, unpleasant memory? You’re not alone. This example is just one of the many scenarios where investing in your internal quality-control or quality-assurance program is worth its weight in beer. And if the word “investment” scares you, you’re also not alone. However, at a small scale, so much of the investment needed is simply in time, discipline, and attention to detail rather than dollars (although those always help, too). So let’s get into it!