Making some plans to try my hand at another Irish Red this week, since I just finished off the last of my previous two batches of reds. Both of those were the result of my simply tinkering with the recipe-creation features of BeerSmith, and they came out far darker and maltier than the style dictates. I mean, I used a Crystal 120 in one of them, for crying out loud! That’s what I get for not really studying other recipes first, and just mixing things together until the numbers looked right in the computer. Lesson learned: Just because BeerSmith tells you you’ve got a red, doesn’t mean you’ve got a good red.

Neither beer was bad, but neither was a fruity or as colorful as I would have liked. I’m going for something with a clear, bright red color, some citrus in the nose, and a crisp flavor. I want it to taste bitter and fruity, and be a really thirst-quenching beer. My new recipe is mostly pale malt with just a bit of Crystal 40 and some roasted barley for color, and a bit of Vienna malt to smooth it out and add a bit more sugar and flavor. I’m also trying a couple new hop varieties on this one, Galena and Challenger, to see what kind of flavor I get. The Challenger should bring in the fruitiness I’m looking for, I hope.

What I’m MOST excited about with this brew day, though, is the chance to try out a couple pieces of new equipment I picked up over the last few weeks. First is my new insulated 10-gallon cooler mash tun, which was extremely simple to put together using this tutorial I found over at HomeBrewTalk. The mash tun has a bazooka screen and a ball valve in the bottom, so I can filter the wort out from the bottom of the mash. I won’t need to use grain bags anymore, which can only improve my sparging process and improve my efficiency. No more hauling 20-pound bags of dripping, boiling grains across my kitchen, slowly pouring more water over them and trying to squeeze them out into a collection bucket. I’ll actually be able to batch sparge properly for once, hopefully getting much more full conversion of the sugars into my wort before I start boiling. The larger mash tun will also help me collect a full 5.5 gallons of wort as well.

The second piece of equipment is a used immersion chiller I picked up from a local homebrewer. Until now, all of my batches have been chilled by submerging them in a cold-water bath and stirring frantically for about 45-50 minutes until it was down to pitching temperature. An immersion chiller should be able to cut that cooling time in half, which would be just fantastic.

So this next brew represents both another step toward the Perfect Irish Red Recipe, and also the first batch brewed with this modestly-upgraded equipment. I’ll post full notes in the Beer Lab once it’s over, of course!

Update! After talking to a good friend of mine, I’ve decided to move the brew-day up a couple days in the hope of having the beer ready in time for a Valentine’s party/fundraiser she’s throwing. This is a very tight timeline, but I figure that 7-10 days in the fermenter and three days of force-carbing in a keg should be just about right (at least I can hope!). Here’s hoping!