After much debate, I’ve brought my brewing setup indoors.
Of course many homebrewers, myself included, start indoors–on the stove top. Like other brewers I know, I eventually took it outside to avoid destroying and tying up the kitchen. Cleaning up a boil over with a hose is so much easier. And a propane burner is faster than my stressed out stovetop.
But now that I’ve moved to the cooler winter climes of Iowa, brewing outdoors has become less attractive. It’s freakin’ cold here. Aside from my personal shivering, it’s tough for my mash tun to maintain its temperature. And it takes “a coon’s age” (as they say around here) for my wort to come to a boil–not to mention all the propane involved. Fortunately, my very own Room of Requirement has revealed itself in my basement. The room has a cement floor and cinder block walls, a window for ventilation, space for storage shelves, a sink and a floor drain. Could I safely brew here?, I wondered.
Using propane in a confined space is a good way to die, or cause an explosion (and die). I consulted with other brewers, reasonably intelligent folk, as well as a friend–a heating-and-cooling guy. Some people seemed quite concerned about the idea, others not. After weighing all considerations, I decided to give it a shot.
First, I conducted a few propane test runs by roasting my coffee beans inside. I opened the window for ventilation and all seemed well. With a brew day approaching and the mercury well below freezing (not to mention the wind chill), I decided to give it a shot. I double checked my system for leaks, set up a fan in the window above my brewing system, and opened other windows to ensure fresh air.
The brew day went well. I didn’t pass out. My house didn’t burst into flames. And the beer seemed to have potential, as well.
Great as this is for winter brewing, I’m actually looking forward to using my new brewery in the summertime as well, since the basement’s very cool in the blaze of July and August, not to mention shaded.
In closing, I really should say that bringing my burner indoors was not a decision that I took lightly. My dad (ardet nec consumitur) died in an explosion while performing the routine (albeit occasional) task of lighting the pilot on his hot water heater. I consulted with a number of people on the issue, some of them professionals related to all things gas. And even then, I thought about it a while longer. For my basement, this seemed a workable undertaking. For another basement, it might not be a good idea. If anyone else were considering this, I’d recommend caution, common sense and the expertise of professionals. I’ve still got tweaking I plan before calling this brewery permanent, but today, I’m pretty pumped about my setup.