Thursday, May 5, 2011

Computer problems, Family Et Al.

Sorry, been rather busy as of late.. Had both laptops out of commission for a while, one due to a botched OS upgrade (Ubuntu 11.04 needs some work, you guys at Canonical) the other one.. Well.. Netbook keyboards aren't beerproof, as I found out.

I did score a replacement netbook keyboard for $19! (Google HQRP, they're where I got it from)

A couple updates.

We have a Barley Crusher now!  2 Brews done now with the BC, and our tun efficiency is up around 10% higher than the crush we got from the LHBS! (Default 0.039" gap from the factory on the BC)

Decided to lighten up our signature IPA (Safeword IPA) by pulling back on the grains a bit, and swapping out cascade for Citra hops. We're calling it "Safeword for Bubblegummers" as its gonna end up below 5%ABV.

We got some Hop rhizomes in, but have yet to plant them. I know, its like *really* late in the year now to put them in the ground, but, Hey.. I've been busy. :)

My Appfelwein is still in primary (I think over 2 months now) Its clear enough to read a paper through, but its going to get at least another month in primary before I rack it to a corney, and age it another 3-4 months.

I spent some time in the Pacific Northwest (Spokane, WA) to hang out with my sister for a while.. It was a good thing. Alas, my pipeline got all emptied out, and its taking me a bit to get back into the brewing groove.

The Grill pictured in my fire safety post has been retired, and in its place is a shiny new Standard Webber charcoal grill.. Did up some NY strips on it the other night, and life is good again.

I'll get back on the brewing, and back on keeping this blog updated.

Happy brewing, and LETS GET THE SUMMER ON!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fire safety, Always...

Just a reminder, a fire extinguisher is cheap, and absolutely essential if you're using gas..

Leaving the grill on high, and walking away resulted in a completely out-of-control grill fire that was going to light the porch overhang up too.

Hose water would have been a bad idea (grease fire) and a Fire etinguisher was the only thing to use.

So, I'm replacing an etinguisher, and a BBQ, instead of calling the fire department, and having to repair my house.

Stay safe all.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Trying something new..

So, I'm branching out.. Trying something new..

How about a hard cider?

Indeed.. A nice, clean hard cider might be good, as the spring heats up into summer.

So, I came across this recipe for EdWorts Apfelwein It sounds good, it seemed simple, and cheap. Im willing to go for it.

Found the Applejuice at a local chain supermarket, spent less than $20 to get 5 gals.  The Dextrose (corn) sugar was 99cents a Lb a the local homebrew supply, and the montrachet yeast was 60 cents a package.

I actually deviated from EdWorts recipe / process in a couple minor ways..

1) I stashed the bottles of juice up-side down in a bucket of Star-San before opening / dumping into the carboy.

2) I boiled 1/2 Gallon of applejuice with the dextrose for a few minutes, then chilled on an icebath before adding that.

3) I pitched 2X packets of Montrachet yeast, not 1.

With the added Dextrose, and the fermenting 'power' of the Montrachet wine yeast, I think this should settle on around an 8 - 8.5% ABV nosh.

For the geekish, I got an OG of 1.063, and will probably get a FG of 0.999 or so, if the Montrachet does its job.

Primary for 4 weeks, then bottle for 2+ (way plus) months, or keg and age a month.

Apparently, the longer you age this, the better it gets.

Not bad tho, Less than $25 to make 5 gals of 8+% beverage.

Read through the thread linked above.. I'll bet it'll make you want to try a batch too.. It sounds pretty awesome.

Edit: 48 Hrs into fermentation its super active, easily 2 bubbles / sec, and WHEW BOY does it smell off-putting. The yeast (As I understand) are metabolizing sulfur compounds in the applejuice, and gassing them off, so the airlock (indeed the room) smells pretty much like freshly peeled, hardboiled eggs.

I understand this is perfectly normal, and will pass in a few days, but man oh man, this is a new one for me, LOL..

Monday, February 28, 2011

Stout, stout, stout.

5.25 gals of the Black leather stout is hapily bubbling away.

This one landed at 1.065OG, and I'm trying a different yeast.. Wyeast 1272 American Ale II.

Supposed to be a bit fruitier, and more flocculant than 1056, so.. We'll see.
I also have a shiny new 44Qt kettle coming in Via UPS soon, so I'm all excited about that.

Eventually, I'll finalize a design, and get part numbers, but I'm attempting to build a digital temp. control that will do heating and cooling together for less than $40. Its going to be super simple, and I promise to post pics, and part sources here. Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Da Wheat!

First real wheat beer got did today.

Its super pale, and should be roughly 5.2%ABV when done, making it a little heavier than most wheats, but screw it.. Its winter.. We need heat, and the liquid jacket alcohol gives you can stave off chill cheaper than turning up the thermostat. :)

So, here it is.. The recipe as we brewed today: (5.5Gal batch)

7 Lbs German malted wheat
2.5 Lbs Vienna malt
2 Lbs Domestic 2-row

1 Oz Tettnanger, 45 Minutes
1.11 Oz Czech Saaz, 15 Minutes.

Pitched a dry package of Danstar Nottingham yeast.

Hopefully, we should be able to get this to the keg, and drinkable within 2 to 3 weeks!

The malted wheat smells awesome, but its a totally different smell than the barley when crushed. I'm pretty excited to see what this "light" beer tastes like.


Monday, February 14, 2011

"Smokin' Redhead" Fail.. :(

I think I need to review my yeast propagation technique.

The rauchmalt beer I recently tried was getting skunkier, and skunkier out of the airlock. The fermentation didnt look right, and we finally pulled the plug and dumped it. It was a horrible smell.

I seriously want to try this one again soon (next?) as the color, and smokiness was so awesome...

I think this time I'll stick with a commercially packaged yeast tho.

I need to do a bit more refining / experimenting with my yeast growing skills before I try pitching a yeast I grew, again.

Oh well.. Its all a learning experience, no? :)

Okay, lets try this again.. :)

Same recipe is in primary, only this time, I'm using Danstar Nottingham dry yeast (It came very highly recommended from a brewer friend of mine)
Its kicked off after about a 12 hour lag, and seems to be going to town.

I'm also actively managing the temperature. I have a temp. controller that my brewbelt is plugged into keeping it all at 20.2C +- 0.15C (Say just above 68F)

Hopefully this way I can get a quick, vigorous fermentation, and get the yeast to all go dormant and flock at once. I think I've been brewing too far on the cold end, as its been cold here, and my fermentations have not been attenuating as far as I'm used to, plus the yeast all seem to want to stay up in suspension. I hope a touch of heat will help that along.

Well, heres to another experiment! :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

First time being a beer judge..

So, I attended my first homebrew judging / competition yesterday.

they let me tag on as a novice judge, to help in the Stouts category.

Our panel of 3 judged 11 different homebrews. From sweet stouts, to American stouts, to Russian Imperial stouts, and everything in between.

Holy hats I learned an incredible amount! Some of the beers were awesome, some just good, and others virtually undrinkable. I got a chance to taste firsthand some of the more common off flavors seen in homebrews. (Esters, Fusel alcohols, Diacetyl, too much Lactic acid, etc.. ) One stout tasted straight up like Banana, and green apple! (Esters produce these flavors).

It took us nearly 4 hours to judge the whole flight of 11 beers (12, if you count the first commercial, or "Calibration" beer we started with).  Sadly, I had to leave shortly before the judgments were handed out, but I will get the judging sheets in the mail for the IPA I had entered.

Overall, a great time. A wonderful meet n' greet experience, and a genuinely awesome learning experience. With the tools I started learning yesterday, I can now judge my own beers with a much more objective, and critical eye. This is how we make better beer!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Still sore...

So, I had the chance to hang out, and brew with a local brewmaster.

Holy fuck, I learned a lot, and had a great time.. Brewing is still fun, even at commercial level!

This particular place was a local brewpub, with a ~10bbl system. Smallish by commercial standards, but probably on the high end of physical effort per bbl, compared to larger systems (Im only hoping here) I was working from roughly 9:30AM to 6:30 PM

We brewed an Irish dry stout, scheduled to be on tap March 16th. Just in time for St. Patrick's day! (Downtown Joes regulars, Be there.. I know I will!)

The recipe was pretty straightforward, in deference to the brewer, I'm not gonna post it, but it was interesting to me to help build a 370ish pound grain bill. roughly 7 lbs of hops went in as well.

It was a super dark color coming off the tun, smelled of coffee and chocolate.. Great smelling brew. Target ABV. was roughly 4.5 (IIRC)

I got the whole newbie experience.. Sweep out the grain room, load out the spent grain, then wash the tun, climb into, and scrub out the copper boil kettle... A lot of interesting learning. The brewmaster was awesome, very sharp, and in tune with dialing in chemistry so its just right. A professional..

Still, the fucker made me work till I was shaking, and I'm still sore today.. :) Climbing into, and scrubbing a copper boil kettle with a scour pad isn't nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Its hot, sweaty, cramped (and cramping, like of the leg muscle kind)

I feel proud of the beer I helped on. I think its going to sell well, and I cant wait to get a taste of it once it hits the taps.

If you have a small brewpub in your area, and can spare a (full) day, I think you could do a lot worse than offering to be a beerbitch for a day. I got free beer, food, and more learning in one day than in months of 'net researching, and trial and error.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mmmm.. Smoky goodness..

So, got a wild hair, and thought I'd continue my experimenting..

I decided to try something with a smoky flavor, and see what happens.

Heres what I ended up with: (5.5 Gal Batch)

10 Lbs Domestic 2-row
2 Lbs Smoked barley (Rausch malt?) Not peated malt!!
1 Lb Crystal 120

! oz Cascade - 60 minute boil
0.15 Oz Magnum - 60 minutes

.75 Saaz - 15 minutes

Yeast was whatever the yeast is on the bottom of some Sierra Nevada Pale Ale bottles.

Propagated a pretty huge yeast cake from 2 bottles worth (Maybe 10ml of liquid, with maybe 2 ml of actual yeast in it)

I pitched that 500ml starter (good 1/4" thick yeast cake on the bottom now) after stirring it up on the stirplate.

In less than an hour, I have a bubble every couple minutes from the blowoff tube!

The Crystal 120 (I think) has given this beer a beautiful red / copper color, I'm really liking how the color turned out, so in keeping with the "S&M" theme, I'm calling this smoky, copper beer:

"Smokin' Rehhead ale"

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Second Homebrew club meeting..

So, I just returned home from my second local club meeting (Bungbrewers, Napa, CA)

This one was hosted at a local brewpub. I took my wife and a good friend, I figured a little dinner, some good brews.. Its a night out! (Multi-tasking never hurt anyone, right?)

Tonights main topic was discussing water. Specifically; the local municipal water source, and what additions can help for various styles of beers. I learned a lot, but feel like I barely breached the cusp of what I should know to help me brew a better beer..

The talk was given by the brewpubs brewmaster, and he said I could hang out (and help) on a brew day, and ask all the questions I want.. (Joy!) So, here in a couple weeks once I get my calendar cleared a bit, I plan to call him up, and go learn.

I understand the main topic / lecture item for the next few brewclub meetings will be hops, and grains.

Sadly, I joined too late to catch the yeast lecture.

So much more to brewing than I thought. Subtle changes, subtle differences can make a profound impact on how your beer is experienced by the drinker.

It seems almost like the board game Go, or mastermind. Its easy to learn the rules.. Its easy to play at an okay level (You can practically fall into making a perfectly drinkable beer) but refining your technique to produce something very special.. Well... Thats where its gonna take a lot of learning, and practice.

What better way than to hang out, and brew with a master!

If you brew, find your local brewpubs, micro breweries, or whatever, and call them.. Leave a message for the brewmaster. Devote a day, and follow him around. Chances are, he's as passionate about brewing as you are, and would love a set of hands to help scrub boil kettles, or unload grain.

Who knows, you might just learn something.. I surely hope to.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

No turning back!

Just submitted my first brew for competition. It's an American IPA bjcp style 14b. Turns out they need judges, so I put my name in there too. Of course I'm not allowed to judge in any category I'm entered in, so I can't influence the outcome of my entry.

So, come feb 12th, If you hoist a beer, send a good thought towards California, and my little " safeword" IPA brew.

Regardless, I'm looking forward to meeting fellow brewers, and the chance to try some great home-brews.

There's roughly 150-175 entries in this competition!

(Edit: I just found out our local contest received 289 entries!! Holy hats, thats great!)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Trying a new beer.

Okay.. I have decided to strike out on my own.. I pulled together influences from a couple recipes, and then mutated it until it felt right to me.

With winter temps, and rain, and cold coming in, I thought a nice, sweeter ever-so-lightly flavored beer might be just the ticket. Hey, I know.. Lets try Vanilla!

Below is the first trial batch (5.5 Gal) of my very first "Vanilla Nut Brown Ale"

9 Lbs Domestic 2-row
2 Lbs German Pils
0.5 Lbs Chocolate malt
0.5 Lbs Crystal 60

1Oz N. Brewer (Pellet) -60 minutes
.5 Oz Cascade (Pellet) -15 minutes
.25 Oz cascade (Pellet) dry-hop
Wyeast 1028 (London Ale)

2 Oz Dextrin Powder (added 15 min to end of boil)
1 vanilla bean (split lengthwise) added 5 minutes to end of boil)

Mash all grains at 151 for 60 minutes, sparge to get 6.5 gallons pre-boil.
Boil for 60 minutes, add the Vanilla 5 minutes prior to flameout, let steep for 10 minutes before chilling.

OG: 1.056
FG (Estimated): 1.015
ABV: 5.4%
IBU (Est.) 34
SRM (Est) 19l

My hope is the dextrin will give the beer a touch more mouthfeel, and head retention, so the feel is almost "creamy" .. I think creamy will work with vanilla better than dry. Also the hops are moderately low, but I know firsthand that a "beer float" with a good mild, pale ale, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream is pretty awesome. (Don't knock it until you've tried it!)

Its going to be epic. One way, or the other :)


Monday, January 24, 2011

Thus begins a new project.

I need to brew larger batches.. Pure and simple.. 5 Gals at a shot isn't cutting it anymore..

So, I played with Google SketchUps, and found that someone had published a nice drawing of a 3-tier stand (for converted keggles)

Above is  the drawing , and below that, is the logo Im thinking about having made for it.. I found theres a local waterjetting facility that can cut that out of plate aluminum (or whatever material I could want)

Im not so sure about the logo and name, but the drawing looks pretty right on what I want to build...

Now, to source the metal as cheap as possible :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Holy hats! We have yeast!

Theres literally 10X the sediment in this flask than we started with.. A huge thick head of krausen,

Im going to let it settle out, pour off the liquid, and add a new 500mls of "food" (I call it proto-wort)

See after that, if theres enough yeast to pitch into 5 Gals.. I'm curious to see how this yeast will taste.. Probably going to try it in a batch of Safeword IPA. See if we cant really nail that Sierra Nevada flavor.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Starting to play with yeast

So, as a proof-in-concept, I boiled about 500ml water, with 2 oz light dry malt extract, and 1/4tsp yeast nutrient.

I poured this mix into a sterilized flask (along with a sterilized magnetic stirbar)  and let it cool to ~75.

Finally, I poured in the sediment off the bottom of 2 freshly opened, and poured Sierra Nevada Pale ales, and slapped on an airlock.

I've been mixing up the sediment every few hours to keep as much of it in suspension as possible.

Its been 24 hours, and things are looking promising. The airlock is full of gas, I can see tiny bubbles rising inside the liquid, and it smells pretty much like yeast in the airlock.

Im very curious to see if I can get a reasonable batch of yeast to grow from this tiny sample. I don't know if I'll actually use it in one of my beers, for now, I'm just playing.

Friday, January 14, 2011


So, we brewed yesterday (Its kicked off, and bubbling away happily as I type this) another batch of our "Safeword" IPA. Its a good brew, not too bitter, tons of floral hoppiness (.75oz Cascade at flameout, and another .75oz dry-hopped when racking to secondary)

But, this batch, we had to make some changes, as our HBS was out of a good many things currently.

The original grist bill for the first Safeword IPA:
10.25Lbs American 2-row pale
.75 Lbs Crystal 60

0.2 Oz Magnum -60 minutes
0.75 Oz Perle -60 minutes
1 Oz cascade -15 minuts
.75 Oz cascade @ flameout
.75 Oz Cascade dry-hopped
Yeast: Wyeast 1056 Amer. Ale

Well, our Homebrew supply was a little light when we dropped by there yesterday

We had to substitute the American 2-row for British 2-row
As well as substitute the Wyeast 1056 for Safeale US-05 (a dry yeast)

I have not yet used either of those ingredients, so Im interested to see what happens. I understand British 2-row is maltier in flavor than its American counterpart, so with any luck this IPA may come out more like Dogfishead IPA (who also uses British 2-row, I believe) and less like Sierra Nevada.

Taking the idea of a dogfishead style a bit further, we also upped the crystal 60 to a full pound, and added a full ounce of cascade to the wort at flameout.

The safeale US-05 was easy enough to use, sprinkle it on the cooled wort, and slap on an airlock.. I pitched the yeast, and 30 minutes later shook the carboy a bit to disperse the yeast.

Less than 24 hours, and its up to a bubble a second, so it looks good from here!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Second batch of IPA

Just put another five gals of safeword IPA. man that stuff goes quick!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

SMaSH brew hiccup...

Just transferred the smash brew to secondary, after 2 weeks in primary... It was still way cloudy... Tasted it and got nothing but yeasty bready cider flavors.. Guess this lager yeast (Wyeast 2278, Czech pils.) moves a LOT slower than I expected. Gravity is down from 1.054 to 1.022 so far, I expect it will come down more as time goes on.. I think I'm gonna chill this a bit, keep it around 50F for a few weeks... Let's see what happens..

This means I need to buy another glass carboy, and perhaps another corney keg..

I love shopping for new brew hardware. I think I'll see if I can get a 15 gal conical fermentor for a reasonable price while I'm at it!

Still no brew yet...

Have been feeling a bit under the weather last couple days.. Homebrew helps..

I plan on racking the SMaSH brew over to secondary tonight.. Going to place the carboy in a corner where its coldest in the house to let it lager a bit.. Hope to get a taste of it tonight, and see where the gravity is..  I may, or may not let it warm up a bit the last couple days in secondary, to give it a diacetyl rest.. It depends on how much I taste at racking time..

Monday, January 10, 2011

Brewing again tomorrow...

Can't decide if we want to try the Safeword IPA again, just so we can keep some on tap, or try something new..  Theres a sketch of a Hefeweizen thats been floating around the house the last couple weeks that seems pretty interesting.

7Lbs German wheat
4Lbs German pils malt
some rice hulls if needed to help the grain bed filter out chunks..

1Oz total hops (Hallertau) .75, 45 minute boil, and .25, 15 minute boil..

Going to do a starter with Wyeast 3068 (Weihenstephan)

Instructions say primary for 10 days then crash cool, and keg..

Seems like an aweful fast ferment for such a light beer.. Im curious to see what it will do.. But I'm also liking the idea of keeping this Safeword IPA around.. So... Decisions, Decisions...

Safeword IPA..

Our first all-grain brew is finally ready to drink! Its been in the keezer (Keg-o-rator converted from a trunk freezer) for a little over 2 weeks.  Its cleared, carbonated, and damn tasty.

Its surprising just how much aroma a simple 1/2 oz of hops (cascade, in this case) added to the beer after racking it off to the secondary fermentor.  The smell coming off the head is just heaven.

Got my glass filled, and soon to be empty :)

Next up: The Blackout stout..  I think the kegged bit will be ready to put on CO2, and in the fridge here in about 7 or 8 days.. Take a week to chill, and carbonate..

I have 1/2 this stout batch bottled.. Its so dark, and complex I think it will respond well to getting a little bottle aging.. I'll try some during Superbowl, but I think they'll need a few months.. Maybe 4th of July :)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Musical kegs!

Transferred the black stout to a keg last night. Bottled a 24 pk of 12 oz bottles and left the remainder to condition in the keg. Don't know where I'm going to put the smash brew.. Might be time to invest in a third keg!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

First time in a homebrew club meeting...

A couple days ago (Tues. night) I was fortunate enough to attend my first homebrewer club meeting. I was invited by the local brewing supply store employee who is a member.. It was hosted at a persons home.. Amazing brewing set-up in a back room. Probably 500 Sq. feet of nothing but stainless, plastic, and kettles, kegs, and kopper ( ;-) )

I was walking around in awe, with a glass that I had been drinking dogfishead 90 minute out of, that I brought to the party.. (now empty).. Every time I turned around, some proud bloke was pouring a few ounces of their liquid gold into my glass to sample, from their bottle, or growler.

The mood was way above festive, and I shit you not, every single brew was awesome. Black stouts, porters, red beer, IPAs, brown ales.. Lagers and ales were both in huge supply.

I tracked down the club bigwig, and flipped my cash to him then and there to join for a year. Far too much fun, and great contacts to boot.. I only hope I can learn half of what the talent displayed in their brews. Great fun..

If you're into homebrewing, I seriously suggest googling to see if theres a club in your area. Trading notes with other passionate individuals can only help make you a better brewer.  I think you may find them a band of easy-going beer loving folk that fit right in with your love of beer. And lets face it, if you didnt brew, you wouldnt love beer.

Living in wine country kinda sucks.

Just rolled out to Copperfields books, to see if they had anything on more advanced brewing tips and techniques. There was a *whole* section about vinting wine.. How-tos, laws, recipes, even "Winemaking for dummies"

Beer? Yeah.. There was like 2 books, both talking about the flavors and back stories around existing craft breweries. (New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, Dogfishead, etc..) and nothing about beermaking, or zymurgy.


Got a nice new calendar with pictures of parrots tho, so theres that...

Status to date...

Okay.. Stay with me..

We have 3 brews currently going.. Each a 5 to 5.5 Gal brew.. 1) Is an American IPA.. All grain.. This one is kegged, and conditioning in the Keezer (Freezer converted to keg-o-rator) We bottled a 6-pack of this brew to 12 Oz stubbies for judging in Feb.  Going into the keg / bottles this brew was quite nice.. Great floral hops, solid bittering but without being *too* much. ~ 5.5 ABV, Mostly 2-row domestic, with a bit less than a pound of crystal 60 for flavor, and color.

...Just moved from primary to secondary, my double-black stout.. 9 Lbs 2-row, 2 Lbs crystal 80, 1 Lb black patent malt, 0.5 Lb roasted barley, 0.5 Lb chocolate malt.  Chinook hops in the boil, as well as flameout.. (Probably about 60 IBU when done) Also added a pint of super strong coffee at flameout.. This beer is DARK. Bitter, but coffee bitter, not hops bitter.. Super malty, and according to FG when moving to secondary just at 7% ABV. Chocolate, caramel, and toffee are not subtle in this one.. Super excited about it, cant wait to see how it mellows given a little time in the bottle..

Finally: Just mashed yesterday; my first SMaSH (Single Malt and Single Hops) brew. Simple as hell 10 Lbs 2-row domestic, 1 Oz perle hops, 60 minutes.. 1/2 Oz perle hops 15 minutes.
Wyeast 2278 (?) Czech Pils. yeast. The idea here is to have a "go-to" brew where you only change one thing each time. The malt, the hops, or the yeast.. This way, I think it will help me develop a bit better understanding of what the various hops, malt, and yeast contribute to the flavor.  This is a super light colored beer, and early math puts it at about 4.9%ABV.

Interesting note.. It lagged ~30 hours after pitching the Czech pils yeast before it took off.. This is one of the longest lags I've yet seen.. Using Wyeast 1056 (American Ale) I usually only have to wate a couple hours before the furious bubbling commences... Intersting...

Vapor off the airlock smells great. Yeast, CO2, and malt.. Nothing to indicate any kind of infectino, so I think we're good.

Will keep y'all updated!

Welcome all!

Heres the skinny..

Been brewing for roughly 5 years now..  Only recently started doing all-grain brews and been *Loving* it!

I post on my "regular" websites so much about brewing, I think they're getting sick of hearing it, so I figured I'd try a blog, and see if I can focus enough to keep it updated..

So, here it is.. The blog that catalogs my thoughts, brews, experiences, failures and success..

In the words of Charlie Papazian: Relax.. Have a homebrew!