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!