Thursday, December 20, 2007

Preparing for the break

Alright, so it's almost Christmas break and I'm trying to make room for the inaugural batches that I hope to brew on my new burner. Here's what I've been up to:
  • Last Friday I bottled my Abbey Blonde Ale. Originally this was Northern Brewer's Lefse Blonde kit but I dropped it down to 4 gallons because my 6 gallon primary was occupied and I wanted to bump up the gravity. I think this was the first beer I ever brewed that I didn't rack to secondary. At the time I was reading on various forums that many brewers do this to let the yeast finish the job, so I figured what the heck. When I was bottling it didn't look super clear, but the yeast was pretty flocculant so I didn't bring too much of the cake to the bottling bucket when I racked it. We'll see what happens after conditioning. Has anyone out there skipped the secondary? Do you do it often? Just curious.
  • On Sunday I racked my British Bitter to secondary on top of some cherries. This beer started out as Northern Brewer's British Bitter kit but I added an extra half pound of DME and a pound of brown sugar just for fun. I didn't feel like springing for the Oregon beer-specific can of cherries, and was worried that the cherry juice I was eyeing would dilute my precious brew, so I ended up using 4 14.5 ounce cans of Oregon Fruit Products Tart Cherry pie filling. They're Montmorency cherries packed in water, no preservatives, no added sugar. I'm going to call this one "The Full Monty". I made a stupid mistake though: when I racked into the secondary I filled it up pretty much to the top and after a few hours I noticed that the beer has now traveled about 6 inches up my blowoff tube. Whoops! I'm pretty happy that I did think ahead and throw the blowoff tube on instead of the airlock though, otherwise I'd have a pretty big mess on my hands. I'm hoping to bottle this one right after Christmas.
  • Last weekend I picked up "Designing Great Beers" by Ray Daniels. Wow. What. An. Awesome. Book. It has a ridiculous amount of information and charts and graphs that are way over my head, but the second part of the book breaks down each individual style, gives a history of how the style evolved, and then analyzes beers from that style that made it to the second round of the National Homebrew Competition in 1993 and 1994. That makes it a little dated, but not enough to detract from the book's value. Daniels then looks at all those recipes and tells you that X% used X malt in X quantity, and X% of the beers used X ounces of X hops at X time during the boil, etc. It's a really cool book. I can see using this for the rest of my brewing career. It's got a ton of information that I can use right now to get away from kits with some confidence, but enough technical information to keep me busy if I ever figure out what the hell he's talking about. I strongly recommend you pick this up, you won't be disappointed.

What brews do you have on deck?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hop Shortage

So I had the pleasure of spending a few hours at the Town Hall Brewery in Minneapolis on Saturday night. I ate their 7 Corners burger with smoked bacon and oatmeal stout BBQ sauce and washed it down with many many beers. I tried their Wee Heavy and Amarillo Amber with dinner, then Black H20 stout, Hope & King Scotch Ale, another Wee Heavy, and another Amarillo Amber while throwing darts.

As we're throwing darts, a guy sitting by the fireplace behind us asks us if we know a guy we work with, turns out he's from the same town. This guy (can't remember the name, a little hazy by that time) turns out to be the bar manager (I think) and we get in a conversation about the brewing operation.

The hop shortage ended up being a pretty big part of the conversation, and he told me that pint prices would be going up by less than a buck on some beers as a result. The thing that struck me though was that despite all the freaking out I've been reading about on various forums, Town Hall is expanding. Again, my memory is hazy, but I'm pretty sure the guy said they were going to be doubling their capacity to keep up with demand. So even though hops may be hard to come by for a while, good beer is still being made.

What are you making or drinking right now?

1st draft

Alright, so it's my first attempt at a blog. I attended the TIES workshop last weekend and learned how to set up a blog. Thinking that someday I'll bring blogging to my classroom somehow but wanting to get some experience first, I decided to dedicate a blog to my favorite pasttimes: brewing, drinking, thinking and talking about beer. Hopefully a few of my homebrewing and/or beer drinking buddies stop by, strangers are welcome also. If all else fails, at least by blogging I can stop bugging my wife about this habit of mine.