Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Repeal Day!

Hopefully you're all drinking right now, or did sometime today. December 5, 2008 is the 75th anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, thus ending our nation's stupid experiment called Prohibition. So drink up!

To celebrate, I had a Widmer Brrr, a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, a 21st Amendment watermelon wheat (how appropriate), and my own Wee Heavy. I also broke down all of my kegs and replaced the o-rings, then kegged my RedHook Late Harvest clone and my Ahtanum APA. All in all, a good day.

Sunday I'll be brewing Jamil's Evil Twin with a few modifications. I'll be partial mashing the specialty grains and adding an extra pound of Munich, then I'm subbing Simcoe and Amarillo for the late hops. I'm excited! The recipe is here:


Sunday, November 16, 2008

My First Partial Mash

I broke in the mini mashtun today with the Late Harvest Autumn Ale clone I've been working on. The recipe is in the previous post. I used 5 quarts of water and 4 pounds of grain. I think I could do 5 pounds of grain but I would definitely have to do a thicker mash to fit it in there, probably 1 quart/pound instead of 1.25. I did make a few mistakes though. First, my strike water was a little too warm - about 168 after I added it to the mash, so I had to stir for a while to bring it down to 158, which I now realize is still probably too warm. Next time I'll just heat the strike water to 160. My next mistake was getting worried about the mash being too hot. About halfway through the mash I opened up the cooler and stirred some more to drop the temp. I ended up losing more heat after this because after an hour it had dropped to 148. As a result of these, the OG was 1.050, but I was shooting for 1.059. Oh well, lessons learned. Hopefully it's still drinkable. If I get motivated I'll post some pictures.

The "pilsner" has dropped to 1.012 and is golden and tasty. I put it in the garage to cold crash it before I keg tomorrow or the next day. The Centennial IPA is tasting pretty good too, but it's well on it's way to being kicked. I am having a really rough time keeping 2 beers on tap! Any of you have that problem? I'm going to have to crank out a quick APA next weekend to rebuild the stash, I'm thinking Nugget to bitter and Ahtanum for flavor and aroma to get a feel for what it can do.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why does my blond ale taste like a hefe?

I'm sure all of my readers are concerned about what I've been doing in the month and a half since last time I blogged. Oh wait, I don't have any readers. Ha!

Since last blog entry I kicked the Brown and Mild ales, brewed a blond that I'm drinking right now, got an IPA with 4 ounces of Centennial during the boil sitting on 2 ounces of Centennial dryhops in the secondary, got a primary full of Bohemian Pilsner brewed with 5 ounces of homegrown Saaz but fermented with US05 at 62 degrees since I can't lager yet. I've also smoked about 25 pounds of pork on my new smoker. Good times! The Pils was brewed at RAZE's (Rochester Area Zymurgy Enthusiasts) Teach a Friend to Homebrew event on Saturday.

If you've been following this blog you probably know that about 14 of the last 15 batches I've brewed I've pitched US05 dry yeast. I have not had a problem until this blond ale I brewed up at the beginning of October. I've brewed something like 18 batches in the last year and really have my system and process dialed so the problem that's developed with this beer is driving me absolutely crazy. It tastes like a frickin wheat beer. It's got the same kind of esters that you'd taste in a hefe! What the hell? I pitched the yeast at 65 degrees and temps never got above that, they actually went lower, and it was a long and slow fermentation. The thing is, I've pitched US05 lower than that and fermented as low as 60 and never had a problem and still get the FG down below 1.015 every time. I think it has something to do with the sluggish fermentation but it's really weird how the flavors developed into a wheaty mess. It has been getting better in the keg and it's totally drinkable, but it just doesn't taste like it should.

Next beer on deck is going to be a clone of RedHook's Late Harvest Autumn Ale. Kristen and I went through a 12er of this while camping 2 weeks ago so I'm trying to clone it. I got the OG, IBU, SRM, and malt and hop varieties (but not quantities) off their website, so I used the TastyBrew calculator to come up with this for my first partial mash brew in my 2 gallon mash tun:

  • 2 lbs Rahr 2 row
  • 1 lb Weyerman rauchmalt (smoked malt)
  • .5 lb Caramel 60
  • .25 lb Caramel 120
  • .25 lb roasted barley
  • 4 lbs Briess pilsen DME
  • 1 oz Northern Brewer @ 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Saaz @ 10 minutes
Have any of you had this beer? How does the recipe look to you? I hit the stats that RedHook provided but we'll see. I'm not sure about the rauch malt, so I went with just a pound to start. If this all works out I can always try again. It was a nice malty and slightly smoky beer, perfect for cold weather.

I actually just ordered a bunch of stuff from Midwest Supplies too: Golden Promise, Maris Otter, more 2 row, and some yeast. I'm planning on doing a partial mash brew here and there. I might use the Maris Otter in an Oatmeal Stout and the Golden Promise in a big IPA. We'll see though. Anybody else brewing or drinking anything interesting?

Here's what the little mash tun I made looks like. These aren't my pics but mine looks exactly like this:

Friday, September 19, 2008

Brewing News

Well, it's been awhile since I've blogged about the brewing news. Since the last post, I've blown through the Columbus APA keg. The latest of my single hop APA/IPA series of the summer, I was pretty happy with the results, but I think Columbus, for my taste anyway, needs to be blended with other American hops. Just a little too rough around the edges for beers following the Bush Doctrine of go it alone.

I also buckled down and made my first wine, a Chilean Pinot Noir, that is in secondary right now. Wine kits are a little pricey, but they are ridiculously simple. It took about a half hour to make the thing! From what I hear, they are pretty hard to mess up, so I'm hoping that around Christmas time I'll be sipping some good wine that cost about 4 bucks a bottle.

Right now I'm drinking my Big Bill's Brown ale and will be kegging Jamil's Mild sometime tomorrow. The brown is a little on the young side, only 2.5 weeks since brewing, but it's nice and clear and has a nice sweet chocolate malt backbone with a good hop punch to balance things out.

I picked up ingredients to brew another blonde ale this weekend, as well as the 50 pound sack of DME I ordered. For the blonde I'll be using my hop harvest as well as a bunch of huge Cascade cones that I harvested from the hop yard of a guy in my homebrew club. Last Sunday another club member and I went to his house to help him get rid of his crop. When I saw the trellis I almost cried. It was like a wall of hops reaching to the heavens. After 3 or 4 hours of picking, I got about 3 pounds of Cascade and about a pound each of Saaz and Fuggles. Some of the Saaz will be going into a Czech Pilsner that will be dumbed down with ale yeast since I can't lager yet and the Fuggles will be going into a Stout or Porter of some sort. Seeing this hopyard really got me thinking hard about making a major expansion to my yard next year.

Finally, I picked up all the parts for a partial mash tun so that I can start experimenting with some different base malts like Golden Promise and Maris Otter, but I don't have any solid plans for what I'm going to brew for my first partial mash brew. I'm leaning towards an Oatmeal Stout or maybe a Smoked Porter, but that may change. Any suggestions?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Union Brew - Big Bill's Brown Ale

With my last weekend of the summer I decided to spend Labor Day brewing and drinking homebrew and decided a big American style brown ale was in order. Being Labor Day and a union man, I just had to name it after Big Bill Haywood, labor organizer and one of the founders of the Industrial Workers of the World. This batch is a second shot at the Bourbon Barrel Brown, but without the bourbon or oak. I envisioned this as having a little more chocolate but also some more residual sweetness than the first attempt, so I added a little more caramel malts in 3 different lovibonds for complexity, more chocolate for flavor and color, and some pale chocolate for a little toastiness. I kept the hop varieties (Galena for bittering, Ahtanum for flavor/aroma) and schedule the same, but IBUs decreased just a little. Just like I did with the Columbus APA, I brewed with 6 gallons of unsoftened and untreated tap water from outside that I treated with a campden tablet to remove chlorine and chloramine. Big Bill's Brown came in at 1.066 OG and 52 IBUs. I'll leave this in the primary for 3 or 4 weeks and then it's going straight to keg.

While I was brewing this I poured the last pint of my Raspberry Wheat. It's pretty depressing to have a kegging setup with no beer to put in it :( For the first time since June (aside from beer for camping, which doesn't count) I had to buy beer that somebody else made. Bummer. This brew shortage got me motivated so I'm brewing again Saturday morning. On deck I've got Jamil Zainasheff's Mild ale from his book "Brewing Classic Styles." If you don't have this book already, go get it. Now. 80 award winning recipes (1 or 2 for each BJCP category) that have all won ribbons for one of the best homebrewers in the country. So far I've done the IPA and American Amber and they've been 2 of my best beers, so I've got high hopes for this one. It's a very small beer - the OG is only 1.036 - so it will be kind of weird to brew this, but I've heard good things about the recipe and it should be done fast so I'll be able to go right to keg quickly and start drinking a nice session beer for football season.

In other homebrew news, I picked up some more hops (Simcoe and Argentina Cascade) and a spare keg on a recent trip to Midwest Supplies. I just saw today that Freshops has some of the 08 hop crop in and they've got some varieties for pretty cheap, so I'm deciding if I should pull the trigger or not. One thing that complicates the decision is I just dropped a big chunk of change on a 50 pound bag of dry malt extract. I'm a little concerned about how I'm going to store it without it getting chunky, but buying in bulk will save me about 8 bucks a batch for a standard 1.056 beer with 6 pounds of DME in it, so if it works out I figure it's worth it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hop Harvest

Well, I just got back from the hopyard and picked about half of the cones I had that felt papery, started to brown at the tips, or where lupulin was obvious. I wasn't expecting much, and for once I fulfilled my expectations....I didn't get much. See that picture over there-->? I got about twice that, weighing a measly 2 ounces. Wet. Even after picking the rest, I'm guessing I'm only going to get an ounce dry, if that. I'm a little disappointed that I need to scale down my "Homegrown IPA" into a "Homegrown Blonde". C'est la vie. Kristen really liked the AHA's "Fill in the Hop Blonde" that I brewed, so I'll probably brew that again, grains and bittering hop the same but just add whatever homegrowns I get at 10 minutes or flameout or whatever.

Last Saturday I brewed up an all Columbus APA:

  • 7 ounces Caramel 40
  • 8 ounces Carapils
  • 6 pounds Briess Pilsen DME
  • .5 oz Columbus - 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Columbus - 10 minutes
  • 1.5 oz Columbus - flameout
  • OG: 1.056, 41 IBU, 5.4% ABV
  • US-05 yeast pitched at 65, held at 65
This batch I decided to experiment with water a little since I had been tasting a little harsh bitterness and hop flavor until my hoppier beers aged for a couple of weeks, with the exception being the Simcoe IPA I just blew through, which might be simply because that beer was bitter but also had tons of hop flavor and aroma which might have masked it. Since I already had a busted carbon filter, I decided to try to just use hard city water from my outdoor faucet (not through a hose). For no particular reason, I decided to use 4.5 gallons of hard water (including a half gallon for steeping my grains), then 1.5 gallons of softened tap water. I crushed one campden tablet, stirred to dissolve, then let sit in my brewpot for 15 minutes before I started to boil water. I did not treat the steep water unfortunately, so we’ll see if there’s anything from the chloramine or chlorine. Hopefully not.

I'm planning on getting this in the keg fast, probably 2 weeks in primary and then straight to the keg, since we blew through the Simcoe IPA in less than 2 weeks so now I've just got a Raspberry Wheat on tap. That Simcoe IPA (recipe in the previous post), was probably the best beer I've brewed so far. Clean, bitter, dry, malty, HUGE hop aroma, super fresh. If you haven't used Simcoe yet, I strongly suggest you pick some up. I think Surly Furious has Simcoe in it, so if you can find that try it. Actually, I think this beer did turn out to be similar to Furious, which is what I was hoping for. Nice malt backbone, almost amber color, higher gravity but still sessionable, and big hop aroma and flavor. Did I mention the aroma? When I got the recipe from the Jamil Show podcast (American IPA show, Mike McDole's recipe) they suggested after 2 weeks in primary, transfer to secondary, dry hop, and then rouse the hops every day to keep the aromatics in suspension. I don't know how much of an effect this had, but 2 ounces for 10 days left tons of aroma, totally sniffable from a few feet away. I'm not trying to brag, but this beer was so awesome I went to the brewshop and picked up enough Simcoe for 2 more batches and will brew it the same way both times without changing anything, a first for me.

While I'm waiting for the Columbus APA to get drinkable I'm drinking my Raspberry Wheat. If we didn't have tons of raspberries in the garden this year I don't think I would have brewed this because I don't even really like fruit or wheat beers all that much, but it sounded good at the time. I am pleasantly surprised by this beer. It's nice because it's got that graininess of the wheat and refreshing since it's lightly hopped and fairly dry, with a little tartness from the raspberries, but it still has a small amount of an interesting hop flavor from the Argentina Cascades. I'm pretty happy that this turned out to be so balanced, I was really afraid of making a too-fruity beer.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ahhh, Summer

Woke up early this morning and brewed myself an all Simcoe IPA. I used Mike McDole's IPA recipe from the Jamil Show, changing only the Munich malt to Vienna (I have a bunch on hand), and the hop variety but not the schedule. Here's what it looks like:
  • 7 lbs Briess Pilsen DME
  • .5 lbs Crystal 60
  • .5 lbs CaraPils
  • .25 Crystal 120
  • .25 Vienna
  • .75 oz Simcoe (60 minutes)
  • 1.5 oz Simcoe (15 minutes)
  • 2 oz Simcoe (5 minutes)
  • 2 oz Simcoe (dryhop)

You math whizzes might have noticed that the hop amounts came to 6.25 oz, and you're probably thinking, "hey, where did that extra quarter ounce come from?" Fat sack, dude. A very nice surprise at 6 am in the morning. A quarter ounce isn't much, but I'll take it in these desperate times we live in. McDole's recipe calls for dryhopping with something crazy like 6 ounces of hops, but I can't afford that, so I'm going with the 2 ounces but I will shake the fermenter every day to keep extracting those aromatics like he suggests. I'm looking very forward to drinking this one.

I've got both kegs filled and carbed. Why the heck did I wait this long to start kegging? The Amber is awesome, although I wish I would have dryhopped with 2 ounces of Centennial instead of just one, and the Blonde is quite good also. The blonde is on the high side of the guidelines for gravity in the style, so it's a tad heavy for a summer beer, but it tastes pretty good nonetheless. It's pretty weird to be drinking a beer with only 25 ibus though; everything else I've been drinking and brewing lately is at least twice that. I think I'll brew another blonde this summer but with Argentina Cascades instead of Northern Brewer.

As far as my hopyard goes, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that they're all growing, but there's quite a bit of bad news. I don't have enough sun where I planted them so none of them are taller than chest high right now. Unfortunately I broke the tip off the tallest bine on my Cascade, and the tallest bine on my Centennial was broken off at the ground. The Zeus is pretty small, but still growing. Hopefully the other bines start shooting up to compensate!

Aside from homebrew, I've also had the opportunity to sample some brews I've been waiting to try for a very long time. Brian hooked me up with 2 bottles of Stone Ruination (I owe you bigtime!) and I was impressed. On the way home from Milwaukee I also picked up Bear Republic's XP Pale Ale, Racer 5 IPA, Red Rocket, and Hop Rod Rye. The XP was a very nice APA with an awesome Cascade/Centennial aroma. Racer 5 was also very good, just a hair under Ruination on my top 5 list. One of these days I'll do a side by side with Red Rocket and my Amber. I picked up the rye for research. If I like that will push me faster into partial mash. My battery is dying and my glass is empty, I'm out.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer Brew Session

I'm back. The pic above is my Centennial 2 weeks ago. Not much to look at yet, but they're growing! I went to the garden a few days ago and the Cascade had shot up to knee high, the Centennial was about 8 inches, and the Zeus was about 4. The Cascade and Centennial both got trained up the pole, but the Zeus isn't quite big enough yet, I think it gets a little too much shade from the bumper crop of raspberries I have coming in. Still crossing my fingers for a harvest, but I'm not keeping my hopes up.

In other homebrew news, the Wee Heavy is finally carbed and tasting good, but I've stashed half the batch for next winter to wait for improvement. Unfortunately, I'm down to just a handful of Bourbon Barrel Browns (drinking one right now), and it just keeps getting better. The double IPA is still a little undercarbed after 3 weeks, but it is tasting excellent. I'm having a hard time waiting for them to condition - it's going to be so nice to not have to worry about that once I start kegging. I dryhopped the Red Rocket clone on Father's Day and really enjoyed the sample, I'm hoping to keg that sometime next week.

Now that things have settled down after bringing my new son home, I was able to sneak away for an early morning brew session this morning. I finally brewed the American Homebrewers Association Big Brew recipe for Fill in the Hop Blonde Ale with Northern Brewer hops, I'm hoping I like them so maybe next year I can get a rhizome. I overshot the gravity (intentionally) because I didn't feel like messing around with measuring out 7/8 of a pound of DME and I also accidentally added the whole ounce at 10 minutes instead of a half ounce - that's what homebrew at 7am will do to you. Now I need to decide if I'm going to dryhop like the recipe suggests or just let it be. Either way I should get a nice summer brew.

Just for fun, here's some pics of the rig, especially the 8 dollar windscreen. I bought 2 pieces of 8 inch furnace pipe metal from Menards, joined them together, and on brew day I wrap it around the burner stand. I don't know if it is because of the windscreen or what, but I get 7 batches per tank. The last pic is of the tag if you want to go to Menards to grab one for yourself.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Big News!

I am now kegging! Here's the setup I got:

My current setup will be to toss these guys in a wine fridge I got from HomeDespot a few years ago, it's about the size of the infamous 4912. I went with the double regulator though because down the road I'm thinking I'll go the chest freezer route and put a keg of soda on for the kids which will require a different serving pressure (I think), and this was the same price as a single regulator with a splitter/manifold, so I figured it was worth it. For now I'll be able to serve one and force carb the other without having to mess around too much, important because the CO2 is going to be stuck behind the kegs without a whole lot of room to maneuver.

The first batch that I'll keg is currently fermenting. Last Saturday night I got all my stuff together, put grains into bags, filled the brewpot with filtered water, and got everything to go for an early morning brew session on Sunday. I woke up at 5:30 and my boil was going by 6:30. The recipe was Jamil's American Amber/Red Rocket clone. Here's the specs:

  • 6.75 lbs Briess Pilsen DME
  • 1 lb Briess Amber DME
  • 1 lb American Crystal 40
  • .5 lb American Crystal 120
  • .5 lb American Victory
  • 3 oz British Pale Chocolate
  • 1 oz Columbus - 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Cascade - 10 minutes
  • 1 oz Centennial - 10 minutes
  • 1 oz Cascade - flameout
  • 1 oz Centennial - flameout

I came up with an OG of 1.070 and 60 IBUs. I'm really hoping this one turns out, since I am growing all of these hops, so if I like the hop combo I can keep making this beer for cheap. I tried to do a mini mash on the stove of the grains, but it was sort of hard to keep them at the right temp and I ended up undershooting the estimated OG. I might have added a little too much water or something since my 32 quart pot isn't quite enough to do a full 6 gallon boil once I start adding DME. I'm thinking after I get my kegging system running I might rig up a mini mashtun out of a 2 or 3 gallon cooler with a valve and a stainless braid. If it works I might be able to get rid of some of my DME costs by making some of my own fermentables out of much cheaper grains. We'll see though.

While I was at Midwest Homebrewing Supplies picking up my kegging system I also scored some Simcoe, Columbus, and Amarillo for cheap (although they limit you to 3 ounces of a variety), so now I've got over a pound of hops in the freezer. I think my next batch is going the be the AHA Big Brew's Fill in the Hop Blonde (maybe with Willamette?) to have a gateway beer for people who come over after the new baby comes that might not dig hopmonsters, and then I'll brew up my American Brown ale and after that it will be all APAs and IPAs for a while. I think I'll try to do single hop batches this summer so I can get a really good feel for bittering, flavor, and aroma qualities.

My Wee Heavy is finally carbed and tastes pretty good. It's a nice dark brown with ruby highlights and a nice malty sweet aroma. Not much hop presence obviously, but it's a big chewy beer, just a little alcohol warming (not fusels though). This one tastes a little young, so I'm looking forward to how it tastes in the fall and winter.

The Cascarillo is carbed too and super tasty. This one just had an ounce of Cascade and half ounce of Amarillo at 10 minutes and then the same at flameout, bittered with an ounce of Cascade, and it is awesome. Nice pale gold color, good citrus and flowery hop aroma, and a nice grapefruit hop flavor. I'll be brewing this later this summer with more Amarillo to see what happens. After tasting this I wish I would have put more Amarillo late in the boil on my Hopslam clone.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bourbon Barrel Brown

So, here's the recipe for the Bourbon Barrel Brown. I've still got a little more than a 6er left and it keeps changing and improving. The Maker's Mark soaked oak chips really added some interesting flavors. I would not add more bourbon and be very careful about how long you leave the chips in otherwise it could get overwhelming. Definitely pull a sample after a few days to see how you like it. An alternative would be to use cubes or something with less surface area, then you could leave the beer on wood longer. This beer has some really interesting vanilla notes to it, explained by a homebrew club member who tasted it as the bourbon coming out (in?) of suspension. Anyhoo, let me know if you try it. I will be brewing the same one soon but probably won't oak it.

  • 6 lbs light liquid ME
  • 2 lbs light dry ME
  • 8 oz caramel/crystal 60
  • 6 oz chocolate malt
  • 5 oz special roast malt
  • 2 oz caramel/crystal 90
  • 1 oz Galena hops at 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Ahtanum hops at 10 minutes
  • 1 oz American oak chips, steamed for 10 minutes and soaked in 5 oz Maker's Mark bourbon for about a month (added to secondary for 6 days)

OG 1.062, FG 1.014, 57 IBUs. As I brewed it, it seemed a little too light in color and not quite enough sweetness and chocolate, so I think if I brew this again I'll make a few changes to the grain bill but keep the hop schedule the same, though. Making a yeast starter to get the gravity to drop nice and low will help to dry it out nicely too. Something like this maybe:

  • 7 lbs light DME (easier to get at my lhbs)
  • 4 oz crystal 60
  • 4 oz crystal 90
  • 8 oz chocolate malt
  • 4 oz special roast malt

The OG would be about the same, but dropping the crystal 60 and bumping up the crystal 90 will keep the same sweetness but a little more color, and then bumping up the chocolate malt will give me a little more of that chocolatey goodness and color. I like the special roast too, it was the first time I used it and it's a pretty tasty grain, so I might bump that up some more too. Have any of you guys used it?

UPDATE (11:00 pm): Kristen and I planted the garden today, and aside from a tiny (1/4 inch) shoot on my Cascade mound, no shoots. Upon closer examination however, the ground was about as hard as concrete, so with a superhuman feat of strength I broke up each mound, carefully found the rhizome, then put loose soil back on top and gave them a good drink of water. All 3 rhizomes had some good underground budding going on, so I'm happy. I might not have much of yield since it's so late, but hey, they're not dead right?

Also, when I got home today I had a box filled with 4 oz of Centennial and a bunch of specialty grains, so I might be brewing on Monday if my lhbs is open tomorrow. I'm thinking Jamil's Amber (clone of Bear Republic's Red Rocket: BTW, I ordered from Williams Brewing, and although you have to buy an equal dollar value of other stuff when you buy hops, they do send you beer coasters, which I thought was pretty frickin cool.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Building the Stash

It's getting pretty close to the due date for #2, so I've been trying to get some batches bottled in case I can't get to them for awhile. Last Saturday the shared batch of double IPA (Hopslam clone attempt) was bottled. Kim and Cole and Kristen and I both walked away with a case of bottles each. This bad boy finally came in at 9% ABV and 100 IBUs. The sample we tasted was remarkably drinkable for such a big beer, so I'll be drinking this one fresh as soon as it's carbed up. It's probably not an exact clone, but it did taste damn good. I'll have a more detailed rating later when it's ready.

Last night I bottled the Cascarillo APA. The sample was good, but a little underwhelming. Hopefully carbonation and maybe a little bottle aging will do it some good.

My hops have still not popped out of the ground. Hopefully some warmer weather makes something happen. I'm trying to stay calm about it, but I'm tempted to get over to the garden and do some digging to see what' going on.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Spring Fever

Well, spring is here, and with the upcoming birth of my second son, the extra stress that goes with my job in the spring, and the unfortunate disaster of dumping my dubbel, not to mention that Wee Heavy that refuses to carbonate, I am looking at building up my reserves.

On Saturday I brewed up a Cascade and Amarillo APA (Cascarillo). The quick recipe:
  • 6 pounds Pilsen DME
  • 8 ounces Victory malt
  • 6 ounces Crystal 40
  • 2 ounces Crystal 10
  • 1 oz Cascade (60 min.)
  • 1 oz Cascade plus .5 oz Amarillo (10 min.)
  • 1 oz Cascade plus .5 oz Amarillo (flameout)
The Crystal 40 and 10 and the Amarillo were leftovers from the Hopslam project. I've been really digging Cascade hops and APAs lately, so I'm planning on brewing the same beer over and over this summer and just swapping out the hops to see if I can detect any differences. After the Hopslam I only had an ounce each of Simcoe, Columbus, and Amarillo, which isn't much, but I decided that I would separate those and combine them with Cascade, which I bought cheap at my LHBS. I really want to stick to the same recipe as much as possible, but I will just be using Crystal 40 for the next 2 batches. This was also my first batch with Safale US-05 dry yeast, and so far I like it. No messing with starters, just open and dump it into the wort. 12 hours later I had fermenting wort. For my next several batches I intend to use this (I bought 9 packs) and put the money I saved on yeast into hops.

The Hopslam clone is well on its way to completion. While the Cascarillo was boiling away, I racked the Hopslam into secondary on top of an ounce of Cascades for dryhopping. The sample I pulled had dropped down to 1.017, which I think puts this beer at about 9% alcohol. The big yeast cake I pitched really helped with the attenuation. The sample was almost orange with a nice hop aroma, not huge though, which is why I dryhopped. The taste was obviously hop forward, citrusy, a little grapefruit, and a little sweetness underneath. It was much drier than the sample I pulled 2 weeks ago, so I think this thing will be drinkable as soon as it carbs up. Here's a few pics that I finally pulled off the camera from brew day and fermentation:

Check out this blowoff, I had to dump the gallon pitcher 4 times!

2 Saturdays ago I attended my second RAZE (Rochester Area Zymurgy Enthusiasts) homebrew club meeting. One of the members had it at his house and we helped him put up a new trellis system for his hops. I had written off the idea of growing hops this year, but after seeing his setup and getting hooked up with some rhizomes, I got pretty fired up about planting my own hopyard. As soon as I got home I started looking for any rhizomes that were still available online and managed to find Cascade, Centennial, and Zeus from Zeus is apparently the same as Columbus and Tomahawk, just not trademarked. I ordered on Sunday and Friday night I planted. I had to scale back my original plans, but now I've got 3 mounds in rich Minnesota soil and I've got high hopes. I dug a hole about 2 feet square and about 6 inches down, mixed in a few shovelfuls of composted manure, and then built up a mound and put the rhizomes on top. I used an 8 foot 2x2 buried 2 feet in the ground to get them started, and then I'm going to run twine from the top of the stakes to eye bolts that I'll screw into the top of the barn. This should give me at least 20 feet of room to run. There's more pictures below. So to all of my loyal readers (haha), what's brewing? Did anybody else get rhizomes in the ground?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Death of the Dubbel

It's been awhile since I've posted, I guess I've been busy with work and being sick all last week so I haven't been doing too much brewing related stuff lately. On Sunday I finally got around to checking the gravity of the Dubbel and the Hopslam clone. The dubbel had dropped down to 1.016, lower than the target. I thought that was interesting since it took 3 yeast additions to get the dang thing going and then it crapped out after about 3 days, so I was curious what it would taste like. Now, granted, I had just gotten over the stomach flu so it was the first taste of beer I had in about a week, but that was the single worst taste I have ever had in my mouth. I couldn't even force it down. After an hour of hemming and hawing I finally did what had to be done, I dumped it. This was the first time I ever dumped a batch and it was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life.

The Hopslam clone is coming along nicely. The sample I tasted smelled awesome, super citrusy and delicious, but the taste was a liiiitle rough around the edges. Hopefully it will be an awesome beer, just going to take a little time to let the big bastard mellow. The gravity had dropped to 1.022, which is only a few points away from the target, but it is still bubbling every 10 seconds or so after more than 2 weeks in the fermenter, so I've still got hopes that it will continue to drop. I did bring it upstairs into slightly warmer temps to prevent the yeast from pooping out early.

In other news, I stopped at a homebrew shop in Stevens Point 2 weeks ago when I went to visit my folks and picked up 9 packs of Safale US-05 dry yeast to experiment with this summer. I've heard good things about it so I'm hoping that it works well for the APAs, brown ales, and ambers I have planned for the summer. I figured that it will save me some time and messing around with starters, while also being easier on the wallet. Of course, any savings will be reinvested in hops! I'm still holding out hope to be kegging by the time the next baby comes, but I have to save some dough, not an easy thing now that golf and fishing season have finally started. Finally, my wee heavy has still not carbed up! It has been almost a month now. I've got the bottles sitting on a heating pad right now and I swirled them up to hopefully wake up any yeast that's left. What's the longest you've waited to have a carbonated beer?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Hopslam Project

The Hopslam clone was brewed on Saturday. We stuck with the same steeping grains that I listed in the original recipe, but bumped the DME up to 10 pounds and honey to 1.5 pounds. Since I was able to pick up Simcoe and Columbus, we changed the hops around quite a bit. Here's the hop schedule:
  • 60 minutes: 1 ounce Yakima Magnum
  • 30 minutes: 1 ounce Cascade, 1 ounce Simcoe
  • 20 minutes: 1 ounce mix of Cascade, Columbus, Amarillo
  • 15 minutes: 1 ounce mix of Cascade, Columbus, Amarillo
  • 10 minutes: 1 ounce mix of Cascade, Columbus, Amarillo
  • 5 minutes: 1 ounce Simcoe
  • Flameout: 2 ounces Centennial leaf

That's right, 9 ounces of hops. Everything went pretty well until after the wort was cooled. I probably had a few too many homebrews and added too much water to top up, and didn't account for the 1500 mL starter that we pitched, so the OG was a lot lower than originally calculated. According to the TastyBrew calculator, that dropped it from around 10% ABV to about 8.5%. Bummer. It should still make some awesome beer though. It is kicking massive amounts of foam into the blowoff tube right now and it smells great. I just brought it downstairs to keep the temp a little cooler.

It was really fun to brew with somebody else for once. Sharing the cost was cool, and Cole and I both ended up with enough hops and specialty grain leftovers for at least one batch each, so that's a bonus too. If I get around to it I'll post some pictures of Saturday's silliness.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Dubbel Trouble

Yeah, yeah, corny title, but it's the truth. Here's the story:

I had come up with this awesome recipe for a Belgian dubbel, bought a 17 ounce hockey puck-looking lump of palm sugar from the Asian grocery store, and cultured yeast from a bottle of Chimay Red. I thought everything was good, brewed it up on Monday without incident, and pitched what I thought was an active starter (with about .5 inch or more of slurry at the bottom of my flask) at 64 degrees. I had this idea after reading on various forums that I should pitch around there and then just let the temps go up, so I pitched at 64 exactly and left the primary in an upstairs closet which would be warmer than downstairs (where I usually ferment).

Monday night - nothing
Tuesday morning - nothing, swirled it good
Tuesday night - nothing, swirled (starting to get nervous)
Wednesday morning - nothing (freaking out)
Wednesday night - nothing

Wednesday night I went and bought a smack pack of 1214, went home, and turned on the space heater for a few hours and swirled every 20 minutes or so. I pumped it up to about 68 and then at about 9 I decided to activate the smack pack. At 10 I pitched it, even though it wasn't swelled up too much, and added 2 tiny drops of olive oil as I poured it in.

Thursday morning - nothing
Thursday after work - nothing - so I turned on the space heater again and finally said F this and pitched a pack of Munton's Gold dry yeast that I had sitting around. As of this morning, it's just starting to throw tiny amounts of CO2 after I swirl.

I refuse to give up on this batch! So does anybody care to place bets?
  1. Will this make beer?
  2. Will it taste like dirty water?

In other news, the Hopslam will be brewed tomorrow!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hopslam Clone

Okay, so after much research and a couple of different versions, Cole and I have come up with what we hope is a close reproduction of Bell's Hopslam. In my last post I mentioned the thread that came up on the BrewBoard forum about a clone and how somebody mentioned using Vanguard, Hersbrucker, and a few others and that this person got the info straight from Bell's. We decided to disregard this information and go with the hops we can actually get our hands on that are really citrusy. The stuff tastes like grapefruit juice, right? The problem is, the suggestion of Simcoe that sounds right for this recipe is pretty tough to find, so we had to make do with what we could find:

Steeping grains:
  • 1/2 lb. honey malt
  • 1/2 lb. munich malt
  • 1/4 lb. caramel 10L
  • 1/4 lb. caramel 40L


  • 9 lbs Briess Pilsen DME
  • 1 lb. honey


  • 60 minutes: 1 oz Yakima Magnum
  • 30 minutes: 1/3 ounce Ahtanum, 1/3 ounce Amarillo, 1 ounce Cascade
  • 20 minutes: 1/3 ounce Ahtanum, 1/3 ounce Amarillo, 1 ounce Cascade
  • 10 minutes: 1/3 ounce Ahtanum, 1/3 ounce Amarillo, 1 ounce Cascade
  • Flameout: 2 ounces Centennial leaf hops

How does that look? According to the TastyBrew calculator we're looking at an OG of 1.091 and 101 IBUs, with the majority of the bittering coming from the late additions. We tried to balance out our desire for a big double IPA with the scarcity of hops and economic considerations. This is still going over 80 bucks! Does that sound like it might taste like Hopslam to you? We're hoping it gets close, if not, it will hopefully be a damn good beer anyway.

PS - I'll be brewing up my first dubbel with harvested Chimay red yeast this weekend. Woohoo!

EDIT: I just scored 3 ounces of Simcoe and 3 ounces of Columbus! Now it's back to the drawing board. Any suggestions?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Next Project

Well, before I fill you in on my latest planned brewing adventure, how about an update on my stash? The DIPA is kicked, along with the Deported stout, and my Blonde Abbey and Full Monty are dangerously close to being gone. Sniff. On the upside, my Bourbon Barrel Brown is tasting pretty damn good, although more oaky than I expected, especially since I only threw in an ounce of oak chips for 4 days. I do really like it and think that it's one of the better brews I've made, it's just not a session brew - probably a good thing, that will force me to keep some for a while and see how it changes over time.

My all-Cascade Hopburst APA is now carbed and tastes awesome, if I do say so myself. It's not as citrusy like I normally associate with Cascade, which I'm thinking is the result of only doing the late additions. It is a beautiful gold color, clear, nice white head, sweet malty backbone, a taste of sweet caramel or honey, with the citrusy, piney hops balancing it out nicely. This was a really easy beer to make too, so if you want the recipe let me know. With lighter colored beers like this I'm really digging the full boil action - I was never able to get golds and yellows on the stovetop.

I bottled my Wee Heavy Saturday, the sample was a nice mahogany color, very malty sweet, a little alcohol in the finish, and just a slight peaty or smoky flavor, which is weird since there isn't any peated or smoked malt in it. I'm anxious to see how this one develops over time - the plan is to drink some young (an ale brewer's version of a maibock?), and then keep the rest for next fall and winter.

Now on to the PLAN. So my buddy Cole and I have both been enjoying the Bell's Hopslam lately. Over a few beers after work on Friday, we devised a plan to tag team a clone of this, splitting the work and cost. We both figured that with the cost of hops lately and the high gravity of this bad boy, it will get pretty spendy. I've figured out from the Bell's website that the OG is around 1.090 and I'm thinking around 100 IBUs. This is the best thread I could find so far: . On this thread, somebody said that according to Bell's, they "use Hersbrucker, Centennial, Glacier, Vanguard, & Crystal in the kettle, and then dry hop with Simcoe." Does this sound right to you? I don't know much about a lot of those hops, but I don't recall ever hearing "citrus" associated with any of those except Centennial and Simcoe. Any ideas? I'm thinking more about Ahtanum, Centennial, Amarillo, Cascade, Galena, Simcoe, Columbus. We'll be brewing this up in 2 weeks (I've got a dubbel on deck for next weekend), so any input you've got would be great!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Non-Technical Post, I Promise!

Alright, judging from the amount of responses to my last post my readers (all 2 of you) are either: not interested in starters, bored by long winded technical treatises on the finer points of yeast harvesting and propagation, or both. So, here's a short post to bring you back in the fold.

I bottled up my all-Cascade Hopburst APA last night. The sample tasted damn good, but not as hoppy as I expected, probably because I've been destroying my sense of taste by drinking too many SN Bigfoot and Bell's Hopslams lately. This APA should be a good one once it's carbed up.

Right now I am drinking the last bomber of my Summit 2IPA. I am very close to crying. All I have left of this batch is a 34 oz special reserve. I will be bringing this, plus 34ozers of my Deported Stout, Blonde Abbey, Full Monty cherry bitter, and a few Bourbon Barrel Browns and a single uncarbed bottle of the APA to the Dells this weekend for the waterpark extravaganza. See you there Bri!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Yeast Starters

Alright, so I've been talking about these since I've been using them so much lately. Here's the Tesslerfied version. DISCLAIMER: You can find a lot of info about starters by searching the forums at or, and I've probably read most of those (addictive personality), and I encourage you to check those out too. There are different schools of thought about different steps in the process, so just understand, I am by no means an expert and am still figuring this stuff out, but this is what I've learned after killing countless hours reading. So take it with a grain of salt, consider the source, yadda yadda.

  • 1000 OR 2000 mL Pyrex flask, growler, or 1 gallon cider jug
  • small soup or saucepan if you're not using the flask
  • scale - preferably one with metric measurements
  • dry malt extract (DME) - a 1 lb bag is plenty
  • measuring cups
  • airlock or foam stopper


The whole point is to build your yeast population to a large enough number so that you can reduce lag times, reduce the risk of contamination, and ensure a more complete fermentation. Wyeast smack packs and WhiteLabs tubes are supposed to be pitchable, but for higher gravity beers and lagers starters are almost a necessity. Even smaller brews can benefit from a starter. If you're going to drop the cash and spend the time brewing your beer, why not give it a better chance of being successful right? A starter is just a mini batch of beer, where you're giving your smack pack or whatever more food so that the yeast inside will gorge themselves, multiply their population, and get primed for fermenting your precious wort.

First, you need to determine the size of your starter. If you want to really get technical you can check out the pitching calculator at the Mr.Malty site on my links, but I never do, too technical for me. Basically, you want to make a starter that has an OG of around 1.035 or so. As far as how big you want to go, that depends on your beer. Right now I am building up a culture from the bottom of a bottle of Chimay for a dubbel I'm brewing in the future, so I started with a half-liter starter, let it go for 2 days, then did another half-liter, then I'll step up again to a liter and maybe do that again. For most brews that's probably not necessary, especially if you're starting with a smack pack. Most of the starters I've done have been a liter for beers between 1.040 and 1.065, and 2 liters for bigger brews.

To get a gravity around 1.035, the easiest way to do it is to go metric. A simple ratio of 1 gram DME to 10 mL of water works out to about 1.035. So, measure out 100 grams of DME to 1 liter of water and you're good to go! If you are anti-metric, you'd need a little under 4 ounces DME for 1 quart of water. You can get a cheap digital scale at Target.

Now you're ready to boil, so let's talk containers. You can use one of the Erlenmeyer flasks that Northern Brewer sells (I have one), but it is not a necessity. The advantage to those is that if you have a gas stove or electric coils, you can put the starter mix right in the flask, boil it in the flask, cool it, then dump the yeast in. I have a smoothtop electric stove and have seen Kristen make a Pyrex mixing bowl explode on top of that, so that worries me a little. The other thing I don't like about the flasks is that they are narrow at the top so you can get a really fast volcanic boilover even with the little amount of wort you're boiling, and that's a PITA. I just put it in a saucepan and boil it for 15 minutes. Then I pour the starter into a standard half gallon growler that you can get at any brewpub. A one gallon cider jug would work fine too.

When your starter is cooled enough so that it's no longer warm to the touch I flame the lip of my sanitized growler, put in the sanitized funnel, dump in the yeast, throw the airlock on, and shake like crazy. Some people have stirplates that continously stir the starter which is really good for the yeast, but I just swirl it every time I walk by. The key is to not let your yeast drop out of suspension so that's what the swirling is for. You don't have to go nuts with it, but do it when you can. This keeps the yeast active so that they keep reproducing. Oh yeah baby, asexual reproduction! As far as temperature goes, keep it around room temperature. Some people say you should keep the starter at the same temperature that fermentation of the beer is going to happen, but for a starter you're just building cell counts, so just keep it between 65 and 75 and you're good to go. I keep mine on top of my fridge with a brown paper lunch bag to protect it from light. There's mixed information out there about whether light is bad or good for starters, so I just err on the side of caution.

Now, the big question is, when do you make your starter? There's a lot of conflicting information out there on this one too, and basically the controversy is whether you pitch the whole starter when it's active or do you put the starter in the fridge to crash the yeast and make them settle to the bottom, then pour off the spent wort and just pitch the slurry. I have done both and have noticed the crashed starter took a little longer, but lag time was still under 6 hours. For me, the decision boils down to the size of the starter. If it's bigger than a liter, I'll crash it and decant, if it's a liter or smaller, I pitch the whole thing. I personally prefer having an active starter to pitch, so if I'm going to brew on Saturday, I would make the starter on Wednesday or Thursday. That way I'll have a fairly active starter being pitched into my wort.

Starters do give you some flexibility too. If I made a starter on Thursday but then had to postpone for a week, I would throw the starter in the fridge and then the night before or morning before brewing I would take it out, let it warm up, pour off the spent wort then give it a fresh meal of cooled wort so that it's active. Right now I have half of the yeast cake from my Bourbon Barrel Brown in the back of the fridge. When I know I'm going to use it, I'll wake it up by warming it up to room temperature and then giving it a fresh meal and pitch the whole thing. Well, I see this post has gotten ridiculously long (me, ramble?), so I'll just stop here. Any questions?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fun with Hopbursting

Sunday was brew day for me. I put together a recipe using "Designing Great Beers" for an American Pale Ale: .5 lb Munich, .5 lb Crystal 40, 6 lbs Pilsen DME, and 5 ounces of Cascade hops. I've been reading about hopbursting, so I decided to give it a shot with this batch. Basically, the idea is to add all of your hops at the end of the boil to maximize flavor and aroma. You still get some bittering, but not tons, so that's why you need to use a lot of hops. I started my additions with 20 minutes left, then did another ounce every 5 minutes.

I did have another minor boilover right away when I added the first 3 lbs of DME. I'm trying to decide for next time if I should drop my boil volume by a gallon or try out some Fermcap (I guess it's supposed to knock out the foam). What would you do? Anybody else having issues with their new full boil setups? I did rig up a pretty sweet windscreen for my burner and kettle. Brian suggested sheet metal, but what I think he suggested (I was drinking at the time) didn't sound like it would work on my rig, so I ended up getting 2 ten inch diameter furnace duct pieces that are 36 inches long. I crimped them together and ended up with an awesome windscreen that goes almost all the way around the burner stand and goes up almost to the top of the kettle to trap in heat, plus it only cost me 8 bucks.

I reused half of the yeast cake that I saved from my Brown ale, which had been in the beer fridge for 3 weeks. I just brought it to room temp while I was brewing but didn't make a starter or anything to wake it up, just poured off the beer from on top, swirled it to get the yeast into suspension, and pitched it. It was probabably about 2 cups of slurry total. Apparently if a yeast cake has been sleeping in the cold for 3 weeks it needs a snack to wake up, because it took 20 hours to start fermenting. I was pretty worried, plus I went to my LHBS to pick up some dry yeast "just in case", but it was closed for President's Day. Fortunately, when I got back home empty handed the yeast was belching out CO2. It is now rocking out and kicking goo into the blowoff tube at a comfortable 60 degrees and it smells awesome!

I'm thinking about maybe brewing a dubbel after I culture the Chimay yeast or another brown ale (probably not oaked) next. Have you seen kit and hop prices at Northern Brewer lately? Holy smokes, it's like 50 bucks for their IPA kits! I did spend a little more at my LHBS when I built my APA recipe, but their hops were still only 2 bucks an ounce. I'm thinking about buying a 33 lb jug of LME to save some cash. Anyone else do or consider bulk buys?

I know at least Jeremy brewed this weekend, how did your brew day go?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl Sunday

Way to go Giants! I am so happy to see that cheater Bellichek get beat. Anyways, I haven't brewed in a while, just done some menial brewing chores. I have really been enjoying drinking my homebrews.
  • I'm on the last minikeg of Deported Stout, and I will be sad to see it go. I remember when I first started drinking this batch and it had some bad fusels, headache city. Now I taste the big roasted and chocolatey malt, and it still has a big hop kick to it too.
  • The 618 2IPA is also just getting better and better. This beer is 97 IBUs! I'm lucky to be on heartburn meds, otherwise I would be really suffering after a bomber of this one. Definitely my best IPA so far.
  • The Blonde Abbey is also tasting really good. I picked up a mix and match 6er a couple of weeks ago and grabbed a Leffe Blonde (what NB's Lefse Blonde kit is supposed to copy) and an Affligem Blonde. My beer is really close to the Affligem, so I'm stoked that my first Belgian turned out as good as it did.
  • The Full Monty Cherry Bitter has been a pleasant surprise. When I bottled this, the sample tasted like it was going to be a dumped batch, it totally tasted like ass. I carbed it pretty high and let it sit for a month before I started drinking it, and now it's actually pretty good. It finished pretty dry, probably because of the pound of brown sugar to boost gravity. You can definitely taste the tartness of the Montmorency cherries contrasting with the bitterness of the hops. It's not my best beer, but considering what I thought it was going to be, I'm pretty happy that it's totally drinkable and actually enjoyable.
  • I bottled my Bourbon Barrel Brown today, and I am super excited about this one! If you remember from the last post, I designed this beer from scratch with "Designing Great Beers". I had steamed an ounce of oak chips and soaked them in 5 ounces of Maker's Mark bourbon for about a month, and just racked the beer into secondary on top of the oak chips and bourbon last Tuesday. I pulled a sample Friday night and I could definitely taste the oak, so I knew it was time to bottle. I actually left about 30 ounces of this in the bottling bucket just so that I could drink this today. The oak is pretty obvious, but you can totally taste the hops and malty goodness too. If it tastes this good on bottling day, I've got very high hopes for this when it's carbed. It will be hard to keep this one in the house.
  • On the non-homebrew front, I've been drinking some Abita TurboDog lately, and I highly recommend this American Brown Ale. It's super tasty.

What are you drinking?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

My First Outdoor Brew Session

After Mother Nature forced me to abort my New Year's Day brewing, I finally got around to brewing yesterday. As I mentioned in my last entry, I was debating what to do with my starters, and I decided to toss them in the fridge on Tuesday or Wednesday. On Friday night I brought out the Wee Heavy's starter (Wyeast 1728 - Scottish Ale), warmed it up to room temperature, poured off the spent wort, then added another cup and half of DME boiled in 1500 mL of water. That got it going super active by Saturday morning. The Wee Heavy is actually sending massive amounts of foam and stuff through the blowoff tube as we speak, I've had to suck water out of the pitcher full of sanitizer that my blowoff tubes run into twice already today. The American Brown is also active, but not as much as the Wee Heavy. I think one of the reasons is that I also poured off the spent wort on that starter (Wyeast 1056 - American Ale) but didn't step it up because the Brown isn't as big as the Wee Heavy and also just pitched the slurry. Normally I pitch the whole starter when it's active. Regardless, the Brown's lag time was about 6 hours, but the Wee Heavy was only 2. Knowing that there's less time for bad bugs to take hold in my beer is reason enough for me to use starters.

Back to the brewing. I got off to a little bit of a late start, but I hooked up the propane, did a leak test, poured in 6 gallons, and turned it on full blast. I had read that for brewing in an aluminum pot you should boil just water in it first to create the dark gray coating on the inside of the kettle, so that's what I did. I was a little disappointed in the boil time though. It took about 25 minutes or so to bring it to a good boil. I was hoping for a little less, but there was a pretty good wind all day, which probably (hopefully) had some effect. I actually shoveled a big snowbank as a windbreak when I started but then the wind shifted and kept shifting all day so I just said screw it. After about 30 minutes I got impatient and hooked up the wort chiller. That was impressive! I got the water down to 75 degrees in about 12 minutes. I realize the water's pretty cold in winter, but if I can get anywhere close to that in the summer I will be happy.

I started the American Brown Ale right after that, pouring 5.5 gallons into the kettle plus the half gallon I steeped my specialty grains in. I thought this would be fine since I lost about a half gallon during my test boil, but when I added the malt extract that brought the level up too high. I was dangerously close to a boil over for about 10 minutes. Things settled down for a while but when I threw the flavor and aroma hops, my late addition extract, and the chiller to sterilize, I did have a minor boilover. Not as big of a deal as indoors on the stove, but it's still not cool. A 30 quart brewpot is not quite enough to boil 6 gallons without worrying about boilovers, but it's still a major improvement over the little pot I was using on the stove.

While that was chilling I was sanitizing my siphon and collecting water for the next boil, and while I was pitching the yeast on the Brown I had started the Wee Heavy's boil, this time with 5 gallons of water plus the half gallon of steeping grain water. The Wee Heavy was weird though because I didn't lose that much volume over the course of the boil. Maybe because I added 12 pounds of liquid extract? Mwahaha. That is going to be a huge beer.

Overall, brewing outside is pretty awesome. Even though I think my burner is not super powerful, I still dropped the time it takes to make a batch quite a bit. Plus, it was only 20 bucks, so what the hell. It took a little less than 2 hours from the time I started boiling water to pitching the yeast. I think that if I build a windscreen of some sort I might be able to drop that a little more, so I'm happy. Kristen's happy because the house doesn't stink, and cleanup is easier since I can just hose off the patio. In addition, since you're not supposed to use oxiclean, bleach, or other harsh chemicals on aluminum pots, cleanup is even easier and faster since I just add some hot water and mild soap and wipe it down with a rag, give it a rinse, and I'm done. I'm still debating whether I should drill a hole in my brewpot and add a valve to make transferring the wort into the fermenter faster, but the new high capacity auto siphon I got only takes about 5 minutes, so I don't know how much time I would actually save, although if I let the cool wort splash into the fermenter through the funnel I might be able to skip shaking the crap out of the carboy to aerate.

Anybody else do some brewing this weekend?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Mission Aborted

Happy New Year!

My original plan for this break was to bottle my cherry beer (The Full Monty) first, then brew my Bourbon Brown and a Wee Heavy. I was dying to finally test the new turkey fryer and the immersion chiller and new glass primary (#2) that Santa brought me. Because of family stuff and food induced laziness, the bottling was put off even before Kris Kringle visited. To get in the brewing spirit, Eli and I made a pilgrimage to Northern Brewer last Friday, where I picked up their Wee Heavy kit and the ingredients for an American Brown Ale that I designed. He's an awesome little helper; he had a lot of fun helping me pick out my grains and run the mill in the grain room. I made both yeast starters on Saturday morning and also steamed an ounce of oak chips that are steeping in 5 ounces of Makers Mark right now, waiting to be tossed in the secondary of the brown ale. The plan was to brew both batches on New Year's Day, but the temp never got above 5 degrees today. That's too cold for me to stand outside and brew 2 batches, so I bitched out. Instead, I bottled The Full Monty today, and set up my turkey fryer stand and the hoses and fittings for the immersion chiller. So, brew day has been moved to Saturday.

I do have 2 questions for the loyal readers of this blog (all 2 of you): Do you use yeast starters? If so, how often? I'm trying to figure out what to do with the starters I made. They'll be 7 days old by the time they're pitched, so they'll be dormant I'm guessing. Should I let them ferment out for another day, then toss them in the fridge and maybe add some more DME on Friday? Or, should I just let them hang out and pitch them as is?