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.