Archive for the 'Homebrew' Category

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Hops Up!

Guess who I found poking up under the leaf mulch?

Fresh hop brew day

Yesterday turned out to be a rather long brew day. I started just after 6am and didn’t finish until nearly 3pm. The addition of time came from having to pick and prep the hops, doing a 10 gallon batch, and from having to stop for lunch with Ella, which then required a trip to the grocery store to get some bread for our grilled cheese. All said, I think maybe 1.5 extra hours were added by the extra child-based side trips, 1/2 hour from the extra hop-related work, and maybe an extra 45 minutes because of the larger volume of beer.

All told, the process went rather smoothly, and I ended up with over 11 gallons of wort, using 35 ounces of fresh hops, 2.5 ounces of commercially grown summits for bittering, and 1 ounce of mystery hops that I got from a neighbor and dried on an old window screen in the garage. The original gravity turned up around 1.052, lower than initially planned, but I ended up with more volume than expected. No complaints though.

The prototype tier is still in use, and this time I set up a perimeter using patio chairs and a dog lead. I didn’t want any curious neighborhood person or scrap metal collector to try and mess with a precariously perched tier with 9 gallons of 180F water sitting 6 feet in the air.

Here are some pics:

NoPoToberfest '09

A while back I had a conversation with Full Sail’s John Harris about Oktoberfest and Fresh Hop beers. He felt fresh hop beers were our true harvest festival beer, and I’m in agreement that they have become our de facto style and cause for celebration here in the Northwest. Hell, even brewers some distance from the hop fields are willing to air rush fresh hops to the brewery for a specialty beer. I look forward to sampling fresh hop beers every year (soon, soon…), but I don’t always get a chance to brew one myself.

This year, my hop crop is pitiful. The Willamettes never got down to business, and the Centennials are putting up a rather meager offering. Not to complain though, it’s only their first year. Luckily, my neighbor has a very mature plant that’s gone crazy. He’s given me the access to the cones, so this weekend I’m going to harvest and brew with them. At this point I don’t know the yield so I’m only putting together a grain bill, but I’ll be able to improvise with hops.

Here’s NoPoToberfest – my celebration of the hop harvest using North Portland’s residential bounty.

Grain bill

  • 16 lbs domestic 2-row
  • 2 lbs domestic wheat
  • 2lbs crystal 20L
  • 2lbs Munich


Hop bill

  • 2.5 oz Summit @ 60min
  • 1 oz dry unknown @ 20 min
  • 35 oz wet unknown @ 7-5 min

Naturally, I used Safale S-05. OG was 1.052 and the two carboys are merrily bubbling along.

Nugget Please!

I just finished brewing an IPA for my friends’ wedding at the end of the month. Scott is also brewing several beers for the occasion and I offered to take on one of the batches to lighten his burned a bit. I love brewing for people’s weddings – people I know anyway – and love it when the beer actually turns out well. Normally I’ve just brewed pales or hoppy ambers to have something that was accessible for guests. This time I’m brewing an IPA that’d I’d drink. It highlights Nugget hops for the sole reason that I could name it “Nugget Please,” which is a play on an ODB album from back in college when Tom and I met. He and I both enjoy our hip-hop, and while ODB is neither of our favorites, it was much better than the other name I’d come up with that I’ll tell you in private at some time in the future if you’re curious.

Anyway, ( I start a paragraph with “anyway” when it becomes apparent that I need to be doing something other than blogging) the beer finished at 1.060 and will probably finish around 6% abv (a little high for weddings…forgive me..) but also clocks in at around 80 IBU, which is also a little high for a wedding. Oh well, Nugget please.

malt bill

  • 12 lbs 2-row
  • 1 lbs domestic Munich
  • 1 lbs domestic wheat
  • 1 lbs domestic crystal 20L

hop bill

  • 1.5 oz Nugget (14% aa) @ 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Nugget @ 15 min
  • 0.5 Nugget @ 10 min
  • 1 oz Amarillo (8% aa) @ 5 min
  • 1 oz Amarillo @ 2 min
  • 2 oz Nugget in the keg

I got some Safale S-05 for the yeast. Couldn’t bring myself to put Chimay yeast in to something that promises to be raw and crude.

Patron saint of aphids

My wife brought home a tub of ladybugs that I’ve placed on my two hop plants. Aphids hit them hard the last 2 weeks and the ladybugs had no reservations about taking up residence. This morning I found 10 of the lil’ bugs still hanging out on the plant, working on their quota of 50 aphids a day. I’ve also found a clutch of ladybug eggs on one of the leaves that I swear wasn’t there yesterday.

exterminator in residence

exterminator in residence

Scenes from last brew day

I’m still brewing on a proto-tier system and taking notes about the height, usability and relationships between vessels so I’ll know exactly where I want things before I make them static. I used to be somewhat sensitive about that state of my “brewery,” until I started looking at other people’s tiers on the internet. Now the white towel rack from our first apartment no longer embarrasses me. And I know it’ll be retired soon after a second productive career.

I started heating water in the HLT at 6 am on Monday (it was light and so very nice out) and was really happy working in the quiet and cool morning, and I’ve grown so very fond of brewing outside, so I’ve got to make sure this system is still portable and can be broken down to store and transport. As I was setting up and breaking down, I started to realize how many piecemeal items that were added along the way can be made a permanent fixture and save time. I also realized that my wort chiller needs some modification to work in my new brew kettle.

Oh, and I still dislike pelletized hops. Such a mess.

Stan, Stan, He's our Man Cream Ale

My grandfather passed away last weekend, and he was a big fan of my brewing, even if only in theory. He still hadn’t opened the IPA I brewed for my wedding nearly 8 years ago so he could show people the bottle. He was more of a macro-drinker, and combining that with his being Nebraskan and his love of cream can dinners, it only seemed appropriate to brew a cream ale of the pre-prohibition style.

I’m not going to stick with period ingredients, but I think he’d be happy enough with the results to keep a bottle on his desk well beyond the “best by” date.

I’ve not used corn before, so this will be yet another adventure.


  • 7 lbs Pilsner Malt
  • 3 lbs 2-Row
  • 1 lbs flaked corn
  • 0.5 lbs Carapils


  • 1 oz. NZ Saaz @ 60 min (4% alpha)
  • 1 oz. NZ Saaz @ 10 min
  • 1 oz. NZ Saaz @ 5 min

Should be interesting. I’ll probably just stick with Safale S-05.

March's Fermentation Friday

“How will you grow or change as a homebrewer this Spring? How will you embrace your Spring fever and channel it toward your homebrewing endeavors?”

Byron at poses this month’s Fermentation Friday topic. I’ve been a little busy the last w months with a new baby, but that dovetails nicely with my change. I’m working on setting up a tiered brewing system that utilizes gravity’s sweet love to move water from the hot liquor tank in to the mash tun, and that same gravity to lauter the sweet wort in to the brew kettle.

Sure, there’s the initial investment of time to build the setup, but then I’ll be able to step away from the lauter with a little more confidence to interact with the kinders during the lengthy brewing process. And the research and design process is fun.

Oh, and I’m going to start brewing 10 gallon batches. I’m now set up to do so and look forward to having doubly productive brew days.

Trial and error

Today Rich and Brent stopped by to join in the brewing session. It was a slightly longer than normal session because I chose to modify several variables in the brew house. Not only did I try out a prototype tier system (fugly), I used my new kettle. Luckily, the gear-related problems were minor, and the major time consumer was actually a cold mash. My strike temp was too low, so we pulled off a gallon or so and reheated it before adding it back. This of course made it too hot, so I added water from the HLT and the hose when the HLT wasn’t quick enough, but that dropped it too much. After 2 more pseudo-decoction mashes, we finally go up to the right temperature and let it rest.

Rich brought over some great rye bread, so we stepped next door for some ham and swiss and had some fine sandwiches with a Green King Suffolk Strong Vintage Ale. Talk about a great lunch. The Suffolk Strong a blend of a pale and a strong ale aged in wooden vats for two years. It had a wonderfully sour woody flavor and gave off a delightful aroma. Literally like someone’s old, musty woodpile. Must be the Cooper in my lineage that makes that an attractive flavor.

Anyway, the lautering went quite well and we used Rich’s refractometer to watch the gravity and ended up boiling about an hour and a half later than I’d expected. Rich had to leave for another engagement so Brent helped me cool and rack the beer, which was problematic because something circumvented the false bottom and clogged the dip tube to the spigot.

Anyway, we came out at 1.058 and the wort tasted wonderful. So much sweater than usual, largely because it wasn’t obliterated by my usual overdoes of hops.

A Scottish

Michelle requested that I brew a Scottish ale what is now close to 4 weeks ago. It took a while to get the recipe, and a while longer to get the time to brew. Ella helped me shop for the ingredients this time. It was her idea to add some Marris Otter. While I measured my grains, she went to each bin at Steinbarts and sampled 1-2 malt kernels like I showed her. She made two laps around before I was done milling. Here’s the recipe.

Malt Bill

  • 9 lbs domestic 2-row
  • 2 lbs Marris Otter
  • 1 lbs Crystal 60L
  • 1/4 lbs roasted barley
  • 1/4 lbs peated malt
  • 3/4 lbs torrified wheat

Hop Bill (if you can call it that)

  • 1 oz. Santiam @ 60 minutes (5% alpha)
  • 0.8 oz Santiam @ 10 minutes (5% alpha)

Rest of the recipe was pretty predictable. Irish moss, Safale S-04, blah blah. The wort that I sampled for a gravity reading was delicious.