Archive for the 'Homebrew' Category

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Freaky Fermentation Friday

October’s Fermentation Friday is hosted by Pfiff. The topic is:

It’s time for y’all to whip out your best homebrewing horror stories. Extra points for tales of woe told in true campfire fashion, and head straight to the front of the class for a bonus handful of candy corn if there’s a deliciously ironic twist in the end.

Well, gather ’round because I have one of the most frightening, lurid tales. Deep in the dark basement is where I store my homebrewing equipment, right next to the crawl space. In fact, there are some small holes in the partition between the safe part of the basement, and the dark, dusty, and recently-radon infested crawl space. One night recently, I wandered down in the dark to check on the laundry when I noticed a dulled sheen on my brew kettle nestled beneath the open stairs. Normally it sparkles in its stainless glory. Something was wrong.

I stepped closer, straddling the pile of towels and linens waiting to wash, and was mortified to discover the cause. A layer of dust and dog hair had settled on top of my equipment, all of it. The equipment hadn’t been used for so long that had not only it developed a cake of dust, but it had started growing hair.

Oh torment! Have I been such a neglectful homebrewer that my equipment is evolving in a Lamarkian rate to find a meaningfun existance? I leaned in close to the kettle, whispered in it’s ball-valve “I’ll brew again! Just don’t leave! I’ll stop buying all the Full Sail Doppelbocks at New Seasons!”

Then, I traced a finger over the lid, hoping to soothe it, and was relieved to find that the dust and hair came up on the tip of my finger. This wasn’t permanent at all, just a dusting of neglect, a sin I could redeem myself of.

Tasting others' homebrew

I’m a tad nervous anytime someone gives me a homebrew to try, especially if i have to drink it there in person. You never know what you’ll get, and sometimes you get stuff that’s absolutely ghastly. Then again, sometimes you get something that’s really good.

Last night I cracked open a bottle of the beer that Alan brewed back in August. I poured a glass, looked at it, sniffed it, then took a sip. It was quite good! I realize this sounds like vote of no-confidence for Alan, but it isn’t. He was tentative about the batch, and I think I picked up on his nervousness about some of the steps, but he needn’t have worried.

It was good, the color was on, it was a little malty for a true Inversion clone, though that’s normal for extract brewing. The hoppiness was nice, but not as big and fresh as inversion. Next time I’ll suggest dry-hopping for that last citrus bit that Inversion has. Otherwise, great job!

Fermentation Friday: August

This month’s Fermentation Friday is hosted by Panhandle beer snob and redneck brewery. The topic?

“What, in the opinion of others, is the best beer you have ever made and why?”

I posed this question on my blog and had one response. I was fairly certain the answer was going to be the Alberta Arts Pale Ale; a fairly simple pale with Simcoe hops that I brewed as a combination motivation and thank you for friends and family who helped us move on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year (in May!). It had popular acclaim among family members, who typically don’t go for the hoppy beers, but it had enough crispness, and enough being a cool liquid going for it that it won me the most compliments from imbibers.

As Joe pointed out, his favorite was probably the beer I brewed for his wedding. I’ve brewed for several weddings now and get similar comments, so that’s always a good way to score points with friends. Plus, there’s so much latent emotion that getting your beer hooked up with the revelry never hurts. Heck, now that I think of it, one of the last weddings I took beer to left me with lots of compliments on the beer I made from complete strangers. I didn’t take count though, so I can’t definitively say which was my most popular beer.

Poll: My best homebrew

I’m not fishing for compliments here, but as part of August’s Fermentation Friday, I have to figure out “What, in the opinion of others, is tFhe best beer you have ever made and why?”


Fermentation Friday: July

July’s Theme: What one tip would you give a beginner homebrewer before they brew their first batch and why?

When I first read this topic, my immediate answer was “sanitize twice!” However, I’ve just brewed with someone for the first time and I think the most reassuring thing is that the brewing process is really quite simple. Sure there are lots of rules, but overall, once you see the process, it’s really easy to brew. And, once you know the process, you can try new things, make tweaks that suit your setup and more.

Here’s a snap shot of the process. Maybe calling it simple is misleading, but maybe a road map will help the first timer.

Brewing Process road map

Brewing Process road map

Here’s a PDF as well.

No Shortage to Secondary

Hey Beth, I racked No Shortage to secondary today and tried a little. A bit yeasty, but really nice. I skipped the gravity reading (I’m guessing 1.018 since it wasn’t noticeably sweet) for speed, but it’ll be in secondary for another week then we can bottle/keg. I probably should have just sent this as an e-mail.

One hot brew day

Today I brewed with a friend who has been interested in brewing for a while. Beth took some notes, and I tried not to drop random tips and trivia when it wasn’t important. Overall, we kept it fairly simple with a single infusion mash, which is good because there were two toddlers tooling around the “brewery.” She seemed surprised at how simple the process was, and as the same with all-grain, once you understand the process, it’s really a cinch.

We happened to pick the most unpleasant day to brew though. It started out as just hot and sunny. We ended up yanking a patio umbrella from my parents to shade us while we mashed, but then the breeze died down and the humidity crept up. By the end of the boil, it was really muggy and I felt a great deal of awe for the commitment all my fellow homebrewers in the midwest, east coast and south, who cope with this stuff all the time.

Setup to tear down took about 5 hours, something that almost make me miss partial-mash brewing. The final numbers? Roughly 5.5 gallons (short by 1/2g) with an initial gravity of 1.058 (short by .003), so maybe I do need to consider looking at my efficiency. The wort tastes nice, and we kept pretty close to the original hop bill. Thanks to the chomp-happy Safale yeast, fermentation was going within 2 to 3 hours.

Linoleic Acid alternatives

After sampling some good beers (and one bad beer) at the North American Organic Brew Festival last night, Joe, Linds and I stopped at Pause because we couldn’t resist the wonderful summer evening. We grabbed some food and a pint and chatted for a while longer, and Joe mentioned an article he’d read in BYO about New Belgium using olive oil instead of aerating the wort with oxygen. He explained that what the yeast really want is a fatty acid that olive oil has in abundance, so using a miniscule amount negates the need for pumping in oxygen. I was still perplexed, so he told me to go read some more on myfairly complete rundown on who, what, where, and why. The main things to take away are:

  • This is somewhat impractical at the homebrew level because the desired amount is much smaller than a single drop
  • The benefit is that the wort and yeast get the linoleic acid they crave without introducing oxygen, something you normally want to keep out of beer.
  • Given how quickly this information spread, it’s likely that we’ll see some option for homebrewers soon, like yeast nutrient with linoleic acid capsules. What’ll they think of next?

No Shortage IPA

I’m finally brewing again. I’ve invited a friend who has wanted to give brewing a try, so we’ll be brewing a batch of IPA on Sunday. It’s a relatively simple IPA recipe, and I should probably save the name for a more significant beer, but its timely, and I’ll be happy to throw some serious ounce-age in for aroma. This recipe is for a 6 gallon batch.

Malt bill

  • 15 lbs domestic 2-row
  • 2 lbs domestic Munich
  • 1 lbs Crystal 40L
  • 1/2 lbs Carapils


subject to change, though all whole hops

  • 1 oz Amarillo @ 60 min (10% alpha)
  • 1 oz Amarillo @ 10 min (10% alpha)
  • 1 oz Amarillo @ 5 min (10% alpha)
  • 1 oz Amarillo @ 0 min (10% alpha)

The rest of the stuff is pretty standard (for me). Safale dry American ale yeast (with a starter), irish moss, bring to boil, etc.

Homebrew Blogging Day

I’m trying to stay involved, so here’s my entry for Home Brew Blogging Day

When I went away to college in 1997, I lived in the dorms on a floor with a lot of other dudes. Their ages varied, but most were right out of high school. One guy had a significant bit of age on him, despite only being 4 years older. He and I became friends due to a number of common interests, one of which was good beer. He preferred the darker beers and preferred the bitters, but we both appreciated the other’s taste.

One day I walked in to the dorm kitchen to find him steeping something that smelled wonderful. He was doing a partial mash home brew – something that both piqued my interest in DIY and was scandalous at the same time. I was still a minor, but I couldn’t get in trouble for brewing it since it hadn’t yet fermented.

I helped him brew a few more times over the next 2 years – mostly off site since he got tired of living with teenagers. Most of the beers turned out passable, some were downright wretched. We bottled in to Grolsch bottles and those little 5 liter party kegs. The problem with the party kegs was that you had to drink them all at once or the ambient air you used to pump the beverage would oxidize the beer. One such beer left us all with wicked hangovers even though none of us had more than maybe 2 pints. He finished school 2 years ahead of me and we’ve kept in touch a little since. Still, he’s my patron saint of brewing.

For my 22nd birthday, my girlfriend (now wife), got me a home brew starter kit of my own. I was living with 5 other guys in a house off campus. I brewed a first batch around the horrible mess of a kitchen, and wasn’t shocked when the first beer came out infected. We used it for bratwurst, but only managed to drink maybe a dozen bottles. The second batch, a stout, was entirely drinkable, but not fantastic. Brewing in a kitchen used by 5 other guys, most of whom were slobs, posed a real challenge to sanitation. I’d spend 1-2 hours cleaning the bathtub and kitchen, start brewing, and about halfway through the boil, people would all get back from class and start making meals. I managed to produce some decent beer, and I had plenty of access to free bottles, but it wasn’t until I was home for summer that I brewed my first great beer. It’s amazing sanitization does for beer.

This year marks roughly my 10th year home brewing, and I’ve probably done 50-60 batches. Each year brings some new techniques and better beers (when I remember to rack them).

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