Flask failure

While I was drying off my 1 liter Erlenmeyer flask yesterday, I heard a strange pop. I had just used it to culture a yeast starter for a beer, and after cleaning it up, there was a sickening clink that caused me to pause. A quick check revealed a long crack across the bottom of the flask. Luckily, this didn’t happen while I was boiling a mini-wort for the starter, or when I set the nearly boiling contents in to an ice bath. Best yet, it didn’t happen when the vessel was full of a bajillion yeast cells waiting to eat my fermentable sugars and poop out alcohol.

Do not use

Do not use

Now it’s time to shop for a new one. 1L has worked fine, but wouldn’t 2L be finer?

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.

Dark obSession

Thirstday Thursday night Michelle, Madeline and I walked over to Saraveza for their Black Session tailgate party. It was a warm evening, but the place was crowded. We tried to get on a list to try the beer, ended up sharing a table with a great couple who were also there to try the new darker sibling of session. After a bit of a wait, we had our first sample of the dark substance. Simply put, it’s a good beer. The darkness is actually a nice nutty and almost but not quite peaty version of the lighter session. The beer is simple but still interesting, and really could be the perfect domestic answer to something like Negra Modelo.

The brewer John Harris was on hand and mingling. I thanked him for last fall’s doppelboch and picked his brain about their use of super high alpha hops (CTZs) as the only hops in Grandson of Spot IPA. Then I had to eat dinner. It was one of the best (if not the) best Bratwurst I’ve ever had. The brat itself was perfectly cooked, juicy, spicy and sweet. Then, it was topped with mustard, ketchup, onions, sauerkraut, and sweet relish. I was rather nervous about the relish, but it was great.

Happy Craft Beer Month

July in Oregon is awesome. Our governor will soon proclaim this to be Craft Beer Month, and we’ll celebrate the work of our brewing sons and daughters. How do you celebrate craft beer month? Find an event of course! There’s the obvious Oregon Brewers Festival later this month, but there are so many smallish events this month that there’s probably something pouring near you. The Oregonian (it’s one of those old fashioned newspapers) had a great pull-out in the June 30th edition that you can fold up and stick in your pocket like a smartphone, though it works better for swatting flies than does a phone.

An unlikely review

I live in a fairly urban neighborhood in North Portland. I also live on a common route for bottle collectors to pass by on their way to the grocery store to refund bottles. Last time I was brewing, one of the neighborhood women who collects bottles all day stopped to see what I was doing with my dangerous multi-tiered system. When I explained that I was making beer, her interest piqued, and she mentioned that she’d never had any home-made beer. I told her I’d save her a bottle.

Well after a couple weeks, I finally got some bottled from the keg and was able to get it to her. I explained that it was a Scottish-styled beer and that it was a little darker, smokier and sweeter than she’d typically have here. She exclaimed that “it may be Scottish, but tonight it was going in to an American.”

I chuckled, then watched in stifled horror as she poured the beer from the glass bottle in to a used Gatorade bottle wrapped in a plastic bag and capped it. She then tossed the glass bottle in with her collection, thanked me, and went on her way. I was a bit shocked. I tried to remember a recent discussion on glassware and aesthetics, but ultimately just hoped that she enjoyed it. When I saw her a few days later, she let me know that she had indeed enjoyed it. Her review was that short, and I’m hoping she wasn’t just saying that to be nice. I’m saving some of the cream ale for her as well.

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.

Shattered

I broke what must have been my forth or fifth hydrometer while brewing on Monday morning. It’d only been used like 3 times. The little research I’ve done suggests that plastic hydrometers are crap. Have you done away with hydrometers and rely completely on a refractometer?

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.

Grain

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

Hops

  • 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.

Beer, Grilled Cheese, the?

Michelle’s coworker Tim sent us a link to this grilled cheese recipe made using beer and onions. Looks fantastic.