Thursday, December 31, 2009
The following is a list of the top 10 Beer Diary... posts listed in order of their popularity for the year 2009.
1.)How To Make Your Own Keggle Sight Glass
2.)Pulque Not Beer
3.)3 Simple Homebrew Tricks
4.)One Simple Kegerator Trick
5.)Duchesse De Bourgogne
6.)Filter Your Beer If You Can
7.)Take A Homebrew To Work Day
10.)3 More Easy Homebrewing Tricks
Happy new year, Feliz ano nuevo, and here's to enjoying a pint with you in 2010!
Monday, December 28, 2009
There is also a nice citrus flavor provided by the cascade and centennial hops and a crisp mouthfeel from the dry final gravity and moderate to high carbonation level. I poured samples for friends this evening and got a mix of responses from
"that's pretty good" to "sure I'll have another" . O.K. not outstanding testimonies but at least they didn't spit it out.
1. Mashed 9.4 lbs. home made barley in 2.5 gals. h2o at 150f. for 90 minutes then (batch sparge)
2. drain entire content of mash tun then
3. added 2.5 gals. of h2o at 170f. and drained and again
4. added 2.5 gals. of h2o at 170f. and drained
5. brought 6 gals. wort of 1.028 (5 gals = 1.033) to a boil with .5 lbs. cry #60 and 1 lb. cara red steeping grains
6. added 2 lbs. cane sugar (Mark C. if your reading this - still no cider flavors from the sugar addition)
7. boiled for 60 mins. with .5 oz. Simcoe hops
8. boiled for 15 mins. with 1. oz. Cascade hops (irish moss)
9. boiled for 2 mins. with 1. oz. Centennial hops
10. Chilled in ice bath
11. fermented at 65f. using US-05 dry ale yeast for 7 days
12. bottled and conditioned for 2 weeks
Any questions about this recipe? Leave a comment.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
An under-attenuated beer can be problematic for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that the taste will be sweeter than you may want considering that you hopped with an expectation of a drier beer and the mouthfeel fuller as a result of the remaining sugars in solution. The second problem effects those that are bottling the beer. Normally you would add approximately half a cup of bottling sugar for a five gallon batch (48-12oz. bottles) to achieve the carbonation that you want in the finished beer but with all that residual sugar in solution to begin with, you may just be creating bottle bombs caused by the over carbonation of the additional sugar.
In the case of this beer, my expectation was for a final gravity of around 1.012 and so I am a little dissapointed but determined to get the rest of those points out of it one way or another. My belief is that the temperature got too cold and I may not have oxygenated the wort well enough causing the yeast to drop out of solution assuming a dormant state. My solution?
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Laying on his back, his worn clothes matched the color of the dusty cobbled sidewalk. His grey eyes staring blank through half opened lids at nothing just beyond the tree branches. Two plastic bolsas were at his feet, the contents of his morning grocery shopping spilling out. Some bananas, a pepper, tamarindo. A small clutch of pedestrians looked down at him from their improvised ampitheatre, some making the sign of the cross while a short policeman stood by impatient for the ambulance to come fetch the body. I'd crossed the steet to get a better look. I don't often get to see a dead person, in fact I've only seen one other in my life, many years ago.
He was the father of a friend, and was dressed up and put on display at the funeral parlor near his Salinas home. I had no emotional connection to him, only met him once before so approached his prepared body with only curiousity. He was unmistakably lifeless, but that recognition wasn't obvious from the color of the skin, or its texture but from the lack of energy that it normally emits, an energy that you don't pay attention to except in its absense.
The man on the street lacked that same energy and it occured to me that all the connective energy was gone too, like removing the ligiture from muscle. Some invisible energy that could be described as strings or twine that binds the man to his family, friends, the familiar things of his life. The defining history, the events. All that energy evaporates too, leaving a stillness around the body, a magnetic void that is perceptable on a level apart from intellect.
I continued up the street towards home glancing over my shoulder every once in awhile to see if the body was still there. When I turned up Calle Mesones the buildings blocked my view and I quit turning back. On the next block the city buses shouldered up along a stretch of road under construction. Piles of cobbles and sand kept them from getting too close to the sidewalk where the locals lined up to board. They formed a line, leaning against the warm walls of the colorful concrete buildings eyeballing the placards in the bus windows that displayed their destination. Mega, Santa Julia, Soriano, Mexiquito.
As I got closer a newly arrived bus veered in close and shuttered to a stop by a pile of rubble. Passengers climbed down from the rear doors through a heavy cloud of diesel fumes and dust while others entered the front. After a moment it pulled away, cranking sharply into the road to avoid the debris but the rear tire nearest the sidewalk rode up over a cobble pile, compressing the stones with its extreme weight. A split second later several of the potato sized stones shot out from the pressure, a birdshot blast of granite projectiles, they blew into the line of pedestrians before anyone could react. Some ricocheted off the building walls, thudding and cracking with their force. Painted concrete spintered into the dry air. I froze in place, while the crowd, now alert, moved about in jerky motions brushing concrete fragment from their clothes. Then a young boy, maybe ten years old stood from a crouched position by his mother. A quarter sized divet of flesh missing from his forehead exposing the bone. Blood began to form and then drain with intensity from the opening and he stagger stepped toward me. I knelt and held him by his shoulders to prevent him from walking into the street and he looked at me absently from behind his pain and shock, blood running down his face. The bus driver stopped and climbed down from his perch as I and the crowd yelled for help. He approached with cautious alarm and then motioned for the mother to quickly help the boy on board. I stood watching as the bus pull away with the wounded, wondering if his going on the bus was a wise choice, but it's not my place to question the drivers logic, I'm just a witness here.
When I reached home I let out the sadness that I felt, a sadness born of my impotence to help or make a difference in either persons life and the recognition of my own mortality. I let the emotion run out of me feeling sympathy for the boy, the dead man and myself as I considered our innocence in this life and how little protection it gives.
Monday, December 14, 2009
I used a plastic bucket with a braided hose attached to a spigot as my mash tun and (don't tell my wife) insulated it by securing a couple pillows off our bed, held in place with a piece of rope I found on the roof. This worked suprisingly well at maintaining a temperature of 150f. I let the grain mash for and hour and a half before performing a batch sparge. Normally, I mash for an hour but in this case I did an iodine test after an hour and found that there was still a lot of unconverted starches. Then I sparged by draining the mash tun completely once, filled it again with 170f. water, stirred, let rest for ten minutes and drained again.
The results? In a beginning boil volume of six gallons my specific gravity was 7 brix or 1.028. At this point I have to make some assumptions in order to figure how well I did in the malting process and how efficient I was at extracting the sugars from the mash. I am going to use my personal historical records of previous brewing sessions as a data point to make comparisons. Unfortunately, I am unable to determine exactly how effective I was at malting the grain but if I make another assumption that my mashing procedure was 71% efficient then I can also assume that in my malting process I created a potential of 1.0265 instead of the commercial malt that typically is 1.037
Here's the numbers as I figure but tell me if I'm off base here:
6gal. x 1.028 (6 x 28 = 168)
9lbs. x 1.026 (9 x 26 = 234) (168/234 = 71%) or 10% less potential sugar than commercial malt.
P.S. I went ahead and brewed a batch of beer with some additional ingredients. If you're interested in that recipe, leave a comment and I'll include it there. Cheers!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Then next step is the mashing process and I will take some readings on the sugar extractions. I plan to do a batch sparge using a five gallon bucket with a braided hose in the bottom to filter. I've never done a batch sparge as my normal system uses the fly sparging technique. If you have words of wisdom regarding batch sparging, please leave a comment.
For the previous steps in malting barley go to here for step I and here for step II.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I met Francisco through a brewing course that I was teaching in Soquel, California. He would make the drive down from the Bay area each weekend to attend. He arrived here in San Miguel a few days after us and I joined him at Antigua Capilla as he brewed up the first batch of beer to be made at his new hotel. Later, I was left in charge of bottling the beer because he had to return to the states before the beer was ready. Fortunately for me, I was able to squeeze a 49th bottle of beer out of his five gallon batch and kept it for myself.
Well, today was the day the beer was ready for tasting and so I cracked it open and poured the gold colored German hefe weizen into my mug. This beer is slightly hazy which is normal for this style with crisp carbonation and off white head. Great aroma of clove, banana and a big spicy flavor that comes across with defined clove and some flower essense. A great example of the style and a success for the first brew on premise for Antigua Capilla.
Francisco, if your reading this- Great Job! I look forward to seeing you back down here and of course breaking into the rest of those beers.
Friday, December 4, 2009
In the mean time I returned to Cerveza de San Miguel last night to sample some ales and get in touch with the owner Matthew Carrol. He was giving a short lecture on brewing along with a beer tasting, to a small group of us and will meet with me on Monday to talk about a possible small scale brewing collaboration. He may also be a good source for malted barley.
Monday, November 30, 2009
To start, I placed five kilos of the barley in a bucket and filled it with water, agitating the grain as I filled. I discovered the grain was very dirty as evidenced by the grey water. With the bucket full to the rim I skimmed off about half a pound of loose, floating material to discard. I repeated this process several times until all of the waste material was gone, the water ran clear and the viable barley was setting nicely at the bottom of the water filled bucket.
I have placed the bucket in a cool closet and will drain the water in about eight hours. The drained grain will set for eight hours and then the process will repeat for a couple days. At that point there should be evidence of growth in the form of chits (root growth).
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
El Gozo also has Duvel Golden Ale at 75 pesos. Same bottled beer as in the states but with a Mexican label which is interesting to see. The other interesting thing to see is the beer on tap. Believe it or not, kegged beer is unusual in most towns in Mexico, even those with moderate to large populations. Because of the expense and need for a draft system most beer in Mexico is sold in the bottle. Even here in San Miguel, there are only a couple of bars with beer on draft. Of course the beer on draft is Modelo and that is because Modelo will provide the larger restaurants and bars with the system to dispense, gratis.
Friday, November 20, 2009
After a few sleepless hours in the air we arrived in Guanajuato and I naturally got the red light at the imigration inspection station and hoisted my suitcase up on the stainless steel table top for closer scrutiny. I threw open the lid to expose an array of vacuum sealed bags of malt extract and specialty grains along with an assortment of brewing equipment.
"This luggage is not normal."
The inspector said in spanish as he turned to signal his supervisor into action. The superior stepped up and pulled out a bindle of milled pilsner malt and held it up to the flourescent light, squinting at its contents.
"Esto es cebada malteado," I said in broken spanish " esta toastado, no es raw."
He looked at me with a puzzled expression, before continuing to rifle through the odd contents. Fortunately, he was the same inspector that looked in my case last year and after my wife Susan (who speaks fluent spanish) reminded him of this fact, he waved us through. At the last moment he noticed that Susan had a banana in her purse and immediately snatched it out and warned her not to try to take fresh fruit into the country. He turned and walked away with the banana prize clutched in his hands while I swept up my suitcase, its contents spilling out the seems, and headed out of the inspection area with relief.
The unfortunate part of this story is the discovery when I got to our hotel. At some point after the suitcase was check in for the flight, probably in San Jose, it was opened and several items were removed. Namely, a CO2 injector and a dozen 12 gram CO2 cartridges. Everything else appeared unmolested. The reason is a mystery to me although I suspect that an imaginative inspecter saw the materials as the makings of a high tech bomb and removed it all, ruining my evil plan and diverting the disaster of a mid-air explosion. In place of these items was a card informing me that the case had been opened for review. Thank you invisible inspector person. Regardless, I view it as a small loss considering all that did get through customs, and a lesson learned for the next time.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Don't get me wrong here, I want to support these fledgling home brewing businesses by buying locally so that the movement can progress like it has in the States. Creating a Mexican homebrewing market that has all of the ingredients and products that we need to make good beer. At the same time, I have an obligation to inform my Mexican readers of the opportunities to procure the necessary equipment and ingredients that we enjoy in the U.S. and at the same time, to save significant dinero. And maybe this information will incite these retail outlets to increase their inventory with reasonably priced goods.
Note: If you live in a small or remote region in Mexico this suggestion may not apply, but for all others, I believe this information will save you some money and make it easy for you to get the equipment you need.
First, locate a 'cross border' mail service like La Conexion or Border Crossings that will shuttle packages down to your town from a city in Texas. These services will most likely be limited to communities that have a large expat population. In my case, I use La Conexion in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico via Laredo, Texas. After UPS ships my package to Texas, I will be paying approximately $1.00 per pound for the goods and %15-%17 surcharge on the value of the product to have it shuttled down to San Miguel. This can be a huge savings when you consider that a pound of hops right now are running about $10. The 'cross border' mail service costs in this case would only be $2.70 which if you include the cost of the hops and include the $8 UPS charge to get them to Texas would end up being around $21. In other words when all is said and done, an ounce of hops would run you about $1.40 an ounce not the excessive $6 an ounce, quite a huge savings. Even more of a savings is the cost of yeast which can be %50 less expensive than purchasing from the Mexican homebrew outlets. I haven't gone over all of the equipment prices at Fermentando or Homebrewing Mexico but something typical like a hydrometer costs $12 compared to More Beer price of $6 plus shipping. If you live anywhere in the state of Guanajuato, La Conexion and Border Crossings may be the only mail service available to you. In Baja you could use Yet Mail which has multiple services besides mail delivery.
By the way, shipping into Mexico using UPS or FedX is cost prohibitive, in fact after a quick inquiry I discovered that it would cost me $80 to send a 1 lb. package via UPS to San Miguel De Allende from California at their cheapest rate.
Secondly, it is important to mark on or in the shipping package, the estimated value of the content, if not, the inspectors at the border will assign a value that may be more than it's worth and cost you more in charges.
Third, if you don't live in a town that has this service but are within a reasonable distance of one that does, it may be worth it for you make the trip and pick it up yourself. Also, see if you can connect with another brewer that would be willing to receive your packages. Once the Mexican homebrewing community grows in popularity, access to these goods will be as easy to get as in the States. Until then, this is one possibility for a select few that are in proximity to towns with these great mail services.
If you live in or near a town that has this service, please post it here in the comment section for other Mexican homebrewers to use as a source.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
But that's not what this post is about. I wanted to ask the readers of this blog for some feed back at this time. I have been blogging here for a couple of years now and need to know what works and what doesn't. What type of posts you look forward to and what bores you to the point of stopping the feed. Looking back over the last few months I notice a pattern I've gotten into of interspersing posts using five major subjects.
1. experiential homebrewing techniques
2. homebrew recipes
3. commercial beer reviews
4. brewery and brewpub reviews
5. anecdotal (stories loosely brewing related)
My request of you as a reader of this blog is to inform me of you're preferences. In terms of most enjoyable which of these five catagories is most important.
I am also interested in hearing from those of you that just happened by via a google search. I will install a survey on the side bar to use as a way to generally indicate your preference, but I am also really interested in any extra feed back you may have. For instance, what you would like to read or see more of, changing the look of the page layout and format, expanding to include other subjects like food or anything that would make the experience of this blog more enjoyable for you. You can put those suggestions in the comment area at the bottom of this post. I have really enjoyed posting my thoughts about a hobby that I have a real passion for and I hope that this blog has benefited you in some small way.
I look forward to hearing from you, and for those that normally don't comment on blogs, remember that you will be doing me a huge favor in that, if I get twenty responses, Susan agreed to let me use some of her suitcase space for several extra pounds of dry malted wheat extract and some tube socks.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Thanks to the generosity of brewer John Gillooly at Speakeasy Brewing in San Francisco I was able to successfully brew up a batch of Black IPA. I guess it could be called India Black Ale (IBA) but nobody does so I'm going to stick with Black IPA. For me, this beer stuck out from all the others at the Stumptown Brewing's 'Russian River Revival' beer fest. Read my take on the festival here.
Without looking at it you would think you were drinking a great example of a west coast style IPA with great hop flavor and aroma with a nice balance of unexpected roastiness. Then looking at it you are shocked by the fact that the beer is black as night. When I had this experience my first thoughts were "I've got to brew myself ten gallons of this!"
After a couple of back and forth emails with John I formulated my ten gallon batch and proceeded to brew it during a demonstration of the Santa Cruz County fair with the help of fellow brewer Michelle.
The following is the ingredients and processes I used to remake this amazing beer. A big "Thanks" goes out again to John from Speakeasy Brewing for making my life better by having this recipe in my portfolio of great homebrews.
- 10gal. batch
Original Gravity 1.066
Final Gravity 1.014
- Mash in 7 gals. of H2O at 150f. for 60min. *add carafa at last 5min of mash
23 lbs. 2-row
1 lbs. Munich
1 lbs. dark wheat
20 oz. carafa III
- Boil 60 min. with
columbus 14% 1.5oz. 60min.
centenial 9% 1.5oz. 20min.
cascade 5.5% 2 oz. 10min.
cascade 5.5% 1 oz. 2min.
cascade 5.5% 1.5oz. 1min.
- Ferment at 65f. until complete with US05 ale yeast (2pkgs per 5gal)
Monday, November 2, 2009
As I continue to homebrew, I discover and perfect techniques that make the process easier, more effective and/or more efficient. Often, simple modification in my equipment or in my brewing procedures at first appear small and inconsequential but are in fact significant in terms of making the brewing day more enjoyable. Today I want to go over three more tricks that I use on a regular basis.
Back in March I listed here some homebrew tricks (go here) to save time and money and those are worth returning to as you review these new items.
As the cooler winter months approach and the temperatures in the area where my fermenters sit (in this case my garage) get cooler, I have found a simple way to keep the fermenting beer from dropping down into the range (below 60f.) that prevents my ale yeasts from performing properly. There is nothing scientific about this technique and it requires some vigilance on my part but it is well worth the effort.
1.) I take an inexpensive, clamp-on utility lamp with a 60w. bulb and place it near the fermenter. This heat source is enough to keep the chill at bay. I will initially moniter the temperature and modify the amount of heat that I apply by moving the lamp closer or further away depending on the amount required. Be careful because you can very quickly over heat using this technique. Once I have the perfect distance/temperature ratio in place I can rest through the night knowing that the cold will not be a factor and the yeast will continue to do their job.
I really enjoy a hoppy ale and in my attempts to brew them I use multiple additions of hops throughout the boil, sometimes dropping as many as five bags of hops into the kettle. Each bag will be added at different time intervals depending on the desired bitterness, flavor or hop aroma. In my preparation for the brew day I measure out and bag all of the hops in advance and stack them in order of first to last additions, to make it easier on myself. Unfortunately, sometimes the bags will get mixed up in the action of brewing. This next trick is something that dawned on me far later than I would have liked. It takes the guess work out of which hops are in which bag.
2.) The nylon or cotton hop bags have draw strings hemmed into the top to tie off the opening and prevent the hops from spilling out into the boiling wort. Rather than try to keep track of which bag to add next by stacking them in order or measuring out the hops as I need them, I will number the bags. I have found that the draw strings are usually long enough to tie 'indicator' knots into them for identifying the bag to be added next. One knot is tied on the string of the first bag to go in the pot. Two knots on the bag string of the second addition, three knots on the third and so on. Now I have a set of hop bags with each one identified with knots.
Lastly, I usually keg my beer but sometimes I want to fill several bottles in order to set aside and condition with priming sugar. These would be beers that I can stash and forget about and let age or submit for contests long after the kegged portion has been drunk. The trick?
3.) Carbonation drops. The simple part here is that as you are racking your beer from the fermenter to the kegs you can easily divert some into sanitized bottles, pop in a carbonation drop and cap. No need for calculating or preparing bottling sugar and you can do as many or as few as you want. These sugar pills are a little expensive but in a pinch it's worth having a bag of them around and you can get them in the less expensive generic version. Now, I can put those beer aside for the future.
I think these ideas will serve you well and I'll keep my eyes peeled for more in my brewery in the future. Others can benefit from your ideas, what tricks do you use in your home brewery? Leave a comment.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Stout gone Rogue
This is a serious American stout with a claimed 77 ibu's to balance the thick malty flavors packed into the 22 oz. bottle. Words that come to mind while drinking this stout are thick and full with flavors of molasses, coffee, tobacco and oak, dry fruits like prune and raisin that linger leaving a sweetness on the palate that is lightly cloying with a bitter sweetness of toffee. It's an imperial like beer in that the flavors are large and bold.
The alcohol content is not stated on the label but the original gravity is 15 plato
(1.060), and seems to have finished with some residual sugar or in other words it's not dry at all. So I would make the assumption that the abv is around 6%.
A very enjoyable beer and it's easy to drink a bomber in one sitting.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Uncommon Brewers pleases with pints.
Uncommon Brewers was serving up their Siamese Twin, Golden State Ale and Baltic Porter to an appreciative crowd while the Ale Works had on tap their classic examples of an American hefeweizen, pale ale, stout and a great IPA.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I'm concerned about taking plant material like hops into the country and getting through customs. The last time down I got the red light. Standing in the line watching the people ahead of me I calculated my odds of having my bag searched. I figured a high probability of having to open my case, exposing all my contraband in the form of a variety of different degrees of roasted malted barley.
Hops ready for the trip