Monday, August 31, 2009

Bottling Alternative

I taught a class in extract homebrewing recently and took the opportunity to try an experiment when it was time for the bottling process. I filled several 2 litre plastic soda bottles with the beer we were bottling and screwed the caps on excessively tight.




5 gals. will fill 8.5 plastic soda bottles


My concern was that the bottles would not seal tight enough to contain the co2. Well, as it happens, the plastic bottles of beer carbonated perfectly and were ready to drink in two weeks after bottling, just like 12oz glass bottles. I was very pleased with the results which has encouraged me to move forward with my plans to use this idea while in Mexico this year.




Saving bottles can be problematic down south as all glass bottles are worth money and require a deposit, so people return them to the store where they were bought. This means that it's difficult to collect enough for re-use in beer making without having to buy and consume large quantities of light Mexican lagers(not my favorite beer although Bohemia is pretty good). Whereas the plastic bottles are everywhere and pretty cheap. I could easily afford to purchase some inexpensive soda or water, drink or dump it down the drain and reuse the bottle for my purposes.




dregs


I thought that the amount of yeast dregs (a typical condition that occurs when bottling beer with priming sugar) at the bottom of the bottles would prove to be a murky problem but after carefully serving two or three pints of beer, the yeast cake (US05)remained undisturbed at the bottom of the bottle and didn't make the beer any more cloudy than the first pint drawn off. This will make it a lot easier for me to package beer for beer/food pairings and also to transport to the restaurants.


The down side is that once you open the bottle be ready to consume it all before it looses its carbonation and have a friend or two around because a two liter bottle is a little more than four pints.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Suds On The Bay Beer Festival

Editors Note:This is guest post writer "Mom" who gives her review of the "Suds On The Bay". Ludington, Michigans first brew festival.


If you have never been to a beer festival now is the time to put it on your "to do" list. My friend Judy and I went Saturday night to "Suds by the Shore" in Ludington, Michigan. The crowd was a bit slim due to rain and cold weather. The ones of us brave enough to attend had such a great time. Spirits were high. Everyone was friendly and anxious to compare beers and discuss the making and adding flavor to the sudsy stuff.


Mom and Judy tasting beers

There were several bands (which were very good) adding joy to the occasion and there were even a few of us ventured to dance. There were 18 vendors. Each booth was decorated to attract our attention. Judy and I started with the light beers as Mark suggested.



Schmohz Brewing: "Pale Ale" (very good) and "Amber Teas" (somewhat bitter)


Kuhnhenn Brewing: "Lunie Kuhnie" (our favorite- light) and "Michigan Amber" (not too bad)


Magic Hat Brewing: "Light Wheat" (Yummy) and "Pale Ale" (close to yummy)


Goose Island Brewing: "Erbin Wheat" (very good and light)
and "Matilda Belgian Pale" (also very good)


Founders Brewing: Last tasting and we were starting to not be too sure of things. "Coffee-Chocolate" (at first not so good but it grew on me; Judy not so much) and "Spicey" (very very very good) and it had holapinia (jalapeno) peppers!



Best I can do with my notes having been written in the rain the pen didn't always print and I don't know how to spell those peppers, which I was not going to try cause I don't eat them cause they are too hot. But wanted to complete our tasting and was so glad I did . It was probably our favorite of all the beers we tasted. And I think we tasted them all. Hehehe.

We met people from Grand Haven, Spring Lake, and Grand Rapids as well as some locals. Ludington, Michigan city park was a perfect location. I am already looking forward to next years festival. Was it a success? Oh yeah! And best of all the proceeds went to United Way One of my personal charities.

Veronica A. Taylor

Monday, August 24, 2009

Take A Homebrew To Work Day

I was half way through my work day and just happen to be in close proximity to Seabright Brewery. It was a warm clear day and I was a little hungry and needed a break. I walked through the restaurant and headed directly to the patio area and had a seat at a table in the sun. I order the calamari and a pint of cream ale. When my beer came, I took a long drink and sat back to enjoy this satisfying event. I got to thinking about this mid day break and appreciating the freedom of working for myself.

Wieland's Brewery
Survived the 1906 quake but brought down by prohibition

Soon my mind wandered back to the days when I worked for 'the man' in the construction industry and I recalled a time when the boss generously took several of us out to lunch. We all sat together and I scanned my menu and my eyes locked on to the beer selection. I looked over the top of the menu and gauged the others.
"Would anyone dare order a beer?"
Not likely, not with the boss present. The fact is, even without the boss it would be unusual that one of us would risk getting a beer. It was really looked down on, and who can you trust to break the rules when it comes to co-workers anyway?

I waited on the boss to order first. If he ordered a beer, then it was as good as direct permission for the rest of us to imbibe. Unfortunately, he ordered a coke and so we followed suit accordingly. I wanted a beer with my lunch and I'm sure others in the group did as well, but it's an unwritten law (I'm assuming that it's unwritten) that there will be no beer drinking during the work day. It's not like I wanted to get drunk, just enjoy a cool reviving beverage with my well deserved break. Still, even a single pint was unacceptable and possibly cause for termination. I, like my fellow co-workers, came to accept, that it just wasn't done.

Now, sitting here at my local brewpub, taking another sip of my beer, I considered how lucky I was to be my own boss. Consistently giving myself permission to have a beer with my lunch. I thought about how it happened that the rules about beer in the work place came to be.
Relatively speaking, it was not that long ago in the history of this country that the blue collar work force drank beer with their lunch. It was considered an important part of the break during a hard days work.

Gregg Smith states in his book "Beer - A history of suds and civilization from Mesopotamia to microbreweries" that "...the amounts consumed (beer) during the workday made the three-martini lunch look like a warm-up. It was a custom brought over from Europe where laborers received drink as part of their wages. It was an almost universal feeling that they could not get through their day without refreshment to 'comfortably proceed in their works.'"
A ration of ale was common in the work place going into the 1700's.
The problems began when the workers increasingly abused the privilege and this behavior would eventually contribute to the temperance movement that culminated in the 18th amendment or prohibition. We're all familiar with the unfortunate history of the 18th amendment(the only amendment to be repealed by the way) which made it illegal to produce or consume alcohol. A cruel imposition that didn't go over too well with the general population and eventually the 21st amendment repealed the prohibition and things went back to the way they were. Or did they?

As I sat back and basked in the glory of a cool beer on a warm afternoon, thinking about how it is that I came to regard a beer at lunch as such a fundamental right. I started my own business and had to leave the security of work in the mainstream before gaining the perspective needed to realize that I was still suffering from the strictures of social norms established hundreds of years earlier. As I reviewed my place, it seemed I had lost a privilege and I didn't even know it except as a pang of guilt when I broke the rule and secretly tossed back a cool one with my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It's a shame really. I had lost my dignity, cowering around my lunch bag, ignorant of the rights that the labor class once enjoyed. A right that was inherent and accepted as proof of our humanity.

But, I'm speaking of my personal experience. Maybe this is not true for most and that I am projecting my bias onto a work force of which I've lost touch. Is it acceptable to have a beer at lunch before returning to the tools of manual labor? Does one order a beer at the working lunch without regard to the bosses sideways glance? I don't really know now that I have been self employed for many years. What I do know is that I will have a beer at lunch and even to this day feel that there is something not quite right about having it. It's feels taboo.

In any case, for my own well being, I've decided that it is time to make a serious effort of repairing the considerable psychic damage that has occurred to me (and the working class if it applies). My desire is to reclaim a small part of the lost liberty and restore a sense of acceptability when enjoying a beer with lunch. For this reason, I have taken it upon myself to proclaim today, Monday August Twenty fourth, 2009 as 'Take A Homebrew To Work Day'.

Do you have a beer with your work lunch? Leave a comment.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Decoction Mashed Dunkelweizen

This is my typical Dunkelweizen recipe that I went a step further with by performing a single step decoction mash in order to improve on the malty/caramel flavor component. After tasting the first sample of this revised brew, the results of the additional efforts were evident. Improved malt flavors with a smooth creamy mouth feel. The following is the recipe and the steps I took to brew it.

This Dunkel looks lighter because of back lighting



10gals. all-grain recipe.



efficiency 77%

attenuation 78%

abv 5.3%

ibu's 25

o.g. 1.050

f.g. 1.011


8lbs. 2-row

10lbs. malted wheat

.5 lbs. crystal #60

1.5lbs. aromatic

4 oz. chocolate

1 oz. black patent

*2 tsp. gypsum in mash


mash in 5 gal. h2o @120f. for 20 min.

pull 1/3 volume of mash and heat to 160f. rest for 20 min.

next, boil this portion for 20 min.then

add back to mash tun to bring full volume of mash to 154f., let rest for 30 min.

then sparge until you have 13 gals. liquid to begin boil.


60min boil

1.5oz. hallertau @ 7aa for 45min.

1.5oz. hallertau @ 7aa for 10min.


chill to 65f. and pitch stepped up whitelabs hefe IV yeast starter and ferment until complete.

keg and refrigerate/condition for 3 weeks.


This is a great summer time beer. Nice malty character with plenty of spicy phenolic qualities.

Low in alcohol makes this a very quaffable beer.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Stumptown Beer Festival


In the northern California town of Guerneville, Stumptown Brewery hosted another great beer festival, the Russian River Beer Revival and BBQ Cook Off, with over 30 breweries present and as many booths dispensing BBQ ribs and chicken. The weather was hot and clear as I made my way around to many of the food booths early on to get my belly full and ready to sample the wide selection of craft beers on hand.

Here's to beer!


Wine dipped BBQ oak chips

One of the BBQ booths that stood out, roasted their meat over oak chips salvaged from a local winery. The chips were used in the conditioning of a red wine and consequently had a dry purple powder coated on the exterior, residue from the process. The chef claimed the chips imparted the flavor of the wine into the cooking meat. I tried a piece and agreed although the flavor was subtle.


The crowd

Head brewer Alec Stefansky for Uncommon Brewers (far right)

Uncommon Brewers and Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing (a couple of my local breweries) were represented serving up Belgian style beers and organic beers respectively. Uncommon Brewers (dispensing from disposable plastic kegs) had a Baltic Porter that was an excellent example.
Nick Campbell, the brewmaster at Blue Frog was pouring a nice red ale and Dempsey's out of Petaluma had a dry, crisp pilsner on tap and of course, Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing was present with his obligatory 'Pliney the Elder'. Later in the day he poured a
blended sour beer that had the crowd lined up for the limited "Temptation" blond ale that was aged in oak barrels.


Publisher Tom Dolldorf spends a moment with Vinnie Cilurzo

Russian River's Sour Beer

There were other heavy hitters pouring including Bear Republic,Ruth McGowan's, 21st Amendment and Anderson Valley, to name a few. But the brewery that stood in the limelight for me was Speakeasy with their 'Black IPA'. This is an exceptionally tasty west coast style IPA with roasted grain giving the beer the appearance of a porter. I was so impressed with this beer that I had to approach the brewer John Gillooly to ask for the recipe. He was kind enough to give me his email and said he would help me out with reproducing this beer on a homebrew scale. My plan is to brew this at the local county fair where our homebrew club will brew each night of the fair. The day ended too soon but the beer was effecting mysense of purpose so after almost spilling a sample of IPA on Tom Dolldorf's fancy looking camera, I knew it was time to take my leave. We headed back down the central valley towards the smoke ladened hills of Santa Cruz where the wild fires continued to burn out of control.

Ruth McGowan head brewer Glen Uber serves up a 'Monster Brown'

Anderson Valley Brewing serving cans of beer

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Every Pitcher Tells A Story

Random Selection

I randomly reached for a glass from the crowded shelf to draw myself a pint of beer from my kegerator. I looked down at the glass tilted under the tap and saw that it was a Manny's Pale Ale glass from Georgetown Beer and a flood of memories came through that made me smile.


I made a couple of friends after moving up to Whidbey Island, Washington awhile back and taught them how to brew. We became good friends and over the year that I lived there we brewed and drank many good beers. We fished the banks of the Sound for salmon and laughed until the middle of the morning around the bonfire in the back of the house.


Later, I remember sampling beers with them at Georgetown brewing in Seattle one warm spring day. We were heading back to the Island after a run to Larry's Brewing Supply in Kent for homebrew ingredients (they wanted to jump right into all-grain brewing) and took advantage of our proximity to Seattle to stop in for some samples. As we entered the brewery, the excitement of the new brewing hobby shone on their faces and they seemed euphoric discussing the prospects of brewing gallons of home made beer.


Manny's Pale Ale is a favorite of mine, a good quality beer that is easy to quaff and doesn't ask for a lot in return. I enjoyed many a pint of this beer at the tavern in Langley where I lived. While at the brewery, I showed my appreciation by purchasing the pint glass before continuing on north where we stopped at the Diamond Knot Brewery in Mukilteo for an IPA while we waited for the ferry to take us home. The end of a satisfying day.


These memories, the connections to the past, caused me to realize the value of this collection of pint glasses that fill the cupboard shelves. Each glass has its own story to tell, along with events that define me as a homebrewer. They remind me of the pleasures of this hobby in a very personal way. I had this beer at this brewery. They validate the seriousness of my homebrew intentions and are milestones in my journey. They take up a lot of room but not without merit.


Over the years, my wife came to understand the importance of these decaled glasses that represent breweries from my travels but she can't fully appreciate them as I do, consequently, they take up residence in a cabinet in the garage with my brewing equipment. They don't qualify for the mundane respect that the juice glasses and tumblers command. It's a pity, but I understand. You really do have to walk a mile in my shoes to fully appreciate the journey.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Post Chiller - Chiller

If you live in a part of the country (or world for that matter) where the winters are mild and the summers can get quite warm, like here in Santa Cruz, Ca., then you may be struggling with cooling water that is not cold enough to do the job, especially during the summer.

There have been times when my tap water was 70f., causing not only the expense and waste of huge amounts of water to cool the wort, but the best cooling I could expect to get down to for the start of the fermentation was 70f. I had a small immersion chiller laying around in my pile of abandoned brewing gear from earlier days and decided to put it to use to further chill my already cooled wort.


By simply continuing the already cooled wort through a copper coil that is immersed in an ice bath, I can reduce even further temperature of the wort. I refer to this devise as a post-chiller.

As you can tell from the images, I pump the hot wort through a brazed plate chiller. I purchased the smaller version from
Morebeer.com and it will efficiently chill the wort but not with the pump open all the way. Don't get me wrong, it's a fine chiller but under normal summer conditions, I have to throttle back on the pump to slow the wort down to practically a trickle to get the exposure to the cool water to achieve the temperature that I want, a slow process, sometimes taking as long as an hour and many gallons of water.


(a true confession: I can be a real cheap bastard so I bought the smaller chiller because I didn't want to spend the extra money for the deluxe model thinking I could make the smaller one work.)


However, considering the temperature of the water, even with the expensive 'beefy' chiller, I would still end up, at best, matching the cooling water temperature but with the added benefit of cooling faster and consequently with a lot less water wasted in the process.


In any case, the way I get around this dilemma is by continuing the wort from the plate chiller on through a copper coil that is submerged in an ice bath. I can now pump the wort as fast as my little pump can go and the wort going through the copper coil gets reduced in temperature significantly. With this system of post chilling, I can easily achieve the desired 65f. degrees that I prefer for an ale.


Before using this system it is important that it is sanitized completely. I will use my pump to circulate a solution of sanitizer (iodine/water) from a bucket, though the plate chiller, hoses, post-chiller coil and back into the bucket of sanitizer. After a few minutes of circulation I will leave the solution in place until it is time to pump the wort through. Once I'm ready to chill the wort I attach the hose to the spigot on the boil pot, start the pump and run the wort though until it pushes all of the sanitizer out of the lines and then divert the flow of the wort to the fermenting vessel. I use an aeration devise on the end of the line that basically splashed the wort as it enters the fermenter.

When done, I again use the pump to clean out the chiller by circulating the sanitizer through the system.


I imagine there are other chiller ideas that are used to deal with summer temperatures. What's your process for chillin' in the heat?


Leave a comment.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sending Mom For The Beer


Try some of these Mom


I've convinced my Mom to check out the upcoming beer festival in her home town of Ludington, Michigan. This event will be going on in August and I can't get out there at this time. So I thought, what better way to get a unique take on a beer festival than by having someone unfamiliar with this kind of event but excited to learn a little more about beer, check it out and report back their findings in their own words.


Bless her heart, my Mom is not the heavy lifter when it comes to alcohol and except for when trying my homebrew, doesn't risk drinking anything more complicated than the familiar light American lagers (not that there's anything wrong with that). But she loves an adventure, and in fact has, at the age of 79 just learned to fly an airplane. When proposed as a challenge, she was more than willing to be part of this experiment. Attending in my place, she will be fresh eyes (just recovered from cataract surgery) into what for me has become a familiar event. She will also be helping me to gain insight and a new perspective of the festival from a lay(wo)man's approach to the craft beer movement, someone that isn't burdened by the compulsive/obsessive beer personality or 'beerality' like I am.


She will be armed with her camera and a provided (recommended) list of breweries to critique and report back about, including her personal experience of the day. The number of brewers listed on the website that will be in attendance is relatively short fortunately for my Mom, considering that she is probably only good for about six tasters before nap time disables her participation. I'll suggest she skip the A-B booth and concentrate on the micro brews.


I'm looking forward to hearing back from her about this adventure and will post the news right after the festival or when she regains consciousness. Which ever comes first.


If you go to this event which it happening on Sat. August 22nd., be on the lookout for Mom and if you see her, tell her I love her.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Filter Your Beer - If You Can

I normally don't bother filtering my beer. It usually clears nicely in the keg after a couple weeks of sitting under cold conditions in the kegerator. I add Irish moss in the last 15 minutes of the boil and with the aging in the keg, the beer is very clear after the first pint is drawn off, taking with it some yeasty dregs that settle near the pickup tube.

However, because the hobby of homebrewing for me is about trying different techniques and equipment, I decided to filter a couple of kegs to have the experience and witness personally the results of filtering. I chose a beer that was relatively young and one that I inadvertently forgot to add clarifying agents during the boil. It had some haze, more so than what I'm used to so this was a perfect candidate for my filtering project.

The process I used was typical, force the beer out of the keg through the filter and into a clean, sanitized and pressurized keg using c02.

I attached output ball lock connectors to the hoses that run to and from my filter. I placed a 1 micron filter in the filter canister. After attaching the connectors to the full and pressurized empty keg, I slowly released some pressure from the empty keg which allowed the beer to begin flowing. When I was done and had transferred all the beer into the new keg I examined the filter. It showed that a lot of particulate matter was trapped but after drawing off a pint and examining the freshly filtered beer, there was little evidence that the filtering had improved the clarity. The beer was slightly less hazing than before the filtering process. A good experience but hardly worth the effort.

I have been told that filtering the beer would strip the flavor in the process of clarifying but in this case it tasted the same and was just so slightly less murky.

Has anyone had success with this filtering business? Let us know how to do it with success.
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