Friday, April 20, 2012

Keggle Sight Glass Improved

I created my own homemade keggle sight glass a few years back. Since then it has performed pretty good with the exception of a single flaw. There is a plastic compression washer installed that forms a water tight seal around the ridged plastic tubing that you can see in the pics here.
The original gauge that broke under pressure

Because this area of the sight gauge is heated to sparge water temperatures (170f) and then cooled to room temperatures, the washer gets soft and a small leak (drip) occurs during my brew session. Not enough to be a problem but enough to annoy me. After multiple brew session, I end up over tightening the compression nut to solved the leak and as you can see in the picture, this practice eventually ended up breaking the tubing.




I came up with a solution to this problem while I was in Mexico this year. The fact is, I was trying to come up with an alternative to the ridged plastic tubing since I couldn't locate any in San Miguel. What I could find was the flexible tubing and so improvise a new gauge that could utilize this new material. It turned out to be a much simpler design but I had one big question, would it leak under brewing conditions? That I couldn't answer until I got back to Santa Cruz and tried it out on my brew sculpture.




New gauge assembled
New gauge with copper sleeve
You can see from the image on the right that I'm using the same copper sleeve, (the one I made a video of here) to hold the tubing in place. It slips nicely over the tubing and is held upright with the eye-bolt located above. This new design has a slight change to incorporate flex tubing rather than ridged. The tubing is forced onto a barbed fitting that is connected to the elbow. The elbow is connected to the keggle as before with a compression nut. That's it, simple. So, I did a test run today after installing this new sight glass. I added enough water to the keggle to rise above the gauge and then heated the water to 180f.

Tubing forced onto barbed fitting


It worked great. Water line is still very visible and although the tubing got soft in this high heat, it didn't leak at all and stayed securely in place on the barbed fitting.

If you've followed me in making my original sight glass and you're experiencing the same problem, an easy fix is making the adaptions to yours with a barbed fitting and flexible tubing that fits tightly. during assembly, I heated the tubing I used to soften it enough to make it easier to secure to the barbed fitting as it was very tight.

All of the parts shown are 3/8" including the barbed fitting. If you make one of these, let me know how the results were for you.


All parts are all 3/8" & washer should be semi-hard


 If you have any questions, feel free to email me. I also appreciate all comments. Cheers!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hoptologist DIPA

The best thing about returning from Mexico is access to the unbelievably large selection of the best beers in the world. While I applaud Mexico for taking its slow but tenacious initial steps towards breaking out of the dualistic stranglehold that is Modelo and Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma breweries, they have a very long way to go compared to the available beers here in California.  My head spins as I walk the isles of Whole foods or BevMo, overwhelmed with the plethora of stellar beers found locally and imported from around the world. I'm like a man dying of thirst when I return from San Miguel and realize how limited I've been for the past few months.

The first thing I reach for on the shelves of my local beer store is a double India pale ale. My desire for hops is a need that must be satisfied to fill the bitter (pun intended) void left by most of the Mexican beers I've been drinking. What caught my eye was Knee Deep's Hoptologist DIPA and although I'd never heard of it before, I took the chance that it was good based on the odd label image and the somewhat disturbing choice of a name for a DIPA.


As it turns out, this beer was delicious in all of the ways I like this style. The aroma was evident in the form of pine resin with some subtle fruitiness. Huge hop presence in the form of tasty grapefruit, tangerine and pine. Bitter sweet with caramel malts that tried their best to stand up to the crazy amount of hop flavor. Beautiful light copper color with a brilliant clarity. Knee Deep Brewing is out of Lincoln, California and began brewing in March of 2011. They are planning to eventually brew in Reno, Nevada at least they projected to move there by the end of 2011.

After searching around on the Knee Deep web site I found that this beer took first place in the double IPA competition during the S.F. beer week and held at The Bistro in Hayward, Ca.. Interestingly, followed by Pliney the Elder in second place. I have to admit that I've got a lot of respect and admiration for Pliney but I'm having to agree with the judges in this case and Hoptologist may be replacing Pliney as my 'go to' IIPA.

As a side note, I've got another beer tasting class scheduled for the end of April and am racking my brain to come up with a unique and hard to find selection of beers from the classic styles. I know that one for my list will be Knee Deep's Hoptologist. Cheers!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Micro Breweries in Mexico City

Before saying our sad goodbyes to Mexico and returning to California we made a plan to fly out of Mexico City (D.F.) and I made further plans to visit a couple of the local breweries while we were there. The last time I was in D.F. I did a whirlwind tour of the Modelo brewery and since then the craft beer movement has accelerated and the chance of drinking some flavorful small batch beer was at hand. I was going to take advantage of this new opportunity.

La Belga beer store
Staying in the Roma neighborhood of D.F. afforded me two breweries within walking distance of the hotel and after settling in and getting my bearings, I headed in the general direction of craft beer. Walking down Orizaba Street I took note that a number of the local drinking holes were offering a number of Mexican craft beers in bottles along with some imported beer. I even found a beer store that specialized in Belgian imports call La Belga. This was encouraging considering San Miguel has only one store 'The Beer Company' with a wide beer selection. I soon made it to my first destination, La Graciela.

La Graciela is a small beer bar that also brews very small (homebrew size) batches of beer that is bottle conditioned. As I approached, the first thing I notice was a small glass enclosed room within the facility that was home to the brewery. Proudly displayed in the front near the street entrance is a 'Brew Magic' ten gallon system and behind that, shelves containing bags of a variety of malts. The brewer was also imprisoned here and seemed preoccupied with his brewers log. I immediately ordered their beer even though the waiter let me know that they also had bottled beer from other breweries available. He came back shortly with a bottle of beer he said was a dunkel.

This was a bottle conditioned beer and curiously it had been stored (as evidenced by the yeast sediment that was adhered to the side of the bottle) laying down. This was unfortunate because the yeast dislodged as I decanted the beer causing the slurry to drop into my glass, releasing heavy carbonation along with a murky, foamy mess. The beer itself was enjoyable but did not qualify as a lager and the yeast lumps that floated and bobbed about did take away from my experience.

In the mean time, I discovered through conversations with the waiter that La Graciela is a side project of the much bigger brewery Primus and their Tempus label which in turn may actually be contract brewed by Minerva? I'm not sure, it's all very confusing since Minerva contract brews for so many Mexican craft labels along with importing some English and German beers like Fuller's and Erdinger. Does anyone know the full list of labels Minerva brews? (By the way, the Tempus Alt is a very good beer and true to style.) In any case, La Graciela's Dunkel was the only beer at that time that was brewed on premise and so I wasn't able to compare for a better impression. What is interesting about La Graciela and I give them credit for this is that they give brewing lessons on their in house system twice a month for those interested in learning on the Sabco brewery.

Alvaro Fernandez serves up a pale ale
Further down on the side street Queretero I located Micro Cerveceria La Fabrica.  The owner Alvaro Fernandez, a very friendly brewer and owner, generously offered samples of his creations while filling me in on the challenges for small brewers in D.F.

"Most of the stores that sell beer are controlled by the big boys Modelo and Moctezuma brands. Most store owners that sell beer are contracted by the mega breweries to sell their brands exclusively in exchange for some small perks like free refrigerators, chairs with the Modelo logo or umbrellas for their patio. Naturally, if you're a craft beer producer, it's impossible to get your beers into these local markets."

So, what is the small brewer to do? Well, in Alvaro's case you open your own store and sell direct to the public. The upside is that you get direct profit, the down side is you also get a limited market, very limited. In addition, you've got a huge expense to overcome in order to be visible. This is why La Fabrica has decided to improve their odds of success by selling other brands of beer along with a small menu of food in addition to his own brews, a pale ale and barley wine which are on tap. Alvaro brews on a 3bbl system and is in the business with two other partners.

I sampled his pale ale first and was struck by the subtle mescal like smoky quality. This beer is light, dry and refreshing. Unlike any pale ale I've had recently, the unique qualities were a pleasant surprise. Alvaro said his didn't use anything that would impart the flavors I was experiencing, as he brews with the traditional ingredients like pale and caramel malts along with Cascade hops. Then I tried a sample of his barley wine. Rich and malty with a big fruity complexity this beer was very satisfying and fit the style perfectly. Over 9% abv. this beer still came across as easy to drink with just a little of the alcohol presence. I liked this beer so much that I made a plan to return the following evening to enjoy a full glass or two.

I wasn't able to visit any other breweries as we didn't have much time but I will when I return next year. But for now, if you're in Mexico City I would highly recommend you visit La Fabrica for a truly authentic Mexican beer. Oh, his pizza is delicious too!

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