Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Big Brew Recipe Changes

I'll be participating in the 'Big Brew' event this coming weekend of May 2nd along with several other Zymurgeek club members http://www.zymurgeeks.org/ We'll be setting up our rigs in the parking lot of one of the micro-breweries here, the Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Co. http://www.santacruzmountainbrewing.com/ at 9am. I decided to brew the recommended Saison recipe that is posted at the Brewers Association web site http://beertown.org/events/bigbrew/ but with a few modifications to suit a couple needs.

One being a personality traits that can only be described as 'cheap', the other is the need to use the materials that I have on hand. For the cheap part, I have decided to just get some oatmeal and puffed wheat from the grocery store instead of paying more for flaked oats and flaked wheat at the local home brew store.

Secondly, and this may also fall into the cheap category, I don't have any 'Vienna' grain and can't get it before Saturday so, I figured that a 50/50 blend of Munich and Pilsner malt ought to fit the bill. The rest of the recipe will remain the same although I will be scaling back 5% overall for the grain because my efficiency is typically 80%-85% and the recipe is based on a 75% efficiency. Hope you all enjoy your Big Brew day! Cheers.

Yeast from Whitelabs

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

IIPA Using Sorachi Ace

It was necessary to substitute some hops in my Double India Pale Ale recipe and I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome using the hops with the lemony flavor.

Normally, I use a lot of Warrior, Simcoe and Columbus in this brew but I had a difficult time finding any Warrior or Simcoe this time around so I had to come up with an alternative plan. I had heard a lot about the new Sorachi Ace hop that claims to have a distinct lemon flavor and aroma and decided to give it a try along with some reliable standards (Cascade and Amarillo) to formulate a strong IPA recipe. Well, this is a great beer and it is true that the Sorachi imparts a serious dose of lemony goodness. I also used the 'Wet' dry hopping schedule on this beer with excellent results.

For 10 gallons of beer:


  • 23lbs. 2-row
  • 1.5lbs. Carapils
  • .5lbs. Cry #60
  • 3ozs. Sorachi Ace hops (in mash)

    in 7.5 gals. H2O @ 152f. with 2 tsp. gypsum for 60mins. 85% efficiency

Boil for 90mins (180 IBU's)

  • 1oz. Cascade (7aa) 90mins.
  • 5oz. Sorachi ((10aa) 90mins.
  • 1.5oz. Cascade 45mins.
  • 1.5oz. Sorachi 45mins.
  • 2.5oz. Amarillo (8aa) 30mins.
  • Irish moss 15mins.
  • 4oz. Amarillo 2mins.
  • 2oz. Sorachi 2mins.

Ferment on yeast us05 yeast cake from previous pale ale.

  • Original Gravity 1.076
  • Final Gravity 1.012
  • ABV 8%
  • SRM 8
  • Attenuation 84%

Racked to kegs after primary fermentation of 7 days and forced carbonated. Chilled and dry hopped in tea ball, .5oz. Sorachi ace for 4 days.

I would highly recommend using the Sorachi Ace if you like the citrus/lemon flavor and aroma in your pale ales and IPA's. This beer is very quenching and refreshing. The difficult part is remembering that it packs 8% alcohol by volume. The other 'up' side to this story is that the Sorachi Ace is relatively cheap. I payed $23 for a pound of it from Hops Direct. http://www.hopsdirect.com/

Questions or comments are always welcome.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Zymurgeeks at the Capitola Book Cafe

In an effort to create community and to support a local business, the Zymurgeek homebrew club http://www.zymurgeeks.org/ gave a presentation Wednesday night at the Capitola Book Cafe http://www.capitolabookcafe.com/ drawing a large and supportive crowd. With the rapid expansion of on-line book sales through businesses like Amazon and mega retailers like Borders, the small local book stores are fighting an up hill battle to keep their customer loyalty and entice new patrons. As unfortunate as this is, it is becoming the norm regarding small, independent retailers of all kinds and can be seen in every town in America. It seems the days of small town America are over. I'm not going to belabor a point that has been hashed and re-hashed in the daily news and blog forums and is obvious to most but, I will point out that when a person buys goods on line or from a gianormous box store, the money spent leaves the community, etching away at the local commerce. This erosion of the local economy not only effects every ones financial livelihood but maybe more importantly, undermines the quality of our lives by creating a separation that isolates us from each other.

To begin the evening, several members gave talks on beer taxes and the daunting prospects for a huge tax increase in Oregon followed by a brief overview of how to get started brewing with malt extract. As the presenters talked, a variety of brewing books were discussed and pointed out as available to purchase or special order. A large number of books were taken home that evening.

Then we poured home brew to all interested. We had about 8 kegs of beer on tap and a keg of mead all donated by the club members. The audience was impressed and lingered to taste and ask questions about home brewing, the club and our connection with the Capitola Book Cafe. At the end of the evening, we gathered our mostly empty kegs to head home and congratulated each other on a successful event. I look forward to the next opportunity to build alliances, and connect with my neighbors while supporting a local business through home brewed beer.

Comment below to share your ideas of creating community.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Brewing Classes 2009

Just a short note for all of the readers that are living in the Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay area. The 5 day intensive home brewing classes will begin the last weekend of May and I would encourage those of you that missed the deadline last September, to sign up early.

Go here http://www.cabrillo.edu/services/extension/culinary.html to register. I hope to see you there.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

"Wet" Dry Hop Experiment

Hello, my name is Mark and I'm a 'hop head'. I have to admit, when it concerns my pale ales, a serious charge of late addition hops is a flavor I relish in my west coast style ales.

I really enjoy my India Pale Ales and double IPA's and sometimes (depending on the recipe) my pale ales with an addition of hops in the keg after carbonation. My dry hopping procedures have gone through an evolution over the years and for the moment, I believe I have reach the apex of my late hopping success.

As I consider my earlier brewing experiences, I recall my original technique was to place a fist full of pellet hops in a hop bag, drop in a kitchen utensil like a table knife (don't tell my wife) to weight it down and wedge the bag into the carboy I used as my secondary fermenter. At the time, it served me relatively well. That was during the short and painful period that I bottled my beer. As time went on, the kegerator pushed bottling out of the equation and I opted for going from my primary fermenter directly to the kegs. This forced me to dry hop in the keg. Well, dropping a loaded charge of weighted hops to the bottom of a keg can quickly plug the tube that brings beer to my mug. I didn't like that idea much. My old ways needed to be revised again, so I tied a length of waxed dental floss to the bag (thanks B.P.), lowered the bag inside the keg to within several inches of the outflow tube and tie off the other end to the handle of the keg. With the lid securely in place and the keg pressurized I was soon enjoying my beer again, and the world was at peace. The down side was the sometimes astringent, vegetal, grassyness that this system caused.

I needed a new plan. So where does a perplexed homebrewer go for a solution to these dilemmas? Your brew club members for one and your on-line homebrewing community of course. In this case, I read about a process on one of the discussion board, http://www.hbd.org/ or http://www.homebrewtalk.com/ or http://www.tastybrew.com/ or maybe all of them over time and I discovered the idea of the 'wet' dry hopping. From what I could gather after reading many postings, hops are placed in hot water (170f.) for a period of time and then put in the keg along with the cup or so of hop liquid. I had to try.

With my recent 'Pliney the Elder' IIPA clone in the keg, I followed the steps, placing 1/2 oz of Sorachi hops in a cup of hot water for a period of time and then into a s.s. tea ball that I dropped into the keg along with the hop/water 'soup' that I collected. The results..... a nice intense hop flavor and aroma but with a very integrated flavor and mouth feel. None of the astringency or grassyness that I have experienced when using the hops directly. A very pleasant experience. I highly recommend this technique and welcome your personal experience. Leave a comment.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Value Of A Homebrewing Club

The Zymurgeeks homebrew club http://www.zymurgeeks.org/ met at my house a couple of weeks ago and afterwords it got me thinking about the value and importance of brewing clubs and why I think a homebrewer should join their local brew club.

When I first started brewing beer at home I heard through the local homebrew store that a homebrewers group existed in the area. I'm not much of a joiner and tend to

be suspicious of the idea that groups of people are able to collectively accomplish anything of value. I tend to be of the opinion that the larger and more urgent the group, the more adverse the impact on the rest of us. So of course I didn't see the point in participating at the time. I'm not sure what compelled me to go to that first meeting, it most likely was cautious curiosity. Whatever the reason, I showed up and let down my guard.

In retrospect I now see the importance of involving myself with my fellow homebrewers. A large part of the development of my homebrewing skills is from the direct influence of members in my club. Their sincere approvals when I shared a particularly good beer I made and the hesitant criticisms when it was lacking. I've learned to consider it all. Conversely, through the course of my years of membership, I have acquired the subtle art of critiquing fellow members brews with honest opinions while being constructive and sensitive (a good thing to know how to use in my everyday life). The shared information from members that have been brewing far longer than I, was and still is very helpful in my ongoing brewing development. In fact each member, whether a seasoned veteran or novice newbie is a valuable asset in terms of the wealth of knowledge and information that they bring to the collective. Additionally, friendships grow from sharing our ideas and of course our homebrew.

Other important incentives to joining a homebrew club are:

  • the occasional opportunities to exchange equipment and materials. The grain mill I use today is one I got from another member for $20. It took a little renovation, but works like a charm.

  • having a resource for qualified and valued opinions about your beer. Several of the member of Zymurgeeks are competition judges.

  • a place to give back to the homebrewing community by helping others. Regularly, different members will volunteer to make the long journey to the wholesaler for group buys.

  • staying informed about brewing events and competitions

  • challenging your personal limitations in a group of supportive peers.

  • learning from others experiences to keep from making the same mistakes.

  • getting to check out other brewers gadgets and beer making do-dads.

  • participating in pub crawls and brewery tours. If you work it right, you won't have to drive, freeing you up to indulge.

I'm sure I haven't covered all the reason for being in a brew group but these are enough for me to participate despite my reservations about groups.

Please add to the list of reasons in the comment section.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Make Your Own Keggle Sight Glass

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With some simple tools and a little basic understanding any one can make a sight glass for their keggle or pot in a couple hours time. Below are pictured the parts (sorry about the pic quality) that are available at the local hardware store with the exception of the clear plastic tube which can be found at a plastics place.

3/8" compression
1/2" compression with plastic sleeve and nut
15" of copper pipe 1/2" with 1/2" cap (grind to within 1" at each end)
14 3/4" plastic tubing 1/2" outside dimension
1/2" x 1/2" female elbow
1/2" male pipe thread x 1/2" compression adapter
1/2" male pipe thread x 3/8" compression adapter
1/2" o-ring or similar washer
3/16" eye bolt with 2 nuts

The first step is to cut a length of 1/2" copper pipe to 15" and grind the copper down the length so that you go through the pipe leaving a narrow channel. I used a table top belt sander for this process. Before you start grinding, mark with a sharpie two lines 1" from each end. This will keep you from grinding off the metal too close to the ends. As you grind or sand away the material keep track of how deep you have gone, at a certain point you will have sanded through the body but a thin layer of copper will still be covering this area and you should scrape or cut this material out so you can see your progress better. The idea is to get a straight even channel cut out stopping short of each end. To see a video on making this extruded copper piece, go here. When the grinding is done, the hard part is over. Solder the 1/2" cap to one end. If you don't solder, it's no problem, just crimp the cap very slightly and press in place. Next, after applying teflon tape, screw the 3/8" and 1/2" compression adapters into the 1/2" elbow and tighten. Next, slip the 1/2" nut and plastic sleeve onto the plastic tubing and secure the tubing to the adapter that is now in the elbow. You can now slip the copper tubing over the plastic tubing.

You will need to drill a 3/8" hole in your keggle or pot to attach the elbow. I positioned mine low on the keg but above the radius area, where the side get flat (if that makes sense). I drilled a 3/16" pilot hole followed by the 3/8" bit. Some suggest using oil or water where you drill the hole to help in the process but I just drill through and had no problem. You also need to drill a 3/16" hole in the upper apron of the keg to install the eye bolt. This should be directly above the other hole and the eye bolt will be installed here to hold the upper end of the sight glass in place.

Place the rubber washer on the 3/8" compression adapter and push threaded portion through the keg. From the inside of the keg, attach 3/8" compression nut and tighten. Install eye bolt over the top of the sight glass. You will adjust the depth of the eye bolt by first screwing on one of the nuts then after pushing the eye bolt through the hole you drilled and attaching the other nut on the inside of the apron. Loosen or tighten the outer nut to adjust the depth.

That's it. You now have a sight glass. I hope the
pictures help because after reading what I just
wrote, even I am confused. Good luck. Since this post I've come up with an alternative that is better and easier.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comment area below.
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