Sunday, May 29, 2011

Racking To Kegs And Forced Carbonation

I've been asked in the past what my process is for getting the beer into kegs and carbonating. As usual I like to make things as simple as possible on myself and that includes kegging. In the following video I try to show how easy it is to get from the fermentor to a fully carbonated keg in no time and with little effort.

Keep in mind that I don't ferment in carboys anymore and I also don't use a secondary which really reduces the amount of work I have to go through to get to the drinking stage of homebrewing. Enjoy this short video and let me know what you think (good or bad) or what I can do to improve the process.

For the directors cut of this facinating video, leave a comment below.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Beer Diary... At The NHC

The upside: I will be attending this years National Homebrewers Conference in San Diego in June to document as much of the activities as possible.

The downside: The American Homebrew Association would not kick down the press pass I requested like they did for me for the Great American Beer Festival last year.
Am I bitter?
Just a little.
I mean, I know that I'm not the biggest beer blogger out there but I try really hard. That has to count for something. Something like free admission.
'I don't get enough hits.' they said. Apparently, quality doesn't count for as much in their eyes.
How do I respond to this? Well, the day will come when I have thousands of hits and at that point I will refuse to accept a press pass. That's right, take that AHA!

But I plan to make the best of my trip and pass on as much information from the event to the readers of Beer Diary... as possible. My plan is to video some of the speakers presentations and maybe a few video interview from the floor during homebrew night where I plan to discover the best homebrewed beer.

My goal is to get the video and or pictures and commentary posted the evening of the particular event so that there is as close to a 'live' feed as I can get. This should be pretty interesting since I will most likely be on the better side of  toasted by the end of the day.

The reason I am posting this information today is that I am open to and looking for suggestions from you on how to approach this event. What would you like to get from my posts that you think would benefit you most?  Leave your suggestions in the comment section below. The 'Dude' abides.

Friday, May 20, 2011

American Wheat Recipe

One of my favorite beers and one that I brew regularly is a traditional German Hefeweizen with its phenolic spice character and banana esters. But, on occasion I enjoy the simple flavors of a straight forward American wheat beer (without the lemon wedge of course). I developed this recipe to mostly satisfy friends that aren't into the over the top hoppy beers that I love but want something that doesn't ask too much of the drinker. A crisp thirst quenching beer with a nice balance of wheat and malt and low hop bitterness that contributes a subtle piney quality.

11 gallons
Eff. 82%
Attn. 79%
ABv. 6%
IBU's 25
O.G. 1.058
F.G. 1.012

Mash at 152F. for 60 minutes in 5gal. h2o
13 lbs. malted wheat
7 lbs. 2-row
2 lbs. Munich

Fly sparge for 40 mins. with 10gals h2o at 170f.

Boil for 60 mins. with
1.25 oz. Chinook (11% aa) 60 min.
1.00 oz. Centennial (9%) 0 min.

Ferment with US05 dry ale yeast (I use 3 pkgs for a 11gal batch or rack to yeast cake for quick fermentation)
Ferment to completion and rack to keg, force carbonate and rest for one week. Serve.

This is a good introductory beer for those that are used to light lagers or Widmer Bros. wheat beer.
Let me know what you think?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Big Brew Re-cap 2011

I spent a little time down in Santa Barbara so I didn't get a chance to post this years pictures of the Big Brew event hosted Seabright Brewery. But, better late than never. A handful of the zymurgeek club members participated by demonstrating different ways of brewing a batch of beer, including three extracts types and four all-grain brews.

I decided not to haul my brew sculpture down there this year because it's a real pain to move around. Instead I mashed in a five gallon bucket and brewed a five gallon batch of Alt on a single burner. Easy and enjoyable and I got a great efficiency out of the bucket mash.
Seabright Brewery was generous to allow the use of their patio area and kept us happy with great beer. There was also a little homebrew to be had including Stout, Blonde ale and Lambik to name a few.
Aside from a stuck mash at one of the rigs, good time was had by all and another successful Big Brew. Looking forward to next year.
    Megan with an extract batch

Preparing  for a stuck sparge

Mashing in a bucket

Looking over the process

Mashing in

Zymurgeeks making beer

Monday, May 9, 2011

Life With A Homebrewer (part 2)

This guest post is by  artist Susan Dorf of

Shortly after we moved into our apartment, the maintenance guy showed up to install some window screens. Entering the kitchen, his jaw dropped as he encountered the kegerator, filling up the spot that the manager had so fondly called 'the breakfast nook' when she gave us a tour of the place. It sits on an oil pan we found at a yard sale, it's classic tap handles from various breweries begging to be pulled to deliver a nice tall cool one. The entire front surface of the kegerator is plastered in bumper stickers from every brewpub, homebrew supplier and brew festival Mark has ever attended, and include slogans such as "I Brew, Therefore I Am," Brew Naked," and "Beer. It's not just for Breakfast anymore."

The maintenance guy lets out a low whistle. "Wow," He says. "My wife would NEVER let me have one of those in the kitchen." Really? I think. You mean, I have a choice? Because it never occurred to me that I could actually refuse. Is there a woman alive who can stand in the way of a man possessed by homebrewing beer? If so, I might like to meet her. I would like to shake her mighty hand.
Because we have moved several times in the past several years I have become familiar with the way his mind works. We find a house we like, and while I am pondering which way we should face the bed or where the bookshelf would fit, Mark is figuring out where the brew sculpture will live, and if the kitchen cabinets can possibly hold all of his beer glasses, or will he have to build more shelves to contain them? He figures the coat closet will be big enough to store his bottles and hoses in, and asks if he can he use the cheese compartment in the fridge to store his pellet hops and yeast.
He can see by the size of the deck that he will have room to brew, but will the chiller discharge hose reach all the way across the living room into the kitchen sink or will he have to get a longer one?
This is a dance we do, this vying for territory that is never quite large enough for our needs but is all we can afford, and any lines I try to draw may as well be drawn in the sand during a windstorm, as I soon find myself tripping over brewing paraphernalia and beer related ingredients begin to spill over from the cheese drawer and into the refrigerator door racks and half the freezer as well.

While I am constantly wishing for more space to create art and longing for the perfect studio, Mark seems to enjoy the challenge of making any place a viable brew space. He has brewed beer out of a tamale pot in a tiny concrete patio in Mexico, outside in the snow on Whidbey Island, in the driveway of a rented condo in Santa Cruz. Sometimes I wonder if he actually relishes the challenge of making it work in what to me seem like impossible circumstances, and I actually envy his drive and persistence.

But when exactly does a passion become obsession? When is enough enough? Is it the moment when he begins to mumble in his sleep about how he has to step up the yeast on his latest brew, or when the question becomes not IF he can use the bathtub to store a few extra kegs, but WHEN?

To see more of Susan's writing on this blog, go to  "Life With A Homebrewer" here.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Zunft Kolsch Review

As summer brings in the warmer weather it's time for quenching my thirst with the lighter styles of beer. I've spent the last couple of months brewing beers that I can enjoy in the heat. One of those is an American wheat beer and another is a cream ale similar to a light lager but fermented with ale yeast. Once these are conditioned and ready for quaffing I'll review and give the details on the recipes but in the mean time here is a commercial example of a perfect summer time beer that I've always enjoyed, Kolsch.

The following is some information provided by the German Beer Institute. In a country dominated by lagers of all strengths and colors, the modern Kölsch (the beer) is Germany's only true, all-barley, pale ale. The other German pale ale is, of course, the Bavarian Weissbier or Weizen, made mostly from wheat. Although Kolsch fits in the ale category it is unusual in that it is cool-fermented and then aged and mellowed (or "lagered") near the freezing point.

This brew represents one of the major beer styles of the world. This is so mainly, because there is no ale quite like it. It has ancient roots and is a great quaffing beer, especially for a summer thirst. Kölsch is very subtle and delicate. It is light in both body and appearance, its maltiness is subdued, and its hoppiness is unobtrusive. Like the Helles from Bavaria, it is straw-blond, but with a bit more effervescence. Unlike any of the German blond lagers, however, Kölsch imparts some noticeable ale-type fruitiness on the palate.

Zunft Kolsch has a lager like quality in that it is crisp and dry with low hop bitterness and some fruitiness. Thirst quenching and easy to drink. Zunft has a malt forward presence and a slight graininess. Crystal clear with a very light gold color the white head dissipates quickly. This is a very refreshing beer and the only detractor that I experienced was a metallic taste that cold be the results of the water chemistry or oxidation.

Interesting thing about Kölsch is that it's a "Controlled Substance" Kölsch is one of the few beers styles that has a regional appellation similar to an appellation d'origine contrôllée in wine. The Kölsch appellation is recognized by the German government, which means that only about two dozen brewers located in Cologne and its immediate vicinity may legally call their beers Kölsch.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Beer Reverie

Sometimes, while in the middle of doing something mundane like driving out of Santa Cruz on highway 1 at stop and go speeds, my mind wanders and takes me on an equally mundane journey through random memories and I lose my sense of reality. I drift aimlessly between thoughts of my most recent behavior of the previous night at the brewpub, including all the sordid details that led me to believe I lack any redeemable qualities. I don't think I was being inconsiderate, just misunderstood but it left me feeling alien.
This prompted a flash back to an earlier time in my life, I think I was eight. My father yanked on the newly mended broken arm that I'd been nursing for weeks after the cast was removed, trying to force it back to bending naturally. Later, I clutched it bent to my chest and supported it at the wrist in the exact position it was in while bandaged. It ached and I was certain that even the slightest bending motion would snap the freshly knitted bones again and the memory of that original pain lived on in my arm with vengeful persistence. Did I misunderstand my father? Was he concerned with helping strengthen my newly healed limb with some sort of forced rehabilitation or was he simply inconsiderate? Is this the original cause for the inconsideration that now shows up in my behavior? I'm sure there's more to it than that.

I snapped back from my reverie and for a moment, focused on my driving. It was late afternoon and the heat of the day was in full progress. The sound of the passing traffic made me turn to see the tired faces of people around me going to who knows where, and for some reason this brought me to the recent memory of the carton of soy milk I left out on the kitchen counter. I knew that Susan would put it back in the fridge after she fixed her morning tea. This led to the concern that it would be hard for her to find a place on the shelf for it because I had crammed every available space that morning with cases of bottled beer for an upcoming beer tasting I was to conduct. I pushed dairy products, bread bags and other miscellaneous food stuff to the sides with aggressive force. Now, large bottles of Belgian ales and six packs of homebrew crowded the chilled real estate. The recognition of this one selfish act struck me as a single example representing a catalog of numerous lines I've crossed over in our domestic agreements, infringements that brought me to ask myself where my values lie.

At the time, I justified to myself that it wouldn't be long before I relinquished the unfair portion of space I claimed, but I didn't think it through further than the end of that silent statement. A day, a week, it didn't matter to me, because this was highly valuable beer for God's sake, and stood on it's own merit as deserving of priority over the blocks of cheese and plastic tubs of leftovers. Who could question its importance, giving it the authority to occupy with impunity. I tried to disregard the shadow of concern that lingered, a concern that insisted that I'd pushed the boundaries of consideration. That common if unspoken agreement between couples that the refrigerator is a shared place and shouldn't be taken for granted much less taken over. This all occurred to me between thoughts as I idled in my car, too late now that the deed was done of course. In fact, much too late, relative to the relationship 'time/space' continuum.

In my defense, I realized how it's an unnatural state for me to behave with thoughtful and compromising behavior in regards to others or with selfless generosity. Regrettably, preemptive consideration is a foreign land, inhabited by other people. I live just outside there in a place I like to call, Me.  Most of the time, thinking of others occurs to me as an afterthought, slow, deliberate and under pressure, like gas bubbles rising from a pr-historic tar pit. Still, I console myself, it's something isn't it? To have regret, even as an afterthought. It's often the case that I spend a lot of time later trying to correct the damages caused by my disregard. Better than nothing, I tell myself. Better than being inconsiderate and not caring at all.

Well, as late and slow as I am, I do care about how I effect others, which led me to believe that my internal concern was enough to correct the wrong action. Isn't that enough?
I thought, wouldn't she recognize that I have feelings of remorse and regret and she'd say to herself, in the voice of someone trying to prevent their new puppy from peeing on the rug:
'Look at him having those concerned thoughts, what a good boy. He's experiencing such discomfort over taking up all that room in the refrigerator. He must feel really bad about that and you know what, I forgive him, don't I. Yes I do.'
Is that such a weird fantasy? Maybe it happens like that for some, I don't know.
The unfortunate part of this line of thinking is that it led me to some serious self reflection and to wonder where my priorities lie. Does my passion for all things beer related over shadow the importance of a relationship that I highly value? I have to be honest, this is a tough question and deserves to be looked at carefully and with deep intent.

On the one hand, I've got a relationship that is loving and satisfying on all kinds of levels, too numerous to elaborate here, (even though I'm sure Susan would like me to). On the other hand, the passion I have for beer and all things that define what beer is to me can and often does take precedence over some important domestic responsibilities. Fortunately,  I don't have to chose between my relationship with beer and my wife, I can have both. But if someone held a gun to my head and made me choose between the two, I'd probably think long and hard. In fact, chances are that I'd think too long and have to take a bullet for my effort.

Am I alone here? Leave a comment.

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