Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bronco Pump Modified

Some of my best brewing equipment I've found either at garage sales or the flea market. Two of my keggles I saw while wandering the isles of the flea market here in Santa Cruz and another at the scrap metal yard on Whidbey Island in Washington. I also found a cool thermometer at a boat salvage place and the item I'm about to talk about here, I got at a neighborhood rummage sale.

Mixed in with a collection of household items I came across an old Bronco Pump. These are the pumps that you see at every kegger party you've ever attended. Off to one side, a keg rests in a garbage can of ice where invariably you'll see someone holding a cobra tap over their red plastic beer cup while their friend frantically pumps down on the Bronco to get the beer flowing. Practically speaking the Bronco pump is used to force air down onto the head space above the beer in the keg creating the pressure that forces the beer out to the tap. The upside is that this is an easy tool for the typical person to use, the downside is that exposing the beer to air causes it to spoil and so must be consumed by the end of the party (maybe that's an upside too). In any case, I decided to take my new found treasure and make a minor modification in order to use it with a co2 system.

The first step was removing the plastic housing, items 1 through 5 (the part that the user would press down on) which proved to be the hardest part of this project. I had to literally break the thing apart to remove it. Once that was off I could get to the one-way valve and o-ring which sets below the housing and held in place under a metal plate. Looking at the attached images you can see four Phillip screws that originally held the plate in place. I removed and discarded both the plate and the valve and o-ring (refer to items 17 & 18 on the parts list). The hole in the body of the pump that held the now missing valve was slightly smaller than 1/4" and allowed me to use a 1/4" tap to create threads. I could now screw in a 1/4" barbed fitting to accept the co2 line. The other barbed fitting coming out the side of the body would still be used as designed, with a beverage line out attached and a cobra tap at the end of that just like is shown on the picture above. As an added bonus the Bronco pump that I found is of a slightly different design than the one shown in the diagram here because it has a co2 release valve on the opposite side of the body as the beverage out line.

This is a convenient tool to have considering I've got a 15.5 gallon Sanke keg along with a couple 5 gallon Corny kegs that have been adapted as Sanke's.

I hope to put this equipment into use soon by kegging my next batch of beer into the modified Corney/Sanke kegs. I'll keep you posted on how well that works.

Do you have any equipment or tool modifications you'd like to share. Leave a comment. Cheers!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Imperial IPA With Honey

I'll be brewing this recipe on Wednesday as I get ready for my all-grain class in two weeks. I want to have some beer in a secondary in order to show the students the process of racking to and force carbonating a keg. I'll also be serving this beer (along with a previously brewed hefeweizen) at a homebrew and music event in Santa Cruz in August so I want to make something special.

The idea behind this beer is to create a quality IIPA in line with a Pliney clone but a little more alcohol, alternative hops based on what I've got on hand and with the added dimension of blackberry honey flavor. My plan is to add the honey at flame out. Word on the homebrew street is that honey should be added to the fermentor to retain the highest level of flavor but I'd prefer to add this at flame out in order to provide a more subtle flavor profile, I still want the hops to be the major player.

Blackberry honey

This will be a single infusion mash utilizing mash hops with an expected efficiency of 85%, followed by a 60 minute boil.

Grain bill for 11 gallons:
22 lbs. 2-row
1.25 lbs. carapils
.75 lbs. crystal #15
.75 lbs. crystal #60
.5 lbs. Victory
3 oz. Calypso hops

Boil 60 minutes with:
60 mins. 2 oz. Chinook 10%aa 27% util. for 40 ibu's
30 mins. 4 oz. Cascade 5.5%aa 18% util. for 28 ibu's
10 mins. 2.25 oz. Calypso 14%aa 9% util. for 20 ibu's
5 mins. 3.25 oz. Galena 10% aa 4% util. for 10 ibu's
1 mins. 1 oz. Calypso 14%aa 0% util. for 2 ibu's
0 mins. 1 oz. Calypso 14%aa 0% util. for 0 ibu's
0 mins. 1 oz. Galena 10%aa 0% util. for 0 ibu's

Cascade hops

Add 4 lbs. Blackberry honey at flame out.
chill, oxygenate with O2 and pitch 2 pkgs of US-05 dry yeast. Ferment at 65f.

Efficiency 85%
Attenuation 80%
Abv 8.5%
Srm  9
Ibu's 103
O.G. 1.085
F.G. 1.016

I'll try to follow up on how effective I was on brewing this beer and whether it turns out good or not. I'm also planning on dry hopping this beer in the keg when it's ready to serve.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Firestone Walker's Wookey Jack

Firestone Walker Brewing Company's Wookey Jack is a black IPA with malted rye. It's 8.3% abv level seems high to be referred to as an IPA but I'm not complaining here. However, I would qualify this beer as more of a Russian imperial stout with it's overtones of late hop earthiness, citrus aromas and the dry complex spice component. This is a viscous beer that generates a massive tan head that lingers. It has that rich, brown sugar bittersweet flavor along with the full mouthfeel that I find in the classic RIS's like Old Rasputin. This is a very enjoyable beer which is not surprising considering FW's reputation for excellent beers. I was actually surprised to find that it isn't barrel aged and I think that if it were, that added dimension would put it over the top in terms of great beers.

In the mean time, and halfway through the bottle on an empty stomach I read at the FW website that they state: "Watch for 'bottled on dates' located on the necks or bottom left corner of the label for each of our beers.  ....this ensures freshness and ultimately a great Firestone Walker beer!"
My bottle had the Bottled On:  and then a blank space for the date so I'm not sure of it's age but it triggered some odd paranoia in me that started me thinking about something else on their website. They list the ingredients like rye, wheat, de-bittered black and conclude with "Wookey dust". Well, this secret Wookey dust ingredient had me worried. I'm not a big Star Wars fan but I know that Chewbacca didn't appear to be the most sanitary of aliens. I hate the idea of having some of that scaly dandruff, combed out of his oily matted hair and then pitched into the fermenting beer. Now that I think of it I'm putting the pieces together, Rasputin had that Wookey look about him. Hmmm, makes me wonder about the relationship. Wookey dust or Rasputin dust.
Wow this is good beer! Judging from what I just wrote, that dust may just be hallucinogenic.

Get some today, I bought mine at Whole Foods for 6 bucks. Cheers!

By the way, here's another thought on the name Wookey. Just sayin'.

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