Archive for the ‘Homebrew talk’ Category

This Friday I will be brewing my first Belgian Dubbel/Strong or somewhere in between.  I recently read Stan Hieronymus’ “Brew Like a Monk” and, wow, what a fabulous read.  It’s not a book that teaches you recipes.  It teaches you why monks brew beer, when they started doing it, and the standards and practices they use to consistently brew some of the best beer in the world, with a faint guideline of how some of the best breweries formulate their recipes.

Between this book and much online reading I’ve come to decide on a couple things.  I’m going with a base Belgian Pilsner malt.  I am going to flavor with varying amounts of Munich, Caramunich, and Special B malts.  I am striving to keep the grain bill simple.  From the extensive interviews I’ve read, it’s best to keep the malt bill simple and let the yeast do the work.  I’m going to use Saaz as both a bittering and flavoring hop as well.

In my quest to formulate my recipe, I happened upon an article about making and using homemade Belgian Candi Syrup (something that’s not readily available in the states) to make amazing flavors happen in my brew.  Belgians use anywhere from 15-30% sugars in their beers.  It’s how they keep the beer amazingly complex and full of caramel/rum/raisin/fig/dark fruit flavors without the beer becoming too cloying or sweet.  Here’s a link to the article on how to make Belgian Candi Syrup. The process involves cooking sugar and water to certain temperature points with the addition of Di-Ammonium Phosphate yeast nutrient (DAP).  The phospates in the DAP cause the sugars to undergo a Mallard reaction instead of caramelizing.  This is beneficial because when sugars caramelize they lose a lot of their fermentability, which means the yeast can’t eat it and the beer will end up way to sweet.  The Mallard reaction makes it so that the sugars still gain the caramel-esque flavors without losing their ferementability, leaving the sugar just as fermentable as it was before cooking it.  I’m a scientist though, so, this stuff makes me naturally giddy.

Mine turned out amazing.  Has a wonderfully sweet taste with a slight tartness really reminiscent of caramelized figs.  Here’s a pic of what I ended up with.


Keezer Build

Posted: September 13, 2010 in Homebrew talk

It’s been a while in the planning, but I’m finally going to build my keezer (a kegerator built into a chest freezer for those of you who don’t know).  It should be able to hold 4-5 corny kegs with a collar.  I’m only going to install 3 taps to start, but would eventually like to upgrade to 4 total (at least).  It is on this page that I will continually update my Keezer building progress.

(This is not my keezer…just posting a picture of someone who built the same unit until I can get my project up and going)

GE 7.0 cu ft chest freezer from Home Depot

09/13/10 – I ordered my chest freezer today, but because of needing someone to be at home on the proposed delivery dates from home depot, I won’t be able to get it delivered until 10/09/10.  I’m most likely going to order most of my parts before then, but I won’t be posting any build pics until after that point because I need a freezer to work with as a starting point.  Can’t wait to get this thing going.  Another good thing about this is that I’m going to brew a Helles (my first lager) now that I’ll have a temperature controlled unit to do it in.

10/18/10 – Ok so over a month later…My keezer is almost done and I’m just waiting for a few more parts to come in.  I should be serving beer out of it in a week!  I decided…I’m not going to bore you with details.  Here’s a bunch of pictures for your enjoyment.

10/29/10 – Besides the set of secondary regulators that I’m going to add with a 2 way CO2 distributor, my kegerator is finally DONE!!!  It looks beautiful and is far beyond what I could ever have hoped for.  I have all the lines ready and it is set up for 5 kegs.  I’m tapping my first keg of Gumballhead on Sunday after I run my half marathon.  Pictures posted above for your enjoyment.



My new Bazooka Screen

Posted: July 18, 2010 in Homebrew talk

I was looking to upgrade my mash tun with a false bottom instead of the MacGyver’d stainless steel mesh hose I had in there.  I read a little bit about it and found that sometimes false bottoms are a pain to get in and out of the tun and sometimes float up in the mash.

I found an alternative that cost about half as much at $17.95 (+$4 I had to spend to buy a 1/2″ x 3/8″ FIP reducing coupler to fit it to my setup).  It is a Bazooka Screen (pictured below installed in my mash tun).  Bazooka screens are typically used to brew pots with ball valves and spigots to stop hop sediment from going through to the fermenter.  Alternatively, you can install them in your mash tun to use them in place of a false bottom or mesh hose that I had been using before.

I was supposed to brew today and test it out today, but due to a Bachelor party yesterday I’m going to have to brew tomorrow instead.  I’ll test the Bazooka screen out on my Bavarian Hefeweizen and post details on efficiency and how well it worked.

Just a quick post.

I ordered some whole dried hops for the first time from  I got them in the mail today and feel like a drug trafficker.

I am going to use them to dry hop my Partigyle, to make a handcrafted rye IPA (going to try a couple small batches), and to make another variation of my Gumballhead recipe from before.

That is all.

Denny’s Old Stoner Barleywine
20.00 lbs Maris Otter
4.50 lbs Munich Malt
1.75 lbs CaraMunich III
1.00 lbs Light Malt Extract (added to compensate for lower gravity)
2.50 oz Columbus 13.2% (First Wort Hopping)*
3.00 oz Chinook 13.6% (60 mins)*
1 tsp Irish Moss (15 mins)
1.00 oz Centennial 9.7% (2 mins)*
2.00 oz Centennial (Dry Hop 3.5 months)
Wyeast 1056 – American Ale Yeast (3L Starter)
Primary for 2-3 Weeks
Dry hop in secondary for 3.5 months (That’s not a typo btw)
*I changed the hop amounts from the original recipe as the alphas I received on my hops were different.  I also adjusted to 90% of the AAU’s needed because I used pellet hops instead of whole hops.  The original recipe is here Denny’s Old Stoner Barleywine.

Target OG = 1.101
Target FG = 1.024
OG = 1.094
FG = 1.030
IBU = 196.4 (As this will be aged for a year I’m not sure what relevance this number has except that this beer is hoppy as hell!)
ABV = 8.4%

Mash @ 154ºF at 1.3 qts/lb for 60 min.  Start boil @70 mins.

07/11/10 – So this beer was an adventure!  Mike built his mash tun and we got to test it out this weekend.  Seeing this recipe called for a whopping 27lbs of grain, I either needed a second mash tun or I needed to build a second monster one to be able to handle it all (which I’m probably going to do for next years batch now because I’m completely out of my mind).

Anyways, for those that don’t know, a Barleywine is a beer that is very malty and has a sweet character to it, yet it is VERY hoppy at the same time (Holy IBU’s Batman!).  Most commercial Barleywines sold in stores are only a few months old.  In order to get the best flavor out of them it is best to drink them at the year range or later.  Homebrewers typically make a batch of Barleywine yearly because it takes so long to age.  Plus, this beer will last.  I personally plan on enjoying one of these about 5 years from now as it will only have gotten better.  That being said, I won’t be cracking into my stash anytime soon or that frequently, but I’ll update with tasting notes when I can.

We added just a little extract to bring the gravity up a little bit, seeing as the efficiency is a little hard to predict.  The gravity ended up at 1.094, which is a little low for a Barleywine and lower than I wanted, but, hopefully the huge yeast starter I pitched can bring that gravity down.  We ended up with a lower gravity because I calculated for about 5 gallons of Barleywine, when in truth we ended up with ~5.4 gallons of Barleywine.  Either way it will still be strong and will still be a great beer.  Now I know what to look for gravity wise when I make next year’s batch (I would love to end up with a 12% Barleywine).

08/01/10 – I was going to dry hop the Barleywine today.  Measured the FG and it was @1.032, which was still a little high for my tastes.  FG is supposed to be 1.024.  So, I agitated the yeast a little bit and moved it to the upstairs of my house which should get up to ~73ºF or so.  Usually that makes for fusil alcohols, but there’s only a little sugar left to ferment out so I’m not worried about it.  I’m going to transfer it and dry hop it next weekend.  Otherwise, it tastes great.  REALLY hoppy and I can see why this is going to take a year to mellow out, but it has a slightly sweet backbone and is delicious.  It kind of makes me want to open a bottle of Imperial Stout tonight even though I know it hasn’t aged nearly enough.

08/08/10 – Gravity still 1.032…which lowers the ABV and lends a sweet backbone (which is kind of what I want for a Barleywine, but would have like to get this in the 20’s but oh well).  Dry hopped today with 2 oz of Centennial for 3-3.5 months).  So gonna bottle this around 11/20/10.

09/19/10 – After going back and forth on this for a while, I racked the Barleywine on top of the yeast cake from my Gumballhead and brought it up to my room to hopefully ferment it down a little farther.  This will cause the beer to lose some of it’s clarity (but it has to sit until next summer so I’m not too worried about that).  Also, additional fermentation may get rid of some of the dry hopping I did.  Gonna let this sit a week or two and see where the gravity is at.  I may dry hop it a little more depending on taste once I put it back into a secondary vessel again.

09/28/10 – Gravity dropped an extra two points from the yeast cake.  The 2.75lbs of Caramel malts must just have added a nice amount of unfermentables to the mix.  Plus we mashed @154ºF so that may have added a couple points.  And, we are still way in range for the FG of a Barleywine (beersmith said ours was supposed to be 1.024 but the Barleywine range is 1.020-1.035 so we’re golden).  The flavor REALLY complexed since I last tasted it almost two months ago.  Holy shit what a difference.  Nice and malty sweet backbone that really melds with the insane amount of hops in this.  Definitely taste caramel, honey tones and sense the same in the nose.  Viscous with a lot of body but smooth mouthfeel.  Bottling mid-November and letting it sit til July (though I might sneak a bottle or two in between).

12/04/10 – Bottled today!  Hoppy…MALTY…and delicious…gonna crack open a bottle or two before July…otherwise this bad boy is gonna carb up and then sit in the basement for another 8 months.

Old Stoner Partigyle
About 40% of the Old Stoner Grain Bill
Added .5lbs Caravienne to mash
Added .5lbs Caramel/Crystal 60L to mash
Added ~2-3lbs of Light Malt Extract
0.06 oz Columbus 13.2% (60 mins)
1.00 oz Chinook 13.6% (50 mins)
1 tsp Irish Moss (15 mins)
1.00 oz Centennial 9.7% (10 mins)
0.50 oz Simcoe 12.2% (5 mins)
1.00 oz Simcoe (Dry Hop 2 weeks)
1.00 oz Centennial (Dry Hop 2 weeks)
Safale US-05 Yeast

OG = 1.065
FG = 1.019
IBU = 62.6
ABV = 5.9%

07/11/10 – So we followed an old English technique for brewing beer called Partigyle when we made our Barleywine.  Partigyle basically means the initial mash runnings (which are a higher concentration) are used to make the Barleywine (or other high gravity beer) and the sparge runnings (lower concentration) are used to make a second “lighter” beer called a Partigyle.  I say “lighter” because although our OG was originally 1.036.  The English typically left the second beer at the lower gravity resulting in a ~3.0% alcohol…we added enough light malt extract to bring it up to 1.065 to make the recipe resemble more of an IPA.  Mike and I kept the hop additions somewhat similar to the Barleywine with a few minor tweaks.  I can’t wait to see how this one turns out.

07/25/10 – I transferred the partigyle to secondary today.  Upon tasting it…eep!  It was tart and was reminiscent of apples.  Which, either means that there’s extra acetylaldehydes in there which give green apple off flavors, or I’ve encountered my first batch of bacteria infected beer.  I’m going to let it sit for a couple weeks before I decide anything.  Gravity was 1.020.

09/05/10 – I let that bad boy of a Partigyle sit and age for a while to see if the taste would change.  IT DID!  It’s definitely not infected.  Nice and bitter, dry, not malty at all, with a slight piney taste (thanks Simcoe).  Dry hopped it with 1 oz of Simcoe and 1 oz of Centennial.

09/19/10 – Bottled this morning, the Simcoe really makes this an awesome beer.  Highly hopped and full of hop flavor.  Slight sweet backbone but nice and bitter and thin.  Excellent color too.

(This is a random Barleywine label I found on Google…just liked the look of it and thought it fit the topic well)

Mike came over for both of our first all grain brew day.  We brewed the Gumballhead Clone posted below.  I meant to take many pictures throughout, but the sheer excitement of brewing outside with all my new equipment caused me to somehow forget to do that.  So, instead, I have a picture of a logo that I put on my mash tun.  Many thanks to my Mom and Corinne for helping make it for me (I think it’s pretty pimp).

Anyways…my first all grain brew day was amazing.  Making beer from complete scratch was a blast.  I only ran into one minor hiccup too.  Our OG for our beer came out at 1.054 instead of the predicted 1.063.  After calculating my mash efficiency I found that we had only hit 65%.  I was hoping for at least 75% on a first try and would have been gloriously happy for 80%.

The biggest mistake I made that caused this to happen was that I fed my lauterings, both from the mash and the sparge, to my pine tree on the front lawn.  After doing the math, I dumped about 3 quarts of my mash runnings (which had a gravity of 1.073) out of a total of 12 possible quarts, which was roughly 25% of the initial sugars…eep.  I then proceeded to do the same to my sparge runnings.  We became very confused when we collected only 5 gallons of wort when we had planned to collect 6.5.  To rectify this we sparged again and collected about a 1.75 gallons more.  So, we fed 6 quarts of wort to the tree (half of that being much more rich in sugar content) and were 1.5 gallons short of our total wort.  The Sherlock Holmes did a little internet reading and youtube video watching about mashing and found that I was supposed to pour the lauter lightly back onto the top of the grain bed…whoops.  Live and learn…at least the pine tree will be happy!

I have since ordered a couple 3 gallon carboys so I can make half batches.  This way I can make much more different kinds of beer more often, seeing I won’t be making 50 bottles every time.

I leave you with a wonderful song about beer that was sent to me by my friend John.  If you’ve ever been a beer lover then you will love this song.

My first bottle

Posted: May 2, 2010 in Homebrew talk

I bottled for the first time yesterday.  I was able to get some vinyl squirrels (thanks Mom) to attach to my bottles, and I have to say, it really adds a nice finishing touch and an exceptionally gratifying feeling to the homebrewing experience.  Just looking at the bottle makes me giddy.

My first bottle

P.S. 6 Days until I brew my first all grain batch…can’t wait.

Since I started my homebrewing adventure, I’ve read up on numerous forum discussions about many different brewing topics.  After brewing my first batch, I realized that my pot was way too small.  I started looking online, contemplated getting a 5 gallon pot from, and ultimately decided not to.

After doing a lot more research, I found that full boils were the way to go.  I found a 10 gallon aluminum stock pot from the webstaurant store for 39.99…what a catch compared to the other pots out there on the market.  From what I read, I would grow into it when it came to all grain batches, but I could not fit a monster like that on my stovetop.  To rectify this, I purchased a Bayou Classic SQ-14 turkey fryer burner and decided I would do my batches outside from now on.

Once I realized I could do 5 gallon extract batches, I happened upon the subject of hops adjustment for full boils.  Hops are better utilized in full boils and, thus, you need less of them to get the same bittering/flavoring effect.

I then realized that ice baths probably weren’t the greatest way to cool a 10 gallon stockpot with 5+ gallons of hot wort in it.  So, I looked up how to build an immersion chiller from a video on youtube, which I built today, and am quite pleased with the results (my brew pot is in the background).  The whole project cost me about $70.

It was then that I realized the only thing from keeping me from having an all grain setup was my own mash tun.  Kits to make mash tuns go for over $200.  I found a forum post (Thanks Flyguy) explaining how to make one for around $65-70.  I made one this past weekend and am also quite pleased with the results.

So, with my mash tun and wort chiller built, I plan on brewing my first all grain batch with my friend who got me into the whole homebrewing thing on May 8, 2010.  We will be brewing a Gumballhead clone from Three Floyds Brewing Company, which is an excellent red wheat beer with plenty of amarillo hops for flavoring.  Very floral and quickly becoming one of my favorite beers.

I’m jumping from extract batches to all grain fairly quick, but everything about it feels right and I can’t wait to see what kind of results I get come my first brewing day.

Well, where to start.  I figured that I have been talking so much about homebrewing to everyone and anyone (whether or not they want to listen) that I should just start a little blog about it.

I’ve always been into craft beers (mainly IPA’s, stouts, porters, belgians, hefeweizens, and the such).  After listening to my friend, Mike, talk about all the beer brewing he was doing, I decided to buy myself a Mr.Beer kit.  I brewed one batch with it, a “Dark Tower Porter” (or so it was called).  I was impressed with my ability to brew, but thought, “There has to be more to this than just adding a can of stuff to water and adding yeast.”

Months went by without me doing anything else until February when, one day, Mike told me he’d find a recipe for one of my favorite porters (Edmund Fitzgerald from Great Lakes Brewing Company) and that I could come over and he’d show me the process and we could make it together.  I ended up with a delicious batch of beer that I only have 2 liters left of at the moment.  More importantly, I ended up with a more than just a hobby.  Brewing from scratch was love at first sight, it was a fucking passion, it was something I knew I was going to be doing for the rest of my life.  Now, I know I’m just starting my brewing “career” so to say, but it’s starting strong and only growing as the days go by.

P.S. And, yes, I know there is a beer called Fat Squirrel by New Glarus Brewing Company.  I did not get the name from them.  I happen to have a weird thing for squirrels, and I also happen to love beer, so they just seem to go hand in hand.