Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kegging the Pale Ales

I went to keg the pale ales yesterday morning and realized that I'd never racked beer off that had been dry hopped. I was worried that I might suck hops up into the racking cane and clog it. After discussing options on the Modesto Mashers Forum and searching the web for ideas I came up with this:

It's a copper pot scrubber (sanitized of course) secured to the end of the racking cane with a zip tie. I had to stuff it into the neck of the carboy but it did a wonderful job of keeping ALL of the hops out of the racked beer.

Here's the rack in progress. I had to use CO2 to force the beer through the hops and through the scrubber into the keg.

Here's the resulting (very) empty carboy. I was able to suck out every last drop of beer with this method leaving behind the hops and almost all of the yeast.

Friday, December 5, 2008


The bad new is that the English Pale Ale blew last night. :-(

The good news is that the Scottish Wee Heavy and Apfelwein are in the fridge carbonating. The Wee Heavy will be ready to tap next Saturday. The Apfelwein will be ready a week after that.

Until then:
  • Deschutes Obsidian Stout
  • Traquair House Ale - 1 bottle
  • Firestone/Walker Pale 31
  • Big Sky IPA
  • Big Sky Moose Drool Brown Ale
  • Big Sky Powder Hound Winter Ale
  • Pete's Wicked Ale - 1 bottle
That should hold me over! :-)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dry Hopping the Pales

Today I decided to try something new. I dry hopped my pale ales with a couple different varieties that Mark was so kind to give me. 3 oz of Cascade went into the first carboy, 2 oz of Amarillo went into the send one. The smell was wonderful! Here are the pics:

Stuffing the hops into a funnel and into the carboy. This took quite some time since I was using a rubber spatula. the handle was flat instead of round so not a lot of hops got in with each push.

Two carboys filled with hops.

A close up of the carboy w/the Amarillo.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Early, Early Morning Brew Session

Today I brewed up 10 gallons of Pale Ale. Since it's a work day I decided to try to start brewing early, I mean really, really early. I lit the burner at 4:11 AM and mashed in at 5:19 AM. This is by far the best time of day to brew!

Here's the recipe for today's brew session:

Sierra Nevada Clone
10-A American Pale Ale
Size: 11 gal
Efficiency: 70.0% Attenuation: 75.0%
Calories: 189.99 kcal per 12.0 fl oz
Original Gravity: 1.057 (1.045 - 1.060)
Terminal Gravity: 1.014 (1.010 - 1.015)
Color: 13.64 (5.0 - 14.0)
Alcohol: 5.61% (4.5% - 6.2%)
Bitterness: 36.5 (30.0 - 45.0)

23.0 lb Pale Ale Malt
2 lb Crystal Malt 60°L
1.0 lb 2-Row Carapils® Malt

1 oz Chinook (13.0%) - added during boil, boiled 60.0 min
1.0 oz Perle (5.5%) - added during boil, boiled 30.0 min
2.0 oz Cascade (5.6%) - added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
4.0 oz Cascade (5.6%) - added during boil, boiled 0.0 min
2.0 oz Cascade (5.6%) - added to the primary fermenter after fermentation is complete (1st carboy)
2.0 oz Amarillo (5.6%) - added to the primary fermenter after fermentation is complete (2nd carboy)

2.0 ea White Labs WLP001 California Ale

Here are a few pics from the day:
Lighting the burner at 4 AM!

Coffee and hops. The breakfast of champions!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Starter Spew!

I've updated my process for creating starters thanks to advice from my brew buddy Mark. Now I start with 4 cups of water, a pinch of yeast nutrient and 1.5 cups of light malt extract. After this sits on the stir plate with the yeast (two vials of White Labs) for a couple of days I repeat the recipe and add it to the flask.

I had great success with the fermentation of the Scotch Ale (due to hit my fridge in about a week) and I had even greater success last night. For the first time ever I have krausen in my starter, a sign that I've hit the perfect gravity on my starters! The pic below was taken this morning after the second feeding of the starter last night.

The krausen came all the way up to the top of the flask and even puked out a few yeasties onto my stir plate. This should make for some very active fermentation when I pitch this yeast into my Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Active fermentation

Over the past couple of days the Dos Wee Heavies have been fermenting along very vigorously. This has to be one of the most active fermentations I've ever seen. The krausen is up the necks of both carboys and I've had to clean yeast packed gunk out of one of the airlocks two days in a row.

OK so my picture taking skills with one hand while holding a semi-nasty, yeasty, airlock aren't the greatest. This is the same airlock that was packed with junk Sunday. This is how it looked Monday night. I cleaned it again, replaced it, and now it looks slightly milky brown on Tuesday morning. I guess it might have something to do with me putting slightly more of the starter in this carboy.

Here are the two carboys at full krausen. The one closest in the picture is the one I've had to clean the airlock on, twice.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dos Wee Heavy

What a brew day. Up at 7 am, light the burners at 8:00 (when the wife wakes up), brew all day, and done by 4 PM. Whew! Hopefully it's all worth it. Here's the recap:

Thursday night I started my first 2 vile starter. Yup, we're brewing 10 gallons this time!

Here's the starter wort in an ice bath and the White Labs Edinburgh yeast.

Friday night I weighed out and ground the grains. Two things for me to remember: First, buy a different scale. This one only goes to 8 oz! It takes a long time to measure out 32 pounds of grain that way. Second, either buy a better drill or grind the grains by hand. I burnt up my cheap drill I bought from Harbor Freight.

Here's what 10 gallons of water and 33.5 pounds of grain looks like. Heavy indeed!

The first runnings came out pretty dark. I think this brew will definitely come out darker than expected. Especially because I had to take two gallons of wort and separately boil it down to 1 gallon. This is supposed to give the brew a great caramel flavor.

Pre-boiled wort. The boil pot has never been this full!

Oops! This is the second brew in a row that I've had a boil over. My burner doesn't know it's own strength!

Here's the carboy with the corriander "tea" in it. It smelled heavenly!

Here it is. 10 gallons of Scottish Wee Heavy going into glass to ferment for a couple of weeks. I haven't tasted the hydrometer sample yet, but it sure did smell good!

Here's a picture of the two carboys in the chest freezer after a hefty dose of aeration with the mix-stir. It's basically plastic helicopter blades turned sideways and mounted on the end of a long stainless steel rod. I put it on my drill and whip the wort until the froth reaches the neck of the carboy leaving just enough room for the yeast starter.

Don't do it! Don't even ask me about the kegerator!

Edit: I checked the carboys this morning (Sunday) and both airlocks were packed with yeast and gunk. It took a bit of work to clean them out. Quite the fermentation!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Mashtun!

Well, I finally got around to building my new mashtun. It's about time since I need it this Saturday for my first 10 gallon brew. Here 'tis in all it's blue cooler glory!

The new mashtun is on the left, the old is on the right. One may think that having a bigger mashtun was the whole reason for doing this. But, we all know that blue coolers make better beer! ;-)

The spigot on my 19 year old cooler wasn't very sturdy. It barely grabbed onto the threads of the hose barb that's on the inside of the cooler. Also the plastic hose barb on this is a no-no as it could, and probably did, impart a little plastic flavor into the beer. I really never noticed it though. Not a great design, but it did make a lot of really good beer.

The new spigot was designed very differently. I've got a 1/2 inch nipple going through the spigot opening with a rubber washer, SS washer, and a brass hose barb on the inside. On the outside I've got a washer, ball valve and a hose barb. Very, very sturdy. After the second go-round with the plumbers tape it doesn't leak!

You can see that the inside of the old cooler is bubbling from the heat of the mash and sparge water. Hmmmm. Wonder what that released into the beer?

The inside o fthe new cooler is, well, new. It's smooth and shiney! Notice the channel running down the center of the cooler. I won't have to tip the cooler as much to get every last drop of wort.

So, that's the new mashtun. Her maiden voyage is this Saturday when I'm brewing a Scottish Wee Heavy. Five gallons will be traditional and I'm going to add corriander to the second five gallons for a spiced Scottish ale. Should be mm mm good!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Beer Labels

Nothin's brewin' lately so I thought I'd post some of the labels I've made for my beer.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Harvest Apfelwein

This morning I kegged the Apfelwein. It smelled wonderful and I can't wait for this to be ready to drink. It's one of the strongest brews I've made at 9.19% alcohol by volume. It's actually a hard apple cider that comes in a little dry on the finish. The apple flavor is great and the alcohol is very apparent right now. This will mellow over time and mask the strength of the brew. It will be great to have this on tap during Thanksgiving and Christmas. It takes 8 weeks (minimum) to age so it should be ready to drink in late October, although I think I'll wait until Thanksgiving day to actually tap it.

Today was the first day I've had to chase down a leak in one of my kegs. I'd used it before but today the liquid out post decided that it wanted to leak even with a new poppet installed. I swapped that post with another off of a keg that won't seal around another opening and it worked like a charm. It did take about an hour of my time to switch everything out and track down exactly what the problem was. Damned analytical mind! ;-)

Happy Wednesday. Brew on. Wade

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

English Pale Ale

The English Pale Ale is kegged. It came in at 5% alchohol by volume and I couldn't have been happier with the taste of the gravity sample. It finished off with a final gravity of 1.013 which should make is slightly sweeter than the American Pale Ale that I, and lots of friends, enjoyed so much.

Kegging this beer was much easier than any of the others because I was able to drop the temperature down to 40 degrees in the chest freezer. The yeast cake on the bottom of the fermenter was very firm and didn't get sucked up into the siphon when I got close to the end.

Six weeks conditioning in the closet and this one will go on tap. Just in time for fall.

I've now got two beers on tap (Nut Brown & Lite), two conditioning (Columbus IPA, English Pale Ale) and one fermenting (Apfelwein). I'm hoping to do a ten gallon batch of a Scottish Ale soon and 10 gallons of stout for the winter.

Oh, yeah, the price of the chest freezer I want for the kegerator dropped to $269 yesterday so I'm hoping to pick that up this weekend and get started on the kegerator on the 30th!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A bad day brewing is.......

Better than almost anything! Almost.....

OK, so it wasn't a bad day at all. A pretty darn good brew day if you ask me. It did, however, start off a little weird. At 5:11 AM I woke up to the telephone ringing. When I answered it all I could hear was a sound like someone was pushing one of the buttons. I figured it was a crank call and went back to sleep. At 5:26 AM I got another call. When I answered it all I could hear was some pretty lame music. Now I was awake. Time to brew!

Today I brewed an English Pale Ale (Think Bass Ale). And since I have my new Barley Crusher, I decided to give the grain a good crush last night.

Here's the grain waiting to be crushed.

After about 10 minutes of hand cranking the grain through the crusher (3 hoppers worth) here was the outcome.

I've been missing my Original Gravity's lately. Falling a bit short actually, so I thought that crushing my own grain and switching sparging methods to Bobby M's method might help. Nope, still a lower gravity than expected. I figure it's time to stop fighting this and time to change my recipes to meet my brewhouse efficiency (68-70%).

Again, nothing earth shattering today, but I am pretty darn happy with my new (to me) chest freezer and temp controller for fermenting. Now I've got that part of the brewing process completely under control.

In the corner, out of the way.

Here's the EPA and the Apfelwein in the chest freezer. The Apfelwein has been fermenting for a week and smells like old elephant farts! Yucko! Everyone says they get these smells while it's fermenting. Glad I didn't stick that one in the basement of the SWMBO's office! The EPA is cooling down to 65 degrees before I pitch the yeast.

Here's the nut brown ale that I drank right after brewing and cleaning up. Yummo! The drill will be used to aerate the wort. The vodka will go in the airlock. The Leggo sculpture is something my daughter made me last night. ;-)

Here's the Columbus IPA that I kegged Thursday morning at 5 AM. Smelled like a little bit of heaven!

Sunday, July 27, 2008


At this point I think I'll ferment just about anything! I've been reading a lot of homebrew forums and EdWort at Homebrewtalk posted this recipe for German hard apple cider, or Apfelwein. It seemed so easy that I thought I should give it a shot. Here's how the "brew day" went.

Here are the ingredients for this fermented coctail: 5 galons of natural, pasturized apple juice from Costco, of course. 2 lbs of corn sugar, and 1 packet of dry yeast. You're supposed to use Red Star Montrachet, but Wayne at Barley and Wine didn't have any. He recommended Lavlin #EC-1118 Champagne Wine Yeast for the same clean, crisp, dry finish that the Montrachet would have produced.

OK, um, I usually put "brewing" photos here but there was no brewing, just mixing and pouring. Here's the recipe right from EdWort:


5 Gallons 100% Apple Juice (No preservatives or additives) I use Tree Top Apple Juice
2 pounds of dextrose (corn sugar) in one pound bags
1 five gram packet of Montrachet Wine Yeast


5 Gallon Carboy (I use a Better Bottle)
Carboy Cap or Stopper with Airlock
  1. First sanitize the carboy, airlock, funnel, stopper or carboy cap.
  2. Open one gallon bottle of apple juice and pour half of it into the carboy using the funnel.
  3. Open one bag of Dextrose and carefully add it to the now half full bottle of apple juice. Shake well.
  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3, then go to step 5.
  5. Pour in the mixture of Apple Juice and Dextrose from both bottles into the carboy.
  6. Add all but 1 quart of remaining 3 gallons of apple juice to the carboy.
  7. Open the packet of Montrachet Yeast and pour it into the neck of the funnel.
  8. Use the remaining quart of juice to wash down any yeast that sticks. I am able to fit all but 3 ounces of apple juice into a 5 gallon Better Bottle. You may need to be patient to let the foam die down from all shaking and pouring.
  9. Put your stopper or carboy cap on with an airlock and fill the airlock with cheap vodka. No bacteria will live in vodka and if you get suckback, you just boosted the abv.
The outcome?

Here is the finished product with my son in the background hamming it up! It's mighty clear for a "brew day" concoction.

Here's a picture of the Apfelwein in my "new to me" fermentation chamber! Applause!!!!!!!!! My son and I just picked this up today in Turlock for as close to nothing as you can get.

This stuff will sit in this chest freezer (with temp controller of course) at 70 degrees for the next 6 weeks. 6 weeks? Yup, 6 weeks. It ferments slow and should finish out at around 0.999 on the hydrometer or at just about 8.13 ABV. Yikes, that's some serious alcohol. I might just have to invite Mark over to help drink this stuff!

And, no, I haven't built the kegerator yet. I may have to wait until next month to buy the chest freezer. I've got a broken window to fix on one of our french doors and that ate up quite a bit of funds!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Columbus IPA

Today I brewed my first IPA, YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's my favorite style of beer and I'm finally comfortable enough with my brewing techniques to brew it. Here's how the day went:

Here's Oliver (Ollie) the brew cat checking out the wort chiller.

Here's my first yeast starter on my homemade stir plate. It's looking mighty lovely!

I lit the burner and started heating my strike water at 8:15 am. UPS has not yet delivered my grains/hops for this brew, but I think they'll be here by 11:00. I heated the water early knowing it wouldn't lose too much temp by the time the grains got here.

Heating the strike water.

It's going to be a hot one today (104) so I'm brewing in my bathing suit (Semi-No Pants?). Several trips to the pool will be required to stay cool!

The UPS driver delivered the grains at 11:15 am and I mashed in at 11:30. The recipe for this delicious nectar is:

Grain Bill
  • 12 lbs 2-Row
  • 1.5 lbs Crystal 15L
Boil Schedule
  • 2 oz Magnum @ 60 Minutes - Bittering
  • Whirflock @ 10 Minutes - Clarifying
  • Yeast Nutrients @ 10 Minutes - Helping the yeasties do their job!
  • 2 oz Columbus @ 5 Minutes - Flavoring
  • 2 oz Columbus @ 2 Minutes - Aroma
When mashing in lately the ProMash calculations for strike water temperature have been low making me miss my mash temp. ProMash recommended 163 for strike water temp, I adjusted up to 168/169. I put the strike water in the mashtun, added the grain and 1 tsp of 5.2 and nailed my mash temp at 154! Woohoo!

Mashing in!

Keeping the heat in for 60 minutes!

The mash went well. I only lost 2 degrees over an hour. The mashout went very well also. I got 5 gallons from my first runnings and 2 gallons from my second. Seems that I over mashed just a tad!

Draining the first runnings into the boil kettle after recirculating 4 times to get the grain bed to settle and the wort to run clear.

Woe is me! I turned my back to the boil kettle for a few minutes and had a nice (OK, not so nice) boilover. Sticky wort on the concrete is not what I wanted to be working around today especially because I'm not wearing any shoes!

Boilover aftermath

After the boil returned to normal, I added 2 oz of Magnum hops. The patio smelled wonderfully of wort and hops! Mmmmmm! I've said it before and I'll say it again: They should make Potpouri that smells like this! Edit: after adding 4 oz of Columbus hops to the boil I have to say they should make Potpouri that smells like this! ;-)

Oops! I must have misjudged the pre-boil volume of wort. I only ended up with 4 gallons post boil. About 3.75 will make that into the keg. :-( So much for me being comfortable with my brewing techniques! From now on I'm going to sparge into a measuring bucket so I'm right on with my wort amounts. Last time too much, this time too little, sheesh!

Sweet wort being transferred from the boil kettle to the carboy for fermentation!

Here's the wort's resting place for the next three weeks: In the basement of my wife's office. It's been warm outside so I suspect this is going to ferment a little higher than 63 degrees, probably more like 68. Still in the good beer zone!

Edit: I missed my OG by 6 points. It was 1.054 and the range for this beer is 1.060 - 1.065. I've always had low efficiency on this system. Time to get a new cooler for a mashtun (this one's all bubbled up on the inside from the hot water) and start crushing my own grain to see if that helps. Still, the gravity sample tasted mighty good!

Up next: Hopefully the kegerator! I have all the parts except the chest freezer and the temp controller. Morebeer will have the temp controller available 7/18 and I'm just hoping Craigslist comes up with a freezer for cheap!