Saturday, May 31, 2008

My Ghetto Stirplate

Alright, so when you make a yeast starter you can do what I've done in the past and just let it sit in a dark place with tin foil on the top...
You can put your starter on a stirplate to give the yeast plenty of oxygen and really, really take off doing what they do best.

Stirplates cost a lot of money and I'm a pretty thrifty guy, and I like to build stuff so I decided to make my own. Thanks so much to Push Eject for putting these plans on his website. I did improvise a little, but not much.

I basically took an old hard drive enclosure and gutted it, raided the rare earth magnets from the hard drive, took an old PC fan and an old cell phone charger and put it all together. Here's some of the process.

The parts:
An old hard drive enclosure.
A PC Fan.
A rare earth magnet.
A Rheostat from Radio Shack.
An old cell phone charger.

The guts:
I took out the hard drive, circuit board and all the wires from inside the enclosure.
I harvested the wires from inside the enclosure to make the connections from the power supply to the rheostat to the fan.
At first I tried mounting the HDD to a couple of pieces of wood, but the magnet was too far away from the magnetic stirbar to take hold so I went to Lowes and got a couple of bolts and nuts to mount it to the top.

The finished product:
Even with the fan mounted to the top of the enclosure I still wasn't getting a strong hold from the magnet to the stirbar because the plastic was so thick. A cutting tip on a Dremell rotary tool made quick work of the plastic.

Bingo! This baby will keep the yeast in suspension and growing nicely!

What's next? The Kegorator will get started next month along with The Son of a Mother of a 38DD Fermentation Chiller.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Engrish Bitter Ale

I've been searching and searching for ideas for the name of this ale. I've been looking at pictures of Englishmen with bad teeth, swallows, etc and nothing seemed to fit. Then it hit me, why not name this after the way that most folks speak around here. Nobody speaks English any more, they all speak Engrish!

So, here's to you Mr. Liquor Store Clerk! Your very own beer - Engrish Bitter Ale! It even comes with it's very own catch phrase: You Likey! ;-) Be kind. It's my first attempt at an actual label.

Here's a pic of the first beer out of the tap.

Yes, that is some crap floating around in the beer, but this was the first pint. It's running clear now!

It is truly delectable! Very easy drinking and very flavorful. Lots of biscuity malt with very little bitterness. Hmmm. Makes you wonder why they call it a bitter.

Monday, May 19, 2008

12 Steps

That's how many steps it takes to get my wort down into the basement of our Merced office for summer fermentation. Cooincidence that it's the same number of steps to combat alcoholism? I think not! ;-)

Why take it down there? Well, the ambient temp is between 63-66 degrees and that's just right for fermenting beer in the summer time.

Here's the wort all safely buckled up and ready for the ride to the office. Thank goodness for the carboy carrier/cover. This made it easier to carry to the car and will keep the sunlight off of the wort for the ride. I had the air conditioner in the car set for 60 degrees. That was one cooooooold ride!

Here's the yeast starter riding on the floor. Not a very good view from down there! ;-)

Yep. Those are some steep, narrow steps down to the basement!

The view from the first landing down to the basement.

The basement. The wort's home for the next three weeks while the little yeasties eat, fart, and procreate. What a life!

The Nut Brown Ale will join this Light Ale behind the decorative heater in the corner. Hopefully the kids will keep their hands off!

I'm done brewing for a while. I've got five gallons of English Bitter on tap with five gallons of Light Ale being kegged this Thursday. The Nut Brown will ferment for three weeks and be on the CO2 for two weeks before I even pull a pint.

Why am I done brewing for a while? Well, for one, I've got enough beer for now. With the hot summer days coming up I'm sure it will disappear soon, but I've got gear to buy if I'm going to have more than five gallons on tap. I'll be buying a small chest freezer, temp controller, taps, beer line, etc, etc, etc to build a 4-tap kegerator. It's got to look nice so that I can keep it in the house so I'll be painting it black and putting some wood/stainless steel finishing touches on it. Pics to come soon after I'm done with the purchases. That could take a while though!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Eye Surgery?

Nope. This is a picture of the inside of a keg of Pale Ale that kicked last weekend. Such a mess from such a clear and fine brew.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

"No Yeller" Light Ale

Today was a GREAT brew day! I've finally got to the point where I don't get very nervous when brewing. I usually stress from the time I start getting the brew pot out until I put it away at the end of the day. What's different? I think I've brewed enough times that I have my process down and everything just falls into place. I usually yell at the kids and get very frustrated. Today was truly a trying day with four 8 year old girls running around the house and in the swimming pool. But, I pulled it off: no yelling or stressing out at all today! So, to celebrate I'll name this brew No Yeller Light Ale. Catchy, huh? ;-)

Always Make a Starter

A "starter" is a small batch of beer that allows yeast to propagate and get ready to go to work on the 5.5 gallons that they will be married to in the fermentor. A special thanks to Greg Muller for posting his version of how to make a starter and of course my Modesto Mashers buddies for answering my hundreds of questions about homebrewing and making starters. Here's the process that I've used a couple of times now:

Boil 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of light malt extract for 10 minutes. Make sure not to leave this even for a second or you'll have a boil over of hot-sticky crapola on your stove that will take about 3 days to scrub off. It doesn't make the wife very happy when you do this!

Cool the wort in an ice bath for about 10 minutes. This brought the temp down to 64 degrees.

Here's the yeast we're working with on this beer. White Labs "California Ale", WLP001. Make sure this is about the same temperature as the wort.

Pour the wort and the yeast into a steralized container. I use an empty Martinelli's Apple Cider jar.

Shake vigorously to airate the wort/yeast mixture. This is what it looks like after I shook it 300 times. What a workout!

Let the starter sit for 24 hours before pitching (putting) the whole mixture into the fermentor with the completed wort for your beer. If you want to pitch only the yeast slurry and not the nasty little starter beer then let it sit for 48 hours and "cold crash" the mixture in the fridge for 24 yours to drop the yeast out of suspension. Pour off the nasty beer and save the yeast slurry in the bottom.

Light Ale Brew Day

The recipe and the brew day timer making sure I don't forget any hop or other additions to the brew.

7.1 gallons of brewing yumminess!

Just for you Dano! This is my brew day view. Lovely, isn't it? ;-)

The only plants we have in our back yard!

Back to brewing! Here's the finished wort getting transferred into the carboy. Notice the Carboy Carrier around the glass. It makes it sooooooooooo easy to carry the carboy and keeps out the sunlight so the beer doesn't skunk. One of the best purchases I've made so far! I'm sure to get another next month.

What's left in the brew pot after all the wort's gone. It looks nasty but smells wonderful! They should make Potpouri in this scent!

The four brewing beauties! It doesn't take landscaping to make kids happy. A pool and some friends and you're set for the day!