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Showing posts from 2015

The Cider Experiments - Part 1

Years ago, I purchased a kit called "Spike Your Juice" from ThinkGeek.com.  The kit included packets of yeast, instructions, labels, and an airlock with stopper.  The instructions suggested buying a pasteurized (non-refrigerated) 100% juice with a high sugar content, then pitching the dry yeast into it and popping on the airlock.  In a few days, the yeast would produce an alcoholic wine or cider.  The results from these fermentations always seemed to range from sour to dry in flavor profile, often tasting like an unripe version of the fruit the juice was made from.  It's not too surprising that I stopped using the kit before I used up all the yeast.

While reading online about that kit, I saw some people suggest that Champagne Yeast would be a good substitute for the stuff the kit included, as it would ferment more of the sugars and give the finished product a bit more fizz.  I tried this with some juices a couple of months ago.  The results were tart and mildly carbonate…

Chapman Brewing Equipment 7 Gallon Stainless Steel Fermenter

Recently, I found the Chapman Brewing Equipment 7-gallon SteelTank stainless steel fermenter on sale on Amazon for approximately $110.  That's about half the price of the other stainless steel fermenter I own, Ss Brewing Technology's Brewmaster Bucket.

In fairness to the Brewmaster Bucket, the Chapman fermenter lacks a number of features.  The Chapman has no legs underneath it.  It's not designed to stack multiple fermenters on one another.  It has no thermowell or thermometer.  It doesn't have a conical bottom to catch yeast and sediment.  It also doesn't have a spigot you can use for bottling.  So the extra $100 buys a few features you're not getting here.

That said, there is nothing wrong with this fermenter.  It seems very well made from 304 stainless steel.  There are good strong looking handles.  The gasketed lid can be clamped down for sealing and safety when carrying.  It even ships with a 3-piece airlock.

Bear in mind as you read the rest of this revi…

Reindeer Beer - A Christmas Gift Idea for the Brewer or Beer Fan on Your List

Last Christmas, my stepchildren (aged 21+, FYI) surprised me with the four-pack of "reindeer beers" pictured at the left.

To create these, they first chose a pack of beer they knew I would like, in this case Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.  You could use pretty much any other beer that comes in a brown bottle.  (I suppose you could use other colored bottles, but it wouldn't look quite like reindeer.)

Purchase plastic stick-on "googly eyes", red plastic stick-on pom-pom "noses", and pipe cleaners.

Stick the eyes and noses on the bottle necks as seen in the image at the left.

Cut some of the pipe cleaners into small pieces, about 2-3 inches long.  Leave the rest at full length.

Wrap a long pipe cleaner around the neck of the bottle, just below the cap and spread the ends out to make the "antlers".  Then take one of the small pieces of pipe cleaner and tie it around each antler to give it the shape seen above.

It's a craft item that won'…

Brewing Northern Brewer's Northy 12 Belgian Quad Kit

As a fan of Belgian style ales, I've long wanted to try Westvleteren XII.  It's considered to be one of the very best of the Belgian abbey ales, and by most accounts deservedly so.  Unfortunately, it's not offered for sale very often in the US.  Northern Brewer's Northy 12 Belgian Quad is reportedly a close approximation of Westvleteren XII.  I purchased the kit recently and decided to brew it.

Northern Brewer's kits ship as a collection of loose components in bags inside a box.  I'd ordered the kit with some other items, so separating out the components of the kit from the other items in my order took a few minutes of careful examination to make sure I had it all, and wasn't accidentally slipping the wrong thing into my Northy XII ingredients.

The ingredients in the kit include:
8 pounds of Belgian Pilsen malt7 pounds of Belgian Pale malt2 pounds of D-180 Candi Syrup1 oz. Brewer's Gold hops pellets 9.9% AA (60 minutes)1 oz. Hallertau hops pellets 3.1% A…

Belgian Single Version 1.1

Back in late July, I made an extract-based Belgian Single using a recipe from E.C. Kraus.  The beer turned out to be one of the better ones I've made, and we've gone through (and given away) almost all of it, so I decided to try brewing a second batch.

In my notes from the original version, I noted that I would dial the hops back slightly and add some sugar to dry out a little of the sweetness.  Here is the updated version 1.1 recipe:
1 pound Biscuit Malt8 ounces Aromatic Malt3 pounds Golden Light DME (early addition)3 pounds Golden Light DME (late addition)1 pound Brewer's Crystals (to boost fermentables)0.5 ounces Styrian Goldings pellets (6.2% Alpha) - 60 minutes1.0 ounces Czech Saaz pellets (3.2% Alpha) - 15 minutes1.0 ounces Czech Saaz pellets (3.2% Alpha) - 5 minutes1 package of Wyeast Belgian Abbey II yeast (1762)0.5 ounces of Coriander, crushed0.5 ounces of Sweet Orange Peel, crushedYeast nutrient (based on package directions and kettle volume)1 Whirlfloc tablet1 vi…

How your fermenter can affect your beer

Bob Sandage and Phil Farrell gave a presentation at the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) conference this year entitled "Does the Type of Fermenter Affect Your Homebrew?"

Their experiment revolved around brewing a large commercial-sized batch of Kolsch.  The style was chosen because it would easily show any unexpected fermentation issues or differences, and required no post-fermentation processing that might have affected the flavor of the finished beer.  
The large commercial-sized batch was divided into a variety of different fermenters used by homebrewers, including plastic buckets, carboys, cornelius (corny) kegs, and stainless steel conical fermenters.  Where possible, blow-off tubes and poppet style airlocks were also used to gauge any difference these might make.
Finished beers went through a blind taste-test to determine which tasted the best.  They were also subjected to a laboratory analysis.
The taste test rated the beer fermented in a carboy with a blow-off …

Adventures in Homebrewing Peanut Butter Conspiracy Stout

Adventures in Homebrewing makes a number of all-grain and extract recipe kits for homebrewing.  During a sale earlier this year, I picked up their Peanut Butter Conspiracy Stout extract kit (on sale for $26.99 as of this writing in November 2015).  The kit includes:
6 pounds of Pale LME1 pound of Flaked Barley1 pound of Carafa II4 ounces of Black Patent Malt1 dram of Peanut Butter Flavoring1 ounce of Willamette Hops (5.4% AA) It is recommended to use Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale, White Labs 004 Irish Ale, or Danstar Nottingham.  Since I ordered the kit during the warmer months, I settled for Danstar Nottingham dry yeast.
Brew Day
The brewing process was: Heat 2.5 gallons of water to 150-160F.  I used The Grainfather to do this.Drop the bagged grain into the water and steep for 20 minutes.Remove the grain from the water and let it drain, then discard.In my case, while doing the above, I heated 3 gallons of water in a kettle on my kitchen stove and removed it from the heat, I dissolved the 6 poun…

4 Brothers Bottle Caps

I've been home brewing for a few years now.  I've bottled my beer using a variety of different bottle types, from bombers to plastic bottles with screw-on caps.  I've always treated bottles and caps like a basic commodity.  Bottles are more or less the same, and caps seemed simple enough objects that they didn't require a lot of thought.

With that mindset, when a homebrew site offered 4 Brothers bottle caps at a huge discount (around $1.99 for 144), I jumped at the chance and bought about 600 of them.  It's proven to be one of the worst purchases of the year.  (I am not mentioning the site because everything else I've ever bought from them has been excellent and I don't view this purchase as a failure on their part.  There are reviews on the site of these caps. One of them does mention having trouble capping some bottles with them.

I brewed a Belgian Tripel earlier in the year, which fermented unusually fast and completely.  I had just gotten these caps an…

How to keep an extract based beer lighter in color without getting too bitter

A full wort boil is recommended by most brewers as a good rule of thumb.  A full boil ensures a good hot break, and makes the hops bitterness calculation easier.  There are times, though, that full boil may not be the best option.  Equipment limitation is one of those (e.g., you have only a 4-gallon kettle and are making a 5-gallon batch).  Another is when using extract to produce a lighter-colored beer like a Pilsner, Kolsch, or Wit.

Doing a full boil with all of your extract may cause the extract to darken and ruin the appearance of your beer.  The amount of darkening depends on the boil time and the concentration of the wort.  The longer the boil and the more concentrated the wort, the darker it will be.  To reduce darkening, a partial boil with a late extract addition is a better choice.  Adding extract late in the boil ensures that it's sterilized while minimizing darkening.

Malt extract doesn't need a long boil, as it's already been boiled during manufacture.  A 90-…

Forrest's On-Call Ale v1.0 Recipe and Notes

For Christmas, I received a book of historic beer recipes.  I ordered the ingredients for an English Bitter that looked interesting because it called for Saaz hops instead of one of the more traditional varieties like UK Goldings.  I decided to make it and ordered the necessary ingredients.

When brew day came around, I learned that either I had ordered the wrong amount of Pale Malt, or the shop had shipped me less than I ordered.  I had only 8 pounds instead of the 10 required.  I decided to substitute two pounds of CaraVienne malt for the missing two pounds of Pale Malt rather than abort the brewing session.  I also overlooked the invert sugar called for in the recipe, and substituted some Brun Fonce sugar I had on-hand, which is similar.

At this point, I realized that what I was making was no longer the ale from the book, but something of my own design.  That being the case, it was no longer the historic beer but something new.  Given that, I decided to experiment a bit more and ad…

MoreBeer's Russian River's Pliny the Elder DIPA Kit

Although it may surprise many homebrewers to hear this, I've only brewed one IPA before this.  I would never have brewed that one if it hadn't been part of the Mr. Beer kit I received at the time.  Unlike most craft beer fans these days, especially here in Central Ohio, I'm just not an IPA fan.  I understand what fans of the style like about it.  A good mix of hops can add complexity to the flavor and aroma of a beer.  I just don't care for the bitterness, in the same way many people don't like their food to be very spicy.  So the fact that I purchased and have brewed a recipe kit for a clone of Russian River's famous and well-loved Pliny the Elder DIPA would shock many who know me.

I decided to do this for three reasons.  First, I've never actually tried Pliny.  You can't buy it in Ohio, and I've never bumped into it in my travels out of state.  Since many consider it to be one of the best beers in the world, making a batch would be a way to sampl…

How to Brew Belgian-style Beers, Like a Monk

I recently finished reading Brew Like a Monk by Stan Heironymus, which is a book I strongly recommend if you want to brew a great Belgian-style beer.  The author spoke with many experts in Belgium about their brewing practices, recipes, equipment, ingredients, and history.  As a fan of Belgian beers styles, I learned a lot from the book.  I'll share some of that here.

The most important thing to learn is that Belgian brewers try things that brewers in other parts of the world would not.  They'll experiment with grains, adjuncts, yeast, fermentation chamber geometry, and more, in a quest to make a beer they enjoy.  Many breweries, in fact, create a number of beers that are popular and "pay the bills" while creating a few that are intended only to satisfy the curiosity or taste of the brewmaster.

One interesting point in the book is that the Belgian brewmasters recommend that Americans not try to create a carbon copy of an existing Belgian beer, but instead to brew a…

What to do when your beer doesn't carbonate

In June, I brewed what was probably my fourth batch of Belgian style Tripel ale (I didn't keep good records until last August so I'm not sure how many attempts there have been).  Each batch I've made has gotten a little better.  This one was no exception.  I brewed it from an ingredient kit, supplemented with different yeast, coriander, and sweet orange peel.  When I took the last sample from the fermenter for testing, it smelled and tasted great - though obviously flat.

As I often do, I bottled this beer following my usual process.  I cleaned and sanitized my bottles.  I did the same with my caps.  I dropped a Fermenter's Favorites carbonation drop in each bottle, filled it, and capped it.  The bottles were placed in my basement inside a cooler, to stabilize the temperatures and provide protection should a bottle burst open.  I left them for two weeks and put one bottle in the refrigerator.  The next day, I pulled out the bottle, popped off the cap, and instead of the…