Michelada - Beer Cocktail

>> Sunday, January 13, 2019

Today's post may seem like sacrilege to my fellow craft beer lovers...but I don't care, I really dig this beer cocktail. I'm justifying my newfound love of this drink based on the fact that one of my favorite SoCal  breweries, Green Cheek Beer Company, serves up a version in their taproom. If it's legit enough for them, it should be legit enough for any craft beer lover.

The quick Cliff Notes description is this is essentially a beer cocktail that's very similar to a Bloody Mary. They're pretty popular in Mexico where they're blended with your favorite Mexican lager. They're tasty, refreshing, and super sessionable given you're diluting an already fairly sessionable beer to make the cocktail. Mexican lagers are more or less based on German Pilsners, so if you prefer a little less skunk than some Mexican lagers offer, give it a try using your favorite craft Pilsner.

Michelada Mix

3 c Clamato Picante
1/2 c Lime juice (~4 limes)
4 t Worchestershire sauce
3 t Valentina Black Label (extra hot) hot sauce
2 t Maggi sauce
1/2 t Fresh ground pepper

Mix all ingredients in a suitable container. To serve, fill a shaker glass about 1/2 to 2/3 full of ice. Fill about halfway with the Michelada Mix, then fill the rest of the way with your beer of choice. You can fine tune the heat by adding more hot sauce. Another option is to rim the glass with Old Bay seasoning, or Tajin seasoning.

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Draft Line Cleaning

>> Monday, December 10, 2018

One thing I hate doing is cleaning draft lines on my keezer and jockey boxes. It's just not a whole lot of fun, it's time-consuming, and it can be messy. Long story short, it's probably the one homebrewing task that's an all-around pain. That said, it's also crucial if you don't want your homebrew riddled with off-flavors and off-aromas due to dirty lines.

My solutions to this chore have evolved over time, and I just added a new piece of equipment that should make it less of a pain. In the spirit of sharing ideas, I've listed the solutions I've employed, along with some pros and cons of each.
  1. Garden Pump Sprayer - Basically you fit a ball-lock post onto a handheld garden pump sprayer, fill the reservoir with beer line cleaner, pressurize and run it through your lines.
    • Pros - It's a pretty cheap solution.  It does a halfway decent job...at least it's better than not cleaning your lines at all. It's portable so it's still what I use to flush out my lines after pouring at festivals and such.
    • Cons - The best cleaning happens with constant fluid movement, aka recirculation. The process for me was flush the line with hot water, fill line with hot line cleaner, let it soak, then finally flushing repeatedly with more hot water. In between, you're refilling the sprayer, pumping, etc. If you have more than one tap, it gets old quick.
  2. Keg Jumpers - I got these nifty little items from BrewHardware.  Essentially these are double-ended liquid ball lock posts used to join two ball-lock disconnects. They work well, and if you pair these with sections of hose on your faucets, you can daisy chain all your faucets together and clean all your lines at once. The way I use them, it requires a pump, but I already have a pump in my equipment arsenal.
    • Pros - Ingenious little gadgets that work well and are affordable. Leak-free connection at ball-locks. Allows you to recirculate cleaner for better cleaning.
    • Cons - I have a mix of faucets (Vent-matics, Intertap, stout faucet) and the spouts are slightly different diameters which makes it hard to daisy chain them. Inevitably, a hose slips off a faucet and line cleaner gets pumped all over the place. Also, there's a huge pressure drop from daisy chaining five taps and their 3/16" lines together. It definitely restricts flow and reduces the benefit of recirculating.
  3. Keg posts with manifold - This is my latest solution for line cleaning. This is also based on a gadget from BrewHardware. On one end you have a keg post similar to their machined jumpers and the other end is a standard 1/2" male NPT threaded fitting. I partnered these with a 1/2" manifold from Home-Flex and a camlock disconnect. The manifold is intended for use in CSST installations but it's made from 304 stainless, so it should work just fine for this application. All ports are 1/2" female NPT so all it takes is a little bit of Teflon tape to seal up the threads. All faucets flow back into my reservoir (bucket) for recirculation.
    • Pros - All stainless manifold so it should hold up to caustic-based cleaners and acid-based sanitizers. Less pressure drop and much higher flow compared to daisy chaining. All lines cleaned at once.
    • Cons - Not really any. The only one I can think of is the posts are one-piece, so no poppets. I actually consider this a positive to because there aren't any moving parts or seals to wear out (other than the exterior post o-ring). However, unless I block off one or more ports, I always have to clean all five lines at the same time.  Again, kind of a pro because there's no excuse for not cleaning all the lines.
Here is the parts list for my build in case you're interested in doing something similar:
Brew Hardware fitting
One thing worth mentioning, the body of the manifold is made from stainless tubing so it's much thinner compared to stainless tees and crosses, but it seems heavy enough.

As for assembly, just screw the threaded fittings into the manifold. I chose to install the camlock at one end of the manifold and the keg posts on the middle four and opposite end. Don't forget to use Teflon tape on the threads; this will eliminate leaks and galling of the threads.

Using it is pretty self-explanatory. You need a reservoir to supply the pump with line cleaner or sanitizer.  I use the same silicone hoses to make the connections that I use on my brew system. Pump gets connected to the manifold, then each line is connected to the manifold. Then turn on the pump and open the taps. Make sure you follow the instructions on your cleaning and sanitizing chemicals. Here are a few pictures of the setup.
Parts ready for assembly

Manifold in action

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Rye Barrel Adambier

>> Sunday, December 09, 2018

Today's recipe is for an Adambier and is based on Hair of the Dog Brewing Company's interpretation of the style, simply named Adam. In fact, this recipe reportedly comes directly from Alan Spirits at HotD via Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef. We're brewing this beer as a group project, and by "we", I mean Brandon, Jeff, Nate, and Rob (me). Some previous group projects included our buddy Ryan, but he lives in Texas now so Nate jumped into Ryan's spot. This is going to be a huge beer that will be consumed slowly over a few years, so it's a good one to split with friends.

Adambier is one of those nearly extinct historic styles that most people have never heard of and there really aren't a whole lot of commercial examples out there (HotD’s Adam is the only one I’ve ever seen packaged for sale). Standard guidelines are pretty scarce as well. I first heard about the style when I was doing my pro-am Cahoots Flanders Red with Uinta Brewing. They had brewed up a batch of Adambier for some special events including GABF. In fact, a small portion of the Adambier made its way into the final Cahoots blend (one port barrel filled roughly 50/50 with Flanders Red and Adambier). The style is essentially described as a German lagered version of a Barleywine. Note, I said “lagered version of a Barleywine”; it's an ale that's lagered, rather than a beer brewed with lager yeast. It's very likely that this beer was cold-aged in order to round out the flavors and let some of the hot alcohols mellow.

As for descriptions of the style, the Maltose Falcons seem to have the most complete write-up on their club site. Other sources describe the style as a marriage of malt, sour, and smoke, but I doubt the sour was very pronounced and probably wasn't even intentional when/if it occurred. Similar to an Old Ale, the sourness is likely subdued and the byproduct of extended aging on wood rather than something akin to a Flanders Red where acidity is integral in defining the style. One thing that is consistent is the description of smoky character which dates back to a time when all malt had at least a little bit of smoke character from direct-fired kilns. This recipe uses peat-smoked malt, something that almost every professional brewer as well as homebrewer will tell you to steer clear of due to its overwhelmingly intense smoky character. This is my first time using this malt and I can tell you my hands smell smoky just from bagging the two and a quarter pounds for this recipe.

Even with the smokiness that is likely to come from the peat-smoked malt, this style is all about the malt. Malt, malt, and more malt is the name of the game. We're using Imperial Tartan yeast for this batch, which is a yeast strain known to emphasize malt character in finished beer. This beer is going to spend some time in a rye barrel from Sugarhouse Distillery once primary fermentation is complete. I'm not sure if it's the char, the micro-oxygenation, or a combination of the two (most likely), but there's definitely some magic that takes place in a barrel...softening, conditioning, rounding flavors. If you don’t have a barrel for a beer like this, consider charring some oak cubes and adding them to secondary.

Well that's enough talk. Now to the recipe as we're making it today. Due to the high gravity, this is a bit of an advanced beer. If you're stumbling across this recipe and you're a first-time homebrewer, I would not recommend starting with this recipe. 

Recipe size: 15 gallons
Target OG: 1.134 - As gravity increases, efficiency drops. I doubt we'll get to 1.134, but it's going to be high regardless.

The total recipe is listed below. Due to volume restrictions in both the mash and the boil, we will most likely divide the mash and boil in half. Fermentation will be divided across three fermenters.

55.00# Gambrinus Pale Malt (yes, that’s one full sack)
5.43# Briess Bonlander Munich Malt (10L)
2.25# Simpsons Peat Smoked Malt
3.75# Crisp Light Crystal Malt (45L)
0.56# Castle Chateau Black Malt
1.13# Crystal Pale Chocolate Malt
6.0oz Northern Brewer (90 min)
4.5oz Northern Brewer (40 min)
6.0oz Tettnang (10 min)
(6) - Imperial Tartan A31 (yes, six of them)
1.5 Whirlfloc
3t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient

Mash at 155F, 120 minute boil, start fermentation at 62F and ramp up to 67F over 5 days.

Considerations - Due to the extremely high starting gravity, you really need to ensure your yeast are as healthy as possible. Yeast starters, yeast nutrient, and proper oxygenation before fermentation starts are all very important. Additional doses of oxygen are fine up until you start seeing signs of active fermentation. I specially ordered yeast for this batch to ensure it was as fresh as possible. Make sure your mash tun is large enough to accommodate the entire grain bill. A giant whisk may work better for mixing and breaking up doughballs than a traditional mash paddle.

Brewing Notes
We're still in the middle of mash #1. This pushed my mash tun to the max. I had the flow set a little higher than normal to ensure a consistent temp throughout the mash bed, but I started seeing signs that it was compacting. I went ahead and reduced the flow, then stirred the mash to reset the bed. More to come.

Part 2: Petty much the same as the first half of the mash. Gravity came in at 1.114 (26.8 P). We lost a little bit of wort on the hop spiders. First fermenter got a little over filled, second fermenter filled exactly 5 gallons, and the last one was around 4 gallons. Long story short, we're a little shy of 15 total.

We did a 2nd runnings beer as well. We threw a variety out late addition hops including Centennial, Cascade, Simcoe, and 2017 Hop Hash; nothing that will ever be repeatable. Post-boil OG was about 1.035. It was pitched with US-05.

Update 1/1/2019
This beer was transferred into the rye barrel today. The barrel has a fair amount of headspace. I think it could easily handle another 2-3 gallons, so I may brew up a top-off batch. Before filling, I purged the barrel with CO2. As for other process info, see below.

Ideally, you should be refilling barrels within a couple days of emptying. This barrel sat empty for an extended period of time, so it needed to be rehydrated. My standard procedure is a modified French method where I fill the head with 180F water and let it soak for about 10-15 minutes. The barrel is then flipped over and the process repeated on the other head. Lastly, I fill the barrel with 180F water and let it sit for about 30 minutes before emptying.

I also tend to wax my smaller barrels. The intention in doing so is to reduce oxygen permeability so that it's mimics the oxygen transfer relative to surface area of larger barrels. For 10 gallon barrels, I wax 75% of the staves. For 15 gallon barrels, like this one, I wax 50% of the staves.

Note: I originally  indicated we were putting this into a bourbon barrel; it's actually a rye whiskey barrel.

Update 1/15/2019
I finally got around to kegging the 2nd runnings beer that we've been referring to as Jr. It's got a ton of hop flavor and aroma. It's kind of a murky light brown color, maybe a bit lighter than a typical British Mild. I added some gelatin to try to improve the clarity. Body is on the thin side.  I probably wouldn't be super happy if this was the beer I was trying to brew, but as a "free" 2nd running beer, it's not bad.

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