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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Bourbon 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 bourbon 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.

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Old Ale 2018

>> Sunday, November 18, 2018

Today I'm brewing a style I've never brewed before, an Old Ale. We recently took the family on a trip to California and we stopped into Beachwood BBQ where they had Zwart Black Star on tap. It was delicious and when we got back, I noticed Wyeast 9097-PC Old Ale blend was a featured release for Q4 2018. Wyeast's description of the blend is as follows:

Species: Saccharomyces cerevisiae & Brettanomyces blend
To bring in a bit of English brewing heritage we developed the “Old Ale” blend. It includes an attenuative ale strain along with a small amount of Brettanomyces. The blend will ferment well in dark worts, producing fruity beers with nice complexity. The Brettanomyces adds a pie cherry-like flavor and sourness during prolonged aging.
Flocculation - Medium
Attenuation - 75-80%
Temp Range - 68-75F
Alcohol Tolerance - 14% ABV
There aren't a ton of commercial examples of Old Ales. Here is the BJCP description for the style:
An ale of moderate to fairly significant alcoholic strength, bigger than standard beers, though usually not as strong or rich as barleywine. Often tilted towards a maltier balance. “It should be a warming beer of the type that is best drunk in half pints by a warm fire on a cold winter's night” - Michael Jackson. 
Strength and character varies widely. The predominant defining quality for this style is the impression of age, which can manifest itself in different ways (complexity, lactic, Brett, oxidation, leather, vinous qualities, etc.). Even if these qualities are otherwise faults, if the resulting character of the beer is still pleasantly drinkable and complex, then those characteristics are acceptable. In no way should those allowable characteristics be interpreted as making an undrinkably off beer as somehow in style. Old Peculier is a fairly unique type of beer that is quite different than other Old Ales.

For this first attempt at the style, I'm using the following  recipe.

14.0# Crisp Maris Otter, floor-malted
0.25# Crisp Crystal Malt 75L
0.25# Simpsons Double Roasted Crystal
0.25# Briess Black Patent
1.0# Black Treacle Syrup (*secondary)
35g Nugget (60 min)
(2) Wyeast 9097-PC Old Ale Blend

Mash at 152F, 90 minute boil, start fermentation at 65F, then ramp up to 70F over 4 days.

*The only reason I'm putting the treacle syrup in secondary is I couldn't find it locally. I had to order it online and it still hasn't arrived. Normally you'd probably add this at the end of the boil so that you don't lose any aromatics.

Brewing Notes
No issues. OG came in at 20.6  brix (1.083). Water-wise, this batch got 3 gallons of distilled water along with about 8.5 gallons of carbon filtered tap water.

Update 11/19/2018
Fermentation is pretty active this morning.

Update 11/20/2018
Checked this morning and fermentation was so active that there was a little but of blow-off between yesterday and today. My stainless blow-off setup contained everything, so there wasn't any mess.

Update 11/25/2018
Still chugging along. The Black Treacle syrup still hasn't arrived yet, but it's on its way. **Updated** Our mail carrier dropped off my Black Treacle this morning before I left for work.

Update 11/27/2018
I added the Black Treacle last night. I heated the syrup a bit by placing it in a bowl of hot water. This helped ensure it wasn't too thick and sticky to flow into my fermenter. Fermentation had slowed a bit, but the addition of simple sugars has increased activity.

Update 12/5/2018
We've had a bit of a cold snap and I noticed my fermentation chamber was having a hard time maintaining the 70F temp. I decided to move the carboy into the house for time being. I decided to pull a sample as well. The refractometer read around 12.2, giving a corrected gravity in the ballpark of 1.026. I think the actual gravity is lower than that, but there's no point in taking a hydrometer reading yet. The flavor was really nice, quite malt-focused and I can pick up on some of the complexity from the Black Treacle. There isn't really any perceptible brett character or acidity quite yet. There's some alcoholic warmth, but it's not hot or fusel. Definitely excited about the potential for this beer.

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