The Tramp About Burger

>> Sunday, August 19, 2018

Burgers...they pair well with beer, they're a great summertime grilling option, and because everyone in my family likes them, we tend make them fairly often. A while back, New Belgium's blog had a burger recipe courtesy of one of their favorite food trucks, The  Tramp About. I made this recipe a while back and everyone loved it. The only thing I ended up changing a bit was I reduced the size of the patties because 7oz was a little too big for most of our kids. I have some nice big heirloom tomatoes ripening on the vine, so I figure it's a good time to make this recipe again. In my opinion, the tomato bacon jam and jalapeno aioli are what make this burger so great. A nice homegrown heirloom tomato doesn't hurt.

THE TRAMP ABOUT’S BACON JAM BURGER

JalapeƱo Aioli
4 cloves garlic
2T cilantro
2 jalapeƱos, deseeded
1T honey
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 egg yolks
2C canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to food processor except for egg yolks, oil, salt and pepper. Process for 30-ish seconds. Add eggs and continue to process while slowly adding oil. Process until fully emulsified, then gently stir in salt and pepper.

Tomato Bacon Jam
0.5# bacon, preferably apple-smoked
2.0# canned diced tomato
1 yellow onion, diced
1C sugar
1C apple cider vinegar
1T salt
1T pepper


Cut bacon into 1/4" strips and cook on medium heat in a medium saucepan until fat is rendered. Add diced onion and cook until translucent. Add remaining ingredients and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Assemble Burger
It's not rocket science here...patty + aioli + Romaine lettuce + slice of tomato + jam. The aioli and jam are kind off like crack...prepare to be addicted.

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Peruvian-inspired Corn Beer

>> Friday, August 03, 2018

In prior posts, I mentioned I was malting my own corn in order to brew a beer inspired by fermented beverages native to the Americas. I found a few examples of people trying something similar, and the results were mixed at best. A few people said several of their attempts were just plain gross and it took multiple tries to come up with a recipe that was even worth brewing a second time. So it's definitely a little challenging.

I stumbled across an article about Dr. Patrick Ryan Williams' research into the Wari people of Peru and their ancient corn beer. That led me to Off Color Brewing, who brewed a chicha-inspired beer based on Dr. Williams' findings. I reached out to Off Color Brewing for a little help, and the following is the recipe I came up with based on their tips. 

A couple of disclaimers first about some general assumptions that I made. First, I  think it's probably safe to assume these fermented beverages would have been sour or at least slightly tart due to the limited understanding of microbiology and sanitation in ancient times. Second, these beverages were likely fermented without temperature control, so they probably had some fruity esters similar to a Saison and other farmhouse styles. I also want to make it clear, this is a Chicha-inspired beer, and is not intended to be an authentic recreation of the ancient style.

PSA: Pink Peppercorns are in the cashew family, so you may want to steer clear of these if you have any nut allergies. 

Target OG 1.045

5.0# 7oz Castle Chateau Pilsner malt (65%)
2.5# Malted Purple Corn (30%)
7oz Honey Malt (5%)
8g pink peppercorns (5 min)
Kettle sour with GoodBelly SuperShots
Blend of US-05 and Belle Saison

Brew Day 1 - 8/3/2018
  • Mash at 150F, mashout at 168F for 10 minutes. 
  • Collect about 7 gallons and bring to 175F for about 15 minutes.
  • Chill to 100F and acidify to a pH of 4.5 before pitching GoodBelly.
  • Leave it to sour for a few days.


Brew Day 2 - 8/7/2018
  • 90 min boil
  • No hops in this recipe. 
  • Add pink peppercorns at 5 min left in the boil. 
  • Chill to 65F and pitch a combination of US-05 and Belle Saison. Start fermentation at 65F, and allow to rise to 69F over 4 days.
Brewing Notes
No real issues with this brew. Pre-boil pH came in at 3.38, so this will likely have quite a bit of acidity once fermented. The post-boil pH read 3.35. OG is 12.3P (1.048) so just a little higher than planned. I had a pretty vigorous boil going, so the extra gravity points are likely due to extra boil off. I tasted a small sample and it's really nice with tons of berry character. I was a little worried when I first added the pink peppercorns because the aroma was super peppery/spicey. I was afraid that combined with pepper notes from the yeast might throw it out of balance, but I really dig how the sample tasted.

Update 8/9/2018
Fermentation is progressing without any problems. I made some blow-off tubes using 1/2" stainless tubing. This is the first time using one and it's working great, much better than my old plastic/silicone tubing blowoffs. They're easy to clean, they don't flop around, just a nice simple design. I'll post a picture later. Gravity is down to ~1.027 and it's currently chugging along at 65F, ramping up to 66F today.

Update 8/11/2018
Gravity is down to ~ 1.006. No blow-off of yeast/krausen and my stainless blow-off tube has worked great. I'm probably going to make a few more of these and use them from now on.  They're easy to sanitize and they can even be boiled. In the event of a blow-off, they'll help contain the mess (assuming the little container doesn't overflow).

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Home Malting Corn

Malting Maiz Morado
I mentioned a while back in my post about my grain tumbler that I was toying with doing some home malting. I've always wanted to try brewing a beer inspired by fermented corn beverages that are native to the Americas, like Chicha and Tiswin. I haven't settled on a final recipe yet, but I'm happy to say I seem to have successfully malted some Peruvian purple corn.

To be honest, I was kind of shocked this worked on the first attempt. I went to a local market after spotting maiz morado on their website (http://www.lapequenitamarket.com). The corn comes in a gallon-ish-sized bag, dried, and still on the cob. My initial concern was maybe it was somehow treated/kilned so that it was sterile and wouldn't germinate. The second concern is I've never tried malting anything, so I figured there was as good or better of a chance of me ending up with a soggy mess of moldy rotting corn, as there was of being successful at actually germinating the corn.

I started out by removing the kernels from the cobs. I then sifted the corn over a desk fan in a stainless colander. The purpose here was to remove as much debris as possible, hopefully reducing chances of mold. Next, I transferred it to my stainless bucket and filled it with tap water until it was about an inch above the kernels. I let this sit for about 5 hours, then transferred them to a colander for a couple hours. Then they went back in the bucket with fresh water for an overnight soak.  The next morning I changed the water again and left it to soak for a grand total of about 24-28 hours. Then I drained them in a colander and transferred them to a large stainless chafing pan. I placed moist paper towels in the bottom of the pan before adding the corn and covered them with most paper towels as well. Then I stuck it in my warm garage (just in case it started smelling like hot garbage) and headed off to work. I checked it when I got home from filling Chardonnay barrels with sour beer at SaltFire Brewing (shameless plug, I'm running the sour beer program) and was super happy to see that the corn was germinating. Most resources indicate it can take up to 5 days to germinate, but in my case, it was closer to 16 hours.

Once the shoots were about 2x the length of the kernel, I transferred the corn malt to my food dehydrator to halt the germination process. Spreading the grain out on a towel, or in the sun to dry should work too, but I have access to a good dehydrator so that's what I used.

Next, I lightly kilned the corn malt in our oven at 176F for about four hours. The last step was to transfer the corn malt to a pillow case and put it in the clothes dryer (no heat) for about 10 minutes. This knocks off the shoots; they're bitter, and you don't want them in your beer.

That's about it as far as the process goes. You'll notice i didn't use my malt tumbler this time. The main reason was I wasn't sure this was even going to work, and I didn't have time to pick up a bucket to be dedicated for malting. I'll probably give it a try on the next batch now uhh far I have a little more confidence that the process works. Stay tuned for an experimental beer.

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Czech Premium Pale Lager 2018

>> Sunday, June 10, 2018

Today I'm brewing my third Czech Premium Pale Lager. The first attempt at this style won a gold medal while the second didn't fare as well.  Comments on the second version indicated the judges thought it had a brett infection. Given how many sour/wild beers I brew, this is entirely possible and I thought I was also able to taste a little funk, especially after a few months in the bottle. I don't believe that brett and bugs are the bogeyman that a lot of people make them out to be, but it goes to show that you need to be careful. In my case, I believe it was picked up in my counter-pressure filler, so I've changed my sanitation procedure by incorporating a pasteurization step every time I use it (140F recirculation while submerged in the same 140F water for about 20 min; heated by my sous vide cooker).

So back to the Czech Pils/Bohemian Pils/Czech Premium Pale Lager. I'm gaining an appreciation for lighter, more delicately flavored beers. I tend to gravitate towards big bold flavors in beer (and food) but there's definitely a time and place for easy drinking beers. The key to brewing this style is very soft water, so I start with distilled water and use minimal salt additions.. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

8.0# 11 oz Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Pilsner
9 oz Briess Carapils
34g Czech Saaz 4% AA (60 min)
41g Czech Saaz 4% AA (30 min)
20.5g Czech Saaz 4% AA (10 min)
20.5g Czech Saaz 4% AA (0 min)
Imperial Yeast L28 Urkel
0.5 Whirlfloc
0.5t Yeast Nutrient

Mash at 154F for 90 mins, 90 minute boil, chill to 44F, aerate well and pitch yeast. Raise temp to 50F over 48 hours. Raise temps to 64F for the diacetyl rest. Cold crash after a couple days.

Water Recipe
10 gallons distilled water
0.55g Epsom Salt
0.33g Calcium Chloride
0.44g Baking Soda
0.44g Chalk

Brewing Notes
No issues in this brew session. I was working on some other projects at the same time, including putting up a trellis and getting started on my first attempt at homemade pastrami. I had to run to the store at one point and had to enlist my son to do the 30 minute addition. OG came in at 13.9P (1.055).

Update 8/5/2018
This beer went in the keg today along with some gelatine for fining.

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Berliner 2018

>> Friday, June 08, 2018

Just a quick post today. I'm brewing another Berliner, this time kettle-soured with GoodBelly SuperShots, then primary fermentation with Wyeast 3191Berliner Weisse Blend. This is by far my favorite blend for BW due to combination of the sach, brett, and lactobacillus in the blend. As I indicated, I'll be kettle-souring, so the bulk of the acid production will happen pre-boil, before the blend is pitched.

The process is mash, collect ~7 gallons, pre-acidify pH to 4.5 or slightly less, raise to 180F for about 15 minutes, chill to ~100F, transfer to my 1/4bbl Sanke and pitch lactobacillus. Then let it ride until pH gets where you want it, 3.2 - 3.4 in my case. Next, boil as normal, chill, ferment. Here is the recipe as i brewed it.

4.0 # Avangard German Pale Malt
3.5# Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
Rice Hulls, as needed (usually about 0.5#)
1.0 oz Aged Debittered Hops (60 min, 0.0 IBUs)
0.5 oz Sterling (in Whirlpool when temps <170F, 0.0 IBUs)
GoodBelly SuperShot - 1 or 2, depending on freshness
Wyeast 3191 Berliner Weisse Blend

Mash at 150F for 90 minutes, kettle sour at room temp, 90 minute boil, no aeration, ferment at room temp.

Brewing Notes
Day 1 - Mash and Starting Kettle Souring - 6/4/2018
No issues. Wort was acidified to a pH of 4.42 using phosphoric acid. I was doing other things around the house in addition to brewing, so I think I held the temp at 180F for about 45 minutes. That's not a problem though as the purpose of this step is to pasteurize. Wort was chilled to just below 100F and GoodBelly was pitched. I did use two GoodBelly  SuperShots because they were not quite as fresh and I figured some of the cells had probably died off.

Day 2 - Boil - 6/8/2018
The pre-boil pH dropped down to 3.20. This is lower than I've ever gotten without acidifying to <4.5 for kettle souring. The end of boil pH is 3.27, probably due to the addition of hops, yeast nutrient, and/or Whirlfloc. No issues during the boil. Gravity came in exactly at 11P (1.043).

Update 6/9/2018
I'm seeing signs of active fermentation this morning with about 1 /2" of krausen. That's a good sign because this blend can be a slow starter and the smack pack didn't swell as much as most other strains.

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Lichtenhainer 2017

>> Friday, May 25, 2018

Today I'm getting started on beer based on an unusual historical style, a Lichtenhainer. What makes this style unusual is it's both a smoked beer and a sour beer, along the lines of a smoked Berliner Weisse. I'm a huge fan of both smoked and sour beers, but I have to admit that a sour smoked beer sounds a little weird even to me. Regardless, I'm doing one.

At one point all beers had a smokey character due to the way that malt was produced; malt wasn't originally isolated from the fuel (wood) that was used for drying and kilning. For my interpretation of the style, I smoked all the malt using my malt smoking setup. For this version, I decided to use pecan wood for smoking and I'll be doing a kettle sour method. So this beer is more along the lines of being inspired by the historical style rather than being a true example of the style. The recipe I'm using is based on Mark Schoppe's award-winning NHC recipes. My interpretation is likely to turn out more sour and more smokey than Mark's.

I'll be doing a split batch (after primary) where half will get chipotle peppers added in secondary. As with other smoked beers, it's extremely important to eliminate chlorine from your brew water. If you don't, you're almost guaranteed to have chlorophenol problems. Here's the recipe as I'm making it today.

Pecan Cold-smoked Malts
     4.125 # Avangard German Pale Malt
     4.125 # Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
14g Aged hops (60 mins)
GoodBelly SuperShot for kettle-souring
Wyeast 2565 Kölsch after kettle-souring
Whirlfloc
Yeast nutrient

Mash at 150F, transfer to boil kettle and raise temps to 175F for 15 minutes to pasteurize. Chill to 100F before pitching GoodBelly and sour to a target pH of 3.4-ish. After target pH is reached, proceed with boil, 90 minutes. Ferment at 63F. When primary is complete, add 1 rehydrated chipotle pepper per gallon.

Brewing Notes
Day 1 - Things went fairly smooth with no issues. I ended up using phosphoric acid to reduce the pH to about 4.48 before pitching the lactobacillus. I haven't really done that before, but it's pretty standard for kettle souring. I sampled the wort and the smoke level seems complimentary and not overpowering. That's a good sign because it can tend to come out more after fermentation and carbonation.

Day 2 - I proceeded with the boil today (5/28), no issues. The post-boil pH came in at 3.37. OG is 12.2P (1.048).

Update 7/7/2018
Half got kegged today, and the other half went on three chipotle peppers (two large, one small), rehydrated in boiling RO water.

Update 8/5/2018
I bottled the Chipotle half today. I tried the straight half and it had a horrible green apple cider character. I may have rushed it through primary, meaning the yeast didn't have time to clean up acetaldehyde from primary fermentation. I didn't notice the issue in the Chipotle half... possibly because of the extended aging on the peppers. Another possible problem, I cold crashed this batch then raised the temp back up because of another beer I had in the ferm chamber. Then I cold crashed again. This may have exposed it to too much oxygen. I ended up dumping the straight half; it was nothing I'd ever want to drink.

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Sous Vide Details and Tri Tip

One of my nephews is a chef and used to work at Haven Gastropub in Orange, CA. While there, he came up with a recipe for pork belly that was absolutely amazing. He described a process called sous vide, where they would cook the pork belly overnight in a water bath. Then before serving, the pork belly would be briefly seared in a hot pan, just enough to add some a thin layer of bacon-like crispness to the pork belly. It was served on a bed of greens and the low and slow cooking process resulted in a delicious fork tender dish that practically melted in your mouth.

Sous vide cooking is pretty well known now, but when I first tried my nephew's dish, it was a process I'd never heard of. I looked into it a bit and saw that there were several sous vide cookers on the market but I was hesitant to lay out the cash for one. They're pretty basic and usually consist of a heating element controlled by an electronic thermostat/switch that receives a signal from a temp probe. There's also some means for circulating water to ensure even temperatures throughout the water bath. It doesn't take a genius to realize this is very similar to my HERMS setup and how I use it for mashing grain. So I decided to do a trial sous vide cook using my brew system and some beef tenderloin steaks. The results were amazing and not too long after that, I bought an Anova Precision Cooker. Now you may ask, why did I buy one when my brew system worked so well? Well the brew system was a bit of overkill for what's needed (too much water, too much cleanup, etc.) and sometimes certain spices can permeate the plastic bags used for sous vide. I definitely didn't want any beefy off flavors in my beers, so I decided to buy a dedicated unit.

The process is pretty simple so I won't go into a ton of detail. Plus there is a  lot of info on the Internet, so there's no need to regurgitate what's already out there. Basically, you season your food, seal it in a bag, then cook it in the bag in a water bath at a given temp for a given period of time. This usually means low temps and several hours cooking time. The end result is very flavorful, juicy, tender meat (although it's not just for meat). Additionally, because of the low and slow method and the precise temp control, you end up with perfectly cooked meat all the all through (medium rare at our house for beef). That's right, no tough, chewy, dry over-cooked meat.

As for equipment, I use a food sealer, but there are ways to do it with regular zip lock bags. For the container, I use a Coleman Party Stacker cooler and cut a hole in the lid so I can insert the Anova.  Then it's just a matter of filling the cooler with the appropriate amount of water, bringing it up to temp, then adding your bagged food and setting the timer. It's worth mentioning, after the cook you still want to usually sear your meat. I use a hot cast iron pan on my grill for this. This gives you the flavors associated with grilled meats (maillard reactions) and without it, it's closer to boiled meat.

So like my brewing and other food related posts,  I post this kind of stuff do that I make sure I do it The same way each time. It also helps if I decide I want to tweak things. So today I'm doing a tri tip with Santa Maria seasoning. I recently discovered a butcher shop near my house (Don's Meats) and I've been buying my tri tip there. The butcher is awesome and the meats have been great, plus it's always nice to support local businesses. Tri tip is great as a main dish, but we also like to slice it thin for sandwiches which is what we'll be doing with this one.

As described above, I sealed the tri tip in a vacuum seal bag then cooked it in my sous vide setup at 134F for 3 hours. Minimum time for this is about 2 hours and maximum is about 6 hours. I've heard too long in the water bath can change the texture for the worse, so I'd recommend shooting for something between 2 and 4 hours. It was then removed and seared on each side for about 1 min per side (flipped every 30 seconds). That's about all there is to it...eat it or chill out to be sliced later.
Seasoned, bagged, and ready for a bath

 Hanging out in the water bath

Right after adding meat, the temp only dropped 1 degree

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Smoked Imperial Porter - 2018 Experimental

>> Sunday, April 22, 2018

Today I'm brewing an experimental version of my smoked porter. The first version of this beer took a gold medal for smoked and wood-aged beers and the second version did as well. The third version on sassafras didn't fare quite as well and I personally hated the rootbeer-like character it got from the sassafras. So today I'm brewing the fourth version which will be a split batch.

The biggest difference with this version is I'm using hickory-smoked malt that I smoked myself for my base malt. After primary, I'm planning on splitting off 2.5 gallons which will receive 1 pound of Maple & Bacon Smoked Candi Syrup. The home-smoked malt was cold-smoked using my newly completed malt tumbler. I suspect this version will have a much stronger smoke character because of the larger proportion of smoked malt, and because hickory trends to yield stronger smoke flavors compared to some other smoking woods. I love a strong smoke flavored beer, so I think I'll enjoy it, but it might be a little too strong for some.

Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it:

10.5# Hickory-smoked California Select Malt
2.0# Avangard Munich
1.25# Crisp Brown Malt
1.25# Crisp Crystal 77L
0.75# Crisp Pale Chocolate Malt (225L)
28g Magnum (60 min)
14g EKG (10 min)
Imperial Yeast Flagship
0.5 Whirlfloc
0.5t Yeast nutrient

Split batch with 1# of Maple & Bacon Smoked Candi Syrup added to half the batch after primary fermentation subsides.

Mash at 154F for 60 minutes, 90 minute boil, ferment at 60F

10 gallons distilled water using Beersmith's London water profile.

Brewing Notes
No issues. OG came in at 20.8/1.085.

Update 5/28/2018
I transferred this beer to two secondaries today. Half was racked onto the Maple Bacon Candi Syrup. I'll probably let this go about a week or two then add the wood for aging.

Update 7/2/2018
These variants went into kegs tonight. These have been sitting on hickory since 6/2/2018. Smoke on these is noticeable, but doesn't dominate. The maple-bacon variant is interesting. The maple character is subtle. The bacon component is a bit harder to identify. I'm interested to see how it changes as it carbs.


Update 8/5/2018
Both variants got bottled today. I'm really happy with the way both of these turned out. I don't know if I'd use the maple bacon syrup again. It's super subtle and I don't think it really adds much to this beer. 

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Tumbler for Cold-Smoking and Malting Grain

Equipment time! I stumbled across this post on Reddit by u/Bearded_and_Bored a little while back. At the time, I was toying with the idea of brewing a Chicha-inspired beer but wanted to take advantage of malting the corn rather than doing the chew and spit thing. I also love smoked beers and was thinking this design would work great for cold smoking my own malt at home.

The design is fairly simple here; a standard food-grade bucket for the container, a simple box frame to mount everything to, a two casters connected to a rotisserie motor to turn the bucket, and a few more smaller casters to keep everything properly aligned. A picture (in this case a video) is worth a thousand words, so check out Bearded and Bored's Reddit post and related YouTube video for more info. Mine is essentially the same design as his, it's just made out of metal tubing rather than 2x4s.

I recently used this for the first time to cold smoke some California Select 2-row and it seemed to work really well. Here's the process I followed:

  1. Add grain to the bucket. For the trial run, I used 6 pounds of California Select Malt. You want the grain to be able to move freely, so don't pack it full.
  2. Moisten the grain with RO, distilled, our some other de-chlorinated water source at the rate of 9.5ml of water per pound of grain. The water helps the smoke flavor and aroma "stick" to the grain. 
  3. Fire up your cold smoke source and turn on the motor. Total smoking time on my first batch was about 2.5 hours. 
  4. After smoking, transfer the grain to a paper grocery bag and let it mellow for at least a couple days before brewing. 
For the first go, I used hickory. Hickory can be pretty assertive, but I'm using it in a smoked porter and I think it'll be able to stand up to the smoke flavor.


It's probably worth mentioning, for my cold smoke generator, I use a homemade aquarium pump venturi-style one. It works fairly well and puts out quite a bit of smoke. There are lots of options here though, Google cold smoke generators for ideas. Ideally you want something that isn't going to add any color to the grain due to temperature.

At some point I'll try using this new piece of equipment to malt some corn and possibly other grain, I'm also planning on smoking grain with some different wood varieties. More on that later.

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American Wild Brown 2018

>> Sunday, April 15, 2018


Today I'm brewing a variant of my American Wild Barrel-aged Brown base. Grain-wise, the biggest change is I went with half Pilsner and half German Pale malt for the base. Note: I'd intended to go 50/50 on Pilsner and Pale malt, but when I went to measure out my base malts, I realized I was out of Pilsner malt. So this version got 100% Pale for the base. All dark malts are being added during the sparge this time (previously, only the Carafa III Special was added during the sparge). I'm using a portion of US Goldings rather than all aged hops. Lastly, this 10 gallon batch is getting split between INISBC-913 Brett Barrel III and dregs I've grown up from some Casey Brewing and Blending bottles.

Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

10 gallon batch
9.5# Avangard Pilsner
19# Avangard German Pale
3.0# 4 oz Weyerman Pale Wheat Malt
1.0# Crisp Crystal 60
1.0# Briess Chocolate 350L (During sparge)
1.0#  Flaked Oats
1.0#  Special Aromatic
1.0#  Spelt Malt
4 oz Carafa III (During sparge)
17g Aged Hops (60 mins)
17g US Holdings (60 mins)
INISBC-913 Brett Barrel III and Casey dregs (split batch)
Yeast Nutrient

Mash at 157F for 60 mins, 90 min boil, ferment at room temp. Also, no aeration prior to pitching as I believe both of these cultures contain lactobacillus.

Water Profile:
Nothing fancy here. I filled my HLT with 2 gallons of distilled water and 8 gallons of carbon filtered tap water. Since this is a 10 gallon batch, the HLT was re ftfilled with the same radio after mash-in.

Brewing Notes
No real issues. It seemed like I was starting to get a stuck mash about 10 minutes in. I ended up adding a bunch of rice hulls and resetting the bed.

Update 4/17/2018
The Brett Barrel III half had about an inch off krausen yesterday morning and more last night. The Casey half had a tiny bit of foam here and there when I went to bed last night. It has a little more around the edges this morning, so it seems to be slowly getting going.

Update #2 4/17/2018
The Casey half was rolling after I got home and Brett Barrel III seems to be slowing down a bit now. I'm going to move both out of the basement and into a warmer area of the house for the remainder of primary.

Update 4/18/2018
The Casey half has really taken off and looks like it was close to needing a blowout last night despite the fact that it had quite a bit of head space.

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MicroBurst DIPA, 2018

>> Saturday, February 24, 2018


Today I'm brewing the last of my NHC entry beers. This one is a variant of the Galaxy MicroBurst DIPA that I brewed a while back. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today.

6.0# 11oz California Select Malt
4.0# 5oz Avangard German Pale Malt
1.5# Simpsons Golden Promise
1.0oz Carafa III Special (Sparge, for color)
1.0# 3oz Corn sugar (10 min)
28g Magnum (FWH)
14g Galaxy (15 min)
14g Mosaic (15 min)
Whirlfloc
Yeast nutrient
2.5ml Simcoe hop extract (1 min)
2.5ml Mosaic hop extract (1 min)
1.0oz Mosaic CryoHops (Whirlpool)
1.0oz Ekuanot CryoHops (Whirlpool)
168g Blend of Mosaic, Galaxy, Cascade (dry hop)
US-05

Mash at 149.5F, 90 minute boil, ferment at 64F

Water
To 11 gallons of distilled water.
17.6g Gypsum (CASO4)
7.7g Epsom salt (MgSO4)
2.2g Canning salt (NaCl)
1.1g  Calcium Chloride (CaCl2)

Brewing Notes
No issues.  OG came in at 21.2 (1.086). I didn't start my yeast starter as early as I'd hoped, so it still had a lot of yeast in suspension when I transferred from BK to fermenter. I decided to let it rest a few more hours then decanted and pitched the following morning.

Update 3/11/2018
Dry hops were added today.

Update 4/15/2018
Although it didn't move on to the final round, this beer scored well in NHC-Denver. It scored a 41 and the only real critical comment was one of the judges wanted more hop aroma. I agree, the hop aroma was pretty solid at bottling but had dropped quite a bit within 24-48 hours. It tended to come out more as the beer warmed. Hop flavor was pretty stable and it had a nice combination of pine and citrus. 

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My Milk Stout Brings All The Boys To The Yard

>> Sunday, February 11, 2018

Today I'm brewing my Golden Milk Stout again. I'm going to give this one a try as an NHC entry and see how it does. This beer is pretty popular with friends and just about anyone that's had a chance to try it. It's taken bronze the past two years for the Spice, Herb, Vegetable category at Beehive Brew-off. I'm a little concerned how it will do at NHC because it is on the sweet side, even for a sweet stout. There's only one way to find out though!

A couple slight changes this batch, I'm using floor-malted Crisp Maris Otter and dropping the lactose to 0.75 pounds. I'm also reducing the mash temps ever so slightly to 153F. I haven't decided on the coffee toddy yet, but my wife bought me a manual coffee roaster for Christmas, so I might try roasting my own beans for this batch. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

8.75# Crisp Floor-malted Maris Otter
1.00# Flaked Oats
1.00# Gambrinus Honey Malt
0.75 # Lactose (10 min)
12g Magnum (60 min)
14g EKG (10 min)
28g EKG (0 min)
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
0.5 Whirlfloc
Coffee Toddy (at kegging)
The Bomb Tincture (at kegging)
WLP001 - Cali Ale

Mash at 153F for 80 minutes, 90 minute boil, ferment at 60F, raising temps to 65F over the course of a week.

Water - Nothing too fancy, 9 gallons carbon-filtered tap water + 2.5 gallons RO water went into the HLT.

Brewing Notes
No issues. OG came in at 1.068 (16.9P). I recently treated myself to a 7 gallon SS Brewtech Brew Bucket and this is the first batch going in the bucket. It's definitely not as heavy duty as my Morebeer conical, but it seems to be engineered really well. 

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Jockey Box 2.0

>> Saturday, February 03, 2018

About two years ago I posted about my first jockey box build using a vintage Coleman Steel-Belted cooler. I really dig it, it works awesome, and it has so much more character than plastic cooler-based jockey boxes.

Earlier this year, I stumbled across some brand new Steel-Belted Coleman coolers on clearance at Sam's Club. I figured maybe I could resell them on ebay and/or locally and make a few bucks. I had lots of interest in them, but unfortunately nobody actually showed up to buy them. My original build used a Coleman cooler from the early 70's, and much like the cars of the day, it has straighter, more angular lines. The shape of the new coolers is closer to that of the vintage Coleman coolers from the 50's, nice rounded lines. The paintjob is somewhere between matte and satin black with a slight orange peel texture. Combined with the stainless steel trim and the addition of some shiny faucets, I began to realize it would be a cool candidate for a jockey box build.

It got me to thinking...I have some spare parts laying around from previous kegerator and jockey box builds...maybe I should build another jockey box. It wasn't long before I stumbled across a really good deal on another 7-circuit cold plate and I decided to move forward.

Construction on this box is similar to the original with a few minor changes/improvements. 

  1. Like the original, three lines make a double pass through the cold plate, and the fourth makes a single pass. 
  2. Instead of having all liquid supply lines on one side of the cooler, I have two on each side. That's not a huge change, but it should make arranging kegs a little easier.
  3. The biggest change between this one and the first one is I added plastic inserts for the liquid line bulkheads. I fabricated these out of Airborne Immune Support vials. These make it so I can really snug down the bulkheads for a secure fit. They're caulked which should help keep any moisture from entering the space between the outer metal skin and the inner plastic lining of the cooler...plus they give it a nice clean look. I'm probably going to go back and retrofit the original jockey box with similar fittings.
  4. Lastly, I changed the design of the cold plate stand slightly. This version has extensions that center the stand in the middle of the cooler and keep the cold plate from sliding around during transport.

Tips, Tricks, and Comments

This is a fairly simple project, but you'll definitely need some tools. Measure carefully before doing any cutting/drilling. Masking tape, a Sharpie, a tape measure, and an adjustable combination square can be helpful when laying out your design. I tend to drill small pilot holes first, protecting the metal skin with masking tape. The tape keeps the drill bit from slipping and protects the paint. Drill the pilot hole all the way through the metal skin and the inner plastic liner. I use my Harbor Freight step bits (you can probably buy almost all your tools at Harbor Freight for this job) to open up the holes in the metal skin. This includes for the stainless bulkheads on the liquid lines, and the initial drilling for the tap holes. I use hole-saws to cut the inner plastic lining of the cooler. Run hole-saws in reverse (counter-clockwise) so that the teeth don't grab and gouge the plastic. The final hole for the taps is done using a 7/8" Greenlee chassis punch. The order for drilling should be:
  1. Drill pilot hole.
  2. Enlarge the pilot holes using a drill bit the same size as the bit in your hole-saw.
  3. Align hole-saw bit to your pilot holes and cut appropriate sized hole in plastic liner. DO NOT cut through the metal skin with your hole-saw. Remember to run drill in reverse when using hole-saw on plastic.
  4. Use step bit to open up the holes in metal skin. Holes should be big enough for bulkhead to fit through on the liquid line holes, and big enough for the punch's bolt on the tap shank holes.
I used a little bit of epoxy appliance paint to touch up the bare metal around the holes. This will help reduce the risk or rusting.

Below are some pictures and a parts list. I've included prices where applicable to show that you can build these fairly affordably if you shop around and aren't in a huge rush. I say "fairly affordably" because...well, these things aren't cheap. A lot of the expense is in the stainless fittings and they can add up quickly. Plated fittings and faucets are much cheaper, but they're still not cheap. I'm the type that prefers to buy once and spend a little more money up front than have to replace parts later. That said, I got a pretty good deal on some chrome faucets so I skipped the stainless versions there. My total price was right about $250. Compare that to some of these pre-built examples and you can see that they can be quite a bit cheaper to build yourself.

Pre-built Examples

Parts List

Qty - Desc - Price - Supplier
  • 1 - New vintage-style Coleman cooler - $42 - Sam's Club
  • 1 - Used 7-circuit cold plate - $52 ($37+$15 for shipping) -ebay
  • 3 - 3" stainless steel beer shanks (needed four, had a spare) - $32.85 - ebay
  • 4 - 1/4" Stainless steel bulkheads - $10.28 - Installation Parts Supply
  • 8 - 1/4" x 5/16" barb x flare fittings (some were missing from the cold plate) - $13.28 - - Installation Parts Supply
  • 14 - 5/16" gaskets for cold plate - $1.40 - Installation Parts Supply 
  • 4 - 1/4" Stainless shank tailpiece - $5.80 - Installation Parts Supply
  • 4 - Neoprene tailpiece washers - $0.52 - Installation Parts Supply
  • 4 - Tailpiece wingnuts - $0.00 - unknown, spare parts
  • 4 - Liquid ball-lock disconnects - $27.96 - Salt City Brew Supply
  • 7 - 1/4 flare swivel nuts (needed 8, had a spare)- $13.93 - Salt City Brew Supply
  • 4 - Standard chrome faucets - $20 - local classifieds
  • 4 - Stainless tap handles - $32 - eBay
  • Misc parts - ~$20.00
  • Misc shipping - $9.71
Liquid line bulkhead, exterior

Liquid line bulkhead, interior

Interior

Another shot of the Airborn fitting


Bulkheads for taps 3 and 4

Four taps, waiting for something to pour

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Doppelbock 2017

>> Friday, January 05, 2018

Today I'm brewing a style that I've never brewed before, a Doppelbock. I don't know why it's taken me so long to get around to brewing this style...it's just kind of a casualty of my tendency to brew ales more frequently than lagers. The 2015 BJCP guidelines describe this style as follows:

Overall Impression: A strong, rich, and very malty German lager that can have both pale and dark variants. The darker versions have more richly-developed, deeper malt flavors, while the paler versions have slightly more hops and dryness.

Comments: Most versions are dark colored and may display the caramelizing and Maillard products of decoction mashing, but excellent pale versions also exist. The pale versions will not have the same richness and darker malt flavors of the dark versions, and may be a bit drier, hoppier and more bitter. While most traditional examples are in the lower end of the ranges cited, the style can be considered to have no upper limit for gravity, alcohol and bitterness (thus providing a home for very strong lagers).
Since this is my first time brewing the style, I'm going with a recipe based on Jamil Zainasheff's recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. I'm brewing this beer as a 2.5 gallon batch rather than 5 gallons...just in case things don't turn out well.

Some key points to remember, because of the colder temps and therefore more challenging fermentation environment, lagers require big healthy pitches. Doppelbocks are big high gravity beers as well, so a large pitch of healthy yeast is extra important. For this beer I went with two smack packs of Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager yeast in a 1.6L starter on a stir plate.

Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today.

7.0# Avangard Munich Malt Light (8L)
2.0# Weyermann® Floor-Malted Bohemian Pilsner
1.0# Weyermann® CARAMUNICH® Type 3
20g Hallertauer (60 min)
4.1g Hallertauer (30 min)
Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager
Whirlfloc
Wyeast nutrient

Water - To 7 gallons of distilled water
1.2g - Epson salt
3.2g - Baking soda
7.1g - Chalk
Note: I don't use the full 7 gallons of brewing water, but I need to maintain a certain level so that my heating elements aren't exposed.

Mash - As is somewhat typical for the style, I'm going with a decoction mash. This does add some complexity to the process, but it's not too bad and it goes a bit quicker with small batches.
  1. Mash in for an initial rest at 125F for 10 minutes.
  2. Pull about 25% of the mash for the first decoction. The decoction should be thick; try to leave most of the mash liquor behind. Raise decoction to 155F and hold for 15 minutes, then increase to a boil and hold for 15 minutes before returning decoction to mash.
  3. Maintain mash at 155F for 45 minutes.
  4. Pull second decoction (25%) and bring to a boil for 15 minutes before returning to mash.
  5. Maintain mash to 168F for 10 minutes, then proceed with sparge.
Boil - 90 minute boil.

Fermentation - Chill to 47F and pitch yeast.
  1. Ramp temperatures up to 50F over 3 days.
  2. On day 9, start raising temps for diacetyl rest at 62F for 3 days.
  3. Gradually drop temps to 40F over 7 days.
  4. Condition at lager temps for 2-4 months.
Brewing Notes
Friday, after-work brew sessions are always fun and go a little later than I hope, but thankfully no issues. The color on this beer is a gorgeous deep copper. OG on this came in at a whopping 1.099.

Update 1/6/2017
I was able to chill the wort down into the high 50's by whirling and using my immersion chiller. I left it in the ferm chamber overnight to get down to 47F. I aerated the wort then pitched my starter this morning and this evening I'm seeing positive pressure in the airlock and hints of krausen in the fermenter, so things seem to be off to a good start.

Update 4/15/2018
For the most part, I really like how this beer turned out. The one flaw is the gravity finished too high. I wouldn't call it cloying, but there's definitely some sweetness there and I noticed it before I even sent it off for judging. I'm pretty sure this is tied more to the decoction than issues with yeast health/pitch size. I'll definitely brew this one again and try to dial things in a bit.

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