Flanders Red

>> Saturday, December 31, 2011

I'm a huge fan of sour beers. The funny thing about sour beers is people seem to either love them or hate them...there really isn't a whole lot of middle ground with them. One bad thing about living in Utah is the selection of commercial sours is pretty limited. The first sour I ever had was a Lindemans Framboise lambic at The Bayou in Salt Lake City. Admittedly, when I tried it years ago, I was still a bit of a beer noob but it was unlike any beer I'd ever tasted. It's still my number one recommendation for people that claim they don't like beer. Next came Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René, which I think I prefer over the Framboise because it isn't quite as sweet. Next came a Monk's Café Flemish Sour Ale on a GABF trip followed by Temptation, Supplication and Beautification from Russian River Brewing. Long story short, I love the sours.

I'd been planning on brewing a sour for a long time, but never got around to it. The tough thing about sours is it takes a long time to develop the complex wine-like flavors they're known for. With most homebrews, you're able to enjoy the fruits of your labors within 3-5 weeks of brewing them. For brews like a Flanders Red, you're probably looking at about a year before it's ready to bottle. The longer you put off brewing a sour, the longer it will be before you get to enjoy them. So I bit the bullet and bought a Better Bottle that I'm dedicating for sour beers and I brewed my Flanders Red back on 10/29/2011. As the name implies, this style of beer originates in the Flanders region of Belgium. For more info on this style, click here. Here's the recipe as I made it:

5.25 # Dingemans Pilsner Malt
5.25 # Briess Vienna Malt
1.00 # Briess Light Munich Malt
0.5 # Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
0.5 # Dingemans Aromatic Malt
0.5 # Weyermann CaraMunich II
0.5 # Dingemans Special B
0.8 oz Aged hops** (60 minutes)
1.0 oz Oak cubes (French Medium Roast) soaked in a couple ounces of Cabernet Sauvignon
Wyeast 3763 Roesalare Blend (no starter)

Mashed at 154F for 90 minutes. 90 minute boil.

** The aged hops are my homegrown hops from the 2009 harvest. This was when my hops were in their temporary locations, so it's a mix of varieties resulting from intertwined bines. For sour beers you don't really want any hop flavor or aroma; that's where aging comes in. I aged these hops by placing them in brown paper bags above my kegerator. The changing temperatures over the years has completely stripped them of any hop aroma.

Brewing Notes: The brew day was uneventful with no issues. Time will tell how well this thing turns out.

Fermentation Notes: Given the long duration for fermentation/aging, I'm fermenting this one in my basement utility room. Fermentation was very active the following morning and pushed up through the airlock. I ended up removing the bung for a couple days until fermentation had subsided.

11/18/2011 - Fermentation picked up and pushed through the airlock again but subsided within a day.

11/24/2011 - I opened a Temptation from Russian River for T-giving and pitched the dregs. Things are definitely smelling funky in there.

12/4/2011 - Added oak cubes soaked in Cabernet Sauvignon.

12/31/2011 - The airlock is showing a little bit of positive pressure, so it seems to still be chugging along slowly. I haven't tasted it yet and I don't see any point in taking a sample for probably another month. There's a lot of krausen residue in the fermenter that's obscuring my view. I can see a what looks like krausen on top when I remove the bung and peek through the opening. I'm not sure if this is a pellicle or not. I wasn't planning on racking to secondary but I may end up doing so just so I can see what's going on inside.

2/11/2012 - Added dregs from a Russian River Supplication

3/30/2012 - I couldn't wait any longer so pulled my first sample. As I pulled the sample, I was a little nervous, crossing my fingers that this beer is headed in the right direction. I smelled it and it definitely has a funky sour aroma. Taste-wise, there's a really nice tartness developing. I was a little surprised that it had such a great sour flavor already. I think it's mostly lacto at this point because I'm not picking up any vinegar-like flavors or aromas associated with acetobacter. It's very drinkable right now but I'm going to continue to let it age. I'll probably pull a sample on a monthly basis from now on so that I can see how it changes as it ages.

5/4/2012 - Pulled another sample and it's got a nice sharp sourness with some great complexity from the brett and bugs. Again, I'm surprised it tastes this good already. I'm still not detecting any acetic acid character. Acetic acid production is accelerated in the presence of oxygen and suppressed when oxygen levels are low. Plastic buckets tend to have relatively high oxygen permeability compared to other fermentation vessels. I'm aging this in a Better Bottle and the manufacturer claims very low oxygen permeability even though it's made out of "plastic" and so far it seems to be working great.

9/22/2012 - I don't mean to brag, but this is an amazing sour. This one is turning out pretty much exactly how I hoped it would. It definitely has sharp sourness similar to some of the beers from Russian River Brewing Company. I think this one is going to be ready to bottle next month. Don't get me wrong, I'd drink it right now, but I'm going to try to be patient for another four weeks.

10/9/2012 - With the one year mark quickly approaching, I'm about ready to bottle this brew. I'll be checking the gravity again soon and if it's stable, it'll be in the bottle soon. It's going to need to be re-yeasted in order to carb successfully, so the plan is to use 1.5 grams of Enoferm RP15 Rockpile wine yeast per five gallons of beer. The reason I'm using a wine yeast is they tend to be more tolerant of the acids found in sour beers. About half the batch will be capped and the other half will be corked.

10/31/2012 - I ordered the Rockpile yeast for re-yeasting from More Wine and it should be here today. Looking forward to getting this in the bottle this weekend.

11/3/2012 - This went in the bottle today. I used 84 grams of sucrose and a somewhat heaping 1/4 teaspoon of Enoferm RP15 Rockpile wine yeast. I try to avoid measuring by volume but this is about what I usually use for priming homemade soda and that's worked out well. I re-hydrated the wine yeast in boiled water that had been cooled to 72F. I corked and caged 20 Belgian bottles. The rest went into a 12 or 22 oz bottles and were capped. I had a little bit leftover that I sampled. It's very nicely tart, so much so that I don't expect anyone that isn't "into" sour beers to like it much. The level of sourness is very similar to how I remember Russian River's Supplication. I've got a holiday beer tasting coming up in just over a month and I'm hoping it will be carbonated by then. However, I've never re-yeasted a beer and I've never used wine yeast so I'm going to cross my fingers and hope for the best.

1/11/2013 - I'm really happy with the way this beer turned out. The carbonation level was a little lower than I wanted, but other than that I had no complaints. I think the amount of yeast was appropriate, but it needed a bit more priming sugar. I took some to the Holiday Beer Tasting mentioned above. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it (there were several "wow's")...or at least nobody wanted to hurt my feelings. Like most good beers it gets better and better as it warms up a bit. When it's fresh out of the fridge it's mostly sour/tart but as it warms up the complexities start coming out.


Special Bitter

>> Friday, December 23, 2011

Recirculating the mash
I've been doing a lot of higher gravity brews lately so today I'm brewing up something closer to a session beer, an English Special Bitter.  I brewed an Ordinary Bitter earlier this year and it was one of my favorite brews.  High gravity brews are fun, but at the same time it's nice to be able to have something on hand where you can drink more than one without getting trashed.  Here's the recipe as I made it:

9.5 # Crisp Maris Otter Pale
0.5 # Castle Aromatic
0.5 # Briess Crystal 120
0.25 # Briess Special Roast
1.2 oz Kent Goldings 60 minutes
0.5 oz Kent Goldings 20 minutes
0.5 oz Kent Goldings 1 minute
Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale (limited release Wyeast Private Collection)

Mash at 151F for 60 minutes.
Ferment at 68F.  This will be the first time using my new fermentation chamber.

Brewing Notes: I've been having a problem with over sparging on the last few brews resulting in an over-filled boil kettle and an over-filled fermenter.  This sometimes results in messy fermentations because with active ferms, the krausen pushes through the airlock.

To remedy this, I made a dipstick out of a BBQ skewer so that I can measure volumes at 5, 6, and 7 gallons in the boil kettle.  For most brews with a 60 minute boil, I'll run off 6 gallons to the boil kettle.  This should result in five gallons of finished product in the keg.

The target OG for this recipe was 11.7P based on approx 70% efficiency.  My pre-boil gravity was 13.2P and post-boil was 16.1P.  13.2P is a SG of around 1.053.  I plugged 1.053 into  Brewer's Friend Brewhouse Efficiency Calculator and it's showing a Brew House Efficiency of 78.86%.  I was expecting something in the 75%-80% range, so it's good to know I'm in the neighborhood.  I used the BrewHeads calculator as well and got 78.6% using theirs.  I plan to check this on the next few brews and see if I'm consistently getting this efficiency.

Update 12/29/2011 - Even though I was very careful with my volume, I still had some krausen push up through the airlock.  Fortunately I caught it in time and it didn't make much of a mess.  Since it's in my ferm chamber and since I'd previously washed the chamber down with a disinfecting bleach solution, I decided to just pull the bung out of the lid and let it ferment away without an airlock.

Speaking of fermentation chamber, it's working great. My plate chiller got the wort down to about 62F so I let everything stabilize and warm up a little bit before I pitched the yeast.  I didn't time it, but I'd guesstimate it was about an hour after I'd transferred to the fermenter before I pitched the yeast.  I'm fermenting at 68F and pitched the yeast when it got up to 67F.  I checked everything last night and there is still a very dense head of krausen on top.

Another observation, in theory the CO2 generated during fermentation should displace at least some of the air in the ferm chamber.  This definitely seemed to be the case because when I reached in to wipe up the little bit of yeast that had pushed up through the airlock, I took a breath in but didn't feel like I really got much O2.  I'd liken it to trying to catch your breath at a higher altitude than you're used to.  I don't think there's high enough concentrations to cause someone to lose consciousness, but it would be interesting to try to get a reading of the concentration.  And if there was a practical way to reclaim it, that would be kind of cool

Update 3/30/2012 - This is a great easy drinking beer.  This is definitely one I'll be making again.

Not the best pic (cell phone) but you can see the cone of hops and hot break material as I'm running off to the fermenter.


Fermentation Chamber

>> Monday, December 19, 2011

Update 5/29/2013: Unfortunately the chest freezer died. I'll soon be working on another one that will hopefully last a little longer. RIP Ferm Chamber 1.0

Here's my newest piece of equipment.  It's a chest freezer that I've modified to use as a fermentation chamber.  A while back, I realized fermentation temperature control was one area I was really lacking.  My HERMS brewing system provides for very accurate and repeatable mash temps.  Fermentation temp control is just as important as accurate mash temps when it comes to consistent repeatable results.  I have lagering ability but I've been lacking heating ability.

There are commercial heating solutions on the market such as the Brew Belt and the FermWrap heater.  My understanding is they work very well, but the only problem is I have a mix of fermentation vessels (conical, glass carboy, bucket, Better Bottle) and none of the commercial products seemed to work for all fermenters.  Considering  my needs, a fermentation chamber seemed to be the best option.

I found a used Haier 7 cubic foot freezer on KSL classifieds for $50.  Seemed like a bargain since it has built-in cooling capability and it is well insulated.  For heating capability, I went with the Brewer's Edge space heater from Williams Brewing.  This is essentially a heating pad/mat that sticks to the side of your fermentation chamber.  It takes up zero space inside the chamber and it's only 25 watts so it should cost next to nothing to run.  It's advertised that it can keep a small space up to 20 F warmer than ambient air temps.  I tested it with a five gallon bucket of water and it actually exceeded the advertised capability; it held 70F in an unheated garage with overnight lows in the high teens and low 20's.  I may pick up a second one as extra insurance against very cold nights.

To control the heating and cooling cycles, I built a controller based on the eBay aquarium temperature controller.  Its functionality is well documented on HBT, so I won't go into too much detail here.  These work great and it's the cheapest dual stage controller I've come across.  The only con is for us in the US, these only display the temp in Celsius  This can be easily remedied by making a chart to convert between Celsius and Fahrenheit.  For anyone interested in building one, here's the link to the thread on homebrewtalk.

I needed a little extra height inside the chamber to accommodate my conical fermenter so I built a collar similar to what you'd typically see on a keezer project.  I decided to use a PVC fence rail for this because PVC is a good thermal insulator and I shouldn't have to worry about rot, painting, warping, etc.  I used some PVC angle to reinforce the corners.  I also made some some simple wooden L-brackets to fit inside the rail to further reinforce the corners and provide a secure mount for the relocated hinges.  For adhesive, I went with Plumbing Goop Contact Adhesive & Sealant.  I was hoping to find something that would essentially weld the joints and form a strong permanent bond.  I couldn't find anything like that but this Goop product seemed to work fairly well.

I mounted the collar using double-sided tape and caulked all the joints/seams.  I also caulked the corners of the freezer interior.  I did this for sanitary reasons just in case I ever have a messy fermentation (I don't want anything funky growing in the corners).  The collar was then insulated with two layers of 1" rigid foam insulation.  I also used some aluminum foil tape to help seal joints/crevices in the foam.

Lastly, I welded a dolly for the fermentation chamber so I can easily move it around the garage.  To minimize lifting, my plan is to clean and sanitize the fermenter, put it in the chamber, then pump cooled wort directly from the boil kettle into the fermenter.

I haven't added it yet, but my plan is to add a fan and some ducting that will constantly circulate air in the chamber.  This will help ensure consistent temps without stratification.  I haven't had a chance to ferment in it yet, but it seems to be working very well.  After finishing it up, I've been testing it with a 5 gallon keg filled with water with the temperature probe taped to the side and insulated with a piece of foam.


Jack's Punkin' Ale 2011

>> Sunday, October 16, 2011

I brewed my pumpkin-inspired ale today.  There seems to be two schools of thought on pumpkin beers, and that is to use or not to use real pumpkin in the mash.  I've read a bit about it and also listened to a few podcasts on the subject, and from what I'm seeing/hearing you don't get much, if any, benefit from using real pumpkin in the brew.  To the contrary, it seems that it can make a bit of a mess, so it can make clean-up more of a chore.  So as you can probably tell, I lean towards not adding pumpkin.  The pumpkin character that I'm after actually comes from spices typically found in pumpkin pie recipes.

I never got around to making this recipe in 2010, but I made it back in 2009. It's based on an extract recipe I found on BasicBrewing.com...I'd give more credit if I could, but they're redesigning their site and the recipe database is currently unavailable.  I converted the recipe to all-grain, but I can't remember if I used a program to convert it, or if I approximated based on other all-grain recipes.  Anyway, I was hoping to get started on this beer a little earlier so that it was ready by Halloween but it'll still be ready for the holidays.  

The last time I made this beer I noted I thought it could use a bit more cinnamon, so I've increased the amount slightly.  Also, I've upped the grain bill a bit so this year's version will be a bit higher gravity.

13 lbs Crisp Pale Ale malt
1 lbs Crisp Crystal 45L
1 lbs Weyermann Cara Munich I
1/2 lbs Weyermann Cara Red
1 oz Hallertau 60 min
0.5 oz Cascade 5 min
1 t Allspice, ground 15 min
1 t Apple Pie Spice 15 min
1 t Cloves, ground 15 min
1 T Nutmeg, ground 15 min
5 Cinnamon sticks 15 min
Wyeast 2565 Kolsch Yeast
1-2 Cinnamon sticks in the secondary after primary is complete

Mashed at 152 for 60 min
Mash-out at 168 for 10 min

Pre-Boil Brix = 16.2
Post-Boil Brix = 18.4

I was a little worried that I didn't get my yeast starter going early enough.  I started it around 3pm on 10/15 and pitched around 1:30pm on 10/16.  Seeing signs of active fermentation as of 6pm 10/15, so I think I'm good.


Finished Brew Stand!

>> Sunday, October 09, 2011

I finally finished my brewstand so I thought I'd add this post to summarize the build and also to update the previous posts that describe my overall system.  I've brewed one batch so far, a clone of Dogfish Head's Indian Brown Ale.  I'm very happy with the way everything turned out.  The only problem, if you can call it that, is the burner was a lot more powerful than my old propane one and I had a couple of minor boil-overs on the maiden voyage.

The only thing I can think of that I would do differently if I were to start over again is I'd probably position the casters a bit wider for added stability and I'd probably use swivel casters on all four corners so that the stand is more maneuverable.

Just a couple of disclaimers, I'm brand new to welding so I doubt that my welds would pass x-ray tests.  Some of my welds are a bit ugly...as luck would have it, it seems like the ugliest tend to be in highly visible areas.  Regardless, they seem to be plenty strong and the stand seems very sturdy.  My stand is a gas/electric hybrid and there are dangers involved in working with each.  Do not attempt something like this without doing some research and make sure you fully understand the risks involved.

This version is essentially version 4.0 of my brewery.  1.0 was my extract setup, 2.0 was my gravity fed all-grain system, 3.0 was the initial incarnation of the BCS-controlled HERMS, and 4.0 with the custom stand and integrated burner is the current version.

Below are some pics of the finished product.  The shelves are all diamond plate aluminum.  The black portion of the stand is painted with Rust-Oleum® High Heat spray paint and the silver portion is painted with Rust-Oleum® Hammered spray paint.  Primary features of my custom stand include:
  • BCS-460-Controlled HERMS
  • Control Panel
  • March 809 Pump
  • 40 Plate Counter Flow Plate Chiller
  • Natural Gas Burner
  • Dual Carbon Water Filters

Brewstand Done!
BCS-460-controlled HERMS
My brew stand is an electric HERMS (Heat Exchanged Recirculating Infusion Mash System) with a natural gas burner for the boil kettle.  The electric portion is controlled by a BCS-460 from Embedded Control Concepts.  Mine isn't quite as fancy as some BCS-based systems out there.  A lot of them are fully automated but mine is targeted more for just controlling the mash process.  I currently use two temp probes to control two 1500 watt 110 volt heating elements.  One element is used in the Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) and one is used in a standalone Heat Exchanger (HEX).  A lot of HERMS systems use a combination HLT and HEX but a standalone HEX gives you a little more flexibility.  This is because the reaction time of my HEX is much quicker than when you're trying to heat the entire volume of a combo HLT/HEX.  The mash is circulated from Mash Tun (MT) through the HEX then returned to the MT by the pump.  The BCS-460 triggers three relays to control the elements and the pump.  The result is consistent mash temperatures that allow me to brew with repeatable results.  Long story short, it removes some potential variables.  If I make the same recipe three different times I should get nearly identical end products each time (assuming I have consistent fermentation control as well).

Control Panel
The Control Panel enclosure is a Hoffman C12C12 Consolet Steel Junction Box ordered from DougDeals.  The control panel includes three switches, (2) two-way switches (off-on) for the HEX and HLT elements and (1) three-way switch (auto-off-manual) for the pump.  I also have a momentary switch that can be used to advance to the next state on my BCS (e.g. advance from a pause for hose swaps to start mash recirculation).

The temperature probes are connected to the back of the control panel via 1/8" mono headphone jacks and plugs from Radio Shack.  The three solid state relays that control the elements and pump are mounted to a large heatsink from HeatsinkUSA and the heatsink is mounted to the back of the control panel.  The panel tags and legend plates are from Precision Engraving & Graphics (the owner's husband is also a homebrewer!).
Control Panel

Control Panel Innards

Back of Control Panel

March 809 Pump
This is your standard homebrew pump and I used it on my old setup.  On the old setup, it was mounted very low, tended to cause a lot of vibration because of poor mounting, and was difficult to lubricate.  For my stand, I fabricated a mount below the burner for the pump and it includes a 1/8" thick piece of neoprene rubber on the mounting surface.  This helps cut down on rattles and vibration.  It also includes a splash guard made from diamond plate aluminum to protect the pump motor from boil-overs and accidental spills.  The splash guard is attached with thumb screws so it can be easily removed when the motor needs lubricating.  As I mentioned above, the pump can be automatically controlled by the BCS-460 or manually controlled.
Pump and Mount

40 Plate Counter Flow Plate Chiller
This is a brand new piece of equipment.  After building a CFC out of copper tubing and not being too happy with the results, I decided to bite the bullet and order a plate chiller from Duda Diesel.  The chiller seems to work great and it's very compact compared to the DIY CFC I built.  I fabricated an L-shaped mount for it below the burner but above the pump.  It rests on a 1/8" neoprene rubber pad as well and is attached to the stand with stainless steel thumb screws so it can be easily removed for cleaning.  All connections use quick disconnects (cam locks for wort in/out and brass disconnects for the water in/out).
Counter Flow Chiller Front

CFC Back with Thumb Screws
Natural Gas Burner
The natural gas burner is a 6 inch low pressure burner from agrisupply.com.  It's intended for propane, but I converted it to NG using the natural gas conversion valve from Williams Brewing.  To do this I had to drill out the threads on the burner and tap threads for the conversion valve.  The burner is supplied by a 25' ½" hose from G4Burner.com.  The burner was rated for 70K BTU's using propane.  I'm not sure how many BTU's result from the NG conversion (NG has less potential energy than propane) and the long length of ½" hose, but it seems to do the job very well.  I reached boil about 10-15 minutes sooner than with my previous setup and now I don't have to worry about running out of fuel mid-boil.

Dual Carbon Water Filters
These are your basic water filter housings available from Lowes or Home Depot.  They're mounted on the back upper rail of the stand and feature a quick-disconnect so my water line can be easily attached.  I decided to go with dual filters to increase the contact time with the carbon and thus reduce the chance of chlorine making its way into my brewing water.
Water Filters

I just want to say thanks to everyone that posts info online in various blogs and forums for inspiring me and contributing ideas for this project.  I've always wanted to give welding a try and this was a really fun project that's going to make my homebrewing hobby so much more enjoyable.  I also want to thank my very loving and understanding wife for supporting my brewing hobby.  She says I always tell her "as soon as I have xyz on my brewing setup, I'll be done..."  I think we've both learned that there are always improvements to be made and I'm glad my honey allows me to experiment without giving me too much grief.

Another pic

Back side
Update 1/19/2014
I know the title of this post is "Finished Brew Stand!" and I posted it in October of 2011, but brewers are always looking to make minor tweaks to their setups. I've been using the trub/hop filter from BrewersHardware.com since I finished my stand. This piece of equipment is used to filter debris (mostly hop particles) so that my plate chiller doesn't clog. It works great and I've only clogged the filter once when I tried recirculating. I used a camlock to attach the filter to the in port on my plate chiller and it did fine but it always worried me because the weight of the filter was totally supported by the plate chiller. I finally decided to order a bracket for the filter and got around to mounting it this weekend. The mount for the bracket is simple, just a piece of 2x2x1/8 angle iron welded to the stand. It has a hole drilled in it for a 12mm bolt which is used to attach the bracket to the stand. It really holds the filter securely, so there's no chance of bumping the filter and accidentally damaging my plate chiller. I've added a couple pictures below.
Mount for trub filter bracket

TF bracket mounted

TF mounted in TF bracket


Brew Stand Build

>> Monday, July 18, 2011

So I've started working on my brew stand build. I was planning on building a few small projects before the stand just because I've never welded before and I wanted to get some welding hours in before starting on this project. But as most brewers can imagine I'm antsy to get started on this and while my welds are newb-ish, the wirefeed welders really do make it as simple and as idiot proof as possible. So with only one welding project under my belt (custom welding cart), I decided to get started on the brew stand.

If you're considering building a brew stand and have little or no welding experience, I'd recommend checking out these threads on HBT. There are tons of other brew stand examples on HBT as well, but I especially liked these from Jeff Lavallee (aka SouthernYankee) and they're the ones that really inspired me to give it a try.

Welding 101 build #1
Welding 101 build #2

My brew stand will share some similarities to a Brutus stand, but at the same time it will be a bit different. The biggest difference from a true Brutus is my system is a HERMS utilizing electric heating elements in the Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) and Heat Exchanger (HEX). I really like this system and don't really see a need to change it so my system itself won't change much if any right now, it will just have a new home so to speak. Eventually I plan to replace my 5 gallon HLT cooler with a 10 gallon one, redesign the HEX, and probably replace the electrical enclosure.


  • (1) Burner - Since my mash is 100% electric, my brew stand will only have one burner which is used for the Boil Kettle (BK). Right not I'm planning on using a 6 inch burner from agrisupply.com converted to Natural Gas. This is small compared to some burners out there, but since I brew 5 gallon batches I think it will work out well and a big 14 inch burner would be overkill.
  • Shelf for Mash Tun (MT) and HLT - This is sized to hold two 10 gallon round coolers side by side.
  • Shelf for HEX - The HEX will be mounted below and between the HLT and MT. This position should be the most convenient for recirculating during the mash as well as maintaining sparge water temps.
  • Mount for water filter - right now it's not mounted to anything, I just hang it on the side of my HLT to fill it. I may also add some hard plumbing for filling the HLT.
  • Mount for Counter Flow Chiller (CFC) - I'll start off using my homemade dual CFC, but may eventually switch to a plate chiller.
  • Easily movable - Basically this involves adding casters so I can easily move it around the garage/brewery.
  • Small footprint - Until I get around to building a garden shed I don't have a ton of spare room in my two-car garage. So I'm trying to keep the footprint as compact as possible for my equipment.
  • Comfortable height for brewing - I'm about 6'5" tall. I'm designing this so the MT is at a comfortable height for me for mixing in the mash and so I can easily peek into the MT, BK, HLT, etc, This is one of the biggest complaints I have with my existing setup because the top is too high to mix the mash so I'd mix on the ground then lift it on top of the cart to recirculate. Basically I feel like I'm doing a lot of unnecessary lifting. With the new setup I'll still have to lift the BK onto the burner. The only way to eliminate that will be to buy another pump, something I may do at some point but not yet.
  • Misc attachments for storing hoses and such - This basically involves some misc hangers.
Other Considerations
  • Adjustable laptop shelf/holder - My system is a BCS-460-based system, so some kind of a shelf/holder for my laptop would be ideal. This will probably be one of the last things I add so I can make sure it's located in a safe and comfortable position.
  • Shelf for Hopback - I bought a hopback from morebeer a while back but haven't used it yet. I'm thinking of some kind of small shelf (possibly removable) to support the weight of the hopback when running off from the BK.
So here's the design I came up with. Sorry for the less than stellar graphics, my desktop PC cr@pped out on me a while back and I had my nice graphics software on it, so this is courtesy of MS Paint.  It's not quite to scale, but it should give an idea of where I'm heading with this project.  I actually mocked everything up on my kitchen table and dining room chairs so everything should fit just fine.

The BK/Burner portion is elevated compared to the shelf for the MT and HLT. The reason for this is it keeps the tops of my BK, HLT, and MT about the same height. Also, I'm planning on painting the stand myself and this should make it so heat is directed away from the majority of the stand. This will allow me to paint most of it something purdy (maybe fire engine red) and the top burner portion will be coated in some kind of high temp paint.

Last Saturday I started working on the base but didn't get too far because I ran out of material. The material I had on hand was leftover from my welding cart project.

Speaking of materials, I'm building the stand out of 1.5" 16 gauge square tubing that I picked up from Triple-S Steel.  This is a great supplier and the best part is they're open Saturdays from 8 to noon. Just like lumber, steel prices fluctuate but I was able to pick up a 24 foot piece for around $28. They also have a remnant section where they typically sell the steel as low as 55 cents a pound. Most of what they had in the remnant area was much heavier gauge than I could use but they did have a perfectly sized piece of 1/4 plate that I was able to use for a welding table top.

For the base and tops I'm cutting the tubing on 45's for a cleaner appearance (no open ends).  I'm also using flux core wire. My welder is MIG capable but I need to buy a regulator and a bottle before I can go full MIG. I doubt that will happen before I'm done with this project, so I anticipate it being fully welded using flux core wire. Stay tuned for updates as I document my build.

Updated 7/25/2011
I made some good progress on the brew stand this weekend. I picked up more tubing Saturday morning before heading off to the Evanston Beer Festival. Steel prices must have dropped because each piece was a couple bucks less than the last time, so that was a nice little bonus. I had one rectangle (bottom or top) welded up from the previous weekend. I cut and welded up the second rectangle as well as the upright posts for the frame. Now it's actually starting to resemble a brew stand. I tacked on the uprights for the burner stand. I'm hoping to have the top of the burner stand done next weekend so I can start thinking about casters and brackets. I also ordered my burner and it should be here sometime this week. Here are some pics of the brew stand thus far.

Update 7/31/2011

More progress this weekend.  My burner from agrisupply.com and natural gas conversion valve from Williams Brewing came.  I finished welding up the burner stand including supports for the boil kettle.  I drilled out and tapped the burner to accept the gas conversion valve.  I added a mid-stand support for additional structural stability.  Lastly I added casters from Harbor Freight (3" polyurethane - item numbers 96407 and 96408).  These casters are rated for 121 lbs each, so I think they should work out fine for my 5 gallon system.

On the to do list is cleaning up the welds, gas supply, shelves, and misc brackets/mounts.  I'm really happy with the way it's coming together and I can't wait to use it.  I'm going to brew up a batch of Watermelon Wheat in the next few days and while the stand won't be done, I'm hoping to be able to give the burner a try.

Update 8/5/2011
I test fired the burner tonight.  I was planning on using a 1/2" hose for the gas supply but I decided to test it out using the 3/8" hose from my NG grill.  The 3/8" hose seems to be more than adequate (it blows my old propane burner out of the water) so I think I'll go with the 3/8".  This will be nice since the grill uses 3/8 I'll have the option of brewing in the garage or on the back patio.  Here are a couple videos of the burner in action.  

Update 8/29/2011

I haven't posted updates for a couple weeks. I've been accumulating miscellaneous parts and fabricating a few items.

Burner, chiller, and pump on bottom
I received my plate chiller (40 plate model) from Duda Diesel . I fabricated a bracket for it this weekend. It's basically an L-shaped bracket made out of 1/8" plate and 1.5" tubing. It hangs down from the tubing that supports the burner. The piece that supports the bottom of the plate chiller will be covered in some kind of padded material (e.g 1/8" neoprene sheet). Right now the chiller is mounted using a couple pan head screws. I'm going to order some knurled thumb screws so that it can be easily removed without tools.

Control Panel
I received my panel tags and legend plates from Precision Engraving & Graphics . I've made the holes for the switches and pilot lights and have temporarily mounted them in the control panel and they look great. My wife likes the look of the basic grey control panel but I like the looks of The Electric Brewery control box, so I'm leaning towards giving it a paint job.  I still need to decide exactly where I'm going to mount my control panel.  My control panel is a bit less involved than many.  I have three switches, (2) two position switches for the heating elements and (1) three position switch for the pump.  The mash is automated and is controlled by the BCS-460 so I won't be using the panel much during the mash process.  I'll use it mostly just when I want to manually run the pump (e.g. chilling the wort post-boil).

I received my heatsink for my SSR relays from HeatsinkUSA . I went with the 4.230" x 9" option as it's big enough to mount up to four SSR's. I'm currently only using three SSR's on my system (one for the element in the HLT, one for the element in the HEX, and one for the pump) so this gives me the option of adding an additional one when/if needed. I've drilled and tapped the mounting holes for the SSR's and the heatsink. I still need to cut out a hole in the back of the control panel, but I hope to have it test mounted today.

Filters and bracket
I also fabricated and added a bracket for my carbon water filters. Nothing too fancy here, just some 1/8" plate and 1" square tubing. I had to use 1" tubing in order to have clearance for my screws that attach the housingings to the brackets.

I added a frost proof sillcock in the garage. This will be great because I won't have to fetch water from inside the house on brew days (brewing water and chilling water).

I've ordered some Tracpipe CSST fittings and tubing for my Natural Gas supply line. I'm sure there are some plumbers out there that would really frown on me installing this stuff myself, but I've reviewed the instructions on the manufacturer's website it seems foolproof. My run will be between 10 and 12 feet since the utility room is in the basement just on the opposite side of the wall. On a related note, I picked up a Carbon Monoxide/Explosive Gas Detector from my local Lowes's...safety first! The plan will be to always have this unit plugged in and the stand will be located near the open garage door whenever the burner in use.

If all goes well, I should be able to test-fire the burner in the garage by the end of the week. If things go really well and I have enough time, I'll have the control box painted and wired as well. If things don't get too crazy, I hope to have the whole thing completed (assembled, painted, etc.) by the end of September.


Updated 8/29/2011

Updated 9/5/2011
I used the long Labor Day weekend to get a few things done on the brew stand and upgrade my garage.  The upgrade to the garage was to add a 1/2" natural gas supply to fuel my burner.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I installed the line myself and I'm happy to say it was an uneventful install (house didn't blow up).  After I installed the line and turned the gas supply back on, I monitored the dials on the gas meter and also had my CO/Explosive Gas detector in the utility room and at the end of the day I'm confident there aren't any leaks.

I also got some wiring done one the control panel and welded up some brackets to mount the control panel.

I still have several hours worth of work left including a lot of grinding, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Here's a pic of the mostly assembled brew stand, almost ready for paint.

Front of stand

Back of stand
Updated 9/12/2011
After several weekend trips to Radioshack, Lowes, and Autozone I'm happy to say the wiring is done.  Next up is a lot of grinding followed by a paint job and I should be ready to brew.


Heartless Bastard IPA

>> Sunday, July 10, 2011

After realizing I only have one barely full keg in my kegerator and my supply of bottled homebrew is dwindling, I figured it'd be a good idea to brew today.  The last two brews were hefe's so it's time to brew something else...and wouldn't you know it, the July/August issue of Zymurgy has a section on best beers in America and includes a few recipes.  So today I'm brewing a version based on Bell's Two Hearted Ale.  It's based on this because I had to make some substitutions at my LHBS, so I'm calling it the Heartless Bastard IPA in honor of one of my favorite bands, The Heartless Bastards.  This is an American IPA and here's the recipe as I made it:

10 pounds Rahr 2 row
2.83 pounds Maris Otter 2 row
8 oz Dingemans Cara 45
1.2 oz Centennial 45 min
1.2 oz Centennial 30 min
3.5 oz Centennial (dry hop)
White Labs WPL001 California Ale

Mash with 4.5 gallons at 150 F for 45 mins.  Raise to 170 F for 10 minutes. Sparge at 175.  Ferment warm.  Dry hop after primary is complete (about 1 week).  Hold warm for another week.  Rack to secondary and cold crash for a week before bottling/kegging.  

Estimated O.G. 1.063 (15.5  Plato)
Estimated F.G 1.012 (3.0 Plato)

Brewing Notes:
My water is very hard so in order to avoid harsh bitterness sometimes associated with hard water and a lot of hops, I used 2 gallons of RO water in the mash and another 2 gallons in the sparge water.  Pre-boil gravity is about 13.6 P.  Post-boil gravity was 16 P (most likely due to high evaporation rate). As usual, I used my stirplate to get the starter going 48 hours ahead of time.


New Toy

>> Friday, July 01, 2011

So I haven't been brewing much lately, partly because the weather finally got nice so we've been busy almost every weekend.  I do have a new toy that I'm really excited about...after 16 years of marriage...or is it 17 years?  It's been a long time, I know that, and in a good way...but after a long time my wife finally gave me the thumbs up to buy a welder.  I went with the Hobart 125 Handler which is a MIG-ready 110 volt, 125 amp wire feed welder.  I've always wanted to weld but never had the opportunity.  My kids bought me a welding mask for Father's Day, and I wrangled up the rest of the necessary safety gear over the past few weeks.  Last weekend I started my first welding project, a welding cart.  I still need to do a few things to finish it, but it's been a blast so far.  I'm going to do a few minor projects for practice (e.g. caster bases for my beer fridge so it can easily move around) but then I plan on starting on a custom brew stand.  My current brew stand is a stainless steel table/cart from Sam's Club.  It's not bad but it has some drawbacks.  For example, the top is too high so i can barely see into the mash tun.  So stay tuned for my custom brew stand.


Peaches-N-Cream Hefe

>> Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I recently renewed my AHA membership and was perusing the AHA's site and came across Scott Townson's  2010 NHC Gold Medal winning Peaches-N-Cream Hefe  recipe.  I thought this was one my wife would enjoy so I brewed it on Mother's Day weekend.  I realized when writing this post this is probably going to end up being the summer of wheat beers around our house.  I recently brewed a Pinkus Hefe clone and I've had numerous requests to re-brew my Watermelon Wheat.  Add in this Peaches-N-Cream brew and I think I've got wheat beers covered for a while.  I'm going to have to brew up an IPA or something for a bit of variety.

Scott's original recipe was for 12 gallons so I used BeerSmith to scale it down to 5 gallons.  There appeared to be at least one typo in the recipe; the yeast is listed as "WLP300 San Francisco Lager yeast".  WLP300 is actually Hefeweizen Ale Yeast  and WLP810 is San Francisco Lager Yeast.  Judging by the recipe name, I'm going to assume the correct yeast is WLP300.  Another possible issue is the recipe calls for a secondary fermentation at 35 F for 6 months.  Hefe's are a style that are typically consumed young and don't typically age very well; I'm thinking this may also be a typo so I'm not planning on lagering it as above.  The scaled recipe is as follows:

0.83 lb Rice Hulls
4.50 lb Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM)
3.50 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM)
1.00 lb Munich Malt - 10L
0.41 oz Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [4.00 %] (90 min) (First Wort Hop) Hops
0.41 oz Liberty [4.30 %] (50 min) Hops
3.33 oz Peach Flavoring (Bottling)
5.83 oz Lactose (Bottling)
1 Pkgs Hefeweizen Ale (White Labs #WLP300) Yeast-Wheat

Crush grains and mash in at 112° F (44° C) for 20 minutes.  Infuse to raise temp to 144° F (62° C) and hold for 20 minutes.  Pull first decoction and bring slowly to a boil.  Add back, raise temp to 152° F (67° C) and hold for 60 min.  Pull second decoction and add back to raise temp to 159° F (71° C) and hold for 30 minutes.  Infuse to mash out at 168° F (76° C).  Sparge to collect 6.75 gallons of wort.  This uses a 90 minute boil.  Add first hop addition and bring to a boil.  Add second hop addition with 50 minutes remaining.

Primary Fermentation: 65° F (18° C) until finished
Secondary Fermentation: Six months at 35° F (2° C)***Suspected typo***

Brewing notes
This was my first decoction brew session.  I don't know that I'd want to do decoctions every time but it wasn't quite as big a pain as I was anticipating.  It would probably be more time consuming if you were brewing larger batches but for a 5 gallon batch it's not too bad.  I stirred the decoctions constantly in order to avoid scorching the grain.  I also ran the BCS-460 in manual mode.  My only complaint is I need to buy a spoon with a more comfortable grip.  I used the following grains in my version:

Briess Light Munich Malt, 10L
Weyerman Pilsner Malt
Weyerman Wheat Malt
I also had to substitute Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan because the LHBS was all out of WLP300.

Tasting Notes (Updated 7/1/2011):  If mine turned out anything like Scott Townson's, I can see how he did so well in the NHC.  This is a very tasty brew especially in the summer.  It's not overly sweet from the lactose and the peach flavoring is very balanced as well.  There's a slight clove character but not overpowering or distracting.  This is a very refreshing summertime brew and I'll definitely be making this again.


Pinkus Hefe-Weizen Clone

>> Friday, April 15, 2011

This weekend I'm brewing a Pinkus Hefe-Weizen Clone.  I don't normally drink a ton of hefe but I do enjoy the style especially as the weather gets warm.  I brewed a Bavarian style hefe a while back and it was good, but the clove flavors were a bit strong for my taste.  The Pinkus Hefe reminds me more of an American style hefe since the yeast character is a bit more neutral.  WLP029 German Ale/Kolsch should provide the clean low-ester character I'm looking for and is less flocculant than a lot of ale yeasts, so some will remain in suspension.

Credit for this recipe goes to brewmastermike on HBT.  He indicates he got some help from the brewmaster at Pinkus-Muller on recipe formulation.  His recipe uses a 50/50 wheat/barley mix.  I found a couple resources that suggested a 60/40 wheat/barley mix is used in the commercial version so that's what I'm going with.  Also my LHBS was out of Hallertauer so I'm substituting Liberty.

6.6 pounds Weyerman Wheat Malt
4.4 pounds Dingemans Pale 2 row
1 ounce Hallertauer 90 min
.25 ounce Hallertauer 15 min
.25 ounce Hallertauer Hersbrucker 5 min
1 package of White Labs German Ale/Kolsch yeast (WLP029)

I used a 1.03 liter yeast starter.

Step mash - 13.75 quarts for a protein rest at 122F for 30 min
Step to 143F for 30 min
Step to 151F for 30 min
Step to 162F for 30 min
Mash out at 168F

I'll be using a handful or two of rice hulls in the mash to help prevent a stuck mash.  Chill to 65F and aerate well.  Gradually raise to 68F.

Brewing Notes
I'm getting a little later start than I'd planned.  I turned on the sprinklers yesterday.  Turns out it looks like whoever installed my sprinkler system forgot to cement (only primed) one of the joints.  It held for a couple years but separated last night at some point.  Long story short it filled up the window well and started leaking into my daughter's room.  Fun stuff.

This is the first session using the Siphon Spray Wort Aerator on my sparge arm.  So far it's working great.  Originally I was using copper pipe with slots cut so the returning liquor was gently distributed across the top of the grain bed.  I switched from a stainless steel hose braid to a false bottom a little while back and it allows small grain pieces and husks to flow through until the grain bed sets up.  This resulted in these pieces clogging the slots in the sparge arm.  The Siphon Spray Wort Aerator eliminates this issue and it works great.  If you're thinking about building a sparge arm, keep it simple and consider using this cool little gadget.

For the step mash I'm running the BCS-460 in Manual Mode.  I'm doing this for simplicity's sake since most of my mashes are single infusion.  I seem to be getting between a 1 to 1.5 degree rise per minute for the step increases which is consistent with previous brews.

Tasting Notes (Updated 7/1/2011): 
I did a side by side a while back and I thought I'd posted an update...I guess I didn't so this is from memory.  I wouldn't say this is cloned, at least not the way I brewed it (hop substitution?).  Mine was noticeably a couple shades darker.  There was also the slight tartness in the commercial version that was much more subdued in mine.  It was still a fantastic Hefe, but I wouldn't call it cloned quite yet.


All Copper Counterflow Chiller Experiment

>> Tuesday, April 05, 2011

I recently picked up a hopback from B3.  Basically you use a hopback to infuse volatile hop flavor and aroma in you beers. Typically you gravity flow from kettle to hopback, then pump or gravity flow from hopback to a counterflow chiller (CFC) to your fermenter.  By chilling immediately after the hopback you retain those volatile hop flavor and aroma compounds.  So that's the theory but the problem is I didn't have a CFC so the hopback wasn't going to do me much good.

There are lots of commercial CFC's out there but I usually like to go the DIY route; plus some are really expensive.  I like the plate chillers but I worry about break material clogging them up and fowling up future batches.  The HomeBrewNetwork has a nice wiki on a DIY counterflow chiller.  The Cliff's Notes version is you insert 3/8" copper tubing into a 5/8" rubber garden hose, sweat some fittings and bam, you have a very decent CFC.  The only thing I don't like about this is eventually the rubber hose will crack and you'll have to figure out a way to replace it.  This would probably mean you have to cut some tubing out every time you have to fix it.  I stumbled upon a post from PJ on HomeBrewTalk.com where he'd built an all copper CFC.  I like this option better because you'll never have to deal with a cracked outer tube.

Mine is inspired by PJ's (his site can be found here with great instructions) but the end product is slightly different.  PJ builds his using 25 foot lengths of tubing (actually 50 footers cut in half).  I saw a couple commercial CFC's that used around 12 feet of convoluted tubing, so I decided to try to build a 10 footer and see what would happen...plus my wife wouldn't approve the budget for anything longer.  I built it a couple weeks ago and just got around to testing it today.

The test was pretty straightforward, I boiled 6 gallons of water and ran it through my CFC and measured the temperature of the water entering and exiting the CFC.  I know this isn't real scientific, but it's fairly practical.  I have ball valves on both my kettle and pump to regulate the flow rates.  The cooling water initial temp was 52.3 F.  I used a couple different flow rates on the cooling water.  I don't have an accurate way to measure how fast the water was flowing, so I'll just call it low and high.  Even on high, the flow rate wasn't terribly high.  Initial Water (Wort) Temperature = 205.3 F.

Round 1 Tests
  1. Gravity feed with ball valves completely open, low chilling water flow - wort output temp = 93.3 F
  2. Gravity feed with ball valve 3/4 open, low chilling water flow - wort output temp = 88.8 F
  3. Gravity feed with ball valve 3/4 open, high chilling water flow - wort output = 84.0
Results will vary, especially when taking varying tap water temperatures into consideration, but as you can see above a 10 foot CFC can provide some pretty decent cooling.  These aren't quite pitching temperatures, but it's below temps where DMS is produced and most importantly should prevent those volatile hops flavors and aromas from being lost.  

That said, I wanted a bit more cooling capacity.  I had some cash burning a hole in my pocket from some hops rhizome sales, so I built a second 10 foot CFC this evening.  The plan is to daisy chain the CFC's so that I essentially end up with one big CFC with dual cooling inlets and outlets.  I don't know if I'd recommend going this route if you're starting from scratch, but since I had already built the first 10 foot CFC I figured this was the best way to ensure it's usefulness.  The price should be close to a 25 foot CFC but you'll have twice as many copper fittings to sweat; not a huge deal and if it is you probably should just buy one off the shelf.  Theoretically mine should provide better cooling than a longer CFC with a single inlet/outlet for the cooling water.  The first circuit will knock the temperature down near 90F.  My prediction is the second circuit should knock it down very close to the temp of the cooling water.

Round 2 Tests - The conditions for round 2 were the same as round 1.  By adjusting the flow rate I was able to get the output temperature down in the low 60's; not bad for a homemade chiller.

The dual circuits make the chiller a bit larger than I would have liked.  If you're starting from scratch I'd go with a 20-25 foot chiller rather than two 10 footers like I've created.  Based on my experience, anything longer than 25 feet would probably be overkill and unnecessary.

Unfortunately, aesthetically speaking, after connecting hoses and such I don't really like the look of my setup much.  It just doesn't have as clean a look as I would like.  One of the aspects that I like about home brewing is it allows for trial and error in various situations and there's always the opportunity to improve processes and techniques.  That said, at some point I may end up going with a plate chiller after all (and cleaning the heck out of it after each batch).  If I do, a 10 foot CFC would make a great pre-chiller.


    Hops Trellis

    >> Monday, March 28, 2011

    I've been relocating my hops plants and part of that has included building a trellis for the hops to grow on.  I was hoping to build a six post trellis (three sets of two posts) anchored to footings.  The benefit of this is it would have been free-standing so I wouldn't have to set posts below grade (eventual rotting).

    Unfortunately due to a bay window in the dining room I didn't have quite enough room for this setup, so instead I went with an in-line three post setup.  The posts themselves are 4x4x16 and are set in concrete 4.5 feet below grade and tied together with two 2x6x20 headers..  All lumber is redwood and was ordered from Burton Lumber in SLC.  I'm sure pressure treated would probably last longer but IMO the redwood looks a little nicer and accepts stain better than pressure treated.  Speaking of stain, all lumber was stained with two coats of Olympic Maximum Solid Color Stain in Mystic White prior to assembling.  I ended up with an overall height of 11.5 feet..that was until a rep from my HOA came by.  Turns out the HOA prohibits any structures taller than 8 feet in the backyard.  As I was talking to him I was looking around at the other yards and noticed no less than five structures exceeding the eight foot limit including his next door neighbor's shed.  I obliged the HOA and trimmed mine down to eight feet which is a lot lower than I wanted, but still much better than my 5 and 6 foot temporary trellises.  Besides, I'd like to build a patio cover at some point that will need to be around 9-10 feet, so I figured I'm going to pick my battles.  

    My hops themselves are still spaced a little closer than I'd like but much more spacious than in the previous locations.  I added some new varieties this year so I'm doing a little experimenting to find out which ones will grow better in the Salt Lake Valley.  Utah has a pretty dry climate and can get hot during the summer.  The first summer here there was an entire month where it never got under 100 degrees.  Fortunately that isn't the norm, but we do routinely get up in the 90's.  If some varieties fail to thrive I'll remove them in favor of the ones that do better.  So far Cascade and Nugget seemed to do the best but I'm interested to see if that will change now that they have a bit more room to grow. 

    Besides being on the warm side, our soil isn't the greatest.  Prior to re-planting I added some soil amendments consisting of composted steer manure and a blend of composted poultry manure and other organic material.  These were worked into the existing soil using a spade shovel and digging fork.

    I'm still planning on adding some 2x2's to the top of the trellis but here's the finished product more or less.  I gotta say even at 8 feet there's a bit of flex in the posts and at 11+ feet there was even more.  Even though it's not at tall as I originally planned, the HOA may have done me a favor when the first windstorm blows into town.

    Overall trellis

    Just in time, purple tips of Cascades are starting to emerge


    Home Grown Hops

    >> Monday, February 21, 2011

    Springtime is almost here so it's time to start thinking about hops. I've been growing my own hops for a couple years now. They've done well but I have run into a couple issues. I bought some rhizomes from my LHBS as well as from Freshops.com. My plan was to plant the hops in a "temporary" location until I was able to find the time to build a trellis. Well, almost four years and one finished basement later and they're still in their "temporary" location.

    The primary problem is they're planted in fairly close proximity to each other so the bines get intertwined making it difficult to harvest the varieties separately. Right now my freezer is full of mixed hops that I'll probably end up using in some kind of mongrel brew. This year I'm going to finally build my trellis and replant the hops in permanent locations.

    The other issue is I didn't do a whole lot of planning when I selected my current varieties. I would have been better off focusing on flavor/aroma varieties, but I ended up with a few that are primarily known for bittering (e.g. Brewer's Gold, Nugget). I also didn't do much analysis as to which hops I tend to use most often. I knew I really liked Cascade and Centennial and had several recipes that called for them, but the others were kind of shots in the dark.

    Current Varieties: The following is a list of the varieties I've had in the ground for the past three years.
    • Brewer's Gold - Bittering hop with neutral aroma character. Grows well in all climates. 8-10%
    • Cascade - Pleasant, flowery, spicy, and citrusy. Can have a grapefruit flavor. Grows well in all climates. 5-6%
    • Centennial - Medium with floral and citrus tones. Grows well in all climates. 8-10%
    • Liberty - Mild and clean aroma, slightly spicy character. Does better in mild climates but can grow in hot climates. 3 - 5%
    • Nugget - Quite heavy and herbal. Grows well in all climates. 12-15%
    Planned Varieties: I've been reviewing my recipes for the hops I use most often. Based on the number of my recipes they appear in, here are my top 10 hops: Goldings, East Kent (22), Cascade (17), Hallertauer (12), Northern Brewer (12), Columbus (10), Williamette (10), Centennial (9), Fuggle (8), Tettnang (8). I already have Cascade and Centennial so I can eliminate them from my wish list. Hallertauer doesn't do so well in hot dry climates, so I'll skip that one. Ditto for Fuggle. Pending availability, I'm planning on adding the following varieties this year:
    • Chinook - Mild to medium-heavy, spicy, piney, and grapefruity. While it's often used for bittering, it does have a nice flavor/aroma profile and does well in hot dry climates.
    • Golding - Mild, extremely pleasant, and gently hoppy. I brew with lots of East Kent Golding hops, so I'd love to give this one a try. Prefers cooler climates but does ok in hot climates.
    • Mt. Hood - Mild, pleasant, and clean, somewhat pungent and resiny. Derived from Hallertau but unlike Hallertau it does well in all climates.
    • Williamette - Mild and pleasant, slightly spicy, fruity, floral, a little earthy. Similar to Fuggle but tolerates warmer drier climates better than Fuggle.
    So this is my rhizome wish list for this year. These four varieties are fairly common so I'm crossing my fingers they'll all be available. I've noticed a couple online suppliers have started selling or are taking pre-orders. I'm gambling in the hopes that Freshops.com has all these varieties available this year, preferably in the "jumbo" size. Based on personal experience, they often produce hops the first year whereas regular sized rhizomes tend to take at least a year to get established, so I prefer the jumbos.

    If you're new to hop growing here's a few things to keep in mind.
    • Use homegrown hops for flavor and aroma additions. These will be the most useful for brewing since alpha acid content varies year to year. There is no easy way to determine alpha acid content, so buy you bittering hops at the LHBS and grow your flavor/aroma hops.
    • Pick a variety that will grow in your area. If you live in a hot dry climate, don't pick a variety that prefers cool moist climates. It may grow but probably won't produce any cones.
    • Pick varieties that you use most often in your favorite recipes and styles.
    • Don't over-water the rhizomes as this can result in rot.
    • Do watch for pests and signs of fungal infection. If you have to treat them be sure to use treatments that are brewing-safe.
    • Do provide a sturdy support for them to grow on. My temporary support is made out of PVC irrigation pipe. It's ok in a pinch, but it has severely warped after a couple seasons and has had a hard time supporting the weight of the bines. Plus my wife hates the way it looks.
    • I thought it was worth mentioning that hops are toxic to dogs. Use caution especially if you have a dog that likes to chew on plants as they can be deadly. Fortunately, my dogs have never shown any interest in my hops; I wish I could say the same for my peach tree. I think spent hops would be more attractive to dogs since they've been flavored/saturated with malt sugars. Bottom line, if you have dogs, use common sense.
    Update 3/5/2011: Freshops.com is now taking orders!!!