Draft Line Cleaning

>> Monday, December 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

Manifold in action


Rye Barrel Adambier

>> Sunday, December 09, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update 7/1/2019
This beer was kegged yesterday.

Update 7/10/2019
I pulled a small sample off one of the kegs tonight. This beer is really tasty, but it is very apparent that it's a really big beer. I wouldn't call it "hot", but it's definitely big and boozy. I think it will likely age very well, which is good because it's going to be a sipping beer. 

Update 12/26/2019
This beer recently took a silver medal in the 2019 Utah Brewfest competition (small local comp). It was entered in Specially Wood-aged Beer as a Rye Whiskey American Barleywine. I also entered it in 2019 Beehive Brewoff as an Adambier (also barrel-aged); almost all the judges commented that they didn't know much about the Adambier style, so it seems to be safer entering it as a Barleywine for competition purposes.


Old Ale 2018

>> Sunday, November 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update 2/10/2019
I kegged this beer yesterday. The brett is noticeable, but I'd say it definitely comes across as more fruity than funky. Bitterness is on the low side, and the malt comes through. There's also a bit of sweetness. I'm planning on force carbing in the keg, then bottling the while batch off the keg.


Funky Wit

>> Thursday, November 15, 2018

After work brew session! I'm trying to fit a couple brews in before Thanksgiving, so I'm doing one of my late evening brew sessions.

Today I'm brewing a somewhat experimental beer. The base beer is essentially a Belgian Witbier but I'm doing a 100% Brett fermentation and I'm going to incorporate either rose water or orange blossom water into the beer. I'm shooting for quite a bit of citrus character so I'll probably add some zest in secondary. Here is the recipe as I'm planning on making it, but I may change things up as this beer progresses.

5.0# Castle Chateaux Pilsner Malt
4.5# White Wheat Malt
1.0# Rolled Oats
28g Strisselspalt (60 min)
7g Coriander (10 min)
7g Orange peel (10 min) - I'm using peels from my home grown Mandarin oranges
1.0# Golden Belgian Candi Syrup (Flameout)
Tangerine zest (secondary)
Lemon zest (secondary)
Rose Water or Orange Blossom Water,  TBD
Imperial Suburban Brett

Mash at 155F, 90 min boil. The house is a little cooler this time of year, so I'm going to just let this go at room temp, ~68F.

Brewing Notes
No issues, OG came in at 17 brix (1.068).

Update 11/18/2018
This batch had a much longer lag phase than I'm used to. I was seeing some signs of fermentation 24 hours after pitching, but it definitely wasn't as vigorous as sach strains and other brett strains. It now has krausen about 3/4" thick. I doubt I'll run into any blow-off issues with this batch.

Update 11/25/2018
Just got back from our Thanksgiving getaway. This beer is chugging along, still with about 3/4 to 1 inch of krausen.

Update 12/4/2018
This is still plugging along. The krausen has mostly dropped, but there's positive pressure and a bubble about every 15-ish seconds. There's still a ton of yeast in suspension which is fairly typical as brett tends to not flocculate very well. I'll probably let this go until 12/15 before I pull a gravity sample.

Update 1/28/2019
I added blood orange zest and tangerine zest on 1/26. This yeast just kept plugging along with a CO2 burp about every 30-ish seconds until just recently. Looking forward to kegging it soon.

Update 2/10/2019
I kegged this beer yesterday. This has some fantastic citrusy aroma. I haven't done anything with rose water or orange blossom water quite yet. Once the beer is carbed, I'll do some micro dosing experimentation. I'm thinking rose water may be the better choice, considering the citrus character already present from the zest. I haven't checked the pH, but there's a little bit of acidity there. I wouldn't call it "sour", definitely more on the tart side.


Sour Dubbel on Plums

>> Sunday, October 07, 2018

Today we're doing a group brew for our 15 gallon sour bourbon barrel. This is our fourth fill overall for this barrel, so it won't have dominate bourbon flavors, but we're likely to still pick up some oak. The beers that have gone in this barrel so far:

  1. Imperial Stout (Get Out Stout)
  2. Imperial Porter (Chasing Abbey)
  3. Golden Sour (BJRR Golden Sour with Coffee)
The recipe we're brewing today is inspired by this one from the Mad Fermentationist. We're doing some slight modifications for our version, such as grain substitutions. One that I'm kind of excited about is we're using malt from Solstice Malt, Utah's first maltster since the 1960s. After the souring that will take place during barrel aging, we'll put this beer on plums. Here's the beer as we're brewing it today:

This recipe is for 5 gallons. Our total batch size is 15 gallons, so this recipe 3Xs.

Target OG 1.058
10.0# Solstice Pale Malt - Genie
1.0# D-180 Belgian Candi Syrup (secondary, at barrel filling)
0.5# Simpsons Double Roasted Crystal
1.5 oz Aged hops (60 min)boil
Yeast Nutrient
WLP545 Belgian Strong Ale

Mash at 158F, 90 minute boil, ferment at room temp.

Brewing Notes
No major issues, but a couple of minor ones. First, I'm not sure if the Solstice Genie is less plump than the base malts I usually use, or maybe my mill was just having issues, but on the first pass there were quite a few uncrushed or barely crushed grains. I ended up fiddling with the gap and ran the grains through a second time and it worked well. It's probably about time to disassemble the mill and perform some maintenance.

We basically did one ten gallon batch on my system followed by a five gallon batch on my buddy's system. The 10 gallon portion came out with an OG of 1.064, and the remaining five came out at 1.055.

Update 10/8/2018
I pitched the yeast last night around 7:30PM and fermentation is very active this morning. I was hoping I could get away without using a blow-off, but I'm afraid I'm going to come home to a mess tonight if I don't.

Update 10/10/2018
Thankfully, this batch never had a messy blow off. As of this morning, the Tilt I put into one off the three fermenters is reading ~1.008. I'm kind of blown away that this yeast was able to tear through the sugars as fast as it has.

Update 11/17/2018
This beer was racked into the barrel today to begin the souring process. The Belgian Candi Syrup was added first, then the beer was racked on top of it.

Update 3/6/2020
We tasted the barrel beer a couple weeks back and determined it was ready to go on fruit. I didn't check pH, but the beer had a very pleasant sourness; definitely a barrel aged sour, but not over the top acidity. We have 25.5 pounds of Utah-grown plums that we acquired last fall that were washed, pitted and quartered, then frozen until we were ready for them. I started thawing them the evening of 3/4/2020 and transferred them (still partially frozen) to a 15.5 gallon Kegmenter last night, where it will age until bottling. I've mentioned before, I'm not a fan of home-pasteurizing fruit as I think you lose fresh fruit character, so I prefer sanitizing with potassium metabisulfite. In this case, I used 1/2 teaspoon potassium metabisulfite dissolved in 1/2c RO water. This was poured over the fruit in the Kegmenter last night (3/5/2020) and the barrel beer will be transferred on top of the fruit tonight.


Barrel Steamer

>> Saturday, October 06, 2018

Today I'm posting about a new piece of equipment in my arsenal that I just finished building, a barrel steamer.  Credit for the design goes to Beer Diary as mine is completely based on theirs.

For those that are into barrel-aged beers, barrel steamers can come in pretty handy. They can be used for the following:
  • Cleaning barrels - the heat and moisture breaks down residue that can accumulate during aging.
  • Sanitizing barrels - steamers can help sanitize to a degree, by killing off yeast and bacteria. 
  • Re-hydrating barrels - the steam is very effective for swelling the wood if you've had a barrel that has sat dry for an extended period of time.
  • Neutralizing barrels - the steamer can be used to reduce barrel flavor contribution (oak as well as wine and spirits).
The build is pretty straightforward. Basically you need some kind of steam generator to supply the steam, then a wand that delivers the steam to the barrel. I built the wand using the following parts:
  • (1) 1/2" FNPT tee
  • (1) 1/2" MNPT x 1/4" MNPT reducer
  • (1) 1/2" MNPT x 1/2" compression fitting
  • (1) 1/2" compression fitting plug/cap
  • (1) 1/2" OD tubing (length as appropriate for your build)
  • (1) 1/2" MNPT camlock fitting
  • (1) 1/2" camlock barb fitting (not full flow)
  • (1) wooden handle, in my case made from a section of barrel stave
Beer Diary used 1/2" copper tubing for their build. I went all stainless primarily because I had some spare stainless parts around my brewery. For example, I bought some stainless tubing a little while back for some blow-off setups. I also had spare camlock fittings.

For assembly, the fittings are screwed together as shown. The reducer is used to attach the handle and it's plugged with silicone sealant to direct the steam down the wand instead of into the handle. I used Teflon tape on all the threaded fittings so that they don't leak. I drilled five small holes (1/16") holes along the length of tubing at various angle, and these are used to emit the steam. 

As for the steam generator itself, it's a Wagner 705 Wallpaper Steamer that I got off of local classifieds for $25. I clipped the original fitting off the end of the hose and installed the 1/2" camlock barb fitting. This makes it so I can easily detach the wand from the hose and dump water from both the hose and the wand (after everything has cooled down).

To use the steamer, I fill the reservoir with dechlorinated water.  It takes about 10 minutes for the steamer to heat up and it'll go for about an hour before needing refilling. 

One word of caution...it should come as no surprise, but steam is hot. The metal parts will get very hot, so use common sense so as not to burn yourself.
End of wand

Handle and Tee


2018 New Zealand Pilsner

>> Sunday, September 16, 2018

I've recently been drawn more and more to lagers, so today I'm brewing a New Zealand Pilsner inspired by NZED Pilsner from Salt Fire Brewing. This isn't a clone, just something in the same vein.

This beer is basically a German Pilsner base featuring New Zealand hops. I'm shooting for a bit more hop character than a typical German Pils. Here's the beer as I'm brewing it today.

6.75# Weyermann Bohemian Floor Malted Pilsner
1.0# Avangard German Pale
14g Green Bullet (60 min)
14g Pacific Jade (5 min)
14g Waimea (5 min)
7g Green Bullet (Whirlpool @170F)
7g Pacific Jade (Whirlpool @170F)
7g Waimea (Whirlpool @170F)
Imperial Global Yeast
Yeast Nutrient
7g Green Bullet (Dryhop)
7g Pacific Jade (Dryhop)
7g Waimea (Dryhop)

Mash at 151F, 90 min boil, start fermentation at 46F, ramp up to 52F over 6 days, diacetyl rest when gravity ~1.016.

Water Profile
I'm using the same water profile I used for a German Pils I made a couple years ago. To 10 gallons of distilled water, add:

  • 4.0g Gypsum
  • 2.8g Epsom Salt
  • 4.8g Calcium Chloride
Brewing Notes
No issues. Mash pH measured 5.25. Post-boil pH measured 5.36. OG measured 12 brix (1.047). I only got the temp down to ~70F, so I won't be pitching the yeast until it gets down closer to 46F, likely tomorrow morning.

Update 9/17/2018
I pitched the yeast tonight, about 24 hours after transferring into the fermenter. I noticed my Czech Pils had an acetaldehyde problem and I'm thinking it's most likely due to under-pitching or oxygen exposure post-fermentation. To be safe, I pitched a second pouch of Global in addition to the one I've been stepping up.

Update 9/19/2018
Fermentation is plugging along. I'm using my Tilt Hydrometer to monitor the temp and gravity. I forgot to calibrate it before transferring the wort to the fermenter, so it was reading a few points low compared to the refractometer reading (1.045 vs 1.047). As of this morning, it's dropped to around ~1.036. This is an approximation because during active fermentation, the gravity readings can vary a little bit.

One nice thing, the Tilt's temp reading is really close to the reading I get from my temp controller with the probe attached to the side of my fermenter (typically no more than 0.5F difference). I know a lot of brewers swear that thermowells will give you more accurate readings, but I tried using one with my current hot liquor tank back when I first built it, and I found that sometimes it was off but as much as 7F. I'd move the probe around slightly, and the temp would change, so it seemed like it wasn't making good contact with the interior of the thermowell. Some kind of thermal paste would probably have resolved this issue, but I didn't want to have to deal with messy paste anytime I pulled the probe out for cleaning of the HLT.  7F isn't much of a concern when it comes to a hot liquor tank, but that's huge for fermentation, so I just don't trust thermowell readings for fermentation.

Update 9/20/2018
Gravity is down to 1.027 this morning. At this rate, I should definitely be starting the diacetyl rest before the weekend is over.

I'm still mulling over the dry hop additions. I want the NZ hops to be apparent, but I also want the base beer to come through. I'm probably going to wait until after the d-rest and see where the hop flavor and aroma are at. I'll probably also take a look at dry hopping rates for some IPL recipes so that I (hopefully) don't overdo it.

Update 9/21/2018
Gravity is down to ~1.015 this morning so I'm starting to raise the temps for the diacetyl rest. I use an Inkbird ITC-310T-B temp controller for the diacetyl rest as well as the cold crash that follows. It's nice because I can program up to 12 steps at a time, so it will automatically raise and lower ferm temps for me. There's a bit of sulfur in the aroma in the ferm chamber, but that's fairly normal with this strain and it'll take care of itself in time.

Update 9/24/2018
Gravity is down to ~1.008 this morning. For the dry hopping, I think I'm going to go with 7g of Waimea, 7g of Pacific Jade, and 7g of Green Bullet. I'll probably start DH in a couple days.

Update 9/25/2018
I checked the gravity tonight and it's showing a 1.011 which seems crazy, but the gravity readings can jump around a little bit depending on activity, yeast rafts, krausen, etc.

Update 9/26/2018
I added the dry hops tonight. I went with 7g of each for Green Bullet, Pacific Jade, and Waimea.

Update 10/6/2018
I kegged this beer tonight and put it in my keezer under about 14 psi off CO2. The Tilt was showing a finished gravity of 1.008, consistent with the reading on 9/24. I ended up using a Brulosophy-inspired mylar balloon for the cold crashing. Basically, The balloon acts as a CO2 reservoir so that it doesn't draw any oxygen in during the cold crash.


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.


Jalapeño Aioli
4 cloves garlic
2T cilantro
2 jalapeños, 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.


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).


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. 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.


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.

Update 9/25/2018
So...this beer has a little bit of a problem. It tastes great right off the tap, but once it starts to warm up it's apparent there's some acetaldehyde. It comes across much more in the aroma than the flavor, but regardless, it's not good.

As for the cause, it's often related to one of three things:

  1. Poor yeast health - Acetaldehyde is naturally produced during fermentation. Towards the end of fermentation, the yeast converts it to ethanol. If yeast health is compromised, they may not be able to finish converting it.
  2. Transferring too soon - Even if the yeast is healthy, if you pull the beer off the yeast cake too early, it can result in acetaldehyde.
  3. Oxygen exposure - I've read that O2 exposure post-fermentation can result in ethanol being converted back to acetaldehyde.
In this case, I suspect that oxygen exposure is probably the culprit.


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.


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
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.


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


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. 


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.


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.

Update 9/25/2018
I pulled a sample of each tonight. The Casey half is quite sour and more or less tastes ready to carb. I didn't take a pH reading, but it's pretty assertive. This one also showed some signs of sickness/ropiness back on April 26th when I pulled a very early sample.

The Brett Barrel III half is much less sour, but there's definitely some acidity there. There might be a touch of diacetyl there as well. This one probably needs to ride a couple more months. 

Update 12/1/2018
I transferred the Brett Barrel III half into my Solera today. I pulled about three gallons out of the Solera before transferring. The five from this batch weren't quite enough to fill it, so I topped off with a little bit of Flanders Red #4 w/Roeselare.

Update 2/10/2019
I kegged the Casey half yesterday. This beer is pretty intensely sour. I felt like I was picking up a little bit of diacetyl. It also seems noticeably more sour than it did in September. Pedio will produce diacetyl which brett will convert into other compounds, and I think this is likely the source of both the diacetyl and the increased sourness. I went ahead and pressurized the keg to seal, but not really enough to force carb. I'm going to let this condition for a while at room temperature, hopefully allowing the diacetyl to get converted.

Update 7/3/2019
I'm finally getting back around on the Casey portion. I pulled a sample the other day and I didn't pick up on any diacetyl. The beer is still pretty sour, but it actually seems to me like it has rounded a bit.


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)
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)

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

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. 


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. 


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


Another shot of the Airborn fitting

Bulkheads for taps 3 and 4

Four taps, waiting for something to pour