Home Bars

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 08.22.11 under Beer Cellar, Fun, Stories

I saw a show today on DIY network that wifey was watching. It was about outdoor rooms. It was pretty cool. The thing that caught my eye was (of course) the outdoor bar area they featured.

I could see from the first aerial shot leading into the scene that the guy had two (or maybe just one) draft tower(s) coming out of his outdoor bar setup. I was immediately dragged into it, waiting for the details of powering, cooling, pressure balancing the tap(s).

I was let down when all they showed was that it was a single tower with a single handle pouring some swilly macro beer. All that money and effort in the greatest outdoor party “room” ever to serve Budweiser? That’s his prerogative.

Anyway, it got me dreaming of the time when I’ll have some bar space that’s fancier than a used fridge with some tap handles coming out of the door in my largely unfinished basement. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate fire pit patio with outdoor TVs, just a cozy little basement bar with some wood paneling or even a drop ceiling. And obviously a serious draft beer setup serving up a wide variety from lite beer to lambic, accompanied by the appropriate educational materials.

Sour Beer

[ 1 Comment ] Posted on 08.05.11 under Boden, Brewing, Kegging, Stories, The Session

Tonight is the session. This session is very timely for me. The subject is Sour Beer, and I just happen to have some sour beer activity to report tonight.

On January 1st, 2010 I made my first lambic. It was half barley and half wheat, made with old stinky hops and a variety of bacterial cultures and yeast (Brett B, Sour Mix, Lambic Blend, plus some US-05)

Since then, the beer has sat in my basement, covered in a brown paper bag, tucked in a corner, opened only a few times for flavor sampling.

Ever since the baby came a few months ago, brewing has been slow to say the least. So I’m facing a shortage. I might actually have to buy beer (gasp!). I feel like I’m the US Government about to default on my beer debt. I need a compromise to cover this gap.

So I sampled the lambic this week. It was pretty good. Rather barn-ish and overall funky. Sorta sour, bacterial I suppose. Not yet vinegar. I think that’s a good enough reason to take it out of the carboy and put it on tap. Especially given the circumstances.

For a while (right up to today) I was worried about where should I put it. If I kegged it, the keg and faucet could be bugged for life. If I bottled, the bacteria could keep working and make bottle bombs.

Ultimately, I kegged it. I’ve marked all the plastic I used in case I need to never use it for non-bacterial beer again. I’m using a picnic tap, which I’ll mark for Lambic and probably not reuse for normal beer. But then again I might try it to see if it really matters.

For now I’m just waiting for the beer to chill and carbonate before I can really dig into it. Then I’m sure it will save me from buying beer. Or at least it should minimize the amount of beer I need to buy.

Excerpt from brew day:

Boden (5 YO son): Daddy, you make beer because brewing beer is free, but buying beer costs money, right?

Daddy: Well brewing isn’t free, because the ingredients cost money and my time should be worth something, but it’s still a lot cheaper than buying it

Boden: But isn’t it a lot easier to just buy it?

Daddy: But brewing it is still a lot cheaper than buying it.

Boden: But all this stuff [the equipment needed to make beer] costs a lot of money probably

Daddy: Well I bought that a while ago. Look, I can make this IPA for $25 but if I bought this much IPA it would cost like $80.

Boden: … Daddy can I play on your phone?

Party Time

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 04.01.11 under Brewing, Events, IPA, Oktoberfest, Stories, Tasting

I love getting ready for the Oktoberfest party!

This year, the party’s bigger than ever! I’m making and serving nine kegs!! This makes it so important to me to get the right recipe in those kegs. This year, it’s three Fisher Cats, three Yachtoberfests, and three IPAs.

Fisher Cat is easy. It barely changes from year to year, and it’s always just right. Half wheat, half base malt. Centennials to around 15 IBU. US-05. Done. That test batch is in the fermenter right now, looking cloudy as can be, and should be great!

IPA isn’t too tough, either, given that I make IPA so often. The difference is that I’m going for a kinder, gentler IPA for the masses. So I try to tone it down a bit. But overall, it’s still my IPA. Columbus for bittering and a mix of Columbus, Centennial, and Amarillo for flavor and aroma, favoring the Amarillo. A nice bitter, somewhat pungent, slightly piney and citrusy, very juicy hop treat. That tester is cold and nearly carbonated in the keg – a sample taken tonight is VERY promising.

Yachtoberfest is still the one that I’m not 100% on. For some reason I insist on doing it as a warm fermentation. First year I tried US-05, and it was fine, but not outstanding. Last year I tried WY1338 “German Ale” yeast and it was different but not totally to my liking. This year, I’ve tried WY1272 “American Ale II” yeast. It seems pretty much neutral, like I might as well save $5 and use US-05. I think for this year I’ll use the 1272, but I’m thinking that by next year I should man up and use a real Oktoberfest lager yeast. It’s not like I don’t have a fridge where I could ferment cold.

In the end, I know whatever I come up with will be well-received by the audience at Yachtoberfest. They seem to love whatever I throw their way. I’m especially pleased because the IPA was upgraded from one keg to three from last year. The Cat and Fest have always been popular, but I still keep thinking that normal people don’t like good IPA. Too many Harpoon IPA, I guess… But fortunately I keep being proven wrong. Which is good because I love making IPA. Almost as much as I love drinking IPA!

Yeast Set The Timeline

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 09.08.10 under Brewing, IPA, Kegging, Oktoberfest, Stories, Stout, Yeast

I have been used to US-05 for quite some time now.

But recently I decided I wanted to branch out. Mainly my motivation was looking for a nice “malty” yeast for my faux-toberfest (that’s an Oktoberfest-style beer done as an ale rather than the traditional lagering all summer).

I ended up with Wyeast 1338 “European Ale” because of its supposed low diacetyl (buttered popcorn flavor). There was another (WLP029?) Kolsch yeast that also sounded good but allegedly gave off tons of sulfur aroma throughout fermentation, which I didn’t want to deal with. The only down side of 1338 that I read was it could be slow.

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I Repeat Myself

[ 2 Comments ] Posted on 08.08.10 under Brewing, Events, Stories

In home brewing, much of the fun comes from making whatever you want whenever you want. But sometimes you have to make something a certain way, and that presents its own challenges.

With Oktoberfest coming up it is only right that there be a party, and with a party it is only right that homebrew be served. So here I am, making six batches destined to be served at a huge Oktoberfest event. The first two were made today. That gives me two more sessions, spaced two weeks apart, to make two more batches each session, and still give the last batches a full month from grain to glass prior to the big day.

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Getting Out The Trub

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 01.05.10 under All-Grain, Brewing, Hops, IPA, Lambic, Stories, Zok

I am lucky enough to be able to enjoy over a week of paid time off between Christmas and New Year’s. With such an extended stay at home, it’s almost a given that there should be a time to brew somewhere in there. As it turns out, the holidays are busy times full of seeing family and stuff like that. But in the end, I managed to carve out a perfect brewing day – January 1st. I still haven’t decided if it was Brew Year’s Day or New Beer’s Day, but either way the pun is bad.

I have had these bacterial cultures in my fridge for a while, and I decided to finally put them to work. I made a lambic. Half malted wheat and half pale malt, with a handful of what we dubbed “bunny hops” boiled for 60 minutes. I skipped the whole raw wheat turbid mash four hour boil thing, and went pretty standard with an infusion mash around 148°F for this one.

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On Lists

[ 2 Comments ] Posted on 10.16.09 under Stories, Stout, Tasting

When it comes to things that other people like, I go back and forth. At times, the popular seems petty, but then at other times, I fall for that shit right away.

One of my favorite things that are also other people’s favorites is lists, like top ten lists. Perhaps this fascination started in high school when I was first able to stay up late enough to see Mr. David Letterman’s top ten lists. Of course, now I can’t manage to make it to any post-prime time shows, given the kids and all. But I still find a soft spot in my heart and mind for top ten-style lists.

So what does this have to do with beer? I forgot.

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World of BeerCraft

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 09.25.09 under Fermentation Friday, Stories

Today is Fermentation Friday. I honestly have no idea who is hosting, but I saw Brew Dudes post on the topic, so I figured I’d follow suit. Today’s topic is something along the lines of “what got you started in craft beer”? So here’s my best guess answer.

Most people drank shitty beer in High School. Not me. I tried it once or twice and didn’t like it. And I gave up for the time being.

Then I got to college, and it was the same deal. I remember a Rolling Rock Freshman year, and still unsure why people would submit themselves to this sort of treatment.

Finally Sophmore year I got a sensible roommate who appreciated imported beers. In particular, Jeff was really into Bass. And thus he got me to try better beers. And I drank them. And I still was not convinced. But I did start to change my opinion.

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Chemistry of Batch Sparging

[ Comments Off ] Posted on 08.29.09 under All-Grain, Brewing, Stories

I made beer today for the first time in a few months. Oktoberfest is coming up and I need beer for the O-fest party. One batch of Yachtoberfest 2009 and one Fisher Cat Wheat should do the trick.

My friend Jeremy was here to assist with the brewing. He is a chemistry expert. This looked to be a mutually beneficial day. He’d get to learn about the practical chemistry orchestrated by the various steps involved in turning grain into beer. I’d get to ask him all sorts of scientific questions about the process in real time, complete with discussion and maybe even some experimentation.
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Strategy for Health

[ 1 Comment ] Posted on 07.11.09 under Stories

My poor daughter is five (and a half) and she’s been sick for a few days now. It’s a shame to see a spirited young person like that stricken down by illness. Sniffling all day and waking up in the middle of the night coughing is no way to live.

So my wife and I were reassuring her before bed tonight that she’d feel better soon. We told her that we’d make sure she got plenty of water, and good food, and sleep. And this would lead to her wellness.

It was then that I realized the simple formula I have for living my own life and staying healthy: I eat a lot, I drink a lot, and I sleep a lot.

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