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?
Bottling off a keg is easy.
When I had picnic taps, it was easy. I had a length of tube that fit onto the end of the plastic faucet, and went to the bottom of my selected bottle, and all I had to do was let most of the pressure out of the keg, squeeze the tube onto the end of the faucet, stick the tube into the sanitized bottle, and pull the dispense lever. Fill it up, and cap it, and good to go.
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.
It might still be a little early to judge, but I just kegged my latest (I)IPA, all Columbus. Bittered to nearly 100 IBU with an OG of 1.075 and dry hopped for a week with two ounces of Columbus. This beer is incredible right now!
If it holds up over the next few weeks as it cools and carbs, I’ll post the whole recipe. But for now, I’m basking in it.
It wasn’t long before I wanted to be able to bottle off some brews to share with friends. So I bottled a batch or two, just to be able to share it, or when my original keg fridge was at capacity with two kegs in it.
This did the job for every now and then, but eventually I wanted to be able to bottle beer from a keg at any time, or to carbonate with CO2 in the keg and then bottle after that (such as for a very strong beer that could pose problems bottle conditioning).
Kegging is such a joy. It is always so exciting to be packaging the results of brewing and fermenting. It is the last time-consuming step in the process. From there on out it’s all enjoyment with no more work. You get to measure your final gravity, determine your ABV, see how you hit your marks, and most importantly, get a preview taste of the beer you’ve just made.
Furthermore, kegging is so quick and easy, it takes around a half an hour at most, and you’re done. It’s all so wonderful. I am euphoric every time I complete a kegging run. It is just so satisfying and a great symbol of many weeks of drinking pleasure to come in the future.
But kegging has a dark side that I’m experiencing this week.
Kegging has got to be my favorite part of the whole brewing process. Or bottling for that matter, if that’s all you got.
The punch line is that this is the time when I first taste what has transformed from wort to beer. I learn the alcohol content, and I get to do rudimentary quality checks on the finished product.
At kegging, I can tell if it has basically come out OK. Plus I get very close to cold homemade beer. And somewhat close to cold carbonated homemade beer. These are the reasons for the pursuit of the passion. Cold carbonated homemade beer is what it’s all about.
When you strip away the chemistry, creativity, and process, what is left is beer. That’s what’s so great about it all. Not only do you get a great activity to while away a Saturday afternoon, but you also get a whole ton of beer to drink.
For what it’s worth, the IIPA came out 10.1% ABV (FG 1.013), still has a hot alcohol aroma and flavor, that I’m sure will mellow with cold and carbonation. I also expect the hop aroma and flavor to emerge in the next week or so.
The RIS came out at 10.5% ABV (FG 1.020), and good solid stout all around. A bit hot, too, at room temp. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t guess it got any oak if I didn’t know it, but it still looks to finish in a very satisfactory state that’s sure to ensure its demise way before its’ time.
Kegging is great. It is so much easier to transfer the beer one time – from fermenter to keg, as opposed to fermenter to bottling bucket, preparing priming sugar solution, sanitizing dozens of bottles, filling them, and capping them.
Yet kegs still need to be cleaned. In fact, cleaning kegs is a rather time consuming process. Many espouse the rare cleaning schedule, but I just can’t do it. I just have to clean them in between uses. Not right away, but before reuse cleaning and sanitizing is a must.
Prior to today, I had been using tees to split my gas line from the single output of my simple regulator to the many destinations for gas in my brewery. The first tee split into one line to go into the keg fridge and one line for outside the frdige for kegs that won’t fit in the fridge yet. Each of these had another tee, because there are two kegs inside the fridge and to support two kegs outside the fridge.
The problem came when I got my beer gun. It needs gas, and at a lower pressure than carbonation pressure. It was logistically difficult to connect the beer gun (my rigged contraption of an adapter notwithstanding – that’s been replaced by a proper converter now).
That is all solved by the manifold. As you can see in the photo, on the right is the inlet from the CO2 tank. Then there are three outputs, each with their own shutoff valve. In the photo, 2 and 3 are off, while only 1 is on. Valve 1 is the one that goes to inside the fridge. There are two kegs in there being served. There is still a tee inside the fridge to split that line. Valve 2 goes to outside the fridge. There are no kegs outside the fridge needing to be carbonated. There is still a tee out there, too. All four of the keg lines have ball lock gas quick disconnects (QDs) tightened to them. Valve 3 goes to ten feet of gas line for the beer gun. It has just a female flare swivel nut fitting on it, suitable for connecting to the NPT-flare adapter I got for the gas inlet for the beer gun. In a pinch, it could also hook up to a QD. Or anything else with a 1/4″ male flare connector.
I’m now looking forward to practicing a little more with the beer gun, and then bottling a few gallons of my 17.3% ABV IPA.
[ Comments Off ] Posted on 01.13.09 under Kegging
I just got my filter in the mail.
In pursuit of clear beer, I have resorted to the coolest thing…a filter. I ordered a filter housing and a 5 micron coarse filter and a 1 micron fine filter from Midwest Brewing. Of course, I didn’t get the connector kit, so I have to try to go the hardware store to get the 1/2″ male NPT to 1/4″ barb adapter that I need to connect my beer lines to the filter housing. But that’s OK.
I might filter my recent “Extra Special Mild” that’s been in the fermenter for a little over a week, or I might wait for my next batch of IPA to try the filter. In all likelihood, I’ll filter the ESM to see how it works, and then also do both IPAs I’ll be making this week, and then all beers (except wheats and bottle-conditioned) from now on.