Archive for March, 2007


Monday, March 26th, 2007

Yesterday was a two-for. I got two brewing objectives completed in the time-frame of one, AND it wasn’t as painful to do both as I thought it was going to be. I may have to try it again, with just as good as results in the one and hopefully better results in the other.

Homebrew Bottling EPA

So yesterday I bottled the English Pale Ale (EPA, Bitter, ESB – whatever you want to call it, it’s all the same). I knew it was time to bottle, and I had all the bottles prepped since Thursday, but I was worried about trying to do it on a brew day. I figured if I could get everything set up before I mash and then bottle as fast and safely as I could during the mash, stop for the recirculation if I had too, and then continue and finish during the sparge I would be fine. That time fram, minus the pause, would be about an hour and a half to two hours – just the right amount of time. Well, I busted my ass with the bottling and actually got it done in 64 minutes (not counting janitorial). Why do I know it was 64 minutes? Because it was exactly 4 minutes after my mash had set. The beer looked great, nice and clear, and tasted good too. This is the kind of beer that was made to be drank like this – slightly warm and without any full carbonation. I would love to get a firkin to really dispense a beer of this style.

Messy Mash

As far as the brewday went, well, that’s a different story. Probably the worst brewday in memory. I was brewing a fairly straight forward pale ale brewed with american c-hops and a chico yeast strain. Everything seemed to be going normal: same time-frame as usual, hit the temperatures I was aiming for, I was relaxed and happy. Then, after the mash and during the recirculation I realized something was a miss. The liquid was draining from beneath the false-bottom but was not flowing back into the area beneath the false-bottom. I had a stuck mash on my hands. No problem I thought, I can deal with this. I tried about 5 different techniques to try to un-stick my stuck mess. After talking to another homebrewer, it appears as if it could have been caused by all or some of the following factors: because my mash tun is so small I can not do a mash out so I have a lower mash temperature then may be expected during recirculation, again because my mash tun is so small I have to use a very stiff water to grain ratio with the safe minimum being 1 to 1 and I was below that, I had a small amount of wheat malt in my recipe which is know for stuck mashes in high quantities, and the grind from the mill may have been more fine than my mash tun could accomodate but since I have used that mill in the past not as likely. Regardless, it was bad and the whole mood of the day switched.

Dish Water Pale Ale

I eventually figured out a way to retreive the sweet liquor from the spent grains. It was not easy, it was not fast, it was not clean, and it was not pretty. I basically could not filter what was coming through except for the very big pieces so the wort was very chunky, a great word for beer, “New Extra Chunky Style!” Also, since there was so much grain matter in my boil I am sure I leeched an excessive amout of tannins from the grains, which will hopefully just be perceived as more astringent than I would have liked. I captured five and a half gallons, but after settling it looks like only half will be able to be used as beer, pitaful, but we’ll see. I was hoping that this was going to be the first beer kegged for the DDSH, we’ll have to wait and see. I was also going to harvest the yeast-cake from this beer to brew two more five gallon batches, guess not. I’ll let you know how things turn out.

Delaware C.A.C.H.E. Pt 1

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

On Saturday, March 24th, Robert and I tried to complete the Delaware C.A.C.H.E. in one day. A very ambitious goal which we fell drastically short of. It was a great day and we still did well, but we missed our objective.

GeoCaching Logo

The Delaware CACHE is an event that takes place at where 24 caches are hidden throughout the state of Delaware that all have to be found in order to find and participate at a final event. Both Robert and I enjoy geocaching in the first place, so this was an interesting challenge to us. The time frame to get all 24 caches is like two or two and half months, but we decided to try and do it in one day, just to see if we could. We went for 15 of the 24 and found 13 of the 15. One of the caches we did not find was definetly gone and the other we had the wrong coordinates for.

Bundles McFister with Cache

The Delaware CACHE reminded me a lot of the Delaware Digital Scavenger Hunt, in that it was state-wide, had a certain criteria that had to be followed, digital pictures were a must, and there would be awards for different categories at the end. Some of the rules for the Delaware CACHE are:

  • You must register to play and you must earn your invite to the final event by following all the rules for all 24 caches, then figure out a final puzzle to find the actual location for the event.
  • You must sign the log book at each of the 24 caches.
  • You must post a picture of yourself with each cache at each loction.
  • Record a “secret” number from the inside of each cache that will be needed to figure out the final puzzle for the event.

Some of the categories eligible for prizes are:

  • Best photos in the following categories: Wildlife/Animals, Nature/Scenery, and People/Geocachers.
  • Best on-line log in the following categories: Best Overall, Most Unique Log (Creative), Best Log About What You Learned

Bri Cache

Overall it was a great time and I can’t wait to figure out a time to get the other 11 – 9 of which are in New Castle County and 2 are still in Sussex (poo). We actually started on Friday night by “preparing” at Dogfish Head Brewpub. We got to try one of there new beers the Beanie Bock, which we both thought was good, but after talking to the brewer apparetly it was very different (no longer good) than it had orginally turned out. After DFH we headed to the beach house and crashed, got up at 5AM to start at 6 and were on our way. The caches veried from lame to interesting to frustrating. The worst was I had printed up the sheets for the caches in February, since then one of the caches had been stolen and replaced. After it was replaced they moved the cache. We did not know that so we were looking in the wrong place the whole time, for over an hour, in the area that was furthest from home – and had to come up with a ‘did not find’ – sucked! The rest of the day just got weird in a good way, just ask Duchon Mandik and Bundles McFister.

Beer Advocate Magazine

Friday, March 16th, 2007

Today, I just finished the third issue of Beer Advocate Magazine. I must say, I think it is a really good magazine for the beer lover, not just the homebrewer or industry professional, which are the two typical targets. Only real downside is they use 4-6 pages on beer reviews. Maybe some people like that, but for me, keep it on your website.


The first issue, the “Inaugural Issue”, came out in January and was only sent to those who signed up as a “life member”. What the whole life member thing was was basically you were buying into this magazine without any ever being published at $20 per year. As a life member this price will never go up, always $20 a year. It is already $30 a year for others, but they throw in things like T-shirts and stuff, for now. It also came with a cool calendar which was photographed at Hair of the Dog Brewery and features beer related images, information, events and holidays – nice. The other thing I really like about the magazine is they decided to use a higher quality paper and a matte finish, really smooth and unique layout.

Each issue seems to follow a format, which is good, it helps you prepare for what’s coming or anticipate a particular section if that is one you happen to like. Some of the format appears to be this: Beer Smack (the top dogs of the web site and magazine talk shit), BYOB (a one page homebrew section), Style Profile (where they really break down one still with history notes), 9 Steps to Beerdom (where they feature a brewer from an established brewery and how you can be more like them in 9 easy steps from the brewers mouth (my favorite section so far)), Ask the Beer Geek (get your questions answered, not always correctly and not always politely (my least favorite section so far)), 3 or 4 feature articles all about 2 pages long, Beer Reviews (by Todd and Jason – yawn, boring), Destination (where they go into some depth about beer for a particular area), a food beer pairing type of artiicle (this could get better or worse), and Last Call (a one page sign-off about a popular hot topic). Issue one did a pretty good job, enough so to anticipate the next.


The second issue, the “Extreme Beer” issue, was the first issue that everyone received which is part of the reason I think they chose it as the extreme beer issue. The majority of the subscribers I’m sure are Beer Advocate members, and in my opinion the majority of Beer Advocate members are junkies for the hottest-rarest-one-off-hoppiest-boozy-beers around. Don’t get me wrong, I love those beers too, but I also enjoy my stand-bys which are available at most local retailers or from my homebrew cellar. Some of the stuff this issue covered was; An ABC’s of how to get started in homebrewing (according to the auther his homebrew pieces will get better, he just needed to start with a base somewhere), 9 Steps to Larry Bell, an interesting “Anti-Extreme Beer” article by local writer Lew Bryson (he is heavily advocating the Session Beer as of late (I bet the session beer issue isn’t far around the corner)), and Last Call with Jim Koch of the Boston Beer Company talking about the biggest of the extreme beers – Utopias! (Which I have yet to try.)


The third issue, the “Beer Geek” issue, was my least favorite so far. Still pretty good, but didn’t feel as solid as the other two. A lot of people have been getting all pissy about the term beer geek recently, my guess is the “too cool” people who would never want them selves associated with the word ‘geek’ ever. They are pushing for ‘Beer Connisuer” and “Beer Aficianado” which both just sound like “Beer Snob” to me – I’ll take geek and embrace it. Anyway, some of the articles from this issue were; the first homebrew recipe (a dry stout) for the beginner, 9 steps to Nick Floyd, an article called ‘The Geek Shall Inherit the Earth’ written about maybe 10 or so ‘hard-core geeks’ that stand out from the rest of us, maybe a paragraph or 4 on each person, a nice article on beer marinades (and these were made with better beer like bocks and triples), and Last Call with Larry Horwitz from Iron Hill North Wales basically telling the beer geeks to relax a little. The irony of Larry being the one who wrote the article is that he is not a Beer Advocate fan, or so I’ve heard, so I thought it was funny that when offered to join the crew he did, whatever, I would have too.

So that’s what I have for now, until the next issue, the “Belgian Beer” issue (?), just a guess . . .

English Pale Ale

Monday, March 12th, 2007

Yesterday I got to brew an English Pale Ale, one of my favorite styles to have on draft or as a homebrew. Most bottled commercial examples just aren’t, right.


I was afraid the day would be full of mishaps, I was working on like six hours of sleep or less after staying up until after 4AM and had a deadline held over my head of when I had to finish in order to go to a show that we already had tickets for. Let’s just say it was one of the best (no problems) brew day in a while. I hit my mash temperature, my original gravity, and the day was done in five and a half hours from set-up to janitorial. Only true down side, I didn’t enjoy any beer while brewing, by choice.

Really only two mistakes happened (what would a brew day be without some sort of mishap). Number one isn’t so bad and I’m actually quite used to it, so it isn’t as much of a mistake as it is just the same thing didn’t almost happen. So basically, after your wort is done cooling you transfer it to a carboy to ferment. Well, unlike the finished beer, wort in the kettle is full of suspended debri, and it would be best to leave as much non-liquid behind in the kettle. I have never done this successfully. So, after the wort had cooled I tried to initiate a whirlpool to draw the debri into the center of the kettle, this does work. Typically I get sort-of clear wort which eventually runs kind-of muddy. This time I had almost clear wort. I was pretty stoked and by four gallons into the carboy I was getting excited that I may finally have figured out what I needed to do to draw clear wort from the ketle. I guess because so much more had settled or something, after the four gallon marker it started to look like nasty mud coming into the carboy. It was thick enough I debated whether to just stick with the four clear gallons or go with the extra one which would give me five “normal” gallons – I went for the five. No biggy, not really a mistake, just thought I’d figured something out – guess not.


The second mistake shouldn’t be too bad, at least for me, and that’s the main person to please, but it may have repercussions if I choose to enter this beer into a competition. Anyway, I had decided to use the same yeast that I used in the Oatmeal Stout in this beer, so I had about a pint of WLP002 yeast slurry in my fridge for the past two weeks. Per normal brewing, I made a starter for the yeast 2 days before the brew. The yeast turned the started almost black, like a stout. There was no off aroma, so I was pretty sure it was color carry over from the stout. Knowing I should have made the beers the other way (lightest to darkest) but really wanted to have my own stout for St. Patty’s , I went for it. I have heard on the internet that there could be residual carry over, but I have never seen / met someone who has had it actually happen to them. Well for now on if anyone asks you and your’ve read this, it has happened to someone you know and it does happen. Supposedly you can wash the yeast and stuff, but I don’t like to play with me yeast (ask a doctor about that one). So I decanted as much liquid as I could off the yeast starter and pitched the remaining slurry. I would say that the wort appeared to go from an orangy-copper-tan to an instant iced tea color. Definetly darker than I anticipated, but not “wrong”, well not pale, so maybe wrong – whatever, I’ll drink it and enjoy it.


So the EPA is done, time to start thinking about the brews for the Scavenger Hunt. Anyone want to make a suggestion, now’s the time, ingredients will be ordered by the end of this week at the latest (I hope!).

Bottling The Oatmeal Stout Experiment

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

On Saturday, I finally bottled the Oatmeal Stout Experiment. I typically don’t look forward to bottling days, and I was especially not looking forward to this one. Bottling is my least favorite aspect of this hobby, but it is the cheapest and most convienient for distribution.


There were two main issues that I thought of that would make this worse than a typical bottling day. 1 – Typically I use 4oz of corn sugar for priming a 5 gallon batch, this time I had to figure out how to split 4oz five ways for 5 one gallon batches. And 2 – I would unfortunetly have to do a lot more cleaning and sanatizing, like instead of once for the whole batch, more like 5 times inbetween each mini-batch.

The first issue I resolved easily with common sense as soon as I thought about it. Normally I take the 4oz of corn sugar and dissolve it in 2 cups of water and bring it to a boil creating a simple syrup. So, instead of worring about the amount of corn sugar I could make it easier and worry about the amount of simple syrup. So instead of 2 cups, I used 2 and half cups of water, so when it came time to bottle each 1 gallon fermenters worth of beer received a half cup of simple syrup priming solution, simple problem resolved.

The second issue wasn’t horrible, just extra work. The good thing was after I thought about it I figured I could actually skip cleaning and sanitizing inbetween some of the batches. For example, I bottled the “plain” Oatmeal Stout first. No need to rinse after that one because that is the beer they are all based off of. So it went like this OS > Cocoa Pebble OS > rinse/sanitize > Vanilla OS > Bourbon OS > rinse/sanitize > Coffee OS. The yield wasn’t too bad either: 9 OS, 6 CPOS, 9 VOS, 10 BOS, & 10 COS.

Originally I had mentioned trying to get about a 6 pack from each fermenter and then reserving the rest to try and make some blends, for example a Vanilla Bourbon Oatmeal Stout or a Cocoa Coffee Oatmeal Stout (breakfast stout). I decided not to do that for a couple reasons, less likelihood of contamination and oxidation plus less mess and rinsing/sanatizing. But, if two or more various bottles are opened at the same time, some on-the-fly blending could definetly happen. Oh, by the way I tasted all of them, and here is my initial opinion from best to worst: BOS, VOS, OS, COS, CPOS > the Cocoa Pebble one may be nasty, we’ll have to wait and see, I feel bad for the judges for that pre-sweetened cereal category!

Mug Club Renewal

Friday, March 9th, 2007

On Friday was one of the Iron Hill Brewery’s Mug Club Renewal Parties. I decided to go to the one at the Wilmington location (they do different ones at different locations) with Todd, who is also a Mug Club Member.

Iron Hill Brewery

It was a good time, Iron Hill had several special beers on tap, free appatizers, and had a raffle with some give aways. Of the special beers they had Fe10 (yikes, 24oz mugs!), Bourbon Porter, Wee Heavy and an Irish Dry on nitro. I had a BP then an ID then another BP, it is too good!

There Mug Club is pretty good. It used to be $25 a year which was a steal, now it is $35 a year which is still a good price. These are some of the benefits:

  • You receive a $25 Reward Certificate for every 300 points you accrue. Each dollar you spend at Iron Hill gets you 1 point (on food or drink), plus you get a bonus 200 points each year you sign up.

  • You get invited to special Mug Club promotions, about twice a year, where they have deep discounts, special beers, and free grub.

  • You are able to use your mug (24oz) for any pint specials they have.

  • You get your mug filled for the price of a pint.

  • You can use your card/mug at any Iron Hill location.

  • At the end of the year you get to keep your mug! (It makes a great coffee mug.)

This is a totally better deal then the two other “local” brewpubs that I know about. Stewart’s is $50 a year and Dogfish Head is $150 (!!!) a year a believe, both with limited number of mugs and both sell out every year. I am glad to be an Iron Hill Mug Club member.

Bottle Preping Again

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

Imagine that! This time it is in preparation for the Oatmeal Stout Experiment. I’m hoping to get a six-pack from each gallon with a little left over in each container for some blending. Unfortunetly I am begging for oxidation and asking for infection, but with any luck and some good practices, I’ll come out on top.

Bottling 1

Theoretically my brewness will be as follows for the next few days:

  • Thurs. March 8th – Prepare bottles for bottling Oatmeal Stout Experiment (OSE). New beers tried: Stone Old Gaurdian Early ’06 Release & Flying Fish Espresso Porter 10th Anniversary Brew.
  • Fri. March 9th – Go to Iron Hill Wilmington Mug Club Renewal Party, try IHW specialty beers. Prepare starter for English Pale Ale (EPA) to be brewed Sunday made with slurry from OSE, WLP002.
  • Sat. – Bottle OSE, possibly go to Iron Hill Newark Mug Club Renewal Party – Possibly go to HDYB to pick up Gypsum for EPA. Drink growler of Blonde Barleywine from Iron Hill West Chester.
  • Sun. – Brew English Pale Ale and plan out beers for the 2nd Annual Delaware Digital Scavenger Hunt – 2 maybe 3!

Bottling 2

Homegrown Hop Ale – Revisited

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

It’s time to revisit and post about the Homegrown Hop Ale, which later became named the Homegrown Mild, which later became named the Homegrown Session Ale (still referred this way sometimes), to finally the Homegrown American Brown Ale.


This beer was the first beer brewed at my new place, brewed back in January. Recently I have really been showcasing it, handing some out, taking some with me, enjoying a few while I can. Anyway, the beer pours appropriately into a Fool Circle pint glass a clear chestnut brown that transforms to a raspberry iced tea color when held to light. A nice fluffy one-finger toffee head rises on the beer, but fades after about five minutes or so. The appearance is very welcoming.

The aroma is more hoppy then I was expecting for homegrown hops, which is a good thing. In the past my HG hops have yielded very low in all things hoppy. After the initial intake of hoppy aroma other scents come through; grass and wood and old herbal tea residue and caramel all arise – all most likely stronger if this beer was left to warm. Over all a more complex aroma then often associated with an American Brown Ale. The mouthfeel is medium to medium-light with an “even” carbonation. The carbonation feels “right”, it is very difficult to explain easily. There is a little astringent bite, but not out of character.

The flavors cover the palate for such a “small” beer, only weighing in at about 4% alc. For me it is the malt that dominates the flavor complimented by the hops vs. the aroma I would say the opposite, which makes this quite joyous to drink. I pick up obvious notes of caramel with some bread crust and candied pears, followed by a light floral note that comes as you breath out the beer.

Overall, I’d love to really sit down and enjoy a session of this beer with someone or some people – maybe over cards, maybe over liar’s dice, or maybe just sitting around the chiminea. It seems to be easy drinking yet flavorful, and for me the fact it is made with my HG hops takes it to better place. The last HG hop ale was drinkable, but not this good. Can’t wait to revistit the next brew!


Philly Craft Beer Festival

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

Today was the first Philly Craft Beer Festival, held at the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal at the Naval Yard. There were two sessions, 12-4 & 6-10 – I was at the 12-4 session.

Philly Craft Beer Festival

I went up with Richard which was a great partner in crime to have. We showed up a little late which really wasn’t a big deal except for the huge line to get in – but that too seemed to move quickly. According to the information there were 50 breweries there, each with at least two beers. My first objective was to try and hit the odd-ball brews that people brought with them and then to try to hit new breweries to me or at least ones I don’t get to try often.

It didn’t seem that many people brought special brews, so that then lead us to step two, places we don’t get to try often. Some of these included: Appalachian Brewing Co., Independence, Legacy, Rock Art, Triumph, Cricket Hill, and Thomas Hooker. Of course I drank some of the good ol’ stand-by’s too: Dogfish Head, Iron Hill, Sly Fox, Victory, Troegs, and Weyerbacher.

Overall it really turned out to be a great fest. In door but with nice weather so everything was open, not long lines at the restrooms, food available if you wanted to buy it, no one out of control, and lines less then 10 people always, usually more like 2-4. My only real complaint was the lack of free water. For a $40 ticket (which I happen to get two for half price ;^)) there should be free bottles of water. It is only going to help people and there reputation. What is the most one person is going to drink, four – and how a bout the average person, one maybe. Overall good time, can’t wait till next year – or at least the next fest!

The Session – Stout

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

Don’t know if I’ll keep up with this or not, but this is the first time it is happening. Writer Stan Hieronymus suggested that all beer “bloggers” write about the same thing on the same day once a month, similar to what other groups have done. So, this is the first attempt, for March, The Session, Stouts.


This evening Karen and I went to Stoney’s British Pub on Concord Pike to enjoy some English fair, fish and chips and good English beer. While I was there I remembered about “The Session” and thought, ‘why not?’ I asked the waitress what was her favorite stout besides Guinness. She suggested St. Peter’s Cream Stout, sounds good to me.

The St. Peter’s CS comes in a cool 500ml bottle, sort of in the shape of an old school flask. The back label reads: ‘Fuggles’ and ‘Challenger’ hops plus a blend of 4 local barley malts create an aromatic, robust, dark chocolate cream stout with a satisfying bittersweet aftertaste.

Here’s my impression; the beer pours a light black color from the bottle with little to no head. Some foam lingers along the edges of the glass, but it is dull. When held to a light brown iced-tea highlights shine through. The aroma reminds me of sweet chocolate with a light malt back bone supporting it. There is more carbonation then expecting, taking away from the smooth factor I was ready for. The beer did still feel mostly smooth along the palate, just not silky, with a little bit of tang in the aftertaste. First impressions on flavor: roasty, creamy, a touch of burntness, some ripe berry, candied chocolate pudding.

I was just finishing up the beer when the food was arriving, it would have paired excellently with the home-made tarter sauce that accompanied the fish. Overall the Cream Stout was good, but not bragging good, and definetly not $10 good – which is what I found out when the bill came that Stoney’s charged, ouch! It would inspire me to try some of St. Peter’s other offerings though.

St. Peter's Cream Stout

Should have tried and reviewed the Iron Hill Dry Irish Stout that went on tap today instead – oh well, more beer I say!