Archive for April, 2007

Bad Hop Daddy

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

I’m a bad hop daddy! It’s now the end of April and my hops still aren’t in the ground! I know, I know they should have been in like a month ago, but I’m a slacker and have had other stuff to do – forgive me hop-gods for I have sinned.


Right now my almost 4 year old Cascade hop plants are sitting in a flower pot on our back porch. This picture doesn’t show it but they are already as tall as I am and that’s with less than optimal growing conditions. I REALLY need to get these suckas in the ground. Last year when we moved and dug up the roots to replant here I was amazed how long they had gotten. When I originally bought them the rhizomes were about as long and thick as my finger. After I dug them up they the longest ones were over 3 feet long and half as thick as my wrist at there thickest point! I really don’t want to accidentally kill these hops. I don’t expect a large yield this year as they re-establish their root system, but hopefully by next year they’ll be kickin’ again. I’ll keep you posted.

Trail Dawgs Half Marathon

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Saturday the 28th was the annual Trail Dawgs Triple Crown event. At this event there are multiple races to choose from: a marathon (26.2 miles), a half-marathon (13.1 miles), a 10K (about 6 miles), a 5K (about 3 miles), and theTriple Crown which is the half-marathon, 10K, and 5K back-to-back-to-back. We participated in the half-marathon.


This was our third year running the Trail Dawgs half-marathon (nice cheesy picture of us after the race). Overall I’d say it was probably the best year so far. The first year was a decent run for Robert but was a royal pain for me. The first year it had rained for like two days before hand and was still raining in the morning. Plus this is a 13.1 trail run with two creek crossings, so that made it quite difficult. It sounds weak to point it out now, but I was just about to buy new sneakers before that race, so my old sneaks just could not get traction during that race, and there are a bunch of up hills – regardless it was very tough for me. The second year was better, well for me (my best time out of the three years). That year I had a decent run, actually a pretty good run, and Robert was all jacked up. He had just finished reading a book called Chi Running which has a neat theory on how to run better. So Robert was trying to apply the Chi Running techniques during the half-marathon, but hadn’t had enough time to practice the theories so it actually made his run harder on him. But, this year we basically both were on point. It turned out to be Robert’s best time of the three which is good. During the race I never felt completely drained and afterward we both were feeling pretty good, especially after we cracked into a bomber of Rogue’s 2006 Old Crustacean Barleywine and a Three Floyd’s Dreadnought Double IPA (only small beers, snicker). Trail Dawgs day is always a good time, just a long day overall.

After the race we decided it was time to go to Twin Lake’s Brewery and pick up some growlers. Unfortunately since it was an unplanned trip we didn’t have any empty growlers, so we had to pay $10 for two deposits on glass which made it so we bought 1 less growler, but we still got 2. We each sampled 3 beers while we were picking up our growlers. There new beer was available the Caesar Rodney Gold. It was good, just to similar to there other beers, what they need now is something ‘different’ for them. The Twin Lake’s sales man Matt Day joked that they were working on a sports beer, a la Gatorade beer or something, it was pretty funny.


Sunday, April 29th, 2007

So on Thursday I spent the evening over Garrett’s house learning the basics of kegging. The good news is that it appeared as easy as I was hoping and made bottling look like even more of a pain in the ass. I’m actually quite excited about giving this a shot.


Basically when I had arrived at Garrett’s he already had things in motion. First, the kegs need to be cleaned and rinsed before anything else can happen, and that’s the part he took care of before I arrived. He said that basically you take a strong hot solution of Powdered Brewers Wash (PBW) and water and clean the keg with that. The most ‘difficult’ part is making sure all the poppets, the relief valve, and the dip tube are all cleaned properly. After the cleaning with the PBW you need to rinse well with hot water also.

So this is the condition the kegs were in when I arrived. At this point the kegs still need to be sanitized, flushed with CO2, filled with beer, and carbonated. For the sanitation process we used StarSan which I was initially surprised about because of its history of being a notorious foaming agent, but Garrett reassured me that it was a non-issue. After the keg was done being sanitized, he showed me an intelligent move to kill a few birds with one stone, basically he hooked up the CO2 and pushed the sanitizer out of the keg and into a bucket. This removed the sanitizer from the keg in an efficient manner, filled the keg with CO2 (which we wanted), and gave us a bucket of sanitizer solution to sanitize the racking cane and anything else we may need. Next we transfered the beer, which is essentially what I do when I bottle moving it from carboy to bottling bucket then to bottles, but this time it was just carboy to keg, period. After the beer was transfered we threw the CO2 on it and essentially it is a walk-away and leave it alone kind of thing for about three days.

Pretty cool. I know I’ll be nervous when I first do it by myself, wondering if I’m doing it all right or not. Fortunately he said he was going to e-mail me a cheat sheet to help me remember everything, and as he repeatedly reminded me, “It’s not rocket science.” Thanks, Garrett.

Brew Your Own March-April

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

I just finished the Brew Your Own (BYO) magazine March-April issue today on lunch. BYO has been around for many a year and in some ways could be considered the staple of how a homebrew magazine should be designed.


This issue was about the same as all the others, OK in my opinion. Dunno why, but I always feel as if the magazine is mediocre at best.  Some of the subjects covered in this issue were: A nice article by Jamil Z on Ordinary Bitter, an article about using oatmeal in beer in particularly with Oatmeal Stouts, brewing gluten free beer, formulating a balanced recipe, malting your own barley, adding non-welded components to a brew kettle, and all of there typical every issue columns Last Call, Homebrew Profile, Systems That Make You Drool, Reader Recipe, Replicator, Tips from the Pros, and the Mr. Wizard article. It’s funny, reviewing right now, I think I like the typical every issue columns better than the full blow articles. They are shorter, funnier, and usually better written. Anyway, Jamil Z is one of my favorite regulars in the homebrew community and his article on Ordinary Bitter was nice, wish I read it before I brewed my EPA, but hey, whatever. I thought the next three major articles basically sucked and the writers must have been paid per word, especially the balanced recipe article. It was a bunch of fluff. The article on malting your own barley was a little too detailed orientated for light reading on lunch, but it did spark a spark for next fall brewing a beer with homegrown hops and barley that I malted – sweet! After that, all the typical articles are just fun to read. They aren’t trying to tell you how to do something from an Average Joe point of view, they just giving you info on what other homebrewers are up too. Well, except for maybe the Mr. Wizard article which can be quite technical, but is coming from a dude who knows what’s up. Enough for now.

Bottling & Transfering

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

So on Monday I got to do a little brew maintenance that was supposed to get done over the weekend. Well, weekends have a way of running themselves, so things got done on Monday. I bottled the Stainless Pale Ale or PA3 and transfered and dry hopped the SAW (Simcoe, Amarillo, Warrior) Pale Ale or PA2.


The bottling went pretty well. I got a full 2 cases out of the batch plus dumped a little bit. This is the beer that was made from the More Beer Stainless Brewer brew kit, that was sort of a secret recipe. Basically, they gave some of there best brewers (first, second, and third place winners) an opportunity to see who could brew the best beer with the same ingredients. Well, every single little thing that you do differently than someone else changes the beer. It will be interesting to see how they judge this one. I should be able to mail in my entries before the deadline. Right now the cases of beer are in the warm room (computer room) coming up to carbonation.

The transferring  of the SAW Pale Ale worked out OK to. Recently I had purchased a new siphon for this kind of application, a 1/2″ East Siphon which is suppose to work better than its 3/8″ inch younger brother (which I already have). So I cleaned and sanitized both siphons just in case there was a problem with one. Well, I started with the 1/2″ and I couldn’t get it to get going, it was as if there wasn’t enough initial beer to pull the siphon through. So, I reverted back to the 3/8″ and did everything as usual. I hate when you try to upgrade equipment, try to be pro-active, and its not even worth the trouble. I threw in the dry hops and let this baby chill down in chamber two.


So far the Stainless Pale Ale is bottled and ready for the More Beer competition, and I have four beers lined up for my first kegging experiment. The Oaked C-Hop Pale Ale, the SAW Pale Ale, a Hazelnut  Brow, and a Belgian-esque Witbier wheat-thing. Anybody want to guess when the kegs will be tapped? More information on that to come!


Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

I brewed again yesterday, this time a Belgian Witbier style beer. Of course, per usual, everything didn’t go as planned. Because of this stupid sinus infection that has beaten my ass everything has been a little askew this week. So before I brewed I had to clean bottles.


I put the bottles in to soak on Wednesday night, and I was planning on de-labeling, cleaning, and sanitizing them on Thursday night. These bottles would be for the PA3 or the Stainless Pale Ale. Well, Thursday became going to the doctor’s night so cleaning bottles didn’t happen then. Then Friday was the ass kicker of all ass kicker days with me sleeping almost 16 hours straight, falling asleep almost as soon as I got home from work. So, by the time Saturday rolled around I still had cleaning bottles looming over my head of things I needed to do, and since I didn’t have anything else lined up for the day but to brew I figured I’d do it first. Bottling actually went off without too many problems. I still hate the labels that Dogfish Head uses, there stupid paper tears way too easily and you kind of have to scrape the labels off.

After I was done with the bottle cleaning I kind of had to re-arrange the “brew area” to transformer from be used in a bottling way to a brewing way. After that was all done I decided to regroup and shower and eat before starting into the brew day, kind of give myself a clean slate. While I was getting ready, I realized I had not made a yeast starter the day or two before because for the same reasons as described above. I was a little ticked that I could let that slide, but I wasn’t pissed. I pulled out the yeast and let it come up to room temperature, I grabbed a jar of canned wort starter (thank you, Garrett), sanitized all that I needed too, and began to make my yeast starter. I threw my O2 stone into some boiling water and let it go to town for like 15 minutes, than gave the starter a good blast of O2. I was constantly aware of the starter trying to give it a shake whenever I could.

The brew day for the Wit was so-so. I was starting later than I wanted to, though that should come as no surprise, and wasn’t even because of the bottling cleaning. Originally I was going to use that same time to actually bottle that beer instead of clean the bottles for it, which still hasn’t happened. When I went to grind my grains I killed my drill. I was using a very old hand-me-down corded one-speed drill. I have used it twice now with the mill and it seemed to work fine. A little slow to get going but fine to keep going. Well, the grain mill killed it. It started smoking and stinking about a 10th of the way through the grains, into the garbage. So I pulled out the 12 volt battery powered drill to see how much help that would be. It actually was doing better than it had the first time I had tried it. It sucked though, I could listen to the mill slow as the battery died, and of course that was the battery fresh off the charger. So with about two pounds of grains left I grabbed a pair of vice-grips and went to town on the grain mill. Let me just tell you, anyone who chooses the handle option from Crank and Stein is a freakin’ moron! That was some stupid-dumb tedious stuff. With a grain bill that was only 50% malted barley I was sure that the mash was going to get stuck again, it was just a matter of how badly.

When it was time to start collecting the sweet wort from the mash tun I let things go as usual. For the first 20 minutes or so, everything seemed to look fine. But just as I was beginning to add the sparge water as the liquid level in the mash tun was almost at the top of the grain bed, the run-off stopped completely, no trickle, no nothing. So I added a couple gallons of 175 degree sparge water, mixed it up real well, and let it sit for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes I did another recirc and started up again. It seemed that as long as I kept a pretty good liquid level on top of the grains the run-off seemed to go just fine. After that point it was a fairly easy brew day, only two hop additions and no fining agents made the additions less than usual. But, there were the spices to add. Traditionally a Wit has at least two spices, bitter orange peel and coriander, plus often a “secret” third spice to help make that beer distinctive from its neighbors. Karen brought my third ingredient, and when the time was right the blended mixture went into the brew pot.

Since I had not bottled the PA3 in the morning I was getting low on big carboys. Typically I like to do primary fermentation in 6 or 6.5 gallon carboy for 5 gallons of beer. Plenty of head-space or extra room if you should need it. Recently I had purchased a few 5 gallon carboys to use as secondaries, well it was time to put one of them to use as a primary today. I had not marked off the gallon marks on the carboy, so I was hoping it was actually larger than 5 gallons, but I had a feeling that it was exactly 5 gallons. Anyway, I went to transfer the beer and realized I was going to quickly run out of room. I probably left almost a gallon of wort behind in the kettle, ashame really. So the carboy was filled almost to bursting when I realized I still needed to add the yeast starter! Since the yeast starter was made so close to pitching time, there was no way I could pour off the liquid and just pitch the slurry. So, somehow I had to make another quart fit where there wasn’t room.


To to say that it leaked a little would be an understatement. Later that night before I went to bed (early again, damn infection!) I checked on the beer to see how it was doing, there appeared to be no activity, odd I thought but not unheard of – maybe I had just gotten used to Garrett’s Super WLP051 yeast he had given me to use on the last two batches. By the time the morning arrived and there was still no activity I was more concerned. I searched for the tube the yeast had come in and was surprised – More Beer sold me expired yeast, bastards! The best before date was written as ‘Maar-03-07’. Thinking back on it I remember seeing that, but knowing I received my order the last week of March I assumed that Maar was a misprint for May not March.

So, after all my hard work, time and money invested, plus being sick and on antibiotics and pain killers, after a long day off brewing – I get pooped on by having expired yeast. I quickly tried to call the closest homebrew store to see if they are open and see if they have the same yeast. Yes, they are open, but no they don’t have the same yeast. The guy was strongly trying to sell me a Hefeweizen yeast, and I kept on explaining to him I didn’t want that banana-clovey thing going on in this beer, idiots. So I looked through what few packs of dried yeast I had to see what I could do and decided on a Fermentis Safbrew T-58 pack to see if that can pull this beer out. I re-hydrated it and prepared to pitch the yeast. Oh no, there isn’t enough room in the carboy! So I had to unwillingly pour out some of the non-fermented wort to make room for the new re-hydrated yeast. I was ready to smash something now! I think I would have gained more pleasure from taking that full carboy out into the street and watching it shatter than I will from drinking the beer when it is ready.

Between being sick, not getting to do almost anything I’ve wanted to do over the last four days, and having this beer begin as a pile of poo I am absolutely miserable. It’s the freakin’ nicest day of the year so far and I’m inside on the computer bitching about yesterday – how pathetic.

New Game Added – FROGGER!

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

Time to “go play in traffic”. The game room has added a new Arcade Classic in the form of Frogger.


I swear I am working on Tapper.

Hazelnut Brown

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

On Sunday I brewed a beer that will hopefully turn out similar to Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar. It should be a cross between a mellow American Brown ale and a Robust Porter, leaning to the brown side, with a definitive hazelnut flair.


I had somehow printed but not saved the recipe in ProMash, the brewing recipe program I used. So, I had to retype in the recipe – and again I forgot to save, so again I retyped it in. This made me feel very stoopid. Then I got to play with my new grain mill again, so far it is still fun. Karen was interested to see it in action, so I let her weigh all the grains and load the hopper. Unfortunately, right when she was getting ready to grind she got a long distance phone call. With the big storm here, I had to relocate my typical brew spot. So, I hauled everything up from the basement and brewed in the garage with the door wide open for proper ventilation.  It was cool to brew in there, but it was a pain in the balls hauling everything up, and running up and down when ever I realized I forgot something. I added a small second burner to my set up now too. I don’t need it for anything, but it’s useful to have available if I wanted to sterilize something with boiling water (like my oxygen stone) or to pull some wort and boil it down to add some extra character.

Right before the end of the mash and while my sparge water was still heating I ran out of propane! This is the second time this has ever happen to me. After the first time, I bought a back-up tank, but this time the back-up was empty too.  So, I put everything on hold and made a propane run which wound up taking a good 45 minutes. Buy the time I got back the water temperatures had dropped, but not as bad as I had thought. So, after everything was set, I mashed-out, recirculated, and began my sparge which went OK until the last little bit. Basically I have a crappy pick-up tube on the inside of the HLT. Again, since the valve comes in at a 45 degree angle, something has to be used to connect the valve to the bottom. In the mash tun I have the copper Bazooka-T, in the HLT I have a piece of reinforced plastic tube. Well, the problem is when the tube is heated by the 175 degree sparge water it softens and begins to loosen around the connector to the valve. No problem I thought, I’ll put a hose clamp around it. Well the OD on the hose is like 5/8th and I didn’t have a hose clamp big enough, so I tried using what I had available – a zip tie. It didn’t work. It wasn’t that big of a deal, I just stood there and tipped the HLT, problem solved, but not permanently.

After the sparge was through everything on the boil side seemed to go fine, nothing that I can really remember standing out. Again, Karen came out and chilled which is always nice. When it was time to cool I was worried that my “brew hoses” weren’t going to be able to reach the garden spigot, but they did, so no problems there. I had to do a little rearranging in the fermentation room (computer room) to make sure there was room, so I took PA3 which had finished fermenting down to the bottling area (laundry room), which is different than the secondary fermentation area (chamber number two). When the brew day (minus cleaning up) was done, I stopped for about an hour for a break and to eat some dinner Karen made. After clean up it was somehow like 10PM. My OG was much higher than anticipated, up in the range of almost 90% efficiency Hopefully this will hold true for the new mashing equipment, which would mean I could use less ingredients to gain the same results, thus saving money. So between retyping the recipe twice, playing solder boy with the copper piping, hauling all my crap around, brewing, making a propane run, finish brewing, moving carboys, eating, and cleaning up it turned out to be almost a 12 hour day! Don’t know how that happened, but I was wooped. Plus the fact that Sunday was day 7 of being sick (today is day 9) didn’t help much either.


 So next up on the brew schedule are two wheaty beers, so this should be interesting. I am planning on brewing a Witbier and a Saison, which I have never brewed the later. Both styles are quite refreshing so that’ll be nice going into the warmer time of the year. Then hopefully something big and stinky to lay down for winter: a Russian Imperial Stout, or Old Ale.

Mash Tun Bazooka

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

On Sunday before I brewed this week I wanted to tweak my mash tun Bazooka-T set-up. Last week I had used it “dry fitted” which seemed to work considering I pulled clear wort through the valve, but I did notice a few things that I wanted to try and make better.


So, some of the things that concerned me last time were (a) the arrangement of the copper tubing coming out of the valve, (b) the fact that by the time I went to clean out the mash tun the tubing had separated in two locations, and (c) the fact that there was a decent amount of grain inside the Bazooka-T. The reason the arrangement of the tubing out of the valve bothered me was that it came off straight into the mash tun for about 4 inches several inches from the bottom. The biggest problem for me was I would have the tendency to bang the hell out of it every time I mixed my grains, no bueno. I remedied this by adding another 90 degree bend near the beginning to bring the pipe to the bottom first, then have the 4 inch piece run along the bottom, this only seemed to make more sense. The separation didn’t bother me as much as it could have. I found out later that I was using in correctly marked 1/2 inch tubing from the get go which is why I was having so much problems in the first place with “dry fitting” it, but after the proper tubing was used it seemed better. But, by this point I was already to solder the main pieces together anyway so I just went ahead and did it. I decided to solder all the pieces together between the Bazooka-T and the screwed fitting that screws into the back of the valve. I did this so the entire assemble would be easier to attach and unattach, plus it will make cleaning better. I believe the grain in the Bazooka-T last time was because of the tubing becoming separated, so I was anticipating that this time with the fittings mostly soldered together it wouldn’t be an issue, and it wasn’t. 


If you look at the top picture (the bigger one) you can see the fully assembled soldered copper mash tun Bazooka-T. I know it is slightly crooked, but I will admit it was my first time soldering copper so that’s what you get, but everything fit and everything seeme dto work fine with no leaks. The thumbnail picture on the left is what the original arrangement looked like, except the screen was turned 90 degrees. The thumbnail picture on the right is the new style arrangemen, again with the screen turned 90 degrees. More about the brew day itself later.

Double Brew Day

Monday, April 16th, 2007

I’m still trying to play catch-up on the posts, I’ll get there eventually. Anyway, last Sunday the 8th was a double brew day, I think my first one that I have ever attempted, or least in such a long time that I have forgotten about it. So I brewed two back-to-back batches – both pale ales.

Double Brew

The first batch was an all grain pale ale (PA2) brewed with Amarillo, Simcoe, and Warrior hops  using the DFH continuously hopping method a la Sir-Hops-A-Lot. The second batch was an extract pale ale (PA3) brewed with a “mystery” kit from MoreBeer in preparation of their Stainless Brewer Competition. PA2 was the first beer brewed with the new converted mash tun and HLT, and the first to put the new grain mill to use, so it was fun and a little bit more stressful. The mash tun seemed to work great, even though the fittings were just “dry fitted” together.

I actually was busy doing something the rest of the weekend, so I didn’t even really get to mess with the new fittings for the coolers until Sunday morning. Plus, did I forget to mention I transfered over the “Chunky” Pale Ale (PA1) during this brew day too? I think the day went something along the lines of: Work on mash tun and hot liquor tank in the morning, begin to brew before noon, transfer PA1 during some part of brewing PA2, decide I already have all my stuff pulled out and that since PA3 is an extract batch it may go a little faster, and brew PA3 into the evening early night. The worst part was obviously clean-up, I hate it already and the longness / multiple activities just made it worse. Oh, I threw PA1 on some Centennial and Cascade hops and oak chips too – just to keep it interesting.

I’m sure I could have made this post much more interesting if I would have posted closer to the date, but by this point this is what I have left, hope you enjoyed anyway.