Archive for December, 2008

Sly Fox IPA Day 2008

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

So yesterday, 12.12.08, was the annual Sly Fox IPA Project day at their Phoenixville, PA brewpub location in celebration of their 13th anniversary.


You can click here to see the rest of the pictures form the day.

So this was our third year going to this event, and it was out of control. This year Robert, Mitchell, and myself went up with Sharon meeting us up their later. Mike has gone the last two years with us also, but was unable to attend this year since he will be in NYC. Sly Fox continued to sell the IPAs in smaller flights again this year, which I thought was a smart move. They served them as three flights with five beers per flight, five ounces per beer, at eight dollars a flight. So, basically you pay twenty-four dollars for seventy-five ounces of beer, which is roughly a six-pack worth of beer, that’s one expensive six-pack! My favorites were the two cask conditioned beers, they were the 2008 and 2007 Odyssey if I remember correctly, and the Mt. Rainer IPA. The Mt. Rainer IPA took a little to grow on me, it tasted like berries which is weird hop profile to have, but I really liked it.

Next year Sly Fox has said they are no longer doing the IPA Project, but I changing the concept slightly to the Hop Project. This appears to be sort-of the same idea, but they will be brewing Pale Ales instead of IPAs. The good news about this is that pale ales will help showcase the hop profile better because there is less malt to ‘cover’ the hop profile, plus they use less ingredients, so theoretically they can brew more beer at the same cost. Also, this may bring down the cost of the flights a little, I hope so, but probably not. The bad news is that IPAs because of there higher alcohol and hopping mature better, so drinking a year old IPA is conceivable that it will still be fine, versus a year old pale ale is not typically such a good idea. We’ll see.

Tower Conversion 2

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

So today I finished my tower conversion, from one faucet to three!

So this took a little longer to finish than anticipated, but it wasn’t because of the kegerator. Sunday is when I began the project, regular life stuff stifled me on Monday, video games at a friends house overwhelmed me Tuesday, but today, Wednesday, I succeeded in a great mission. The greater, pseudo dream fulfilling mission was acquiring the kegerator in the first place, but now pimping it out to a three faucet tower in my own home – – Sha-weet!

So a couple points of preparation. First I wanted to fill the gap between the bottom of the particle board and the top of the metal. This is where there appeared to be a 2″x2″ piece of 2″ foam. I acquired a 4″x4″ piece of 2″ foam. I then proceeded to drill out the middle of the foam to match the rest of the hole in the top of the kegerator. I really had to squeeze to make it fit, but once it was in it was a nice tight fit.

I also, wanted some sort of liner in the new hole I drilled. Originally I pictured PVC pipe, but they do not make PVC in a 2.5″ OD. I bought a small piece anyway, but after taking some measurements at home, I decided I would loose an additional .5″, thus really only opening the hole .5″ which didn’t seem like it was worth all the effort. What I compromised on was a small collar toward the internal side of the kegerator. Basically I took a desk grommet and punched out the top. I then cut out a .25″ section to make it fit my diameter. It worked perfectly. Now there is a smooth edge for the draft tubing to rub against before entering the hole.

I had to re-line-up the holes for the new tower too since it was wider. First I placed the gasket down and marker where the holes would be. Then I placed the tower on top to make sure it matched the gasket, it did not. Two of the holes did, I had to remark the other two holes. It was funny, the tower came with screws to mount it that were like 3″ long, but the particle board it had to go through was only like .75″ long. Fortunately there is that gap where I put the foam where the screws are just hanging.

So I had already planned on what the first three beverages were going to be. I knew one was going to be the return of the Gnarleywine, my 2006 Barleywine that had carbonation issues. I also put on the traditional and sweetened Ciders, not because anyone needs that much cider, but it’s that time of the year. I think tomorrow, Traditional Cider with shots of ButterShots in it, yum!

There’s a picture of the first three pours. Or should I say proper pours. I was have issues with the faucet on the right for a good 30 minutes. Every time the liquid line was attached I couldn’t get the cider to stop pouring. Eventually the culprit turned out to be the ‘collar’ on the faucet (below the handle) was not tight enough, thus the seal was not properly set. All in all I would give this a very positive experience in the world of homebrewing.

Tower Conversion 1

Monday, December 8th, 2008

So today I began my tower conversion on my kegerator, from one faucet to three!

I have been putting this off since I purchased the thing back in July, so five months. Why the procrastination? Well, I was pretty sure I wanted to widen the access hole in the top of the kegerator to allow more cold air into the tower to keep the beer lines cold, but I was basically a little hesitant about drilling big holes into my new expensive toy. But, finally, the time had come and I was ready (almost) to leap.

First I needed to prepare. I unplugged the kegerator and took out the two kegs of cider from inside. I then wiped up any moisture from inside. I removed the factory supplied tower easier than I had installed it, but I guess that that’s what happens when you don’t have to force the screws in. Next I put tape around the hole so that I could draw my mark on where to drill. After drawing my first mark and realizing it was off-center, I grabbed a tape measure and redrew my mark more centered.

The next problem was going to be with the tool/method I had chosen to go with. I decided a hole-saw drill bit would be the best solution, but the way these operate is to drill into something (wood for example) and then the drill helps guide and pull the hole-saw through the material. My problem was with the original kegerator hole already there, there was nothing for the bit to bite into. I knew if I could get it started though I’d be OK. So I made a couple poor attempts to get it started and scratched up the laminate surface of the kegerator, but only a little and only right by the hole. I eventually got a bite and really had to lean on the hole-saw for it to go through the particle-board. After the particle-board was some foam, the saw ate right through that, then a sheet of metal.

I think it was stainless steel though I was hopeing it was aluminum. Why do I think stainless steel? Well, the hole-saw couldn’t get a bite (again) and was making things very hot. Well the hotter you get stainless (in this type of scenario) the harder it gets, go I was getting no where fast. I actually set the insulation below the metal on fire, that’s how hot it got. First it started smoking, then sparking, then then next thing I knew I was blowing out a small flame – yikes! To get through the metal I basically had to take a screwdriver and a hammer and chisel/can-opener style make a hole, it was ridiculous. The hole-saw had left a pretty good impression of where the hole should be so I just follow that around with the tip of a flat head screw driver and pounded the heel with a hammer – suckage.

After the metal was insulation (slightly burnt) and then the actual plastic lining of the kegerator, both of these layers were like butter. So basically it was tough to get started and tough to get through the metal half way through, but all in all not to bad. So I wound up widening the hole for the beer lines from 1.5″ to 2.5″. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but I hope it makes a difference. The diameter of the actual new tower is three inches, but there is a layer of foam insulation inside the tower which makes it two and a half, so that’s the measurement I aimed for. Oh, and no coolant lines in the ceiling of the kegerator, which I was worried about.

The main reason I stopped tonight was, one it was getting late, but more importantly is I need to do a minor replacement before I put the new tower back on. The layer of foam below the particle-board and above the metal was only about a 2″x2″ block, so when I drilled through it there wasn’t much left. This then left a two inch gap between the particle-board and metal area of the kegerator, I can only image that would be counter productive of trying to provide coolness.

So tomorrow (hopefully) I will replace the foam layer with a new foam block, cut off the commercial keg connections on the tower beverage lines, drill new holes for the new tower, mount the new tower, connect new liquid quick-disconnects to the the beverage lines, and enjoy a couple beverages. It sounds like it should go quickly, but I know it will take more time than I realize. I turned the kegerator back on to make sure it cools and I didn’t damage anything, I stuffed a towel in the new hole. Also I was hoping to enjoy a couple cold beverages tomorrow, my Traditional Cider, Sweet Cider, and the return of the Gnarleywine.

Since I was messing around in the kegerator making improvements I also mounted my gas manifold. This has been rolling around in the bottom of my kegerator since the beginning. I was tempted to drill it into the side of it, but instead I opted for industrial strength Velro, hopefully it holds. I think it’ll fall within the first 24 hours, or not at all, we’ll see. Until tomorrow!

PM Pale Ale

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

So yesterday I brewed a beer after work, another Pale Ale, the PM brew sessions are weird.

The brew night itself was rather uneventful, no stuck mashes, no low OG, no nothin’ that made me upset. But after a full day of work a full brew schedule is a little tiring. Fortunately I got out of work about a half hour early which let me get started early. I was mashing in by 6PM and had all the janitorial done before 11PM.

At the same time I brewed this beer, I also transfered the Cream Ale to secondary and the California Red to a keg. The Cream Ale went like this – sanitize secondary carboy with Iodophor, transfer Iodophor to primary carboy for PM Pale Ale, then to bucket for brew day equipment. Transfer Cream Ale to secondary, rinse, clean primary carboy from Cream Ale.

The California Red was more like this – clean keg with PBW, transfer PBW to primary carboy of Cream Ale to clean. Sanitize keg with Star San, transfer Star San to bottling bucket to sanitize transfer equipment and bucket. Transfer California Red from secondary carboy to bottling bucket to keg, pressurize keg. Rinse and clean California Red secondary carboy and bottling bucket. Why the extra step with the bottling bucket? Well, this is the first beer I’ve brewed with pellet hops as the dry hops since I was running into all those stuck keg issues from hop debris. So, my thinking was, besides being extra careful on the transfer, I would rack to the bucket first and theoretically any debris would settle below the spigot on the bucket before transferring to the keg thus removing the hop debris from the equation of the clogged keg. Do I think it worked? Eh, sure, why not.