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bierblog: September 2007 Archives

September 23, 2007

pumpkin and the secret october project continued

another brew day in markham. on deck saturday was a 10gal batch of pumpkin ale for eric and jan and a 5gal batch for the secret october project.

for the 5gal batch, i debated between a few options, eventually settling on a porter loosly based on our ed fitz clone and a gonzo imperial porter clone that i have been wanting to brew. the kicker was using almost a half pound of my homegrown cascades for the flameout and dry hop additions. because of the use of cascade and the fact it'll be served on cask, i decided to call this one casc imperial porter.

eric was running late, so while waiting for him to arrive i got the strike water on for the porter and doughed in.

i gave eric some suggestions from radical brewing and our past experience and he roasted up the pumpkin before coming to the brew day. once he arrived we quickly threw together the rest of the grain bill and mashed in. while that was going we discussed hopping and finalized the recipe. pumpkin ale was born.

guests in attendance for today's brew were kyoko and chris, a great couple who are nice enough to let eric crash in their basement while he looks for a new apartment.

didn't take too many photos this time around, and they're almost all taken at the start of the brew day. ah well, this shit doesn't change much day to day.

morning snacks. muffins, croissants, and fruit. coffee was present but not pictured. try to ignore the wort-stained tabletop.

early on the brew day. chris enjoying a cup of coffee, me tending to the porter mash, eric cleaning a keg, and jan looking on.

everybody crowding around the porter mash. i can't remember if i was bumping up our mash temperature or heading for mashout here. from left to right we have chris, a sliver of eric's head, jan, kyoko and me stirring the mash.

more of the same.

eric working on his keg again. go brew monkey!

our most junior member (in age and experience) and our two guests for the day listening attentively as i explained the mashing process. you can also see my cheapo wind screen. ain't pretty, but it does the trick.

mmmmm, porter. that shit just looks damn sexy.

me checking the temperature.

i have no idea what eric and jan were discussing in these next ones, so lets just make something up.

eric: stop staring at my junk!

jan: you know you like it.

eric: you better stop or i'm gonna lay the SMACKDOWN!

jan: ok, i'm sorry man. i just love you.

eric: that's ok, lets hug and make up.

jan: phew, that was close. if only he knew my secret burning desires.

jan: you won't give away my secret, right?

the remains of my lunch. tasty meatloaf sandwich with cheddar and bacon as well as some fritos bbq hoops.

pumpkin ale going into the carboys. yeah, we didn't do a great job on photos this time, completely missing anything to do with the pumpkin ale and only showing the beginning of the porter. ah well, sometimes you just get into the brewing and forget the rest of it.

Posted by grub at 8:14 PM

September 12, 2007

hops 2007

now that the 2007 hop season has wrapped up, i've got a series of photos from this year's crop. you might want to check out my writeup on last year's crop for comparison.

may 20th/2007

the hops were already up to about the maximum height they reached last year - and they weren't even in the ground yet at this time last year!

the first four lines on the left are cascade, the other four are centennial. each line has 1 or 2 bines going up it. last year i gave them about 10' height to grow. this year i increased it to about 20' and tried to spread them out a bit. next year i'm thinking of splitting them and moving the centennial down on the other side of the air conditioner.

everything about this year's crop is bigger than last year. even the leaves are huge, bigger than my hand.

the vines are much thicker and stronger too. last year they were about the size of the twine, this year they're much larger.

the vines with me shown for scale. i'm 6'2, and the top of the hops are out of my reach.

august 16th/2007

a friend emailed me to ask how my crop was doing, since his first year rhizomes were tiny and had only a cone or two. as you can see, mine are growing like mad, having reached the 20' mark long ago and full of cones. it's going to be harvest time soon!

cascade in the distance, centennial closer. as with last year, the centennial isn't as big as the cascade and didn't have quite as many cones. all my plants (from 4 rhizomes) are much larger than last year.

closer shot of the centennial...

and the cascade. the cascades are going nuts. going to be a good harvest.

sept 3rd/2007

harvest day!

once again, thanks go to jason for taking some of these photos.

a look up at the cascade bines.

another, showing a bit more of them.

cascades on the left, centennial on the right.

i attached this piece of wood to the wall, then put hooks along it and i attached twine to the hooks. to harvest, we just unhooked the twine and brought the hops down to ground level. here eric has just cut down the last centennial bine and you can sort of see all the bines laying on the ground.

jenn harvesting the centennials.

eric pretending to eat the hops. i actually did eat one. kind of an interesting experience. they definitely taste like hops, but they have a crazy spicy character, almost like a hot pepper. they smell awesome too.

the results. cascade on the left, centennial on the right. this is tons more than i got last year.

sept 14/2007

after about 10 days on my drying racks i bagged everything up and weighed it. final tally: 9.6oz cascade and 3oz centennial. huge increase over the 0.5oz total that i got last year.

cascade. two 4oz bags and a 1.6oz bag.

centennial. one 3oz bag.

can't wait to see next year's crop!

Posted by grub at 12:35 PM

September 5, 2007

(not so) secret october project v2.0

soon after the success of last year's volo cask days, eric and i started planning and plotting for our return this year. from the start we knew that even though hopocalypse was a huge success and crowd favourite, we didn't quite want to repeat it. instead we chose to use it as the inspiration for something new. as soon as eric suggested making it bigger, my first thought was of 'apocalypse now'. when apocalypse now was re-released a few years back, it came with an extra hour of footage, bigger and longer than before. right away we knew it'd be an imperial ipa and at least 50% bigger than before.

hopocalypse redux was born.

the grain bill stayed mostly the same, but increased from 23# total to 30.5# total. the hops took a big jump too, from 12.25oz up to a staggering 19oz. double dry hopped. up from 6% to 10% ABV, and from 65 to 93IBU.

jan, eric, and i were on hand for the brewing, with jason joining us to see things in action. i actually met jason at last year's cask days and spent a while talking with him about homebrewing and beer in general. he's been trying to make it out for a brew day ever since, and finally made it out.

this was one badass beer to brew, and we hope it'll be at least as exciting as last year. if not? who cares, i know we'll like it.

and this isn't all we have in store for this year's cask days. stay tuned for more.

on with the photos. as a bonus, we've got a whole bunch of photos taken by jason added in with the usual ones. he did a good job of showing some of the finer details. thanks jason!

several shots of my motorized barleycrusher.

the cooler and manifold.

strike water coming up to temp. cheapo 5gal pot on the left, and one of my two 7.9gal keggles. these things are pretty sweet, and damn near indestructable.

the grist for today's beer, waiting for water.

the completed chiller that we worked on last week. you can see how i wove copper wire up the sides to make it good and solid, and added a couple on the neck too. also have the hose hookups, making it easy to disassemble and store.

the manifold fitted in the cooler. there's a scrap piece of copper under the left hand end to keep it mostly level. the right hand end has a T that fits fairly snug into the bulkhead. just in case, i've also got a little piece of copper on the end in case it happens to slide out. it never has, but better safe than sorry.

there's me checking the water temp.

jason was curious how we store and propagate yeast, so i showed him my stir plate that i use when making starters and a big old slug of yeast slurry from a couple recent batches. yeah, that's nearly a half gallon of thick slurry. the last blurry one is a vial of white labs wlp007 dry english ale.

back to the action. strike water up to temp, eric and i were doing the infusion. two tricks to observe here. first, we're not using the handles on the keg to hold it. pouring over the lip on them is a big pain in the ass, and it tends to splash all over the place. scalding hot water just isn't any fun when it hits your legs/feet. so we just hold the top ring and pour through one of the handle holes. still splashes a little, but much easier to work with.

the second thing to note is that i'm not holding the bottom of the keg. the ring on the bottom gets hot enough to burn right through a pair of oven mits nearly instantly (eric and i know from experience). so one day i grabbed my hammer off the work bench and used that. just hook it under the end and it allows you to tip the keg up without cooking your hand off. i suppose any other hook-like object would work.

eric jumping to grab the mash paddle and stir things in. it's crazy how much air is trapped in the grain, and it stars bubbling like mad when you dump in the water. as you can see, we had this one pretty darn close to the top. we needed to get it mixed and didn't want to lose any of our grain.

this mash paddle is pretty kickass for getting things mixed together and breaking up dough balls. it's pretty stiff to move at first, but the strong oak paddle is up to the challenge.

an hour later, we were bringing things up to mash out (168-170F). i was keeping things moving while jan checked the temp.

is it too early for a beer? of course not! jason brought out a growler of grand river plowman's ale. this shit is damn good. they've definitely tweaked the recipe a little since my first sampling and it's now much more balanced (but still pleasantly hop-forward). great beer.

when i'm bumping the temperature of the mash up like this, it's really important not to go too crazy with the temperature of the burner and also to keep the mash moving so that it doesn't start to burn. very important, especially with high BTU jet burners.

the plowman's ale and an assortment of morning snacks.

here's me and my lovely wife jenn. she's the keeper of the snacks and makes sure we're fed and hydrated on brew days.

almost there...only a couple more degrees...

here's me loading up the tun.

i think this is where eric was asking "are you sure it's all going to fit in there?". this was the maiden voyage of our cooler tun, and although i was fairly sure it was the same size as jay's, i wasn't completely certain. turned out that it has the exact same capacity (30# of grain and 1.5qt/lb of water). actually, we had 30.5# in there. just need to get the runoff going a little before you can fit that last little bit of grain in...

jan enjoying a snack.

more filling...

just in case we didn't have enough shots of me filling the tun...

yeah, that looks like we're pushing maximum capacity.

nobody gets out of the brewmonkey chores, not even me. once i had emptied the mash into the cooler i needed to wash up the keg so we could start collection.

everyone relaxing and enjoying a beer during vorlauf.

initial runoff.

eric prepping the foil. lay a piece on top of the grain bed, cut some slots in it, and you can pour your sparge water on top without worrying about disturbing the grain bed or creating channels.

eric cutting the slots in the foil.


about half way through the collection.

a quick and rough check on the gravity of the runoff. we usually keep going until we hit volume or the gravity drops too low (which rarely happens). as for "too low", we usually want to stop the runoff before it falls below 1.010. at sparge temperatures, i know that 1.000 is comfortably above that, so it's generally what i watch for.

eric skimming the scum, aka hot break. this stuff isn't desireable to have in the beer, and by skimming it off you also avoid boil overs. double bonus!

hopocalypse is all about amarillo. here you see most of a 1# bag of whole amarillo from the wonderful freshops. bonus that it was on sale the last time i hit adventures in homebrewing.

next brew for the day, stone 07.07.07 vertical epic. this one is definitely built to last, but unlike some previous offerings i didn't find that it was all that great fresh. i can see it growing into an excellent beer, but it's a little spicy and hot right now.

after finishing the sparge, we drain off any liquid left in the cooler and push on it to squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. makes it a little lighter when i dispose of it.

the new chiller in the kettle. fits perfectly!

mmmm, hops.

here's me hooking up the chiller to the hose. i finally found a use for the lid to the cheapo aluminum lid that came with my turkey frier burner. i cut a notch in the side so that it'll fit around the chiller and cover the top nicely. no more taping on plastic wrap!

to stop the whole hops from clogging up the racking cane, just sanitize a hop bag and throw it over the end. make sure it's tied off pretty well though, so it doesn't fill up through the top.

promash, my refractometer, and my empty volo cask days 2006 glass.

desipte the hop bag, we had a hell of a time trying to siphon the beer. the 2oz whole plus 10oz pellet really caused havoc. after a while we resorted to pouring the wort through a strainer to pull out most of the hop material. it was still tough to siphon, but this definitely helped. we ended up a little low on volume - it's crazy how much they absorb.

sanitizing the stone before oxygenating.

iodphor, our sanitizer of choice. no rinse, and works great.

the view in the fridge. old ale and pale ale on tap, a couple growlers of yeast, and a bunch of other great beer.

airlock filled with canadian club whiskey. i don't drink the stuff, so this is a good use for it.

eric and jan with beer.

in addition to this being a brew day, it was also a celebration of my birthday (sept 4th). once the brewing wrapped up we relaxed with a few choice beverages and a feast of salmon and king crab legs.

i mentioned this last week (when jan brought up several girardin beers), but need to mention it again. he returned from belgium with a ton of great beer, and this week was no exception: westvleteren blonde, 8, and 12. i paired this with the full rochefort line (6, 8, and 10) as well as our rochefort 10 clone from 2005. one heck of a great way to celebrate my birthday.

all of us putting up the horns.

the lineup for the evening tasting. not too often you get to sample the full lineup from two trappist breweries, especially not two as fine as these.

Posted by grub at 12:29 PM

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