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bierblog: October 2007 Archives

October 30, 2007

club brew 2007

a couple months back, jayc sent us all an email indicating that he was hoping to come and visit the toronto area sometime before christmas, likely in the october/november timeframe. he wanted to see as many people as possible while he was here, so we all started coordinating our schedules. as it turned out, the weekend of october 27/28 worked for everyone. jayw was even going to be up in toronto for a halloween party on the saturday evening. so the date was set.

we quickly started planning. my first thought was obviously brewing, since it isn't too often that jayc is around for a brew day. this would be a good time to try another "club brew".

when we did our club seasonal in october 2005, we managed to get 5/6 of the current biergotter crew out for the brew. at that time we envisioned it being a recurring event, at least a couple times a year in celebration of the seasons. in practice, it hasn't been that easy. with members in windsor, waterloo, and around the GTA it's pretty tough coordinating everybody's schedules to get together. that got even harder in the spring of 2006 when jayc moved from toronto to pennsylvania. when he visited in july 2006 he and i had a great time making a wheatwine, but it was just the two of us. his other visits hadn't involved any brewing, so it was about time.

we all started bouncing around ideas on what to brew and eventually settled on two 10gal batches: a belgian imperial stout and another stab at a rye barleywine (loosely based on the batch jayc+jayw did in sept 2005).

we also all figured it was a good excuse for a monster tasting. we've all got a bunch of good stuff in our cellars, and it was a perfect opportunity to break out a few. jayc went a little over the top, bringing back a ton of beer for the tasting and also throwing in a bottle of stone 11th anniversary for each of us. jayc, piera, and owen would have our guest room, jan spoke first for the basement couch, eric for the living room couch, and rob for some floor. tim needed to get back home so he'd have to cut things short and jayw would be heading back into the city for a halloween party.

friday evening jay, piera, and owen arrived around 6pm. we watched owen run laps around the house for a while we ordered some dinner and relaxed for a while.

once we'd all settled in and had some dinner, jay and i decided to break out a couple beers. first up was his bottle of de hemel nieuw ligt grand cru 2005. this 'barleywine with spices' was really interesting and deceptively drinkable. then i busted out one i've been hanging on to for a while, bristol xxx warlock. i'd heard it was pretty hot and a little crazy, but found that it was much more drinkable than i'd heard. we both enjoyed this one and thought it did pretty well for 18.4% abv.

saturday morning began like any other. the crew began to arrive and we started weighing out the grains and surveying the quickly growing stacks of beer in my fridge. tim arrived early, and we ran over to pick up eric from the go stop. jan arrived soon after we got back. we had just started working out in the garage when rob arrived, a little sooner than all of us expected. that left only jayw missing, but we knew he wouldn't be arriving until closer to noon.

with all the greetings, we got a bit of a late start. normally we've got things rolling by around 9:30am, but it was more like 10:30 before we got started. a little late, but not too big a deal. we had to stagger the batches a bit, so i figured that would delay things more, but nothing major. we were behind, but i didn't think we were in trouble yet...

the brew day begins with grinding the grain. eric giving the horns in support.

it was kind of a dull and crappy day to brew. initially i had the burners outside, but once it started raining i had to move them in the garage.

in the background jay and rob are talking on the left. on the right, it looks like jan is trying to describe the length of something to jenn, who is shaking her head in disbelief.

the blue bins have the grain for the belgian stout and the bucket has some of the grain for the rye barleywine.

tim's cooler tun, and a couple ounces of cascade.

rob, tim, and jay (hidden behind rob).

jan and i

eric cleaning some kegs

jan walking like an egyptian

eric and i were dumping the grain into the keggle and jan took the opportunity to start a punch fight with eric.

more of jay, rob, and tim standing around.

eric, jan, and i working on the next batch of grain.

rob, jay, and tim...more standing.

me still working, eric on a mission

our mini keggles. these little guys are 7.9gal warsteiner kegs. great for 5gal batches, more durable and easier to toss around than a regular pot.

most of the biergotter crew. rob, jan, jayc, tim, and rob. jayw hadn't arrived yet, and i was off working on something.

jan and i discussing one of the many things that was going wrong.


eric having some coffee

jan and i finishing grinding the second batch

breakfast! sausage balls, fruit, and kyoko and jenn's banana bread.

jan likes his grain

here he was showing off with his "behind the back grain pour".

eric checking temperatures and everyone else standing around. piera came out to check things out too.

grinding the grain

everyone waiting for the water to come up to temp

i've ben doubting the accuracy of our thermometer, so i had tim pick me up a new one. i was comparing the two here. there was definitely about a 4-6 degree difference between the two. about 5min later i dropped the new one on the ground...

eric doughing in

time to add the rice hulls. i've been told that they absorb a crazy amount of water, and that it's also a good idea to rinse them before use. i added about a gallon of water to them and mixed them up pretty well, then pulled them out of the water and added it to the mash. most of it i could scoop out with my hand...

...and the rest i poured through the strainer.

i started cleaning out the bucket+strainer, then jan took over for me.

me working in the rice hulls.

when the biergotter crew gets together, we do it right. almost everyone grabbed a few gems from their cellar and brought it up for our evening tasting. however, we ended up with so much stuff we figured we needed to start early if we were to have any hope of getting through it all. so shortly before 11am the glasses came out. here we see jay with the first bottle of the day, lost abbey devotion. rob was in the background checking out something on the computer and eric is out of frame but showing off some of our breakfast food.

me checking on the temp of the rye barleywine mash after doughing in. we did a protein rest on this one since it was about 30% rye.

the first bottle and the glasses all lined up and waiting.

needed to bump the temperature on this one, so i got rob to help out with stirring while jan was monitoring the temperature. that left me a few minutes to finally get a cup of coffee, but not before i got my first beer.

somewhere along the way, jayw showed up. here we see jayw, eric, jayc, and tim crowded around the computer checking out something.

fast forward a little while. the belgian stout running off in the distance, breakfast carnage and several empty bottles, and i'm about to start loading up tim's tun with the rye barleywine.

fast forward about 4 hours. all hell had broken loose. i preheated tim's tun and loaded it up with the mash from the rye barelywine. after a successful vorlauf we managed to collect about 4gallons before the runoff slowed to a trickle. by the time we got to 6 gallons it had come to a complete halt. that's when tim mentioned that his cooler tun "always does this" but it usually works eventually. unfortunately, this happened with the more "fussy" of the two beers. we waited for the runoff on the belgian stout to finish and then transferred the mash over to my cooler. while we waited we heated up some sparge water to a boil so that we could try and keep the temperature up once we transferred the rye barleywine over. i preheated the tun for a few minutes and we started transferring over the mash. the good news was it didn't really seem to be stuck or clumpy, so we thought we might be in the clear. we weren't to be so lucky.

while this was going on, jan and eric were working in the basement transferring some beer around and cleaning carboys. in the process, jan dropped one. not a big deal, and fortunately nobody got hurt. with the vorlauf nearly done i left jayw in charge of things and went inside to survey the damage. nothing major, just needed a bit of cleanup. i checked on the status of the transfers while jan cleaned up the glass. unfortunately, since we were doing 20gal, i needed 4 empty carboys and now only had three. it was still fairly early, so jenn and jan ran out to see if they could find one at a local one shop. fortunately the local vin bon who i've bought used carboys from in the past had an extra 6gal carboy around, and at the bargain price of only $12.

i went back outside to check on the status of the rye barleywine and found that jayw hadn't ever stopped the vorlauf, so we'd basically run off about 4 gallons into our vorlauf pot instead of the collection pot. to make things worse, the flow had once again slowed to a trickle. this time when i put a stick down in the mash i found that the bottom half of it was now solid as a rock. the temp had dropped too far and the rye had gummed everything up.

so then we spent another hour or two in a never ending cycle of over heating our vorlauf and water in an effort to bring the temperature of the mash back up to a reasonable temperature and hopefully 'unstick' the rye. we'd get the vorlauf going and before we even really start collecting it'd be stuck again. so we'd loosen it up, add more hot water/wort, and repeat with the same results.

in the middle of this chaos, one of my propane tanks ran out. since it seemed nobody else was willing or able to go get a refill, i hopped in the car and ran over to my local canadian tire for a refill. when i got back i switched the stout back over to the full tank and went back to work. as i was to find out hours later when the beer was going into the carboy and we strangely had nearly 12 gallons at a lower than expected gravity, apparently when i switched burners this one never got back to a boil. two different people told me this hours later, but neither bothered to say anything at the time or turn up the heat to correct the situation...

eventually we just gave up on the rye barleywine. the 7gal we had collected up to that point had a preboil gravity of 1.077 so we just threw it on the boil. it continued to defy me, not boiling off as much as usual and resulting in 6gal at 1.081 instead of 5gal at more like 1.091.

the photos above show the aftermath of the rye debacle. my cooler with the rye barleywine mash was still very full of water, so i was scooping it out with a strainer in an effort to remove most of the water, letting it drain for a minute, then bagging it. when i got down to the bottom and it was too soupy i just took it outside and added it to the tops of my hop mounds.

jayc reviewing something. i was so busy working on the brewing all day that i missed out on about 1/2 the beers and only managed to review a couple.

fast forward again. the belgian stout was already downstairs and the rye barleywine was going into the fermenter. we ended up with a full 6gal of this one, so when i got inside i transferred it into our 7gal carboy to give it some room for krausen. it stll ended up blowing off and making a mess...

bottles opened during the brewing:

lost abbey devotion (jayc)
sierra nevada harvest ale (tim)
voodoo brewery voodoo love child (jayc)
weyerbacher twelve (jayc)
weyerbacher eleven (jayc)
mcchouffe (jan)
southern tier pumpking (tim)
half pints bulldog (rob)
half pints octoberfest (rob)
molyan's hopsickle (jayc)
stone 10th anniversary (jayc)
half pints stir stick stout (rob)
iron hill old ale 2002 (jayc)
jayw's rye pale ale
brooklyn black chocolate stout 07-08 (tim)

with the crowd we had, we figured we'd keep it easy for dinner and ordered pizza. you can also see our first post-brewing beer, ommegang ommegeddon.

and guitar hero. i was still in the basement pitching yeast and cleaning up and jayc and rob busted out the guitar hero. here we see jayc and eric rocking out with some coop guitar hero ii and rob looking on.

later in the night rob was playing a little solo gh2. it was either tiredness or beer that caused him to play laying down. or maybe just showing off?

another post-brewday staple: euchre! the cards were fairly kind to me today, with eric and i winning 2 of 3 against jayc and jan. you can see me, jayc, and piera here.

and jan and eric.

and me looking especially goofy for no particular reason.

rob and jayc, and more beer.

eric and i reviewing.

jan did not enjoy the flash...

the carnage of our insane evening tasting:

ommegang ommegeddon (me)
malheur curvee royale (jan)
three floyds alpha kong (eric)
three floyds fantabulous resplendence x (eric)
half pints humulus ludicrous (rob)
general lafayette 275th anniversary (jayc)
abbaye de st bon chien 2005 (me)
lost abbey judgement day (jayc)
ommegang chocolate indulgence (jayc + jan)
nogne dark horizon 1.edition (jan)
three floyds dark lord 2007 (eric) - skipped for another day
girardin 1882 framboise (jan)

Posted by grub at 9:48 PM

October 23, 2007

volo cask days 2007

another october brings the annual volo cask days festival. although there are other festivals through the year, this is the only one that i always consider a "must see". there's just no topping the array of excellent cask beer that ralph brings together for this event. there's always some standard offerings, but many of the local brewers put together special edition and one-off casks for the event that you just can't find elsewhere.

we were fortunate enough to be invited to brew beer for last year's event, and with the success there we were happy to be invited back this year.

our primary offering this time around was a new take on hopocalypse, last year's favourite. we brewed up the new version, dubbed hopocalypse redux.

i decided to whip something up using a bunch of my cascade hops, and settled upon an american imperial porter that i dubbed casc imperial porter. you can see the brew day blog for more details.

finally, like last year we also brought in something on tap. this time out it was our monk's elixer belgian strong dark ale. this one was brewed back in may so it would have some time to mellow out before the fest.

all three beers were very well received and we had a great time hanging out and talking with everybody all weekend.

some additional links to discussion of the event:

bartowel thread
flickr group
steven beaumont blog post
toronto star article

on with the photos!

carl setting up. eric and i arrived early to help with setup. carl was trying to match up all his signs with the casks (which weren't all marked). some taste testing solved any ambiguity though.

labeling the beers. eric helping with the signs.

the line starts to form. a few early arrivals, eager to have some breakfast and get things rolling.

breakfast buffet. the breakfast spread. tons of excellent food. i was expecting a simple continental breakfast and got a fine mix of hot stuff, continental, and other great food.

the first 6: wind & sail dark ale (barley days), hopburn ale (camerons), hop bomb (black oak), bourbon barreled 2005 nutcracker porter (black oak), west coast ipa (church key), and hop bomb "STFU" pale ale (black oak).

7 more: hop head ipa (county durham), fuller's esb (fullers), blak kat stout (county durham), taste of ontario harvest ale (f&m), london pride (fullers), george's herbal mild (george eagleson), and pumpkin ale (great lakes).

another 5: mill race mild (grand river), plowman's ale (grand river), best bitter special (granite), keefe oak chip steeped irish stout (granite), and devil's pale ale (great lakes).

6 more: ipa (mill street), stewart's organic ale (heritage), traditional english dark ale with vanilla beans (hockley), maclean's pale ale dry hopped (macleans), fog on the tyne (magnotta), and left hook barley wine (nickel brook).

and 7: jackson's best bitter (st andre), peppermint stout (trafalgar), perry's atomic pumpkin ale (scotch irish), arkell best bitter (wellington), grains of wrath (church key), and special pale ale dry hopped (wellington>).


breakfast with the brewers

more breakfast

me, beer

mike and me. my father in law, usually a coors light man, is never afraid to try new beer. one of these days i'll bring him away from the dark side.

mike, me, kathy. talking with my inlaws.


mike, jenn, me, kathy. my wife and her mom don't even drink beer, but came out to show their support. jenn ended up loving the monk's elixer and has requested that i keep it regularly on tap at home.

jan. our most junior biergotter member was proud to have helped brew our beers and couldn't get enough of the monk's elixer either.

jan and me

beer talk. so many people stopped to talk and compliment us on our beer. it's really a thrill to take part in something like this and have so many people share in what we make.

food. as always with volo, the food was top notch. mike was checking things out and giving his approval.

hopocalypse redux! this hazy beast had almost 50% more malt than last year, and more than 50% more hops. double dry hopped for even more hop intensity. not quite as balanced as last year, but that wasn't the idea - we wanted this one to be a little over the top. i could easily pick it out in a crowd just from the colour and the intense haze all the hops left.

crowd shot

my lovely wife and i

homebrew station. the first pin of hopocalypse redux was gone in about 2 hours. in session 2 we brought out the casc imperial porter - a big american porter featuring a whole bunch of my homegrown cascade hops. session 3 got the tail end of the porter and a fresh pin of hopocalypse redux. took less than an hour on sunday for the porter to run out, and about two hours for the second pin of redux to go dry.

not seen in the picture was our monk's elixer belgian strong dark ale that was on tap and ran out around 9pm on saturday.

robert hughey's totally bitter ale was pouring beside us all weekend.

jan and me


the bar

cheese. saturday evening snacks.


saturday night crowd. eric in the middle.

more saturday night crowd

need more ice! sunday the temps soared to a surprising 79F/26C - unheard of for this time of year. ralph had to grab many bags of ice to keep the casks at a reasonable temperature. worked out pretty well.

sunday morning

getting hot

sunday crowd

more sunday crowd

eric, me, jan. the worn and weary biergotter crew, late on sunday afternoon. all three of us spent the whole weekend at volo, sharing lots of great beer, great conversation, and good times. too bad the whole crew couldn't have been there!

update: much like last year, ralph had ballots for attendees to vote for their favourite beer and favourite beer name. once again, biergotter has come out on top, winning "Favourite Cask" for hopocalypse redux. thanks to everyone who voted for us! congrats also to magnotta who won "Favourite Name" for their Fog on the Tyne.

in addition, it's our pleasure to have contributed all the proceeds from our beer towards the $2707.92 that was raised for the Sick Kids Foundation. thanks to everybody who contributed!

Posted by grub at 12:29 PM

October 19, 2007


as our most junior member (both in age and brewing experience) jan always has many questions on brew day. i'm always happy to take time to answer questions, but brew days can be pretty busy making this difficult. i'm usually the most experienced brewer on hand, and as a result i'm usually running the show and busy coordinating everything. throw in the usual few guests on hand and things can get a little crazy...

so jan asked me about doing a brew day, just the two of us, so that he could ask as many questions as he wanted and get more familiar with all aspects of the process. i suggested an even better idea: a solo brew day. the recipe and the entire brewing process would be his responsibility, with me there to answer questions along the way and point him in the right direction if he got off track. brewing is one of those things where you can read as many books as you like, watch brew days, and ask lots of questions, but you never really get into it until you try to brew. jan agreed and we picked a date.

his first suggestion was to brew an orval clone. it's one of his favourite brews, so he was pretty excited about that idea. i loaned him my copy of brew like a monk to learn more about the trappist brews. the book also contains an award winning orval clone recipe called laVal Abbey Special by Dan Morey. this recipe uses white labs wlp510 and is rumored to be the primary fermentation strain direct from the brewery. unfortunately, this yeast is part of the "platinum strain" series and only available in november+december. knowing that jan wanted to get as close to the original, i suggested that he wait until we can get this strain before attempting the orval clone. he agreed, and we shelved that idea.

once orval was off the table, we started talking about other ideas. jan immediately came up with the idea for the "black kate moss", inspired by a kanye west song. he pictured something fairly big and malty, with lots of chocolate, and maybe something fruity and sweet like port involved. i suggested that he could brew a sweeter porter and age it in secondary with some cocoa nibs and oak cubes soaked in port. maybe some oats for that silky smooth mouthfeel and lots of head retention. jan came up with a pretty solid recipe, and after a little tweaking the PORTer-OHHH (aka) black kate moss was born.

eric, not wanting to be left out, also volunteered to do a solo brew of his own. he's been tossing around a few recipe ideas for a while and decided to go with his Breakfast Brown Ale, an imperial brown ale that'll get coffee and cocoa nibs in secondary. to add a little more excitement, he's going to age a gallon on straight oak cubes and another gallon on bourbon soaked oak cubes.

i spent most of the day sitting around, occasionally reminding the boys when they had something they should be doing, and answering questions along the way. a pretty easy brew day for me!

and now for some photos!

the grain for both batches: jan's porter on the left and eric's brown on the right.

brown ale after crushing.

ths was about the most work i did all day, helping the boys get their grain crushed. here i'm talking with jan while we load his into the mill.

jan working on something on the brew table and me standing around.

eric hitting the food.

more of me standing around.

jan working on a chocolate croissant and discussing the crush of his grain.

our solo brewers for the day: eric in the foreground and jan in back.

mmmmm, croissants.

more shots of eric's grain waiting for dough in.

and jan's too.

jan hadn't yet read the commentary i added to a previous brewday writeup. we got a good laugh out of it.

eric checking on their strike water. since they were both aiming for the same sac rest temp and had basically the same dough in temp they just did one big batch of water and split it between them.

this temperature checking stuff is hard work. just look at him slaving over that keggle.

more standing around, and jan posing in the background.

fast forward a couple hours. both beers have been sparged and are approaching a boil. jan's porter in the background and eric's brown in the foreground, with our scum skimming pot in front. you can also see my high tech wind screen in action.

jan skimming and looking angry. apparently he doesn't like skimming. his beer will though!

more hard manual labour for me. here i was weighing out some hops.

eric and i discussing the hopping for his recipe and running some numbers in promash.

jan keeping an eye on things.

eric doing one of his hop additions.

jan also talking hops.

i think this was the part where i said "hey jan, do you have the 2oz cascade addition that you were supposed to add 5 minutes ago ready?" he didn't. he also couldn't find the cascades in the freezer (the ink on the bag is fairly worn), so i had to go find them. as it turned out, the 2.3oz left in the bag was just the right amount for his now 45min addition to give the same IBUs as 2oz would have at 60min.

on to some tasting!

jan working on reviewing something. we had a bunch of great stuff on hand: sierra nevada 2007 harvest ale, three floyds brian boru old irish red, surlyfest (which jenn brought back from a recent trip to MN), and stone 2007 old guardian.

jan was clearly excited about something...

...and i think it was football. this is just after he ran out to his car to put on his jersey. try not to look directly at it.

here he is adding 1oz of my homegrown cascade hops.

mmmm. looks delicious.

jan showing off the 2007 old guardian in my old guardian glass. he was pretty excited about it.

he was pretty excited adding his liberty hops too.

time for dinner, featuring a growler of stone arrogant bastard that jan picked up for me on a recent stop at consumer's beverage in buffalo. thanks jan!

jan and eric brought over some assorted cheese, so jenn put together this spread to go with dinner.

jenn's spagetti and meatballs. delicious!

Posted by grub at 2:19 PM

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