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bierblog: July 2008 Archives

July 21, 2008

saison time + new gear

saison is a style that i've been interested in brewing ever since the first time i tried one. it's an interesting and very broad style. after reading farmhouse ales i was even more interested.

with such a broad style, there were so many places that i could have started. as luck would have it, i was browsing the homebrewing forum on beer advocate when i ran across this posting by SV650TN that caught my attention. i used his recipe as a base for what i later dubbed the Dirty Ape Saison in his honour.

eric had also been working on an idea for a "black saison", basically a typical saison recipe but adding in dehusked carafa iii and special b malts to give it a darker colour without the roasty or astringent character typically found in stouts and porters. he dubbed the final recipe Saisons In The Abyss.

this is a style that usually needs to be fermented on the warm side, not really at the sort of temperature i can maintain in the house. i decided the best solution would be to ferment it in my garage. last year we didn't manage to find a time that matched well with the weather (always was either too hot or too cold), so it was put on hold until this year.

i waited through the spring and knew that if i wanted to make them i needed to do it now (mid july) before it got too hot in august or too cool beyond. during the week leading up to the brewday i was a bit nervous as temps were in the 95F range, but i was hopeful that it wouldn't last. as luck would have it, by saturday the temp was falling a little (though still very humid) and the forecast was for the humidity to break and for temps to ease off to about 80F, right where i wanted.

first up, some new equipment.

i've long wanted something larger and more durable than our existing glass carboys, at least for primary fermentation. years ago we considered putting a lid on our boil keggle and fermenting in it, but we never got it to a point where we were happy with the seal or lid. however, i recently found this page describing how to turn kegs into fermenters. i was convinced that i should be able to do something similar.

i got 4 50L/13gal kegs over the winter with intentions of turning two of them into fermenters and the other two into keggles. scott found them online and shared them with the rest of us. since he also works at a welding shop, he had a friend and coworker cut the tops off with a plasma cutter. i had the two fermenters cut with an 8" hole - big enough to get inside and clean them yet small enough that i could put a lid on. i had the other two cut with a standard 12" opening and also had a bulkhead welded in.

first up was the fermenters. i picked up a 2'x4' sheet of 1/4" acrylic and cut a pair of 10" diameter lids. a 36" piece of 3/4" steel box tubing would be used for the brace on both lids. some washers, nuts, and o-bolts would hold it all together. some 1/8" tubing would be used to make a rough seal.

i took the 1/8" tubing and slit it open lengthwise. i then used that to cover the cut edge of the keg top. i initially tried to seal the two ends together with some silicone sealant, but it didn't quite work. even without that it formed a fairly decent seal. here you can see the (still dirty) keg with the tubing in place.

these two show the brace that will hold the lid in place. i had to notch out the ends since i didn't have clearance to slide the full bar under the handles along with the nut+washer+lid. this didn't seem to change the strength in any noticeable way - it's still much stronger than the acrylic would be if put to the test.

i chose a washer that sits on the end of the bolt, so the lid will be protected from the bolt. the O is purely for ease of tightening and a plain old bolt or wing nut would probably work just fine too. this was an easy and inexpensive option.

i didn't bother with trying to tap the steel bar and just got a bolt that sits on the bottom. over time the threads on the bolt might get worn down, but i have a feeling it'll last more than long enough.

here you can see the two lids with a 1 1/4" hole cut for an airlock/blowoff. they still have the protective paper on both sides.

this shows how the lid would be assembled. the longer slotted end is inserted first, then slid over until the other end is in place. the nut and bolt are tightended until the lid is snug and secure. you'll see this in action later...

you can't quite tell with the glare, but i was trying to show how i protected the lid from the bottom of the washers. the link above suggested using a piece of rubber. i made it easy and just stuck on a piece of duct tape and cut around it. that should do the trick.

you can't quite tell, but i was trying to show how i glued the two ends of the 1/8" tubing together with silicone. alas, as soon as i tried to remove it from the keg it fell apart. i might try melting the ends together, and failing that i'll just leave it unattached.

the shiny new bulkhead+valve on the keggle. 1" long 1/2" MTP brass nipple, 1/2" FTP stainless ball valve, and 1/2" MTP to 1/2" brass hose barb.

fatal flaw that would become apparent later: not using teflon tape on the connections.

inside view of the keggle. the pickup tube is fairly standard. 1/2" MTP to 1/2" copper connector, a couple pieces of copper pipe, and an elbow. you can also see my atypical false bottom - more on that in a moment.

here you can see the bulkhead+valve on the second keggle. notice how i had to turn the valve upside down. the vent hole just to the left of the bulkhead would have had way too much heat going upwards and melted the handle on the valve, so i flipped it this way. ideally the vent would be nowhere near the valve, but in this case it was too late.

a closer look at my false bottom. usually these are flat, sometimes hinged, perforated steel plates that cover the whole bottom from wall to wall and sit fairly high. the other approach is to use something like a bazooka tee - a screen tube attached to the pickup.

scott had hooked me up with some perforated stainless steel plate, but it was only about 11" wide, so if i wanted to cover teh whole bottom i'd definitely need to figure out a hinge. the other reason it'd need a hinge is that the opening on the keggle doesn't go right to the edges. i thought a dome or cone shaped bottom with an 11" diameter would work pretty well and also be small enough to fit through the 12" opening.

i made a cardboard template 11" across, then transferred it to the steel plate. i used the grinder with a stainless steel cutting wheel to cut out the circle, then made a slit to the center. this is pretty sturdy stuff, so i had to use the holes to pry the two edges together, holding them in place and then beding a little more. a couple of screws helped to hold it all together. i then a dremel with a fiberglass reinforced cutoff wheel to trim out the center hole just big enough for a copper pipe to fit through.

here you can see the pickup tube that i made. this sits flush with the bottom of the keggle, which is why i made some slots in the sides to allow wort in.

the extra piece is a 3/4" couplr that i modified so it'll slip over the end of the tube. this helps to hold the false bottom snug on the bottom of the kettle.

i'm going to solder the left hand end into the 1/2" MTP adapter that screws into the bulkhead, and also the downward side of the elbow. the other connection will be left unsoldered for assembly. it's common to leave this joint open and cut a notch in the elbow, using a clamp to make sure it's snug. so far a friction fit has worked out well enough for me.

this shows it assembled as it'd look in the keggle. it fits pretty well to the bottom, with enough surface area to collect most of the hops and trub yet still allowing the wort through. i have all the parts and need to make one for the second keggle.

me figuring out strike volume/temp and taking photos of the new gear.

jenn and jan ran out to pick up propane, sugar for the saisons, and supplies for lunch. they also returned with this net+ball thing that eric were using here...

...and this inflatable centepede sprinkler.

jan stirring the mash on the dirty ape saison. it was pretty hot and humid, so it didn't take long for jan+eric to lose their shirts.

me about to dough in the black saison.

the temp on the black saison was a bit low, so we threw it back on the heat. here you can see eric using the mini-paddle that scott made.

me and the boys. i'm rockin' my new hop-and-crossbones shirt from homebrew tees. this might seem familiar, as i've been using it as my avatar on beer advocate and other sites and also as the unofficial logo for our hopocalypse ipa.

you may remember my homebrewer shirt from them being featured in past brewday blogs. after ordering it and talking with chris/oxmasterscream, we got to talking about other shirt designs. he has some other cool designs in the works. we talked about using my hop-and-crossbones design for a shirt, which seemed like a great idea. i had always thougth it'd make a great shirt, just hadn't got around to having some printed. this meant that i wouldn't have to bother and more people would get to enjoy them. so help out a fellow homebrewer and order one from chris today!

jan posing it up...

...and weight lifting with the keggle.

eric getting ready to sparge the black saison.

jan cleaning up the new ported keggle.

eric cleaning up the keggle and getting ready for collection of the black saison.

adjusting the flow rate on the black saison. this one started running pretty slow due to the dehusked carafa and the wheat, but we managed to collect the expected volume before it jammed right up.

vorlauf on the regular saison and the keggle assembled and ready for action.

the saison mash during vorlauf.

the black saison looking pretty black.

sparging the saison on the left. on the right is jays' most recent edition of the pineapple ale. this time he fermented it with a kolsh yeast, which seems to have worked out really well. quite tasty!

both beers cooking away. the black saison on the left was already boiling, and the regular saison was almost there.

at this point you might notice that this is our old standard keggle and not the shiny new one with the false bottom and ball valve. remember that comment above about teflon tape? well when the keggle was about half full i noticed that there was a very slow leak from between the bulkhead and the ball valve. i tried tightening it up, but it actually seemed to make it leak worse. i left it alone until we were done collection and then transferred the wort into the old keggle.

the good news was that the pickup tube worked like a charm, leaving almost no wort in the bottom. i've since taken it back apart and will be reassembling it with some teflon tape this time...

one of the new fermenters (since we only needed one today) cleaned, sanitized, and ready for action. i dumped in some sanitizer and sealed it up, then rolled it around for a few minutes. i turned it upside down and let it drain out and covered the airlock opening with a piece of plastic wrap.

the black saison in the fermenter.

the dirty ape saison transferring into the new fermenter.

"you ain't cool unless you pee your pants."

jan popping into frame.

"i added dice and the disco ball"

jan posing again.

the beers already looking pretty happy, with blowoffs installed.

the end of another successful brew day. harviestoun ola dubh 12, 16, and 30 ready for sampling.

jan excited about the 12.

me playing with the foil wrapper and ready to open a beer.

Posted by grub at 5:57 PM

July 2, 2008

canada day belgian

this year we celebrated canada day by brewing up a belgian. after brewing the little monk to generate a fat yeast cake it was finally time to brew this year's edition of the monk's elixer, now 10gal instead of just 5. since it was a holiday we decided to keep it light and only brew a single batch.

start of the brewday. me getting the grains crushed and eric heating the strike water.

some shots of this year's hop crop. looking good so far.

adding the crushed grains to the keggle.

me and eric.

eric rockin' the biergotter tee.

me working on promash.

you want some of this?

the mash paddle is also handy for stirring up the water before taking temperature readings.

checking the temp on the strike water.

shot of the two mini-keggles.

doughing in the quad.

eric stirring the mash.

this was an all-metal brewday with a fine mix of early metallica and megadeth. her you see eric and i rocking out with some air guitars, which i think was while listening to battery from master of puppets. a kickass opening to a pretty edeadly album.

eric had also apparently decided it was time to lose his shirt. personally, i'd have chosen to get rid of jeans in favour of some shorts first.

eric having some eggs. jenn made a sweet omlet with chicken and some excellent cheese. eric said it was a pretty legendary omlet.

first runnings along with 4.4#/2kg of demerara sugar...

...and onto the boil it goes. we left this to boil while the rest of the wort was collected and until it came up to a boil. this "magic elixer" gives a great carmelized character that really makes the beer.

the elixer had come up to a boil and was starting to get angry. eric was quite excited.

me checking on the rest of the wort.

eric still fascinated by the magic elixer.

damn that shit looks sexy.

ok, i was excited about it too.

still sparging.

with the sparging done, it as time to get the main wort going. you can already see that the magic elixer on the left had boiled down a fair bit.

when it got down to about 1/3 of its original volume, it changed from small dense foam to these huge honeycomb-like bubbles that were threatening to boil over at any moment. this is about when we decided it was time to dump it back into the original wort.

that was right around when chris dropped by to visit. unfortunately, kyoko was stuck at work.

adding the magic elixer into the main wort. you probably can't tell from the photos, bit it was thick and syrupy. and looked delicious. maybe i should bottle this stuff to put on pancakes...

eric skimming the scum.

since we were using mostly noble hops, we needed a ton (5oz) for the bittering addition. i really needed to take my time adding them as the beer was getting pretty angry. here you can see it threatening to boil over, and i still had another 2oz to add.

finally managed to get the last of the hops in.

talking beer with chris.

eric cleaning out the cooler tun at the end of the day.

jenn somehow managed not to end up in any of the brewday photos (usually because she's busy taking most of them and making sure we're fed+hydrated).

Posted by grub at 5:20 PM

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