Jump to Body Text

bierblog: brewing day Archives

September 21, 2009

double quadrupel

quad quad quad. the first batch [brewday blog] back in 2007 was 5 gallons and debued on tap at volo during cask days. the 2008 batch [brewday blog] was doubled to 10 gallons, with half getting aged on calvados oak and corked + caged and the other half going on tap at my place. after the success of both, we knew it'd make a comeback this year. we decided to double it again and make 20 gallons. while we usually do 20 gallons on a typical brewday, this was the first time we'd done 20 gallons of a single recipe. our gear can't handle a single batch that big, so it was brewed up as two separate but identical 10 gallon batches to be blended back together later. there was a slight shift in the bittering hops, but otherwise the final recipe was about the same as the last two years.

peter/icemachine joined us for the brewday. we like helping teach other brewers how all-grain works and always appreciate an extra brewmonkey to help along the way.

the brewday went pretty smoothly. the mill was being a little grouchy since it's overdue for being oiled, so between batches i applied a couple of drops of vegetable oil and ran some old grain through to make sure it was clean. much smoother the second time around. aside from that it was business as usual.

the mill filled up and rolling through the first batch of grain.

the grain for both batches, one in blue and the other in red. these bins from ikea are really handy.

first batch awaiting strike water. the mash was basically right up to the top on this one. one of those times when having a second 15.5gal keggle would be helpful. most of the time these 50 litre/13gal keggles work fine, or we can juggle things so the bigger batch is in our big keggle, but with two identical big batches we had no other choice.

peter cleaning one of the little keggles and me looking on. at this point we had two batches mashing and were about to get our sparge water heating. it was all-pots-on-deck here.

fast forward to the end of the mash. batch #1 had just finished vorlauf and we were collecting first runnings for the magic elixir. here eric was adding the first bag of demerara. yeah, i said first bag - a total of 8.5 pounds were used. i love the character that demerara adds to dark belgians.

more first runnings being collected.

we decided it was beer-thirty and poured a pitcher of our gonzo clone.

me adding the rest of the demerara as we started to collect the first runnings from the second batch.

once we were done collecting runnings it was time to get the magic elixir boiling. as soon as it approached a boil it immediately boiled over. we tried dropping the temperature down, but it boiled over again. it was about to boil over for a third time when we decided this was going to be annoying. we generally don't skim the elixirs, but in this case we had to. after a few minutes of clearing off the hot break we were able to get a good strong boil going without it boiling over (for now anyway). later on it still boiled over a couple of times, but it was mostly hassle-free.

you can see the mess it was making down teh sides and on the inner rim of the keggle. we had to clean the burner out a couple of times along the way.

eric was pretty excited about the double batch of quad and had to throw up a double set of horns as a result. peter was in the background helping out with the sparging.

we discovered a giant spider in the corner of the garage. however, since he had already caught two yellow jackets in his web, we figured he was helping us out and we left him alone.

the elixir getting angry again. at this point it had boiled down and had over 2gal of headspace, yet still managed to boil over a couple more times.

another view of the carnage on the keggle. from about 6.5 gallons initially it was down below the center weld of the pot, so somewhere under 4 gallons. we usually let them boil a little longer, but we needed the second burner for the second batch.

we split the elixir between the two batches, slowly adding it back to the boiling wort.

batch #1 chilling out and #2 boiling away.

brewday lunch: some badass sausage, potato, and cabbage soup, homebrew, and a few bottles that peter brought from highlander brew co.

peter, the brew monkey for the day.

one last shoot of the beers in the same state as above. by now we were almost done boiling #2.

we took the yeast cake from our dubbel [brewday blog] and split it in two for these batches. we ended up with about 22 gallons of sweet tasty quad wort at an OG of 1.102 - right on target for both gravity and volume. after oxygenating them it was no time before the yeast were going nuts. by morning both fermenters were blowing off and making a mess. the basement smelled heavenly. can't wait until we can drink it!

Posted by grub at 12:08 PM

September 7, 2009

5 hour solo

On saturday September 5th we brewed up 10 gallons each of saison and dubbel. The next day Russ was at a family BBQ, and I was kicking around with nothing to do. Jenn asked me why I didn't brew during the day, and I had no good answer. With no work the next day, I decided it would be a good idea! This was around 4:15 in the afternoon, so I knew it would go late, but that's never stopped me. I've been wanting to do a nice dry Irish stout for quite a while, and figured this would be a good opportunity to test a new recipe. I consulted Designing Great Beers to get a feel for the recipe, and went to the basement to take a look at ingredients. Luckily we had everything I needed. I had to switch out regular chocolate malt for a bit of chocolate rye malt we had left, but I didn't think half a pound would make any difference if it was rye or not. I weighed out the total bill of 8 pounds of grain and got things ready in the garage. It really is pretty funny dealing with tiny amounts of grain after some of our monster brewdays of late. I think from coming up with the recipe to mashing in was about half an hour.

The crushed grain awaiting mash water.

Fast forward to me starting the vorlauf and rinsing the rest of the sugar our of the mash tun.

Adding the mash to the tun.

Stouty goodness!

me cleaning the keggle in preparation for sparging.

Checking the runoff while vorlaufing.

Adding the first runnings back in while it cleared up.

Now its ready for the sparge.

Looking pretty good going into the keggle.

Stout coming up to a boil.

You're gonna die, clown!

Everything was cleaned up, wort oxygenated, and yeast pitched and done by 9:15 pm. From recipe formulation to done in the house in under 5 hours is pretty good I think. Solo brewing isn't so bad when working with 5 gallon batches, I think I'll have to do it again!

Posted by viggo at 10:46 AM

September 6, 2009

saison + dubbel

well, the brewing year has started its turn toward cooler temperatures, and we hadn't had a chance to use our saison yeast yet. with the temperature forecast looking a little warmer over the next few days, we decided it would be a good time to reprise last year's dirty ape saision [brewday blog], this time with different ops and a different yeast strain. the final result was dirty ape 2. if the weather cooperates we might even get another hot stretch and be able to use the yeast cake for another super saision...

looking ahead to our next brewday, we really wanted to bring back our very popular quad. last year we made our little monk dubbel [brewday blog] to generate a big yeast cake for it. this year we figured that would be a good idea to do again, so we brewed up another little monk.

this is one of those brewdays where we were busy and didn't really remember to take many pictures, but here they are anyway.

both beers mashing and some sparge water coming up to temp.



getting ready for the dueling sparges.

eric adding the sugar into the saison.

spinnakers blue bridge dipa, ready for review.

both beers done boiling. the one on the left was done boiling and ready to transfer, the one on the left was chilling.

another brewday done. the saison stayed in the garage to ferment in the warmer temperature and the dubbel went down to the basement.

Posted by grub at 10:43 AM

July 26, 2009

dunkel + gonzo

after our last brewday we had a couple of fat yeast cakes and we were looking for a way to use them. it seemed a logical choice to take the weizen cake (from our first single decoction) and amp it up for a double-decocted dunkel - and while we're at it, why not add a bunch of rye and make it a dunkelroggenweizen?

since eric was off and running with his dunkelroggenweizen, i thought it would be a good time to bust out a recipe i've had for a while: a clone of one of my favourite beers, flying dog's gonzo imperial porter. i haven't been able to get my hands on their VSS yeast strain from wyeast, but figured the london iii strain that we used in the esb would work pretty well in its place. a little tweaking and the gonzo recipe was done.

there was only one problem with this plan - i didn't have anywhere near enough cascade for the porter, and i couldn't find any rice hulls for the dunkel. after a bit of a scramble i found mashing heads, an online homebrew shop out of london, ON. Steve was super helpful, rushing the order out the next day and even finding all the cascade i needed for the gonzo recipe! thanks guys! i know they'll be getting more of my business in the future.

eric firing up the burners, likely warming up some strike water, and jp looking on.

radical brewing, and my simplified step-by-step notes based on their description of the sweimaischverfahren - that's a double decoction mash for those not up on their german.

all hands on deck. eric and jp working the mash for the dunkel while i work on the porter.

me rockin' a new bull & bush tshirt.

vorlauf done on the porter and collection started. damn that shit was black!

the joy of decoctions: non-stop stirring for hours on end. we setup a char beside the burner to make it a little easier. here's eric taking a shift.

and now jp's turn. we really gotta say thanks to jp. we threw all sorts of brewmonkey chores at him - including a hefty portion of stirring the decoction - and he kept at it. i'm sure our arms would have fallen off if not for the extra help.

i think this was the dunkel after adding in some rice hulls to make sparging easier. we did that just before bringing it to mash out.

me throwing out the horns. i was pretty excited at how the porter was progressing.

the final bit of stirring on the second decoction step. you can really see how much it had darkened in the first shot.

boil hops for the porter. 10oz in the boil, including 6oz of cascade at flameout. and that's before the 8oz of cascade that'll go in as dry hops.

eric and jp giving the dunkel its final bump to mash out temperature.

porter approaching a boil.

mmmm, dunkelroggenweizen.

a good look at the dunkel after getting it to mash out temperature.

after getting the decoction out of the way eric decided it was time to light up a cigar, a recent acquisition as part of the gentlemen's club BIF.

both beers boiling away. we had to move them inside once the rain started coming down more steadily.

eric giving the horns for our russian imperial stout. eric corked+caged his half. mine was still sitting in secondary waiting for me to do something with it.

yeah, it looks pretty badass.

porter going into the fermenter.

i guess at this point we got busy with the final cleanup and didn't take a final picture of the dunkel. the brewday finished up just fine, and the decoction was a success. would you have expected any less?

Posted by grub at 10:42 AM

July 2, 2009

weizen + landlord

Since the weather has been warm, we wanted a couple beers on tap that were good and sessionable. Russ and I had been kicking around doing a weissbier for quite a while, and a while ago my British friend Sid brought back a bottle of Timothy Taylor Landlord, a quintessential British pale ale. After trying it, I realized it was pretty amazing and wanted to do a clone. I did a bit of research and put together a recipe.

For the weiss, we picked up the Wyeast 3056 and a bag of Weyermann malted wheat from Gilbertson and Page, and we were ready to rock. Some time ago I consulted a bit with Michael Hancock of Denisons about an approximate grain bill for a weissbier, so we went with about 45% wheat, and the rest pilsner and Munich. Now, we never really do anything half-assed, so we decided to do a proper decoction mash for the first time, which constitutes heating up a portion of the mash and resting it, then boiling and adding back to the main mash, (hopefully) bringing the total volume up to your final saccharification temperature. Not only twice as long as an infusion mash, decoctions are about five times the work, as the portion that is heated and boiled needs to be constantly stirred to prevent scorching.

The Landlord clone was quite a bit easier. Very simple malt and hop bill, and shooting for an ABV around 4%. Saturday morning rolled around and we measured out our grains and scheduled around having to do a decoction for the weissbier.

Doing the acid rest on the weissbier, wheat looks really weird and milky at first.

Throwing up the horns on the weiss, a lot of the particles settle down and it leaves this strange clear layer on the top.

Extreme close up! Whaaaaa!

Russ stirring the decoction and bringing it up to its rest temperature.

My turn! This was while the decoction was boiling. Pretty annoying and chunks of hot grain pop out on you.

Checking the temp on one of the beers, I'm not sure which but I think its the weiss.

Skimming some skum!

A delicious pesto pasta salad Jenn whipped up for the brewday lunch.

I believe that is the Landlord clone being sparged in the bucket tun.

Russ found a piece of candy in his pocket.

Or maybe he just had a sip the Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial vanilla coffee porter, it was excellent! Thanks Dyan.

Filling the keggle with some pale ale.

I think that beer is the Sonoran Old Saguaro barleywine, really interesting cactus-like flavour. Thanks Greg!

Me reviewing.

Russ cleaning something like a good brewmonkey.

Pictures seemed to stop during most of the action, but the gist is we nailed all our targets and ended up with full fermenters of weissbier and Landlord clone pale ale. The decoctions are a bit of a pain and some say nobody really notices the difference, but I could definitely taste a bigger malt presence than with most weissbiers. Once cleaned up and in the house, we cracked open some more beers.

Cigar City Brewing Maduro, Vanilla Maduro and Espresso Maduro that Russ picked up in a trade. Real cool mini growlers. Under Florida law, growlers have to be 32 oz and under, or 128 oz and bigger. I wish I had a 128 oz growler of Vanilla Maduro!

PBR can't survive an encounter with such delicious beverages!

All three Maduros in a row.

Posted by viggo at 10:39 AM

June 25, 2009

old toby

Originally I was supposed to be off to hotter climates for the second to last week of June, but due to a series of unfortunate circumstances it was canceled and I was left with a week off of work to do nothing. This gave me the perfect opportunity to solo brew with the big guy off at work. I had been kicking around the idea for a big English style barleywine for a while, with some vanilla beans and smoked malt. I wanted something like a JW Lee's Harvest ale or Midnight Sun Arctic Devil, lots of sweetness and very rich. I still wanted it to have a big bitter background though, and used US-05, so it's a bit of a hybrid American/English barleywine. I thought the smoke might lend a neat element and had been playing around with the idea of adding dried tobacco leaves after trying the awesome Church Key Tobacco Road at Cask Days 2008. I decided to call it Old Toby, an homage to the finest leaf in the Southfarthing! I'm still debating adding the tobacco leaves I acquired, but don't want to kill anyone with nicotine poisoning so research is in order. So I decided it would be good to soak some oak cubes in brandy and add those to the secondary. Anyways onto the brewing. Got up bright and early and weighed out my grains. This one was a monster! Just over 25 pounds of grain for a 5.5 gallon batch.

Me mashing in I assume.

Checking mash temp on the Old Toby.

I like the solo brews!

Delicious barleywine mash goodness.

Delicious homemade cured salmon sandwich goodness.

Vorlaufing the Old Toby, I guess it was hot enough out to lose my shirt.

I collected some wort for a magic elixir.

PBR and sunscreen, essentials of a summer brew day.

Definitely a nice colour!

Not sure what I was looking at, but get in line ladies.

A pound of organic Muscovado sugar from the market, to be added to the magic elixir.

Adding the Muscovado to the elixir, boiling these first runnings down to caramelize.

Elixir looking pretty angry, I believe I boiled 2.5 gallons down to about 1.5 gallons.

Our sweat is the secret ingredient to award winning beers.

Chilling down the Old Toby.

Some delicious looking barleywine going into the fermenter.

All in all a successful solo brewday. Slightly missed my OG, but not by much.

Posted by viggo at 10:37 AM

April 17, 2009

hopocalypse returns!

ah, hopocalypse. that mythical beast created for cask days 2006. a perfectly balanced american ipa showcasing simcoe and amarillo hops - right around 6% and 62IBU. the only problem is we never get to drink the stuff! we always seem to end up making it for someone else and never getting any of our own. well, we set out to change that. a batch of hopocalypse that would be for our own personal enjoyment.

single brewdays are too easy, so we wanted to add another to the mix. after the success of eric's breakfast brown ale and born of our love for surly's bender and coffee bender we decided on another american brown ale. so eric came up with the battlesnake brown ale - named in honour of his love of imperial battlenake.

grain for both batches, ground and ready to dough in. i think that was the brown on the left and the ipa on the right.

me working at the computer.

me enjoying one of jenn's awesome breakfast bagel sandwiches. chock full of good stuff to keep you goin' through the brewday.

both mashes now under way. ipa on the left, brown on the right.

sparging the ipa.

me checking on the mash for the brown ale.

time for the first wort hops to go in the ipa. 2oz of simcoe down the hatch!

fast forward a while. hopocalypse had been sparged and was coming up to a boil. you can see the result of eric skimming the scum and catching most of the first wort hops at the same time. mmmm, delicious hops.

more hops for the ipa, and a glimpse at our brewday lunch - home made wonton soup.

me checking on the runoff for the brown ale.

time to chill! the brewday had pretty much wrapped up at this point. the brown ale was almost done chilling and we had put most of the gear away. here was me firing up the air compressor to blow the water out of our chiller before storing it - a little trick that means you don't have to worry about it splitting in cold weather or going funky from old water sitting inside.

extreme badger closeups. wooaaaah!!! woaaaaaahhhh!

Posted by grub at 5:06 AM

March 29, 2009

first markham brewday of 2009

since we started brewing here in markham, our final brewday of the year has been one or more big beers designed for aging, sort of our "vintage ale". in 2005 we brewed an imperial stout and our rochefort 10 clone [brewday blog]. in 2006 we made our first old ale [brewday blog]. in 2007 we made another old ale [brewday blog], this one with an american slant. to finish 2008 we had planned both an old ale and a russian imperial stout based on the recipes from 2006 and 2005 respectively.

another common thread with these brewdays is cold. the 2005 brewday started out with snow on the ground and got colder as the day progressed. the hoses froze, it took forever for things to reach temperature, cleaning was a pain, and the day seemed to go on forever. this prompted me to swear i'd never brew again in sub-zero temperatures. 2006 went a little better - although the brewday was in early december the temperature stayed above freezing and the day went smoothly. 2007 was not as good. it started off well below freezing and never really got better. however, we had built up a couple of giant starters and knew we wouldn't get another chance at it, so we went for it. what a nightmare. the hoses were completely unusable. every bit of spilled water turned instantly into a sheet of ice. it made every aspect of the day more challenging and a huge pain in the ass. by the end of the day we decided that even if it meant sacrificing yeast, we'd definitely never do it again.

so late 2008 rolled around, and we started planning for our final brewday. in preparation for it, we brewed up an ESB and a stout [brewday blog] to generate nice fat yeast cakes for our old ale and russian imperial stout. however, as the brewday approached the weather was looking ugly... much like 2007 the temperature wasn't going to reach above the freezing mark. we decided to save as much of the yeast slurry as possible and hope for another warm weekend. as it turned out, we didn't see one until the spring of 2009...

the garage in "winter mode": all the gear piled high in the back corner, table collapsed on the wall, and room for the car to fit inside.

brewday breakfast: smoked salmon, berries, bagels, and two kinds of homemade cream cheese. sweet! on yeah, and the always important coffee.

i made a couple small modifications to the mill this year. i decided it was a hassle to use a bucket and it'd be more convenient to just mill straight into our kettles. i figured i could just use a clamp to hook the handle of the kettle on to the top of the mill. so i took off the leg and attached a piece of jean leg to direct the milled grain down into the kettle. works like a charm!

strike water coming up to temp.

eric weighing out the grain. since we more than killed a full bag of malt, we figured it'd be easier to just weigh the specialty malts inside and take care of the rest in the garage.

the newly modified mill. works on any kettle size too!

another view of breakfast.

freshly milled grain! i think this was the old ale.

the sugar we decided to use in our two batches. the thai palm sugar went into the old ale and the sucanat sugar went into the stout.

eric filling up the bucket tun with the "high" mash for the stout. damn that shit was black!

finally got around to slotting the manifold for our second cooler tun. the first shows it freshly slotted. the second shows it after i cleaned it all up. the third is a closeup showing it nice and smooth.

the two tuns for the ris.

vorlauf of the "high" mash. i think this is about when we started calling the beer black death.

adding the sucanat sugar to the first runnings on the stout.

can you say black?

second tun ready for its maiden voyage.

magic elixir getting angry, just the way we like it!

the main stout wort on its way to a boil.

another shot of the elixir. it had boiled down a fair bit by this point.

eric putting up the horns for the blackness of the stout.

both batches now on the burners and ready to go.

hops for both brews.

refractometer and promash.

the final result of the magic elixir. it had boiled down from around 4 gallons to about 1 gallon. you can see the carnage on the sides of the pot. beside it is the spent grain, ready for composting.

both batches rolling along. the stout was boiling and the old ale was almost there.

eric adding some of the magic elixir back into the main stout wort. we waited until we had a little boil off, then started adding it a little at a time so we wouldn't kill the boil.

old ale now happily boiling away.

stout chilling and old ale boiling.

the stout on its way into the fermenter. yep, still black as hell.

and now the old ale too.

another successful brew day.

Posted by grub at 10:33 PM

November 10, 2008

yeast growth made easy

this was sort of a "starter" brewday. both of these batches were certainly interesting in their own way, but we really wanted to use them to grow some big fat yeast cakes for our pair of year-end brews: this year's old ale and a russian imperial stout. we wanted a nice english yeast strain for the old ale, and decided to go with good ol' chico for the RIS. as a result, we figured we'd want a nice light english ale and a lighter american themed beer that could be fairly dark.

for the american side, we ended up taking a stab at something similar to kuhnhenn's creme brulee java stout - a sweet stout around 5-6% using vanilla beans, coffee, and some seriously caramelized wort. this was our Creme Brulee Java Stout.

for the english side, an ESB seemed like a good choice. i found a good looking recipe online and tweaked it until we were happy with it.

me checking the mash temperature.

our guest for this brewday was don. he wanted to get the full all-grain experience and is looking to move into this too. always nice to share our love of brewing with someone new, and have an extra pair of hands to help out on a brewday.

one of the batches mashing.

magic elixer for the CBJS. we wanted to really burn/caramelize it to get that nice "brulee" character. it was getting a little angry in the second photo.

brewday lunch! pulled pork sandwiches and homemade coleslaw. there was something tasty in my sweet surly darkness glass, i just can't remember what it was now...

you can sort of see how much the elixer had boiled down, and the trail of carnage on the sides of the pot from when it got angry.

the elixer and i think the ESB beside it.

don keeping an eye on things.

it started to rain, so we had to pull the burners just under the edge of the garage. i was doing a hop addition to one of the two.

this shot shows some of the carnage that is my basement, but the real focus here should be on all those corked and caged bottles. we decided to get a corker and finish off some of our special batches this way. in october we bottled three batches this way: my killa gorilla super saison, eric's frostbitten moongoat of the north braggot, and his calvados-oak-aged monk's elixer. we eventually got around to putting labels on them all too. a little expensive and time consuming, but damn do they look cool!

Posted by grub at 5:30 PM

October 6, 2008

red + ed fitz

two batches on deck for this brewday: eric's Dirty Irish Red and our latest stab at my favourite porter, Edmund Fitzgerald: The Second Coming.

sorry folks, no photos of this one...

Posted by grub at 5:28 PM

September 15, 2008

pumpkin and hops

this brewday was all about two things: pumpkin and hops.

first, we had eric brewing up his favourite fall seasonal, Pumpkin Ale 2008.

at the same time, i wanted to brew a beer that would showcase my homegrown hops. my first year crop was so small that it became a footnote on another beer. the second year i used non-homegrown hops for bittering and my homegrown hops for the rest of the casc imperial porter that was featured at volo cask days 2007. this year i used my homegrown centennial to bitter and homegrown centennial and cascade the rest of the way. the result was my Homegrown Hop Pale Ale.

me transferring the mash from the keggle to the tun for sparging.

the hops for the pale ale - my full harvest of cascade and centennial.

a hop addition, boulevard saison, and eric's spice concoction for the pumpkin ale.

me skimmin' the scum.

this is me trying to use the chiller to stir in the flameout hop addition. this thing was crazy full of hops.

the hops left in the keg after transferring the beer out. the false bottom worked like a charm and didn't stop until we reached the bottom. of course, with that much hops they held a fair amount of liquid so our yield was a little low.

eric squeezing out the hops.

the wort left in the bottom after wringing out the hops. probably lost a couple gallons as a result. ah well, the beer was still good!

Posted by grub at 5:25 PM

August 11, 2008

the moongoat, the gorilla, and the georgia peach

after our previous saison brewday i really wanted to reuse the yeast cake for a big saison. the idea was to have an "imperial" or "super saison", the big brother to the dirty ape saison. i pretty much took that 10 gallon recipe, darkened and tweaked it a little and brewed it up as a 5 gallon batch. and thus the killa gorilla was born.

eric had been talking about making a braggot for a while. he put together a recipe for the frostbitten moongoat of the north, a big ass beer with a whole bunch of honey.

jan wanted to make something lighter and belgian. we decided to use some of the dirty ape yeast cake, slim down and lighten the recipe, then throw in some peaches. the georgia saison was the result. a bunch of amarillo was used as it tends to have a nice light peachy/apricot character that we thought would work well.

the black saison in the carboy on the left and the dirty ape saison in the fermenter on the right. saison yeast likes it warm, so they were fermented in my garage where they'd be happy.

janno milling the grain for his saison...

...and stirring the mash while we were bringing the temperature up a short while later.

this is one of my new ported keggles. for mashing, i don't want to worry about the false bottom and all that, and i don't want grain getting into the valve, so i just got a plug that i can swap in for times like this to turn it into a "standard" keggle.

teflon and the parts for the external side of the keggle bulkhead.

jan's peaches getting diced and ready for some time in the oven. also pictured is the pork that would become our pulled pork lunch.

sparge water on the burners and two beers mashing away.

first runnings on jan's saison.

eric stirring his braggot mash.

first wort hops waiting for the collection of the braggot to begin.

jan and i emptying the braggot mash from the cooler so i could get the killa gorilla going.

jan adding his peaches at flameout.

the braggot...

jan's saison cooling and the killa gorilla and braggot boiling. weather turned crappy and rainy, so we pulled the burners just inside the garage to keep the beer rain-free.

jan's saison going into the fermenter.

the first dose of honey for the braggot: 1.5kg/3.3# of oak honey.

the chunky bottom of jan's beer. peaches, hops, and trub clogged up the can and made siphoning a bit of a pain...

rain washing away the gunk.

i harvested yeast from the dirty ape saison for use in the saisons that jan and i brewed. here i was using a sanitized measuring cup to scoop out some yeast for jan's saison. the killa gorilla was transferred straight onto the rest of the yeast cake.

the yeast slowly dispersing throuhg jan's saison.

the killa gorilla and georgia saison, pitched and waiting for aeration.

Posted by grub at 8:57 AM

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

June 16, 2008


time to make up more belgians. the quad and tripel we made last year turned really well, and i knew i wanted to make the monk's elixer again - partially because i didn't get to drink nearly enough of it and also because jenn loved it and requested more. however, before i could make the quad, i'd need to do a smaller beer to generate a yeast cake up to the task of fermenting that giant beast. the simplest solution, and one i'd been contemplating anyway, was to create it's little brother - a dubbel. i took the original monk's elixer recipe and scaled it down to get the little monk.

rather than brewing the same (big) tripel we did last time, jan suggested that we do something like a belgian IPA along the lines of the Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel from Achouffe. jan and i did a little research and came up with this houblon-ish recipe. similar to some clones we found, but with our own twist to keep it interesting.

on to the photos!

me, jan, and eric at the start of the brewday.


me and jan.


eric working on grinding the grain.

keggles cleaned and ready for use.

eric cleaning out a pot.

jan cleaning and reassembling the manifold for our cooler tun.

the grain mill only has one (foldable) leg, with the bucket holding up the other end. works great while grinding, but when you need to remove the bucket either someone has to stand there and hold it (annoying) or you need a replacement leg. in this case we use our bucket tun. on eof these days i'm going to replace this with a second foldable leg so that we can still store it easily and yet have it stand on its own without a bucket.

me topping up the mill with grain. when buying a barley crusher people often ask whether they should get the model with the 7# or 15# hopper. the reality is, we're almost always using more than 15# of grain in a batch, so we'd always have to refill the mill periodically. filling it up more often with the 7# model is really no big deal, so i say save the extra $24 and just go with the 7# model. if you find yourself wanting a larger hopper you can always build one.

grains for the dubbel, ground and ready for the mash.

on brewdays we're always trying to find somewhere to prop up the mash paddle so it's not sitting on the ground. usually that is a keggle or balanced on top of a propane tank, but that can be messy. so i just hammered a nail into the outside frame of the garage so it can hang. easy enough to rinse this off later if necessary. sometimes it's the simple things that make brewdays easy.

jan stirring the mash for the dubbel. the mash temp was a little shy, so we had to bump it up a bit. good luck doing that if you don't mash in a kettle!

jan cleaning and prepping the cooler tun.

me starting the vorlauf on the dubbel and eric looking on.

jan finishing up with the cooler tun.

with the vorlauf done, we had just started collection.

it was a warm day, so jenn made sure we all drank lots of water.

me hooking up the hose to the bulkhead valve.

eric doing the danse la poutine dance while the runoff on the houblon started.

boom goes the dynamite.

morning snacks and a beer, some homebrew that jan brought over from his friend rudy in buffalo.

another invention for this brew day is on the table between the bottle and bte blue cups. the thermometer is always on the table, rolling around or getting stuck. so i grabbed a scrap of wood and put a notch in it so that we can rest the thermometer on it. now it doesn't roll around or get stuck to the table.

fastforward to the end of the brewday. the dubbel in the carboy and eric and i talking about how much we'd got and whether to dillute it a little. we got higher than expected boil-off, so there was lower volume at a higher gravity than expected. we added a half gallon of water to bring it up to 5gal at 1.067.

with the dubbel in the fermenter and the houblon boiling, it was finally time to sit down for a few minutes.

houblon boiling away.

houblon going into the fermenters.

me firing up the compressor. at the end of the brewday i use the compressor to blow out any water that's left in our immersion chiller. works pretty well.

with the brewday done it was time to relax on the patio with a beer and some euchre!

a short while later chirs and kyoko arrived for dinner and an evening of sampling. here we see kyoko, aka "pregasaurus", hiding behind her purse. that is a massive purse.

she came out of hiding, but with some sunglasses.

chirs, eric, kyoko, jan, and me. jenn taking some expert photos, which unfortunately means she's not seen.

a couple of the beverages we sampled on the patio. flying dog wild dog colorado saison and victory v-saison.

me working the grill.

kyoko and jan.

eric doing the "very hairy jake gyllenhaal"

eric and kyoko.

jan and jenn.

jan rockin' that shoelace headband.

eric and jenn after we moved things inside.

kyoko and jenn.

kyoko, jenn, eric, chris, and me.

biergotter represent, biotch!

the almighty skweek.

jenn and kyoko.

getting setup for more beer + euchre.

eric torturing the cats.

time for some beer!

here we were all enjoying the baird brewing co midnight oil export stout that chris and kyoko brought back from a recent trip to japan. it was some good stuff!

skweek being an attention hog.

jenn and kyoko.

i've been waiting for a while to do this one. partially because i knew it'd be exciting, and partially because i knew i'd need help to get through 4 bombers at over 10%. a four year vertical (2005-2008) of stone imperial russian stout.

jan was clearly excited about it.

everyone finishing off the baird's and waiting to crack the first stone.

metal baby.

the 2005 was gone and we were on to the 2006...

the 2005 was pure heaven, definitely the best of the bunch.

beer makes you crazy!

stay tuned for the big monk's elixer brewday in a couple of weeks.

Posted by grub at 2:07 PM

May 17, 2008

Biergotter Philly is up and running!

After a long hiatus, I'm back to brewing. A few things sort of got in the way, namely switching jobs, moving to the US, having a baby, and buying a house. Once all of that was done, it was time to start thinking about making beer again rather than just buying it (though the commercial selection here is fantastic). Here's what's been happening since the beginning of the year....

The first job after Xmas was to pick up some new gear, since I sold off a lot to the boys in TO. I grabbed some stuff from morebeer, including a couple of Better Bottles, and ordered myself a Barley Crusher. Both of these items are highly recommended. I also stopped in at Keystone Homebrew Supply for ingredients and a variety of other necessities. I also needed a mash paddle for 10 gallon batches, so I used grub's design and cut one out of a piece of red oak.

I also made a new bucket tun. These things are wicked for smaller batches, easy to use and clean up, plus the sparge seems to run super fast with them.

Robust Porter

First up was a porter (brewed on 23/02/2008), English style and a little on the robust side. It was a beautiful morning for brewing, but a little colder than I was hoping for.

The equipment was all assembled and ready to go.

Time to break in the Barley Crusher. Only 11.5# of grain for this batch. The drill just flies through the grain, so there's no way I'm going back to hand cranking.

Mashing went smoothly, single step infusion at 154F. Sparging was a snap using the bucket tun. After a short vorlauf, it seemed like the sugars were extracted faster than I'm used to - the gravity had dropped to dangerously low levels by the time I had ~4.5 gallons collected. That's an approximate figure, since I hadn't planned ahead and figured out how to measure volumes of liquid in any of my vessels. I've since corrected that oversight.

Once the wort was boiling, it was time for the hops. 3/4 oz of Magnum for bittering, 1/2 oz Willamette at flameout. No problems with boilovers due to skimming the hot break as it came up to a boil.

Time to cool the wort. Took about 15 minutes and I got to water the (frozen) grass.

I ended up collecting ~3.5 gallons in the carboy at a much higher gravity than I needed - way more liquid boiled off than I expected. So I topped it up with 1.5 gallons of water. My yeast starter had been going for a couple of days, so there was plenty of slurry. I hit it with about 90 seconds of pure O2, pitched the yeast, and brought it downstairs to the beer cellar.

By the next morning things had definitely taken off.

FG was a little higher than I wanted, but that's OK. It went into bottles on March 17 and has been drinking great for a while now. Not bad for my first solo brew day in forever and with a bunch of new, untested equipment. I started at 9am and finished everything (including cleanup) by 4pm. That also included finishing up the manifold for my bucket tun.

English Porter

Next up was another porter on 09/03/2008. No pics, but that's OK. The setup is pretty much the same as last time. I planned the brewday so that I could transfer my first porter into secondary and put the new one right on top of the yeast cake. I didn't change much this time around, just dropped the amount of black malt and pulled back on the hops a bit. I was aiming more for something between a robust and brown porter here. Things went a little smoother this time around. Though I still undershot my collected volume, it wasn't as bad this time. My attenuation was a little better too. This one got bottled on 30/03/2008 and took no time to carbonate. Tastes fine!

Pineapple Kolsch

I figured that was enough porter for a while, so I moved on to something else for my next batch. I also wanted to try my hand at a 10 gallon batch to see how it would go with only one person, since I had no trouble with the previous two 5 gallon batches by myself. This time I brewed a new version of my pineapple ale recipe, based more on a kolsch rather than pale ale base. I found out that the only time I needed another person was when I lifted the brew kettle onto the table to get it high enough for siphoning. Not bad!

I figured I'd give my bucket tun a real workout and see if it could handle the 17.5# of malt in this recipe. It worked, but it was a close fit. I ended up collecting less runoff at higher gravity than expected again (I think this has to do with the bucket tun), so diluted a bit before the boil. 6 chopped pineapples went into the brewpot towards the end of the boil in order to denature the bromelain (this enzyme will continue to degrade protein during and after fermentation). In hindsight, this was a bad idea and I wish I would have taken some pics, since I won't be doing it this way again. The pineapple flesh dropped the brewpot temp significantly and it took a long time to bring back up to a boil. It also got clogged in my racking cane and I just gave up on the last gallon or so of wort in the brewpot. Next time I'll try collecting the juice from the pineapples and just adding that. Since I boiled the fruit, I set the pectin, and that makes your beer hazy. Fortunately, this is easily fixed by adding pectic enzyme to the primary, which is exactly what I did. I also stepped my starter up a couple of times so that I'd have enough slurry for two carboys.

Fermentation was pretty vigourous, but the basement temperature got a little cold for the yeasties, so I brought them upstairs for the rest of primary fermentation. Active fermentation was constant and took quite a while - noticeable activity finished after about 3 weeks. The carboys went back downstairs for secondary, since the German Ale yeast likes cooler temperatures for conditioning.

By the beginning of May the carboys were crystal clear, sort of eerie when you're used to making dark beers. Final gravity was lower than I expected, at 1.005. That's easily the lowest terminal gravity that I've gotten for a beer and the highest attenuation at ~90%. They were bottled 04/05/2008. I was a little worried the yeast would be tired by this point, but I had nothing to worry about - the bottles were fully carbonated within 10 days. And they're pretty delicious too. There's still a very slight haze that I need to deal with, but I'm hoping some of that will continue to settle out in the bottle. I was also amazed at how light in colour it is, even though that's what I was aiming for. Just not used to brewing beers that light I guess. All in all, I think this recipe warrants continued refinement.

So not a bad start to the year! Next up is probably an ESB, (maybe) followed by English IPA, followed by an Old Ale.

Posted by beerbaron at 9:52 AM

December 5, 2007

frozen again

after our sub-zero brew day on november 2005 i swore i'd never brew again when the temperature fell below zero. well, the final brew day of 2007 was planned and got postponed a couple of times, and it looked like december 1st was going to be our last chance. early-mid week leading up to the brew day the weather was looking ok, but by about thursday the forecast had chanced and things didn't look as good...

when we started the day it was frigid. unlike the nov '05 brew day which started out OK and slowly worked its way below freezing, this day started out well below freezing and wasn't forecast to make it above. the hoses and everything else was frozen solid. this meant constantly running in and out of the house to get water, clean things, and everything else. we needed to bring the hose and chiller inside to thaw them out before they could be used to cool the wort. anytime we spilled water on the ground - even near boiling sparge water - it instantly turned the garage into a sheet of ice. needless to say, this kept things pretty interesting...

only one brew was on the schedule, thinking it would make things shorter and easier. the downside to this was there was lots of lag time when we had nothing to do and ended up standing around rather than keeping busy.

our final brew day of 2005 was a big imperial stout, well suited to aging - and a gold medal at the 2007 GCHC. to cap off 2006 eric and i brewed an old ale in the tradition of thomas hardy's. we decided to continue the tradition of producing a "vintage ale" each year. for 2007 we reprised the grain bill from the old ale minus the parti-gyle and switched out the hops for west coast american style hops, including a bunch of amarillo and my homegrown centennials.

when the day was done we had 8 gallons of 1.090 american old ale in the fermenters. a little lower volume and gravity than we wanted, but we were just happy to be done.

with all the extra chaos the temperature added, i didn't end up taking any photos through the brew day.

after warming up and eating some dinner we continued our usual routine of euchre and beer. also on hand for tasting and comparison were two very fine meads: jadwiga and kurpiowski. eric hooked me up with the jadwiga as part of BC2, and brought over the kurpiowski for comparison.

here you can see the three of us posing with the two bottles and six samples poured and ready. both were great, but i think we all picked the jadwiga as the winner. if only i could get this stuff on a regular basis!

another year of brewing done for us here in markham, but we'll be back again soon.

Posted by grub at 2:59 PM

November 12, 2007

more markham madness

nov 10th saw another markham brew day. on the docket for the day were a batch of hopocalypse for josh, the winner of my yearly beer raffle for our october charity drive at work, and a jamaican export stout for eric and jan. the JES is an export stout that eric created using jamaican cane sugar.

on with the photos!

dessert on friday night. jan hit a belgian shop near his place and brought over a selection of excellent stuff. we paired this with a bottle of ommegang chocolate indulgence. delicious!

saturday morning. doughing in hopocalypse. scott looking on from outside the garage, josh in the haze of steam, and eric and i pouring in the strike water.

me stirring up the mash. in the second you can see eric enjoying a cinnamon bun, one part of the great morning snacks jenn whipped up for us.

jan enjoying some of jenn's home made granola with some yogurt.

the tasty looking hopocalypse mash.

eric and scott talking.

jan still working on his granola.

josh taking a turn stirring up his hopocalypse mash and me checking its temperature.

at this point i believe we were raising the temperature of the hopocalypse up to mash out (168-170F). jan was helping monitor the temperature while i stirred. gotta keep stirring to insure you don't scorch it.

josh taking a moment to check out designing great beers by ray daniels. this is the go-to book for most american and english styles.

the remains of jenn's great mornign snacks. raspberries, cinnamon buns, and home made granola.

here we had eric working on raising the temp for the stout, with scott in the background. check out the sweet wind screen, one of two he made for us. nice thick steel with a hinge in the middle so that it can wrap around the burner and fold up for easy storage. thanks scott!

eric, horns.

here i was grabbing a sample so that i could verify we had full starch conversion. a drop of iodine will turn black if there's still starch present. as always, we were in the clear.

another look at the wind screen. josh and eric appreciating the fine aroma of the stout mash.

collecting the hopocalypse. you can see the simcoe first wort hops that went in as soon as we started collecting.

me adding in the last of the first pot of sparge water...

...and refilling it so we'd have enough for the stout. eric is carrying the second pot of sparge water into the garage. i still need to pick up another keggle or two, so we end up doing this multi-pot thing for sparging. not a big deal though, just takes a little bit of planning.

eric was transferring the mash from the keggle to the cooler tun. in the first photo he's grabbing a scoop of sparge water. we usually do this and use it to rinse the grains that are stuck to the sides of the keggle down to the bottom, insuring that we don't leave anything behind. the second photo shows him scooping the last of the mash from the bottom of the keggle.

jan grabbing the third pot of sparge water.

due to pot shortage, we were using our grain bucket for vorlauf. here you can see eric directing the flow against the side of the bucket. with really dark beers, it's quite difficult to see when the runoff is 'clear'. if you let it run in a very thin layer over the bottom of a nice shiny pot or the side of a bright white pail it's easy to know when things are settled and it's time to start collecting the runoff. be sure to watch it for a minute or two, just to be sure nothing is slipping through.

having just laid out the foil on top of the mash eric was checking on things.

jan and eric working on recirculating the vorlauf.

here i was showing josh the ins and outs of promash and how handy it is.

yep, the runoff smelled just as good as the mash.

more vorlauf.

jan telling a story, probably about his recent trip to california.

...where he got us each a sweet pliny the elder hat. i was in need of a new hat, and this one is great!

eric adding the last of the vorlauf. for the stout.

mmm, looks delicious...

...but not as delicious as the sweet lunch spread jenn put together. some tasty soup and a great assortment of bread, crackers, cheese, and fruit.

a closeup on my soup and the glass of great divide titan ipa that eric picked up in buffalo. also pictured are my refractometer, designing great beers, and a pound of amarillo.

me, beer. mmmm.

me talking with scott while eric washes out the hydrometer + tube.

checking the gravity of the runoff on the stout. still looking good.

eric with his soup. jan punching.

the hopocalypse chilling and the stout boiling.



here the hopocalypse was going into the fermenter and eric was keeping an eye on it while i figured out the efficiency and whether or not we'd dillute it to reduce the gravity. i ended up adding a little water since the gravity came out a bit high. jan punching again.


josh, eric, and i talking at the end of the hopocalypse transfer.


"i love you man". "no, i love you man".


eric giving the horns in approval of the collection of the stout.

the brew day done, it was time for a little guitar hero...

...and a little later some euchre and beer. here we were sampling and reviewing some tasty oscar blues ten fidy. horns all around.

a nice fire in the fireplace.

a bunch of us being goofy and/or reviewing.

another successful brew day.

Posted by grub at 7:04 PM

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 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

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 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

June 25, 2007

belgian brewing 2

our last brew day here in markham included a belgian pale. basically, that batch was just a big starter for today's beers: a belgian strong dark ale and a tripel. i chose white labs wlp530 abbey ale yeast (the one used by westmalle, achel, and westvleteren) for this batch, loosly aiming for something in the neighbourhood of westy 12.

scott came out to join us for this brew day. as a bonus, he lives right around the corner from grand river brewing and was able to grab the 2nd and 3rd growler that they filled on their first day in service. i actually enjoyed the galt knife old style lager a little more than the ploughman's ale, which is saying something since i'm usually an ale man. the ale was also quite good, but i felt the bittering was just a little out of balance (something they've agreed with and scaled back just a little since then). this was quite a treat. unfortunately, my laptop crashed before i could save the reviews, so i still need to resample them.

back when we brewed up our imperial stout we pulled off an extra couple gallons at the end and boiled the hell out of it before adding a quart back into the main wort. we pulled off the first gallon or so for the strong dark, added our demerara sugar, and boiled the snot out of it while the sparge finished. this was added back into the main wort before it came up to a boil.

on with the photos!

there's me loading up the barleycrusher. i love this thing.

strike water coming up to temp.

eric stirring up the mash for the strong dark and scott and i looking on.

gotta get out all the lumps. nobody likes a lumpy mash.

me verifying the temperature. needed a little bump to hit our strike temp.

the magic, er, monk's elixer. gallon or so of first runnings along with 2.2lbs of demerara.

we boiled the heck out of it until it had reduced by about half and then added it back into the main boil. mmm, delicious!

the rest of the belgian strong dark. love that colour.

hmmm, is eric happy or did he just get caught doing something wrong?

the elixer after boiling.

and added back into the main wort. crazy how much shit there was floating around in there.

good strong boil going on the strong dark. this one kept getting angry with us, but we managed not to have any boilovers.

the tripel on its way to a boil. tons of stuff floating in this one too. i think it's from the belgian pilsner malt, since that was the only new thing for the day.

scott flipping through brew like a monk, our bible for the day.

the chaos that is my garage. this was towards the end of the brew day, with most of the gear piled up under the brew table on the left. eric and i looking for something to do while the tripel was cooling.

jenn, best brew wife ever! which reminds me, we somehow managed to forget to take a photo of our fine brewday lunch. doh!

three phases of beerdom. madness, happiness, and quiet contemplation. or maybe just three random photos of me.

eric was on a mission, killing flies in the garage. seems kind of futile killing bugs in the outdoors...

the tripel going into the fermenters, with eric and i keeping an eye on things.

another successful brew day, and two damn fine brews.

Posted by grub at 12:10 PM

May 23, 2007

first markham brew day 2007

after taking a few months off, the first markham brew day of 2007 happened last weekend. on deck for the day was a big batch of hopocalypse, so eric and i could finally each have a keg to enjoy, and a belgian pale ale. the belgian pale would be something we'd never tried, and would give us a yeast cake to use on a bigger belgian beer. initial talk was to do a quad/belgian strong dark ale, but now it looks like we might split it and do this and a tripel. stay tuned for news on that...

start of the brew day. eric is cleaning up some gear before we get going.

there's me, keeping the barley crusher going and tearing up the grain. have i mentioned how much this thing kicks ass?

warming up the strike water. small pot for the 5gal belgian pale, larger pot for the ipa.

still working on the ipa grain.

the grain bill for the belgian pale.

there's eric doughing in the hopocalypse.

first beer of the day, moyland's hopsickle imperial ale. "triple hoppy".

both batches sparging. hopocalypse in the red cooler and the belgian pale in the bucket.

lunch is served. bbq burgers with cheddar and/or blue.

but before lunch i had to tend to the sparge.

burgers and doritos. mmmmmmm. jenn always hooks us up with a great lunch. we also had some tasty chocolate chip banana nut muffins early in the day.

eric likes his burger.

me too!

the belgian pale boiling. it started getting this wacky film on top. not the typical break (which we had already skimmed before adding hops), this was something different.

eric skimming the scum and first wort hops from the ipa. chunky!

the flameout addition for the ipa was 2oz of leaf amarillo. looks tasty.

it's become a tradition that during the transfer to the fermenter we always listen to some iron maiden. start things off with number of the beast, then move on to a few of the other tracks i have. really need to get more...

the final lineup from the brew day and some evening tasting (left to right):

  • central waters brewers reserve bourbon cherry stout
  • central waters brewers reserve bourbon barrel stout
  • kuhnhenn extraneous ale
  • homebrewed christmas ale from a fellow homebrewer
  • moyland's hopsickle
  • moyland's moylander
  • north coast old rasputin x
  • another homebrew
  • duck rabbit rabid duck imperial stout
  • north coast old rasputin

another great brew day!

Posted by grub at 10:21 AM

December 5, 2006

two tun old ale

eric and i started talking about brewing an old ale a while ago. we knew we wanted it to be big, aiming for something like thomas hardy's ale rather than the traditional old ale guidelines. we thought this would be a good time to revive the two tun madness we used for the imperial stout last november. that was a doble-ish setup with one cooler and a bucket and 45# of grain. this time we decided to go bigger: two coolers and 60# of grain. we figured we could pull the second runnings for some kind of hoppy brown ale. a little reading and some tinkering with promash and it was set.

the parti-gyle recipe (grain bill only), dirty old brown ale, and the two tun old ale. the grain bill on the old+brown are mocked up to get the gravity right for calculating the hop utilizations and such.

grain for the batch. special b, honey malt, aromatic malt, and maris otter. tim loaned us his cooler tun, seen in the background.

the rest of the grain. total for the batch: 60.5 pounds, which should give us two 10 gallon batches.

the two tuns, waiting for action.

and two kegs, each with about half the grain bill. one is a standard 15.5gal, the other is only 13, so one has a wee bit more than the other.

eric, looking a little rough this morning!

and me, showing off my beer advocate toque.

strike water coming up to temp.

morning snacks. banana bread, chocolate chunk cookies, tangerines, and some deadly awesome savoury shortbread.

coffee, music, promash, and designing great beers. all the necessities for an early december morning brewing.

me again, a little dusty from the grain.

lunch! some pulled pork sandwiches, bbq fritos, and dogfish head olde school barleywine.

the two tuns, sparging away.

we collected into separate vessels so we could be sure we were sparging at the same rate and got the same amount from each tun.

that's 15 gallons of old ale at a gravity of 1.090. oh yeah, that's also before the 2 hour and 40 minute boil.

continuing to sparge. second runnings for the "brown" ale.

both batches on the burners. the old ale on the left boiling away, and the "brown" on the right. we steeped some chocolate malt to try and darken it up, but it didn't turn out very brown.

old ale starting to get angry.

both batches boiling now. the old ale started boiling 40min before the brown, and finished 40min after it.

both batches again. you can see my makeshift wind screen in the background and the scum skimming pot in front.

there's me reviewing one of the day's beers.

first hop addition on the "brown" getting angry...

a glass of something...i think this was the southern tier unearthly iipa. great stuff.

brew day beers: olde school, great lakes nosferatu, unearthly, and dogfish head world wide stout.

the "brown" happily fermenting. this one was kicking ass with almost zero lag time. 11gal at an OG of 1.057.

and the old ale starting to take off. 12gal at an OG of 1.102. didn't quite get the boil off we wanted, so we ended up with 12gal at 1.102 instead of more like 10.5-11gal at 1.115.

the "brown" got pretty angry, so i had to put it in some bins to keep the mess contained.

and the old ale now going full throttle.

in all, this was a good brew day. the huge grain bill and two 10gal batches via parti-gyle was pretty fun. several good brews sampled. the weather was even pretty cooperative, staying above freezing most of the day.

final gravity on brown was 1.017 for 69% attenuation and 5.28%abv. final gravity on the old ale was 1.034 for 64% attenuation and 8.96%abv.

Posted by grub at 9:53 AM

December 3, 2006

brewing roundup

there has been a bunch of brewing since my last post, so i thought i'd post a roundup and summary of them.

tim did his first fully solo brew, a pale ale on sept 24th. spent 8 days in primary, then 7 days in secondary with 0.5oz cascade. it was kegged on oct 9th. OG 1.051, FG 1.013 for 5.00%abv and 73.69% attenuation.

tim kegged his belgian wit on oct 15th. FG 1.012 for 5.4%abv and 76.58% attenuation.

jayw brewed up a rye pale ale nov 12th. kegged dec 2nd. OG 1.060, FG 1.016 for 5.81%abv and 72.34% attenuation.

tim brewed up a barleywine on nov 19th. OG 1.092.

eric and i were joined by jan and james for a brew day on nov 4th, which was national "teach a friend to homebrew day". jan had attended a few partial brew days but was happy to come and see the process from beginning to end. james was visiting to learn how his christmas gift would be brewed. i decided to donate a batch of beer to our annual employee charitable fund and it was auctioned off. james's wife won the auction as a gift for him. being a big fan of boddington's he liked the idea of trying to brew something like that, and when he saw that i'd done raspberry porter in the past he was interested to try and put a raspberry twist on the english bitter. the result was dubbed "raspboddy", a pale pink brew with a hint of raspberry. eric and i also finally brewed up the gumballhead clone that he's had drawn up for a while.

didn't take many photos, but here they are.

there's me sparging the (not yet rasp)boddy.

and the runoff.

morning snacks

gumballhead sac rest

me and james keeping an eye on the boddy sparge

the gumballhead getting angry during the boil.

casualty before the brew day. we were supposed to be doing a dark saison, so i was making up starters. sterilized the flask, added the stir bar, and poured in the yeast. then i started to dump in the starter wort and it started pouring out all over the counter and floor. only then did i notice that the flask had blown a hole in the side. unfortunately, the yeast and wort was a writeoff...

Posted by grub at 1:15 PM

September 18, 2006

solo tim and the secret october project

last brew day included our fred clone, but the real focus was our cask experiment. we wanted to brew up a good cask conditioned IPA and decided to try two versions with the same base and different hops. we also threw in my attempt at a clone of the cask-conditioned merlot stout that i had at the town hall in minneapolis.

all three casks turned out great and we settled on our "final" version of the cask ipa, dubbed Hopocalypse by eric. sounds like a great name to me.

one batch just wouldn't be enough, so we decided to throw in another hop bomb: a clone of Stone's Ruination that we're calling Devastation. tim also decided that he'd like to try his first solo run and brew up a belgian wit. after a little consultation with radical brewing tim and i came up with Witness Protection.

on with the show!

tim filling up the barleycrusher and me supervising.

the grain for the ipa, crushed and ready to mash.

a biergotter first: 3 burners for 3 batches all running in parallel. the usual two plus tim's setup for his wit.

the three experimental cask conditioned beers we brewed up recently and were tapping for the first time. 10 gallons of IPA, split into two batches with different hopping, and 5gal of sweet stout that had merlot-soaked oak cubes added. It was our first attempt at cask conditioning and a definite success. the stout was great, but not yet merlot-y enough. the ipa's were both fantastic and it was tough trying to decide between them. we loved the finish of the amarillo batch, but thought it needed something more on the front end. the simcoe+cascade batch was great, but not as nice on the finish as the other batch. so we ended up with a hybrid of the two: simcoe for FWH and bittering and amarillo the rest of the way.

tim's wit, crushed and ready.

the amarillo ipa in my volo cask fest 2005 glass. just look at that huge, rocky head and the massive chunky lace. it doesn't get much better than that.

tim working the mash for the wit and eric working on the ruination clone.

closeup of the ruination

and tim's wit

there's me checking on the works.

that's me working the mash on the ruination and eric checking the temperature.

damn that looks good.

jenn hooked us up with another great brew day lunch.

the ipa approaching boiling and the ruination rockin' along.

eric skimming the FWH and scum from the ipa. chunky!

tim's wit approaching boiling too.

3 burners with 3 pots and 3 batches of beer.

the ruination looking chunky and angry.

the ipa boiling away too

and the wit.

me checking out one of the beers with the refractometer.

fast forward a few hours. the beers are all in the fermenters and eric and i were relaxing with a few choice beverages. here you have some great lakes blackout stout. damn good stuff.

some of the evening's beers: bushwakker wheatwine in the cool ceramic swingtop, the blackout stout, and a bell's expedition stout. not pictured was a great lakes burning river pale ale and a whole bunch of scotch ale when i wooped eric's ass in some toblero.

the beers (ruination on the back left, ipa's up front), happily fermenting away. fred aging the back corner. that crazy bastard hit 12.17% and 83.78% attenuation.

tim brought his wit home and pitched it there. as you can see, it was really happy and spewing out the airlock.

Posted by grub at 4:32 PM

August 20, 2006

Fred and Co.

Finally, the brew day we've been waiting for has arrived. Quite a while ago Russ and I (Eric) discussed brewing up a clone of Hair of the Dog Fred barleywine. It kicks ass, therefor we must brew it. Circular logic, because if we brew it, it must kick ass. Also on our plate was a Merlot Stout that Russ tried at the Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, and since I'm up for brewing just about anything, a recipe was thrown together. We also decided to brew up 10 gallons of IPA, using two different hopping schedules per 5 gallons, just cause we can, and how else to use the 2 pounds of Simcoe and 2 pounds of Amarillo I picked up from morebeer.com? Actually I could think of a lot of ways but we haven't done a proper IPA in a long while, so we're due.

I arrived around 9:15 am, ready to go, and back at Russ's place we finalized our recipes and weighed out the grain. Turned out we were short on Munich malt, so instead of Munich our IPA got Aromatic malt and some Honey malt, also from morebeer.com. The epic barleycrusher burned through our grains in no time, although the rye malt for the Fred clone was a bitch due to the hardness and size of the grain, although after some intense labour all was well. Just before 11 am we were told Tim had decided to ditch his plans and come help us brew, always great to have an extra set of hands, and he brought some nice beers to sample as well.

The merlot stout was the smallest of the brews so it was mashed/boiled first, came out as expected, and then Fred followed. The brewday worked out really well, due to the long boil on Fred (2 1/2 hours.) That extra time gave us some leeway to get the IPA started and before long everything had fallen into place. Our beers have come out way above gravity due to ridiculous efficiency, but extra boiloff gave us some room to dilute on the IPA. Russ and I had everything in the fermenters and in the basement by 9 pm, with a total of 21 gallons or so fermenting away. This gave us time to sample some more beers, including the nice coffee porter brewed by Russ and Taavi, as well as Russ' cider. A perfect complement while rocking out to Guitar Hero.

Heres our weighed out grain bills for the day. From left to right: IPA, Fred, and Merlot Stout. Looks great.

The excellent barleycrusher chewing away. We're just laughing now while chump homebrews grind by hand.

Another shot of the fabulous barleycrusher, crushing barley.

The Merlot Stout is mashing in the short pot on the left, while sparge water is heating in the converted keg on the right. The plywood is a macgyver'd windshield that Russ whipped up that morning.

Russ looking grim and holding something in his hand.

This is the Merlot Stout during the mash, sure as hell looks like a stout!

The Merlot Stout in the lauter bucket, leaving the cooler free to sparge Fred.

Heres me looking grim/maybe hungover/tired, but all that keeps a brewer on his toes.

Heres Fred being sparged, we sampled a real bottle of the Fred while this happened, and the colour was pretty damn closed.

Heres Tim looking absolutely not grim at all. Ruthless Brewing has convinced me that all homebrewers should have beards.

The remnants of a fantastic lunch, spawning energy to be used creating brewing mayhem. Jenn once again hooked us up with a great lunch.

Me skimming the scum off the Merlot Stout, I can tell its me by the badass New Balance kicks.

Some of the aforementioned mayhem: Thats 2 oz of first wort hops caking up as Fred came to a boil. note that there is about 9.5gal in a 13.5gal converted keg and it's still close to boil over. the beer was clearly angry.

Another shot of that insane angry first wort hop action, Tim is proving its metal by throwing up the horns. \m/ Dethklok roks.

Fred as it begins its 2 1/2 hour journey at a boil. Reduced from 9.5 gallons to 6 gallons.

Another shot of Fred boiling, with the sparge water for the IPA on the other burner.

A shot of the IPA being sparged, and collecting in the brew kettle. Half of this was removed and boiled in the 10 gallon pot, to use different hop schedules.

Another shot of the sweet sweet IPA wort.

Russ and Tim fiddling around on the computer, browsing some Pr0n, err... recipes.

A shot of the brews we sampled over the course of the day. I count 7 Beeradvocate Top 10's in there. Not bad at all.

perkuno's hammer
sinebrychoff porter
dfh 90min
hotd fred
brooklyn monster ale 2005
flying dog horn dog barleywine

not pictured, but we also sampled some Sheaf Stout too.

Nice shot of the fermenter rack Grub built. The two in the front on top are the IPA's, behind that are the Fred and Merlot Stout. On the bottom is the Oaked Wee Heavy, RIS, Wheat Wine and Bastard Child.

Another shot of happy beer in carboys.

Huge krausen on the IPA's, nice and full of hops, the smell was fantastic.

Bunch of corny kegs filled with delicious, delicious beer.

Dedicated brewcorner in Russ' basement, where the action begins and ends.

Russ' beer fridge, has capacity for dispensing 3 corny kegs at the moment, with room for some extra beers.

Nothing greater than a freezer full of hops. Must be 4-5 pounds in there total. All sorts of great stuff.

update by Russ, monday aug 28th.

checked gravities on all 4 beers wed evening. here's the status:

fred has dropped from 1.099 to 1.018. that's 80.54% attenuation and 10.83% abv. oh yeah, and that's before i added the pound of candi sugar, so it should gain another 1.04% abv if that all gets consumed, and maybe more if we got the yeast excited enough. that's a 1.107 OG that should finish no higher than 1.018. yowza. interested to see where this one ends up.

the stout is being somewhat uncooperative. after throwing it on a yeast cake of wyeast 1968 (london esb) it did nothing. still no sign of activity on monday the 21st, so i smacked a fresh pack of 1968 that i had in the fridge, let it swell and pitched it in. it showed some life, but never got a really strong krausen going. it was mostly stopped again by wed when i took gravities. started at 1.062 and was down to 1.023. that's 64.95% attenuation and 5.19% abv. that yeast should hit 67-71% attenuation, but it also might not have been done. i'll see how they look in the next day or so and go from there.

both halves of the ipa are looking good. the simcoe/cascade half started at 1.065 and was down to 1.019, so 69.63% attenuation and 6.09% abv. the amarillo half started at 1.067 and was down to 1.019 too, for 70.49% attenuation and 6.35% abv. might have dropped a little more since. both looking good.

fred will stay in primary for at least a few days, then likely get a longish secondary. right now i'm debating what to do with the others, whether to throw them into a keg now to secondary and carbonate, or transferring to secondary for a week and then into a keg to condition them. should be clearer if i do a real secondary, but i thought the extra yeasties might help speed up conditioning. they're being cask conditioned, so a little residual yeast is ok, as is lower carbonation. at this point i'll probably leave them in primary until thursday and then keg and prime them.

Posted by viggo at 11:02 AM

July 24, 2006

return of the jay

since jayc relocated to PA earlier this year we haven't had him around for any brew days, so when he said he was going to be in town for the weekend it seemed like a great excuse to brew something. we tossed around some recipe ideas and since i had a big bag of wheat and we've got a truckload of hops we decided to try brewing up a wheatwine with lots of amarillo. we put together an initial recipe, aiming for a gravity of 1.121 and over 50% wheat.

on brew day we got setup and weighed everything out. as always, the barley crusher tore through the malt without breaking a sweat. however, when it came time to grind the wheat that wasn't the case. the first problem was that the extremely hard wheat was a little too much for the motor, so we threw the hand crank back on and got to work. that worked for a little while, but then something odd started happening. the hand crank and shaft were turning, but the wheat wasn't moving. we scooped most of the wheat out of the hopper and could see that even though the crank was turning, the roller inside the mill was not. if i turned the crank backwards a little and then went forward it'd grind a little, then stick again. at this point i was panicing that the precious barleycrusher was broken and that we didn't have anywhere near the amount of wheat we wanted. we decided to test whether it'd still crush barley, and it seemed to work fine, which was a relief. so we adjusted the recipe and replaced the unground wheat with maris otter. still a big, badass wheat beer, even if it wasn't quite what we were aiming for. the final recipe for the wheatwine still looks damn good.

when Jenn saw that we had less wheat than we wanted (27% instead of about 55%) she dubbed the beer "mini-wheat" (something i often eat for breakfast). it seemed appropriate, but we kind of laughed it off...

the expected grain bill for the day. on the left about 45% barley, and on the right about 55% malted wheat.

i think this was during mash out...something that involved the mash sitting on the burner.

the hop bill for the day. simcoe and chinook for bittering and lots of amarillo.

mmmm, skum.

just one of the beers jay supplied for the brew day, the liquer de malt. the finest malt liquor i've ever had....but that still doesn't mean it's really all that good. of course, dogfish head knows that all malt liquor should be in 40oz portions and be served from a paper bag. the only problem with this is that it's bottle conditioned and chunky as hell. even carefully pouring into pint glasses, the last glass was pretty chunky. i swear there was whole kernels of corn in there.

jay and i admiring some beer. i can't remember if it was the LdM or not. we drank alot of beer that day.

there's me skimming some skum.

jay loves his malt liquor.

first half of the bittering addition.

admiring the aroma of the hops.

and the second half of the bittering addition.

jay and i spilling some malt liquor "for our homies".

right about now the beer got really angry with us. about 7 gallons in a 15.5 gallon keg and it was ready to boil over.

a long boil that was mostly uneventful, but we didn't have quite as much boil off as we expected so we ended with just over 6gal at 1.088 instead of the 5gal at 1.110 we were expecting...another way this beer taunted us. at this point i accepted the title of "mini-wheat".

the photo above shows the beer less than 4 hours after pitching and already blowing off like mad.

the beers we sampled on the brew day and the previous night. Jan dropped by and brought some authentic czech pilsiners and a bottle of speedway stout. i'll never say no to some alesmith. lots of fine beers, including a bunch of homebrew that wasn't pictured.

sly fox 113 ipa
marin brewing co ipa
lagunitas old gnarleywine
hair of the dog fred from the wood
brooklyn black chocolate stout 03/04
brooklyn black chocolate stout 05/06
dogfish head liquor de malt
alesmith speedway stout
stone 9th anniversary
rye barleywine
original flag porter

after a week this one had dropped from 1.088 to 1.021, which is
74.76% attenuation and 8.92% ABV. tasted fantastic. if i didn't know better i'd swear it had apricots in it. looking forward to drinking this one!

one final note on the barely crusher. even after the trouble i had with the wheat (and the same issue with the rye in our fred clone) i still love this thing. i emailed the manufacturer to tell them about my problems. Randy immediately replied and was very apologetic. he told me that since i had already figured out what the issue was there was no need to return my barley crusher to them for inspection. he said that if i felt OK with taking my mill apart and installing a new roller he'd ship me one out right away, otherwise i could return the mill to them and they'd happily install and return it to me. i gave him my info and less than a week after i emailed them i had the new roller in my hand. not only does the barley crusher kick ass, the lifetime warantee and customer service are also awesome. as their website says, homebrewers can be sure that "this will be the only grain mill they will ever purchase!". i still can't recommend them highly enough. buy a barley crusher. you will be very happy you did.

Posted by grub at 8:38 AM

July 4, 2006

the bastard child is born

this saturday rob and i celebrated canada day by brewing up a batch of beer. when it looked like nobody was available for last weekend's brew day, i sent out an email asking about everyone's availability and inquiring as to whether we should postpone. as it turned out, the only person available to brew this weekend was rob, and since rob doesn't make it out to brew with us very often i decided that we should definitely brew somewhere on the 1st so he'd be included. since i was the only other person available, that meant brewing at my place.

since it was just rob and i, we started talking about our recipe options. rob didn't feel like the chocolate vanilla stout from his wishlist, but said he'd be interested in an IPA or something for the summer. since we hadn't done an IPA since last fall, i thought it was a good idea, and i even had yeast (wyeast 1056) and a variety of hops that would go great in an american IPA. his other suggestion was to make an arrogant bastard clone. i have read a few discussions on cloning the bastard on the homebrewing forum at beer advocate, so i knew that the recipe would require lots of chinook, a hop i didn't have on hand. a little searching and i found a good clone recipe that seemed to have lots of positive response (both on that site and beer advocate). however, i also didn't have the 120L crystal that was required. i quickly checked out paddock wood and was in luck: they sell both extra dark crystal at 125L and chinook. in total the order would come to about $20 for 1kg of crystal and 6oz of chinook. both rob and i were ok with the slightly higher cost for the batch, so i finalized our recipe and placed the order.

rob arrived shortly before 10am on saturday. i'd already measured out our water and had it heating and was working on weighing out the grain. finished off my bag of maris otter, so we had to suppliment with 10.8# of the generic british 2-row. with more than half maris otter and all the crystal and chinook, i'm guessing we won't notice the difference.

the day went smoothly, with the only real problem being the wind. it was so windy that it seemed to take forever to heat things up (heating water, mashing out, boiling). it took 2 hours for the 14 gallons to reach a boil, which is much longer than usual. i kept turning up the burner, but it didn't seem to matter much. i wasn't too suprised by this when we were cleaning up and i saw that the bottom of the kettle was completely clean. usually the outside is black from the burner and sometimes the inside gets at least a little bit of stuff, but today both were clean. we just weren't getting very efficient heating with the wind. not really a big deal though, since it just meant that we were able to sit around and relax. rob especially appreciated this, since his last two brew days were the insanely long and very cold imperial stout/rochefort brew day in november and the insanely hot and fairly long ipa/scottish brew day last june. sitting around and relaxing on a nice breezy saturday afternoon was certainly enjoyable.

by 7pm the cleanup was done and the carboys each had 5.5 gallons of our bastard child, aerated and pitched with a big starter of wyeast 1056.

after doughing in, you see rob checking the temp and me manning the mash paddle. we were still a little shy of our target temp, so we had to throw it on the burner for a bit to bring it up to 155F.

brew day snacks, and healthy ones too! jenn always takes care of us, making sure we've got food and beverages on brew day. today it was some strawberries and cherries. tasty!

this time we're doing our mash out, with rob again watching the temperature and me stirring away. the first where we were actually working, and then posing for the photo.

looking good already.

with the mash out done, we loaded up the tun and got ready to sparge.

first runnings. didn't take long for this to start running clear. great colour too.

and a while later we had collected 14 gallons, so that following the 90 min boil we'd end up with about 11 gallons of sweet tasty wort.

the hop bill for this recipe is simple: an assload of chinook. that works out to 2.5oz at 90min, 2oz at 30min, and 1.5oz at flameout.

on the burner and starting the (slow) journey towards boiling. here we see the first bit of hot break forming on the surface.

rob showing off my arrogant bastard pint glass, containing a bit of ed fitz. upon taking his first sip, rob said something along the lines of "oh my god, that's fucking awesome". exactly the sort of review i like to hear.

finally boiling. it was quite windy out, so it took about 2 hours to reach boiling. i really need to make some kind of a wind screen for the burner for days like this.

guess the burner managed to get pretty hot, because one of the feet sunk into the driveway about an inch, and the others made a smaller impression.

the tree next door was dropping pollen all day, and with the wind it was really getting everywhere (including into the boil pot). i joked that we would have to add "pollen" to the recipe. realistically, i don't think enough got in to have any real effect.

just about done the boil. you can see the hops (4.5oz at this point) rolling along.

a shot of our handy measuring stick. i took a piece of 1/2" dowel that was laying around and measured 1 gallon increments. i made a notch at each point, then cut in roman numerals to indicate every two gallons. works with our three converted kegs, and for the other 10 gallon pot we just use the stick and a tape measure.

the beer going into the carboys. we ended up with 11 gallons at 1.078 for 88% efficiency.

both carboys got aerated for about 90 seconds with pure oxygen through a 0.5 micron diffusion stone, then got a nice big starter of wyeast 1056.

Posted by grub at 10:59 PM

June 24, 2006

wee heavy + coffee porter mayhem!

today was another brew day. the plan for today was two follow-on batches using the yeast cakes from the "single malt scotch" ale: an oaked wee heavy (our first time using oak) and eric's project, a clone of Hair of the Dog's Fred. unfortunately, eric is having more back troubles, and between that and scheduling issues he wasn't able to come out today. so i threw his half of the yeast cake in the fridge for later use, and decided to go ahead with the wee heavy. eric also recently graduated and has joined the "real world". i don't think he's enjoying the schedule as much as student life ;)

since none of the biergotter regulars were available, i asked taavi if he'd like to come out again for the brew day. that's when he let me know that he'd recently got engaged and asked if i'd consider making all the beer for his wedding. i congradulated him and said that it would be an interesting and fun project. since the wedding is scheduled for august of next year, we had lots of time to decide on recipes and do some trial batches. i think that the bulk of the beer will be something along the lines of our pale ale, but we'll probably also do a batch or two for those with more "educated" tastes. when i asked about what sort of things he likes to drink, the first thing he mentioned was mill street's coffee porter. as i love almost all things porter, including mill street's porter, and i've long been considering trying a coffee porter, i was definitely interested. i started with our sweet johnny porter and came up with what i'm currently calling java johnny porter. it's a fairly straight robust porter, but i'll be cold steeping some coffee and adding it at bottling time. delicious!

the day started around 9:00am. i went out to the garage to set things up for the brew day and found that almost everything was covered in a layer of dirt, shingle bits, and wood chips. we had our roof redone yesterday, and it appears that all kinds of crap rained down when they were stripping off the old shingles. maybe it's only really an issue since our roof was definitely past its prime. taavi arrived at about 9:30, which turned out to be perfect timing as i'd just finished cleanup and had started weighing out the grain for the two batches.

the other change for today was no more protein rests. so far we've been doing them with all of our all-grain batches, but as i've learned more i don't think it's necessary. these days malts are very well modified, so in general there's no need to do a protein rest. i tested this out on our last brew day, skipping this rest for the pale ale v2. it turned out just as good as the previous run and we had no problems with efficiency either.

our usual brew day procedure is heat up 1 quart of water per pound of grain to 130F, mix well, and when we're not at 122F we'd heat it to reach that point. this would rest for 30 minutes. then we'd boil 1/2 quart of water per pound of grain, add that and then heat it until the grain is at the desired temp for the saccarification rest (150F-160F) and rest there for an hour. with the last brew of the pale ale, i did the same thing, but without a rest between adding the 1 qt/lb at 130F and adding the 1/2 qt/lb at boiling. that worked out ok, but is kind of annoying. this time i decided to try out a feature in promash that i've never used before, the strike temp too. this thing is pretty cool. i stuck in the mash tun thermal mass (i used 0 as a first try), total grain weight, water/grain ratio or total water, the desired strike temp, and the current grain temp. i did this for the two batches and when i did the dough in both batches exactly hit their target temps for the sacc rest. this was much easier (and faster) than our usual procedure.

started both batches pretty much at the same time, with the sacc rest for the wee heavy starting about 15min before the porter. i wanted to run them pretty much in parallel to minimize time for the brew day, but then realized that the one thing i can't do in parallel is chilling, and with the extra 30min on the boil of hte wee heavy, i'd have them finsihing at almost the same time. however, that didn't account for differences in the time to sparge both of them. the smaller grain bill on the porter and the bucket tun made the grain bed set quickly and the sparge on this one was done quite fast. actually ended up with the porter reaching a boil 30min before the wee heavy, and with the extra boil time on the wee heavy it meant we ended up with an hour between when the two would finish. just enough time to chill the porter, transfer it into the fermenter, and get ready for the second batch.

when the yeast was pitched and everything was cleaned up it wasn't even 5:00pm yet. pretty good for two batches.

on with the photos!

the barley crusher tearing through some grain. man i love this thing. best brewing investment so far.

the wee heavy grain, waiting for dough in.

water for the wee heavy rising towards the target of 167F.

jenn came out to say hello and checked on the water for the porter.

exterior view of the new bucket tun, for use with "small" batches (under 15#).

interior view of the tun. the manifold is a ring of soft copper tubing with slits cut about every quarter inch, then a small piece of tubing joining it with one end of the hose barb. the other end of the hose barb goes out through a hole in the side of the bucket and has a hose attached for collecting sweet sweet wort. there's also a few pieces from the old cooler manifold, which finally died after the last batch. one piece raises it up off the bottom of the bucket, the other lifts it and helps push it away from the side, closer to the center of the bucket.

the new copper manifold for the cooler. the two pieces in the center are scraps that are used for positioning the manifold in the center of the tun and raised up off the bottom.

that's me positioning the new maifold in the cooler. the first piece of copper tubing is used to lift it off the bottom of the cooler and help keep the rubber stopper in place.

final position of the tun. there's an elbow and small piece of tubing on the upper left end to hold it away from the side and off the bottom. the outlet is actually hidden at the lower right end of the photo.

that's me again, this time checking on the vorlauf of the porter. already nice and clear!

collecting the sweet sweet wort for the porter.

and collection for the wee heavy.

close up view of the porter. note the adjustable wrench on the right hand side of the image. picked up this tip from one of the guys who sent us an ask biergotter message. richard dropped us a note and tim and i went out to visit one of his brew days. we sampled some of each other's beers and traded stories. when i first noticed him using an adjustable wrench to control the flow from his tun i thought it was a little odd, but then i tried it out and it's great. hose clamps never seem to stop in just the right spot, but wiht the adjustable wrench you can set it to exactly where you want.

close up on the wee heavy too. another adjustable wrench in use here too.

promash and lunch: sausages, munchos, and the resurrection of the edmund fitzgerald. damn this stuff is good!

hops ready for addition. on the left is the 15min and 0min fuggle additions for the porter (60min addition of northdown had already gone in), and on the right is the 90min northern brewer addition and 10min fuggle addition for the wee heavy.

the porter, happily boiling away.

the wee heavy, not quite boiling yet.

shinny copper manifolds!

the porter heading into the fermenter. taavi looks like a proud father with his first beer.

damn your eyes, porter!

the remains of the scotch ale. about a half gallon of beer and a whole lot of yeasty goodness.

the wee heavy heading into the fermenter.

post brew day carnage. 3 kegs in front, one of the two propane tanks, cooler tun, two burners and extra grain under the table, two 5gal pots and one 10gal pot, bucket tun, bin with all the odds and ends.

both batches in the fermenters. porter on the left and wee heavy on the right.

next up: rob and i will be brewing up 10 gallons of an arrogant bastard clone. chinooky goodness!

Posted by grub at 7:05 PM

June 12, 2006

better late than never

couldn't decide what to call this entry, but since i've been procrastinating putting it up for over a week, this one seemed appropriate.

so june 3rd was another biergotter brew day. tim and eric came out to my place bright and early. the plan for the day was two 10 gallon batches. the first would be a rebrew of the pale ale that i brewed a few months ago, pale ale v2.

the second batch was an experiment that i've been considering for a while, a scotch ale using peat and smoked malts and using some oak, taking some of the character from my favourite single malt scotches and applying that to beer. since none of us has worked with smoked malts or oak before, we decided to simplify things a bit and save the oak for another batch. after a bit of research i came up with the recipe for v1 of the "single malt scotch" ale.

up in the toronto area (really, all of southwestern ontario) it's pretty hard to find any good hombrewing supplies. tons of wine shops, but no good beer shops. as a result, it usually means when one of us is in windsor we'll make a trip over to the detroit area for supplies.

after reading this post on beeradvocate about a place called "Adventures in Homebrewing" selling corny kegs for $13, i started looking for their website. sure enough, within a few minutes google had pointed me to the Adventures in Homebrewing website. poking around on their site i found that they had much more than just good deals on corny kegs (which are now $15, and still a good deal). I emailed them and got a quick, friendly reply from Jason. then eric emailed him to get a kegerator setup, and jason hooked him up too. i was initally planning to hit there for hardware and make another stop for ingredients, but i was able to find just about everything i could imagine at their shop, so i just went there.

with the recipes in hand, i made the trip over to detroit to check out a adventures. As Jason had told me, Matt was working when i arrived. he was just finishing up eric's order and was very helpful as i gathered up all of the stuff i needed. tim also decided to go with the same thing that eric was getting, so Matt worked on getting everything for his order. they were even nice enough to assemble the towers for us (and watching him do it, i'm glad: it looked like a pain in the ass).

so i'd be happy to recommend Adventures in Homebrewing to anyone in the detroit area looking for a LHBS, and also to anyone looking for a good place for mail order. can't beat the price of those kegs!

anyway, the brew day started off a bit rocky, with tim and eric getting a little lost and arriving a half hour late, but my newly-motorized barley crusher made up for that in no time. it took us all of 15 minutes to weigh out the grain for both batches and grind it all. sweet!

the rest of the brew day went fairly smoothly (other than somehow managing to forget to mashout the pale ale) and we even finished up earlier than usual. jan stopped by after he finished work and got to check out the end of the day.

we got to sample some neat beers too. jayc supplied us with a bottle of weyerbacher double simcoe ipa and decadence. we compared this with our dipa, dry hopped with simcoe. the decadence was interesting, and the double simcoe ipa was damn tasty. i should also thank jay for the homebrew too, since i finished off my stash a while ago and he hooked me up with some of his stash.

didn't take too many photos, but here they are.

my 'turkey fryer' burner. the outer ring is exactly the same size as the ring on the bottom of our keg kettles, so they don't fit properly on it. i added some brackets to create about a 3" border around the edge and allowing the kegs to sit on top happily. cost about $6 and worked great!

the motorized barley crusher, waiting for action...

...and running at full speed. eric's topping it up as it runs. tore through the 16# grain bill for the pale ale in record speed.

eric weighing out the grain for the scotch ale. look at the mess he's making! oh wait, i did that earlier...

tim, and the maiden voyage of his cooler tun. it's currently filled with the mash for the pale ale.

starting collection of the pale after finishing vorlauf.

i think this was mashing out on the scotch ale. definitely not mash out on the pale since we forgot to do that, and you just saw it being sparged.

tim starting to load his tun up with the mash for the scotch ale. you can see the nice copper manifold that he built for it. worked out pretty well. i've got one about 75% done for jay's cooler, and a soft copper coil for a smaller bucket tun. the old soft copper manifold from jay's cooler finally died after the ed fitz brew day and jayw has the bucket tun down in windsor for him to do some brewing. since he's a proud new daddy we're not sure how soon that'll happen :)

and then we jump ahead to 24 hours after pitching. that's the "single malt scotch" ale. a week later it's still got a nice head of krausen on top, which i expected as i know that the scottish strain is fairly slow. the current plan is to transfer it to secondary on june 24th, when eric and i will be brewing up 5 gallons each of a wee heavy and a hair of the dog fred clone, with each of them going onto one of the yeast cakes from the scottish. looks like jan will come back for the full brew day experience on that one. always good to get other people hooked!

and the pale ale. after 8 days in primary it had dropped from 1.045 down to 1.011, which is 74.86% attenuation and 4.47% abv. also saved the yeast cake for some future adventure.

Posted by grub at 11:30 PM

April 15, 2006

raising the edmund fitzgerald

an easter weekend brew day for the biergotter crew, even if there were only two of us present today. that's ok, the beer goes farther when you only split it two ways! :)

eric and i tossed around a bunch of ideas about what to brew, but last weekend when he said 'hey, we should do a clone of ed fitz', (referring to the fantastic Edmund Fitzgerald porter by the Great Lakes Brewing Co) i was sold. porters are my favourite style, and ed fitz is one of my all-time favourite beers, so it didn't take much convincing. i found some info about the ingredients and what was supposed to be a close recipe, and went shopping. hit the usual wine and beer factory for some yeast, hops, and grain on tuesday and we were set.

today also gave me a chance to try out some new hardware: my shiny new barley crusher grain mill, the deep-discount stir plate and glassware, and a nice oak mash paddle that i made this week (post on that to follow). the barley crusher was kickass, and tore through the grain in no time (even with cranking it by hand). crush looked great with the factory setting and efficiency is right around where i expected. the stir plate led to a boatload of really happy yeast. and the paddle worked out even better than i thought it would.

also present for part of today were a couple of guests, rob and taavi. both are interested in learning more about brewing, so i invited them to drop by and see how we do things.

on with the photos!

two of the stars of the show: the stir plate and barley crusher. smacked the yeast thursday morning and transferred it into a starter thursday night just before taking this photo.

mmmm, portery goodness. nice color, even on the head. this is the grain during the saccarification rest.

rob (left) and eric (right), consuming some much-needed coffee. note the handle of the mash paddle sticking out of the keg on the left. more photos of it in a second.

heating it up for mash out.

eric stirring the mash.

closer view of the mash paddle, made from a piece of red oak. it worked much better than the broom handle we've been using.

a couple quality shots of me cleaning out the tun, transferring the spent grain to a clear garbage bag so it can go out with our organic recycling. eric needs a little more practice with the camera (although he'd probably blame his hangover).

not one, not two, but THREE shots of the hot liquor on its way towards the boil. i think this was about when rob and eric said it'd be boiling "anytime now". it actually started boiling about 45minutes later. the wind seemed to make things heat up kind of slowly, and led to a larger boil off than we expected. more on that later.

so the barley crusher is supposed to fit nicely on top of a 5 gallon pail. lets just say that it doesn't work quite as well on a 6.5 gallon pail. started trying to turn the crank and promptly flipped the barely crusher, spilling about a half pound of pale malt all over the garage floor. oh well, we figured our efficiency would make up for it (and it did). this won't be an issue once i get around to motorizing it...

here we have rob skimming the hot break. mmm, skum.

eric and taavi monitoring the first carboy as it fills.

me, keeping an eye on the racking cane and trying to keep it out of the sludge at the bottom of the kettle. can you tell porter makes me happy?

two shots of the starter, just prior to pitching. stepped it up on friday, so by pitching time it was full of nice, happy yeast.

the two carboys after about 90 seconds of pure oxygen from the 0.5micron diffusion stone and pitching the yeast. fitted with blowoffs and ready for what i expect to be a fast and vigorous ferment.

when the day was done we had 10.5 gallons of wort at 1.075. woops! we were aiming for 1.058 from 80% efficiency (which should have gave us about 5.8-6.0%abv), but actually hit 81%. pre-boil we had about 13.2 gallons at 1.053, which looked fine, but we lost almost 3 gallons during the 90 minute boil. so that put us at 1.075, which will likely put it closer to 7.5%abv. oh well, if it turns out anywhere close to ed fitz we'll be pretty darn happy.

oh yeah, here's the recipe. enjoy!

Posted by grub at 11:54 PM

March 11, 2006

first brew day of 2006

it feels like ages since our last brew day in november, so at the beginning of the week when the weather man started talking about saturday being unusually warm and the only sunny day all week, my interest was piqued. i thought it was too good to be true, but as i checked each day they were consistently saying the same thing: warm and sunny on saturday, rain the rest of the week. by thurdsay it was decided: saturday would be the first brew day of 2006!

for a while now i've been curious to try a solo brew day. so far all the brewing i've done had been with one or more of the other biergotter guys, but i figured at some point the time would come when i'd want to brew a batch and nobody else was available. so i figured i'd try my luck with a single 5 gallon batch. with most of our equipment stored at my place, i had everything i knew i'd be set in that department. i've got a small stock of grain, so i figured i'd have just about everything i'd need for a batch of this size. i had a bit of hops, but not enough to really do anything with. yeast would be a problem, but i could make a run to the wine and beer factory and see what they had in stock. i know they usually stock Wyeast liquid yeast, and worst case i could always grab some dry yeast and give that a whirl. we usually use White Labs liquid yeast, but i've heard many great reviews of the Wyeast stuff from the guys in the homebrew forum on Beer Advocate.

when i arrived at the shop thursday evening the (new) owner was very apologetic because his yeast selection was limited, and the most recent stuff had expiry dates of nov 30th, 2005. however, he said he'd give me a discount because of this. i flipped through the selection and was able to find two packages of wyeast 1968, London ESB ale yeast, both with the nov 30th expiration. i knew the rule of thumb for Wyeast was to allow an extra day of swelling for each month past the expiration date, but since i was planning to brew on saturday i didn't want to take a chance of having a dud. so i bought both packages and he only charged me for one! great deal. i grabbed some hops and a pound of carapils and headed for home.

when i got home i smacked both packs (making sure that the nutrient pouch had burst) and stuck them in the pocket of my sweatshirt to incubate. within a couple hours they were visibly swelling, and by the time i went to bed they were both about an inch thick. when i woke up friday morning it looked like they were going to burst at any moment, so i quickly boiled up some DME, cooled it, and pitched both packs in. i gave it a really good shake to make sure it was aerated well. no turning back now! after work i got the garage setup for brew day and went to bed early, excited for the brew day.

saturday morning i woke up around 8:30am, grabbed some breakfast, and headed outside to get started at about 9:30. it felt odd only weighing out a total of 8.5 pounds of grain, especially after stuff like our imperial stout that was 45 pounds for a 10 gallon batch (about triple the size of this one). oh yeah, this batch is an attempt at a "small" beer, an english pale ale that should finish at about 4% ABV. In the last 6 month we've done lots of "big" beers (high gravity/high alcohol). we did try an english bitter in october, but we weren't all that happy with how it turned out. it was ok, especially considering it was basically "free" (second runnings from our DIPA), but with it being about half DME it just didn't have the malt backbone to stand up at that gravity. This time it was all grain, with Maris Otter as the base malt, so i figured it'd be alot better off. Also used an english yeast rather than the more generic White Labs California Ale yeast, which should make a big difference.

overall the day went pretty smoothly. no real problems to report. hit all my temps ok. probably the biggest "problem" was that i hit 85% efficiency, so instead of being around 1.043ish it ended up being 1.050. i had accounted for it still being in the same area if i got as high as 80% efficiency (which we have on several occasions), but hitting 85% threw it off a bit. oh well, worse things could happen...

so by 5pm i was done with cleanup and the wort had been aerated and the yeast was pitched. hopefully it'll be rockin' along in no time.

on with the photos!

8.5 pounds of grain, crushed and ready.

after the first infusion (1qt per pound). time for the 30 min protein rest at 122F/50C.

after the second infusion (0.5qt per pound), i wasn't quite up to the 150F i wanted for my mash, so i had to throw it on the heat to bring it up to temp.

checking the temp... not quite there yet.

stir stir stir. don't want to overshoot my target temperature.

after the 1 hour sacch. rest, it's time to bring it up to 170F for mash out.

here's our bucket tun filled and ready for sparge. the bucket works great for up to a 15 pound grain bill, so it was more than enough to handle the 8.5 pounds for this batch. no need to use the cooler tun (which is in the background of this photo).

done with the vourlaf, so time to start collecting wort.

the usual tin foil top cover on the tun. poke some holes and you'll be sure to avoid any channelling or over-compacting the grain bed.

now the pot is on for the boil. notice the pot and strainer for skimming the hot break as we approach the boil.

the pre-boil gravity sample, with a shiny new hydrometer. i put the old one in the sample, and about a second later i saw a stream of air bubbles coming up from the bottom of the hydrometer. i quickly pulled it out and noticed a small crack in the bottom. fortunately, jenn was nice enough to run over to the local wine shop and grab me a new hydrometer while i monitored the boiling wort. the hydrometer read 1.034 at 93F, which works out to 1.039. with 7 gallons of wort collected, that means i hit 85% efficiency. nice!

wort chiller in action.

the nicely cooled wort going into the carboy.

the carboy down in the basement after a minute of pure oxygen. that'll make the yeast nice and happy.

speaking of yeast, here's the stars of the show. i decanted off most of the spent starter wort this afternoon, then took about a quart of wort from the pot and boiled it for about 15min, then cooled it and added it to the starter. by pitching time the yeast was happy and ready to conquer some wort, even if it's a small one.

here's the beer-in-training after aeration and pitching the starter. it's got lots of headspace, but i fitted it with a blowoff tube anyway.

so there it is. my first solo brew day was a success. lets hope the resulting beer turns out well!

Posted by grub at 7:49 PM

November 27, 2005

frozen brewing

Yesterday was another brew day for the biergotter crew, and an interesting one it was. The day got off to a bit of a rocky start. we were planning to get started around 9am, and at 8:30 i got a call from Rob. he had slept through his alarm and was still in waterloo (approx 2 hours away), so he was going to be late. since he was picking Tim up on the way, that left Jayc and i to get things rolling in their absence. with two batches planned for the day, we knew it was going to be a long one. jay and i finalized the details of the recipes for the day while watching friday's episode of aqua teen hunger force, and started to work.

as it turned out, tim and rob got to within 5min of my house, but got stopped by a parade. apparently i was smack in the middle of the parade route that bounded the major roads in all 4 directions. by the time they managed to get through that and find there way to my place they were nearly 3 hours late. we told rob that the moral of the story was to wake up when the alarm went off so that you didn't hit the parade, but he was still unhappy :)

by that point we had the first batch, a Rochefort 10 clone, well underway. unfortunately, since we were kept kind of busy with this we didn't really start working on the other batch, a badass imperial stout, until after rob and tim arrived. we finished grinding the grain for the stout around 2pm. by this point the Rochefort was mostly finished, so we were free to focus our attention on this batch.

for the stout we had big ideas. until now we've been limited to a 30 pound maximum for our grain bill due to the size of our cooler tun. this works out great for 5 gallon batches, but is limiting when working on a 10 gallon batch of something with high gravity. we've used sugar and dry malt extract in the past to boost up gravity, but this time we wanted to do it purely with grain. we also have an older smaller tun in a bucket that holds about 15 pounds of grain, so we decided to go for a 45 pound batch and just use both tuns. we figured the easiest way to do this was to treat the beer as two separate batches, splitting the grain bill so that 2/3 of the pale malt went into each batch, and then just split up the specialty grains between them. we decided that to give the impy a little more body and malty character we would use the smaller 15# batch and mash it higher. we also thought that instead of just running both tuns into the kettle it would be more exciting to do it "doble" style, running the liquor from the "high" tun down into the "low" one (see photos below).

the grain bill was split so the "low" mash was 21# of 2 row along with the brown, biscuit, and victory malts (total 30#). the "high" mash was the remaining 10.5# of 2 row and the chocolate, black patent, crystal, and roasted barley. the "low" batch was mashed at 152F, the "high" batch at 158F. The runnings from the "high" mash flowed into the "low" mash. sparge water was added to the "high" mash and it worked its way down into the "low" tun. about 14.75 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.083 was collected. At this point the runnings from the "low" tun were still fairly high, so we gathered an additional 2 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.050. The extra 2 gallons was boiled down until less than 0.5 gallon remained. we tried to take a gravity of this "magic elixer" and found that our hydrometer only went up to 1.170. At 120F, that works out to 1.180, so we know it was at least that. we took 1 quart of this and added it to the main wort at flameout. even with a 90 min boil on the wort we only boild off about 2 gallons, which yielded 12 gallons going into primary, with the remaining gallon donated to the beer gods...

Everyone brought beer to sample. on hand were our most recent ipa (brewed in september), our scottish ale (brewed in june), zywiec porter, bell's 20th anniversary ale, dark horse crooked tree ipa (which makes me think of pavement), ommegang hennepin ale, stoudt's double ipa, stoudt's fat dog imperial oatmeal stout, and stoudt's scarlet lady ale esb. an interesting mix of beer that we all enjoyed.

lots of new records for us today:
-latest brew day (nov 26)
-coldest brew day (-3C)
-longest brew day (9am-2am)
-largest grain bill (45#)
-highest gravity all grain (1.100)
-highest yearly brew total (~75 gallons)

on with the photos...

yes, it's winter here in the toronto area, with several inches of snow falling over the last few days. it was fairly cold (slightly below freezing), but there was no wind so the weather wasn't too bad for brewing. first infusion of water for the Rochefort heating up on the burner.

jay grinding the grain for the rochefort clone.

the 15# grain bill waiting for its first infusion.

i overshot the temp on the first infusion, so took advantage of the cold weather to help cool it down. this wasn't happening quite fast enough so i ended up pulling a couple quarts and replacing it with cold water. this brought us right where we wanted. this was our coldest brew day, and because the grain and equipment was all pretty cold we had to adjust for this, going with slightly higher temps for each infusion in order to make sure we hit the correct temperature. the protein rests were fine, but we needed some heating to bring us up to saccharification temps. we also had to keep a closer eye on our temperatures, giving a bit of heat around 40 minutes into the sacc. rest.

the bag of maris otter waiting for use in the stout. our usual 2-row is a bit thin and unexciting, so we decided to find some maris otter for this batch. as it turned out, it's even cheaper than what we're currently useing. we have to head over to detroit to get it, but considering most of us end up in windsor fairly regularly that's not a problem. we'll be using alot more of this in the future.

heating up the rochefort to mash out temperature.

jay stirring the pot, and the arrival of rob (on the left) and tim (right).

we didn't waste any time putting them to work. here's rob working on the grind for the stout. can you tell he's injoying it?

here's the rochefort approaching boil and tim skimming the skum.

the grain for the stout, crushed and ready. the "low" one on the left, and the "high" on the right.

the rochefort in full boil.

tim checking the temps for one of the first infusion on the stout.

we moved the burners into the garage to help keep us warm. my burner is right inside as it doesn't get nearly as hot as jay's jet burner. we kept his closer to the door as it gets pretty hot.

rob's really excited about the stout. here you see him checking on them. sort of looks like he's trying to guard them from everyone else and keep them for himself...

mmmm...tasty. can you tell which one has all the roasted grains?

chiller ready for action. had to bring the hoses in the house for a while to thaw them out before we could do this. then we left the chiller sitting out for a few hours and it turned into a rock, so we had to bring it inside to thaw out too.

the tuns setup and waiting. the "high" tun was also elevated with respect to the "low" one, so it's more than just mash temp.

mashing out on the "low" pot.

the tuns filled and waiting. check out how black the flow from the "high" tun is.

yep, light isn't even getting through it. hopefully the final product will be this impressive!

that's me (russ) dumping the last of the mash into the cooler.

jay prepping the tinfoil on top of the 'high' tun. think he's having fun?

the runnings from the "high" tun quickly turned the "low" one black.

tasty hot black liquor.

can't get enough pics of this setup. the flow from the "high" tun stayed super black all the way to the end, and it didn't take long before the "low" tun looked the same.

tim on skimming duty again. we had to be really careful with this one as it's the fullest we've ever pushed our kettle. at just shy of 15 gallons, there wasn't much headspace if it decided to boil over. fortunately after skimming most of the hot break we didn't have much trouble.

by the time we got the imperial stout up to a boil it was after 10pm. it'd been dark for hours, and especially with the steam we had to use a flashlight to see what we were doing. here we see jay helping tim see the skum for skimming.

this is the pot of what we were calling the "magic elixer". the final 2 gallons of runnings were put on to boil, and probably spent about 2 hours boiling while the main wort got up to and ran its 90 minute boil. the result was under a half gallon of super sweet liquor. it tasted alot like molasses, with strong hints of caramel and licorice.

we decided to use a quart of the elixer, adding it to the main wort at flame out.

frost on the propane tank...think it was cold?

so when the day was done it was 2am and we had 12 gallons of imperial stout and 6 gallons of our rochefort 10 clone. all were aerated with oxygen and a 0.5micron stone for about a minute, then again after 10 and 14 hours. the plan is to dissolve a pound of candi sugar and add it to the primary after a few days, then add the second pound a few days later.

stay tuned for fermentation photos...

update: nov 28/2005, 8:30pm

just took some photos of the fermentataion, and they're both looking great!

this is the rochefort clone. it's in an extra-large carboy, so there's plenty of head space. even so, there's a serious layer of krausen on top.

damn that impy looks fine. it's blowing off like mad and making a mess in the pot. good use for the aluminum pot that came with my "turkey fryer" burner.

Posted by grub at 1:29 PM

October 31, 2005

brewing the club seasonal

another brew day for the biergotter crew. this time around it was our "club seasonal", a spiced imperial porter for the holidays. on hand for today's festivities were tim, jayc, jayw, eric, and me (russ). Tim's brother-in-law also dropped by for a bit to observe the magic that is all grain brewing.

we had a keg of our mild english bitter on tap for the day. This kept things interesting as the hops kept clogging up the works. we'd fill a pitcher until it came to a stop, then reverse the disconnects so we could "blow out" the outlet with co2, and keep going until it clogged again. by the time we got half way down the keg it was pretty much stuck and there wasn't much we could do to get it moving. so we popped the keg open and just poured it through a strainer and into pitchers. it was supposed to be lightly carbonated, so this worked out ok. next time we'll be sure to bag the hops before adding to the keg...small oversight in our first attempt at keg hopping.

with several of the biergotter crew at halloween parties the night before, tim and i volunteered to get things started early and let the other guys arrive a bit later. unfortunately, due to commitments with the Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre rob wasn't able to join us for the day. he's been pretty busy with the theatre rebuild project and hasn't been able to take part in much brewing lately, but he tells us that he'll soon be rejoining us for some brewing fun. we still managed to arrange a time when jayw would be up visiting from windsor, so we went ahead with everyone else.

on to the photos!

"wheezy", the biergotter dog. actually, her name is nico, but she does wheeze alot. she mostly just layed around in the sun, but did try to take on several dogs approximately 20 times her size. fortunately we kept an eye on her and didn't let her get into too much trouble.

stirring up the mash to make sure the temp is up to saccharification temp of 155-156F.

jayc stirring the mash, eric drinking some of the bitter, jayw in his fine pirate hat also sampling the bitter, and tim striking a pose.

stir stir stir. still using a wood broomstick while we continue to search for a nice stainless paddle.

bringing the kettle up to 170F for mash out. pretty excellent color. guess that's what you get with a pound of black patent and a pound and a half of chocolate malt...

after vorlauf we started to collect some wonderfully black porter. well, i guess at this point it's still just "porter in training".

the tun full of 31 pounds of grainy goodness. that's jayc in the background keeping an eye on the flow.

still going. we got pretty close to a stuck sparge on this one. we had the flow going nice and slow, but it was gradually getting slower. even running wide open it was slowing to a trickle. we checked and found that the grain bed had really compacted down, so we stopped the sparge and gently stirred the mash, careful not to knock the manifold out. after another quick vorlauf we got it going again. it continued to flow slowly, but it was steady so we let it go. eventually we had 14 gallons of sweet tasty wort at a pre-boil gravity of 1.071.

standing around and waiting for the sparge. it took eric 5 tries to get a decent photo, but eventually he managed this one. from left to right we have tim, jayc, me (russ), and jayw. yar.

time to fire up the burner and get the boil going.

jayc skimming the hot break and eric showing off the bitter.

yay skum skimmin'. since we started doing this we've never had a boil over. highly recommended!

half way through the boil. can see the deep brown/green color of the head and first hop addition.

the jays. in case you were wondering, jayw was wearing the fine pirate hat from the costume that he wore to a halloween party the night before. he went as a priest from the church of the flying spagetti monster, wearing the appropriate full pirate regalia. he didn't go to bed until 4am, and then after a daylight savings mishap was awake at 7am. he was feeling a little rough, so we just kept filling him with bitter.

since it today is halloween we had some candy and party favours (prepared by jenn) on hand for the brew day. this one shows jayc trying out his new flashlight. oooh, frightening cat!

jayw had a frightening glowing red bat.

ooohh! scary!

jay with the bat, tim with his red skull necklace.

eric also testing out his flashlight. i think there's supposed to be two visible flashlights showing cats, but it's pretty hard to see...

eric enjoyed the bitter a little too much. i suppose it didn't help that we kept telling everyone who wasn't driving that they needed to finish the keg before they could leave. by the end of the night we were taking bets that he was going to be sick in jayc's car on the way home...

so the day went pretty smoothly, and when all was cleaned up we had about 11 gallons of 1.077 wort, lightly spiced and going into fermentation with two huge starters of white labs irish ale yeast. we're hoping to have half of this in bottles, and the other half on tap for new years eve!

Posted by grub at 10:11 PM

October 3, 2005

fermentation update

24 hour update...

the two DIPA's at the 24 hour mark. fermenting away happily.

the mild english bitter. still slow, but it's going...

beers we brewed up a couple weeks ago. the barleywine on the left still chugging along, and IPA on the right.

now we see the the bitter at the 48 hour mark, foaming all over and making a mess. after a little dry hopping with some fuggles, this one will be on tap when we brew our club seasonal oct 30th.

the two double IPAs fermenting up a storm.

barleywine and ipa still happy.

Posted by grub at 8:46 PM

October 1, 2005

mild and wild

brew day number two at my new house. on tap this time was a double IPA that we planned to pitch onto the yeast cake from the IPA that we brewed two weeks ago. since we were doing a big beer we decided to see what we could pull off for a second batch, even if it was only 5 gallons. we figured that a nice mild english bitter was a good choice.

before we got too far into the day, we had to transfer the IPA into secondary. we brewed this batch almost entirely for the yeast cake so we'd have lots of nice, happy yeasties to work on the DIPA. this was the first batch (along with the barleywine) that we used both a starter and oxygenated, and we were quite happy with the results. The IPA started out at 1.065 and was down to 1.015. our last couple batches didn't seem to go below 1.022, and when we primed and bottled we had some issues with overcarbonation. we feel pretty confident that after a little time in secondary (with an oz of cascade pellets) it'll be hoppy and happy and ready to drink.

we also decided to move the barleywine to secondary. the gravity on it had dropped from 1.106 down to 1.055 and was still bubbling about once every 5 seconds, however there was a serious amount of trub at the bottom of the carboy so we wanted to move it. we did make sure to pull a bit of extra yeast and stuff from the bottom of the carboy, just to make sure it'd keep going. we threw a bit of yeast from the ipa in too, just to make sure it'd be happy. we know this one will spend a while in secondary, but we want to make sure it will continue to ferment.

oh yeah, did i mention that they were great? after taking gravities we sampled both beers. the IPA was fantastic (probably our best yet), and the barleywine, while it still has a lot of sweetness, was baddass and tasty as hell. really looking forward to seeing this one finish fermenting, and then how it'll change with a little aging. both jay and i agreed that it was pretty darn good even without any aging. eric, you missed out on sampling these, but i'm sure you'll enjoy that next time.

with the transfers out of the way, we got back to the brewing. Here for today's session were me (Russ), Tim, and JayC. we also had the extra adventure that I needed to run out and pick Jenn up at the airport at 1:30, just when things would be starting to get interesting. that normally wouldn't have been a problem, but earlier this week tim said that he'd have to leave early to meet up with his dad, so he wouldn't be able to stay past 2:30. that would work out ok if everything went smootly at the airport and on the highway, but if the flight was delayed or traffic was bad we didn't want jay stuck alone with two boiling worts. well, once today came tim said he'd be able to stay until i got back (even if it took a while), so we weren't too worried. as it turned out, the flight was early, customs was a breeze, and the highway was dead, so there was no problem. we still waited to start the DIPA heating, just to be on the safe side and to stagger the time for the two batches finishing.

only took a few photos today, but here they are. enjoy!

tim (aka the brew monkey) working on cleaning up the keg kettle.

30 pounds of grain, crushed and ready for use. I crushed everything up and measured out the water for the protein and saccrification rests last night so it'd be ready to start when everyone arrived.

tim working on a new manifold for the cooler tun. a few of the pieces were a bit long, so he had to trim some of them.

scrub that pot, brew monkey!

mmmmmm....damn that looks good. smelled pretty fantastic too. after trying out the munich malt on the barleywine we were really excited to use it again. even with only a couple pounds you can notice it.

and it's already running clear...

hops all lined up and ready for addition. FWH, 90, 60, 45, 30, 20, 15, 10, 5, and 0. dry hops too, but they didn't make it in the picture.

keep cleaning, brewmonkey! see, tim was supposed to bring a carboy for our last brew day and forgot it, so he had to work extra hard today. of course, he had to leave early so he missed out on most of the cleanup. he'll have to make up for that on our next session: a spiced imperial porter as our 'club seasonal' at the end of october.

jay re-adding the first runnings back into the tun.

after we'd collected 12 gallons for the DIPA, we pulled off another 4 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.018, so we decided to add a little light DME, throw in some fuggles and kent goldings, and call it an english bitter. gotta love getting the "free batch" with the leftovers. we just used a little of the yeast cake from the IPA and tossed it into this one (there was plenty!)

mmm...double ipa goodness.

the spent grain bed. we had tim squeeze all the liquid out of it so it wouldn't be so heavy for disposal.

the bitter cooling off.

the badass DIPA. this sucker just kept trying to boil over. it was an angry brew, and had a serious band of hops on the sides when the 90 min boil was done.

the grains ready for recycling. last brew day i threw it all into one bag, and we didn't really bother getting the last of the water out, so it was pretty heavy. apparently the garbage men agreed, because they didn't take it. a few days later i had the fun task of opening the bag and splitting it into a few bags that would be easier to lift. not making that mistake again. three smaller bags, around 20lbs each, so they'll be gone monday morning.

the fermentation corner in the basement. clockwise from the left we have the barleywine and the IPA from our last brew day, then the two carboys of DIPA from today, and finally the bitter. I was short an airlock, so we just stuck it in this rubbermaid bin until i can get an airlock or blowoff on monday. could be interesting, but this should contain the mess. I also learned from the last bunch and put the blowoffs inside the pot to contain their mess.

so with tim leaving early, the end of the day took a while. even once the beer was cooled and in the carboy we were still running around finishing cleanup and stuff. by the time we were done it had been just shy of an 11 hour day, but the weather was great, and we'll have another 15gal of excellent beer to show for it.

Posted by grub at 11:08 PM

September 18, 2005

two headed monster

yesterday saw a few of us getting together for another brew day, our first since june 12th. this was to be the first time brewing at our new house in markham, and our first session with our newest biergotter member, eric. jay met eric through beer advocate and invited him to come out for the day. eric started homebrewing last year doing partial mash and extract brewing, so this was his first experience with all-grain.

on tap for the day was a barleywine and an ipa. the barleywine is something i'd been talking about for a while and wanted to take a stab at. the ipa was being brewed mostly to create a big, healthy yeast cake so that we can brew a double IPA in a couple weeks. we decided that since the malt bill would be similar for both batches we'd try to pull both batches from a single mash, then beef up the barleywine as necessary to give it a more respectable gravity. not wanting the IPA to end up too weak from this, we decided to collect 14 gallons and split this into two 7 gallon batches. A little tinkering with promash and we had a barleywine that would have an initial gravity of 1.106 and an IPA with an initial gravity of 1.065. we ended up with some great efficiency and had a pre-boil gravity of 1.065 for both.

here's some photos from the day...

getting setup for the day.

eric working on grinding our grain, and jayc making sure all goes well.

my new 'turkey fryer' burner on the left, jay's tried-and-true burner on the right.

mmmmm, grain. 30min protein rest after first infusion.

closer look

starting to fill the tun you can just barely see the mike dixon-style manifold in the bottom. lots of great stuff on his webpage.

jay loading up the mash tun.

hmmm...30 pounds of grain seems to be the limit for our tun. maybe it's time to move up to one of these?

jay and eric checking the first runnings...running clean in no time!

here's the bag of demerara sugar that i picked up friday. thought it'd be interesting to throw in the barleywine.

yay, promash!

jay topping up the tun with more water.

eric admiring some of the hops for these two batches (and the upcoming double ipa). mostly he was just posing for a photo to use in his profile.

he's still in awe over this whole all-grain thing...

great color...and the barleywine should get a bit darker with the DME and dark demerara.

both batches ready for the boil (ipa in the pot, barleywine in the converted keg).

wow, that's alot of spent grain. we tried to use some to make a loaf of bread, but it didn't turn out that great. too wet, and kind of brick-like.

the biergotter ladies observing the works. jenn wasn't too interested in a photo, but i took one anyway ;)

the mountain of grain ready to be recycled. here in markham we do 'green bin' orgaincs recycling. until i have a place to compost the spent grains, this will work great. hopefully it's not too heavy when they come to pick it up in the morning.

eric skimming the skum (well, rinsing the skimmer at this point).

hmmm...maybe jay isn't enjoying the photo journal either...

transferring the barleywine into the carboy. there was so much hop matter in the carboy that we initially tried straining it out, but the process was slow and painful. looked more like there was alot of cold break than hop matter. after while we just gave up and ran it straight in. it's going to be fermenting for a while, so there should be plenty of time for it to all settle out.

look! a blurry photo of a propane tank! perhaps i should have edited this one out...

yeah, we're happy with the way this one was looking.

that's me happily watching my first barleywine filling the carboy. we sampled a bit of this going in and we're really looking forward to trying it done. we brought both batches inside, oxygenated, and pitched a starter of white labs california ale yeast.

so the day went pretty well. no major problems (except for tim forgetting to bring us a second carboy to ferment the second batch in...luckily there's a wine shop nearby that was still open). definitely looking forward to brewing more batches here. we've got the double ipa scheduled for oct 1st, and have already started talking about a couple more batches we'd like to see before christmas. stay tuned for more brewing news in the future.

24 hour update:

well, it's now over 24 hours after the yeast was pitched. i went downstairs to check on them at about the 24 hour mark and was greeted to a great site. both beers are fermenting like mad, with the blow offs overflowing. the barleywine was actually creating quite a mess, as you can see by the trickle leading towards the drain in my basement.

the ipa

and the barleywine.

bet you can't tell which bottle was the blow off for which beer...

hops and such are already starting to settle from the barleywine.

i knew there'd be a good use for the aluminum pot that came with my burner...hopefully this won't get filled...

Posted by grub at 10:20 PM

September 3, 2005

Rye not make some mead?

It's been a while since there was a brewing session at Biergotter West (JayW's place in Windsor). Our last brew day in Windsor was dedicated to fruit beers and the results were fantastic. The pineapple ale was a big hit, the apple ale was nicely balanced, and the raspberry porter was quite tart and tasty.

Anyhow, JayW and I (JayC) had been throwing around the idea of doing rye beers for a while. We even tried a couple of times in the past, but the flaked rye that we used previously just didn't give us the result we were looking for. On a previous trip over to Kuhnhenn, we got a look in the attached BOP and HBS shop and saw a giant tub of malted rye, exactly what we needed.

We found a weekend that would work for both of us (Labour Day weekend) and started making plans. I had just picked up Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher (great book) and gotten the idea of trying a parti-gyle batch to get a small volume of high gravity beer and large volume of lower gravity beer. Seemed like a good idea, since we'd only need to mash/sparge once and get beer for both of us. The recipe we formulated called for a lot of rye, about 20% of the grist. We had also been planning to make mead at some point, so this seemed like as good a time as any.

So I packed up the car and headed down to Windsor on Friday. On the way, I stopped in at an apiary just north of Leamington and grabbed a bucket full of fresh clover honey. Smelled great. Brew day was Saturday, but unfortunately that was our first opportunity to go to the HBS shop. We headed out in the morning to cross the border and grab supplies. The shop attached to Kuhnhenn was spectacular. They had everything we needed at the best prices we've ever found. Tons of malt and hops, a wide variety of yeast, all tasting and smelling fresh (or at least stored well). The staff was helpful and steered us clear of some needless worry when dealing with rye (rice hulls are often suggested to avoid a stuck run-off, but when he heard our method, he said we didn't need to worry).

We left the shop with everything we needed for the day's brewing, as well as hops and yeast for a future Toronto brew day, and headed next door for a pint. After all the shopping, we deserved it, and Kuhnhenn never disappoints. Except for today when they had no beer bottled for off-premise sale. Oh well. So we headed up the street and grabbed a couple six-packs of Michigan micros.

Anyways, we got back to Windsor and started crushing grain (sorry, no pictures). This took a while, so we didn't get the mash started until almost 4pm. Crap, it was going to be a long day. Mashing was going well, but at the end of the saccharification rest the wort didn't taste quite as sweet as it should. An iodine test confirmed that it wasn't quite done, so we heated it up again and let it sit for another 30 minutes. That was all it needed, so it was time to start sparging.

Meanwhile, we pasteurized the honey to prepare the mead, two 5 gallon batches (a still and a sparkling if everything works out). It really didn't take long and as the honey/water mixture heated, it gave us a chance to skim coagulated proteins off the top. These went in the carboys, yeast nutrient was added, and yeast was pitched later in the day.

Back to the beer. So we pulled off about 4 gallons of wort for the barleywine and then continued collecting for the rye beer. We nearly hit gravity on the barleywine (only had to add 1/2# of DME) and overshot on the rye beer. Not bad for a first attempt at the parti-gyle method. Things went quite smoothly from here, but it was getting quite late. By the time the beer was boiled, cooled, and put into carboys, it was after 11pm. We took a short break to run downtown to Phog Lounge and then returned to oxygenate and pitch the yeast. There was no time for a starter, since the yeast was purchased earlier in the day, but we've had good results before with White Labs yeast in this situation. There was a little clean-up at this point, but not much. I think we gave up at about 2am.

The next morning we finished cleaning the garage and packed up the car, and then I headed back to Toronto. From JayW's updates, it sounds like fermentation was quite vigourous. It was a fun day of brewing, using new methods and new ingredients. What kind of insanity will be next? IPA/DIPA combo...

Posted by beerbaron at 10:12 AM

June 14, 2005

the great fierly ball of death

This past sunday the biergotter gang got together for another brewing session, our first using our shiny new 15 gallon converted keg kettles. on the menu for the day was a re-vamp of our last american style ipa, updated for 10 gallons and more aggressive hopping, and a 10 gallon scottish ale.

the day started off ok. everyone arrived at tim's at 9am and we started getting setup. it was fairly warm and quite humid, but overcast with bursts of light rain. i commented that it'd be great if that was the weather we got for the rest of the day as the slight rain was counteracting the heat. however, soon after this the clouds cleared and the great fiery ball of death began to beat down on us. before long tim's back yard was starting to feel like an oven. it seems like the stone patio just reflects and radiates the heat, making it worse. at one point around the middle of the day I looked at our thermometer as it was laying on the railing of the deck and it was reading 122F (50C). in case you are unaware, that translates to "really fucking hot". add in the approximately 89% humidity and it was deadly. fortunately we had 4 brewers (me, rob, jayc, and tim) to split the work, so before long we were taking turns with having breaks in the air conditioned house for some relief. we also had the biergotter wives (jenn, piera and erin) making sure we had sunscreen on and were drinking lots of water. even so, it was difficult to stay hydrated, and even wearing sunblock i still managed to get burned. i was wearing sandals and didn't put sunblock on my feet until it was too late, so today has been pretty uncomfortable. my arms and neck are a bit tender, but nowhere near as bad as my feet. this is the second time i've had a burn on my feet (the first was in hawaii on my honeymoon) and it really sucks some serious ass. i definitely do not recommend it. oh well, hopefully they'll be feeling better in a couple days.

as for the brewing itself, it went fairly well. we've gone up from doing 5 gallon batches to 10-11 gallons (with a maximum capacity of about 30 pounds of grain per batch using our current equipment). the new kettles worked great and even seemed to have improved things in a few ways. first, because they heat slower it seems to be easier to get the temperature just right for boiling and avoid boil overs. second, the inner lip on the top made it super easy to cover with saran wrap while chilling the beer. normally we have to tape the saran down to the sides of the pot, which can be a pain to remove later. tucking the saran around the lip seemed to work great and no tape was necessary. we also used bags for the hops rather than throwing them directly into the boil. This worked pretty well and also gave us a bit higher yield as we didn't lose quite as much when transferring to the primary. however, the higher volumes too longer to get up to temperature, which made the day a bit longer. we also ran into a bit of trouble with our wort chiller. we're used to using it in a pot that is roughly the same size as the coil, which works fairly well. however, when we dropped it down into the keg kettle it didn't seem to be working very well. we'd test the temperature near the top of the kettle and see it as very high, and not seeming to drop. after about an hour we realized that the bottom half of the keg was very cold and the top half was still quite hot. since the pot wasn't being stirred the top wasn't getting cold. we propped up the chiller so that it was sitting in the top half of the the keg, gave it another half hour or so and everything was great. when it came time to chill the second batch we did roughly the same thing, which worked fairly well but is still much slower than when we'd chill the 5 gallon batches. we're debating better cooling, either with a chiller that is taller and can go the full height of the keg or buying/building a counter flow chiller (something like this one sold by paddock). we've got a while before our next bewing session so i'm sure we'll figure something out.

when we were finally done it had been more than a 10 hour day (9am to 7:15pm), yielding about 10 gallons of the american style ipa and 8 or 9 gallons of the scottish ale. lets hope the beer is worth our scorching by the great fiery ball of death.

we were taking photos throughout the day, but they tapered off as we started getting deadly hot. enjoy!

the lauder tun and it's inner copper piping and one of the converted kegs.

burners and the other keg kettle, ready to go.

mmmm....29.5# of grain goodness. this was the grain for the IPA.

getting the first batch of water up to temp.

more water on the burner.

protein rest for the ipa, and everyone enjoying the (still cool) morning. we have (from left to rigth) rob, piera, jenn, and tim.


me (russ) adding the second batch of water for the IPA and jayc taking stirring duties.

jay checking temperatures.

no idea what i was doing here...

rob hard at work grinding grain for the scottish ale.

checking temps on the ipa. jay's having a fun time with stirring: note the bend on the spoon in the second photo. we're going to see about getting a nice stainless one.

the boys doing some fine poses.

jenn and piera making up some potato salad for lunch (it was tasty!).

checking the temp for the first batch of water for the scottish ale.

adding the first batch of water for the scottish ale. note me cleverly bracing the keg with my foot. good thing that the guys have good aim...

time to stir. at this point we were still smiling...it wasn't too hot yet.

second batch of water for the scottish ale.

getting the scottish ale up to temp

bit of a gap in the photos...this is rob loading up the tun for the ipa.

me keeping an eye on the scottish ale

mmm...grainy goodness. you can see that the 29.5 pounds of grian in the ipa pretty much fills our current tun.

the ipa on for the boil. you can sort of see the coat hanger all bent up and hanging over the top. that's holding the hop bags, making it easier for us to pull them out for the additions along the way.

couple photos of the thermometer in the afternoon. still registering over 100F...

the IPA cooling...

scottish ale on for the boil. around this point we stopped bothering wtih the camera altogether. it was just too damn hot and we were more concerned with not baking in the sun and getting the beer done.

Posted by grub at 11:26 PM

© 2005 Biergļæ½tter Homebrew Club. Disclaimer.
Last Modified: Saturday, 30-Jun-2018 08:44:55 MST