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bierblog: tasting Archives

April 11, 2010

bruery tasting

i know i've talked in the past about my love of the bruery. i loved reading patrick's blog as he was getting things started, and seriously enjoyed hanging out with him and tyler when we visited the brewery in the fall of '08. they just keep churning out interesting and tasty beers, most of which don't usually make it too close to us. but, being active traders, we've managed to get our hands on some. most recently, eric (Viggo) and eric (ritzkiss, aka preric) had started to amass an impressive collection. they set upon the idea of having a day to celebrate the beer from this brewery and do a giant bruery tasting.

the first battle was finding a time that worked. we knew we'd need a whole day for this one, and after a few attempts that didn't quite get off the ground, april 10th was set. preric's family would be out of town, so we'd have the run of his place for it.

the next question was who to invite. we thought we'd need more than 4 people, but didn't want too many as we still wanted to have nice sized samples of each beer. 5 seemed to be the magic number, so we invited andrew (bartle) to join us.

with eric and preric providing all the beers, rob (bobsy) volunteered to cook us all dinner, and bartle and i were on snacks to keep our palates fresh and our make sure we made it through them all.

we gathered around 1pm to get things rolling. we'd bounced around a few ideas for what order to go through the beers in, and ultimately decided to go with some of the heavy hitters up front, then mellow things out a little, break for dinner, and then finish up the last few. we figured we could take our time, especially on the early ones, and if it was necessary to save the last few bottles for another day, no big deal.

it turned out to be a great day. we paced ourselves well, and when the bruery beers were done we sampled a little homebrew and then a few bottles from preric's cellar. plenty of euchre was played (bartle thinks me may actually understand it now - i'm not entirely convinced yet). many laughs were had.

all the beers were a hit, and i look forward to the next time we can get together for another day like this.

extra big thanks go out to eric+eric for sharing all this fantastic beer.

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

the lineup for the day. not pictured (and saved for another time) were bottles of partridge in a pear tree and two turtle doves.

a few bottles in, and rugbrod on deck.

everyone writing away, and a good look at the snacks to help get us through the day.

it was cool enough outside to have the rest of the beer sitting on the patio until we were ready for them.

past the half way point now.

more snacks and beer.

rob working on dinner: regular carbonara for the carnivores, and one with roasted red peppers and caramelized onions for the vegetarian.

the final carnage (or at least when i left). as if the brewery stuff wasn't enough, when we finished that we started opening up other stuff.

the final list for the day:

bruery papier
bruery black tuesday
bruery autumn maple
bruery barrel-aged autumn maple
bruery white oak
bruery rugbrod
bruery hottenroth berlinerweisse
bruery saison de lente
bruery saison rue
bruery tradewinds tripel
bruery orchard white
bruery black orchard
bruery levud's
bruery barrel-aged levud's
biergotter monk's elixir
biergotter barleywine
bear republic big bear black stout
fat cat old bad cat barleywine

Posted by grub at 8:55 PM

December 1, 2008

biergotter tasting 2008

since the biergotter crew has become more spread out and gone international, it's harder to get everyone together, but when we do, we do it right. in particular, jayc, eric, and i had all been saving up some of the best stuff in our cellars and waiting for the right time to open it. when jay made plans to come to town for 4 days over american thanksgiving, we knew it was gonna be big.

here's the way things broke down:

day 1: sour/wild ales
russian river sanctification 750ml
russian river deviation (bottleworks 9th anniversary) 750ml
jolly pumpkin perseguidor blend 3 750ml
lost abbey cable car batch 1 750ml
lost abbey sinner's blend '08 2x 375ml
jolly pumpkin biere de mars grand reserve 12oz
jolly pumpkin luciernaga the firefly grand reserve 12oz
jolly pumpkin la roja grand reserve (unknown blend, dec '07) 12oz
jolly pumpkin la roja grand reserve (32 month aged) 12oz
deschutes the dissident 22oz
mikkeller it's alive! 750ml

day 2: stouts and belgians
alesmith barrel aged speedway stout 2006 750ml
black flag imperial stout 22oz
pisgah solstice 750ml
surly darkness 2008 750ml
the bruery levud's 750ml
the bruery barrel aged levud's 750ml
allagash victoria 750ml
allagash victor 750ml
dark horse plead the 5th imperial stout 12oz

day 3: barleywines and others
biergotter calvados oak aged monk's elixer 2008 quadrupel 750ml
biergotter frostbitten moongoat of the north 2008 braggot 750ml
alesmith wee heavy 750ml
alesmith barrel aged wee heavy 2006 750ml
east end gratitude 2005 750ml
east end gratitude 2006 750ml
east end gratitude 2007 750ml
biergotter wheatwine 2008 64oz
the bruery saison rue 750ml
captain lawrence smoke from the oak bourbon barrel aged 750ml
pisgah hellbender 750ml
kuhnhenn prometheus 750ml
full sail top sail bourbon barrel aged imperial porter 22oz
the bruery tradewinds triple 750ml
three floyds fantabulous resplendence xi 22oz

day 4: leftovers
southern tier cuvee 1 22oz
newport storm '05 750ml

not pictured (sampled throughout the weekend):
biergotter edmund fitzgerald: the second coming (tap)
biergotter dirty ape saison (tap)
biergotter homegrown hop pale ale (tap)

final carnage:

4x top 100 the world (one top 10!)
6x top 100 america (one top 10!)
8x top 100 buzzed beers in the world (one top 10!)
4x top 10 american wild ale
1x top 10 belgian strong dark ale
1x top 10 flanders oud bruin
2x top 10 russian imperial stout
2x top 10 scotch ale/wee heavy

Posted by grub at 10:26 PM

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

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 28, 2008

saison tasting 2008

may 24th saw the return of jan's successful summer saison tasting. we all had a blast last year and were looking forward to it again.

as always, jan had assembled a huge pile of food and snacks to compliment the excellent lineup of saisons and other fine beers, most pulled directly from his own cellar.

first bottle of the day. brooklyn local 1.

a few shots of the tasty food and snacks that jan had on hand. a little something for everyone.

the growing pile of bottles...

everybody and some desserts.

more bottles...

still growing...

towards the end of the day most folks started leaving to head back into the city.

one of jan's cats. it was pretty much hanging out with us for most of the afternoon.

jan and eric


georgia, jan and eric.

badger badger badger badger.

jan's dad ron and i.

once the sun went down it got a little cooler, but that didn't stop us from enjoying more beer!

georgia and jan. georgia was enjoying some new glarus wisconsin belgian red.

more shots of everyone.

the bottles for the day...many fine brews...

we eventually moved inside for more sampling and euchre. i was also pretty excited to watch the celtics knocking the pistons around in game 3 of the nba eastern conference finals.

me enjoying the game.

eric looking a little tired.

jan busting out one of the last beers of the night.

when the day was done we'd gone through a great assortment of excellent beers:

thanks jan for another great year!

Posted by grub at 3:59 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

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

August 27, 2007

new gear in markham

when we setup our brewing operations at my place in markham, most of the equipment came from my apartment-bound biergotter bretheren, mostly DrJay. when a new job brought him down to philly he left most of it here since they were still in an apartment. when they bought a house earlier this year, i knew jay would be setting up the first US biergotter contingent. that means it's time to build some new gear!

the first order of business was a new chiller. we'd been unhappy with the old 25' chiller for doing 10gal batches, so were already interested in going up to 50'.

next up, we needed to replace jay's cooler tun. i caught a sale at walmart and grabbed a pair of 48qt coolers. picked up the copper for the manifolds and got everything cut to size the other night, so the only thing left to do was cut the slots in it.

there's me with my sweet tee from homebrewtees.com. chris (oxmasterscream on beer advocate) is a fellow homebrewer and puts these together on the side. check them out!

you can see a little better in this photo, but i was trying to move the stupid pipe bender. sure, these things are great for making sure you don't kink the soft copper when you're bending it, but goddamn are they a pain in the ass. put even a slight bend and they start binding up and barely move. after the first two bends we gave up, then spent the next 20min trying to pull the damn thing off. more time was spent trying to remove it than bending the whole coil (which went flawlessly around a corny). more trouble than they're worth.

here i was showing eric how to use the dremel to cut slots in our copper manifold for the coolers. not much to see really.

now we have eric working on the manifold in the background, and jan working on a beverage. can't quite remember what it was at this point.

eric hard at work.

i managed to get a metal sliver, but it was easily removed.

the first two bends on the new 50' chiller.

another shot, also showing the associated hose, two coolers and the second manifold.

the chiller, nearly done. i attached a few pieces of twine to temporarily hold things together and later switched to some copper wire.

eric posing with the new hardware. check out my next entry for some shots of the completed chiller in action.

another shot of the coolers + manifold.

progress on the manifold.

one half done, onto the other.

had some tasty oskar blues gordon and were just about to open a heavyweight lunacy. both were quite tasty.

jan took over and finished the second half of the manifold.

on to dinner and some sampling. tasty steak sandwiches (with cheese and carmelized onions), salad, deviled eggs, and fresh tomatoes from our garden. i'm pretty sure we were drinking the weihenstephan 1809 berliner weiss.

jan had recently returned from a trip to belgium and brought back a ton of excellent beer. here i was opening the first of three bottles from girardin, their 1882 faro. later we also had the 1882 gueuze white label (filtered) and the 1882 kriek. after that we moved on to a bottle of bar harbor cadillac mtn stout. great stuff!

a successful day working on some equipment, great dinner, and some excellent beers. does it get any better?

Posted by grub at 12:24 PM

May 30, 2007

saison tasting

jan's summer beer tasting, may 26, 2007.

initially this was planned as a saison tasting, but some other (excellent!) beers slipped into the mix. a beautiful day on the patio, with great beer, great food, and great friends.

first beer of the day: fantome saison hiver. in the background left, barely visible in a white shirt is craig (aka crwills), then jeff (aka tupalev) in the green+white shirt, and paul (aka blankboy) on the right in the black shirt. middle ground we have alexa (aka Lexx) in the light blue shirt and jan (aka biegaman) in the foreground in dark blue.

slightly better shot of craig in the distance, eric (aka Viggo) in blue, and me (aka grub) in the black. still missing from a photo (and acting as camerawoman) is jenn.

jan still admiring the hiver.

here you can see more of the lovely setting for this tasting. nice covered patio in jan's back yard. perfect place for a saison tasting.


this is a shot of the fridge fairly early in the tasting. tons of great beer. think we'll get through them all? we'll definitely try.

paul enjoying the cheese tray and jan working on a review. tons of great snacks were available in addition to the great beer.

jenn's finger, eric and i talking about something, and jeff's ass. and bugles!

even more finger, and me smiling for the camera.

i think by this point we were on to the jolly pumpkin madrugada obscura, dark dawn stout. quite an interesting and enjoyable beer. eric on pouring duty.

eric trying to get all fancy on us, posing for the camera.

i think this was the only place we got a picture that included jenn, since she spent the day rockin' the camera.

here we have jan trying to shoot the cork out of a bottle. he wanted to send it flying over the pool, but wasn't quite sure how to do it. eric tried demonstrating how to do it properly, but even jan knew he looked a little ridiculous.

on to another bottle. jan is being a good host and pouring for everyone.

hey, haven't we seen this one before? i don't think it worked the first time...

this looks more like the eric i know.

jan also did alot of reading from the bottle labels, telling us all about whatever we were going to drink.

those snacks came in handy with all that beer. here we also see jan's dad in the background. he was hanging out, talking and sampling beer with us for a while. big thanks to jan and his folks for hosting us (and helping cook the excellent dinner!)

me again.


i think at this point jan was just finishing the barley island bourbon barrel aged oatmeal stout and jeff was starting to pour the church-key catch her in the rye.

the empties table when the first half of the crew left. we lost jeff, paul, and craig early. that's ok, more beer for the rest of us!

dessert! jenn baked brownies, which we had along with some ice cream.

most of the remaining crew as the day wore on. we had many great laughs along with all the great food and beer.

one of the cats decided to clean up somebody's dinner place after they left it sitting out. eric got a good laugh out of it.

are the ducks fighting or making out? you decide.

our excellent host late in the day.

cork carnage.

the table when jenn and i left. already full, with a couple more left.

the final lineup (i think in the order they were drank):

an excellent tasting. thanks to jan for organizing and to everyone who contributed.

Posted by grub at 11:29 AM

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