Thursday, February 21, 2013

How To: Yeast Starter

Here is another handy image I picked up from reddit today.  It covers a basic home brew skill - yeast starting(?) and was lifted from  We've not done this before but I think we are getting close to the point where we will be giving it a go.

Quick additional tip thanks to Carla Rosenfeld on G+ - a Yeast Pitching Calculator via  A second calculator that you might prefer is at YeastCalc - thanks to Scott Olsen on G+ for the pointer.

So, for our reference here it is:

Hop Varieties and Their Character

I just came across this great graphic on reddit which is attributed to the Intuition Ale Works brewery (at least the guy on reddit says that is where he first saw it).

The diagram is based on John Palmer's Hop Wheel and was redesigned and updated by Tim Kreitz.  I don't know either guy but I appreciate the effort.

I've mostly put this here for our future reference just in case the imgur link that was on reddit dies.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Blue Ox Chocolate European Bock Label

This was the first beer label Shannon drew.  It is for our Blue Ox Bock.  It was named the Blue Ox because our friend Gabe was in town and helped with the brewing.  You may still be confused as to what Gabe has to do with a blue ox - well I mis-remembered Paul Bunyan's blue ox's name.  The blue ox is actually named Babe.

Anyway Gabe is a big guy; so he is kind of Paul Bunyan-esque so it still works out in my mind - thus we have our Blue Ox.

So far this is the first and only beer we've experimented with the recipe.  As the boil was happening I found a dark chocolate bar in my cabinet - it was a pretty big bar but it had a low fat content while still having a decent sugar content.  I think it was a Ghirardelli bar.  We tossed it into the boil and we lucked out as it tasted pretty good.  As the beer warmed up a little the chocolate notes really popped out nicely.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Flat Tire is carbonating.

I bottled the Flat Tire Ale this past weekend. After racking from secondary back in to the fermenting bucket everything went rather smoothly. I have to say that the bottle rinser and drying tree are worth their weight in gold. My total yield was 8-32oz bottles and 21-16oz bottles, from a little over 4.5 gallons. I am a big fan of the swing top bottles even though they cost a lot more. I have been trying to get Grolsch bottles when I can. I'm not a big fan of Grolsch though so my first few batches were from purchased EZ-Cap bottles at about $100 per batch.

Friday, February 15, 2013

I'm a Grumpy Monk

Today I had a tasty Belgian style IPA by Sam Adams called The Grumpy Monk.  I use Untappd to track my brews (so far I've had 444 distinct beers; find me as finalcut on untappd).    I enjoyed it and logged the beer on Untappd.  When I got back to work I told me co-workers about the beer and they wanted to know a bit more about it so I searched for it on Google.

I followed the first result to the Sam Adams page for Grumpy Monk and lo and behold my tweet of my check-in was on the Grumpy Monk home page.  Silly for me to be excited about that I know (it is automatic after all) but I didn't expect to see my name on their website today.

Anyway, I'm so geeky about it here is a screenshot of my beer moment in the sun - I'm in the top of the right column.

By the way the Grumpy Monk is pretty damn tasty.   Much better than the standard Sam Adams Boston Lager.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sloppy Belgian Lion King Triple Label

In my story about the big spill I talked about the beer label my daughter made for the Sloppy Belgian Lion King Triple we brewed (and spilled).  Well here is the label as promised.

This was the first label where she incorporated a beer bottle - a theme which she carried over into the Sweethearts Red Raccoon Ale.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sweethearts Raccoon Red Ale Label

As I mentioned previously my daughter is designing our labels and she puts an animal on each one.  I don't have photos handy of the others but I do have a photo of the original art she created for the next batch we will be brewing - a Red Ale.

We named it Sweethearts Raccoon Red for mostly obvious reasons.  The Sweethearts part is because we are brewing it this month and thus it is sort of tied to Valentines Day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Big Spill

In January of 2013 we attempted to brew a Belgian Triple.  It's a liquid malt extract (LME) kit from Brewer's Best.  This brewing session ended up with my buying some new brewing gear for the group.  Here's how it went down.

On brew day it was cold out.  Real cold for our area so we decided to brew in my garage instead of on the back yard patio where we normally do things.  Fortunately, as things go, the decision to brew in the garage was a good one.  However, our burner wasn't good at all.  In fact it was a piece of crap.  I had bought it at Target last January after having received my beginners kit for Christmas.  The burner came as part of a turkey frying system and it had a couple safety features on it that really made it unsuitable for beer brewing.

There were two problems with the burner.  The first was a timer that would automatically shut off the flame after 15 minutes of continuous usage.  I'm not even sure how you're supposed to fry a turkey with that insane add-on.  The second was a button that you had to press in order to light the fire.  Unfortunately, more often than not the fire would go out if you ever stopped pressing the button.  Thus, we had to use a hand clamp to keep the button depressed throughout the boil process.  At least I had removed the timer a couple days before brew day so we didn't have to deal with that scheduled shut off anymore.  However, I never felt particularly comfortable having the hand clamp holding the button down.  It just felt wrong.

After our brew session for the Belgian Triple I ordered a new Bayou Classic SQ 14 from amazon.  It is a 16" square burner that puts out a reported 150,000 BTUS!  It is super stable feeling and it certainly cranks out some flame if you open the valve all the way.  Plus it has a small adjustment that you can use to control the oxygen mix so you can get a bluer (truer) flame.  Overall it's pretty sweet and I'm looking forward to using it on our next brew day.

I also bought a new fermenting bucket.  The bucket I had, which came with my starter kit, served the dual role of being a fermenting bucket and a bottling bucket - thus it had a valve on it.  Since we have used the secondary fermentation process in a glass carboy every time we've brewed only having one bucket has worked out okay.  But, it turns out there is a different risk associated with having a valve on the fermenting bucket.

My basement is a little too cold in the winter for the fermentation process so we have been using the bathroom on my third floor.  It's a long winding climb to get up there and, once you get past the second floor you have to climb a flight of carpeted stairs.  As I was carrying the fermenting bucket up that last flight of stairs my knee hit the bottling valve.  It didn't open the valve - that would have been good - instead it broke it clean off right at the bucket.  In that instant at least a half of a gallon of beer spewed out of the hole that now existed at the bottom of the side of the bucket.  At least the lid was on so I was able to quickly tip the bucket as far to the other side as possible to stop the flow - but it was too late really because the third floor instantly reeked of freshly brewed Belgian Triple.

Fortunately, for that batch of beer, I had another bottling bucket that a friend had lent me about a year ago and it had a spigot on it that still sealed that bucket.  We quickly transferred the beer into a temporary bucket (a clean and sanitized Jimmy Johns pickle bucket) then we cleaned and sanitized the second spigot and installed it in the original bucket (I don't have a lid for either of the other buckets).  Once the new spigot was installed and the beer returned to the fermenting bucket I placed the brew into the shower for it's week of first stage fermentation.

My wife was a great sport and she came up and even volunteered to steam clean the carpet while we headed back downs stairs to finish cleanup of the brew area.

Two days later when my wife was in Ashland she also stopped off and bought me a new bottling bucket from our local supply store. As well as a few other goodies like an auto-sieve and a wine-thief.

So far this is the only time we've lost any beer in the process.  We just bottled that batch this past weekend and it smelled and tasted pretty good (though I don't think it is anywhere near the 9% alcohol we expected or was advertised).  There is a TON of sugar in the kit (including what appeared to be rock candy) so we're not sure how we failed to get good conversion to alcohol but I think we're at about 5.5%.  I was unable specific gravity after secondary fermentation because my daughter accidentally broke the hydrometer.

We've named this batch the "Sloppy Belgian Lion King" due to all the mishaps.  My daughter designs a new label for each of our batches and she includes an animal with each.  Plus, we brewed this batch on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  I'll post a photo of her label design soon (plus all of the prior labels she's come up with).

-- this is a retelling of a previously blogged event that I had posted on my personal blog.

Belly Up To The Bar

Welcome to our blog.  Seeing as you've found us I guess I should take a moment to explain what we are doing and what types of stories/articles/posts you can hope to find here.

First and foremost we will be posting about our brewing experiences   When we started this blog we didn't have much experience brewing - we'd brewed a collection of Liquid Malt Extract (LME) kits.  By the time you found the site there is a chance we had ventured into the world of All Grain kits as well as, maybe, even a recipe of our own.  You'll have to explore a bit to find out where we are at in our beer brewing adventures.

At the start of the blog there were three authors - there might be more or less as time goes on - who knows?  But, the first three were Bill, Jason, and Mike.  We know each other because we work together and we each enjoy the process and camaraderie of home brewing.

Every post on this site will deal with brewing in one fashion or another.  Mike is making his own wine too so he may (or may not) post about his wine making as well.  At a minimum you'll see stories about us brewing beer - we'll even post some photos.  Some of our stories will probably involve us failing or just making a huge mess.  Hopefully the majority will involve us finding success, learning a bunch, and making a gallons of tasty beer.

Please subscribe to our rss feed or our twitter feed if you'd like to get updates about when we post new stuff.