April 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Missing a friend

I always wanted to keep all personal dialog off of my blog. It really flies in the face of the objective of this blog. However, in this case, I need a place to vent and this is my medium of choice. I apologize in advance:

This past week I have not been on BA or on this blog because of the very tragic loss of a friend. His name was Travis Lee and he was a 22yr old member of my fraternity. I was one of those guys that has remained active in my house and I have taken the time to get too know the guys up there.

Travis was a member of my family tree and was a great person. Travis had a wild sense of humor and was a boisterous character. You always knew when he was around.

Tuesday morning I got a call from my little little brother Chris, he was noticeably upset. I knew something was wrong from his message, but I had assumed it was an accident of some sort. When he told me that Travis had taken his own life very early that morning it was as if I was punched in the chest. Like most everyone else the news was numbing and was met with stark disblief. How could he have done this, HE WAS 22 YEARS OLD??!!

I called some of the other guys in the house (out of a lack of knowing what else to do) and it was more and more painful the more that I said it. Suicide.

I went to the house that night with my little brother in the house to be with the guys and try and show them some support. Somewhere along the lines I found out that it was a very close friend of mine that found Travis that morning. There were no words for the pain that he was now experiencing. Not only did he loose his best friend, but now he would shoulder the burden of why he had to see what he saw.

I spent the night there, we cried, drank and tried to understand why, but left for home with a hangover and more questions in the morning. The rest of the week I spent on FaceBook and Myspace (many of the newer guys in the house are into those things), looking at pictures and posting messages. Many of them to Travis on his page. This was the last message I got from Travis on Facebook a week before:

Travis Lee (SUNY Potsdam) wrote
at 11:06pm on April 17th, 2007
Hey there T.O.T (The Original Travis)! I had a hell of a time at the wedding with you and the rest of the guys. It was really cool to see what happens to people after they leave P-Dam and become successful. I really admire you man and if you don't mind me saying, your wife is a smoking hot fox. Keep in touch, or Ill just see you Alumni Weekend. Late.

Friday was the wake, still no answers, just more pain...he was buried on Saturday and all we have left is memories. Today was the first day of the rest of everyone's lives without Travis. Questions linger as well as pain, but all we can do is wait. Someday we will all know.

Travis was a great person with great personal pain. No one saw it, or felt it because when you were with him all you felt was the love he had for all his friends. It was only a few weeks ago that we were all together for Chris' wedding. Everything was great. Now he is gone and we all miss him very much. All we can do is remember the love he had for us and the love we have for him.

I am sorry again for my deviation from homebrewing and I understand how difficult this subject is. I appreciate it if you took the time to read this, though I understand if decided to stop.

To Travis, from T.O.T; you have always had and you will always have my love and respect, see you on the other side brother.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spring Cleaning and the Next Big Thing

So I spent this weekend going through my kegging system and replacing lines, cleaning and making the sensitive balance that it my keggerator flow. For those of you that have not checked out the post that I did on my operation, my keggerator consists of a mini-fridge that holds a cold plate and has a tap on the front. The cold plate sits inside a pan with water in it to keep the cold plate more effective (as cold water penetrates faster than cold air or something like that) and there is a liquid line that runs from the keg to the cold plate and from the cold plate to the tap.

I have had this operation intact for about a year and a half now and it's been great, I could not be happier.

So why am I thinking about upgrading?

This is the internal monster that every homebrewer (and man for that matter) grapples with at every waking moment of his/her lives. To upgrade or not to upgrade? It seems that every time I have my system dialed in and the beer is flowing like wine, I feel the need to monkey around. Don't ask me why, I just do. In this case, I am telling myself that I want to have more beers on tap.

So I have started to look at this little invention I found while looking at;

As you can see, Ben used a mini-fridge connected to a self insulated wood box with a hole in it to create some flow of the cold air. I found the directions helpful and I am considering making this my summer project. I emailed Ben about this, specifically the temps that he hits with the fridge and he said that it's not cold enough to lager beer. At first I thought this was a deal breaker for me because I have no other way to lager brews during the summer months until the wife game me the green light to fire up the basement fridge!

Now I am seriously considering my own variation on this design that would have one of the taps on the top and two others on the bottom. I have some old countertop that I can use for the top of the contraption and all I need to do is come up with some plywood and insulation. We will see, but with energy costs being the way that they are, this is an attractive alternative to buying a chest fridge.

More to come on this one…

PS- Ben has a store in PA that looks pretty damn nice! I might have to hit it up for my next batch of Mead.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Keg Issues **Update**

So last night, while getting prepped to watch the Sopranos, I kicked my keg. The Schlitz is finally all gone and I am almost ready to keg my Californication so I am feeling good about the whole situation. That is until I start to go through my cleaning process.

I hosed out the keg and started to reconnect everything so that I could run some clean water through the system. However, when I went to try and hook up my outward bound hose to the out nozzle on the keg, it wouldn't budge. Now this is nothing new, it's always been a fight to get either of the connections on or both, but never like this.

After a while of working at it I figured that something was really long so I cut the line for the connector and took the outward nipple off the keg. After a long time fighting, WD40ing and every other thing I could think of, I decided to take the other nipple off the keg as well. I noticed that my outward bound connector fit like a glove on the current inward nipple and so I tried the visa verse. Sure enough the line from the CO2 tank fit perfectly over the outward nipple.

I have posted a picture above of the two nipples. There appears to be a difference with their shape. I am not sure if this is what is causing my problems or if there is any real difference between the two, but from what I can tell other than the shape differences they are the same.

Last night was the first time I was able to get the outward bound nipple off. It has been stuck on since I got it and it wasn't until last night that I was motivated enough to force it off. So this is the way I got this keg. With that said, it was off the front porch of a rival fraternity that I got this keg while in college, so there is not guarantee on the expertise from which this was setup.

Any thoughts on how this should be setup?


Okay, so after a lot of head scratching and completely taking both my keg and all of the parts that connect into and out of it apart everything is working smoothly. The issue? What we call in software as "user error."

I must have been trying to force the liquid ball lock onto the gas nipple. That's the only logical explanation because the nipples cannot be switched. The threads for one are bigger than the other and therefore it was not possible that it was wrong on them. Also when I removed the ball locks from both the gas and the keggerator, I put them back the exact way they were before.

The light at the end of the tunnel is that I got to clean everything top to bottom.

Sunday, April 15, 2007 2.0

I figured since my last post was number 50, I should do something to shake it up so here it is...

Seriously though, I made some changes to the design to and make this a more scalable and navigable website. I loved my old design and I spent a lot of time getting it the way that I wanted it. Blogger Beta came along and I resisted the change for as long as I could because my old design wouldn't work in the new Beta format, but alas, I caved.

The reason for the change was I had tried to reference my site for one thing or another in an email or on a forum post and the person I was trying to help out could not find what they were looking for. I rarely look at my site and try to navigate around it and in doing so, I realized that I had sacrificed the purpose of this site for vanity. So I changed.

I started this site to be an "online beer log" where I would post up my recipes and experience both for my personal reference and for comment from other folks that are interested in homebrewing as well. The inability to navigate to previous posts few in the face of this plan and kept this site from being useful.

I hope you like the new site, listed below were some of the sources where I got code to customize the site the way I wanted it.

  • Custom Header

  • Background Image- This one I figured out myself, just look for the Body tag and look to see if there is a URL or a #6 digit number. If it's a number, just use the cole background: url(""); and it worked.

  • Fixed background image

  • No Google Nav Bar

I hope everyone likes the new design and doesn't think I fixed something that wasn't broken (hence the ice beer reference).


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lessons in Sparging

Last night was my brew club meeting and the topic was sparging. I learned quite a bit, both from the presentation and from some conversations I had afterwards. Here is what I came away with:

  • There are 5 signs to stop sparging:
  1. You run out of sparge water
  2. the PH turns (more or less acidic, not sure what the conclusion was on that)
  3. Gravity reading
  4. taste
  5. color
  • Sparge at 170F, this is hot enough to clean the husks, not cool enough to keep the bad stuff out of the runoff
  • Avoid a stuck mash, keep the grains suspended in the water and be sure that you have as much going out as you have coming in. This way there is no binding up around the filter. All of the grains should be submerged in water at all times.
  • When you are brewing and you start to see the runoff get light in color, shut off the water running in and the run off. Let the mix sit there for 15 to 10 min like that and start again. Repeat this process as a way to make sure that you are getting the most out of your mash.
  • when the gravity starts to drop on the runoff, you can run the remainder into jars and use it for starter in the future.

All in all it was a great meeting for me to go to because I am still a little shaky on the sparging process. I have been completing my sparging a half hour or so and in the future, I need to allow the process to take an hour or so.

Finally, I brought in the ESB I made for some comments. Everyone agreed it was mighty hoppy for an ESB and the malt I used (chocolate at .45lbs, crystal 60L) gave the brew a very pungent malt flavor. Most people that tried it said they thought the malt was roasted barley or biscuit.

With that said, everyone seemed to like even though it was not in a style category. Some people said it was more like an IPA than an ESP, however I would keep away from that because it's a bit dark for an IPA.

Hmmm, dark, bitter...I will call it Mother's ESB after the Danzig song Mother. You don't get much more dark and bitter than that.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

My Version of a Bazooka Screen

Okay, so this is something I have thought about doing for quite some time and am only now getting to it so here we go:

Not too long ago I built my first mash-tun out of a cooler and have been using it ever since. However, my first few batches had some problems because I used a filter I found in this website that was the basis for my mash-tun. You see, the filter that he used and what I was able to find had to be different. Mine was a water connection hose braid, however it was flimsy like cloth and could not hold up so it was giving me a really slow flow. His sounded like a more sturdy hose braid that could be crimped at the end.

After reading Grove's Beer Log about his new mash-tun and the Bazooka Screen he bought, I was inspired. I went out to home depot and bought some window screen and started to work...this is what I came up with.

The screen was in the window section at Home Depot and is was $6 for a lot of it. The good part about buying extra is that I can make other screens if need be. I sized up the length that I would need for it and cut the piece.

I rolled the screen around a small piece of PVC that I had, it was about 1/2" diameter. After I rolled this around the PVC a few times, I pulled the PVC out and picked the size I was going to make the screen. From there I left about 2" on both the beginning and the end of the price of screen and bent it over once to start to make a seem. I used pliers to pinch the seem down. I repeated this process of bending and crimping until I had the screen at the size I wanted. It wound up being about 3 good bends and I cut off all the excess.

From there I slid the screen onto a barbed copper fitting (something most people who have a home brew system are probably familiar with) and affixed it with a small screw-tight clamp.

*as you will note, I cut very small pieces of the PVC and slid them into the screen to reinforce them and act like ribs, I am not sure how much this really helps, but it doesn't hurt.

From here I cut the filter to length and crimped the end the same way that I crimped the edge, by folding and clamping.

In the end, the whole process was only about 1/2 hr of work and because I had some of the extra parts lying around it only cost $6 for the screen (which I still have about 90% of). If anyone were to do this, I would recommend a good pair of gloves and a place that you don't have to worry about making a mess of. Those little wires poke the hell out of your hands and get everywhere. Otherwise it's cake.
Good luck, cheers!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Meth Lab in my basement (*Updated!)

Got your attention right? I was looking to do a Mead using honey and some fruit (Cyser) and I got a recipe from a buddy on Beer Advocate that was for a Metheglin. I brewed this up without any cooking, heating or much else. It was quite easy and I made about 2 gallons of the stuff.

I am not going to be publishing the recipe as I told the author I would keep it on the down low. However, here are a few of my notes from that short brew day:

- After prepping all of the ingredients (some spices and ginger) along with cider and honey (that was from a local farm) I basically threw everything together and stirred for a while to aerate the mix.

- Me being the rocket surgeon that I am, I decided to put the cider in the fridge after I bought it and it was cold when I mixed everything. So I put my bucket into a sink with warm water until I got it up to room temp.

- I activated the tried yeast according to the directions and it did not seem to cause any problems. I am going to take a reading at the end of the week and see how I am doing.

- The OG was in the 1.200 range and should pan out to a nice strong drink. They say that it will take upwards of 6months for full maturation, so I get to wait on this.

I am going to bottle this up into 4 growlers when it's all said and done and it should be pretty good. I was put onto a great website called that has a lot of really useful information.



So after the first week I took another gravity reading and there was no activity. I decided to stop of at EJ Wren's (my homebrew supply) and get a couple of extra packs of yeast to try and jump start this and Ed told me that I should get some Pectic Enzyme (like started fluid for your yeast according to him) and some Fermax Yeast Nutrient (like fertilizer for your yeast) to add into the mix.

I re-pitched last night after adding 1tbs of Pectic Enzyme and 2tbs of Fermax. I am still waiting on some results, but I think this might do it.

*one correction to make to the previous entry, the OG was not 1.200's, it was 1.100, I had taken the original reading a few days after I pitched and figured there was some action and tried to figure the difference, I had meant 1.120, but that was wrong as well. Anyhoo, it's a 1.100 for an OG and I am hoping for a lot of activity in the next few days.
** My wife has been asking me to name a brew after her so this will be Christa Meth!