August 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lost Beer Hunter

Michael Jackson

For those that have not already heard, the beer and whisky community has lost one of the great minds and writers of our time. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Jackson family.

I am sure they serve great beer in heaven.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ode to Racking Cane

So while brewing the last few times, I had some time to reflect. What is the most indispensable piece of equipment in my homebrew operation? I would like to think of my setup as a football team, no one part more important than the next. But we all have our favorites.

While racking my brew, I was cleaning my racking cane for what felt like the 1000th time. It was then that I realized that this was at least the most under-appreciated piece of homebrewing equipment I owned. I clean it and use it and without a second thought it's rinsed and hung to dry. Never once have I stopped to thank my racking cane for always showing up and preforming a thankless, but important job.

Like the lineman on my homebrew football team, my racking cane is there every Sunday, rain or shine, batches large or small. I use it and and never look back even though this device touches my beer more times than any other.

So, with that said, this is a Haiku and a long overdue thank you for my racking cane:

Ode to Racking Cane

You move my beer
From bucket to carboy
Without praise you function

Cheers to you racking cane, cheers to you.
PS- For those friends reading from abroad who enjoy futbol, insert the sweeper as the thankless indispensable hard working warrior

Friday, August 24, 2007

A good brew day keeps me coming back!

So after the Saturday fiasco I had with my Barley Wine (I will update on this at the end of the post) I was in need of a good brew day. Plus, I didn't want to waste a good yeast. So I went ahead and planned a rare week night all-grain session. Since I had London ESB as my yeast I decided to go ahead and brew an Old Ale. Here is the recipe that I used:

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 5.00 gal
Boil Size: 6.82 gal
OG: 1.071 SG
FG: ~1.017
Color: 14.8 SRM
IBU: 63.4 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 59.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amount Item Type % or IBU
13.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) UK (3.0 SRM) Grain 74.3 %
2.00 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 20L (20.0 SRM) Grain 11.4 %
1.50 lb Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) Grain 8.6 %
1.00 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 5.7 %
1.00 oz Centennial [8.00%] (60 min) Hops 33.3 IBU
0.50 oz Target [11.00%] (60 min) Hops 18.3 IBU
0.25 oz Pearle [8.00%] (30 min) Hops 5.1 IBU
0.50 oz Mt. Hood [6.00%] (15 min) Hops 5.0 IBU
0.25 oz Saaz [4.00%] (15 min) Hops 1.7 IBU

Mash Schedule: My Mash
Total Grain Weight: 17.50 lb
Name Description Step Temp Step Time
Step Add 6.56 gal of water at 168.4 F158.0 F 60 min
Decoc to get up to temp Decoct 1.47 gal of mash and boil168.0 F 20 min
Batch Sparge: 2 gal 168f 10 min
Batch Sparge: 1 gal 168f 10 min

This brew day went off without a hitch. I was home by about 4:10 when I started my water on heat. I decided not to treat the water this time. I thought about treating the mash directly, but decided I was going to do some more research on the Ph thing.

I struck 6 1/2 gallons for the mash at 168f, my grain bed wound up only being 150f so I drew off some of the mash and did a small decoct to heat up the grain bed. That took about 10-15 min to get up to temp. I added the decoct grains back to the tun and was at a nice 156f.

I let it go like this for a little over 45min before I drew off some more of the grains for a second decoct. I boiled the decoct for about 5 min and re-introduced it to the mash tun for the mash out temp of 168f (hold for 10 min). It worked like a charm!

I used almost 2 gallons for the decoct at a pretty thick consistency. I am willing to bet there are people out there who will tell you how thick or thin your decoct should be, but for me, I like it like oatmeal; think, but enough liquid so you can stir it around. I think the key is to have enough liquid so your grains don't scorch or burn, but dry enough so that it's not like you are boiling your mash.

Anyway, I did 2 batch sparges on the advice of my blog friends Ted and Brian (if you don't already read Ted's blog I recommend it, he really knows what he is doing) which went really well. Actually the mash out wait of 10 min was about the perfect time to heat up my first batch of water for the sparge so that's a good argument for mashing out. My first runnings were about 1.070 and my runnings after the first batch sparge were 1.052.

My pre-boil gravity was 1.052 and about 6 3/4 gallons, dead on with what Beer Smith told me I should be at! I have to say, at this point having hit all of my targets in temp, time and gravity I was very pleased. I had the wort up to a boil by 8pm and pitched a cooled wort to my London ESB by about 9:20.

Before I went to bed, I checked and it was already bubbling aggressively!

UPDATE: On the Barley Wine, I racked this over into my 2 gallon storage containers. I got an FG of about 1.010. I drank the sample I took to see what I thought and I have to say, it tasted REALLY strong. It had a definite alcohol burn. Now this leaves me with an even greater mystery; why the strange readings if all other signs are pointing to a high OG?

Who knows. As long as I keep having the occasional brew night like I had last night, I am going to be brewing for a long time. It's like a great drive out of the tee box. It keeps you playing!


Monday, August 20, 2007

First stab at Barley Wine

As much as it must seem that I spend all my time making beer gadgets, I still brew. Though I will admit that I have been on a sporadic summer schedule. I have some big plans, have had some success and some not-so-success. Here goes:

This past weekend I tried two new things with my Barley wine. First I treated the water to get it down to 5.5Ph before I mashed. I also used the Ph to track the progress of my mashing process. Now I decided to do all of this after reading Ted's post on brewing with Ph and reading the BYO article on Ph Brewing as well. It seemed easy enough and I had wanted to try treating my water since I heard James from Basic Brewing Radio and an interview he did with John Palmer on Ph. As much as the science was cool, I was really hoping to see a sudden jump in my efficiency.

The brew I tried all this on was a 2 gallon batch of Barley Wine that decided to brew, here is the recipe:

BeerSmith Recipe Printout -
Recipe: Barley Wine
Brewer: Travis
Asst Brewer:
Style: English Barleywine
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0)

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 2.00 gal
Boil Size: 3.45 gal
Estimated OG: 1.115 SG
Estimated Color: 17.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 77.1 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 59.0 %
Boil Time: 70 Minutes

Amount Item Type % or IBU
8.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) UK (3.0 SRM) Grain 72.7 %
2.00 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 20L (20.0 SRM) Grain 18.2 %
1.00 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 9.1 %
0.50 oz Target [11.00%] (70 min) Hops 42.0 IBU
0.50 oz Challenger [7.50%] (30 min) Hops 21.3 IBU
0.50 oz Challenger [7.50%] (15 min) Hops 13.8 IBU
1 Pkgs London ESB Ale (Wyeast Labs #1968) [Starter Yeast-Ale

First off, before I started I drew 4.5 gallons of water for my mash. I took a Ph test and it came out to 6.6. Since my brew shop is down the road from me and on the same watershed I asked what he recommended for treating the water and said 1-2 tablespoons of gypsum for our water. I added 2 table spoons of gypsum and took a Ph reading...5.5, good stuff.

After heating the water up and adding to the mash tun with a grain bed temp of 152f, I let it go for (what was supposed to be an hour) an hour and a half. I did not take any Ph readings while the grain was in the mash tun (forgot) and took my last reading before I started to sparge. It was reading at 5.2 so everything seemed fine.

When I started to draw the wort from the mash tun though, my gravity was only reading at 1.050 and that seemed REALLY low for the amount of grain I had in the ton. Without a clue of what to do to make this work better I just continued brewing and took what the brew gods gave me. In the then I had a barley wine with a 1.061 OG. Not anything to get fired up about.

The good news is that it tasted very sweet. I am not sure what that means in the big picture, but I hope that it means that I was either way off with my gravity readings or it's just going to have a lot of flavor.

Any advice on this is much appreciated.

In the face of adversity I don't back down, I step up. That's why I am going to pull of an "after work" all grain brewing. It's a balls out move because of how damn long they take but I think I can pull it off. I am going to brew an "Old Ale" with the recipe I will post up with the notes after I brew.

One of the factors that may have contributed to my piss poor brewing performance was that I did not mash out. Because I use a cooler as a mash ton, I have always skipped out on the mash out. However, after posting something up on Beer Advocate, I decided that I am going to do a single decoct as a way of bringing the grain bed up to temperature before I sparge. Hopefully this will help get things back on track.

As I said, any observations are welcomed. As a note, I asked my LHBS to double grind my grain this time as well.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


So since the last post was titled "Box" it's only appropriate to title this one "Tap". Hopefully someday I will have a "Tab Box" post, but that's in the future.

So I cracked open the tower that I wrote about here that I got off of eBay (for $14!) and I have to say, the news is good.

After a struggle I got it all dismantled and it looks as though all the parts are there. Plus it looks like all the parts are in working order. Pictured here is the tower with the taps taken out of it. It was a really messy jot to get it all cleaned out, but now that it's clean, it does not look too bad.

There are three brass taps with 2 or 3 in shanks and all the necessary hardware. The come apart with out a problem and all the rubber seals look decent.

The one issue that I did run into is the main screw that holds the whole thing together. It as pretty stripped out and I had to drill holes in the head to break it free. I am going to have to have it back in there at some point to keep the basketball together, but I think that I will be able to come up with some solution (suggestions are welcomed).

Overall I am quite pleased still. I was a little concerned that I would get it open and not like what I saw; however, on the contrary, I was quite pleased. A little TLC and this thing will be in tip-top shape. It looks as though I am going to need to purchase some insulation for the tower (to wrap around the hoses), some daft lines, a few ball lock valves, brass polish, some paint, and I should have everything I need.

I will be posting about this one more as I get into it.


Box (wish I could come up with a better name for this post)

After a long time of thinking about doing this, I decided to get things started. Let me begin by explaining that I got this inspiration (and a lot of the logistics) from Ben's Homebrew and a project that he has had working with a dorm fridge. I loved the idea and happened to have a dorm fridge that I have been using for my current setup. So it seemed like a natural fit.

So, to the best of my recollection, this is how it all went:

I had the corner table (built out of old counter top donated from my in-laws) and I wanted to make something out of that instead of building something from scratch. Now because I just threw the corner table together out of wood pieces I had lying around, it's not exactly a piece of wood working perfection, but it works. Anyway, because everything on the table was a little odd, the box that I was going to build would have to be a little odd.

In the picture above is the finished product. I used most of a sheet of 1/2" plywood and a couple of 8' 2x4's as my supplies. I had wood screws lying around so it was really just a matter of measuring and cutting.

I bought a sheet of 2" foam insulation for the inside and some of the stuff you use to stick it to things (insert technical correction here). For the most part I didn't really need it, the insulation fit pretty snug (by snug I mean I was jamming crap everywhere) and I only had to stick the piece for the door on. I till have to put the piece for the ceiling in, but the rest is done. Cutting insulation sucks.

It fits two kegs without a problem and seems to be pretty tight (I won't really know until I get the next step going). It took a few hours, but in the end I am glad I did it. Now I just have to get the rest of the stuff going.

Anyway, the next steps are going to be cutting the hole in the mini fridge and getting my CO2 setup for multi kegs. I think the way that I am going to set it up is to keep the cold plate working to keep a third beer on tap outside the box. I also am going to be cleaning up the new tower I got and getting that into working condition. My goal is to have this up and running (with 3 beers on tap of course) for basketball season...GO SU!!!