Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Anyone out there that has been following this blog using an RSS Reader, please update your feed for and visit the new Word Press site at


Thursday, December 04, 2008

I am on the move!

In case you haven't noticed, I am now on Word-press at - Please update your information because I am not going to be updating my blogger site anymore! Cheers.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Little bottling, little drinking

Tonight I racked over my still unnamed IPA and added the Willamette dry hops to both carboys. I had a taste and was really pleased with the flavor. This is going to be a great IPA. There were a few things about the brew day that I forgot to outline:

Step mashed - I used a step mash instead of a single infusion mash. I did this for more practical reasons of just questioning the amount of water that I could add to the mashtun with that volume of grain. The first step was 135 for 30 min and the second step was 150 for another 30 min. Finally, because we were not able to get up to 168 for mashout (short on room in the mashtun) and because it was so cold out, we sparged out with near boiling water. All day we were losing temp on water because of the extreme man cold that we brave for beer.

Finally I broke out some of the Tripel Nipple that I have been aging since January. It's great. I am really pleased how this beer turned out. It's a little intense on the tongue, but the banana and spices really make this a great example of a tripel. I need to dial down the carbonation a bit, but the recipe is spot on. I am going to need to do this one again.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ted's Mint Stout Tasting

On his way through this summer, Ted and I exchanged a few brews. I have been through a few of them (and really liked all so far!), but was saving the Mint Stout for a rainy day. Well in CNY, rainy days quickly turn into snowy days, so Nick and I tasted the mint stout after our brew day this weekend.

I was impressed with the brew. I am not sure I would be able to handle 5 gallons of it (good thing he only made a 1 gallon batch), but it was tasty nonetheless. Ted really hits the mark on his brews (unlike MNB), but if I had to make a suggestion, it would be to tone down the carbonation just a little.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

I've been through the desert on a beer with no name

...It felt good to be out of the snow. While we are still unsure about the name of this IPA, for now it's a poe-boy because we used our free hops from Red Hook for it! It's a great tour if you get the chance and you're in Portsmouth, I recommend it.

As you can see from the picture above, it was actually cold out for our brew day. This is man brewing conditions, not like those in Georgia where 55f is a cold brew night. We got to brew out the Carharts already!

This was an IPA with a lot of hops and about 55lbs of grain involved. There were some adjustments to the recipe that was indicated earlier. First off, it was German Tetinang, not Galana that we had to brew with so we went a little heavier on the Northern Brewer. In the end, we were able to get very near our intended IBU's.

Now when it came to how to distribute the hops over two 10 gallon batches of beer, Nick had a pretty crazy idea to help us brew and cool in a timely manner. First off, please note that we take and mix all of the batches when we put them into our fermentation buckets.

Now Nick's idea was simple - We have bittering hops and flavor hops. The flavor/aroma hops do not need to boil for the full 60 min, nor does the wort that gets those hops. So, we have one 10 gallon keggle for bittering that boils the full 60 min, and the second one boils with all the late hops additions. While we cool the flavor/aroma keggle, the bittering keggle is on the second leg of it's boil. By the time we are done with the flavor/aroma keggle, the bittering one is ready to cool.

I racked my brain for a way to make this not an acceptable method, but it seems pretty logical. I am interested to hear some feedback, if I get ambitious, I may make a diagram for this.

So, quick recap - The keggle on the left has all the bittering hops additions. The keggle on the right has all the aroma and flavor hops additions and only boils for 1/2 hr. In the end, they are all mixed together.

Overall it was a great brew day. We missed out on our volume and didn't take any mashing/sparging readings, but we were well over our mark on gravity (1.066, instead of 1.057) so I think in the end, we were right where we wanted to be. The beer was a nice straw color, so we will see how it settles out.

We also did a tasting of Ted's Mint Stout. I will be posting up a video later this week to get everyone through turkey day.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Back to brewing!

Finally, we are going to brew this weekend! Because Nick and I are so low on brew and because I was able to come across some free high alpha acid hops while on brew tour, we are making an American IPA. I picked up the grains last night and I am going to be rocking the starter tonight.

This is currently a namless IPA, but I am sure Nick and I will come up with something good.

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 20.00 gal
Boil Size: 22.89 gal
Estimated OG: 1.057 SG
Estimated Color: 8.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 98.4 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes


50.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) 91.32 %
2.00 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 20L 3.65 %
1.50 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L 2.74 %
1.25 lb Cara-Pils/Dextrine 2.28 %
5.00 oz Galena [13.00 %] (90 min) 59.8 IBU
2.00 oz Northern Brewer [8.50 %] (45 min) 13.4 IBU
2.00 oz Northern Brewer [8.50 %] (30 min) 11.2 IBU
2.00 oz Northern Brewer [8.50 %] (20 min) 8.9 IBU
2.00 oz Williamette [5.50 %] (15 min) 4.7 IBU
2.00 oz Williamette [5.50 %] (1 min) 0.4 IBU

1 Pkgs American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056) [SYeast-Ale

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body
Total Grain Weight: 54.75 lb
Single Infusion, Light Body
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
75 min Mash In Add 17.11 gal of water at 161.4 F 150.0 F
10 min Mash Out Add 10.95 gal of water at 200.2 F 168.0 F

I am still up in the air about weather or not we're going to fly sparge or batch sparge. It will be a game time decision.

On another note, I would like to congratulate Joel (the picture was taken at a MNB brew night)from Monday Night Brewery was recently elected 4th ward dog catcher. With his political prowess, I am sure he will be moving up the ranks to city-wide dog catcher in no time!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Little Bottling, little kegging

While I have not been brewing much in the recent past, I have been aging a few brews. The first was my melomel that I brewed earlier this year. It's been aging for three months in secondary and ended off with a FG or 1.026. It's pretty sweet, so I topped it off with a few pints of water so that the sugar would get cut a little.
I had a few tastes and I have to say, it's pretty good. I am carbonating and hope that they carbonation gives a little bite to offset the sweetness.
The second project was the bottling of the Christmas Ale. I decided on a name and made up labels using Bottle Your Brand. They were fast and the price was decent. The thing that I liked was that they have a template for your label so you don't have to use one of the generic ones that they have. Once I get a picture of one of my bottles, I'll be sure to post it up.
Finally, I am trying out Word Press as my blogging utility. I am playing around with it now to see what I think of it, but if your interested in taking a look, please feel free to check it out at Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

DARE...To stand up and say something!

I sat on this for a few months now, but I have to say something. The recent scuttlebutt about lowing the drinking age has opened the door to an important conversation about alcohol and the youth. As a homebrewer and as a relatively recent graduate of college, I have a unique perspective on this issue. I would like to take few minutes to let you know how I feel and open this up to response.

First off, what happens at 21 that makes someone so different? In this country, an “underage” person who is 20 years old is treated the same way as an underage person that is 17 years old. Both can drive and both are under the required age of 21 years. However, one of them is going to be giving free reign to buy and consume alcohol in 12 months where the other is still four years away from that important date.

It’s my opinion that we are creating young adults, that are going to be exposed to alcohol on a regular basis after their 21st birthday, that are not prepared to socially consume alcohol. These kids one day are hiding from police at house parties, binge drinking for a buzz, and treating alcohol like a drug used by junkies. The next day we open the flood gates and they can go out to a liquor store and buy any kind of booze or beer their heart desires.

Furthermore, everyone these new legal adults know people that are still under age. If a 21 year old buys alcohol for their 20 year old friend, they are serving alcohol to a minor. Besides not preparing these new adults for their professional careers, we’re setting them up to be criminals by the very system we perpetuate.

Now somewhere along the line, owning an establishment that serves alcohol became a despicable drug dealer instead of a go-getter entrepreneur. These business owners are presumed guilty if an underage person enters their establishment and buys alcohol with a fake ID. Never mind that when an underage person enters a bar under false pretense they are trespassing, it’s still the fault of the bar owner. This is just crazy. To take it a step further, if a bar is closed down due to under age alcohol violations in NYS, the next bar owner has to deal with the fines and violations as if it happened while they owned the property…but I digress.

Sadly bar owners are treated like drug dealers and thugs, while they instead create a safe, monitored alcohol consuming environment. Not like house parties, keggers, field shindigs and boat parties that are havens for alcohol related death, rape and just general tomfoolery. A bar has groups of adults, bouncers and the bar owner, that are all there with the job of keeping things in order. This compared to a house party where there is no one to limit access to alcohol or monitor someone who has had too much to drink.

Finally, I don’t think that the drinking age is the problem. To me, the demonization of alcohol is the real problem. We take kids, tell them it’s bad and horrible for 20 years, 11 months and then bang…suddenly its everywhere and it’s your right to drink as much or as little as you want. I’ve seen it at the colleges; I’ve seen it in the high schools. We’re not preparing young people to be adults. They treat alcohol as a drug where the only intent is to get fucked up. If an adult wanted to teach their child about alcohol consumption in a controlled environment, they would be labeled a horrible, irresponsible parent.

The treatment of alcohol in our current society (in regards to underage drinking) is eerily similar to the conditions that led to prohibition. Mothers fueled with righteous indignation screaming louder than the masses calling for further and further control of alcohol because it’s ruining our society and killing young people. MADD, SADD and every other ADD related group was always focused on fighting drinking and driving. The laws are now incredibly strict and police take the offense very seriously. So why are they continuing to push for further punishment of alcohol related offenses? Perhaps they should shorten things up from Against Drunk Driving to Against Drinking.

This is not a healthy balance and we are not preparing young adults for adulthood (in fact I would go so far as to call it a hypocrisy, but that’s just me). The key is not to keep them from alcohol, it’s to teach them to say no. If we can’t do that, we’re never going to be able to keep them from wanting it.

Ah, glad I got that off my chest. Cheers.

For more information, check out David Hanson Ph.D

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A quick note on football

First off, sorry I have been lagging on my brewing. It's been a slow going since the fourth, but things will get better. I am getting ready to bottle my Christmas Ale and I may have found a great name for the brew. More to come on that...

But first a quick thought on football. I have been and always will be a die-hard 49ers fan. I grew up wanting to be Joe Montana. Last night I saw my niners come two yards shy of beating the 6-3 Cardinals. It sucked. But one thing I will take away from that game is that they believed that they could and should win. For the first time in a long time, they played with some heart and some dignity.

It's been a long road for the 49ers and we're far from out of the woods, but Singletary has brought some old school values to the team. I hope they make the right decision and hire him.

Now to bring this back to beer, here is a lesson to all you kids; don't do interviews on national television when you are hammered.

Now I know that Joe has a legitimate drinking problem and has since been through treatment, but it does not lessen the hilarity of this clip one bit IMO.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote 4 Beer

I know it's a bit geeky for the beer medium, but be sure to get out and vote. We as homebrewers need to become a voting block, vote for your rights and your freedoms. There were times when homebrew was illegal, we need to become a united voice to make sure that that or prohibition never happens again.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Breaking the top 100, CNYBrew has arrived!

Just a quick note, in case you missed it, the Culinary School Guide came out with it's 100 Best Beer and Wine Blogs and CNYBrew is on there! Ahead of Monday Night Brewery I might add.

Great props for A good Beer Blog and Ted for proper recognition. I noticed that Bearded Brewer was on there as well.

It's good stuff.

I'll be back full time here in 5 days!


Monday, October 20, 2008

I am still alive...will be back to brewing soon

If there is anyone still out there, I just wanted to drop a line and let you know I am still alive and I will be back to brewing in a few short weeks(15 days to be exact). This is my busy season so I have been doing more drinking than brewing (not always a bad thing).

I've been fortunate to try some cool new brews. Here are some thoughts on some of the brews I've tried:

Southern Tier Imperial Pumpkin - Awful. This stuff was really way over the top. So much so that it was not enjoyable. If you think that you would enjoy drinking pumpkin pie concentrate, this is right up your alley, otherwise I would pass (however the other imperials from Southern Tier are all great, it was too bad about the pumpkin).

Lake Placid Brewing Ubu Ale - This might be my favorite beer of all time. It's a great beer with an even better cause. It's named after brew-dog "Ubu" that died. Every year a portion of the sales of Ubu are donated to the local SPCA. I am sure it's not a small donation because Ubu is definitely the flagship. The style is a doppelbock (I think anyway) and has a really great balance of hops and malt.

AB Bud Ale - I had this at a sports bar and was pleasantly surprised. I say that because there are a lot of times that I find myself in bars that have nothing by Bud, Bud Light, Labatts, L-Lite ext. the prospect of having a decent ale at a bar like this is nice. Plus getting people over the "I don't like dark beer" hump with an AB product can only help craft brewing. This brew is a very basic ale with a light malt profile, copper color and some hints of hops. Nothing to write home about, but if you were stranded at a bar with no other options, things could be worse.

There have been more, so I am going to have to update this as they come to me. I will be back in commission ASAP.

Cheers and remember to vote on November 4th.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nameless Christmas Ale

I am still contemplating what the name of this brew is going to be, but I think that I'll get into that more when I start working on a label. Right now, the plan is to load up on bombers (it's a great excuse to stop at Galeville and grab a bomber every now and again) and make some labels for the brew. I'll bottle all or most of it in bombers (30 for 5 gallons) and put a unique label on them. The thought is that I'll wrap up with two goblets (from Syracuse China) each and give them out as Christmas gifts.

I was thinking something with Clark W. Griswold, but we'll see.

Anyway, the brewing went well, I struck at 154f for 45min, decoct for 10 min to get the mash up to 168f. I did a fly sparge for about 35min at 170f and was able to collect about 8 gallons. the recipe called for a 90 min boil, so I did that (especially since I had such a good volume).

All went well. I added the spices at 1min and mixed them all together before adding them to the wort. In the end I had a brew that weighed in at 1.090 and I was able to pitch a very healthy yeast. So much so that it was a problem. It was bubbling out of the cracks between the bucket and the lid! It's the first time I've had that happen. That only lasted about 32hrs. Now it's slowed and it's about ready for secondary. I'll do that later this week.

It was a great brew day. This is a busy time for me, so it's nice to have something that takes my mind off of work and I can focus on brewing.



I racked this over and when I tasted it, the anise was totally overwhelming the spice profile (note to self, no more anise EVER) so I added another teaspoon of apple pie spice and a half teaspoon of ground ginger. After a week like that, I took a taste and STILL wasn't happy so I took Ted's advice and added 2 shots of Appleton rum and another tablespoon of apple pie spice. I had a small sample of that and it was really good, complex, warming and not overpowered by any one flavor or smell. The final spice breakdown was as follows:

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp apple pie spice
2 shots of Appleton rum
a pinch of anise seed (don't add next time)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Christmas in September

For the last few years I have been wanting to brew up a Christmas Spice beer, but I have never been able to fit one in because of my job. I adjusted my schedule so that I will have some time on Sunday to brew up a nice "little" Christmas spice. There will be a name forthcoming.

Here we go:

Batch Size: 5.25 gal
Estimated OG: 1.094 SG
Estimated Color: 20.6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 24.5 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amount Item
12.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) UK (3.0 SRM) 52.52 %
9.80 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) 42.89 %
0.81 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L (80.0 SRM) 3.54 %
0.24 lb Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM) 1.05 %
1.00 oz Galena [10.00 %] (60 min) 24.5 IBU
0.26 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 min)
1 Pkgs London Ale (Wyeast Labs #1028) [Starter 50Yeast-Ale]
The spices that were added are as follows: Add with 1 min left
1/2 tsp Cinnamon (ground dry)
1/4 tsp Ginger (ground dry)
1/8 tsp Nuteg (ground dry)
1/8 tsp Allspice (ground dry)
*optional - Anise

Single Infusion, Full Body
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
45 min Mash In Add 28.56 qt of water at 163.7 F 152.0 F
20 min Step Decoct 9.52 qt of mash and boil it 168.0 F

More to come. Cheers!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Big first harvest, now we dry the hops

About half of the hops are ready to go, so now I get to pick and dry them so that I can see how much I'm going to yield. As anyone that has been into drying herbs or anything knows that I'm going to lose 70-80% of the weight of my harvest as the hops dry so keep that in mind when you see the pictures.

This is just a gratuitous hops shot that I thought all the hop heads would enjoy.

After doing some reading, I discovered that there are two basic concepts in drying hops. One is heat based and the other is airflow based. When push comes to shove, it's up to you beyond that. the things to be sure to avoid are situations where your hops are going to be sealed up while still moist as this will lead to everything from off smells to mold. You also want to keep an eye on them because you don't want to over dry them so that they are too brittle to use.

With all that said, it's drying stuff so don't get too worked up about how you do this. Just keep an eye on them and you'll do fine.

As you can see from these pictures, I used the airflow based method where you ensure that there is a steady flow of air going over the hops to remove the moisture. To do this, you are going to need to have the hops in a warm place.

I took a screen out of one of my windows (ghetto?) and placed it over a plastic bin. I have a small fan in the bottom that is face down turned on. My thought here was that the fan air is pretty intense so by facing it down the airflow will be broken up by bouncing off the bottom before flowing over the hops. I also placed another bin over this one to keep anything from landing on the hops from in the air, but it's not a huge ordeal of you left them open.

As you can see, I spread them out so that there were no hops on top of one another and let them be for a few days. They were done within five days and I put them in zip lock bags to store them in the freezer. My total yield for this first picking was 2 ounces so I am a little disappointed, but I sill have another harvest that is about half as much as that so I should wind up with three to three and a half ounces of hops. I was thinking of using all my homegrown hops in a batch with some organic malt and call it hippy juice or something.

One quick note is that with my second set up hops I am going to try and dry them on the vine. I have heard of doing this with other plants and I thought it might work with hops too.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

New drinking anthem

I got an email out of the blue from someone named "Drunker than Satan" with a free mp3. The song is "Drunker than Satan" by none other than Mr. Horatio Lee Jenkins, for those of you that are so inclined, he has a MySpace page.

The video helps illustrate what's going on in the song in case it's not clear enough

I know what you're thinking, 'what the hell does this have to do with anything?'. It doesn't. It was one of the rare unsolicited emails I get to my email address and I decided to listen to the song. Since then, I have been humming and singing it so they must have done something right.

It's funny, but it's actually not a bad song at all. I was a big Bloodhound Gang, Southern Culture on the Skids, Reverend Horton Heat fan so this was right in line with all those classics.

Anyway, I enjoyed and thought you might too. Cheers!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How do I know when my hops are ready?

Well the short answer is like that. But what are we looking at? (click on the picture above for a good look)

First, you will note the yellow lupulin glands are spilling out onto the leaves near the stem. This is the yellow dust you see in the pictures.

Second is papery to the touch. They should be dry and papery, but not brittle.

Third, the cone should be beginning to open up. When touched, your hands should smell like hops (yea, it's awesome to rub a plant and have your hands smell like hops).

The cones will ripen at different times. There will be some that are ready before others. In some cases, homebrewers wait and let them all ripen and sacrifice a few for the ease of getting it all done at once, but I am going to pick these ones that are ready now.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hops are almost ready!

While my brewing has been a little sparse this summer, the hops have been continuing to grow and in only their second year, look to be doing pretty well!

This is the cascade and fuggles vines. The fuggles on the right is not producing anything, but the cascade is looking great!!!

There are quite a few cones on there and they are coming along nicely. There are some hairs on them, but they still seem small compared to some of the hops cones I see in other pictures. I am thinking that next weekend I might pick a few and dry them because some are further along than others.

This is a nice shot of the head to head between the cascade (on the right) and the centennial. I am quite sure the centennial are ready as they are REALLY smelly and look a lot more open than the cascade. The cascade cone pictured on the right is more mature than most of the others on the vine so I am going to give it more time.

As you can see from the pictures above, the centennial hops did not do as well, I only expect to harvest a few ounces at best with this one. Hopefully next year all hops will be putting out a bigger harvest. I am pleased with this year as a whole though.


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Great Show on The Works

So tonight I just finished watching "The Works" on The History Channel and I have to say...I'm impressed. They toured Smuttynose. and an AB Brewery, an AWESOME homebrewer setup, a can collection for the ages, and a marketing firm that works for AB.

I was really impressed with how throughly they covered the process and even got into cask ales (Stonch would be proud), how the basic keg works, and all sorts of fun.

If you missed this and can catch it on a rerun, I HIGHLY recommend it. It was pretty good.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Breaking the Fruit Cap

Since this is my first time doing the whole "Melomel" thing, I have been documenting everything pretty extensively. This whole process requires a lot of doctoring throughout. While I know a lot of people do the fruit in the secondary, I went with the BYO article I saw and fruited in the primary. This creates a dynamic where you need to break up the fruit that collects at the top of the fermentor and allow the CO2 to escape while also introducing some O2 to the mix. I made a short YouTube video of the process:

Pretty interesting stuff right? It's actually pretty easy. I have been taking refractometer readings once or twice a day (when I break the fruit cap) and once I get to the proper gravity, I'll rack over into the secondary. So far it's moved about 10 brix since I pitched it. It's at a pace of 1 brix per day. My goal is 18brix (1.025). At this point, I just need to keep those little guys moving to get there! Cheers!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fermentation Friday - Dive right in!

The Brew Dudes are holding court on the now regular Fermentation Friday that started at Beer Bits 2. Good stuff. This weeks topic is:

"What advice would you give people that are getting into beer?"

Well for me, it's just dive right in. The biggest mistake I made in brewing was not getting started soon enough. I have learned so much more from doing than I ever had from reading when it comes to beer.

While I think there are some basics it won't hurt to read about, if you have access to a brew club or you know someone that brews, there is so much more to learn from watching and doing that will be helpful. I made the plunge into all grain only after a guy from my brew club invited me over one Saturday to watch. I had been reading about this FOREVER and suddenly I saw it in action. It was a lot easier than it sounded.

I love reading about beer and brewing, but from my experience, there is a lot of extra information that is not needed in brewing. This is really a pretty simple process; hot water, crushed grain, time, hops and yeast. That's it. It's not fusing atoms. Just breaking down complex sugars into simple sugars and letting yeast eat'em.

Anyway, that's my two cents. Hope it helps. Cheers!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mellow Meatball

Since my last shot at mead was named after my wife (Christa Meth), I figured it was only fair to name my first melomel after our mellow dog Meatball. So now we have Mellow Meatball.

The recipe was pretty basic as I wanted to get this whole mead thing right for once. Last time around it turned out WAY too dry and tastes like diesel fuel. I figure it can't get worse than that. I "brewed" this up last night (it's such a simple process that it's doesn't feel like brewing at all) and it was bubbling this morning so I think things are going well. Here is what I did, let me know if there is anything out of place:

22lbs wild flower honey (bought from the local regional market) $65
20lbs frozen three berry mix (blueberry, raspberry and blackberry) $52
3 gallons of water - free
5tbs of yeast nutrient - had it
2packets of dried yeast (I threw away the yeast pack and didn't write down the type, but it wasn't champagne yeast) - $.89 each

Simple enough, right? I thawed out the frozen berry's in some water and dumped them into one of my buckets. I suddenly realized that there was a ton of extra water and I was concerned that there would not be enough space to have all the honey added so I strained off all the fruit. Once the fruit was strained, I mashed it with my hands to make a chunky puree.

In my second bucket, I sanitized and added the water and honey. I submerged all the honey jars into hot water to loosen up the honey. The honey was pretty loose and I was able to stir it into the water with relative ease. With all 22lbs of honey, there was just shy of 5 gallons of liquid at 1.155. I added that to the fruit and used my drill mixer to aerate the must.

For the yeast, I added both packets to 1/2 cup of water that was at about 106f. After this, I added some of the must to the yeast before dumping the whole thing into the mix. I stirred in the yeast nutrient and the yeast and it was time to cover up. Because the fruit was so close to the top, I decided to use a blow tube instead of a bubbler.

This morning I checked it and it was starting to bubble. According to the reading I have been doing, I am supposed to do something called "capping" which, from what I can tell, consists of popping the bung out once of twice a day to relieve the pressure because of the aggressive fermentation.

More to come on this, but I tasted it last night and it was good! Cheers.


I have been taking the gravity and so far it has moved from 1.155 to 1.131. I am also breaking the fruit cap and I will be posting up a video about that soon.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Red Face V2

It's been a few weekends now, but we brewed up our second round of the Red Face Ale and all went well. Nick and Byran were at my place bright and early for the brew day. This was Bryan's second time really brewing the all-grain way and he seems to be getting it down.

For this brew day, instead of doing two different brews, we decided to just brew one kind and make 30 gallons of it so we could each get 10 gallons of Red Face for our selves. To achieve this, we essentially made a 20 gallon batch and a 10 gallon batch. One interesting note was that with the 20 gallon batch we just used cascade for the flavor hops. With the 10 gallon batch, we used only Liberty for the flavor. I wanted to see what the character of each of the hops was.

We made some adjustments to the recipe on this one, replacing the black patent with chocolate and using a 45L crystal instead of the 10L. Both of the batches had the same malt profile:

10 Gal
18.5 lbs 2-row US
3.5 lbs Crystal 45L
3.5 lbs Munich
.25 lbs Chocolate
2oz Pearle (60 min)
.55oz Brewers Gold (60 min)
.55oz Amarillo (40 min)
1oz Liberty (1min to cool down)
Wyeast 1056 (American Ale)

20 Gal
Double the grain bill above and replace the Liberty with 3oz of Cascade

Overall it was a pretty good brew day. The OG for the 20 gal batch was 1.054 and the OG for the 10 gal was 1.048 (I forgot why it worked out that way, this is why I usually do my blog posts right after I brew). Both were spot on and yielded 10 gallons for each of us. I have since racked mine to the keg and tasted the two of them back to back.

The 20gal finished with1.014 and the 10 gallon finished with 1.007 so they are pretty close on ABV, but the 20 gallon (cascade) one is noticeably more full bodied. The 10 gallon (liberty) batch has a lighter mouth feel and lacks a lot of the character of the cascade brew. However, it's a lighter more drinkable brew for the summer.

In any event, they are both pretty good brews. I am going to be happy. On another note, I just picked up 22lbs of wild flower honey from the Regional Market. It's Melomel time!


Friday, July 11, 2008

Still here

I have just been working a lot. I am going to post in the next few days about the brew session we had with the Red Ale. All went well with it and it's currently in secondary. In the meantime I have been working on all sorts of random crap. Here is a little overview:

Hops: My cascade hops took off this year! They are blooming as we speak. I had a minor beetle attack with these strange little guys that had shinny shells and they were very slow moving. My non-chemical solution was to burn them. They sat right on top of the leaf so I just took a butane lighter and burned them. They haven't been back since so I guess it worked!

CO2: My CO2 regulator that I picked up from Harbor Freight seems to run with a little too much pressure. If I don't drink for a night, the pressure gets all heady and is way over pressured. It won't go low enough for serving PSI so I switched that one out to the small tank as that one runs beer more steadily in a single session as opposed to my keggerator which will go on and off from night to night.

New Beer: Finally I have been trying a lot of new brews! Empire brewing company has some great beers on tap. There were two great ones that stood out to me; the Saison and the Doppelbock. Both were great. I also had some Cooperstown Brewing Co. "Special Ale" that tasted like a bock (IMHO) that I thoroughly enjoyed. The brew that takes the cake though is the Southern Tier Uber Sun imperial summer wheat. This thing is a really big beer that is smooth and easy to drink. It's a sipper, but not too heavy and does not make you pay in the end.

It's been busy with work, but not too busy to keep track of Monday Night Brewery. Jonathan, I hope you're feeling better. Best wishes in a speedy recovery.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

A real blogger party!

Sorry I'm late with this post, but like a good Brew Blogger, this weekend's brewing took precedence over blogging. Fermentation Friday has come and gone, but today I had a stop in by fellow blogger Ted from Ted's Homebrew Journal making this a real brew blogging shindig. Ted's band was out my way for a show near by and we met up at Galeville Country store. We had beer exchange and he was on his way. I have all sorts of cool brews to try out as a result and I gave Ted and the band a quick brew sampling. Fun stuff this brew blogging.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Have had a whole bunch of cool submissions for the Fermentation Friday so here we go!

Tony - Brew Dad - Sums up his attempt at a stout-rootbeer-ice cream hybrid
Matt - Sports Beer Wine Life Not in that order - I like the sounds of his "Blood Orange Hef"
Bill - The Panhandle Beer Snob - This is the first I have heard of using tree in your beer
Jon - The Brew Site - I brewed with pumpkin once too and I have to say it's not at all necessary, just use the spices.
Rob - Pfiff - mmmm brandied cherries
Bryon - Home Brew Beer - While I think Hard Root Beer is a bust, the maple syrup beer might be something
Muckney Brewing - I agree, 12 cinnamon sticks IS too much
Jim - Loot Corp 3.0 - Any brew project that can double as a marinade for chicken is crazy in my book
Keith - Brainard Brewing - Brewing with wormwood

And last but not least, the brains behind the day:

Adam :-) Beer Bits 2 - I feel your pain, trial and error is the only way to REALLY learn how not to brew

If I missed anyone, please feel free to email me and I will gladly add you to the lineup. I'm sorry this took so long to post up and I am glad so many people contributed. For anyone wondering if they were "in the spirit of the question" it's all good. I just like hearing about crazy crap brewers try.

Thanks again to Ted for stopping in and saying hi, I hope your show went well in spite of the rain.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Fermentation Friday is here!!!

OK, so here we go with the hosted Fermentation Friday. The subject for today kiddies is tell us about the craziest concoction you ever came up with (prepped or on the fly) for brewing. This can include ingredients, techniques and anything else you want to share.

For my fermentation Friday tale, I am going to talk about my "shower head sparge arm". It seems as though these types of project always seem to start with the best of intentions. In my case, I had wanted to make a nice sparge arm for my brewing operation and I was not into buying a fancy rotating head as I am a stingy man.

After several failed attempts at making a simple sparge arm, I was in Mr. Seconds looking for stuff for my house (and of course as always, perusing for potential brewing toys) when, in the bathroom section, I saw a shower head. Suddenly it all came together. It's versatile, mobile, easy to hang, and it will leave a nice evenly spread distribution of sparge water. It was all prefect, then came brew day.

As soon as I hooked it up and started to running the water for the sparge and everything went to hell. It leaked, parts melted, all the gaskets failed and the water ran out of it like it was coming out of a hose. Not the intended even trickling that I had imagined.

While this was not a disastrous problem to fix, I had totally pictured it as a perfect solution in mind. Like a kid who just got his sea monkeys in the mail, only to be disappointed when he adds them to the water, I had another failed sparge arm.

Tomorrow I am going to be posting a listing of all the other brew bloggers out there writing about their crazy ideas...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Big racking night

In the face of a crazy work schedule, I have found some sanity in beer. Work can sometimes be SO consuming that even when you're at home, your mind is racing with thoughts of what you would or should have done. Some nights I can't even sleep because there are work issues eating away at me.

Beer is a true escape from all that. When I'm planning (drinking), racking (drinking), cleaning (drinking)or brewing (drinking), my mind is totally focused on beer. It's a great feeling. It's like a little vacation. I think that's why I love the hobby. When you're brewing, you can totally focus on the task at hand and lose yourself in the act. Even when you have people over, all you talk about is beer. It's great.

Anyway, earlier this weekend I took one of my "brewcations" (trademark pending) after work by racking over three of my brews to the keg. I bottled up 8 12oz bottles and 2 bombers (maibock). For the carbonation, I used a little over 1/3 cup priming sugar for the Maibock and just shy of 1/2 cup for the Californication. Using Beer Smith for all of this has been spot on with my carbonation.

I tasted both brews. The Maibock was good, but had a little harsh burn to it from the high alcohol. I think some time mellowing will do that some good. The Californication was REALLY good. The mild malt profile really lets the cascade hops jump out at you. The grapefruit flavor is really distinct and compliments the whole experience. I am pretty pleased with both brews. Should be good brews.

Finally, I picked up four more kegs from my "source" for Bryan. He is really ramping up his brewing operation fast. Good for him!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fermentation Friday hosted in Syracuse

To follow up on Adam from Beer Bits 2 idea of fostering the beer blogging community by hosting events at our respective blogs, I am going to be hosting the June Fermentation Friday. For a quick review, the idea behind this virtual shindig is that I throw a topic out there and we all combine to lend our own thoughts to the topic on our blog. I will post up a list of everyone that participates on a post and thus the party is on!

So with my opportunity to host the subject, I am going to ask the following:

"What is the craziest concoction you ever came up with, on the fly or prepped, to brew with"

The date for this is going to be June 27th and everyone that blogs is invited (even if you decide to start a blog just to write about your wacky creation). Please email me at if you are interested in taking part. Even if you don't let me know, if you just write about it, I am going to keep my out on on the Internets for people to fill the tubes with beer projects.

I think I covered everything...Cheers!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Californication round two

This weekend Nick wasn't available to brew, so Bryan and I brewed up hist first batch of all-grain. For this, I wanted to take another stab at my ribbon of participation winning California Common called Californication from last year. This year I made some changes to the recipe and quadrupled the recipe for a 20 gallon batch. Here is the tale of the tape:


40.2lb US 2-Row
3lb Crystal 40L
3lb Crystal 90L
2.75lb Vienna
2oz Brewers gold (60min)
1.5oz Target (60min)
3oz Cascade (10min)
1oz Cascade (1min-cool down)


We struck with 15.3 gallons at 161f for a mash temp of 155f (panned out to 150 at the end due to heat loss on the big tun) and collected close to 10 gallons on the first runnings. The gravity for the first runnings was 21.5 brix (1.090) which was pretty high. After the second and third runnings, the pre-boil gravity was 1.052, well above the 1.045 I was expecting.

One quick note; last time we brewed with this large mashtun, we noted that we were not able to get up to mashout temp because Beer Smith's temps were low for our needs. With that in mind I made some observations this time around and played with the temps:

Sparge 1 - Supposed to be 168f - I used 9 gallons of water at 175f - Grainbed temp was 158f up from 150
Sparge 2 - I used 5 gallons of water at 185f - grainbed temp was 168f making me pretty happy

Lesson learned was two-fold:

First off, we loose about 4-5f every hour we mash (this was a 75min mash). I need to make sure that I overshoot temps with that in mind. Second, when I want to mashout or sparge, 5 gallons at 185 will get me 10f in increased grainbed temp on ~50lbs of grain. Good stuff to know.

Anyway, besides all of that, we would up with an OG of 1.053 (I must be taking my refractometer readings too high because it's not adding up with what I am getting in measured OG at the end) and a very hoppy brew. We used a qt starter of Wyeast California Lager yeast and mine were firing away within hours.

In the end this beer was $38pp for 10 gallons of beer, not too bad. Bryan volunteered to take care of the spent grains because I wasn't sure of a good place to dump 50lbs of wet grain in the suburbs.

It was a damn fine brew day and both of us left happy. We had some burgers for lunch, my wife made some pancakes for breakfast and we hit all our brew milestones. What more is there to say?


Sunday, June 01, 2008

I hope I'm not too late

Adam from Beer Bits 2 came up with this idea to have a blogging party on a mothly basis with other people hosting. We'll in true Travis fashion, I managed to be late. Better late than never I suppose. Here is how I got started with homebrewing:

While in college, I was a frat guy. My friends and I used to drink the Saranac 12 beers of Christmas and talk about what one we liked best. On one road trip out to meet a few alumni, I met this alum named Spike. The guys took us out to the 10 Ugly Men festival (which at the time was only like a year or two old and was nowhere near as big as it is now) to enjoy some of the craft beer Rochester has to offer.

Afterwards we went over to Spikes place and he showed us his basement. I was in awe, he had a pool table and a keggerator with two of his beers on tap! I had never seen anything like it! I remember leaving that place and thinking "this man has the world by the balls". From that point I decided that I was going to know I had made it in life when I had two of my beers on tap and a pool table (I currently have three on tap, but no pool table).

After graduating, while living in an apartment, I started reading about homebrewing and trying to learn all I could before actually taking the plunge. In hindsight I should have just jumped right in because I learned more from brewing than I have ever learned from reading about brewing (especially reading the Monday Night Brewery blog, they're busy playing with toxic bubbles while the big boys are brewing).

Anyway, after a Walmart brew kit that sucked, I decided to go ahead and buy a real brew kit when I discovered EJ Wren (that happened to be like 2 miles from where my now wife lived, coincidence? I think not). I was always pretty damn happy with my extract brews, even with the first couple. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, but I liked them.

As they say, the rest is history. Cheers!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tragedy in the brewing world

Late this afternoon, flames were seen coming out of the FX Matt Brewery. While the details of what caused the fire are still unclear, the fire departments are still working to get the fire under control. The Observer Dispatch is reporting on the fire and updating as details become clear. One this that is obvious, this is the loss of a historic brewery and a real tragedy in the brewing world.

The Matt family still own and run the historic FX Matt Brewery that is most famous for Saranac Beer. Matt's Brewery is also responsible for many contract brews, one of the most famous of which is Brooklyn Brewery.

I am TOTALLY bummed out about this, I lived in Utica for three years and thoroughly enjoyed visiting the brewery on Thursday nights. Saranac sponsors the Boilermaker, one of the top rated 15k races in the country, and ends the race at the brewery for an all day party. I can't say enough about how much the Matt family and this brewery mean to the city of Utica and Central New York as a whole.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Matt family and all of the workers, fire fighters and people of Utica.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Looking forward to more ribbons

Per the request of the Bearded Brewer, here is the ribbon from my previous State Fair Home Brew competition submission. I am looking forward to five more of these bad boys!


Monday, May 19, 2008

The gelatin test - tasting

To follow up on my previous post about the benefits and drawbacks of using gelatin in your brew. For a quick recap, gelatin is a finings, meaning that it is used to remove proteins and some of the "stuff" that is floating in your brew. There is no doubt that it works to clear beer, but now the question is does it impact the flavor of the beer?

For this, I brewed up 10 gallons of ESB and added gelatin to one of the two five gallon carboys during the secondary fermentation. To test the flavor, I have two bottles of this ESB, one with gelatin and one without that I am going to taste head to head. This is what I got:

With gelatin - Clear, off white head, great retention. Aroma is very hoppy with a nice malt stench. There is a smell of rye bread in the nose. The flavor is crisp and intense. There is a lot of bitterness. the flavor leaves quickly and all I am left with is a bitter aftertaste. This is not very sweet at all.

Without gelatin - Color and head are very similar to the other brew, the brew is more cloudy, but it's not that bad. The flavor is a lot more full in the initial experience but the flavor ends very abruptly. There is a lot of hops, it has almost a grassy flavor. There is a little bit more sweetness in this brew compared to the other.

Conclusion - There was not a lot of difference between the two. The color was a huge advantage to the gelatin as it makes the brew as clear as can be. If you like a commercial level of clarity in your brew and don't want to wait 6 months for it to clear out on it's own (it will given time and temp, get as clear as with gelatin), this is not a bad option.

It pretty good news. This is a cool way to make your brew look good and win over some non-believers in homebrew. There was a lot of traub at the bottom of the bottle that had the gelatin in it compared to the one that did not. It stuck to the bottom and didn't come out when I poured the beer.

Hope that helps anyone considering this method. Cheers!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

State Fair Brew Competition

So this year I am putting in my second entry into the NYS Fair brew competition. Last time I entered something in, it was my California Common that scored well, but the advice was that it was a little too "common". Looking back at the recipe, it really was.

Now I know what you are thinking; "I'm not in this for competitions, I in it to make beer". While this is how I feel as well, the feedback that you get it REALLY valuable. Your brews are blind tasted versus other examples of the same style in an effort to decide:

1) Closest to style guidelines
2) Off flavors from brewing process
3) How your beer works as a whole

While most of the folks tasting your beer are generally more "beer geeky" than your average drinker, their also generally homebrews themselves. The feedback you get is generally geared towards constructive criticism. in some cases if you have a bunk beer, they'll let you know. I took a brew judging class for a while and one of the most important things you learn there is to give as complete of a review of the beer as possible to allow the brewer to improve.

It's fun and constructive.

This year, I decided to enter in five beers for review. Listed below are the styles and the beers that I entered (listings are based on the BJCP Guidelines):

Samuel L. Jackson - 3A Vienna Lager
Ongenaet Wheat - 16A Witbier
Sierra Nevada Clone - 14B American IPA
Oktoberfest - 3B Oktoberfest
Kaffir Lime Imperial Lager - 1C American Premium Lager

One of the things you'll hear from people about why not to enter brew competitions is "I don't brew in style". I usually base my beers on the style as the high-low for what I am looking to do. The one brew listed that doesn't fall into that is the Kaffir Lime. That brew has NOTHING in common with an American Premium Lager, other than the fact that it's a lager. However, it's a chance to see what people think about it and to get some judges all ripped up!

Seriously though, it's a great chance to get some unbiased feedback. Some judges suck and don't give you useful feedback, but others will leave you their email and phone number so you can contact them and ask questions.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Little help

So I'm looking for a little help in identifying this thing and trying to figure out what to do with it. A good friend of mine was garage hitting the local garage sale circuit when he came across this. now from the looks of it, it's a wine distributor. It's from a bar in Hamilton and has 8 plastic taps on it. The spurs are all plastic, bit the hammers and other parts on the taps are metal.

As you can see, there is a refrigerator built into the bottom half.
The taps go from the spur into a dip tube that runs through a bung. The bungs share a CO2 in that connects to a gas quick release valve (pretty bad ass to see quick release valves that small).

Each of the units has a mini Co2 regulator that seems to have the pressure regulated by a little turn thing on the bottom. There is a label on the front of both units that says "Premier Cru".

The bottom unit is built around a mini refrigerator, but this is not a home made project, it looks like the freezer in the unit is built much differently than I have seen before. I didn't get a picture, but it's built on it's side.

The door to the fridge has a glass from (double pane) and is totally sealed with refrigerator trim. The door itself seals tight and the fridge still works.

To be honest with you, the whole thing looks like it would work fine. I think the bungs need to be changed, but otherwise it's money. I am just deciding if it's something I can use for beer, or if it's wine only. The other thing I am wondering is if you leave wine on tap that is run with C02, does it go bad?