March 2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rebuild on my kegerator

Last week the brown mini fridge that cooled my kegerator finally died. This little warrior went through many years of college and then to my cold plate cooler, and finally was the engine to my kegerator. Now it's gone. God's speed little Buddy.

On to the future. My father had a mini fridge that he was willing to donate to the cause, so I decided to give this design another shot. After reading a few kegerator ideas on Adam's blog, I saw this idea where the fridge has the door removed and a fan inside it to circulate the air. After some measurements and a little planning, I decided this was the way to go moving forward.

In the process of taking apart the kegerator, I was able to explore some of the issues that I had had with it, like the fact that it only fit 2 kegs and the tap I hod could work 3 beers. In making room on the sidewall for the new dorm fridge, I was able to make some adjustments to make space for the 3rd keg.

Now three kegs fit into the kegerator. After a lot of time sealing and taping, I have the kegerator down to a steady 47f. I am not sure if the fridge is running constantly, but when I was testing it, it got down to 39f and was kicking on and off so I feel pretty good about the potential for this one.

Finally, because I did not have to mount the fridge on the top of the box, I was able to move the tap back and utilize one of the holes that the fridge used before. This will allow me to have a bar runner on there so that I'm not dripping into a bucket. I know what you're thinking, I decided to avoid the drip tray and go for the bar runner because of the price difference, I am getting a bar runner for $6 with shipping, a drip tray that is big enough for 3 taps is over $50. Plus standing beer stinks no matter what's holding it. IMHO anyway.

In other news, as I've been mentioning on Twitter, our 100qt cooler came in and it was WELL worth the $38 (with shipping) I paid. These things go for over $100 and this one was listed as "used", but it looks pretty new to me. The size difference is pretty staggering - Look at the other two mash tuns I was using next to it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The CNYBrew Center For Kids Who Can't Brew Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too

I present to you the "CNYBrew Center for Kids Who Can't Brew Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too". Who is invited to attend? The guys over at Monday Night Brewery cause we're about to take them to school!

It seems as though the boys at MNB want a brew off to settle once and for all who the really, really, really ridiculously good brewer is. We at CNYBrew accept the challenge and will be mailing a sample out to Brad, Ted and Alen. Between the three of them, we'll finally know how much better beer brewed in New York is than beer brewed in Georgia.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

CNYBrew Undercover - Bryan Adams leader of Hezbollah?

In this exclusive photo obtained by CNYBrew, it has been confirmed that Bryan Adams is an active member of Hezbollah. Pictured here with Hussan Nasrallah, Hezbollah head, Bryan Adams is clearly embracing the terrorist leader.

While little has been written of Adams connection to the terrorist organization, the evidence of his long standing relationship with Hezbollah is staggering.

As early as 1983 when Adams released "Cuts like a knife". In the same year, Hezbollah were responsible for a rash of bombings including the bombing of a US Embassy and attacks in Beirut. It became clear to CNYBrew that the song "Let him know" was a reference to Hezbollah letting Uncle Sam know they were going to destroy the US. This line in the song led CNYBrew to this shocking revelation:

"The news is out I guess you heard I shouldn't breathe a single word The bottom line is nothing's gonna stop you now You gotta let him know..."

Startling, I know. But there is more.

In 1992, the release of "Waking up the Neighbors" was eerily coupled with the Hezbollah attack on an Isaeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. The song in question is "Everything I do" which is an obvious pledge by Adams of his allegiance to Hezbollah:

"Don't tell me it's not worth tryin' for You can't tell me it's not worth dyin' for You know it's true Everything I do - I do it for you"

While there was no direct correlation between the influence of Bryan Adams anti-American rhetoric and Monday Night Brewery, CNYBrew continues to search for the connection. While CNYBrew has in the past thought that the MNB crew were a group of harmless Civil War Reenactment buddies, it's now apparent that this might be a much larger and more deep rooted militia fueled by the rantings of Bryan Adams...

More to come as information becomes available...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Big score on kegs!!!

Tonight I hit a big score on kegs. After Bryan - who started brewing with us last weekend - indicated he was wanted to skip bottling all together and go right into kegging because with an easy conversion he could have his kegerator serving homebrew. Because of his need for kegs and my getting close to full occupancy on my current keg supply, I decided to get out and start hunting kegs a little more seriously that I usually do.

I placed a "wanted" ad up on Craigslist offering $10-$15 per keg for soda kegs. Initially I considered trying to trade beer for kegs, but quickly realized that that was not kosher with ATF so halted that. I got a response in the first few days with someone offering 10 to 15 kegs if I was interested. I told him I would take 10 and he asked for $120. Shown below is what I got.

I really lucked out because these kegs were in very good shape. They all still had remnants of soda in them, but for $12 a piece that's what you get.

Tonight I cracked them all open and freed them of the sweet carbonated monster of soda. I started by dumping and rinsing each of them out, sure to keep like caps with one another (some get bent and only create a good seal with the keg they were bent with). After talking with Nick and doing a little research, I decided to give bleach a chance. I used 1.5 cups of bleach per 2 gallons of water on four of the kegs. The other six kegs I used one gallon of one step

My hope is to get a better idea of which is going to work better in the future. However, already bleach and I did not get off to a good start as I think I got some on my good jeans.

Per Nick's suggestion, I pressurized all of them with the cleaning solution in there and I am going to shake them up once or twice a day for the next few days. In the meantime I am going to get some gaskets for the nipples, but not the large cap for the top as I don't think those matter as much. When I get to changing the gaskets, I am going to take all of them apart and clean them out thoroughly.

***UPDATE - After the messages from Trout I went home and dumped all the bleach filled kegs. They were fine and all the soda smells were gone so no harm no foul. The ones that I used one-step with did not work. They still stunk of soda so I made up some of the beer line cleaning solution that I got from Ed a while back and used that for the six kegs that had the One-Step. It worked like a champ! All smells were gone and they are airing out as we speak. It makes the beer line cleaning solution the most desirable solution because it's quick (don't soak it over night because it's capable of stripping chrome and stainless) it's meant for drinking and it's not all that corrosive to the hands or clothes. Win win in my book.

This made for a good night - The bad news is that I think my mini-fridge finally died. I talked to my father and he has an old dorm fridge at the house they are not using that he said I could have so I will be onto other project, but old brown fridge will me missed...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Oh yea, big grab!

I just won this 100qt hoss on eBay for a steal at $38 with shipping. These things go for upwards of $100 new. This is going to allow us to brew up some BIG batches without the problems we have had in the past.

More to come on this little treasure...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Three Brew Weekend!

This past weekend we brewed up three batches of brew. We also broke a new brewer into the hobby when by wife's cousin Bryan (Yes MNB, spelled like Bryan Adams, no need to get all giddy) joined us and brewed up an extract batch. When the day was all said and done, we had brewed up about 20 gallons of beer.

Nick and I brewed a 10.5 gallon of Belgian wit I named Ongenaet Wheat - after Belgian SU Basketball player Kristof Ongenaet. If you haven't seen the guy play, he's a warrior, total scrapper. Against Marquette he stole the ball and did a 1 on 4 coast to coast where he dunked and drew the foul. I couldn't find that highlight, but here is Arinze Onuaku breaking a backboard at the midnight madness game.

Ongenaet Wheat
Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 10.50 gal
Boil Size: 13.12 gal
Estimated OG: 1.049 SG
Estimated Color: 5.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 16.6 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 59.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


12.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) Euro (3.0 SRM) Grain 51.72 %
8.25 lb White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 35.56 %
1.75 lb Munich Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 7.54 %
1.20 lb Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) Grain 5.17 %
1.00 oz Brewer's Gold [8.00 %] (60 min) Hops 14.0 IBU
0.50 oz Liberty [4.30 %] (25 min) Hops 2.6 IBU
1 Pkgs Belgian Strong Ale (Wyeast Labs #13Yeast-Ale

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body
Total Grain Weight: 23.20 lb
Single Infusion, Light Body

75 min Mash In Add 7.25 gal of water at 161.4 F 150.0 F
10 min Mash Out Add 4.64 gal of water at 200.2 F 168.0 F

'Cuse may have been snubbed from the big dance, but this beer is going to help wash away the pain. We also used 2oz of sour orange peel, 1tsp of crushed coriander, and 2oz of grains of paradise. It weighed in at 1.044 making this a summer sensation.

The second recipe we brewed was a 5 gallon alt that we used the kolsch yeast in both for the cream ale and the kolsch. The recipe was based on the specs from Ray Daniels Designing Great Beers:

Alt-ternative Lifestyles
Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 5.00 gal
Boil Size: 6.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.047 SG
Estimated Color: 13.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 37.4 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


6.50 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) UK (3.0 SRM) Grain 59.63 %
2.00 lb Munich Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 18.35 %
1.25 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 10L (10.0 SRGrain 11.47 %
1.00 lb Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 9.17 %
0.15 lb Chocolate Malt (450.0 SRM) Grain 1.38 %
1.25 oz Brewer's Gold [8.00 %] (60 min) Hops 37.4 IBU
1 Pkgs Kolsch Yeast (Wyeast Labs #2565) [SYeast-Ale

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 10.90 lb
Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge

60 min Mash In Add 3.41 gal of water at 159.1 F 148.0 F

This beer came in a little light for the specs, but I would say that a lot of that had to do with the new mash tun clogging. The OG should have been 1.047 and it wound up 1.041. I have since fixed the issue with the false bottom and moved back to the braid - old faithful - it always works!

Finally we brewed up Bryan's Guinness Stout Clone. I came up with the recipe based on Googling some clone recipes and trying to find out what worked. It turns out people on the Internet are morons (present company excluded). The recipe is way light and a little under hopped. Not a HUGE deal, just a little pissed that people (multiple) post up recipes that are so far off. Anyway, lesson learned and I am sticking with good ole Beer Smith from here on in:

6.6lbs Muttons light LME
1lb Flaked Barkey
.5lb Roasted Barley
.25lb Black Patent
1oz Northern Brewer (60min)
1oz Fuggles (3min)

Steeped grains for 1/2hr at 158f, added 1tsp of gypsum. We dumped in the extract, brought it to a boil and topped it off with water once it was cooled off to give him the proper quantity. The OG was about 1.049 with 33 IBU's.

Going forward, I would replace the light LME with dark, increase the BP from .25 to .5, and the roasted barley to .75. Right now he is light for the color (about 26SRM) and could use some more hopps. With that said, it should still be a good beer for his first time out.

Bryan came over Sunday morning prepared with venison sausage, baked beans and a cast iron pan (seen cooking in the picture) so we got to eat some breakfast and brew some beer. Not much else to say besides that...


Friday, March 14, 2008

Extra Mash Tun

After brewing outside the capacity of our current mash tun, Nick and I have been looking for a way to build out. After surfing around for a 100+qt cooler, I was looking Craig's List and saw a five gallon water jug for $10. I couldn't resist.

I picked up this hoss with the intention of having it be the reservoir for our sparge, but last weekend, Nick mentioned that with a little work, we could make this guy duel porpoise - mash tun and sparge reserve.

First off, we had to remove the water spout that was on it already. For this model (and most others to my knowledge) it's just a matter of unscrewing the plastic nut on the back and it's off. Easy stuff.

After getting that off, I had widen the hole a little bit to fit the 3/4" ball valve (with threads)through. Don't go too big though, as you want to have as tight a fit as possible. With two gaskets and some silicone, I was able to seal things up (this is a process, but it's worth continuing to do until you get it right). I have a gasket on the outside and one on the inside. On the inside is a plastic nut from my bottling bucket - works great!

This false bottom was Nick's idea. It's a 1/2" piece of copper tube that has slits sawed into it with a small piece of stainless steal (feed grade from a cheap strainer) on the end. The copper tube is connected to a 1/2" spur via a piece of rubber tube (it was a lot of work to get it over that). All parts are held in place by screw clamps.

This false bottom (1/2" spur and nut) connects to the ball valve (3/4") through a brass 3/4" to 1/2" connection.

So in the end, we have a false bottom for a mash tun using odds and ends pieces I have lying all over. Having a keg system helps me to have a lot of odds and end parts so we were able to make something pretty basic for about $15.

To everyone out there worried about the expenses involved in going all-grain (Adam I am looking in your direction!), here is a way that is cheap - so much so that it will pay for itself in the first batch you do.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Oktoberfest '08 By the numbers

OK - So I'm a little late with this one, but I have been distracted by a little side story that caught my attention. All I have to say that even our politicians screw ups are better than those in Georgia.

So this weekend Nick and I brewed up the Oktoberfest from last year. In true Marzen fashion, we brewed this hoss in March and I am going to let it sit till the last week in September where we'll break it out with brots.

We started brewing this guy at around 7:30am (Daylight savings time messed us all up) and it was just Nick and I this time. We were able to brew out of a single mash tun for the first time in a while and it went pretty well. We struck 8 gallons of water at 132 which had our grain at about 123f for the first 35min. To mix the grains up in the hot water, I used my new tool that I got from Home Depot. This is a paint mixer that hooks to my wireless drill and acts as an auger. I made a short video:

After the first 35min rest at 123f, we pulled off about 3.5 gallons of grain/wort mix for our single decoction. This came to a boil within about 20 min of being pulled off and boiled for 3min before being returned to the mash tun. This brought our temp to 155f and held for 45min. As always we mixed and mixed to avoid hot-spots. The drill auger worked out pretty well for all this mixing. I was pleased, well worth the $8.

Once the mash out came, because we were pretty close to full, we pulled off about a gallon and a half of mostly liquid and brought it to a boil. We then added that back to the mash tun for the mash out which was 171f. We sparged with 7 gallons which gave us pretty good volume. Our pre boil gravity was (?).

After everything was all said and done (yes we had a few boil overs) we wound up with a solid 11gallons with an OG of 1.064 - well above the targeted 1.054. I am not sure what is to account for the 69% efficiency in the mashing (up from the usual 60%), but I was not displeased with the result.

We pitched with a 2qt starter that was rested at 44f before being added to the brew buckets. We did not bring the wort down to 44f before adding the yeast, though I have been reading a lot of people saying that we should. Several days in now, it's gone from 1.064 to 1.044, so it is slowly working its magic in that cooler temp. It's been bubbling really slowly.

I think that's it for now. Cheers!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Oktoberfest in March

In the true spirit of a Marzen, we are going to be brewing an Oktoberfest this weekend. With hopes of matching the success of the fall 2007 Oktoberfest party, the plan is to brew up 10 gallons of this delicious brew and let it age till late September when we can have friends over to drink it all with us.

The brew is in the spirit of the 2007 Oktoberfest which was a rousing success at our Oktoberfest party;

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 10.50 gal
Boil Size: 13.12 gal
Estimated OG: 1.054 SG
Estimated Color: 6.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 28.1 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amount Item Type % or IBU
18.00 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 70.0 %
4.70 lb Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 18.3 %
3.00 lb Munich Malt - 20L (11.0 SRM) Grain 11.7 %
1.00 oz Brewer's Gold [8.00%] (60 min) Hops 14.0 IBU
1.00 oz Liberty [4.30%] (60 min) Hops 7.5 IBU
0.50 oz Liberty [4.30%] (60 min) Hops 3.7 IBU
0.50 oz Liberty [4.30%] (30 min) Hops 2.9 IBU
1 Pkgs Munich Lager (Wyeast Labs #2308) Yeast-Lager

Mash Schedule: Decoction Mash, Single
Total Grain Weight: 25.70 lb
Name Description Step Temp Step Time
Protein Rest Add 8.85 gal of water at 128.6 F122.0 F 35 min
Saccharification Decoct 3.98 gal of mash and boil155.0 F 45 min
Mash Out Add 3.50 gal of water at 205.2 F168.0 F 10 min

We will be brewing this Sunday and for the day I have a new toy. In the process of picking up some cheese cloth from Home Depot so that I could use it for dry hopping our Celebration Ale I saw this beauty;

This hos hooks in like a 3/8 drill bit into a drill and is normally used to mix paint, but for us, it will act as our mash mixer. For the $8 it cost me, it was well worth it (assuming it works). The cheese cloth was used as a way to dry hop with out sacrificing a lot of volume. It's a less than perfect solution if you ask me, but it works for now.
I had hoped to run all the wort from my racking cane through the hops into the carboy, but that didn't work. Good idea, but failed just the same.
Finally I had lunch at Empire Brewing Company today and thoroughly enjoyed the smoked porter and saison they had on tap. Great job by Tim the master brewer.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Celebration Ale - Rewind

So we went ahead and brewed this weekend to get ourselves back on track. This was again the Celebration Ale clone in exchange for wine bottles. The recipe is the same as in the previous post,
except that we decided to replace the Amarillo hops with Cascade out of the pound we picked up. So when you are looking at the recipe, its more like this;

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 13.00 gal
Boil Size: 15.98 gal
Estimated OG: 1.065 SG
Estimated Color: 14.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 88.4 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amount Item Type % or IBU
32.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 82.05 %
2.60 lb Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) Grain 6.67 %
2.60 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 6.67 %
0.90 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM) Grain 2.31 %
0.90 lb Munich Malt - 20L (20.0 SRM) Grain 2.31 %
4.00 oz Target [8.00 %] (60 min) Hops 40.0 IBU
4.00 oz Cascade [8.50 %] (30 min) Hops 32.6 IBU
2.00 oz Target [8.50 %] (15 min) Hops 10.5 IBU
2.50 oz Cascade [8.50 %] (5 min) Hops 5.3 IBU
2.50 oz Cascade [8.50 %] (Dry Hop 6 days) Hops

This was a single infusion mash that we split up into two coolers due to the size of the grain bill. Both mashes were struck aiming for 150f with the fist mash hitting 151 and the second being more like 149. We ran off and sparged the first mash, and then dumped the grains, scooped the stuff from the other cooler into the tun and sparged that.

*There is no question that this is not the way that we want to do things going forward. I have started to look for a great price on a 100qt cooler that we can make into a mash tun. Any leads are welcomed, trades will be accepted.

Our pre-boil gravity showed up at 16 brix or 1.064 (well above the expected 1.057) making us quite happy. There were a few boil overs due to the increased volume of over 14 gallons in a 15 gallon brew pot (it was actually more than that because we had two gallons that started out in another brew pot and was added once the first boil over happened). Oddly, the OG wound up at around 1.064 as well, making me wonder about the temp of the sample on the pre-boil gravity. I am going to have to watch that in the future. But alas, it was all good because we were at the proper OG on multiple instruments with a final yield of 13.5 gallons.

When it was all said and done, it was a 6hr brew day. Most of the extra time was used cooling the unusually large wort that we had and was well worth the effort because this is going to be a GREAT brew. I would hate to not have a full five gallons for myself.

Within 8hrs it was bubbling away:

Yea I know, it's a pretty boring video, what can I do? At least it's better than babbling about Bryan Adams.

Going forward, I would like to create a long-term plan for our brewing operation. As we look at the plan to buy a 100qt+ cooler, there will be the opportunity to evaluate the whole setup and I would like to move away from looking at the brewery as one single part at a time. Instead I would like to create and work towards a plan where pieces are worked on and put into place for an overall new brewery. That's the dream anyway.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Cheese and beer to ring in the leap year

This past Friday we had a party to celebrate leap year. Why a party for leap year you ask? Why not!

I had been wanting to do a beer and cheese paring party for a while and my wife really liked the idea. Since leap year was a holiday not claimed by any of our family or friends, we decided to grab it.

About 30 people braved the winter conditions and showed up to taste 12 different kinds of beer and cheese combos. Six of the beers were brewed right there in my house. We had assigned people cheeses to bring and we supplied the beer. Here is the list of the brews and the cheese that went with them;

Commercial Beers
Gjetost with Barley Wine - Druid Fluid - Middle Ages Brewing Company
Swiss/Gouda with Bock - Saranac Black Diamond Bock - Matt Brewing Compnay
Fresh Mozzarella with Doppelbock - EKU 28 - Kulmbacher Brauerei AG
Havarti with Pilsner - Brooklyn Pilsner - Brooklyn Brewing Company
Mascarpone with Fruit Beer - Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat - Boston Brewing Company/ Blueberry Wheat
Feta with Marzen - Saranac Octoberfest - Matt Brewing Company/Lowenbrau AG

My beers
Munster and Havarti with Belgian Tripel - Tripel Nipple
Hot Brie IPA - Lagunitas Clone
Parmesan with Bavarian Lager - Samuel L. Jackson
Havarti with Asian Lager - Kaffir Lime Imperial Lager
Blue Brie with Porter - Hairy Porter
Aged Cheddars with Stout - Oak Aged Yetti Clone

My notes from a few of the parings

Tipel and Munster - These two contrast quite a bit. The creamy smooth Havarti would complement this warm sweetness of the tripel a little better - 6 out of 10

Pilsner and Havarti - The sweet creamy flavor of the Havarti works well with the citrus hints in the Brooklyn pilsner. This is a healthy mix of flavors that is complex, but good. I tried it with a cracker and the saltiness made for an even deeper experience. 7.5 out of 10

Bock and Swiss - This was a prefect mix. The sweet caramel flavors of the bock were really contrasted well with the bland dry subtle flavors of a good Swiss. These two went together very well. 8.5 out of 10

Barley Wine and Goat Cheese - If Nick reads this, he should give the name of the cheese because it's a great combo. So much that I can say I was not crazy about either one of these on their own. When put together, it was a totally different experience. The sweet caramel flavor of the cheese acted like a desert with the barley wine. This really off-set the intense flavors of the barley wine. 9 out of 10.


This was a great party. I highly recommend it for any homebrewers or beer enthusiasts out there. I had people trying beers they would have never considered tasting before. Everyone said they had a great time and they want us to do it again some time. We might just have to because I still have a lot of beer and a bunch of cheese, so if you want a private tasting, shoot me an email and I'll sign you up!

Even Meatball got into the cheese (by standing under me while I was cutting the cheese anyway). Cheers!

UPDATE: My wife reminded me of the fancy beer description cards we made up (mostly from Beer Advocate) and the two quizzes we made up, one for leap year and one for beer. Nick won the Leap Year quiz and tied for the beer quiz with my wife's cousin. Prizes for the winners were pilsner beer glasses and a beer mug with a decorative cheese/beer plate.

We also had some cool tasting glasses that looked like little 5oz pint glasses. All this was possible because my wife is AWESOME.