June 2008

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!