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Tap Handles from Half Yankee Workshop

Posted by Stonehands on 7/29/2015 at 10:03:26 PM

A few weeks ago, Olan asked me to review a tap handle from Half Yankee Workshop. HECK YES! was my not so hesitant first response. I believe that Olan would like to review most of the products he's asked about, but in this case he felt like he couldn't do an honest and thorough review since he doesn't keg (poor guy) and has no taps at home to try them out.

Half Yankee Workshop logo

Full disclosure on this - Olan did give me the handles in exchange for the review. However, I almost declined because I felt like it was possible I wouldn't give them a fair review. My retired father makes my tap handles now, and has given me some very nice examples that he's turned on his lathe. My dad uses a variety of hardwoods he has on hand - walnut, cherry, hickory, oak - and I'm very proud of them all. I knew it would be a tough hill to overcome to earn a spot on my keezer. I'm a pretty fair guy though, so I agreed.

After waiting somewhat impatiently for the handle to arrive, I was finally able to unwrap what Olan gave me and I was pleasantly surprised with not one but two handles - one from the Session Series well as one from the Seasonal Series. My first impression was "WOW", the wood selection was absolutely phenomenal. My second impression was "they're square". Not sure why, but I've been so used to my 'turned on the lathe' handles that the squareness stood out to me. They're a good size though, about 9 inches long and actually rectangular 2" x 1.5", and fit nicely over the tap handles. I would suspect even with the closest of spacing on your taps, they would fit fine.

Flame birch tap handle Maple/walnut tap handle - maple pinstripe

Flame birch and maple/walnut

The first handle is the flame birch with a beautiful grain, really almost burled. The second handle is pinstripe maple/walnut - the alternating colors are very striking and beautiful in their own way. I cannot overstate how pretty the wood selection is for these handles, you can tell that a lot of effort was put in to selecting the right piece of wood for each of these.

Tap handles installed on keezer
Looking sharp on the keezer!

The handles that I was sent each contain a magnet and sign, which is an option for any of the handles he offers. The metal sign is covered in chalkboard paint so you can let all know what's on tap. The magnet itself is a rare earth magnet, strong enough where you'll want to use two hands to take the sign off of the handle, lest you open the tap. The magnet has been recessed the thickness of the sign, and a small notch has been cut into the handle, the sign fits flush when it's put on. For my taste though, I'd leave the signs off and just let the wood do the talking.

Metal signs with chalkboard paint  Rare earth magnet

Metal signs with chalkboard paint and rare earth magnet.

A couple of nits to pick...

One of the brass inserts was not perfectly centered in the handle. I thought this would be a very bothersome to me since I can be rather picky. Once I put the handle on the faucet however, it was hardly noticeable.

Brass inserts in the tap handles
Brass inserts, but note the offset one. Bah!

The woodburned/stamped logo on the side was only placed on one side - which is fine, but one was on the right of the handle, the other handle had it on the left. Again, my pickiness rears its ugly head. I have no doubt that you could request that the logo be placed on a particular side and Jeremy would oblige.

Logo on the side of the tap handle
Awesome logo burned into the side of the handle

In summary, without a doubt, these are very nice tap handles, handles that will dress up any taps that you have. You can really tell that Jeremy puts thought in the selection of the wood in the pieces he creates. I'm proud to put these on my keezer.

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Tags for this post: tap, handle, handles, review, wood, custom, half, yankee, workshop

What the Heck is RDWHAHB?

Posted by zVulture on 7/29/2015 at 05:52:27 PM

A guide for new brewers

There are a lot of things to learn in a new hobby, some more challenging to pick up than others. One I noticed when I first started brewing was this annoying acronym being spread around, 'RDWHAHB'. I mean you can't even say it out loud properly, though it's a fun way to test someone's sobriety. Yet it really is the core of the homebrewing hobby and something that makes the community that much better. 'Relax, Don't Worry, and Have A HomeBrew' is almost a philosophy at my home that I should really have it as a plaque.

Sign I have above my keezer. Can't remember what it says...

What's the big deal?

There is one key difference between homebrewing and other hobbies I have picked up over the years, and that is Time. Some like Diving takes training and preparation but the activity only lasts a few hours. While the slow process that is fermentation leaves us in the dark for weeks if not longer if doing aging. Sure we aren't actively performing any actions but in human nature waiting is one of the hardest things for us to do. Minds wonder and worry about the mistakes we have made or even if there were none, that damn brain likes making them up. The first time brewing provides many of those as everything is so alien to what we normally do.

There are...
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Tags for this post: Guide, New Brewer, New Homebrewer, RDWHAHB

Brewing With Kids - Of Course It's Doable!

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/29/2015 at 12:57:33 AM

It probably comes as no surprise to even a new reader of this blog that I am a father; I'm pretty sure that the moniker "Homebrew Dad" likely gives it away. As a matter of fact, I have seven children (ages nineteen, seventeen, seven, five, four, eighteen months, and newborn) - six of which still live at home.

When people hear that, the invariable reaction (once the dropped jaws return to a more normal position) from the brewing crowd tends to be along the lines of "how on Earth do you find time to brew?", "I can barely brew with my single child.", "what kind of lunatic are you?", and so forth.

A quick aside for those of you who just can't stand it - yes, I know what causes children (and I like to think that my wife and I must be at least decent at it). No, I'm not trying to start a reality show, cult, or new country. Thank you for your concern.

But as for brewing with kids... no, I don't get to brew as often as I would prefer, all else being equal. Unlike the single folks, DINKS, and parents of a lesser number of older (and presumably more self sufficient) kids, it's pretty tough for me to just wake up one day and decide to brew on a whim. Brewdays often have to be scheduled around various baseball schedules, birthday parties, family outings, and the like - meaning that my total...
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Tags for this post: brewing, kids, kid, brew, homebrew, brewing with kids

2015 BrewUnited Challenge - Strong Scotch Ale

Posted by zVulture on 7/23/2015 at 09:40:21 PM


There is something to be said for a hobby that has held my interest for over two years now.  A closet full of equipment from different sports, adventures and mistakes alike.  It is far too easy for a voraciously curious person to burn out on these.  Homebrewing has been a wonderful break into this as there both are far too many things to learn and even then people like Brulosopher like proving those wrong.

The BrewUnited challenge is no exception to this as it pushes us beyond just brewing what we like how we like to.  For myself, that is to put into practice some techniques that I have only heard of yet, Wort Caramelization and the Long Boil.  These sound simple yet these tools are not often used with modern crystal malts and de-bittered dark malts for sweetness and color.  But they fit perfectly within the bounds of making something special for the challenge.

Starter 24h before
The Recipe Style: 9E - Strong Scotch Ale
Type: All Grain
Batch Size: 5 gallon
Boil Time: (120 min) ~160 min
Original Gravity: (1.088) 1.084 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.027 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 8.1 %
Bitterness: 20.0 IBUs
Note: (stuff in parenthesis) out is Intended vs what mischief ensued...

Amount Name Type Addition %Bill/IBU 13 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) UK Grain Mash 68% 4 lbs Munich 10L (Briess) Grain Mash 21% 1 lbs...
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Tags for this post: 2015 BrewUnited Challenge, Strong Scotch Ale, Wee Heavy, Long Boil, 120m Boil, Caramelization

The Biabacus: my Brewing Calculator of Choice.

Posted by toklas on 7/22/2015 at 09:32:04 AM

Let's brew biab... with a spreadsheet. 
So, as mentioned in my introduction post, I really like using the biabacus. You have to sign up to this forum be able to download it, but the calculator is worth it (it’s free). This post will be about just the biabacus part of my brew day; I will post more about the brew day in a different post. 
Why do I like the biabacus so much? Because this is how I do math if left to my own devices:
Step one: set up the biabacus. Measure your kettle. Mine has a diameter of 42cm, height of 40cm. I enter 23L for the desired final volume into the fermentor: that’s about 6 gallons. I’m aiming for an OG of 1.052.
Step two: set up grain bill in the biabacus.  Since with biab you don’t have to worry about stuck sparges, I generally use a 60:40 ratio of wheat to base. I have some golden promise that I want to use up, so under "grams/ratios", I fuzzily enter wheat, 60% and GP 40%. 
The biabacus tells me that I need 7.72lbs of wheat, 5.15lbs of GP and 9.75 gallons of strike water. That’s all! I freaking love this calculator. Under the “mashing instructions” section, I put in 90 minutes for time, it’s about 25C in my basement where I store my grain, and...
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Tags for this post: biabacus, biab, brewing, math

Decoction Mashing: Taste the Magic

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/20/2015 at 10:10:09 AM

Centuries ago, brewers did not have access to the well modified malts that we take for granted today, making it difficult to extract all of those delicious sugars from the malt. In addition, specialty malts simply did not exist... at least not to the degree that we think of in modern brewing. In the interest of creating more flavorful brews (and of the brewers getting as much bang for their buck as possible), the technique of decoction mashing came to be.

Of course, a lot has changed since that time. Today, the malts we used are, by default, well-modified. We have access to a veritable rainbow of specialty malts, with new varieties regularly coming to market. So, why then would anyone even bother with the Old World tradition of a decoction mash in today's environment? Surely our quality malts mean that that there is no need for complex processes, and our wide variety of malts mean that to achieve almost any flavor, one can just grab a pound of this, a few ounces of that?

Indeed, this is one of those nigh-religious debates in homebrewing. Some brewers will tell you that there just is no point in employing a decoction, that you can achieve an identical beer with a little melanoiden malt. Others hold that there is something special in a decocted beer, some little touch of magic that you just can't perfectly duplicate in any other way.

It probably comes as no surprise that I fall into the...
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Tags for this post: decoction, mash, mashing, tradition, melanoiden, brewing, beer

The Journey from Noob to Pro - First Post

Posted by Half Day on 7/14/2015 at 03:22:51 PM

OK, so I jumped into the home brewing game just like everyone else, a total Noob.  My differentiator; I plan on going pro in 5 years.  Yup, that is a very daunting thing to say considering I have less than 20 batches under my belt and absolutely no background in anything related to brewing.  It’s a pretty daunting thing to broadcast across a community of home brewers also... You are going pro in 5 years?  Are you crazy?  Do you know what that takes and what the real world of brewing entails?  I kind of feel like someone just unexpectedly shoved me onto a stage at a talent show and I have nothing prepared whatsoever... maybe I can find a few things to juggle?  It is going to be a very challenging journey to say the least but one I am prepared for.  My buddy (we will refer to him as jlaw from here on out) and I registered an official LLC at the beginning of the year and ponied up $3K each to invest in brewing equipment.  I have about 5 all grain batches under my belt at this point and jlaw has 0.  So what you have here is two brewing noobs, a business plan, a $6K system budget and 5 years to make it work.  $6K sounds like a lot of money in terms of a spending spree on a home brew system but if you think of it like a business startup cost, it isn’t that...
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Tags for this post: half, day, homebrewer, pro brewer, electric, blichmann

Introduction Post

Posted by toklas on 7/13/2015 at 09:49:34 AM

The 1% Rule.
In an online community, 1% contribute content, 9% comment or participate on that content, and 90% read or lurk. When Olan asked a few months ago for someone to lend the site "a woman's touch", I took the 90% route and kind of semi offered, hoping that somebody else would step up to the plate. But with the new BrewUnited sleek look and ease of use for making blog posts, I figured it might be time to put my big-girl dress on and actually contribute.

This blog.
It's difficult to say what the aim of this blog will be. Frankly, I don't have a master plan for this blog, and at any point if there are requests for me to write about something, I probably will oblige. This blog is likely going to be a blog about how I brew beer, all of the mistakes I make, what works and what doesn't work for me, the latest thing I've wasted money on, etc. I'm actually hoping that I'll learn a lot from you guys posting responses to my blog posts here: so please, please don't be afraid to respond with suggestions, ideas, or general comments.

General brewing intro.
Just to start, I'll begin with a quick intro of my setup. I do full-volume brew in a bag. My favourite calculator is the biabacus. I suggest that anybody who is doing BIAB consider at least trying out the biabacus: I've...
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Tags for this post: blogger, woman, biab, brewer

Brew in a Bag in a Cooler - I Review The Brew Bag

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/09/2015 at 09:50:26 AM

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Rex Slagel, owner of The Brew Bag. I had seen Rex on a Facebook brewing group or two, and knew that he had some sort of business involving brewing bags, but I'll be honest - "BIAB" has been a four letter word to me, so I had never really bothered to learn more about his venture.

You see, I've used a grain bag a few times in the past, and I had yet to have anything I would call a positive experience with one. Granted, my experiences were largely stovetop partial mash episodes, and I may have transferred negative emotions onto the poor bag from the messy splashing and poor temperature control I associate with the process. With that said, my plain Jane grain bag from Austin Homebrew has always been a pain to use - it's a nice, coarse mesh that makes cleanup a real chore (the grain bits seem impossible to fully clean out). I read tons of accounts of people who have great success with BIAB, but I love my three vessel setup with a cooler for a mash tun. Different strokes and all of that.

Back to Rex. You see, Rex had caught wind of the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge, and was interested in becoming a sponsor. In fact, he was interested in making The Brew Bag into one of our featured sponsors, as he donated six gift certificates worth a total of $240 to the competition....
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Tags for this post: brew, bag, fabric, filer, biab, brew in a bag, mash, cleanup is Dead! Long Live!

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/07/2015 at 10:41:48 AM

Three and a half years ago, I was a clueless newbie homebrewer who decided to start a blog to chronicle his new hobby. Looking back on those first few posts is truly cringe-inducing, such as when I suspected that I was some sort of brewing wizard, as I had coaxed a very high OG out of my extract (aside for newbie brewers reading this: extract yields a set amount of sugar, you can't screw it up. If your OG is high or low, it's because you didn't get a great mix of wort and your top off water). Or when I decided to change my original fermentation schedule and reduce the amount of time in secondary (I have long since abandoned secondaries altogether).

Along the way, I gained some wisdom - admittedly, most often through screwing things up - and my posts became a bit more coherent. I started applying my love of creating things with my interest in programming, and I wrote the first of my brewing utilities.

And so it went for some time. I got active on some homebrewing forums, eventually on the reddit homebrewing sub, and all was well with the world.

And then, one of my favorite hangouts seemed to get a lot less friendly. The forum seemed to shift its focus, and some of the decisions there felt designed to encourage certain major contributors to find other places to go. Everywhere I went, it seemed that there was some degree of...
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Tags for this post: homebrewdad, BrewUnited, homebrew, dad, brew, united, community

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