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Brewing a Small Batch With the Big Boys - My Brewday at Harpoon

Posted by tracebusta on 3/17/2015 at 09:13:35 AM

I work for a restaurant group that has a small handful of restaurants, a cocktail bar, and a non-profit organization that educates elementary/high school kids on food. Every year we do a fundraiser in order to buy all the school supplies needed. This year Harpoon decided to make a beer specifically for us; and luckily for me, a sous chef and I got to help with the brewing.

The beer is a German lager. We didn't use their house yeast, instead they had been propagating up some German Helles yeast. We were aiming for a session beer, right around 4%. We wanted a very full body, and hit a mash temp of 160F. This was also a small batch, we ended up at 305 gallons; just a hair under the 10 barrel mark.

The mash/lauter tun

The boil kettle

The strike water had been heated to 182F starting the night before. By the time it got through all the piping and into the mash tun, it was at 178F.

The mash tun filling with water

The grain, all 500lbs, was milled the night before and was being piped into the
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That is really cool, and an interesting overview of their process, especially the conversion during grain in... and the single infusion for a lager.

One note, not related. I am shocked that Harpoon would allow any brewer to wear shorts and boots like that. Nearly every probrewer I know has been bitten by some part of the process and had a boot filled with hot liquor, wort or cleaning chems. ALL of them now wear long cotton pants OVER their wellingtons to prevent spills from filling up that boot and require such from their employees!

posted by mchrispen on 3/17/2015 at 09:49:35 AM

mchrispen -In defense of jorts and boots; They run a 5 day week/24 hour brew schedule and Friday afternoons are their winding-down-clean-up-for-the-weekend days.

posted by tracebusta on 3/17/2015 at 02:03:03 PM

I really enjoyed those pictures and descriptions as well. I thought it was interesting about the "5 minute" mash. That is crazy. I was curious about pro brewers using a mash paddle. Can you enlighten me? I saw that guy stirring but if they have those big metal stirring things what is the point of using a mash paddle? Is it just to feel like the old days of homebrewing? haha. I am sure it serves some purpose but I guess I would like to know for sure.

posted by th3beerman on 3/21/2015 at 08:13:04 PM

Tags for this post: homebrewing, homebrew, Harpoon, brewery, 10 barrels

Culturing Yeast from the Bottle/Can

Posted by Matt on 2/27/2015 at 08:23:53 AM

About six months after I started brewing, when I first realized how important yeast selection was in the final product, I went a bit nuts with yeast and I haven't really recovered. Most everything I do is a split-batch between yeasts, and I honestly find trying new yeasts exciting. Real world example, I recently ordered two new kinds of yeast and made a three-way-split-batch on a whim because someone brought it up. Evidence hereI'm a big believer that finding the right yeast is one of the keys to a great beer, and so when I encounter a great beer one of my first questions is "What yeast did you use?". 

Unfortunately, when I ask this question about a commercial beer, the answer isn't always out there, especially since most breweries filter out the yeast from their beer. Some breweries are incredibly private about the strain of yeast they use, many which may not have an available equivalent anyways. So when I come across an unfiltered bottle of great beer, I can't help but get excited and prepare to add a new kind of yeast to my collection. 

So, how do we go about culturing yeast from a bottle/can? 

Step One: Find an unfiltered beer

Can of Heady Topper
Obviously, you need to find a beer to culture the yeast from. There are quite a few breweries out there that don't filter their beer. Find one that you like and go with it!
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Tags for this post: yeast, bottle, beer, can, culture, grow, cells

DIY Universal Heating Element

Posted by brianj on 2/25/2015 at 01:48:13 PM

Editor's note: You should always consult an electrician before building, installing, and using DIY electrical projects.

I brew electric but my setup is quite simple. I have 2 of these elements installed in my boil kettle (also doubles as my HLT). This is a good project if you want to start converting over to electric but do not want to get into elaborate panels. The only caveat is if you are using more than 1 of these, make sure you plug them into separate circuits. Otherwise, the current draw will be too great and you will pop a breaker. For my setup, I installed 2 dedicated 120v / 20A GFCI switched outlets in my brew area. You will find many electric setups use much stronger heating elements and have some type of system in place to dial back the current once you achieve a boil. The reason for this design is for a few reasons.
  1. There is a greater liklihood that you have 120v outlets available as opposed to 240v.
  2. You can regulate the current simply by turning elements on or off (as mentioned above, mine connect to individual switched outlets).
  3. If an element fails in the middle of your brew day, you can still struggle along with one less. It's not preferable, but it beats having to dump.

You can take this project and install it into pretty much anything you can drill a hole in (kettle, mash tun, whatever). One point that I will stress is...
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Tags for this post: DIY, heating, element, ULWD, electric, 120v, 1500w, kettle

The New Domain Name for our Community has been Chosen!

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/24/2015 at 12:37:45 AM

Last summer, when I first approached the charter member group with the idea of taking my personal blog and transforming it into a full community, an issue came up - namely, the domain name of "". The argument was that it was a fine name for one guy's blog, but that it probably wasn't the best choice for an inclusive community. Well, I was reluctant to make a change in this area; after all, I had built up my "brand", as well as some decent search engine indexing, over the previous two and a half years. The community, I reasoned, would benefit from the built in exposure that would come from this existing presence, and so, I pushed to leave things be.

Just over a month ago, we celebrated the transformation of from one guy's beer blog (plus a few odds and ends) into a full online community for homebrewers. While the response was pretty positive (we have grown to nearly four hundred members in this short time), the issue came up again. Once again, though, I was really reluctant to make a change.

Then, last week, I made my post about how homebrewing should be more friendly to women. This time, the subject came back with a vengeance. How could I claim to want to have a community for all brewers when I insisted on keeping a name that was hardly inclusive to women? The charter members laid it on pretty thick, arguing for a...
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Tags for this post: domain, name, community, voting, results

Homebrewing Needs a Woman's Touch

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/19/2015 at 11:11:18 AM


It goes without saying that I love brewing.  I find it to be such a versatile hobby - maybe you get your satisfaction from the creative aspect of recipe design.  Maybe you are more interested in the scientific angles, what with the various chemical and metabolic concerns related to fermentation.  Maybe you're a gearhead, and you get a sense of accomplishment from putting together the best/fanciest equipment for your brewery.  Perhaps you are a dyed in the wool DIY enthusiast, and your enjoyment comes from designing and assembling your gear.  Maybe you just happen to like beer.

I think that it's fair to say that, yes, a lot of factors enter into the motivations for brewing.  That diversity is really enjoyable to me, as it seems that it helps to foster a healthy hobby for everyone; people coming at the same problems from so many angles seems to create a lot of valid approaches to (and solutions for) problems that we all encounter.

However, there is one major area that I find homebrewing to be sadly lacking in diversity - and that is in gender. 

It's not like the historical precedent for female brewers isn't there.  In ancient times, brewing was almost exclusively the domain of women.  The same goes for medieval times; women handled the majority of brewing, as it was more of a household chore.  Even in colonial America, women were typically responsible for domestic task of brewing for a home.  In fact, the major impetus for the morphing of

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Tags for this post: homebrewing, women, misogyny, hobby, brewing

How I Harvest Yeast for Future Brews

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/13/2015 at 10:26:11 AM

It seems that, at some point or another, a large number of home brewers end up with an interest in reusing their yeast. It makes sense; yeast can be one of the more expensive ingredients in any given recipe (liquid yeasts often run around $8 per vial/smack pack, give or take); ignoring this reusability will cost you money. And, let's not overlook the obvious advantages in flexibility that you get by having yeast already on hand.

One of the biggest hurdles to me getting involved in this aspect of homebrewing was the popular method of yeast harvesting that had been pushed for years - that method being yeast rinsing (commonly referred to online as "washing", though these are apparently not one and the same). I had googled various tutorials, and while the approaches had subtle differences, they all came back to the same basic steps - remove some portion of trub from the carboy, rinse that to hopefully yield more or less pure slurry, let it settle, make a complete WAG as to how much actual yeast that you had. It seemed like a lot of trouble, and I had a hard time buying into just how pure the yeast really was.

A little over a year ago, a free thinker from California started discussing an alternate, ridiculously simple method of yeast harvesting on the homebrewtalk forums. It caught some traction; he opened a blog of his own and posted his method there. He focused his blog on a...
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Tags for this post: yeast harvesting, yeast, harvest, starter, brew, brewing, homebrewing

Home Brewed Water: A review of the RO Buddie Filter System

Posted by nickosuave311 on 2/12/2015 at 09:57:52 AM


I’ve been relatively inactive on since its inception, posting only a few recipes of mine and glossing over the dozens of email threads that blow up my phone every day. I can clearly see that this site’s popularity is booming, and since I’m not interesting enough to have my own home brewing blog, I’m going to share my endeavors here.

This past spring, my fiancée and I moved from the city of Minneapolis to a nearby suburb, leaving behind some of the best brewing water in the upper Midwest. Although I now have enough space to store all of my equipment and sate this hobby’s appetite, I am left with something barely passing as “drinking water”. An antiquated water report reveals a hardness north of 300 ppm which is essentially unusable to brew with, and despite my numerous failed attempts to contact the city for an updated report, I was forced to buy my water from the grocery store.

I should point out that making the transition to “blank slate” Reverse Osmosis water has been a change for the positive. Measuring my mash and sparge volumes has never been easier. It took a couple brew days to get my water adjustments dialed in, but because there is essentially no alkalinity to worry about pH adjustment is very simple. The downside is that I was forced to haul 20 one-gallon jugs with me to the grocery store, spend all that time filling them, then hauling them back.

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Tags for this post: RO, water, pH, adjustment, filter, profile

A Brew in the Life - Enchantress (Irish Red)

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/10/2015 at 12:01:05 PM

After my recent forays into the hoppier side of life, I decided that it was time to circle back to my roots and brew something maltier. After kicking it around for a bit, it occurred to me that it had been far too long since I'd had a supply of my Enchantress (a big Irish red) on hand. I'd be lying if I pretended that the fact that the timing was just perfect (this beer should be ready to drink a day or two before St. Patrick's Day) didn't enter into the equation at all.

Enchantress holds a special place in my heart, as this was the first recipe I ever designed. Back then, it started out as a partial mash, and it has evolved a bit over time. I was very happy with the last incarnation of the beer, save one small item - it had a brick red color, where I would really prefer for it to be more of a vibrant red. So naturally, I decided to start fiddling with the process again. This time around, I would completely remove the small amount of carafa III special I had used in the past, and instead, up my roasted barley ever so slightly. Also, I settled on the idea of cold steeping that roasted barley in an effort to smooth out the roastiness it might contribute; honestly, I want that beautiful red color from it, but little else.

This past Christmas, I got a couple of two...
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Tags for this post: brewday, Irish red, ale, brewing, cool steep, split batch, fermentation temperature

Community: Why I brewed a beer for Christmas in January

Posted by zeith on 2/09/2015 at 11:10:45 AM


When I first started brewing, there was very little community, majority of the time it was just me.  I got introduced to homebrewing after a cross country drive quickly turned into a brewery tour from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Seattle, Washington for an internship. After my roommate/driving buddy and I arrived in Seattle after trying 20+breweries along the way, we quickly bought our first homebrew kit and brewed our first batch. We brewed a few extract + steeping grains beers by following LHBS instructions and learning as we went. We drove back to college after stopping at another 20ish breweries and I knew I needed to continue this hobby. However, time got the better of me. Next thing I knew I had graduated, moved out to Seattle full time, and slowly picked the hobby back up.

I had been a long time lurker of reddit (/u/zeith) and figured the only way to improve was to read and practice. I picked up a few basic brewing books and started reading reddit daily. I failed a ton of beers, experimented a lot, swore a lot, and brewed a few average beers. I rarely shared my beer with others except with my brewing buddy from the internship who ended up becoming my roommate again. We would occasionally brew together, but I spent a lot of time on my own; reading, planning, thinking and dreaming.

After eventually moving to All

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Tags for this post: Christmas, beer, belgian, barleywine

Success! The Wandering Barbarian IPA is Excellent

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/06/2015 at 12:06:38 PM

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the motivation behind the most "international" beer I've ever done - my Wandering Barbarian IPA, which features ingredients from seven different countries and at least four US states. At the time, I was pretty excited about this particular brew... but, in all honestly, I'm always excited about new beers, so I will forgive you if you didn't share in my enthusiasm.

The highlights of this beer - in case you don't care to read the article - are that it features ECY-29 (Conan) yeast, some interesting, fruity hops in El Dorado and Motueka, and a fairly unique grain bill starring Golden Promise and honey malt. On a lark, I ended up picking up some palm sugar from my local Asian market, which is used to both dry the beer a bit, and to hopefully give it some subtle flavor.

Of course, my six ounces of dry hops were intended to be anything but subtle - I was looking for a fruity aroma bomb. Combined with moderate first wort hopping for bitterness, some minor late boil additions, and a big flameout/whirlpool addition (all told, I used 9.5 ounces of hops in this beer!), I was really hoping for smooth bitterness, huge hop flavor, and the aforementioned MASSIVE hop aroma.

Finally, this would be the first beer that I have ever used gelatin on. I planned to follow Brulosopher's gelatin instructions, but I'll confess - I couldn't be...
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Tags for this post: conan, IPA, beer, homebrew, international

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