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Experimental Brewing with my Son - A Science Project!

Posted by homebrewdad on 12/09/2014 at 02:00:40 PM

This past weekend, I helped my sixteen year old son brew his very first batch of beer. Okay, the beer itself wasn't truly the focal point; to be fair, he is doing a science experiment on fermentation. Specifically, he's looking at how various yeasts from around the world perform in terms of attenuation and final pH. It's funny; he's had yeast starters going here and there, and my wife knew what his project was... but for some reason, it never occurred to her that he would actually be brewing. I pointed out to her that, after all, the yeast had to have something to ferment!

I'll confess an unsurprising fact here - I am of the hope that I can hand down brewing as a tradition to my children. I think that it would be great fun to share brewdays with them, and to swap beers with them once they are grown. My kids are all very cool people, and I hope to remain relevant in their lives long after they have moved out and started families of their own. My little boys (currently ages seven, five, and three) all enjoy helping out to various degrees, but the older kids (ages eighteen and sixteen) have not been particularly interested.

But I digress. This would be Caleb's first batch of beer to brew; sadly, he would have me overseeing the process, which regular readers of this blog know means that things would almost certainly go less than smoothly.

Early on, I had planned to have him brew a full five gallon batch, but I honestly did not have the fermentors handy for this. I then looked seriously at having him do a simple, small extract batch... but darn it, I love working with all grain (and extract is expensive!). I finally settled on a nine liter batch that we would do as a BIAB on the stovetop. We would then split this into six 1.5 liter...
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Tags for this post: experimental, brewing, science, project, yeast, fermentation, wort, beer, son, teenager

Kölsch: the Science of the Mash, Part 1

Posted by GrizzlyBearLovesKolsch on 12/04/2014 at 09:59:18 PM



Well, it's been a week since my last post and I have been considering very carefully how to proceed on our journey. I originally said I would take the reader through a brew-day, but, after reconsideration, I came to the conclusion that the best line of attack will resemble closely how we all, as home brewers, plan our brew days. After all, planning comes before brewing!

Most brewers will, firstly, determine the style of beer that they wish to brew. I think it is pretty clear from my last post that I've chosen a Kölsch. Second, and this is where brewers may take a differing approach; the brewer will consider the appropriate grain bill. A Kölsch's grain bill primarily consists of Pilsner malt, and perhaps one (possibly two) other addition(s). Because I want to start right from the basics and work upward, I will be sticking to a 100% Pilsner grain bill to start off. This will give me a good benchmark to work from. I can then substitute in some wheat malt or Munich malt at a later date. The differences can then easily be compared.

In this post I want to concentrate on a topic closely related to the grain bill: the mash schedule. Many readers may be wondering how Kölsch beers differentiate themselves. Indeed, the grain bills are pretty similar. We will also find in posts to come that the hop additions and the yeasts used are fairly common amongst...
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Tags for this post: Kölsch, Grizzly Bear, mash, science, books, amylase, alpha, beta, maltose, dextrin

Homebrew Dad's 16 Favorite Homebrewing Gift Ideas for Under $100

Posted by homebrewdad on 12/02/2014 at 12:35:18 PM

Folks, it's that time of year again. Christmas is right around the corner, and unsurprisingly, homebrewing forums are being inundated with posts asking for advice on gift ideas for that special home brewer in their life. Rather that try to be all things to all people, I've decided to simply give a list of some ideas based off of products that I personally have good knowledge of. In almost every case, I have limited the price of items on this list to under $100.

Full disclosure: I have an Amazon affiliate account. This means that if you click a link from my site to get to Amazon, I will receive a commission on anything you purchase there. The prices will be the exact same as if you had come from Google, so if you do enjoy Homebrew, I would certainly appreciate you clicking one of my links or ads, regardless of what you may decide to purchase at Amazon.

All other items are simply those that I have used or know of people who have used; I receive no compensation for linking them.

1. Just Getting Started?

Maybe The person you are buying for isn't even brewing yet, but simply would like to be. This excellent starter kit ($90) will get them well on their way, as it comes with pretty much every essential item (outside of...
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Tags for this post: homebrewer, homebrewing, gift, ideas, gifts, chiller, thermapen, pH meter, reading, books, amazon, glassware, mash paddle

Reviewing the Hydra Immersion Wort Chiller from JaDeD Brewing

Posted by homebrewdad on 11/24/2014 at 11:26:58 AM

The Hydra wort chiller
The Hydra wort chiller from JaDeD Brewing

Edit: I have done a followup test on this chiller after fixing my leaky hose issues. you may want to check it out! 

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from the guys at JaDeD brewing. I was told that they were impressed with the quality of my posts and the activity level that I was able to maintain. Now, I will freely admit that the quality of my posts is certainly up for discussion (that is, unless you are the sort of person that enjoys reading my train derailment type brewday tales), but I would be lying if I said that the compliments didn't feel good.

At any rate, they had an ulterior motive - they wondered if I would be interested in trying one of their wort chillers. They went on to explain that they are a small company without a real advertising budget, and that they feel that the best way to get the word out is to get their chillers into the hands of actual homebrewers, then let word of mouth help them out. They offered to ship one of their chillers to me, free of charge, with the only request being that I gave an honest, unembellished assessment of how it performed.

Consdering that I was already trying to figure out how I could justify the expense of owning...
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Tags for this post: hydra, wort, chiller, immersion, JaDeD Brewing, JaDeD, wort chiller, brewing

Grizzly Bear Loves Kölsch

Posted by GrizzlyBearLovesKolsch on 11/23/2014 at 04:14:11 PM


I feel as though there is so much to explain before I even begin this project. Indeed, your probably already wondering, "Who the hell is Grizzly Bear, and why does he love Kölsch?!". Maybe the second part of that thought should be qualified by instead asking "... and why does he love Kölsch so much?!" I mean, come on, who wouldn’t like a crystal clear, refreshing, top fermented and cold conditioned beer?!

But... who is this elusive Grizzly Bear, anyways? A good question, indeed! I think you will find that after learning about Grizzly Bear, the reason he loves Kölsch so much will become evident.

About Grizzly Bear

I've never got a date by posting my vitals on a home brewing website, but, suffice to say, I am Grizzly Bear. Yes, it's me. But I'm not really a bear (although my girlfriend may disagree). I'm Canadian, and I live in Leeds, U.K. As a foreigner from a land far away, of which is inevitably covered in ice 365 days a year and is populated by lumberjacks, I am the subject of many 'Canuck' jokes. It doesn't help that I love wearing plaid shirts and rarely trim my beard. Oh, and I work at a law firm where the clean cut, suit wearing approach is usually best. Nevertheless, I have adopted the name Grizzly Bear to complement my appearance both at home and at work.

Now, I also love Kölsch. I've been brewing for...
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Tags for this post: Kölsch, homebrewing, beer, brewing, grizzly, bear

How to use Bru'n Water - Video Tutorials for Water Chemistry

Posted by homebrewdad on 11/21/2014 at 12:31:58 PM

Water chemistry. Those two words can invoke feelings of unease and uncertainty. Perhaps you didn't enjoy (or understand) a high school or college chemistry class, and since that point, any exposure to the term "chemistry" leaves you with hives.

Maybe the idea itself of tweaking your water chemistry is interesting to you, but you've discovered lots of complicated discussions on the subject, and you really don't know where to start.

That latter situation was me at the end of last year. I had gotten pretty compfortable with all grain brewing, I had repeatable success, but I was starting to understand that the next level entailed me getting a good handle on my water. What I didn't understand was how on earth I was going to do that.

Enter my pal Greg (aka vinpaysdoc), a fellow redditor who had this water business figured out, and was kind enough to teach me. Greg introduced me to a life saving tool - Bru'n Water, by Martin Brungard. Bru'n Water is set up as an Excel spreadsheet, and is free to download and use (though if you *do* use it, it would be cool of you to drop a couple of bucks to the author).

Sadly, I had convinced myself that water chemistry was actually a really difficult topic, so I had trouble getting going, even with this great tool; Greg was again kind enough to help me get everything set up. Over the past year, I'd seen him help multiple...
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Tags for this post: bru'n water, water chemistry, salts, acid, brewing

Lots of New Stuff at Homebrew Dad!

Posted by homebrewdad on 11/17/2014 at 02:55:14 PM


This last week was, quite honestly, a really good one for Homebrew Dad.  There are a lot of exciting things going on, and I'd like to share with you some of the irons that are currently in the fire.

First off, I have been contacted by Homebrew Talk and asked to write a guest article for them.  I'll admit that I thought about this one for a bit; I do tend to focus my creative energies on this site, and for some reason (six kids, two jobs), I don't have a ton of free time.  However, being asked to contribute to the largest online homebrewing resource is no small thing, so in the end, I decided to accept.  I'm going to be doing an article for them focused around recipe creation; this will mostly be about my own process, which is a mixture of art, science, and instinct.  Hopefully, it will be well received... but if not, feel free to mock away!

Next up, I got an email from the folks up at JaDeD Brewing who wanted to know if I would be interested in demoing one of their award winning wort chillers.  Well, I had to really think long and hard... I'm kidding.  I couldn't send an enthusiastic response email quickly enough!

Their only request was that I follow their tips on optimizing the chilling process, and that I write an honest review of my experience.  Considering that I was happy to do the same for

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Tags for this post: upcoming, news, homebrewtalk, JaDeD, hydra, yeast starter calculator, blog, partnership, homebrewing

Making a DIY Wind Screen for my Bayou Classic SQ14 Burner

Posted by homebrewdad on 11/04/2014 at 04:31:35 PM


For two years now, I have been brewing outdoors with my Bayou Classic SQ14 burner and my Bayou Classic 1044 44 quart stainless steel kettle.  I've been extremely happy with them; the quality has been solid, and both items were quite affordable.

I know that a lot of people look down their nose at the SQ14 burner a bit, mainly due to the fact that it does not have a wind screen built in.  To me, that's a shame; the burner has a big, sturdy frame, and is low enough to the ground to make it easy to haul a full pot on and off of it. 

I suppose that I've been lucky, as the wind screen has never been a huge issue for me.  It seems that most of the windy days I've chosen to brew on have turned out to also be rainy, so I'll retreat to my basement and thus have most of the wind issues alleviated. 

Still, I have seen issues from time to time, so recently, I decided to do something about it.  The last time I was in Lowe's, I picked up an inexpensive HVAC fitting known as a starting collar (I think that it cost all of five dollars).  I believe that this was the eight inch version, which I guessed from memory was about the size that I needed.  The fitting is made from the typical flexible sheet metal that you see in virtually all HVAC applications,

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Tags for this post: wind, screen, propane, burner, bayou classic, sq14, diy

Creating Syrup from First Runnings

Posted by homebrewdad on 11/03/2014 at 04:47:10 PM


This past weekend, I brewed my Christmas ale.  I'm hoping for a rich dessert beer; ideally, I'll have big caramel flavors, some nice plum/dark fruit, with a little roastiness to help balance things out, accented off by a blend of traditional holiday spices.  If all goes well, this beer will be special.

One of the techniques that I employed for this beer was the conversion of a little over a gallon of my first runnings into a little under a quart of syrup.  The maillard reactions from this process really emphasize those caramel flavors, and can help to enhance a variety of beer styles.  It's not a complicated process, but I do see questions about it fairly often, so I figured that I'd put together a step by step to help guide those who have never done it before.

First off, be sure to collect first runnings for this, as you absolutely want that sugar-rich goodness for the process.  While you can certainly do this with second runnings, you get noticeably more water in that pass, and your syrup won't be nearly as rich or flavorful.  In case you are unfamiliar with the terminology, note that "first runnings" refers to the sweet wort that you drain from your mash prior to any sparging (rinsing) of the grain.

I collect a gallon of the first runnings into a pitcher, which I then dump back into the mash tun.  This process (known as vorlaufing) helps to set your grain bed, which then

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Tags for this post: syrup, first runnings, caramel, boil, maillard reactions, Christmas ale, homebrewing

My Award Winning Chili Recipe

Posted by homebrewdad on 10/30/2014 at 05:21:28 AM

Last week, I posted about success brewing for my company, followed by winning the company chili cook off. It was a pretty cool week for me, no doubt.

Well, a surprising amount of people have contacted me to ask for my chili recipe. I'm not one of those "it's a secret you'll have to pry from my corpse" kind of guys; I'm happy to share.

A few notes:

I am aware that some (looking at you, Texas) hold that "real" chili contains no beans. That's fine, but mine does. It has two kinds of beans, as a matter of fact. If that bothers you... well, this isn't the recipe for you.

This chili is rather spicy; I feel like if you don't get a bit of a runny nose when you eat it, then it's not hot enough.

Please understand that I learned to cook from my mother, who is a notorious "pinch of this, dash of that" kind of cook. This is her base recipe, though I have changed and adapted it over the years (for one, it WAY spicier than she used to do).

Every single time that I cook my chili, I season it to taste... which means that the exact amount of pepper and such does vary. I'll give some wild approximations on seasoning in the ingredient list below, but you really should follow the "season to taste" methodology to ensure that you're happy with the end result. Realize, too, that red pepper tends...
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Tags for this post: chili, recipe, award, winning, cooking

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