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Success and Failure: Bottle Infections and Experimental Beer

Posted by homebrewdad on 10/27/2014 at 04:04:27 PM

 

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2014 is the Year of the Horse.  For me, 2014 could well go down as the Year of the Bottle Infection.  As you may recall, I've had multiple nice beers ruined by creeping bottle infections.  The beer would seem to be great in my bottles for a few weeks, but invariably, I would get crazy foam gushers, the beer in question would see the body suffer, etc.  It's bad enough to have an ale suffer this fate, but having it happen to a bock (with months invested in the brewing and lagering) was really, really painful.

I got lots of advice on the issue; some of it was good, some was more suspect - yes, I am quite certain that four weeks in the fermentor meant that gravity was stable whether or not I did multiple hydrometer checks!  A thorough cleaning regimen - namely, long soaks in strong bleach solution, PBW solution, strong starsan solution, with plenty of rinses in between - did no good. At any rate, I developed the following plan.

1. Replace all plastic bottling gear - the bottling bucket, the autosiphon, the bottling wand.

2. Boil the silicone tubing for an extended period (my LHBS sadly does not carry silicone tubing).

3. Pre rinse all bottles with a bottle washer.

4. Keep the bottling bucket covered with a lid at all times.

5. Immediately place caps on bottles as they are filled.

6. After a thorough cleaning, keep all bottling gear stored in plastic bags (in the past, I would leave my bottling bucket open inside my basement).

I first implemented this plan when bottling my roggenbier.  I have tried multiple bottles along the way, and now - better than seven weeks out, which is past the point that issues have always shown up in the past - I have strong reason to believe that my bottling woes are

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Tags for this post: bottle, infection, infections, roggenbier, homebrew

Brewing for My Company: the Aftermath

Posted by homebrewdad on 10/23/2014 at 05:34:03 PM

 

A few weeks ago, I posted about being asked to brew beer for a major company event.  This past weekend, that event took place; I figured that I would follow up and relate how it went.

I brewed two beers for the event - my Oakenbranch IPA, and my Thundersmoke brown ale.  The two brew days themselves went just fine (no snickering, you in the back!).  I added even more dry hops to the IPA, figuring that it would be impossible to end up with too much; the brown ale (which happens to be a "house beer" for me), I brewed exactly according to the recipe.  I did scale both recipes up a hair in the hopes of ending up with at least a few bottles of each for personal consumption.

My numbers were great on the IPA - 1.077 OG (1.076 target), 1.014 FG (1.017 target).  That did come in a bit high on ABV (8.31%, to be exact), so I was a little concerned about aging time, but there wasn't much to do about that.  The brown ale landed at 1.058 OG (target 1.057), but I got big attenuation - FG was 1.008 (target was 1.015, holy cow!). 

To be fair, I always make large starter and oxygenate well.  I think that I need to adjust my numbers a bit; Beersmith wants to set the target OG in the middle of the yeast's expected attenuation range, but I almost always hit the top (or

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Tags for this post: company, brewing, beer, IPA, brown ale, Oakenbranch, Thundersmoke, marketing

Developing Your Own Terroir (Style) for Your Beer

Posted by uberg33k on 10/08/2014 at 02:39:53 PM

 

I'm assuming if you're reading this, you like beer.  You probably have a particular beer or style you enjoy more than others.  Have you ever stopped to think how that beer style came to be?  While it may be hard to believe in the age of overnight shipping, hops available from around the globe, and hundreds of cultured yeast strains available, most styles were born out of limitations and necessity.  People were forced to make the most of the malt, water, and hops they had available in their town or village.  Their beer fermented with whatever happened to be floating around in the air or lining their barrels.  This hyperlocality of source materials gave the beers they produced a certain terroir unique to that beer.  Over time, refinements and industrialization shaped these local products into the beer styles you love today.  While it's fun to make and consume these established beers, we have lost something along the way.  We don't challenge ourselves anymore because the necessity to do so has gone.  The aforementioned convenience and abundance of ingredients have given brewers possibly too much freedom to create.  Instead of developing beers based on terroir, they're based on ever escalating gimmickry.  What does a Triple Imperial Habanero-Pineapple-Peanut Butter IPA made with 5 strains of Brett and aged in Birch barrels tell you about the brewer, the place it was made, or the locals that drink it other than the possibility of a high prevalence of head injuries?  If you're reading this

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Tags for this post: terroir, style, local, beer, ingredients, homebrew

Reviewing the Omega PHH-7011 pH Meter for Homebrewing

Posted by homebrewdad on 10/03/2014 at 02:33:55 PM

 
Disclaimer - this is not a paid review. This post is an honest assessment of the Omega PHH-7011 pH meter, which I received as a gift and have now used multiple times in my own brewing. I have not received one penny for this post, nor do I expect to do so.

One topic I regularly see discussed among more experienced brewers is the question of which pH meter is worth buying. A pH meter is invaluable to brewers who are interested in getting into (or perhaps are already well versed in) water chemistry for their brewing. Sure, pH test strips can get you in the ballpark, but precise control over your mash requires a good pH meter.

There are, of course, quite a few really inexpensive pH meters for sale, but I'm a believer in investing in good tools. As the old saying so succinctly puts it, "the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten." Inexpensive pH meters are typically not very precise, not very accurate, and don't feature replaceable electrodes - which means that they have a limited useful life.

Now, understand, I have no desire to spend a vast amount of money on a tool that admittedly is more useful for fine tuning your beer than for making good beer to begin with. If you aren't already controlling your fermentation temperatures, if you aren't already pitching enough healthy yeast (by way of properly sized yeast starters), if you aren't...
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Tags for this post: pH, meter, tester, homebrew, homebrewing

Murphy Visits Again When I Bottle the Roggenbier

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/10/2014 at 08:16:23 PM

 
This weekend, I finally got around to bottling my roggenbier. I had planned to do so two weeks after pitching yeast (provided that gravity was stable), but then, I discovered that my old friend Bottle Infection was still hanging around, so I put it off.

I won't go into everything I have done in the past (read my last post if you want the gory details), but I did purchase a brand new bottling bucket (with lid), a new spigot, and a new autosiphon. I had planned to purchase new silicone tubing, but my LHBS only had vinyl... and I just can't see going back to vinyl. Instead, I rinsed that tubing very well, then boiled it for a little over fifteen minutes. Theoretially, that should have come very close to actually sterilizing it (not just sanitizing). I purchased a bottle washer, so prior to sanitizing the bottles, I gave them all a liberal jet rinsing of hot water.

Furthermore, I have decided to add in a couple of extra precautions to my bottling - namely, I am keeping a lid on my bucket the entire time, and am placing a sanitized bottle cap down onto the beer bottles the moment they are filled (in the past, I would fill them in one pass, then cap in another pass).

Saturday night, I started the process. In the past, I have always boiled my priming solution first, then racked the beer on...
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Tags for this post: bottling, roggenbier, rye, screw-ups

I'm Discouraged - Bottle Infections Suck

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/02/2014 at 03:34:09 PM

 
As I look back over my time in the hobby, I realize that I have come a long way - if you'd like to confirm, I dare you to jump back to my first few posts on this blog (man, they hurt to read). Back then, I was as green as any newbie brewer, but I immersed myself in the craft, and I have learned a lot.

If I objectively consider my beer, I can state without a bit of exaggeration that it is consistently quite good. It's been more than a year since I've brewed a beer that I felt was anything less than very good, and that one was a freebie kit with some suspect ingredients (apparently expired dry yeast, for one).

Recipe design is one of my absolute favorite aspects of brewing, and I feel like I have a real knack for it - by and large, the beers I create seem to flirt with excellence; even my failures seem to turn out to be pretty tasty, though they may be not quite the beer that I intended to brew. My flaws seem to be in small details; maybe a beer has a bit of a chill haze or a head rentention issue, but by and large, I can find and correct the causes behind these flaws pretty easily.

When I share beer (and I give away a good bit more beer than I drink), the reviews are consistently extremely positive. I've had multiple...
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Tags for this post: infection, infections, bottle, beer, brewing

Friday Fluff Post: Video of a WLP037 Yeast Starter

Posted by homebrewdad on 8/29/2014 at 02:37:52 PM

 
I know, I know. It's just a yeast starter. It's hardly a unique sight in and of itself. Still, I thought that the WLP037 (Yorkshire Square Ale) yeast was pretty mesmerizing to look at.

After my recent experiences with Conan yeast - which apparently views flocculation as a cardinal sin - the 037 is absolutely miraculous in this department.

As you can see in the video, even while being fairly vigorously stirred in my erlenmeyer flask, the yeast continues to form visible chunks that result in a cool "stormy" effect.

If you bump the Conan starter, the yeast will jump back up into solution even after more than a week in the fridge; this makes it a pain to harvest.

On the other hand, after just eight hours in the fridge, the 037 flocced out into an almost concrete like substance on the bottom. I was able to decant my 3 liter starter down to a half liter, and even after vigorous shaking, I had massive chunks of solid yeast left (it took effort to get my stirbar to unstick from the bottom of the flask). I did have to use a little plain water to rinse all of the chunks out, but to me, that's way easier to work with than being afraid to decant almost any liquid for concern over losing yeast.

At any rate, enjoy this short, grainy video of a yeast starter. If you're a homebrewer, this may appeal to you on...
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Tags for this post: fluff post, yeast, starter, wlp037, Yorkshire square

A Big Day - I've Been Asked to Brew for my Company

Posted by homebrewdad on 8/20/2014 at 03:36:13 PM

 

As you probably know if you read much of my blog, I love to brew but don't actually drink that much.  I'll have a single beer on most evenings, though there are often days that I don't drink even that.  As a result, I end up sharing a lot of my beer.

Presentation is important to me; I feel like if I'm going to spend hours researching and brewing a beer, I want it to be impressive from the moment the bottle is in someone's hand.  To this end, I purchase custom bottle caps from bottlemark.com, and an artist friend of mine creates custom labels for me.  People seem to appreciate the effort; they are usually surprised to get what is darned close to commercial quality packaging in their hands.

Of course, that wouldn't matter if the beer wasn't good.., but I digress. 

At any rate, I have been sharing bottles with my company's owner for some time, now.  While not a homebrewer, he does enjoy craft beer - so much so that he apparently came very close to opening his own brewpub a little over a decade ago.  He doesn't give me deep analysis of my beers, but he's always appreciative of them, and will politely let me know what he enjoys and what isn't his favorite. 

Yesterday, I mentioned to him that I would probably be bottling my roggenbier this weekend, and that I would be bringing him some soon after.  It was at this point that

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Tags for this post: company, event, brewing, boss, homebrew, craft special

Brewing with My Pal, Murphy

Posted by homebrewdad on 8/11/2014 at 04:48:07 PM

 
Yesterday was a much anticipated brewday for me - I would be tackling my roggenbier. I had done my homework, had listened to multiple horror stories about how sticky rye is, and had (I hoped) prepared for that.

And so, yesterday morning arrived. I had planned for this to be a solo brewday, but my good friend Murphy dropped by unannounced and decided to hang with me for the duration. If you are the sort of person who enjoys gawking at a train wreck as you drive past one, then by all means, please read on.

10:15 AM: It has become a weekly tradition that I fry bacon and my wife bakes blueberry muffins on Sunday morning. I usually heat my strike water on the stovetop to save on propane, but I figured it would be no issue to do so while cooking breakfast. However, my wife also decided to do hash browns this week, so I sat my pot to the side (there wouldn't be enough room for three large items on the stove). Minor delay here, no big deal.

11:10 AM: Breakfast is done. I take the lid off my six gallon stainless steel pot that serves as my HLT - and also does dual duty as storage for various brewing chemicals, smaller pieces of gear, etc. Why, hello there, disaster!

The bottom of the pot is covered in a sticky liquid. Plastic on my scale is discolored, a couple of baggies of brewing salts are essentially...
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Tags for this post: roggenbier, brewday, decoction, mash, homebrew, beer, mistakes, issues, errors

Musings on Creativity and Brewing

Posted by homebrewdad on 8/10/2014 at 03:27:32 PM

 

I've always been a bit envious of creative people.  Some people can take a blank canvas and a brush and bring a portrait to life.  Others can put pen to paper and spin a witty tale or clever verse.  Some can pick up a musical instrument and speak to your very soul with the songs they conjure.  Creative people can be found in so many different areas, bringing art and enrichment to lives of those around them.

I have never really been one of these people.

I, on the other hand, am more of a "logic guy".  I tend to be task based, compartmentalizing life in an effort to get from point A to point B.  That's not to say that I don't have certain skills; when dealing with a subject that interests me, I am thorough in preparation, I work to learn from the advice and experience of others, and I do diligently try to apply that knowledge to the job at hand.  That being said, I've always been the sort of person to follow a blueprint, to apply known techniques to a problem.  I can often see the big picture, and have been known to apply unique approaches to problem solving... but when push comes to shove, I have always been more analytical than creative.

Interestingly enough, brewing is one area in my life that I find this to not be the case.  Oh, to be sure, I am still very analytical in my approach; I take precise measurements, I

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Tags for this post: creativity, brewing, homebrewing, beer, roggenbier, recipes

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