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How to Determine if Your Beer Needs a Blowoff Tube

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/19/2014 at 02:11:36 PM


I've come up with a simple, foolproof method of determining this whether or not you need to use a blowoff tube when brewing, or if an airlock is sufficient.  Just answer the questions below.

Question one: are you brewing beer?

If the answer is "yes", then you should use a blowoff.

Question two: see question one.

Yeah, okay, I'm being a bit silly... but it's rock solid advice.

I had gotten a little cocky of late; once I made it to really good temperature control (mini fridge/STC-1000 combo), I noticed that my blowoff tubes weren't really doing anything - no krausen was being ejected into the water, etc.  So for the next few brews, I tried using an airlock only; sure enough, this method seemed to work just fine. 

With my last brew (Belgian blonde with WLP530), I was reminded that some yeasts care nothing for my paltry temperature control, that they WILL explode if I don't take measures to prevent it.  Fortunately, I did swap that one to a blowoff before catastrophe struck.  Clearly, I learned my lesson... right?

Of course not.  Sunday, I brewed an English IPA using WLP022 (my first time with that yeast). 

Even with a big, healthy starter (did a one liter starter, stepped it up to three liters, decanted back down to one, saved one vial out for a future brew), I was surprised at how slow things got going.  The following morning, I had an almost nonexistent krausen cap on top of the wort, as well as very slow bubbling.  From there, it grew to a small cap and regular - but not vigorous - bubbling.  I decided that WLP022 must simply be a slow, gentle fermenting yeast.

I tend to check my beer twice a day - once in the morning before I leave for work, and again in the evening after I get home.  Last night, I discovered krausen in my airlock.  Seventy-two hours after pitching, sixty-six hours after I

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I swear by these large plastic buckets: I regularly ferment 5.5 gallons and have never come close to needing a blowoff tube.

posted by Paul on 7/20/2014 at 10:15:01 AM

Tags for this post: blowoff tube, blowoff, airlock, fermentation, beer, homebrew

Following up on my Disastrous Review: I abuse a Bottle of Beer

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/09/2014 at 07:17:00 PM


You may recall my bitter disappointment over the horrible review  I got from a pro brewer after sending two bottles of my Royal Goblin brown ale - perhaps the best beer I have ever brewed - to the guys at the Behind the Craft podcast.

I've had several people ask me if it was possible that there had been a mix up, if perhaps the Behind the Craft guys opened someone else's bottle which led to the explosively foamy, soap flavored beer that they "enjoyed".  I doubted that was the answer, and an email with Brendan led to this response: "There is no way I'd get your beer confused with another!  Everyone talked about the great labeling." 

After a big discussion on reddit, I decided to abuse a bottle of my beer to see if I could reproduce the sad results that the Behind the Craft guys came up with.  I took one bottle of the Royal Goblin, stuck it in a cardboard box, and put it in the trunk of my car for a few days.  I then moved the box to the floorboard of the car so that it would be even hotter.  I made it a point to flip the bottle over several times, just to be sure that the yeast wasn't allowed to settle too nicely.

The two bottles that I shipped out were sent at the end of March, where they went via FedEx ground to Pennsylvania.  I

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Tags for this post: heat, beer, gushing, infection, ruined, review

To Filter (the Trub) or Not? Comparing Otherwise Identical Beers

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/06/2014 at 05:51:35 AM


Recently, the esteemed Brulosopher put together one of his excellent exBEERiments, this one on the subject of how trub affected beer in terms of clarity, flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, etc.  The idea was that he brewed one ten gallon batch of cream ale but split it into two fermentors.  In fermentor number one, he made an effort to whirlpool and filter out as much break material as possible from the kettle, whereas in fermentor number two, he intentionally transferred extra trub with the beer.

The two beers had identical original gravities, and post fermentation, identical final gravities.  Brulosopher had some local homebrew buddies sample the two beers in a triangle test - i.e. giving them three unlabeled glasses, with two of one beer and one of the other - and asked them to identify which was which, and to compare and contrast the two.

I was fortunate enough to have been selected to receive a bottle of each sent to me in the mail.  I refrigerated them for thirty-six hours, and tonight, cracked them both open.  I decided to review the two beers at the same time, using the BeerAdvocate review style (appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, overall).  Understand that I do not possess a particularly refined palate, am not a BJCP judge, and have no special qualifications for reviewing these beers; I'm just a guy who loves to brew and drink beer.  In this post, I will refer to the beers in the same way that Brulosopher has - Truby

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Tags for this post: trub, beer, clarity, flavor, aroma, homwbrewing, truby

Disgusting Mold Covered my Carboy, or, it's What's Inside that Counts

Posted by homebrewdad on 5/29/2014 at 05:47:10 PM


At the end of March, I brewed a batch of one of my "house beers" - Frolicking Friar.  It's the famous Revvy clone recipe for Leffe Blonde, which, incidentally, is a delicious beer.  I will admit to having a bit of a soft spot for this particular brew, as my mind combines two of my biggest interests in it - beer and Disney World.  You see, I had this beer for the first time at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival back in 2011, which opened my eyes to Belgian beers. 

At any rate, I brewed this beer (with the help of my three little boys) at the end of March, with the intention of leaving it in primary for four weeks.  My primary fermentation chamber (a mini fridge/STC-1000 temp controller combo) was occupied with the lagering of a bock, so I pulled my Mother of a Fermentation Chamber out of mothballs and put it to work.  I discovered anew what a beast WLP530 is; I had gotten spoiled by not needing a blowoff with other beers, thanks to temperature control, but the 530 was having none of that (hello, foamover!).  So, I converted my airlock to a blowoff (by connecting a hose to the inner valve of the airlock), dunked the other end into a big bowl of starsan, and once fermentation was done, I promptly forgot about it. 

Experienced brewers may note that I did not mention swapping back to an airlock or changing out

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Tags for this post: mold, fermentation, beer, bottling, Belgian, ale, stink

Got my Beer Reviewed by a Pro - it was a Disaster

Posted by homebrewdad on 5/27/2014 at 03:15:00 PM


About two months ago, /u/lukestauntaun on reddit started promoting a new idea for his broadcast, Behind the Craft.  Behind the Craft bills itself as "drinks with those who craft them"; as you may have guessed, the podcast travels to various breweries and such and has conversation with their brewers. 

The new idea was that the show was now soliciting homebrewers to submit their beers to the show.  They would then share the beer with the pro brewer being interviewed, and would get the pro's feedback right there during the podcast.  I thought that this would be a great idea, and so, I contacted the host.  After considering the beers that I had on hand, I settled on sending in a couple of bottles of my Royal Goblin (an English brown ale with more hop flavor than is normal), as I have had four different people tell me that this is the best beer I have made.  It was alarming how quickly the first case disappeared.

Aside: the last several beers I have brewed have come out really well.  I've been asked about brewing beer for a company event.  I've been offered money for sixers of my beer (I've declined).  I've been asked if I've considered opening a brewery, and told that someone needs to give me the money to do so.  As a result, I've started buying into the idea that I'm getting pretty good at this. 

As it is written: pride goeth before a fall.


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Tags for this post: beer, review, homebrew, pro, brown ale, gusher, infection, overcarb

Time to Show off Some More Custom Beer Bottle Labels!

Posted by homebrewdad on 4/17/2014 at 05:26:29 AM

I have bottled two batches of beer since I last shared pictures of my amazing beer bottle labels.  Seeing as how the labels are designed for me by my friend Lori Krell out of the goodness of her heart, I'm being a louse by not showing her some link love before now!  Yes, Lori is available for commissions. 

So, without further adieu, please allow me to share the labels for Treasue Type "T" (an oatmeal toffee stout) and Royal Goblin (a hoppy English brown ale). 

First up is Treature Type "T".  If you are nerdy enough (and old enough), you may recall the old school Dungeons and Dragons random treasure tables.  This beer name is a callback to these, and is also a bit of a play on words (the "T" standing for toffee). 

This label features our Confederate red dragon opening a treasure chest, which contains not only gold and jewels, but a scrollcase (for accuracy... treasure type "T" in D&D represented magical scrolls) and a bottle of beer.  Lori picked the font, which evokes Indiana Jones style adventure.

Next up is Royal Goblin.  This beer is esentially just a rendition of Orfy's famous clone recipe for hobgoblin of Wychwood Brewery.  This name was picked as a homage to Hobgoblin, with the "royal" portion...
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Tags for this post: custom, beer, bottle, label, labels, ale, English brown, stout

Split Batching: Optimizing Craft and Experimental Brewing

Posted by zeith on 4/08/2014 at 02:46:51 AM


As an avid homebrewer and father of an infant, I juggle between brewing recipes I know will be amazing and recipes I know will stand up to experimentation.  There are tried and true recipes (like Biermuncher's Centennial Blonde & Ed Wort's Apfelwein) where the resulting taste is easy to anticipate based on thousands of homebrewers reviews.  We started homebrewing because we wanted to explore new flavors, try wacky combinations, and above all else, brew amazing beer to call our own. In this article I will try to flesh out, based on my own homebrew experience, how to walk the fine line of recipe exploration and brewing quality beer.

I have been homebrewing for 3 years (serious/full-time for about half that time) and I know I am just now starting to construct amazing beers from scratch.  The primary challenge I have with creating my own beer recipes is that I don�t know what most grains, hops, and yeast taste like, individually or in various combinations. Sure, I have tried SMaSH (Single Malt and Single Hop) beers and I have read hop/grains descriptions, but how does one know when to dry hop with 1.5 oz of Simcoe rather than 2 oz? For a rye IPA, do I prefer 25% rye or 30%? What really makes a mild and how does that differ from a low ABV brown ale? I began to buy every brewing book in sight and while my library of brewing literature grew, I realized that the best

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Tags for this post: split, batching, brew, brewing, yeast, combinations

My First Decoction Mash Took Forever!

Posted by homebrewdad on 3/18/2014 at 05:23:06 AM


At the beginning of this month, I tackled my first ever decoction mash.  This would be for the traditional bock of my own design (special thanks go out to /r/homebrewing, and especially to Ray Daniels and his superb Designing Great Beers).  I had been reading a bit on decoction mashes, and my friend Rob (author of the superb Munich Dunkel featured in the recipes section of this site) had been raving about how great they were.  I'm a sucker for details and tradition, and so decided that a decoction mash was the way to go for this beer.

For the uninitiated, a decoction mash is the process where, instead of the simple method of mashing (soaking) your grains in water at a certain temperature to hit your desired balance of dryness and body, you instead pull off a portion of your mash, boil it, and add it back to raise the overall temperature of the mash to the desired range.  This boiling creates maillard reactions in the wort, which is supposed to yield a depth of flavor that is impossible to perfectly recreate any other way.

I ended up going with a take on Kai Troester's enhanced double decoction mash schedule.  The original plan was an acid rest @ 97 degrees F, a saccharification rest @ 144 degrees F, a second saccharification rest @ 156 degrees F, and a mash out @ 168 degrees F.  Troester's plan had only a single sacc rest, but also a protein rest @ 133 degrees F.  I'd read

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Tags for this post: decoction, mash, traditional, bock, lager, brew, brewing, double decoction

Subzero Temps? Meh, Yeast are Tough Buggers

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/25/2014 at 05:05:55 AM


 A month or so ago on /r/homebrewing, /u/GirkinFirker was awesome enough to offer three vials of limited edition yeasts to good homes.  I asked for (and was granted) a vial of WLP920 (Old Bavarian Lager) yeast.  I was stoked about it; not only is this a platinum yeast, meaning it is only available for two months per year, but it seems to be a very well reviewed strain.  After some homework, I settled on brewing a traditional bock, and set to creating a recipe for one. 
  At the time, the northeast was in the grip of an ice storm (my friend lives in Connecticut), so he had to wait a couple of days to ship the yeast to me.  In the middle of the transit process, Alabama was hit with an event that we now lovingly refer to as "Snowpocalypse 2014".  Sure, 2-4 inches of snow doesn't sound like much to the rest of the country, but we lack winter equipment such as snow plows, snow chains, or any meaningful sand/salt trucks.  Adding to that were the facts that the weather was unexpected (it was supposed to miss us by a couple of hours' drive), and the temperatures had been below zero for two or three days; we ended up with an inch of ice of the roads within a couple of hours, and thus, the state shut down completely for a good three days afterward.

  As a result, my yeast was stuck in a FedEx truck... somewhere. 

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Tags for this post: yeast, starter, lager, viable, snow, cold, wlp920

Failure can Still be Delicious

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/20/2014 at 10:40:35 PM


At the end of 2013, I brewed my oatmeal toffee stout.  The idea was that I would end up with a stout featuring smooth - not overpowering - roastiness, some complex malt character, and some sweet tones.  Specifically, I was hoping to end up with a noticeable toffee flavor in my beer.

I framed up what looked like a solid recipe with the input of /r/homebrewing and Designing Great Beers, as well as inspiration from Yooper of and Jamil Z.  I decided to go fairly low on the crystal malts, and to stick to crystal 40 and 60, as the descriptions I read suggested that these yielded the most toffee flavor.  I picked a yeast strain (WLP004) known to throw a little diacetyl - the idea being that a slight butter flavor would combine with the caramel from the crystal malt to give toffee.  Finally, on brew day, I boiled down a gallon of my first runnings into a little over a quart of syrup, a process that would supposedly really help the caramel and toffee flavors to bloom.

I bottled this beer after four weeks in primary, and in contrast to my typical patience, I opened the first one just after two weeks in bottles.  Luckily for me, carbonation was already solid.

A week later, I have enjoyed a few of these beers, and feel pretty confident in assessing what I have.

Appearance-wise, it's a very attractive stout.  The color is black as midnight in the glass, though if you hold it

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Tags for this post: oatmeal, toffee, stout, caramel, beer, flavor, taste, review, homebrew, brew, brewing, home

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