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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 the blowoff bowl, and know where this is going. 

Four weeks stretched into six, thanks to the chaos of baseball season (with four boys playing) and having a new baby around the house.  I wasn't concerned, though; I've left beers in primary with no ill effect for far longer than six weeks.

Three weeks ago, I decided to stop procrastinating and go bottle my beer.  That Saturday night, I opened my fermentation chamber to the scene

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Oh nooooooo!!!

posted by Brulosopher on 6/02/2014 at 06:17:35 PM

So what would you have done differently? After the blow-off, should a brewer replace the dirty airlock with a clean one? I'd like to learn from your experience.

posted by Springlanding on 7/06/2014 at 08:08:19 PM

After the blow-off, I should have indeed replaced the dirty airlock with a clean one. I certainly should not have left the blowoff vessel full of nasty byproducts. Also, I should have wiped down the carboy with a soapy cloth, then repeated until it was more or less clean.

Leaving the junk behind was a mistake, for sure!

posted by homebrewadad on 1/10/2015 at 10:11:18 PM

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 donít 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 way to learn

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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

More Amazing Labels - the Oktoberfest

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/12/2014 at 04:43:50 PM

Obviously, good beer is the entire point of this hobby. Why brew if you aren't trying to make the best beer that you possibly can? With that being said, however, I feel that presentation really puts the icing on the cake.

Every batch of beer that I bottle is capped with custom caps from - I feel like they really help "brand" my bottles. I then use labels from, and print custom labels on them with a color laser printer. The result is fantasic.

Of course, the labels wouldn't be a fraction as cool if the art wasn't so good. Sadly, I have about as much artistic talent as my bottling wand does, but luckily for me, I have a great pro artist friend in Lori Krell. She took my idea (as she has done before) and really brought it to life in the label for my Oktoberfest. Check out pics of her amazing work below!

Lori is absolutely available for commission; check out her art spot at deviantart.

Incidentally, the full information for the bottles below (if you can't read the small text due to my fuzzy iPhone pics) is: (neck label) CDB, bottled 1/19/2014, 6.97% ABV. (main label) FrostFire, a winterfest lager in the Marzen style, Confederate Dragon Brewing Co.

A finished bottle next to a full
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Tags for this post: labels, label, custom, beer, lager, oktoberfest

How is the Oktoberfest? Honestly, it's Excellent!

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/11/2014 at 06:00:39 AM


Way back in the summer of 2013, I started formulating my very first lager recipe - an Oktoberfest.  I find the style to be really interesting, as there is a really wide range for interpretation in it. 

I did a lot of homework, took input from the /r/homebrewing and communities, researched well-reviewed Oktoberfest recipes online, and spent a lot of time with Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels.  I have of course tried quite a few commercial versions of the style, as well. 

I decided that I wanted the recipe itself to be pretty authentic in ingredients, though I did allow that I liked the American interpretations of the style, such as the Samuel Adams version.  I chose to not go the decoction mash route, as I didn't want to bite off too much with my first lager - instead, I would use a little melanoiden malt to round things out a bit. 

I wanted a big, malty Oktoberfest - I actually ended up exceeding the posted upper gravity limit for the style, according to the BJCP - although it should be noted that, historically, Oktoberfest beers were actually higher in gravity (and darker in color) than today's interpretations.  Likewise, I decided to make my beer on the darker end, and as red as I could make it (just because).  While I do enjoy the Sam Adams version, I didn't want my beer to be quite as sweet as that.

The recipe got revised quite a few times, but

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Tags for this post: Oktoberfest, lager, recipe, red, color, flavor, malt, beer, homebrew

A Busy Brewing Weekend

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/02/2014 at 08:28:03 AM


This is shaping up to be perhaps my biggest brewing weekend ever. 

Last night, I bottled the oatmeal toffee stout.  Final gravity was just a hair under 1.020, which is a fuzz higher than Beersmith predicted - but is just fine (especially in light of the fact that I overshot my predicted OG by .002).  More to the point, the gravity sample was absolutely delicious!  I got some nice roastiness without it being bitter, and it had some really pleasant malty sweetness to it.  Even better, I did pick up on some toffee notes, and the beer had some definite slickness to the mouthfeel.  Of course, time (and carbonation) will tell the final result, but I'm pretty hopeful that I will have hit my target flavor profile.

I stacked those two cases of stout on top of the two cases of my Oktoberfest.  The O-fest is a mere two weeks into the bottles, but in a stark contrast to the patience I displayed while lagering this thing, I'm having a really tough time not cracking open a bottle.  I'll try one in another week; hopefully, they'll be carbed up, and I'll be able to move them to the basement (and out of the dining room, which my wife will appreciate).

I'm about to cold crash my starter for tomorrow's brew, which I have decided to dub "Royal Goblin".  It's a rendition of Orfy's tried and true Hobgoblin clone recipe, except that I'm using WLP037 (Yorkshire square ale yeast) and I'm adding a bit

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Tags for this post: bottling, first wort hopping, brewing, home brew, beer, water chemistry, spent grain bread

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