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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 of flaked barley for head retention. 

Tomorrow's brewday holds several firsts for me.  The simplest of these firsts is the fact that this will be the first beer that I employ the technique of first wort hopping on.  Supposedly, first wort hopping imparts a smoother bitterness to the beer.  I know that the commercial Hobgoblin beer (from Wychwood Brewery) uses this technique, and the clone homebrew version does, as well.  I'm honestly not at all

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

Bottling my Oktoberfest

Posted by homebrewdad on 1/20/2014 at 05:12:03 AM

 

Back at the end of August, I brewed my very first lager - an Oktoberfest of my own design.  I kept intending to post a brew report, but never did.  I felt guilty about that failing, and ended up being a chucklehead and not posting to the blog at all for a while.  Boo on me.

The whole idea behind the beer was that I wanted a big, red, malty Oktoberfest.  I really enjoy the Sam Adams interpretation, though I am aware that it makes some purists cringe.  I find the style to be extremely interesting, as the BJCP guidelines leave a *lot* of room for interpretation.  I also discovered anew how passionate - and condescending - some beer nerds can be, after I opened a thread on homebrewtalk to discuss recipe formulation, and was basically informed by some that a sweet beer like the Sam Adams version is not really worthy of the name "Oktoberfest", and that I should be ashamed for daring to enjoy it. 

Those discussions did inspire me to add a real wiesnbier to my eventual brew list, but in the end, isn't homebrewing about creating beers that you enjoy?  I certainly believe so, and to that end, I collected a lot of advice (including some major influence from Ray Daniels' outstanding book, Designing Great Beers), then pushed on with my idea.

I had gone back and forth on yeast choice, but ended up going with WLP820 (Oktoberfest/Märzen lager).   I know that some advocate picking a "house lager"

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Tags for this post: Oktoberfest, lager, brewing, homebrewing, wlp820, yeast

The Oatmeal Toffee Stout - a Brew Recap

Posted by homebrewdad on 1/07/2014 at 06:46:26 AM

 

My recipe was ready.  My oats (well, part of them) were toasted.  My starter had cold crashed overnight.  It was time to brew.

Before I could do anything, however, I had to handle even more cleaning than normal.  I hadn't fully scrubbed out my kettle from the last brew, but that was no big deal.  I did, however, have to fully clean and sanitize my mash tun... thanks to Christmas. 

You see, my wife had bought a huge (23 pound) turkey a couple of days before Christmas, and it was still frozen solid on the night of Christmas Eve.  My only real option was a cold water thaw, but I didn't have many good choices as to a location for this, so I ended up using my mash tun.  Suffice it to say that I had no interest in mashing in a cooler that had contained turkey juices (read: blood), so I ended up using a half gallon of bleach and every drop of hot water that my house's tank held in an effort to fully clean and rinse the thing.

With that out of the way, I heated my strike water on the stove.  Sure, I could have heated my strike and sparge water on my propane burner, but the stove is "free"... or, at least, doesn't use my precious propane.  I watched the temperature until it was about two degrees warmer than Beersmith recommends (I still don't have my equipment quite right in the software, but have learned that two

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Tags for this post: oatmeal, toffee, stout, caramel, beer, homebrew, homebrewing, brew, brewing, temperature, wlp004, temp

Formulating the Oatmeal Toffee Stout

Posted by homebrewdad on 12/29/2013 at 08:24:34 AM

 

Recently, I've found myself sampling more stouts than I have at any time in the past.  I've particularly enjoyed Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout, Samuel Smith's Chocolate Stout, and Left Hand Milk Stout.  Naturally, this fired my imagination, and I soon found myself tinkering with stout recipes in Beersmith.

It seems a little strange that I've been brewing for two years now, but have never done a stout of any kind; clearly, I'm long past overdo to attempt the style.  Fortunately, Santa brought me a gift certificate to Alabrew (my local homebrewing store), so December 26th found me there as I picked up my ingredients. 

I considered going with a tried and true recipe - perhaps Jamil's or Yooper's - but while I did use their recipes (along with Ray Daniels' superb book, Designing Great Beers) for inspiration, I ended up going with something a little further out in left field. 

From the beginning, I was certain that I wanted a smooth stout.  Roastiness is fine, as long as it's in moderation (after all, a beer isn't a stout without some roasty character), but I do not personally enjoy the super strong stouts that taste like licking a charred log.  Likewise, coffee notes are okay, I suppose... but since I don't particularly care for coffee to begin with, I don't really want a beer that tastes too much like it.

Ideally, I'd like a sweeter stout that features some more complex flavors - I want more than a one trick roast pony. 

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Tags for this post: stout, oatmeal, toffee, caramel, roastiness, beer, brewing

Adventures in Stirplate Construction

Posted by homebrewdad on 8/24/2013 at 10:17:02 PM

 

For a year and a half, I've been a low tech, shaken starter kind of guy.  I'd sanitize a gallon sweet tea jug and use it to great effect.

However, I recently inherited a mini fridge, and have decided to try my hand at lagers.  Since I would need so much larger starters for them, I put a DIY stirplate on my project list. 

No problem, I thought.  I've recently built an STC-1000 temperature controller box, and it was a cinch.  Surely I was capable of a silly stirplate?

Ah, pride goeth before a fall.  Or three.

First off, it took me forever to figure out how to extract the magnets from a hard drive.  Sure, I took the drive apart easily enough (though it did cost me some blood as I somehow sliced my knuckle open on some internal piece), but I couldn't get the darned magnets themselves off of the brackets.  I finally managed by holding the bracket with pliers, then forcing a very tiny flathead screwdriver under the edge of the magnet and popping it up.  I won't embarrass myself further in stating exactly how long it took me to figure this out.

Next, I had a complete brain freeze.  I decided to test my fan by wiring it up... to a normal computer cord I had scavenged.  To add insult to injury, I hooked it up backwards, as well.  Shockingly (please excuse the pun), my poor 12 volt fan did not respond well to 110 volts of current from my

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Tags for this post: stir, plate, stirplate, DIY, yeast, starter, homebrewing, beer

A Brewing Recap, Plus Tragedy

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/27/2013 at 04:17:51 AM

 

This past Sunday, I brewed up my first partial mash in some time.  I really love the control that all grain gives me, and would likely never choose to do a partial mash again... but my family gave me a gift certificate to Austin Homebrew for Father's Day, and the special at the time included your choice of a few partial mash kits.  My wife wisely went with the "dark ale" kit, which is essentially an American brown ale.  Of the choices, this definitely would have been the one I would have made for myself.  Kudos to the woman for knowing my taste (despite the fact that she doesn't care for beer whatsoever).

The brew day itself went pretty smoothly.  It felt funny mashing a mere three pounds of grain in my big cooler, but I really didn't want to deal with a grain bag and such.  I did have some challenges in keeping the mash hot enough due to the lack of thermal mass, but I added a little hot water a time or two and called it "close enough".  After all, I had five pounds of liquid extract to make up any body issues with.

My brewing buddies - sons aged five, three, and two - largely ignored the brewing process, except as an excuse to play outside.  I say "largely", because apparently, hop additions are one of the most fun activities known to man.  They kept asking me when it was time to add the hops, and they oversaw the

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Tags for this post: partial, mash, paddle, sad, AHS, brewing, dry yeast

Lagers, Here I Come!

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/12/2013 at 06:14:25 PM

 

I have a brewing buddy here in Birmingham who I swap bottles with from time to time, and who has been kind enough to give me some great advice and pointers about brewing along the way.  A few of months ago, we were chatting via email about lagers, which are pretty much all that he brews.  I mentioned how I hadn't gotten into lagering yet, as I didn't have the gear for it.  He told me that he had a mini fridge that he had used many times for lagering, but that he didn't use anymore thanks to building a keezer, and asked me if I wanted it.

I expressed interest and asked how much he wanted for it.  His price was a bottle of my big Irish red; he refused to consider cash, so I gladly agreed.

Time went by, both of us got busy with work and kids, I ended up having to pour out my batch of Irish red due to a darned bottle infection (and had to substitute another beer for the trade).  He apologized several times for the delays, telling me that he just hadn't had a chance to clean it up, etc, but I pointed out that I could hardly complain about not getting my free gift in any set timeframe.

Finally, we met this week.  We swapped beer, and he not only gave me the fridge, but two cases of bottles, as well. 

The fridge is a G.E. model that looks like it came from the

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Tags for this post: lager, lagering, fridge, mini, beer, brewing, homebrew, DIY

Anniversary Gifts...

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/03/2013 at 01:22:13 AM

 
It's been too long since I made an entry on this blog, and that very fact (and my being ashamed of it) has helped prevent me from posting anything.

I've thought about posting about my most recent brew day (an all grain rebrew of the Yorkshire brown ale brewed during a thunderstorm). I really want to post about the long overdue legalization of homebrewing here in Alabama. I had decided to post about last night's bottling session (though truth be told, it was pretty uneventful).

Well, today was my eighteenth wedding anniversary. After three years of dating, I married my high school sweetheart at the ripe old age of nineteen. Eleven months later, our first child was born.

I've been in love with this woman for twenty-one years now, and I can honestly tell you that given the chance, I would do it all again. Even so, you may be wondering how this ties to the theme of my blog.

Well, this morning, my wife and I exchanged cards. After reading them, it was time for gifts. She was dying to go first, but instead of a gift, she gave me a folded piece of paper titled "Clue #1". Inside with a picture of a man's chiseled abs.

"This is for your first present," she explained. The present was great - a pair of New Balance running shoes, as well as two running outfits (shorts/shirts), plus three pairs of running...
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Tags for this post: homebrewing, family, baby, gift, gifts

My First All Grain Batch

Posted by homebrewdad on 1/29/2013 at 05:35:52 PM

 

Last weekend, I brewed up my first all grain batch.  I've been looking forward to trying out some of my new Christmas brewing gear, and to stepping up to the "big show" as a homebrewer. Unfortunately, not only did my rookieness lead to the process taking much longer than I had planned (upwards of eight hours, once you figure in completing my fermentation chiller build), but I (not surprisingly) made several mistakes, as well.
 
Before I go any further, please allow me to share a pro tip: while 168 degree sparge water is not quite hot enough to burn your hand, it does cause nice stinging for some time after exposure.  Go ahead...  ask me how I know this.

For the record, I was brewing Jamil's Belgian golden strong ale, which is supposed to be very similar to my current favorite commercial beer (Duvel).  The recipe itself could not be simpler; one single grain, some sugar, one hop addition, plus the yeast.  From what I understand, greatness in this beer comes from attention to detail. 

Sigh.
 


Some positive items from my brewday:

First off, my huge new funnel was great! It was so much easier to pour hot wort with this than it was with my standard kitchen funnel, and I never had an issue with it being able to "breathe" as I poured (which has often been a challenge with that puny old funnel). The funnel screen, on the other hand, was almost worthless; it kept popping out of place and flipping over,

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Tags for this post: all grain, brewing, duvel, Belgian, golden, strong, ale, homebrew, beer

Bottling the Big Red Irish Ale - or, I Love my Bottle Tree and Vinator

Posted by homebrewdad on 1/07/2013 at 10:45:25 PM

 

A week ago on Saturday, I finally got around to bottling that big Irish red ale that I had been hoping to have ready in time for Christmas.  Unfortunately, work, life, and the holidays got in my way.  On the bright side, this batch got a nice extended bulk aging, so I'm hoping that it will be truly ready as soon as it is fully carbed.

A quick aside - as you may have noticed from the photos of my beers, I use custom bottle caps; I still very much enjoy making my beers look good.  I recently received a fresh order from bottlemark.com, and I have to report that I am very pleased.  The color is much more uniform this time around (the background color of the cap is the same white as my logo background), the ink is sharper, and all in all, the caps look great. 

In my last post, I really bragged on my wife, and on the fantastic haul of brewing gifts I received for Christmas.  One of those gifts was a 45 bottle tree and a vinator.  I knew that these were well reviewed items, and I figured on getting them one day, but I had not asked for them. 

After one use, I can honestly state that I have no idea how I've managed to bottle for a year without them!

Under my old process, sanitizing

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Tags for this post: bottling, bottle, tree, vintor, sanitizing, sanitation, beer, ale, irish, red

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