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A Homebrewer's Christmas

Posted by homebrewdad on 12/27/2012 at 09:33:49 PM

Christmas has come and gone at my house, and Santa was quite good to everyone. As is pretty typical for me, I got very little sleep on Christmas Eve - with three small children, I have a lot to do with helping Santa put together big gifts. My wife does a huge Christmas dinner, and I try to help her as I can; one of my annual tasks is making butterscotch fudge. This year, I had an extra task, as my wife wanted an exercise bike... and those don't come assembled.

I assembled gifts, made the fudge, and wrapped presents all night long, taking the chance to also watch two of my favorite Christmas classics - A Chrismas Story (which cracks me up every time) and It's a Wonderful Life (yes, I get misty at the end every time... sue me). The sun came up, and I was still prepping. My final task was to divide the gifts into piles for each member of the family before heading to bed (my kids like to sleep in, even on Christmas Day). When all was said and done, my head hit the pillow at about 7:20 AM.

The youngest woke me up at ten till nine; my wife was already up and making biscuits and blueberry muffins for Christmas breakfast. We woke the other two little boys up (the two big kids were already awake and anxiously waiting), grabbed the camera and camcorder, and the huge gift opening spree began.

My list this year was comprised almost exclusively of homebrewing gear; my hope was to be able to move to all grain. I have to say that my awesome wife really hit it out of the park. I received every single "gotta have" item from my list, a "fun" item or two, plus a couple of surprises. Please allow me to brag on the gifts that were piled upon me.
  • First off, a brand new 44 quart
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that all sounds great, what a wonderful wife and family you have! I would skip the Son of fermentation chiller if I were you though. I considered that myself but ended up getting a 6 ft chest freezer on Craigslist for $75. I plug it into a Johnson temp control unit and can fit several fermenters at once.

posted by BeerBDrew on 12/29/2012 at 09:07:58 PM

Tags for this post: Christmas, homebrewing, gear, all grain, equipment, wife

My First La Chouffe - or, no Coriander for me, Thanks

Posted by homebrewdad on 12/18/2012 at 03:55:45 PM


Last night, I prepared to try a new (to me) beer - La Chouffe, a Belgian strong pale ale by Brasserie d'Achouffe.  I was pretty excited about trying this one, as I tend to really enjoy Belgians; as a matter of fact, following my recent discovery of Duvel, golden Belgian ales may have climbed into my own personal top spot in terms of my favorite beer styles.

La Chouffe is an extremely well reviewed beer (92 by the BeerAdvocate community, 99 by their critics), and I was anxious to see how it stacked up to Duvel, Chimay Tripel, and Leffe Blonde - all beers I have really enjoyed.  How would it differ?  How would it stand out?

The pour was promising.  A nice golden color, a bit opaque (but this mostly due to the serious bubbles within the brew).  Not as much head as some, but what was there was quite persistent and left nice, sticky Belgian lacing. 

The scent was spot on for what I expected; nice Belgian yeasty aromas with some citrusy notes.  I was prepared to love this beer.

And then, the taste... sweet, a little bite, some nice notes.  Clean, balanced... and coriander. 

Mouthfeel is what I want from a Belgian, very nicely carbonated.  Not too thin, adds to the feeling... and coriander.

Another sip.  More coriander.

Clearly, this is a wonderfully crafted brew.  Everything meshes together nicely.  No one aspect overwhelms any other.  I can see why people love this beer.  Only... coriander. 

I can't shake it.  Every single sip

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Tags for this post: coriander, la chouffe, belgian, beer, ale, homebrew

Brewing my Big Irish Red Ale - Issues Galore

Posted by homebrewdad on 11/05/2012 at 08:08:31 PM


After far too much time between brewdays, I finally brewed that big Irish red ale (partial mash) that I've been planning for a solid six months. I've obviously been looking forward to this for some time - more than just the time between batches of beer, this also happens to be my very first recipe that I count as "mine", so I have been excited.

Please do note that while I do consider this to be my recipe, I do not pretend that this is something that I created from thin air.  I did base my recipe on the well-reviewed Movaje Red by Malticulous.  That original recipe was for an American red ale with more of a hop presence that I was looking for, but it gave me a reliable starting point to work from.  I "Irished" it up by swapping out the base malt (Maris Otter instead of American two row), subbing out the hops for UK varieties (trading Palisade, Sterling, and Williamette for Challenger, Fuggles, and Northdown), and removing the dry hop (Cascade) step.  While the proportions all fall within the ranges for Irish red ales, my recipe slightly exceeds the upper bounds of the style guidelines for gravity, IBUs, and alcohol by volume.  Personally, I thnk that this will be a good thing; regardless, you have my logic for reffering to this as a "big" Irish red.

As an aside, this was my first time to actually use my local homebrewing store (Alabrew in Pelham,

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Tags for this post: irish, red, ale, beer, homebrew, temperature, control, mash, temp, sanitation

I Have Doubled my Alcohol Intake - Doctor's Orders

Posted by homebrewdad on 10/11/2012 at 11:38:00 PM


Recently, I decided to address my life insurance situation, which required a routine health screening.  No sweat, I thought; after all, I have been the picture of health for my thirty-six years of life.  Sure, I could stand to lose fifteen or so pounds, and yes, I could stand to be more active, but I had no reason to suspect that I would get anything but good news.

Suffice it to say that I was less than pleased when my blood test results came back with elevated triglicerides and almost nonexistent HDL (aka "good" cholesterol).  The life insuarnce company promptly tripled the rate they had quoted me, and I reluctantly set up an appointment with an actual internal medicice doctor (my normal level of medical interaction is a visit to the doc in the box if I simply have no other choice).

I did some homework and was prepared to meet the doc.  We went over my numbers (he of course took his own blood samples), and I expressed a desire to avoid medication, if posible.

He informed me that it was good that I felt that way, as cholesterol medications are used to lower "bad" cholesterol - they do not help to raise the "good" number.  We talked about the lifestyle changes I had already put into place - some jogging and light weights, adding fiber to my diet (aka daily oatmeal, bananas or apples, and "heart healthy" nuts), some reduction of my junk calories, and addition of fish oil supplements - with an

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Tags for this post: alcohol, beer, cholesterol, hdl, triglicerides, heart health

Beer Quality Versus Perception

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/04/2012 at 03:16:43 PM


Last night, I had the pleasure of trying my very first Chimay Tripel (aka Chimay white).  My favorite beer, all time, happens to be Chimay's Grande Reserve (aka Chimay blue), but I recently had the Premiere (aka Chimay red) and was underwhelmed.

Honestly, I was surprised to not love the red.  After all, it gets an amazing rating at BeerAdvocate (91 by the membership, 95 by the "bros").  Maybe the bottle I got wasn't a great bottle?

Back to the Tripel.

I loved this beer.  Beautiful (albeit sliglty cloudy) golden brew, citrusy/yeasty aroma (my three year old pointed out that it smelled like lemons), fruity/spicy flavor.  Easy to drink, despite the 8% ABV.

Of course, in theory, this SHOULD have been a good beer - it gets identical marks at BeerAdvocate (91 by the membership, 95 by the "bros").  Chimay is widely accepted as true masters of brewing.  Etc, etc.

What really surprised me about this beer, through, was that it reminded me very much of Leffe Blonde - a beer that I liked enough to brew a very faithful clone of (thanks to Revvy's superb recipe). 

Almost idential appearance (Leffe is crystal clear).  Almost idential aroma.  Taste?  Ditto - fruity/spicy notes in both, in a very similar balance.  Similar drinkable mouthfeel... Leffe may finish a tad drier.  The Chimay is a higher ABV (8% vs 6.6% for Leffe Blonde), though my clone of the Leffe is actually 8.4% ABV... and honestly, the alcohol is undetectable in both.  Um... I get better lacing from the

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Tags for this post: chimay, white, tripel, leffe, blonde, beer, ale, ranking, rating, beeradvocate

Custom Labels for my Belgian Blonde Ale

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/28/2012 at 04:16:30 PM

This is my second batch of beer in bottles, and even though I have had to live through the irritation of soaking and scrubbing to remove my other labels (only the first one peeled off easily), I still think that having cool custom labels is worth doing. I put time and effort into creating a beer that tastes great; to me, it is worth some hassle to ensure that it looks great, as well. 

I completely understand why many homebrewers use plain bottles and simply sharpie their bottle caps, but I get a sense of pride when I put an attractive bottle in someone's hand.  Call me silly, I don't mind.

These labels were created for my Belgian blonde ale (a Leffe clone). I wanted to stay with my Conferedate dragon motiff, but I also wanted to at least touch on the feel of Leffe, which is an abbey ale. The artist (Lyra Logan, who did the logo for this website) and I went over this, and we came up with using the dragon with a stained glass window feel.  She came up with the parchment style background, which works really well (in my opinion).

I personally think that these turned out somewhere around amazing.  If I saw one of these on the shelf in a store, I don't think that it would look out of place.

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Tags for this post: custom, labels, beer, bottles, belgian, blonde, ale, leffe

A Little Age is a Good Thing on a Blonde

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/19/2012 at 08:41:17 PM


I thought that I would check in one more time with tasting notes on my Leffe Blonde clone, now that I have given it two more weeks in the bottle (it's now up to a little over eight weeks in the glass).  The last time I had a bottle of this Belgian blonde ale was on June 1st, right at the six week mark.  It had improved quite a bit from the original tasting (at four weeks in bottles), but still left something to be desired.

Last night, I broke out my tulip glass and poured a bottle that had been chilling for several days.

Holy cow.  This beer has undergone a transformation.  The flaws I was detecting before (some bitterness and a bit of a "funkiness" I coldn't put my finger one) are long gone.  I honestly don't mean to brag, but this beer is now absolutely delicious!

The spiciness has toned down just a bit; it is certainly still very much evident (and desired), but it has mellowed.  The malty sweetness that had been lacking is suddenly fully present - not at all cloying, but very satifyingly sweet.  The fruity tones that I had been hoping to find are also very evident, and to me, they really round out the beer.  All in all, the flavor is complex, interesting, and very much enjoyable.

The carbonation just dances on my tongue, and each sip of the beer finishes ever so slightly dry - which provides a nice balance to the sweetness, and combined

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Tags for this post: belgian, blonde, ale, leffe, beer, eight, weeks, aging, homebrew

Tasting the Leffe Blonde Clone

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/05/2012 at 02:04:06 PM


As a recap, the Leffe Blonde clone is a Belgian ale.  I tried the commercial version of this beer for the first time at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival in Walt Disney World in early October, 2011, and found it to be a flavorful, complex, yet very drinkable beer.  I feel like it will be a great beer for helping to introduce non craft beer drinkers to what good beer can be without scaring them off by the boogeyman known as "dark beer". 

I'm taking a bit of a different approach with this blog entry; rather than make several small posts, I have collected them into one article that hopefully is worth the read.  I do organize each set of thoughts by the original date to help you get an idea of where I was coming from.

This clone recipe is *not* an exact copy of Leffe Blonde; commercial Leffe is 6.6% ABV, whereas this recipe works out to a little better than 7.9%... and the numbers on this batch for me hit 8.4% ABV.  In addition, I had to do some substituting on my hops for the batch, as those called for by the recipe were unavailable at brew time.  Since this definitely qualifies as a bigger beer, it is very possible that it will need some extended time in bottles before the flavor comes into its own.  We shall see! 

May 19th, 2012

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Tags for this post: Leffe, blonde, ale, clone, Belgian, beer, taste, tasting

Late Night with a Blonde, or Bottling my Leffe Blonde Clone

Posted by homebrewdad on 5/08/2012 at 03:28:26 AM

A week ago on Saturday night, I decided that I had waited long enough; it was time to bottle my Leffe Blonde clone. As you may recall, this brew was a partial mash adaption of Revvy's original recipe for an excellent Belgian blonde ale. If you want to see the recipe for my partial mash version, click here.

I have been bulk aging my imperial nut brown ale in secondary, and since I unfortunately broke my other secondary a couple of months ago, I didn't have another vessel to rack the Leffe clone into from primary. However, it had spent four full weeks there; I did not plan to rack it onto fruit, dry hop, add wood, or do anything else odd, so technically, a secondary was really not needed for this beer. Secondaries have fallen out of favor with a lot of homebrewers, and while I have used one in each of my first two brews, I decided to skip this optional step for the Leffe clone.

At 8:00 PM, I brought my carboy upstairs, placed it on the kitchen counter, and wrapped a sheet over it (just to be absolutely sure that I ran no risk of skunkage). I didn't plan to actually bottle until later that night, so...
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Tags for this post: bottling, beer, Leffe, blonde, Belgian, ale, bottle, primary, secondary

Ten Lessons Learned from Ten Batches of Homebrewed Beer

Posted by homebrewdad on 4/26/2012 at 09:18:21 PM


The following article is courtesy of WarbyTremolo at homebrewtalk.  Follow him on twitter.

I'm fairly new to home brewing and just finished bottling my tenth beer and wanted to share ten lessons I've learned from this process. In no particular order:

1. It's just beer! Sometimes your efficiency is low, sometimes you miss the timing of a hop addition, sometimes your final volume is low - whatever! It's still gonna be beer!

2. When your airlock is making a menacing hissing noise and is filled with krausen, remove the airlock so that the spray fires away from you, and not at you.

3. Carbonation level can make a beer amazing, or terrible. IPAs don't belong at 3.2 volumes of CO2, and dunkelweizens shouldn't be at 1.5. Using the appropriate amount of priming sugar is important!

4. Don't assume you have full conversion without testing/tasting your wort. Let's face it, starch molecules in your finished beer aren't delicious or welcome.

5. Even if the beer comes out poorly, your parents/spouse/etc will probably still love it.

6. When turning the spigot on your bottling bucket, always turn clockwise...unless, of course, you want beer leaking all over your kitchen floor while you aren't looking.

7. Whirlfloc.  One tablet per batch goes a long, long way to making prettier beer. And it's dirt cheap.

8. Don't ask your beer nerd friends for their honest opinion unless you're willing to hear some ugly truths about your brew. In turn, be prepared to take their criticism and learn from it to become a

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Tags for this post: homebrewed, beer, ten, lessons

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