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Competition Hopes and Dreams: Down the Drain

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/08/2015 at 09:18:52 AM

I had planned to write about a fun - or, at least positive - subject for my post today. I've been working on my Christmas beer for this year, and while it's a bit off the wall, I have some high hopes for it. Related to that Christmas beer, I found myself trying to revive some old, neglected yeast; that turned out to be an interesting process. Also, I do really need to get a pumpkin beer "how to" post up.

Unfortunately, those topics will have to wait. Instead, it appears that it is time for a classic "what Homebrew Dad screwed up this time" story.

You may recall me posting three weeks or so ago about my nine hour brewday in preparation for the Alabama Brew Off. I had wanted to enter at least a couple of beers into the competition, but had missed the announcement stating when they would accept entries; as a result, I only had a chance to brew once for the comp. I ended up deciding to go with a split batch, which resulted in seven gallons of a simple wort. Four gallons got WLP820 and was fermented via the fast lager process as a Festbier. The other three gallons got further split; both got WLP500 so as to be fermented as a Belgian Blond, but I decided to play with pitch rates to see which gave the best Belgian character.

The fermentation process seemed to go great; once fermentation slowed, the Belgian got a small addition of a sugar solution to help dry it out, and both beers got cold crashed and treated with gelatin for clarity. At every step of the way, everything seemed to be great.

This past weekend, I finally got around to bottling. I had really meant to do so last week, but it was both my son's and wife's birthdays, we had a birthday party, and things were just chaotic....
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My condolences. You are in our thoughts.

posted by nzo on 9/08/2015 at 11:59:26 AM

Sorry for your loss.

posted by MrDustpan on 9/09/2015 at 07:54:43 PM

You remind me that it's time to replace my fermenters. It's been 18 months (I use plastic better bottles) no infections yet however I don't want to take chances with bugs!

posted by Buxman14 on 9/17/2015 at 04:55:13 PM

Tags for this post: infection, competition, drain pour, beer, infected

When A Pot Is Not Just A Pot

Posted by zVulture on 9/03/2015 at 09:57:18 PM


With a short break from the dunkelweizen series as I wait for the latest batch to finish fermentation, my investigations turn to equipment. Moving into a place with more space by the end of the year I wanted to price out a set of equipment. I was hitting limits as far as making higher gravity beers or doing new processes for my experimental brews. So I started digging into the research that is one reason I enjoy this hobby, there is always so much to learn (and subsequently rant about). First I needed to get a pot, that can't be hard to pick right?

The right size is (not) all you need

It should just be simple as moving from my old 5 gallon pot when I was doing extract or partial mash brews to the one I have now at 8 gallons for full mash brews. Yet what I saw as the size I needed changed with the processes I used. Now I have this expensive pot and I am looking to replace it in less than a year! My method of no-sparge brewing suddenly became impossible when trying to brew a Strong Scotch Ale as apparently 7 gallons wasn't enough in one go. And that isn't even the only one as I started looking into parti-gyle brewing.

Planning ahead really is the key to a smooth brew day and equipment which is the most expensive piece is the most important. I only plan on doing 5 gallon

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Tags for this post: pot, kettle, equipment, tri-clover clamp

Reviewing the Lavatools Javelin Digital Thermometer

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/01/2015 at 09:50:03 AM

It has come to my attention that Lavatools mistakenly shipped normal Javelin thermometers to me, not the Javelin PRO models that I was supposed to review.  As such, I have edited my review to reflect this.

Accurate temperature reading are an absolute must for serious homebrewers, as variances of even a few degrees Fahrenheit can make huge differences in wort fermentability and the final mouthfeel of a beer. Let us all observe a moment of silence for that glass floating thermometer that comes with so many starter sets. While we may keep it around for fun, one of the first pieces of gear that gets upgraded by the typical homebrewer is that thermometer, as traditional thermometers like this are often neither particularly accurate nor quick (or easy) to read. And, of course, they are made of glass - making them susceptible to death by fall.

It seems like there is a wide range of very affordable digital thermometers for sale, but if you want serious accuracy and super fast read times, there is only one big name on the market - the Thermoworks Thermapen. Now, don't get me wrong; I received a Thermapen for my birthday a couple of years ago, and I love it. If I'm being perfectly honest, the "bling" factor of having a real top of the line piece of gear probably factors into my feelings, but being able to pull a dead accurate reading in an near instant manner is pretty great. Having a great...
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Tags for this post: Javelin, PRO, Lavatools, digital, thermometer, Thermapen

In Pursuit of a Great IPA Hop Bursting and Hop Stands Are they worth it?

Posted by madcowbrewing on 8/30/2015 at 07:33:04 PM


For the longest time, I have been a very traditional brewer when it comes to hopping and bittering.  Sixty minute addition for my bitterness, somewhere around 20 for flavor and then 0-5 minutes for aroma. Some of it was my not wanting to invest in the amount of hops it takes to do these methods. But as of the last few years you are hearing more and more of these new techniques to insert not only flavor and aroma into your beer but bitterness too. And in search of a great IPA recipe, what would you invest to make it. These techniques are said to be anchored in home brewing and have cascaded into the commercial realm of some of the great IPA brewers. So there has to be some truth that they work.

Hop Bursting is the addition of late hops, and only late hops. No bitterness hopping at the beginning of the boil. Some brewers use a mash hop or first wort hop to compliment or add some bitterness. With this addition some say the bitterness tends to be softer. I am not sure it does, but I can tell you it lends a massive hop aroma and flavor.

Hop Stands, simply put, are the addition of hops post boil before the cooling, or sometimes it is during the whirlpool. As the wort is still hot, not boiling, you are extracting some alpha acids, but not as much as you would with boiling. And again, you are

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Tags for this post: IPA, Hop Bursting, Hop Stand

A Dark Journey Through Hefeweizen - Part 4

Posted by zVulture on 8/27/2015 at 09:44:09 PM


Part 4 - Yeast Blending

Continued from Part 1 - The Dunkelweizen Clone, Part 2 - Mastering the Yeast, and Part 3 - Decoction Mashing.

After the last 'few' attempts it seemed like nothing would get me any closer to the unicorn of a beer I had imagined. After many battles I finally gave up on WLP300 as it was the closest yet too unruly of a beast to manage. Thankfully I have White Labs locally to go try out other yeasts. Their tap room has saved me so much time experimenting by tasting flights of the same beer with different yeasts. Yet each I tasted made it really seem my goal was really just an imaginary creature. It was then in that tipsy daze (drunken stupor) that a light bulb came on...but that doesn't matter because I got a great idea after comparing two yeasts. Mixing them together created a complex yet mellow magical taste that I had been seeking!

At the time, I searched online and couldn't find many resources for blending yeasts much less any decent resources. Even the White Labs folks had only just started experimenting with their Franken Stout. Guess this was going to be my own adventure with Wenches and Beer! Or really just lots of beer as one of those two are in short supply...

White Labs Tasting Room, so many to try...


Note, you will find this...
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Tags for this post: Dunkelweizen, Hefeweizen, Adventure, Yeast Blending, Mixed Yeast Fermentation

A Guide To Beginning Kegging

Posted by mr_faust on 8/26/2015 at 01:39:48 PM


Many brewers reach the point where they become tired of the hassle of bottling, and dread the chore.  I reached that point fairly early on in my brewing career and decided that I needed a change.  I got into kegging and have never looked back.  I now run a 3 keg setup and I find that it inspires me to keep brewing and perfecting the craft so I always have something new or better when I have friends over.

Pictured below is my kegerator in all of its glory.  It currently has a temporary tap list affixed to it.

My kegerator

Kegging has a lot of advantages over bottling; that being said, bottles still hold the advantage in a few areas.  Let’s see if kegging is for you:

Kegging has the edge in these ways:

  • One vessel to sanitize and fill, this lowers the risk of an in bottle infection.
  • Better carbonation control, I found my bottles to never be completely uniformly carbonated.
  • No yeast in the bottom of pours, this is huge for people who you are trying to introduce to the craft.
  • Your friends will like your beer more, seriously, something about having
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Tags for this post: Keg, kegging, home brew, guide, parts list

Overnight-Full Volume Mash

Posted by madcowbrewing on 8/26/2015 at 12:16:24 AM

I am a great fan of methods that make things easier, and the overnight mash is certainly a time saver. But I have always wondered if it was possible to maximize the savings by doing a full volume mash (no-sparge) combined with the overnight aspect of it. Whenever I did an overnight mash, I still had to get up, start the water for the sparge and then spend the time to either fly sparge or batch sparge…..where did my time savings go?

So first to understand that an overnight sparge is okay and works you have to consider the following:

Attenuation - If you are making anything you do not want bone dry, forget it. This long, slow mash leads the best for those styles that attenuate almost fully. Like a Saison, some Belgian styles, etc. Be sure the recipe you want on this mash is prepared for a low final gravity.

Possibility of souring or bacteria - Any time your mash temp drops below 130 degrees F the Lactobacillus that live naturally on the grain, have the potential to grow and sour and infect your wort. If you keep your temperature of your mash up, you should have no problems.

Insulating your mash tun - When you mash overnight you want to minimize the temp loss as much as you can. You do want to stay above the 130 threshold….preferably higher than that. So in order to do that, I employ a three tier system. First, I place a...
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Tags for this post: overnight, mash, souring, fermntability

Review: Magnetic Bottle Opener by Hannison Woodworks

Posted by homebrewdad on 8/25/2015 at 12:56:17 AM

This past Saturday, I received a package I have been excitedly awaiting - a magnetic bottle opener from Hannison Woodworks. Hannison is a sponsor of the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge; they are contributing prizes to three winners, who will receive their choice of a tap handle or bottle opener. I don't keg, but I do bottle; Matt (the owner of Hannison) was good enough to send me a custom magnetic opener to review.

Full disclosure: as mentioned above, Hannison Woodworks is a sponsor of the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge. This bottle opener was provided to me at no cost, in exchange for the consideration of an honest product review. With that said, the following review is 100% true and accurate, and is in my own words. Hannison did not suggest, edit, or even read my review prior to my public post.

My very first impression upon unboxing the opener was pretty simple - wow. This thing is beautiful; my wife - who is understandably no longer impressed with me dragging various pieces of brewing-related gear home - made several nice comments about the opener, and was happy to hang this on the front of our fridge. The opener is crafted from one solid piece of cherry wood, and the BrewUnited logo has been laser etched onto the face.

In what feels like a lifetime ago, I spent three years as a cabinetmaker, and have continued to enjoy woodworking from time to time. Our home features a...
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Tags for this post: magnetic, bottle, opener, hannison, woodworks

A Dark Journey Through Hefeweizen - Part 3

Posted by zVulture on 8/21/2015 at 02:04:33 AM


Part 3 - Decoction Mashing

Continued from Part 1 - The Dunkelweizen Clone and Part 2 - Mastering the Yeast

After my trials with trying to nail down and balance the yeasts elements, I returned to my tomes for further resources. Getting too much banana or clove on a yeast that was entirely too picky had become a chore in itself. Even understanding how each is produced there was just too much variance with minor changes and there had to be a way to help control these better. Researching further I looked into brewing methods that are used for Hefeweizens in the past. Beyond just the Fuleric Acid rest there was a mention of Decocting and it's controversial benefits. This topic has been covered by other blogs, articles and books so I will try to keep it focused to Hefeweizen.

Adventurer B and his animal companion

Recipe - Time for a change up

Due to the topic, I am changing the recipe off the Dunkelweizen I usually post in order to focus on bringing out the benefits of Decoction Mashing.

Type: BIAB All Grain
Style: 15a Weizen/wiessbeer
Alcohol: ~5%
IBU: ~12
Batch Vol: 5.50 gal
Bottling Vol: 5.00 gal

Amount Name Type Addition %Bill/IBU
5 lb White Wheat Malt Grain Mash 56%
3 lbs Pilsner (2-row) UK Grain Mash 33%
1 lb Flaked Wheat Grain Mash
[ read more... ]

Tags for this post: Decoction, Decoction Mash, hefeweizen, dunkelweizen, Adventure

A Low Tech Solution to Cold Crashing

Posted by homebrewdad on 8/21/2015 at 01:17:45 AM

As you may know, I currently have a split batch of competition beer going. Four gallons have been hit with WLP820 to become a Festbier, and are located in a carboy inside my fermentation chamber (an ancient mini fridge with an STC-1000 temperature controller). I love the control that this setup gives me; set the desired temperature, then walk away in confidence that my beer will remain within one degree F of my target temperature.

On the other hand, I have about three other gallons with WLP500, which are then further split between a pair of two gallon buckets; these will become variations on a Belgian Blond. These two gallons have been sitting in my DIY Son of a Fermentation Chamber, which has been brought out of semi-retirement to serve as my backup fermentation chamber. While the SOAFC is a great improvement over absence of temperature control, it is nowhere near as precise as my fridge/STC-1000 combo; luckily, I had planned to keep this Belgian yeast happy with a little heat, anyway.

Son of a Fermentation Chamber
Some high tech gear, here.

Since these are competition beers, my desire for clarity extends beyond vanity. I had planned to cold crash and treat both beers with gelatin, then complete the "fast lager" process on the Festbier. Cold crashing is obviously a simple thing in a mini fridge, but I was drawing a blank as to how I...
[ read more... ]

Tags for this post: cold, crash, fermentation, chamber, ice, cooler, festbier, Belgian, blond

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