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Congratulations to Louis Thiery, winner of the 2016 BrewUnited Challenge! All score sheets are available in your admin area. If anything is missing, please use the contact link, and we will resolve it ASAP.

Let's Get Competitive! Or, a Nine Hour Brewday

Posted by homebrewdad on 8/19/2015 at 12:48:44 AM

Competitions. For many homebrewers, competing is the ultimate affirmation of skill; it is a chance to see how you stack up against other talented brewers, to see how well you can brew to a given style, to see find out how people who have never met you (and thus lack the interest of obtaining free beer from you in exchange for their praise) honestly rate your efforts. For some brewers, a beer can never be considered truly great until there is a ribbon attached to it.

Of course, competitions are not for everyone. Many brewers care nothing for brewing to style, or for brewing for anyone but themselves. For these brewers, the external validation of a competition win is unnecessary.

As far as I am concerned, both types of brewers - as well as those who fall anywhere between these two positions - are absolutely correct. One of the truly fantastic things about this hobby is the amazing flexibility it offers; brew what you like, for whatever motivations you may have. There is no absolute "right" or "wrong" in homebrewing.

I myself have never been a big competition guy. For the first couple of years that I brewed, I was painfully aware of my newbishness, and I simply did not see the point in inflicting potentially substandard beer upon a competition I had no chance of doing well in. Then, there was the fact that I live in Alabama - the next to last state in America for homebrewing to become legal - and so, my opportunities to compete were pretty limited unless I shipped my beer out of state.

Last year, I did enter the Alabama Brew Off, though it was a last minute decision that resulted in me simply entering a couple of beers that I had on hand. I had mixed results - largely due to my lack of preparedness; I had no bottles with plain bottle caps, so in...
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It is the brave brewer who starts a decoction @3:00 P.M.

posted by nzo on 8/19/2015 at 08:30:58 AM

Dude - subtracting non-brew-day stuff - not such a long day!

Using the bag allows for total capture of wort with no dead space and because you can squeeze the bag and get 100% same gravity volume the total volume calcs can be adjusted.

Grain absorption prior to squeezing is about 18 oz per lb. - squeezing drops that to about 12, so just ten lbs of grain will yield 60 oz difference.

If you do full volume no sparge you can shave 30-45 minutes off your brew day.

Good luck with the competition!

posted by TheBrewBag on 8/19/2015 at 08:50:37 AM

Heads up for next time: most competitions allow you to black-out a cap with a sharpie if they're not blank.

posted by KidMoxie on 8/19/2015 at 02:22:25 PM

Tags for this post: competition, brewing, beer, festbier, Belgian blond, 2015 BJCP guidelines, decoction, 9 hour

A Noobs Guide to Finding the Answers

Posted by Half Day on 8/17/2015 at 12:31:03 AM


Brewing beer is not about following a recipe, it is about the technique.  Of course the recipe is important but the art of brewing craft beer sits on a wide spectrum of technique.  The only way to really hone in on your craft…pun intended…is to truly understand what you are doing as opposed to just following a recipe and going through the motions like mash at 150, sparge at 168, collect 7 gallons, boil for 90 minutes, add hops at 60, 30, 15, and 5 minutes, chill wort, pitch yeast, check every 5 hours, post a pic of the krausen and ask if it is infected, etc…  Can you make good beer with extract kits and following the recipe?  Sure.  If you got into brewing to cook up some awesome beers to share with your beer snob buddies or keep your palate entertained you better get studying. 


I really like analogies.  Nah, I love analogies like sweet wort loves a healthy pitch of yeast.  I find it very easy to compare beer and music which of course is heaven for me because I love them both more than analogies…get it?  Seriously, just like every musician has their musical influences that help shape their sound, every new brewer should have multiple sources to help shape their technique and process. 

Below is a list of resources I have

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Tags for this post: newb, newbie, noob, brewing, brewer, resource, learning, resources

My Review of the Brewjacket

Posted by toklas on 8/12/2015 at 08:45:53 PM

As mentioned in my initial post, I figured my blog posts would include things I’ve spent money on, whether I’ve regretted it or not. Everybody has their own brewing style, and everybody has certain areas of brewing that they enjoy more than others, so a product that works for me (or a product that I didn’t like) may not present the same experience for others. 

 There are definitely pro’s and cons, but such is life.



The first fermentation chamber I built was a Frankenstein-like contraption involving a used mini-fridge I found for $25, that pink Styrofoam insulation stuff, and a whole bunch of glue and duct tape. Oh, and Velcro. I am not handy, what can I say. I bought a 2-stage controller because in the winter I actually do need to heat my beer (basement gets to about 10ºC). This guy lasted for several years, and then my little 25-dollar monster died. So, off I went pricing out more mini fridges when I came across the brewjacket. It was on Kickstarter at the time, so I figured, why not? It’s a really smart idea, and I wanted to see it actually come to market. When you buy the brewjacket system, you get a jacket that would make any Canadian jealous, and the immersion unit. Let’s start with the immersion unit.


Immersion Unit

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Tags for this post: brewjacket, homebrewing, homebrew, fermentation, temperature, control

A Dark Journey Through Hefeweizen - Part 2

Posted by zVulture on 8/12/2015 at 03:16:57 PM


Part 2 - Mastering the Yeast

Continued from part 1

My first alchemical run at brewing a Dunkelweizen Clone had started out quite a success but the yearning to make it better left me no time to rest. Lady Luck had provided me with a base yet being a new brewer it also left me in the dark on just how I did it. Where to even start when making this beer into something better? Again I search my clerical tomes, this time a real one, Brewing With Wheat by Stan Hieronymus. This book was about the history and modern methods of wheat beer creation.  While not a guide - as it details more professional level brewing than that at home - it gave me good insight to start experimenting.

The first step in my research was the two primary elements of this beer, Phenols (Clove) and Esters (Banana). These are what make a hefeweizen what it really is as the wheat base is generally quite simple and clean tasting. My primary goal forming, I wanted a balanced beer that wasn't strong in any aspect to make it quite drinkable yet tasty enough to enjoy drinking it daily. To that end I needed to figure out just how to perfect the flavors produced by the yeast. This post will be a little more extensive to cover both aspects of the yeast as well as the background to understanding the 'why'.

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Tags for this post: dunkelweizen, hefeweizen, WLP300, Banana, Ester, Clove, Phenol

A Dark Journey Through Hefeweizen - Part 1

Posted by zVulture on 8/07/2015 at 01:59:15 AM


Part 1 - The Dunkelweizen Clone

A discussion on reddit recently had prompted me to write up about Hefeweizen yeast. Yet as I started it just didn't hold light to the experiences I had. Just a summery of what was learned instead of the Adventure that had transpired to get me there. So this post starts the five part recordings of 'A Dark Journey through Hefeweizen'

Over this time I will be covering different parts of the brewing process for Heff beers. Though this is for a Dunkelweizen the notes and techniques are still comparable for normal Heff beers. This first post will be more an introduction to myself and how I got myself started down this dark path. This will continue into Part 2 about Heff Yeast, Part 3 on Decoction Mashing, Part 4 on some Yeast Trickery (wait for the surprise), and part 5 on combining all these elements into the final form of this beer.

A quick pre-cursor before the story begins. The homebrew beers I detail out in each part has been a one or more batch experiment with changing a variable or two. These are not side by side blind taste tests and have only been vetted by my experience and response from those tasting them. Also each is my recorded recipes before I knew better ways to brew. You are welcome and encouraged to try them yourselves, with improvements or not, and hopefully report back.

Image source -...
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Tags for this post: dunkelweizen, hefeweizen, clone, adventure

Preparing for Competition

Posted by mchrispen on 8/02/2015 at 02:12:03 PM

Competition can be stressful. Learning how to maximize your chances and minimizing problems is very important. You want your beer to be judged in its prime, unharmed from shipping or poor handling. You may wish to start a 'career' in competition, which is great, but takes planning and can cost a considerable amount of money. Hopefully you will find tips and tricks below to help you find some success.

Let's set some assumptions: You have to brew exceptional beer consistently. Your recipes must be refined and strike an impression of a specific style category. You need to have your fermentation and packaging technique completely under control, even if you bottle condition. You must also have a realistic view of what happens during competitions. Truly great beers don't always medal, but they should have consistently high scores. I am not trying to scare you off or discourage you from entering, just setting an expectation for your competition experience.

Prepare your attitude for both success and disappointment. A low score should be disappointing, but not crushing! Make sure to take constructive feedback appropriately and simply ignore the occasional crappy remarks. Your beer should be reviewed by skilled judges with sensory training. Take their feedback seriously and refine your process. Competition is not for everyone.

Why should I enter a competition?

There are two primary reasons to enter a competition; constructive feedback and bragging rights. Most competitions, especially those that are BJCP qualified, will provide you standardized judging feedback in one of two forms....
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Tags for this post: homebrewing, competition, judging, scoresheets, shipping, packaging

Tap Handles from Half Yankee Workshop

Posted by Stonehands on 7/29/2015 at 10:03:26 PM

A few weeks ago, Olan asked me to review a tap handle from Half Yankee Workshop. HECK YES! was my not so hesitant first response. I believe that Olan would like to review most of the products he's asked about, but in this case he felt like he couldn't do an honest and thorough review since he doesn't keg (poor guy) and has no taps at home to try them out.

Half Yankee Workshop logo

Full disclosure on this - Olan did give me the handles in exchange for the review. However, I almost declined because I felt like it was possible I wouldn't give them a fair review. My retired father makes my tap handles now, and has given me some very nice examples that he's turned on his lathe. My dad uses a variety of hardwoods he has on hand - walnut, cherry, hickory, oak - and I'm very proud of them all. I knew it would be a tough hill to overcome to earn a spot on my keezer. I'm a pretty fair guy though, so I agreed.

After waiting somewhat impatiently for the handle to arrive, I was finally able to unwrap what Olan gave me and I was pleasantly surprised with not one but two handles - one from the Session Series well as one from the Seasonal Series. My first impression was "WOW", the wood selection was absolutely phenomenal. My second impression was...
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Tags for this post: tap, handle, handles, review, wood, custom, half, yankee, workshop

What the Heck is RDWHAHB?

Posted by zVulture on 7/29/2015 at 05:52:27 PM


A guide for new brewers

There are a lot of things to learn in a new hobby, some more challenging to pick up than others. One I noticed when I first started brewing was this annoying acronym being spread around, 'RDWHAHB'. I mean you can't even say it out loud properly, though it's a fun way to test someone's sobriety. Yet it really is the core of the homebrewing hobby and something that makes the community that much better. 'Relax, Don't Worry, and Have A HomeBrew' is almost a philosophy at my home that I should really have it as a plaque.

Keezer sign
Sign I have above my keezer. Can't remember what it says...

What's the big deal?

There is one key difference between homebrewing and other hobbies I have picked up over the years, and that is Time. Some like Diving takes training and preparation but the activity only lasts a few hours. While the slow process that is fermentation leaves us in the dark for weeks if not longer if doing aging. Sure we aren't actively performing any actions but in human nature waiting is one of the hardest things for us to do. Minds wonder and worry about the mistakes we have made or even if there were none, that damn brain likes making them up. The first time brewing provides many of those as everything is so alien to what we normally do.

There are

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Tags for this post: Guide, New Brewer, New Homebrewer, RDWHAHB

Brewing With Kids - Of Course It's Doable!

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/29/2015 at 12:57:33 AM

It probably comes as no surprise to even a new reader of this blog that I am a father; I'm pretty sure that the moniker "Homebrew Dad" likely gives it away. As a matter of fact, I have seven children (ages nineteen, seventeen, seven, five, four, eighteen months, and newborn) - six of which still live at home.

When people hear that, the invariable reaction (once the dropped jaws return to a more normal position) from the brewing crowd tends to be along the lines of "how on Earth do you find time to brew?", "I can barely brew with my single child.", "what kind of lunatic are you?", and so forth.

A quick aside for those of you who just can't stand it - yes, I know what causes children (and I like to think that my wife and I must be at least decent at it). No, I'm not trying to start a reality show, cult, or new country. Thank you for your concern.

But as for brewing with kids... no, I don't get to brew as often as I would prefer, all else being equal. Unlike the single folks, DINKS, and parents of a lesser number of older (and presumably more self sufficient) kids, it's pretty tough for me to just wake up one day and decide to brew on a whim. Brewdays often have to be scheduled around various baseball schedules, birthday parties, family outings, and the like - meaning that my total...
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Tags for this post: brewing, kids, kid, brew, homebrew, brewing with kids

2015 BrewUnited Challenge - Strong Scotch Ale

Posted by zVulture on 7/23/2015 at 09:40:21 PM


There is something to be said for a hobby that has held my interest for over two years now.  A closet full of equipment from different sports, adventures and mistakes alike.  It is far too easy for a voraciously curious person to burn out on these.  Homebrewing has been a wonderful break into this as there both are far too many things to learn and even then people like Brulosopher like proving those wrong.

The BrewUnited challenge is no exception to this as it pushes us beyond just brewing what we like how we like to.  For myself, that is to put into practice some techniques that I have only heard of yet, Wort Caramelization and the Long Boil.  These sound simple yet these tools are not often used with modern crystal malts and de-bittered dark malts for sweetness and color.  But they fit perfectly within the bounds of making something special for the challenge.

Starter 24h before

The Recipe

Style: 9E - Strong Scotch Ale
Type: All Grain
Batch Size: 5 gallon
Boil Time: (120 min) ~160 min
Original Gravity: (1.088) 1.084 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.027 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 8.1 %
Bitterness: 20.0 IBUs
Note: (stuff in parenthesis) out is Intended vs what mischief ensued...

Amount Name Type Addition %Bill/IBU
13 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) UK Grain Mash 68%
4 lbs Munich 10L (Briess) Grain Mash 21%
1 lbs
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Tags for this post: 2015 BrewUnited Challenge, Strong Scotch Ale, Wee Heavy, Long Boil, 120m Boil, Caramelization

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