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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 Crystal 60, 2-Row, (Great Western) Grain Mash 5%
1 lbs Wheat, Flaked Grain Mash 5%
0.75 oz Challenger [7.50 %] Hop Boil 60.0 min 15.9 IBUs
0.50 oz Perle [8.00 %] Hop Boil 10.0 min 4.1 IBUs
Starter Edinburgh Ale (White Labs #WLP028) Yeast Pitch Temp -

Poisonous H2O that needs proper
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Steven, otherwise known as zVulture on reddit or in games, is a homebrewer with two years and counting under the belt. Ambitious enough to think he can work his way up to opening his own brewery but knows he has a lot to learn. Beyond having fun doing experimental homebrewing to such an end, he enjoys learning and using old techniques, useful or not, to make beer. "[We] are only concerned with giving homebrewers accurate information based on our own experience in the hope that they will find the information useful and employ it to make their own homebrewing hobby more fun and rewarding. Because that’s what it’s all about– fun. If you’re stressing over homebrewing, you’re doing something wrong." - Denny Conn

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Awesome write up! It's amazing how close our processes ended up being. I also boiled down and caramelized by first wort (reduced it to 1/6th of original volume), and did an extended boil (3 hours). Good luck!

posted by chino_brews on 7/24/2015 at 09:49:08 PM

Thanks for sharing your creative process, interesting write up. One bit of advice; I noticed in the photo at the top that your starter had a cap and airlock on the top. You will get more growth and healthier cells by just covering the top loosely with sanitized foil on the stir plate. Yeast need oxygen at this stage to make sterols and unsaturated fatty acids for their cell membranes--which they need in order to grow and divide.

posted by tracyy on 8/08/2015 at 10:21:25 AM

Tags for this post: 2015 BrewUnited Challenge, Strong Scotch Ale, Wee Heavy, Long Boil, 120m Boil, Caramelization

The Biabacus: my Brewing Calculator of Choice.

Posted by toklas on 7/22/2015 at 09:32:04 AM

Let's brew biab... with a spreadsheet. 

So, as mentioned in my introduction post, I really like using the biabacus. You have to sign up to this forum be able to download it, but the calculator is worth it (it’s free). This post will be about just the biabacus part of my brew day; I will post more about the brew day in a different post. 

Why do I like the biabacus so much? Because this is how I do math if left to my own devices:


Step one: set up the biabacus. Measure your kettle. Mine has a diameter of 42cm, height of 40cm. I enter 23L for the desired final volume into the fermentor: that’s about 6 gallons. I’m aiming for an OG of 1.052.


Step two: set up grain bill in the biabacus.  Since with biab you don’t have to worry about stuck sparges, I generally use a 60:40 ratio of wheat to base. I have some golden promise that I want to use up, so under "grams/ratios", I fuzzily enter wheat, 60% and GP 40%.

The biabacus tells me that I need 7.72lbs of wheat, 5.15lbs of GP and 9.75 gallons of strike water. That’s all! I freaking love this calculator. Under the “mashing instructions” section, I put in 90 minutes for time, it’s about 25C in my basement where I store my grain, and
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Tags for this post: biabacus, biab, brewing, math

Decoction Mashing: Taste the Magic

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/20/2015 at 10:10:09 AM

Centuries ago, brewers did not have access to the well modified malts that we take for granted today, making it difficult to extract all of those delicious sugars from the malt. In addition, specialty malts simply did not exist... at least not to the degree that we think of in modern brewing. In the interest of creating more flavorful brews (and of the brewers getting as much bang for their buck as possible), the technique of decoction mashing came to be.

Of course, a lot has changed since that time. Today, the malts we used are, by default, well-modified. We have access to a veritable rainbow of specialty malts, with new varieties regularly coming to market. So, why then would anyone even bother with the Old World tradition of a decoction mash in today's environment? Surely our quality malts mean that that there is no need for complex processes, and our wide variety of malts mean that to achieve almost any flavor, one can just grab a pound of this, a few ounces of that?

Indeed, this is one of those nigh-religious debates in homebrewing. Some brewers will tell you that there just is no point in employing a decoction, that you can achieve an identical beer with a little melanoiden malt. Others hold that there is something special in a decocted beer, some little touch of magic that you just can't perfectly duplicate in any other way.

It probably comes as no surprise that I fall into the...
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Tags for this post: decoction, mash, mashing, tradition, melanoiden, brewing, beer

The Journey from Noob to Pro - First Post

Posted by Half Day on 7/14/2015 at 03:22:51 PM

OK, so I jumped into the home brewing game just like everyone else, a total Noob.  My differentiator; I plan on going pro in 5 years.  Yup, that is a very daunting thing to say considering I have less than 20 batches under my belt and absolutely no background in anything related to brewing.  It’s a pretty daunting thing to broadcast across a community of home brewers also... You are going pro in 5 years?  Are you crazy?  Do you know what that takes and what the real world of brewing entails?  I kind of feel like someone just unexpectedly shoved me onto a stage at a talent show and I have nothing prepared whatsoever... maybe I can find a few things to juggle?  It is going to be a very challenging journey to say the least but one I am prepared for.  My buddy (we will refer to him as jlaw from here on out) and I registered an official LLC at the beginning of the year and ponied up $3K each to invest in brewing equipment.  I have about 5 all grain batches under my belt at this point and jlaw has 0.  So what you have here is two brewing noobs, a business plan, a $6K system budget and 5 years to make it work.  $6K sounds like a lot of money in terms of a spending spree on a home brew system but if you think of it like a business startup cost, it isn’t that...
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Tags for this post: half, day, homebrewer, pro brewer, electric, blichmann

Introduction Post

Posted by toklas on 7/13/2015 at 09:49:34 AM

The 1% Rule.
In an online community, 1% contribute content, 9% comment or participate on that content, and 90% read or lurk. When Olan asked a few months ago for someone to lend the site "a woman's touch", I took the 90% route and kind of semi offered, hoping that somebody else would step up to the plate. But with the new BrewUnited sleek look and ease of use for making blog posts, I figured it might be time to put my big-girl dress on and actually contribute.

This blog.
It's difficult to say what the aim of this blog will be. Frankly, I don't have a master plan for this blog, and at any point if there are requests for me to write about something, I probably will oblige. This blog is likely going to be a blog about how I brew beer, all of the mistakes I make, what works and what doesn't work for me, the latest thing I've wasted money on, etc. I'm actually hoping that I'll learn a lot from you guys posting responses to my blog posts here: so please, please don't be afraid to respond with suggestions, ideas, or general comments.

General brewing intro.
Just to start, I'll begin with a quick intro of my setup. I do full-volume brew in a bag. My favourite calculator is the biabacus. I suggest that anybody who is doing BIAB consider at least trying out the biabacus: I've...
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Tags for this post: blogger, woman, biab, brewer

Brew in a Bag in a Cooler - I Review The Brew Bag

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/09/2015 at 09:50:26 AM

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Rex Slagel, owner of The Brew Bag. I had seen Rex on a Facebook brewing group or two, and knew that he had some sort of business involving brewing bags, but I'll be honest - "BIAB" has been a four letter word to me, so I had never really bothered to learn more about his venture.

You see, I've used a grain bag a few times in the past, and I had yet to have anything I would call a positive experience with one. Granted, my experiences were largely stovetop partial mash episodes, and I may have transferred negative emotions onto the poor bag from the messy splashing and poor temperature control I associate with the process. With that said, my plain Jane grain bag from Austin Homebrew has always been a pain to use - it's a nice, coarse mesh that makes cleanup a real chore (the grain bits seem impossible to fully clean out). I read tons of accounts of people who have great success with BIAB, but I love my three vessel setup with a cooler for a mash tun. Different strokes and all of that.

Back to Rex. You see, Rex had caught wind of the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge, and was interested in becoming a sponsor. In fact, he was interested in making The Brew Bag into one of our featured sponsors, as he donated six gift certificates worth a total of $240 to the competition....
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Tags for this post: brew, bag, fabric, filer, biab, brew in a bag, mash, cleanup is Dead! Long Live!

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/07/2015 at 10:41:48 AM

Three and a half years ago, I was a clueless newbie homebrewer who decided to start a blog to chronicle his new hobby. Looking back on those first few posts is truly cringe-inducing, such as when I suspected that I was some sort of brewing wizard, as I had coaxed a very high OG out of my extract (aside for newbie brewers reading this: extract yields a set amount of sugar, you can't screw it up. If your OG is high or low, it's because you didn't get a great mix of wort and your top off water). Or when I decided to change my original fermentation schedule and reduce the amount of time in secondary (I have long since abandoned secondaries altogether).

Along the way, I gained some wisdom - admittedly, most often through screwing things up - and my posts became a bit more coherent. I started applying my love of creating things with my interest in programming, and I wrote the first of my brewing utilities.

And so it went for some time. I got active on some homebrewing forums, eventually on the reddit homebrewing sub, and all was well with the world.

And then, one of my favorite hangouts seemed to get a lot less friendly. The forum seemed to shift its focus, and some of the decisions there felt designed to encourage certain major contributors to find other places to go. Everywhere I went, it seemed that there was some degree of...
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Tags for this post: homebrewdad, BrewUnited, homebrew, dad, brew, united, community

2015 BrewUnited Challenge Prize Information

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/28/2015 at 11:26:23 PM

It's almost time for the official opening of registration for the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge (incidentally - we are now sanctioned by the BJCP [comp #204116] and sponsored by the AHA). If you missed the original announcement (and are wondering what exactly makes this competition any different from the typical garden variety brewing comp), you might want to check out that original announcement post. Of course, you should definitely keep your eyes open - when we open registration on July 1st, we will also post the full official rules, as well as other supplemental information about the competition.

Competition medal
Check out our logo!

In the meantime, though, I thought that it would be fun to talk prizes. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that we have some of the best prize packages you'll see at almost any brewing competition around - particularly in a first year comp like ours!

For starters, we will be awarding some really nice medals to at least the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners for each of the three divisions. We will also give ribbons (if not medals) to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd for each style, as well. And, of course, the overall winner will receive a special medal.

That being said, medals are nice... but real brewing swag is something else, no? So, check it out.

One disclaimer: all prizes are subject to full participation from the sponsor in question. While...
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Tags for this post: prizes, prize, competition, brewing, comp, brew, winner, sponsor

I Welcome Baby Number Seven, and I Plan a Special Beer

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/24/2015 at 01:42:30 AM

First off, I'd like to deviate from my typical ramblings about beer and brewing to celebrate the fact that my family has grown yet again. Since my blog is, in fact, titled "Homebrew Dad", I feel like it's okay for me to brag about that family just a bit.

At 11:17 AM on June the 22nd, 2015, Elowyn Fae - our seventh child - was born. She weighed six pounds, eleven ounces, and was nineteen and a half inches long. I like to say that she was an expedited* C-section, due to the fact that my wife was fairly sick, and the baby was showing some classic signs of distress (elevated fetal heart rate, decreased movement). She wasn't yet thirty-eight weeks of gestational age, and ended up with some minor complications; she had some breathing issues (namely, breathing way too fast), and had to go to the transition nursery for a few hours. In fact, she was a half hour from getting admitted to the NICU, but she finally settled down, and since then, has done quite well.

* - expedited C-section: not a full "emergency" section, as they did the normal prep, gave my wife an epidural, etc. However, they did bump the scheduled C-sections back, and went ahead and took my daughter first, as they were worried that she needed to be born sooner rather than later.

Once we got settled into a normal room, my wife presented me with an absolutely killer gift... check it out.

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Tags for this post: baby, seven, children, born, princesses, beer, noble, hops

It's Dumping time - I Have my First Infected Batch of Beer

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/22/2015 at 01:28:10 AM

Today marks a sad day for me in my brewing career - today is that day that I have decided to dump a full batch of beer without packaging a single drop of it. This is a first for me in better than three and a half years of brewing; while I had had my well-documented challenges with bottle infections, I've never experienced a traditional "infected" beer of the type where one has visible bacterial growth in a fermentor. As of June 21st, 2015 (better known in the US as Father's Day), this has officially changed.

Way back at the end of November, I brewed a beer that I had really high hopes for. Sure, I tend to have high hopes for all of my beers, but this one had a special place in my heart - it was an attempt to replicate a truly world class beer (namely, Hofbrau's Oktoberfest).

This brewday involved a simple wort - nothing but pilsner and Munich malts with Hallertaur hops - but also featured a complex, tradition-driven process. I did a full triple decoction for this beer in an effort to extract the full range of melanoiden-powered flavors that the grains were capable of providing. I then performed a traditional "low and slow" lager, dropping the beer to 33 degrees F once fermentation and the diacetyl rest had been completed, where I then would leave it for months.

However, my brewday was set against the backdrop of...
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Tags for this post: dump, dumper, batch, beer, brewing, ruined, infection, infected

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