#KnoxBeer contest, help me name my #homebrew

November 30, 2011

I’m having another small episode of “writer’s block”. Even putting together a coherent post for this website is difficult. However, an even bigger problem I’m having right now is naming my Cascadian Dark Ale. I had a few ideas, but none of them really sounded right to me. Usually I come up with a name when I formulate the recipe. Sometimes I come up with a better one before I make a label. With this beer, I’m coming up blank. My relative loss of my creative energy could be your gain. I’ve decided to have a contest to name this beer. The rules are simple. Just tell me what you’d would name it if you had brewed it. It also has to be a name that no one has used for a beer before. If it’s on Untappd, it’s automatically disqualified.
Here’s what I’m offering the winner: a mixed six pack of my homebrew, & a small part of the label dedicated to any message you want to put on it. Want to promote your website or twitter handle? Fine. Want to be quoted? Great. Want to write a story or post a joke? Ok by me. Keep in mind though that your label is not going to get seen by a lot of people. I don’t sell my beer, but I do occasionally give some away to friends or family. Also the winner needs to meet me somewhere close by in Knoxville. I live in Vestal, I work near downtown. Sorry, but I’m not traveling all the way to Straw Plains or Farragut to deliver the winning 6 pack. I also will not ship it. Must be 21 or older to win. To enter, just post your proposed name in the comments below.

  More about this style: Cascadian Dark Ale is also referred to by the oxymoronic “Dark IPA”.

On another note, I’ve been putting my new counter pressure filler to good use. Once I figured it out, it works perfectly. I still have a few bottles from each batch that I am naturally conditioning. For quicker drinking, I can bottle  beer only a few days after it’s kegged using this system. It’s much faster then waiting a month for the priming sugar & yeast to carbonate the batch.

Until next time,

Ratchet


The Knoxville #CraftBeer market expands with new store opening tonight & #KnoxBeer Tweet Up

November 18, 2011

When I first moved to Knoxville back in 1998 there wasn’t a whole lot of local stores with a good beer selection. In fact, as far as I remember, there were only 2. The main place that I and all my friends frequented was Sam’s Party Store in the Fort Sander’s neighborhood. They carried four packs of Sammy Smith’s Oatmeal Stout and a great selection of micro brews that we had never heard of.  The only other place with a good selection was way out in West Knoxville at Leaf and Ale. I had only been there a few times when it was also a homebrew supply store. So Sam’s was our place we went to. This was along time before grocery stores had anything but fizzy yellow American lagers or Guinness. This lasted for years. Occasionally myself or one of my friends would make a trip to Asheville where we’d stock up on their wonderful local beer from Highland Brewing Company. The person making the beer run would usually make enough to pay for their gas and beer by marking up the price of 22 ounce bombers by a dollar or 2.  I remember the first time I saw a decent craft beer at Kroger. It was Cottonwood Endo IPA. I fell in love with this beer. For awhile it’s Cascade flavored goodness was all I drank. Then a year or 2 later something else happened. Highland’s beers were suddenly available. Followed closely by beers I had only had while visiting the west coast, such as Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and Flying Dog. Now Craft beer is sold everywhere. Even most gas station convience store have at least 1 decent beer available.
   In the last couple of years the Craft Beer market in Knoxville has exploded. The Bearden Beer Market opened up giving beer geeks a place to not only pick up a six pack or fill a growler, but a spot to enjoy a draft while socializing with other beer lovers. This set the tone for the type of business model to thrive. Vic’s Package Store followed and well as Westland Market and Beer Gallery and also Jackson Avenue Market. Now we have a new place opening up called The Casual Pint. I will admit, part of me is not entirely sure Knoxville can support this many craft beer stores/ bars. I honestly hope I am wrong. I know that the craft beer market will continue to expand, but there’s that little tiny sliver of me that worries this may be a bubble (like the dot.com one) that will eventually burst. Like I said I really hope I’m wrong.
   So far the only parts of town that don’t have this type of business is East Knoxville and where I live, South Knoxville. Vic’s Package Store is in North Knoxville.  Jackson Avenue Market is on the edge of the Old City (where their taps compete with local bars), Bearden Beer Market, Westland Market and Beer Gallery and now The Casual Pint are all in West Knoxville. I would love to have a beer store/ neighborhood bar within walking distance here in SoKno.
   So yeah, I’m going to check out The Casual Pint’s grand opening tonight. I should be there around 7 if you want to meet up. I wish the Casual Pint well and hope they are very successful. I plan on supporting this place but due to it’s location, I don’t see myself becoming a reqular unless the beer there is really cheap. When it comes to drinking out west, Bearden Beer Market and Brixx Pizza West Hills are my favorite spots. Sadly, I haven’t even made it to Westland Market and Beer Gallery. Maybe I’ll make it one day. The Knox Beer Snobs did a great article about it, that makes me want to check them out.

    Another thing I want to mention is that if you’re a beer lover, a twitter user and live in Knoxville, you may of seen use of the #KnoxBeer hash tag. I spread this idea at Brewer’s Jam to The Knox Beer Snobs, Dave at Woodruff and Jonathon at Marble City. From there it spread, and now a small crew of beer lovers have connected over this hash tag. We are having an unofficial “tweet-up” on Saturday 1 pm at The Downtown Grill and Brewery. Come have a pint and talk beer nerd with us. You don’t have to be a twitter user to attend. I’ll check to see if we can use the “brewer’s table” which is the big one by the copper tanks. So unless I post otherwise, let’s plan on meeting there. Hope you can make it.

-Cheers,

Ratchet


The curse of the serious home brewer – upgrade fever.

November 16, 2011

I’ve had a serious case of blogger’s block lately. This is the 3rd post that I’ve drafted since my last update. I deleted the other ones because they just kind of fizzled out. I’m sitting here and sipping on a New World Porter from Woodruff Brewing Company and I have finally figured out what to write about.
I consider myself to be a serious home brewer. Everybody knows home brewing is my hobby, but I know very few other home brewers that invest themselfs in it like I do. Hell, outside of my family and my job, home brewing beer defines me. Where other people I know dream of saving for a vacation to the beach or buying new records or clothes, I dream of visiting breweries and buying better beer making equipment. Which is exactly what I have done this week.
I’ve been lucky enough to make a little extra money on the side doing game day parking at my office. With it I figured I could buy some gear that will improve the quality of my brews. I’ve been looking at counter-flow bottling systems for several years now. Just like any purchase I make, it takes me an incredibly long time to make up my mind on exactly which brand I want to get. Each one has it’s own pros and cons to consider. I’ve been leaning towards buying the Blichmann Beer Gun for awhile. However, after further research and a conversation that I had with a pro brewer, I went with the deluxe version bottle filler offered by More Beer. I like that it fills from the bottom of the bottle up, and that it flushes out the oxygen with CO2 first. Up until now, I’ve been naturally carbonating my beer. This is done by adding priming sugar when I bottle. The remaining yeast cells eat the sugar and create the carbonation. I’ve made great beer this way, and have so for year. So how will using a counter-pressure system improve my beer? Well, hopefully in several ways. As great as bottle conditioning is, things can go wrong. Yeast can autolyze, creating off flavors. Too much carbonation and your beer can foam really bad when you pour it, or even worse, bottles can explode. Luckily, that hasn’t happened to me in over 10 years, but I still am careful to store my beers in coolers to minimize mess if it does. Oxidation is a big concern of mine as well. There nothing like going to pour a beer and realizing a whole batch has gone stale due to extra oxygen that was picked up during the bottling process. With counter pressure filling, I won’t have to worry about this so much.
It’s pretty simple how this works. I’ll flush out the oxygen out of the empty keg with carbon dioxide and then keg my beer. Then I’ll force carbonate it. Whenever I want to bring bottles somewhere, I’ll simply sanitize however many I want, then fill them directly from the keg using the bottle filler. This should cut down significantly on the amount of storage space I need.
Not to say I won’t ever bottle condition beer. In fact I plan on doing just that with a few from every batch. Some higher gravity beers, and styles like Imperial Stouts and Barley Wines benefit from extended bottle conditioning. Instead of going through the trouble of measuring out tiny amounts of bottling sugar, I’ll just use tabs. I don’t plan on bottle conditioning more then 10 beers out of every batch anyway.
Another major reason I purchased the counter pressure filler is for non alcoholic drinks. My 7 year old son makes his own sodas (with my help & guidance, of course). We always keg his creations. The reason being is that to bottle conditioned soda, you have to use yeast which creates yucky off flavors. If we fill the bottles under pressure with already carbonated soda, he can bring them to a friends house, birthday party or whatever. Just like me and my beers, he takes great joy in sharing something yummy that he made with his friends. I can also give him all the clear bottles I keep, since you don’t have to worry about soda getting “light struck” like you do with beer.

My new bottle filler

The other piece of equipment I purchased this week was a filtering system. I’ve been looking and researching these for awhile as well, but not to the extent that I have with counter-pressure fillers. Filtering will also improve my beer, mostly the look of it. Pretty much every home brewer has issues with chill haze. This is caused by proteins in the beer that make it cloudy when it’s cold. This doesn’t effect the flavor in any way. It’s really just an issue of presentation more then anything. My brewing techniques have improved significantly over the years, but I still get chill haze from time to time. Filtering may also help improve the flavor by taking out tiny particles of yeast, proteins and polyphenols. I purchased my filter from Home Brew Stuff. The one I bought I can also use as a infuser, which is what I think it will get the most use as. I can run my IPAs and Pale Ales through extra hops, and my Stouts and Porters through coffee beans or cacao nibs. Hell if I’m feeling adventurous, I can run my beer through fruit if I want. Which is what I may do if I’m serving it at a festival.
Both of these upgrades are dependent on my kegging system. I currently have 6 five gallon corny kegs, 3 gallon and a 2.5 gallon. I’ll need to use 4 kegs to filter 10 gallons. I also have 2 Carbon Dioxide tanks, a 10 and a 5 pound. I have 2 regulators, one of which I need to get replacement gauges for. My beer fridge is a chest freezer with thermostat control. It has the capacity to fit all of my full kegs at once. The beer has to be kept cold in order for the C02 to absorb. I got the feeling that once I’m up and running at full capacity, I’ll be looking for more kegs and another chest freezer to add to my set up. I’ll cross that bridge if and when I ever get there.

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Ok, Random recipe, here’s a pale ale I plan on brewing Thanksgiving weekend.

C & C American Pale Ale -10 gallon recipe

20 pounds 2 row Pale Ale Malt
1 pound Dark Crystal malt (75L)
2 ounces Citra hops.
2 ounces Cascade hops.
2 whirlfloc tablets
Strike crushed grains with 8 gallons of 163 degree water
hold grains at 152 degrees for 60 minutes.
Sparge with 7.2 gallons of 179 degree water
bring to boil, add 1 ounce of Cascade hops.
30 minutes, add 1 ounce of Citra.
Last 10 minutes add another ounce of Cascade.
Last 5 minutes of the boil, add the whirfloc tablets.
Add last ounce of hops at end of boil.
Rapidly cool and pitch with 3 packages of Safale- US-05 dry yeast or Wyeast or White Labs California Ale Yeast.

If you read this blog, I’d love to hear from you. I have more then a few beer and brewery stickers I have collected at festivals. The next 6 people to post a comment, I’ll mail you a beer sticker from my collection.

Cheers,

Ratchet.


A note about #StoutDay and the #KnoxBeer @Woodruffbrewing cask of it.

November 3, 2011

Today (November 3rd) is Stout Day which is described in this way: “International Stout Day is a worldwide celebration of the iconic beer style, Stout. Taking place in homes, pubs, breweries and restaurants; it’s all about celebrating the craft beer revolution, relishing in this beloved beer style, sharing your photos, tasting notes and events with the world.” This takes place nearly 3 months after IPA Day. These events are to raise awareness of these certains styles of beer, and are mostly a social media led phenomenon. I slightly conflicted about these “days”. On one hand, I personally don’t need an excuse to drink a good quality craft beer. These special days were mostly created by certain well know beer bloggers and seem to first and foremost be a way for them to extend their brand. On the other hand, it does go a ways to create awareness of different styles of beer. It does give people an excuse to “drink outside of their comfort zones” and try a style that they might normally avoid. If someone who normally drinks Light American Lagers gets turned on to craft beer because of one of these specialty days, then it’s worth it. At the same time it makes me wonder how far naming these special days will go. Do we really need a day for every style of beer? What about Schwarzbier Day or Belgian Tripel Day? One things is for certain, it’s only a matter of time before someone announces another one of these days and the rest of the internet & social media spheres jump on board. Chances are, so will I.

I do want to add that my first craft beer experience was with a stout. I was a young adult (aka a Dumbass) who had just dropped out of college to go traveling with some friends (aka other dumbasses aka dirty hippies). We did shows and gatherings. On the “lots”, other more experiences dumbasses would sell beer. One of the most popular brands at these events (or whatever you want to call them) was “Sammy Oaties”, our nickname for Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. From my first taste, I was in love. For years afterwards I would only drink dark beers. It wasn’t until I became a homebrewer that I expanded my appreciation of other styles. A good oatmeal stout takes me back, and I still buy myself a “Sammy Oatie” every once in awhile as a treat.

Speaking of Stout Day, my good Friend Dave Ohmer will be tapping a cask of Woodruff’s State Street Stout this eveing at 6pm at Dead End BBQ. This is another addition in his cask conditioned series. I will be there to support my local brewery, and if you are here in Knoxville, why don’t you make an appearance as well?


Update: I took this picture around 6:15 pm. It’s my buddy Dave (the brewer) giving me a fresh pint of cask conditioned stout. Damn it was good!

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