Day off of work? It’s a GOOD FRIDAY to #homebrew (live blog)

March 29, 2013

Good Friday morning blog readers. I am lucky enough to have the day off work because it’s a holiday or something. I’m not entirely sure, but I think it has something to do with the Easter Bunny going into cave to prepare the eggs and stuff to deliver on Easter. Anyway I’ve known since Tuesday that I’d have this day off. My 1st thoughts? Brew some more beer! So that’s what I’m doing today. Just a simple 10 gallon batch of an American IPA. I am brewing solo today. I love my friends and assistant brewers but sometimes I got to go back to my roots and brew alone. It’s a Zen type of thing. Just me, the mash tun, the brew pot, my backyard and my stereo cranked up to eleventy.

Today’s recipe is simple enough. I am brewing with ingredients I already have on hand. Here’s what I threw together:

ABCC (Amarillo, Belma, Columbus & Cascade) IPA – 10 Gallon Batch

Estimated OG 1.074 Estimated FG 1.018 Estimated ABV 7.34% Estimated IBUs: 53.30

20 pounds 2 row brewers malt

5 pounds Vienna Malt

5 pounds Light Munich

2 pounds light crisp malt

1 pound Carahell

1 ounce Amarillo Pellets at beginning of boil (60 minutes)

3 ounces of Columbus leaf at 30 minutes left in boil

3 ounces of Cascade leaf at flame out

3 ounces of Belma leaf after 30 minutes of whirlpool

3 ounces of Amarillo pellets dry hopped after 3 days of fermentation.

Safale US-05 4000 ml starter.

60 minute boil, 45 minute whirlpool, cool down and pitch yeast at 65 degrees.

So I am up early and am going to live blog and video the whole brew day, or as much as I can. Like I said, I’m brewing solo. All the cleaning is on me. I hope I can take care of everything and still update this blog on my temperamental WordPress iPhone app. My goal is to get done as early as possible. I want to get cleaned up, maybe hit the YMCA for a quick session on the torture bot 10000 and be ready to pick up my son to take him to the Regal Riviera to see the new G.I. Joe movie at 4. Can I do it? Follow along and find out. Tweets, comments and text of encouragement are most welcome.

7:25 am. I’m so glad I set everything up yesterday after work. I just started the strike water in my bathrobe. Wiping the sleep out of my eyes, making coffee and brushing my teeth are next on the agenda.

20130329-072850.jpg

My “small batch” brew pot, a 20 gallon Blichmann

8:05 am: That was quick. I just mashed in. Now to periodically keep an eye on the temperature while the starches convert to sugars.

20130329-080719.jpg
8:45 am: A little over 15 minutes left mashing. Getting my sparge water heated up. Being productive & sanitizing carboys, hoses, etc.
9:20 am: Almost ready to sparge.

20130329-091759.jpg
9:26 am: Spaaaaarrrrrge!

20130329-092730.jpg
9:53 am: Well I’m done with the sparge. Unfortunately, I need to make a quick run to my LHBS, Allen Biermakens, because I’m out of hop bags. I realized this last night, but had to wait until 10 am for him to open. There’s a whole lot of leaf hops going into this & I can’t just throw them in the brew pot. I might as well stop by the store & get more propane just in case.
10:54 am: I’m back from my errands. I left the burner on low when I was gone. Just cranked it up and it’s almost to boil.

20130329-105320.jpg
10:56 am: Did I say almost? It’s at a full rolling boil. Adding in the 1st addition of hops.

20130329-105757.jpg

1st hop addition, Amarillo

11:30 am: 30 minutes left in the boil. I just threw some Columbus Hops in there.

11:45 am: I ran out of propane with 15 minutes left in the boil. I’m glad I picked up a spare. Also, it has started sprinkling, so I’m glad I’m brewing inside today.
11:56 am: 5 minutes left in the boil. Time to add the Whirfloc & the yeast nutrients.
12:10 pm: Started the whirlpool, added more hops. In 15 minutes, I’ll add some more. Time to go on a cleaning rampage.

20130329-121521.jpg
12:35 pm: I just added the last addition of hops to the whirlpool. 15 minutes until I start the cool down. Time to get the chiller hooked up. Still tons of stuff to clean. Hoping to be done by 2.

20130329-123642.jpg
1 pm: Pitched the yeast and cooling down wort.

20130329-130319.jpg

Always make a massive yeast starter, your homebrew will be happier for it.

20130329-130332.jpg

Yeast starter in the carboys awaiting chilled wort.

1:08 pm: just like that, the cool down is done! Thank goodness for cold ground water. Now to my least favorite part: clean up.

20130329-130954.jpg
1:40 pm: Still cleaning. I’m starting to think I won’t be done by 2, but that’s alright. Just took my original gravity reading. It’s at 1.064.
Stuff still to do: clean mash tun, brew pot, put everything back where it goes, vacuum seal the hops, rinse the hop bags, relax & have a homebrew.

2:34 pm: Final done cleaning & the ABCC IPA is happily fermenting. I’m going to eat something, hit the Y for a quick torture bot session & then go see a movie. Thanks for tuning into my solo brew day. I hope you were entertained.

I’m going to head out to Suttree’s this evening for a few beers if anyone wants to join me. I’ll be bringing a sample of my Smoking Hops ale to share.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Great Impromptu St. Patrick’s Day Brewing Party w/ Friends @RichardGroves @ZMachine85 @DeafGoat

March 17, 2013

Originally this post was going to be another live blogging of brew day. I actually started it that way, but brew day was incredibly busy and fun as you’ll read below. There is no way I could have blogged everything in real time. Instead, this post is my recollection of  what could possibly be the best weekend I’ve had in months. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. I started off Friday evening by heading to my 4 favorite watering holes downtown. Of course I’m talking about Downtown Grill and Brewery, Suttree’s, The Casual Pint and The Peter Kern Library. I wanted to be out enjoying the weather and the company of friends after a long work week.

On the Megatouch Machine at the upstairs bar, Downtown Grill and Brewery

On the Megatouch Machine at the upstairs bar, Downtown Grill and Brewery

I spent the 1st half of Saturday doing, chores, cleaning my house while enjoying the spring  breeze blowing through my open windows and screen doors. Later I spent some time with my son, then headed downtown to see Cutthroat Shamrock play a free show at Market Square. I planned on getting a lil’ swilly, so I left the car at home and walked the less then a mile from my house to downtown (never drink and drive y’all- it’s a horrible idea). I pre-gamed with a beer at home, some blackberry moonshine (thanks Nijoli!) mixed with coca-cola and ice in a to go cup for the walk. Once downtown I stopped by The Casual Pint where I met with a few friends. I slowly sipped on a beer until it was time for Cutthroat to take the stage. Once the band started, I realized I was sobering up and should do something about it. I didn’t want to pay $2 for a wrist band to buy $5 crappy beers on the square, so I walked over to Downtown Wine and Spirits and grabbed a bottle of Bourbon. I was able to sneak it in my pocket, went to Subway and bought a large coke. Mixed it up and took my cup to the front of the stage where I met up with more friends. I got to say, I love this band.  Now I don’t like to talk about it on my blog, but my close friends know my personal life. Let’s just say it was a rough week. As the bourbon worked it’s magic I cut loose. Dancing to Cutthroat Shamrock’s celtic/punk/bluegrass/ piratey tunes was absolutely cathartic. I was in motion for the whole time. I shared my drink and others did the same. Flask were passed about, beers were shared, complete strangers danced with arms around each other. The show came to an end around 10:30 but I was so amped there’s no way I wanted to go home. I knew Suttree’s was packed, so I headed back over to see my friends at The Casual Pint. There was only 2 people working and they were super busy. Nena was worried about underage people coming in, or people stealing beer off the shelves. I offered to play doorman for a while for a couple of beers. I sat at the door and checked IDs. People I knew walked past and stopped to talk. I remember more beer being shared, a snort or 2 of someone’s homemade white lightning and a  few swigs of wine. 11:30 and I knew it was time to walk home. I had planned on going to The Casual Pint’s Bearden location the next morning for their kegs and eggs event before brewing beer. It was a long, rough walk home with many stops to rest on the way. I got home, past out, woke up in the middle of the night, drank some vitamin water and took some ibuprofen. 7:30 am alarm Sunday morning and I got up, made coffee and headed to breakfast.

Well I enjoyed my omelet with Richard and his wife Sandy, and headed home to start brewing. I had success cultivating Heady Topper‘s yeast strain, Conan, from a couple of cans I saved for just that. I took my direction from this wonderful blog past and was able to step up to a 4500 ml starter between Wednesday and Saturday. Honestly, I was very worried it wouldn’t work. I made the starter on Wednesday, pitched the yeast dregs from the cans into the flask on the stir plate and waited. Two days went by with no activity. I thought my experiment was a failure and was already planning to use my old standby, Safale US-05. However by Saturday morning the starter was rapidly fermenting. YES! This yeast strain was a big part of the batch of beer I planned, and I knew it wouldn’t be the same without it.

Sunday my friends Jerry and Millie were the 1st to arrive. Jerry was very helpful when it came to getting everything set up. Usually I start brewing at the crack of dawn, and starting at 10 am instead is a lot later than usual. Having an extra set of hands, along with Millie documenting everything, was awesome. Next to arrive was assistant brewer Richard, followed by Todd. Millie ran to Earth Fare and picked up an incredible variety of sushi.

Once we got going, I started texting friends to come over. Beer and buddies on a perfect spring like day, what could be better? My friend Chris is hosting a group of law students from Kansas who are interning for his environmental law center on their spring break. I told him he was more than welcome to bring them over to learn to brew beer and enjoy a few. I was expecting maybe 3 or 4 people, and the next thing I know, there is a dozen or so people gathering in my basement brewery. Awesome! The more the merrier! The spring breakers were absolutely thrilled to lend a hand and learn about the brewing process.  Terri and Aimee from the Knox Beer Crew came over. More and more friends arrived.  At one point there were 24 people there laughing, talking, drinking, and dancing to good Irish/celtic punk  like Flogging Molly, The Pogues, The Tossers, Cutthroat Shamrock and Dropkick Murphys on my Pandora feed. This was a proper St. Patrick’s day party! The beer was really flowing and I was on top of the world! We drank down my stash and I can honestly say I now have room for food in my upstairs refrigerator again.

Well brew day eventually came to an end. With all the people there, cleaning was a breeze. People started taking off a few at a time. The law students wanted to go check out Ijams Nature park while it was still light out. The crowd got smaller and smaller. Eventually I was by myself, exhausted but incredibly happy and a little bit buzzed. I laid back on my couch in my brew basement for a few minutes and enjoyed the silence with a big old grin on my face. I knew I should eat dinner. I didn’t want the weekend to come to a close so I got up and walked back downtown for food. I ordered a half Dan’s pasta at the Brewery and went and visited Suttree’s for a sample size beer while my food cooked. After a few minutes I picked up my order to go and brought it over to The Casual Pint and washed it down with 2 more sample size beers.  As I walked back across the Gay Street bridge while the sun set, I thought about how no matter what’s gone on recently in my life, I am truly blessed. I have good friends, I brew beer people enjoy, I have food, clothing, shelter and a good job. All that and I had one hell of a weekend.

Here’s to many more.

Good Friends, good beer, good times.

Ratchet

PS. Every brew day should be a party. I plan on brewing again on Sunday, April 21st. If you’d like to come over, send me an email or text me. Also Nantahala Brewing Company’s next Trail Magic bottle release is this Saturday the 23rd at Noon. Richard and I are going if you’d like to join us. We plan on getting there by noon and being back in Knoxville by 4 pm or so.


Happy MLK Day everyone. I too have a dream.

January 21, 2013

rbfinal

I’m very serious about the whole starting a nano-brewery thing. I dream about it every night. Some days it’s all I think about. There is so much to learn and figure out. I’m almost done reading the Tennessee Department of Revenue’s Alcoholic Beverages and Beer Tax Guide and have been talking to people to clarify things I don’t understand. I have the Tax and Trade Bureau’s website bookmarked and read it constantly. I still have to register my trademark and I have the US patent office’s website in my favorites. I am always checking the Brewer’s Association website and look forward to the day I can join that organization and announce to the world that I am officially “a brewery in planning“. Next thing I plan on studying is OSHA regulations.

Right now the thing that seems to be holding me back from applying for permits, getting my trademark registered, etc is finding a location to set up. I have a very limited area I am looking at, all within walking distance of downtown.  I don’t need something big, just enough space to build an office, brewing area, cold storage, fermentation room and the actual bar area/ tasting room. I need something affordable, which unfortunately rules out most of downtown. I like the Fourth and Gill area. That neighborhood is needs a small bar. I’ll keep looking. Craigslist, news paper, word of mouth, friends and driving around searching. Once I DO find a spot (and I will) then the fun begins. Negotiating lease terms, making sure it’s zoned right, inspections and construction, the actual raising of funds and the mountains of paperwork. I KNOW it is going to be hard and test the limits of my sanity, but dammit, I am completely dedicated. Once I find a place I plan to go from living in a comfortable house near downtown with a killer view, to basically being a couch surfing & urban camping brewer. This is because I’ll need the money going towards my house to use for the commercial space. If I have to basically live like I’m homeless to see my dream take off, so be it.

Until then, I have updated a few things on my website. I finally put together a bare bones store page to sell the shirts and other stuff that I have for sale at the various beer festivals I attend. It’s a work in progress and I currently only have a fraction of my merchandise on there. I’ll post more as I can.

I also put together a brewery wish list. People are always asking what they can do to help. I have people asking if I need investors. Yes, I do. However I am not going to start actively soliciting donations or raising funds until I have my location on lock down. I put together the wish list mainly for myself, to have the satisfaction of crossing things off the list as I acquire them as a measure of my progress. Also there is part of me that hopes that there are people out there who happen to have spare equipment, knowledge or insight and can help me cross these things off.

On another note, I had a pretty successful brew day on Sunday. I put together a recipe for an IPA. My friends Richard, Dalton and Todd came over and lent a hand in it’s creation. Katie arrived later on with snacks and moral support. I hadn’t thought of a name for this beer and asked for suggestions. Todd suggested calling it Blitz IPA. After a quick check on untappd, we saw that the name was open. Hop Blitz is what we settled on. Here is the recipe for 10 gallons for those who are interested:

24 pounds organic 2 row brewer’s malt.

2 pounds Pilsen malt

1 pound cara-pils

2 pounds Vienna

1 pound wheat

1 pound crystal 60

1 pound corn sugar

2 ounces of East Kent Goldings Hops (Leaf, 6o minutes)

2 ounces of Cascade (leaf, 30 minutes)

2 ounces Columbus (leaf, 15 minutes)

2 ounces of Centennial (pellet, 15 minutes)

2 ounces Belma (leaf, 5 minutes)

2 ounces of Columbus (leaf, at flame out)

2 Whirlfloc tablets at 5 minutes left

Strike grains with 9 gallons of water to to mash at 152 degrees for 60 minutes

Sparge with 9 gallons at 170 degrees

Yeast- 1/2 gallon starter of Safale S-04 Whitbread English strain.

Cool rapidly to 65 degrees and pitch yeast. I split into 3 carboys for fermentation, roughly 11 gallons fermenting away.

Original Gravity 1.074

Estimated final gravity:1.018

Estimated ABV 7.34% Estimated IBUs: 63.5

Hop Blitz happily fermenting away

Hop Blitz happily fermenting away

Richard, Todd and myself sampling some unfermented Hop Blitz after clean up.

Richard, Todd and myself sampling some unfermented Hop Blitz after clean up.

This weekend I’ll be in Asheville for the Winter Warmer beer festival. Expect a post afterwards. If you are going, and we haven’t met, feel free to introduce yourself. For you Knox Beer Crew guys and gals going, what do say we go to Wicked Weed for dinner afterwards?

Until next time…

Cheers,

Ratchet


Solo #homebrew day, new hop variety, brewing of KBC 505 and Hurricane Sandy relief

November 12, 2012

There’s a few things coming up in the Knoxville craft beer scene to tell y’all about. First a note on a few things that already happened. Last Tuesday was the election and America voted another term for the first president to have beer brewed in the White House. The other choice was a guy who has never drank a beer in his life. I personally don’t trust a guy who has never drank beer, and it seems a lot of people didn’t either. For election night, I had brewed a copy of the White House Honey Ale. The recipe and video were published on the official White House blog. It was a really easy extract based brew. I was able to brew 5 gallons in the short few hours I typically have after work and before bed time. I followed all the directions as per the White house, so it would be as close to their recipe as possible. For election night we poured free samples for people to taste and enjoy at the Casual Pint’s downtown location. There was a pretty big crowd come out to try it and watch the election returns.

So how is this beer? It’s really basic, very drinkable but a bit on the English side of the ale spectrum. Although I liked it, It’s not a beer I’d likely make to keep on tap at home. Other people seemed to really enjoy it. My pal and fellow blogger Saccy drank a bit and I made sure to constantly fill his cup. He wrote about it and posted this cool picture on his website.

Saccy’s sign. Thanks for your vote! Check him out at Knoxbeerdinosaur.wordpress.com

The Tennessee Valley Homebrewer’s latest Big Ass Malt Order or (BAMO for short) just wrapped up. Collectively the club ordered 2 pallets of grain. I did my part and ended up with 325 lbs. The bulk of my order was organic 2 row brewers malt. I also picked up more Rauch Malt, some vienna, light munich, and crystal 60. This should cover my base malt needs for the next 6 to 7 brews. For me this buying in bulk at wholesale price is well worth the yearly dues I pay to the club. If you are a homebrewer and in Knoxville, click here to find out more about joining. It’s well worth it, even if you don’t brew all grain. Members can get malt extracts at cost as well.

Back of my CRV loaded with my BAMO order

I also recently ordered bulk hops from the website HopsDirect.com. This website is by Puterbaugh farm out in the Yakima Valley. It’s a family run farm that grows and sells fresh leaf hops by the pound. I was shopping around for leaf hops on their site when I came across a proprietary hop they grow call Belma. This is the first year they are releasing this hop and the description sounded wonderful. The best part is the price, $5.25 a pound! This is unheard of for any hop variety. Even Cascade which everyone grows and is the most readily available hop cost $13 a pound. I know that this is an introductory price and in the future this hop will probably be in the $15 to $18 a pound range. So I bought 3 pounds. I ended up selling one of them at cost to my friend Kavon who is also a homebrewer and bartends at Suttree’s. But still I have 2 pounds. These hops smell fantastic. Much like other American hop varieties, they have a very citrusy aroma. I couldn’t wait to use some of it, so I brewed a beer this weekend. I took my recipe for my Cascadian Dark Ale (or Dark IPA if you prefer) and tinkered with it to include these hops. The last couple of times I’ve brewed, I’ve had help from several good friends. It’s great to have people lend a hand (especially with the clean up) on brew days. However, this time I wanted to get back to my roots and brew alone. It’s almost meditative for me to do that every once in awhile. So I didn’t tell anybody, got my ingredients together, started a monster yeast starter a couple days before, went to the spring and got water, spent my Sunday brewing and now I have 10 gallons happily bubbling away. My next brew day I will include my friends. Next Sunday I plan on brewing a Belma based pale all. I’m going to call it the KBC 505 which is reference to an inside joke with the guys I went to GABF with.

6 ounces of Belma hops from HopsDirect.com

My friends and co-owners of Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern, Matt and Ann, went on beercation last week to the west coast where they traveled and visited breweries. I got several text from Matt when he was at Russian River Brewing Company. He sent me the pictures below:

Russian River’s Tap board

A case of Russian River’s Bling Pig and a case of Pliny the Elder

Well last night at ol’ Sut’s we had a private employee and friends party with some goodies they sent back. There was a case of both Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig. I brought a few bottles of rare stuff to share as well along with a 2.5 gallon keg of my Oktoberfest. It’s was a great time and lots of good beer was drank. I took a few pictures as well as a short video clip. Thanks Ann and Matt for throwing this party and for the Pliny shirt you brought back for me. Y’all are awesome!

Pliny the Elder, one of the highest rated IPAs ever.

Matt iceing down the beer

More bottles and a mini keg of homebrew

Mmmmmmm, Beer!

Blind Pig anyone?

Well there’s a few things coming up soon in Knoxville. This Thursday there is a bus leaving from Bearden Beer Market going to Highland Brewery for the release of Highland’s Cold Mountain Winter Ale. I’m not sure if there are any spots left. It’s $30 per seat for a trip to Asheville. More details are here and in the image below. I am going, it sounds like too much fun to pass up. I’ll try to post about it afterwards.

Owly Images

Also coming up this Saturday is the Brooklyn Brewery Hurricane Sandy relief fund raiser. This charity event, co-sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery and Eagle Distributing will be going on all day Saturday at both Casual Pint locations, Bearden Beer Market, Vic’s Beer Garden, both Brixx Pizza locations, Central Flats and Taps, and Suttree’s. So go drink beer, it’s for charity.

One more thing of note. Next First Friday, December 7th at 7pm I will be pouring FREE samples of my winter seasonal. Previously called Spicy Cocoa Stout, now called I’m Warming You, it’s a 7.3% abv imperial chocolate milk stout brewed with Tennessee cherry chili and jalepeno peppers. This will take place at Jackson Avenue Market in the JFG building in the Old City. Mark it on your calendar now and let’s pack that place.

Seriously, y’all come out for this one. Please?

Cheers,

Ratchet


Is your beer truly seasonal? A rant about pumpkin ales.

September 17, 2012

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about my favorite season, fall. I love the cooler weather, the shorter days, the changing leaves and football. Fall is also Oktoberfest, pumpkin ales and fresh hop IPAs. These are seasonal beers and the subject of this post.

When it comes to beer, what does “seasonal” really mean? For some people it means the time of year that beer is available on the market. Do you expect to see a wet hop IPA in the spring? What about pumpkin ale in May? I would avoid both of these then. For me, a “seasonal” beer can mean a beer brewed to be drank at a certain time of year, but it can also mean a beer brewed with specialty ingredients that were harvested and added in when the beer was brewed. With that being said, let’s talk about pumpkin beer.

A few years back, I was really big on pumpkin ales. I remember waiting in the lines at Brewers’ Jam for a taste of Catawba’s King Don’s Pumpkin or Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale. When I got back into brewing after a few years absence, I decided to brew one myself. I researched recipes, found one online based on Thomas Jefferson’s pumpkin ale, made some rather significant changes and went about gathering my ingredients. It was near the end of summer. My garden was bountiful. I went to the Market Square Farmer’s Market in search of pumpkin and couldn’t find any. I asked around and spoke to many farmers who informed me that the pumpkins were still a month out before they’d be ripe. Huh.  Well this enthusiasm to brew this style lead me to my end of summer seasonal, my butternut squash Ale. I had plenty of ripe squash in my garden. After more research, I changed my recipe and brewed my now famous beer. You know what? I like it better than any pumpkin ale. I can’t imagine going a year without brewing it. Using freshly harvested squash is the only way to go. I guess I could can some squash and use it in next year’s batch, but that wouldn’t feel right to me. I want that freshness.

Which leads me back to this year’s pumpkin ales. They started showing up on the shelves in July. Beers showing up this far ahead of the time they are traditionally enjoyed is referred to as Seasonal Creep. There is no way that pumpkin is anything but canned. Pumpkin is a late harvest fruit, which is why it’s a big thing around Halloween. Pouring beers at The Casual Pint, I have tried a few. I found that I didn’t really like them. It seems like I’ve lost my taste for this style. I have noticed at least one of them has a slight metallic taste. I completely believe this is because of the pumpkin being in a can for a year. Plus I don’t even want to taste something pumpkiny when it still hot as hell outside. Pumpkin flavor is for the fall, period.

The other big fall seasonal beer is traditionally brewed in March. This type of beer is called Marzen which in German translates to “March Beer”. You might know it as Oktoberfest. We have many of these hitting the market right now. This style was traditionally brewed in March and stored or “lagered” until September. This famous beer style originated in Munich Germany where THE Oktoberfest celebration takes place. For a pretty good reviews of Oktoberfest lagers, I recommend checking out The Knox Beer Snob’s post from last year. My favorite (at least on draft) Oktoberfest bier would be Spaten from Munich. “Lass Dir raten, trinke Spaten.”

In the next months or so, we will start seeing “Winter Warmers” hit the market. I’ll save discussion of these for a later post.

Well, to change the topic a little, I want everyone to read the Metro Pulse’s  beer article. This is an article about beer and the local craft beer scene written by Cari Wade Gervin. I know she’s been hard at work on this for about a month. She came out to our last Knox Beer Crew tasting, and had spoken with Lou from Blue and Bar-b-que and several other people around here. It’s a very good read with lot of information. Also the Metro Pulse sent out a photographer who caught me in action pouring beer at The Casual Pint last Saturday.

Can I mention how excited  I am about this weekend? Why is that? IT’S KINGSPORT OKTOBERFEST!!!! I have so much to do this week to get ready for it, that it’s almost overwhelming. I’m going up Friday night before. I am going to try to live post the whole weekend, from the Friday night pre-party to Saturday’s biergarden and Beer University classes to my Sunday day trip to Asheville. Should be a whole lot of fun.

Did you get your Brewer’s Jam tickets yet? Stop waiting and go to The Casual Pint and buy them now. It’s going to sell out. There are only a few dozen left in all of Knoxville. There won’t be any available at the gate.

One more thing for those of you asking. The next infusion night at Suttree’s is on Thursday September 27th. Once again we I will be using shredded coconut and cocao nibs as the ingredients. The beer being infused is Atwater’s Vanilla Java Porter. This is a really popular beer that hasn’t been around in a couple of months. This is going to be tasty and I hope to see y’all there.

So I want to hear from you. Add a comment at the bottom of this post and I’ll mail you some beer stickers from my stash.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Reader Request: The Basics of #CraftBeer Cellaring.

August 16, 2012

I love it when I get asked questions about home brewing and beer in general. Recently I was asked questions about craft beer storage by Joel D. on my facebook page. He wrote: “Ratchet, in your next blog can you talk about vintage beers? I want to start a collection of beers to keep in my basement/cellar, but don’t know where or how to start. For example, how to know what beers are suited for such storage? What does bottle conditioned “really” mean. I got a bunch of Short’s brew from MI and was told I “must keep cold” and must drink soon. Some bottles (namely bomber’s) indicate that they are good for vintage or storage, but most do not. I tried looking on google, but most links were to buy vintage beer and that is not my goal. Thanks, Joel D.”

All excellent questions Joel. Some of my knowledge of the subject I have learned over the years, and some of that the hard way. Let me preface my response with this, I am not as egotistical to proclaim I know everything about beer or to consider myself a “beer expert”. Those type of claims reek of “beer douchery“. I consider myself simply a home brewer with dreams of going pro, a beer lover and connoisseur. What I do know, I learned through reading, experience and from picking the minds of people who have forgotten more about beer than I’ll ever know.

To get to the questions at hand. Yes some beers are meant to be drank fresh, and certain beers can be stored for years. For example, that super hoppy IPA? Those hops are going to break down and fade with time. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be bad. As the hops fade, the more malty characteristics come to the fore front. It can be really nice tasting. However, being an IPA, you must keep in mind the brewer’s intent and flavors they were shooting for when they brewed it.

How a beer is stored has a major impact on the flavor. Beers should be stored upright, and never vertical like on a wine rack. Also the ideally, any beer you store should be kept around 40 to 50 degrees. I try to keep my beers that I am “cellaring” in a spare refrigerator. I didn’t always have this option, and I know a lot of people don’t. Before I had the fridge space, I’d use extra coolers or large tupperware like storage containers and place them on or as close to an air conditioner vent or window unit as possible. More important the temperature is keeping your beer out of the light. Light struck beer takes on an unpleasant “skunky” quality. I am so paranoid about this now that I don’t purchase beer in clear or green bottles. I don’t even purchase clear growlers. These type of containers let in ultraviolet rays that react with and break down isohumulones, a molecule derived from the hops. The resulting molecule, is very similar chemically and in odour to the chemicals that are part of skunk’s natural defence. Amber or brown glass offer some protection, but if they are sitting somewhere (say for example a shelf that sunlight hits it for a few hours every day), they will go bad.

Some beer styles tend to age better. A rule of thumb is the darker and more alcoholic a beer, the better it will store. It also matters if a beer is bottle conditioned. Bottle conditioning simply means that a tiny amount of priming sugar or unfermented beer is added at bottling to allow the remaining yeast cells to eat the sugars and create carbonation. Most mass produced beer in this country are not bottle condition, with Sierra Nevada being one exception. It’s easy enough to tell if your beer is bottle conditioned or not. Simply take the bottle, give it a swirl and look at the bottom of it. Does you see sediment floating around? If so chances are that it’s bottle conditioned.

The reason bottle conditioned beers tend to age better is because the yeast protect against oxidation and contributes complex flavors as it breaks down slowly in the bottle. The alcohol content will also slightly increase. Now just because a beer is bottle conditioned doesn’t mean it will last forever. It is heavily dependent on style. A lighter pilsner or wheat beer is likely to pick up off flavors that yeast can contribute when they die.

If a bottle or can of beer says drink fresh, do what it says. I recently had a stash of Heady Topper brought back for me from Vermont. As much as I love this beer and wish I can always have it around, I know it’s meant to be drank within days or a couple of weeks of canning, max. I imagine it’s the same with most hop heavy beer. On the other hand, I also tried a can of 1982 World’s Fair Beer at the last Knox Beer Crew meeting. I was told that this beer was gross when it first came out. I was afraid, but cracked it open anyway. It wasn’t too bad. It was carbonated, with major sediment that I can only imagine what it was. It didn’t make me sick, and I can say I had the experience of drinking a 30 year old beer.

If you are looking to collect and store, go for beers that say that say they age well on the label. Some beer styles brewed or conditioned with wild yeast strains such as Brettanomyces are meant to be aged. Beers below 7% alcohol by volume don’t age as well, so look for high gravity beer. Baltic Porters, Russian Imperial Stouts, “Farmhouse style” ales, Flanders Red, Strong belgium ales and Barley Wines.

This advice is just meant as a guideline and there are always exceptions. When I brewed last weekend, I broke out a bottle of homebrewed oaked imperial stout that I had been storing since 2010. It was bottle conditioned, and a style that should’ve lasted long. It was oxidized, and had that cardboard like taste. It could have been that I allowed too much oxygen in during the bottling phase, it could be the yeast strain I used, it could be that it was improperly stored (at room temp the 1st year of it’s life), or it could be other unknown factors. I also had my last bottle of Sweetwater’s Dank Tank 420 IPA that was bottled back in January. All assumptions were that this over the top hop bomb would have gone bad. I even had a local distributor rep tell me months ago that the beer would be undrinkable. It was really good. The hop aromas and flavors had faded slightly, but it was still enjoyable to drink. Of course, it had been stored in my fridge the whole time, and I am positive that is what made the difference.

I hope this helps answer some questions about storing beers or starting a vintage beer collection. I would advise searching google for cellaring beer, aging beer, and beer storage. Some breweries will have information about aging theirs beers on their websites. Just remember the most important thing about beer storage and drinking aged beer, regardless of what anyone else says, is whether you enjoy it or not.

____________________________________________________________

_______________One More (time sensitive) note:_______________________

If you are reading this any day but Thursday August 16th, 2012, you can ignore this.

Tonight at Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern I will be doing another infusion night. Starting at 7pm, we will be pouring Bluegrass Brewing Company’s Bourbon Barrel Stout infused with Whole Vanilla Beans, Cocao nibs and toasted oak chips. This is a great beer that will be made even greater with this infusion. I hope to see you there.

Also I am asking my readers to PLEASE vote for the Knox Beer Crew bar stool at http://BeardenBeerMarket.com . Voting ends at midnight, and the competition is close. Any beer we win will be shared with the crew at the next tasting. Please note that the next tasting is Saturday August 25th at Suttree’s starting at 2pm. New members are welcome, but please bring beer (the rarer the better) to share.

Well that’s all for now. I’ll be beertending this (and every weekend) at The Casual Pint on Union Avenue downtown. Feel free to come by, have a beer (or three) and pick my brain. I really enjoy meeting people who read my blog, and enjoy even more talking about beer (in case you haven’t noticed…)

Cheers,

Ratchet

This is what the poll looks like after you vote. Please help us stay ahead.

Update: While doing the infusion, I went next door to Downtown Wine & Spirits on Gay Street. They have a great selection of beer that would age well. They still have bottles of New Belgium’s Brett beer, some bottles of Moa imperial stout, and other tasty treats. I know where some of my next paycheck is going. Get these beers:

20120816-225532.jpg

20120816-225652.jpg

20120816-225725.jpg

20120816-225825.jpg

20120816-225913.jpg


Live blogging of my big ass brew day

August 11, 2012

Today is the day I am planning on brewing 35 gallons of lager. As promised, I going to try to update my website with a play by play. A lot can go right & a lot can go wrong. I’ve been preparing all week for this. Every bit of my free time has gone into cleaning, grinding grains, buying extras like ice, food, charcoal for the grill & obtaining over 70 gallons of Love’s Creek Spring Water. without further ado, here we go.

5:15 am: Stumbled downstairs, hooked up propane, fired up the burner for the mash water. Must. Make. Coffee!

5:35 am: Ahhhhh, coffee. Damn it sure is early. At least I have this view from my back porch as I enjoy this almost fall like morning.

20120812-054904.jpg
6:19 am: Getting ready to mash in. Hagin just arrived to lend a hand.
6:35 am: Hagin stirring while we mash in.

20120812-070446.jpg

Hagin stirring the grains

6:55 am: Mashed in. Time to smack the packs.

20120812-070605.jpg

Wyeast & a Highland Thunderstruck Coffee Porter

7:00 am. Is it to early for a beer? Not if it has coffee in it.
8 am: Waiting on the sparge water to get up to temperature.
8:40 am: Dalton is here & we are Sparging.

20120812-084145.jpg

Hagin & Dalton

9:45 am. Boil is going on & we are cleaning out the mash tun.

10:30 am: Last hop addition on the Rauchbier, getting ready to stop boil & whirlpool. Got the mash tun cleaned & restocked and the new strike water for Oktoberfest going. Almost time for another beer. So far just me, Hagin & Dalton hanging out.

20120812-104258.jpg

Dumping the spent grains out of the mash tun

12 pm: I’ve been to busy to post. The Rauchbier is going through the chiller into carboys. The Oktoberfest grains are currently mashing. Dalton, Hagin and I are hanging out sampling some brews & waiting for the next step, which is cleaning the brewpot & bringing the next batch to boil when the grain conversion is done.

3:30 pm: Sorry for lack of updates for those following along. The Rauchbier is in the fermenters, the Oktoberfest doesn’t have long left in the boil & several people have shown up with beer. Knox Beer Crew is being represented by Richard Groves & Mark Baggett. Several other friends like Chris Irwin, James Kane & Aaron Russell along with Hagin & Dalton are hanging out. When the next batch is chilled & fermenting, there is still massive clean up to do, hopefully these guys don’t bail when it’s time for that, lol.
3:45 pm: Conversing on the nature of conversation. Deep thoughts.

20120812-121953.jpg
4:30 pm: Beginning cool down of the Oktoberfest. Should figure out cleaning order, I suppose.
20120812-154930.jpg5:30 pm: Done. Beer is in the carboys, the big equipment is clean. Finally sitting down. I’m still waiting a little bit before pitching the yeast to the Oktoberfest. I want a beer but I’m too tired to move. Everyone bailed except Richard & Hagin who helped with the clean up. Thanks guys.
7:30 pm: Everything is clean, the wort is chilled, oxygenated & in the carboys awaiting the magic of fermentation. The guest took off. I am making something to eat & then going to pass out.

20120812-194515.jpg

Waiting for fermentation to begin

Thanks for following along today’s post. I might come back & post updates on the status of the fermentation. Now I’m going to pass out after I enjoy my reward for all the hard work of today: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (from the nitro can) & pizza. Goodnight.

20120812-202350.jpg

A reward for a hard day’s work

    Next day update:

20120813-185058.jpg