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.
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.
I had such a great response to my live blogging of my last brew day, that I thought I’d do it again. I took the day off work. It’s been a slow work week and I am caught up. Thought I’d brew a batch of American Style Dark India Ale aka Dark IPA aka Cascadian Ale. It’s a style I’ve been wanting to brew for awhile. I’ve had many homebrewer’s interpretations of it recently, along with a few commercial examples. I really like it. I formulated this recipe and ordered my hops last week. Of course, after I weighed out my grains and ground them I revisited my worn copy of Brew Your Own magazine that has an article about this style of beer. It’s seems like my recipe has more chocolate malt then others do. So it might turn out to be a “chocolate IPA”, but pale chocolate malt isn’t as roasty as normal chocolate malt. Either way, I’m sure it will be good. I will let you know when I eventually get to drink it. Here’s my recipe for 10 gallons:
Mash w/ 9 gallons of water (hold at 152-154 for 60 minutes)
Sparge with 8 gallons of water at 168 degrees
Boil and follow hop schedule
Yesterday I went and filled my water jugs at Love’s Creek Spring. I also set everything up on my porch so I could get the water going as soon as I woke up. My whole plan is to get done as soon as possible so I can take my son to “Scare in the Square” this evening.
5:40 am: Woke up before my alarm. I should get out of bed & get going.
6:00 am: Started water going, hoping to mash in by 7.
6:10 am: Coffee!
6:54 am: Mashed in. Hit my temperature with no issues.
7:00 am: Started Sparge water going. It’s on low since I have an hour to get it to 168 degrees.
7:08 am: Making breakfast.
7:28 am: Just stirred the mash, 30 minutes left to go until Sparge.
7:34 I’m now measuring my hops. This is my first true all whole hops brew.
7:58 am: Starting my Vorluaf
8:23 am: Sparging
9:03 am: finished Sparging, waiting to achieve boil. Only 20 more degrees to go.
9:10 am: it’s at boil! Adding 1st hop addition
9:25 am: added next hop addition
9:40 am: yet another hop addition. Also working on cleaning out my mash run and sanitizing my carboys & cool down equipment.
10:05 am: last 5 minutes of the boil & last hop addition. Also adding Whirfloc tablets
10:10 am: boil is done. Turned off propane. Took out mesh bags full of hops & let then drain in a strainer. Going to start my whirlpool in a few minutes.
10:20 am: started my whirlpool. Going to do this for 20 minutes so all the trub goes to the center of the brew pot.
10:40 am: on to the cool down. It’s a lot easier to do on a cold rainy day.
11:02 am: cool down done & carboys are full!
11:24 am: starting gravity of the wort is 1.062. Tasty very hoppy, but it balances with maltyness & a hint of chocolate malt. No roast character which is good & within the style for this type of beer. Of course the flavor will change with fermentation. I’ve pitched the yeast & am awaiting the magic of fermentation. It’ll be awhile until I post again, there is a lot of clean up to do.
11:54 am: not even close to being done with brew day clean up, but must take a break. Hard work.
1:00 pm: Guess what? Still not done with clean up. I’m tired.
Hey y’all. I figured I post something to keep the ol’ blog alive and to let you know about some beer related events that have happened or are happening soon. Last night I went to Woodruff’s third cask night at the Downtown Grill and Brewery. Brewer Dave Ohmer dry hopped 15 gallons of their White Mule Pale Ale and naturally carbonated it for 3 weeks. Poured with an authentic hand pumped beer engine, the brew was smooth, creamy and very hoppy. There weren’t as many people in attendance as the 1st cask night, but it was good to see my friends the Knox Beer Snobs in the house. I also got to kick it with a few of homebrew club members as well as some other great folks. I’m greatful for the Brewery’s cask night and hope that it continues to florish.
Speaking of breweries, Marble City Brewing Company’s tap room, The Quarry, is open. They are open Wednesday through Friday from 4-8 pm, Saturday 2 to 8. If you find yourself out and about in Knoxville, I suggest you check it out. I went on opening day. It’s a nicely redone room, very comfortable. It’s a small scene there and everyone knows almost everyone. I met a few new friends that night including a fellow homebrewer. I also went and hung out a little bit with Brewmaster Jen who has a wealth of brewing knowledge. It seems like everytime I have a beercentric conversation with her, I learn something new. The Quarry is having it’s “official” grand opening on Friday October 21 from 4-9 pm. I have volunteered to work the brewer’s keg check in at World’s Fair Park for the Knoxville Brewers Jam that night, but I might have to push that back a bit so I can at least make an appearance.
Oh Saturday, how I look forward to thee. I plan on getting up bright and early to head to Asheville for their small but fun Oktoberfest celebration downtown. Six great Asheville breweries, games, the music of Stratton Mountain Boys, the food, the dirndls, a hotel within stumbling distance and a planned trip afterwards to The Wedge Brewery? OH HELL YES!!!! This is one of the events I planned to go to since last year. The hotel was booked months ago and I made sure to get my ticket way before any chance the event would sell out. I’ll make sure to take plenty of pictures and video and write up a nice long post afterwards. I’m still traveling solo, so if anyone wants to go, give me a shout.
Well I’m kicking myself for not going to the homebrew shop yesterday. I meant to get a new bottling bucket so I could sanitize it with the bottles for my last 10 gallons of my Butternut Squash ale that I plan on bottling tomorrow. Wednesday is the only day that Harry closes shop, so I guess I’ll use my old worn out bottling bucket that needed to be replaced along time ago. I still need to work on my next recipe for chocolate pepper stout. Must order ingredients next week. I have to get at least one more brew day in this month.
Ok, well, I’ll be tweeting live from Oktoberfest this weekend, so for drunken hilarity, check back and read the twitter side bar on this page. Should be entertaining….
Come drink in the streets of Asheville, Beer City USA
What a weekend! I’m finally back in Knoxville, relaxing at my friend’s work & using the wifi. I’m also drinking my growler of Highland Brewing Company’s Clawhammer Oktoberfest. I brought all my empty growlers to Kingsport with the grand idea that I would fill them with tasty beers from all over. However, the reality is that I was so busy working my booth, I didn’t have time to get my growlers filled. I barely had time to eat or visit with other brewers. I was able to come back with only 2 growlers. The other one has Heinzelmännchen’s Root Beer for my son.
Alright, here’s how the whole weekend went down. Friday I got off work early. My bosses was kind enough to lend me her pickup truck that has a camper top for me to be able to haul my kegs along with the Woodruff Brewing Company’s kegs, ice tub, c02 and tap box. I not only had my homebrew, but I was officially representing Woodruff as well. After I loaded my stuff, I went down to the loading dock behind Downtown Grill and Brewery and met with Dave (one of the brewers) and loaded up a half barrell of Alt and a half barrell of Kolsch. A half barrell is is standard size keg for those of you not down with brewer lingo. Dave very professionally tied the kegs down with a ratchet strap. He did a much better job than my laughablle half assed attempts with bungie cords. Then again, he’s a pro who knows what he’s doing because part of his job is delivering kegs. After everything was secured, I headed up north towards Kingsport. Roughly 2 hours later I was there. I checked in to my dirty but cheap Motel 8 and then headed down to the site. I unloaded the kegs and equipment and made sure the beer was iced down. Then I went back to the hotel to unwind for a bit. I visited a local gas station/ convenience store for snacks, chilled a bit then headed back down to the site for a little brewer only pre-party. I saw some old friends, ate some food, listened to some bluegrass and met some really cool people.
I really enjoyed meeting and speaking with Dieter Kuhn and Sheryl Rudd of Heinzelmännchen Brewery out of Sylvia, North Carolina. They’re we incredibly nice and generous, having donated a keg of their “Chocolate Covered Gnome” to the pre-party. Chocolate Covered Gnome is a strong 8% abv porter made with cocoa powder. I was blown away by how delicious it was, and had to know everything I could about how it was brewed. I spoke with Sheryl first and asked her why they used cocoa powder instead of cocoa nibs. I really wanted to know “how did they keep the cocoa powder from settling out during the fermenting process?” She introduced me to her husband Dieter and we spoke about beer and his secret for getting the chocolate flavor in it. I learned much, but I am sworn to secrecy. I could tell you how he does it, but then I’d have to kill you (I can’t do that, I need every reader I can get!) I can tell you that I now know not to use cocoa nibs in my beer. It turns out that the cocoa butter fats turn rancid within a couple of weeks. This explains why I thought the chocolate imperial stout I made early this year was infected. It was just the fats going rancid and not an infection at all. Thanks for the advice Sheryl and Dieter. Visiting your brewery just made the top of my must do list.
On Friday night we also had a half barrell of Highland Brewing Company’s Clawhammer Oktoberfest on tap. That was when I was able to fill my growler that I am currently enjoying. I love Highland’s brews. I remember back in the day when we couldn’t get them her in Knoxville, I’d take orders from friends and make a drive to Asheville just to stock up. Anyway, I filled my growler and stopped drinking for the couple of hours it took me to sober up enough to drive the short 1 & 1/2 mile to the hotel. I didn’t really sleep well due to a combination of an uncomfortable bed and hotel situation.
Saturday morning I was up bright and early. I ate the free continental breakfast at the hotel and headed to set up my booth. I had to get kegs tapped, the tap box and carbonation levels just right, the Woodruff banner hung and everything else (merch, tools, etc) in place. The event opened early at 11 am for VIPs. Homebrews poured during that time were collected to be judged and everyone had a ballot where they could vote on their favorites. My Butternut Squash Ale was a hit with many people coming back for seconds, thirds and even fourths! I came up with a new thing to tell people about it. I’d ask if they liked pumpkin ales. If they said yes, I’d tell them it was the same beer different squash. The 11am to 1 pm when it was just VIPs was great, the lines weren’t to big and luckily I had a couple of lovely volunteers to help me pour beer. At 1 pm they opened the gates to the general public and things got hectic. I was trying to pour beer while hooking up an infuser while trying to get food while trying to find beer to drink that wasn’t at my tent. Phew! I really could have used more help. During this portion of the festival, I felt like I was completely overworked. There were a couple of moments when I felt like just walking away and letting people serve themselves. I was able to get a few volunteers, and a little bit of a break. During that time I went and hung out with Don from Knox Beer Snobs, Jennifer and Adam of Marble City Brewery. I also made sure to get beer from Underground Brewing Company, the homebrewers of Legit Brew. I made sure to go say hi to the legendary Oscar Wong of Highland Brewing. I also met Jon of Tattood Brew (who is now on our links section). I had really hoped to spend time at the Beer University part of Oktoberfest. There were some great classes that I had wanted to attend, but it just didn’t work out that way. Hopefully I’ll have a little more help and will be able to next time.
Speaking of beer university, I ended up doing a quick talk about beer infusions. I had set up the infuser at the booth running Woodruff’s Kolsh which is named Downtown Blonde, through fresh cut strawberries. It was a hit and we call it “Strawberry Blonde”. For the Beer University, the idea was that we’d have a keg set up and then we were going to run it through fresh hops and let people taste the difference. That did not happen. Instead I had to wing it. I was a little buzzed at that point. A friend of mine video recorded it for me as seen below.
When the festival was officially over, the biergarden part stayed open for the volunteers to enjoy beer as a reward for all their work. We poured as much as we could, sold the rest of the Downtown Grill & Brewery glasses. I ended up trading a glass to a guy for the shirt off his back just because I could, and my drunk ass thought it was funny.
At the end of it all I made sure everything was packed up in the truck. I then walked a block over to Stir Fry Cafe to hang out with some people I had met during the festival. I ate some really good spicy tuna rools and drank water to sober up for the drive back to the hotel.
My overall impression that this was a really great inaugural event. This is Aaaron and crew’s first time putting on a beer festival like this. There were a few rookie mistakes made, but that is to be expected. Those minor issues were addressed and will not happen next time. Speaking of next time, check out Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza. This is is still in the planning stages, but believe me, you will not want to miss this in the spring.
Enjoy my pictures below, leave a comment about Oktoberfest. I will try to post again soon, but now my focus in on the upcoming Asheville Oktoberfest taking place on Saturday October 8th.
Hello my 1 or 2 readers. You still checking out my blog? Good, because this time I have a special VIDEO blog for you. I filmed myself every step of the way when it comes to making my delicious Butternut Squash Ale. This is a behind the scenes look at my brew day.
Ingredients for 10 gallons
12 lbs butternut squash (processed weight)
18 pounds pale ale malt
1 lb carapils malt
2 lb Vienna malt
1 lb 75L dark crystal grain
2 lb light Munich malt
2.5 oz williamette whole leaf hops (60 minute boil)
1 .2 oz of williamette whole leaf hops (last 15 minutes)
1 oz saaz hop pellets (last 5 minutes)
2 cup brown sugar
1 lb flaked oatmeal
2/3 lb Ginger root peeled & chunked (1/2 at 6o minutes boil, 1/2 at 15 minutes)
2 Whirlfloc Tablets (last 15 minutes of boil)
2 1/3 tsp nutmeg
4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp crushed coriander seed
1 tsp yeast nutrient
4 packages of Whitbread dry yeast
Peel butternut squash & bake it until caramelized on the outside
Mash crushed grains at 152 degrees for 60 minutes in 8 gallons of water (put Flaked oats in a mesh bag)
Sparge with 7 gallons 170 water. Add squash, gypsum, 2.5 oz
of Williamette hops & 1/2 the ginger. IMPORTANT: Squash and Ginger Must be in fine mesh bags, or clogging will occur.
Bring to a boil for 40 minutes. Add the brown sugar, whirlfloc Tablets, coriander seed, 1 oz of Saaz hops & rest of ginger boil 20 minutes. At 5 minutes add remaining 1 oz of saaz & 1 tsp of yeast nutrient & remaining spices. Cool rapidly to 70 degrees pitch yeast. After a 2 weeks rack to secondary.
On another note, I am SUPER EXCITED about the KINGSPORT OKTOBERFEST this Saturday!!! I’m like a kid on Christmas, I can’t wait! I’ll be in charge of setting up the randal (that’s an infuser, for all those not down with the beer lingo) on to various microbrews around the festival. We’ll be infusing a porter with coca nibs (raw chocolate), a kolsh with fresh strawberrys and other yummy beers with other yummy stuff. If you want to know when and where each infusion will take place, make sure to follow both myself ( @RatchetBrews ) and @KPTOktoberfest on twitter. We’ll announce each one there. Plus I’m sure the tweets will get more entertaining as the day progresses and more beer is drank.
I went jogging this morning and was listening to the Brewing Network’s Sunday Session podcast on my iPhone. Let me just say that the cast of the Sunday Session show all sound like total home brewing shock jock dorks. I listen because even though they are idiots, every once in awhile they’ll drop some homebrewing knowledge. Once of the main idiots was talking about how he doesn’t formulate his own recipes. Something about how it was too hard and that there are plenty of tried and true homebrew recipes out there that are formulated by world class brewers. I think it’s just because he’s probably too dumb (ha ha, just kidding, don’t hate me) to come up with his own. However, it did get me thinking about beer recipe formulation.
Like most homebrewers that I know, I started out by brewing “kit” beers. I’d go down to the local homebrew shop, decide what I wanted to brew, and pick out an ingredient kit. A typical ingredient kit contains everything you need to brew beer. In it you will find a can or two of malt extract, hops, priming sugar and maybe a mesh bag and some specialty grains for steeping. They also contain an instruction sheet. It’s pretty simple and straight foward. I became comfortable with brewing beer in this fashion, some of them pretty damn tasty. After awhile, I took the next step and followed some of the recipes from Charlie Papazian’s the Complete Joy Of Home Brewing. I remember fondly making my first batches of Rocky Racoon’s Crystal Honey Lager and his Holiday Cheer recipe. When I took the leap to all grain brewing. I would order the all grain version of recipe kits online. Basically the same thing but with cracked grains instead of malt extract. I would also look up recipes online for certain beers. If there is a commercial beer you love, chances are you can find a “clone” recipe on the internet or in one of the many books published on the subject.
I still use other brewer’s recipes from time to time. If there is a style I haven’t made before, I find myself looking at several recipes to get an idea of what to do. I use them as a template, and make my own changes. A perfect example of this is my fall seasonal, Butternut Squash Ale. Last fall I wanted to brew a spiced pumpkin ale. I looked online and found several recipes. Then I started thinking about the abundance of butternut squash I had grown in my backyard. I wondered if I could adapt a pumpkin ale recipe. After more online research, I decided to go for it.
The last several beers I’ve brewed are recipes I formulated on my own. Coming up with a recipe is a tricky thing. You got to have the right balance of malt, hops, yeast and adjucts for whatever style that you are brewing. It’s a balancing act. I spend a bit of time thinking of the right ingredients. Last weekend, I was walking around the Market Square Farmer’s Market daydreaming about ingredients for a chocolate pepper stout that I want to brew for the winter. I went ahead I got some peppers from one of my farmer buddies. I’m still thinking of the right hops to use, how to make the stout sweet, roasty and smooth while and combining it just right with the heat and flavor of the peppers. I have a recipe written donw, and think that I’ll more then likely continue to make changes right up to brew day.
I think it’s the natural progression of a good homebrewer to formulate his or her own recipes. It’s a great way to learn what works and what doesn’t. Yes mistakes are easy to make and will be made, but as long as you follow the first rule of homebrewing (relax and have a home brew) you’ll be fine. Below is my “work in progress” recipe for chocolate pepper stout.
Chocolate Pepper Imperial Stout (10 gallon batch)
10 pounds pale ale malt
12 pounds Marris Otter
2 pound pale chocolate malt
1 pound wheat malt
1 ½ pound of lactose
2 pounds of dark crystal malt
2 pounds cara pils
3/4th pound roasted barley
½ pound black patent malt
1 pound of cocoa nibs
2 ounces nugget hops (boil)
2 ounces williamette (boil)
2 ounces of Goldings hops (finishing)
8-10 tennessee cherry chilis (last 20 minutes of boil)
6 big red and smoked jalapenos (at flame out, and left in primary)
Ever wanted to know how to make your own beer at home?
The 4th & Gill Community Center presents:
Ratchet’s Home Brewing 101.
Learn the history of beer, and how to craft your own. This class will focus on how to make beer using basic ingredients & affordable equipment. Attendees are encouraged to bring their favorite beer. We’ll start promptly at 6pm. Class is 2 hours long.
Where: 4th and Gill Community Center, smack dab on the corner of Fourth & Gill.
When: Friday September 22nd, 6pm.
Cost: $10 donation goes towards the cost of supplies. Plenty of home brewed beer samples will be provided. Special guest speakers and door prizes. Beer bash party immediately after class with hip hop and dance tunes spun by Dj Wigs.
This event is strictly 21 and up ONLY. I.D.’s WILL be checked.
More info t: @kaosbrewer or jasonknowsbeer.wordpress.com