general rant

 

empty kegerator

After a very busy 2015, things have finally settled down around the hacienda.  With the unexpected move, kids’ sports, work, and all other life events that came up, I wasn’t able to devote anytime to brewing at all.  And, since this is a home brewing blog, my activity on this site has been limited to checking for messages and comments and general up keep.

Now that we are in a new year, and life has settled, there is time for making more of the sweet nectar that we all cherish.  I started with a diagnostic check of the equipment to ensure everything was still in working order.  Aside from some minor slow leaks, everything checked out.

My first beer for the new year is a standard winter beer that I have favored over the years.  It’s a Chocolate Oatmeal Stout which I have affectionately name “Prairie Dog Stout”.  Since my brewing throw-together rig is highly portable, the process I use doesn’t change much, if any.  I did take a risk using American Pale 2-Row that has been sealed in buckets for over year knowing my efficiency would suffer.  But, I figured that since the malt passed the smell and taste tests without any alarms that I could compensate and add a couple extra pounds of malt to overcome any losses.  Things went well enough, and as expected, I was a couple points off of my starting gravity.  I decided to go forward with fermentation and, who knows, I may have found a new and interesting flavor profile for a great session stout.

I have some plans in the works for this blog this year mostly with adding more to the DIY section.  Most of my equipment is made on a budget, so researching the best possible practices and keeping costs low is something would like to bring to a wider audience.

Take care and see you on brew day!

So after two short weeks, my first batch of Concussion Red is kegged and on it’s way to carbonated bliss.  I have to say, after some larger than usual samples of the freshly fermented goodness, this beer turned out great.  It’s a little stronger than my normal session beer at 5.8% ABV.  And with winter coming, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Of course, this winter won’t have the usual snow shoveling and random surprise ice skating episodes off the front porch.  But , the thought of a snowless winter is welcoming, and lends itself to hospitable conditions to brew throughout the season.

I have worked a little on this site and updated some long overdue recipes.  You can check out the recipes page and steal whatever you like from there.  If you have any specific questions, you can either leave a comment or email me here at the site.  Most of the recipes are self explanatory and make great use of Beersmith to reduce my coding workload.  In fact, it’s a great program to take all the boring number crunching and thought out of most of the brew process.  If you are like me, and are in it for cheap beer and don’t want to worry about math equations to figure out how much water to mash in, this program is for you.  Of course, if you are into all the science behind brewing, this program will only help you geek out even more.  So all in all, it’s a great program to have.

As I go into my first winter of actually wanting to actively brew all-grain outdoors, I was sceptical that it may be a little too cold to do so.  I’m quickly approaching my first brew day in December and it looks like the weather will actually stay in my favor.  For once I’m glad we haven’t had our first snow yet.

My primary concern will always be the Igloo cooler I converted into a mash tun.  This sucker holds heat like a champ, but I’m not sure how well it will do in conditions under 50 degrees.  My initial thoughts were to make the typical bad choice and fire up the propane burners in the basement.  But with kind recommendations from the wife, I decided that may not be an option.

Once the weather dips down where the cooler will not effectively hold temperature, I may just have to figure out a new system, or a hybrid indoor/outdoor setup.  Of course, this whole dilemma would be a non-issue if we lived in Florida :)

I can recall my very first batch of homebrew ever made.  It was a Honey Wheat extract kit from William’s Brewing.  I knew very little about brewing or any details of the steps involved.  One of my very first lessons was to keep everything as clean as humanly possible.  Of course, me being paranoid that I would ruin my first batch of beer, I had that kitchen cleaner than a hospital surgery ward from start to finish.  Even during the boil, every time the stirring spoon came out of the wort, it was cleaned with bleach-water, rinsed, and dried for it’s next use in the boiling wort.

Fast forward 8 years later and some of those same principles still hold true.  Of course, I’m not nearly has aggressive in my sanitation habits as I was when I began, but I have a tendency to maybe clean a little too much.  The extra time I spend in the basement soaking, scraping, filtering, spraying, wiping, drying, and mixing pay dividends for my peace of mind on brew day.

Anyone who happens to land on this page looking for insight into making their own beer before they dive in, I will give this valuable piece of information.  “YOU WILL CLEAN OFTEN!”

I spend over 75% of my time in the brew process cleaning my equipment.  Like I said earlier, I may spend more time than needed, but my assurance that I will not contaminate my precious beer is something I can live with.  My wife frequently gets on my case at the amount of patience and attention I devote to my beer making gear while neglecting the rest of the house.  I spent over an hour tonight cleaning my 4 beer lines as preventative maintenance to ensure I do not have any bio-gunk build up in my lines.  Most informed bars do this, but they are 1) professionally cleaned, and 2) dependant on clean lines to stay in business. I did it just to make sure the lines were clean.

The bottom line is that you should learn from your very first batch the utmost respect for cleanliness and sanitation.  Although at times it may seem that you are devoting most of your precious brew time to cleaning, you will hopefully never have a bad batch of beer due to preventable infections.

My list of favorite clearning aids:

  •  Bleach (1tsp/1 gallon of water)
  • Star San (1oz/5 gallons of water)
  • Liquid Line Cleaner (.5oz/1 gallon of water)
  • Oxy Clean Powder (varying strength
  • Hot Water (can I say anymore)
  • Sponges w/green scrubby back (invaluable)

Since the Summer of 2004, I have kept some pretty decent logs from my brew sessions.  These logs really weren’t that important until I started creating recipes and refining them.  Over the past two months, I have been busy re-digitizing all of my logs due to a data server loss.  For some reason, I never backed up my BeerSmith files.  So when Windows crashed, which it WILL do, I lost all of my data.  Luckily I had all of my notes and recipes in hard copy format.  That is where I am at now.

With all of this going on, my wife gave me the brilliant idea to create a blog.  She sees all of the craziness that I go through on both the brewing end and the DIY brew system building, and thought it would be a pretty cool idea to share it with the digital world.

So with all of that, welcome to the blog.  I will try and update as much as possible, but like everything else, time is that critical factor that nobody seems to have enough of.

 

Brew on!

Tony