Thursday, December 17, 2009

What Fresh New Hell Is This?

We've been working on a Helles here for quite a while now and although we have made some great tasting beer, we've never given ourselves a passing grade.

The Helles is a tough beer to make.  It's so light and subtle with no place to hide any mistakes in the recipe or brewing process.

We spent a lot of time over several batches of our beer and several score of our favorite commercial examples of the style.  One big issue was narrowing down the yeast that we preferred and another was fine tuning boil times and the temperatures during fermentation - specifically performing a proper Diacetyl rest.

I actually forgot to do the Diacetyl rest on the last batch.  I'm drinking a pint now and it tastes like I dropped a pat of butter in it.  This makes me sad.

When we started, we began with a recipe that tried to make up for the fact that most homebrewers don't do decoction mashes.  This was fine, because at the time, we were not doing them either.  The recipe was very good and can be found here.

Now, however, we are performing decoction mashes with consistency.  We've also fine tuned our current brewing process so that we are hitting all our numbers within .001 SG and we have good data on fermentation temperatures, boil times, and hopping rates from previous batches of Helles.

So, it's time to start over.

Our next batch will be our all new Edel-Hell.  German breweries use the term "edel" (which means "noble") for their most delicate versions of Helles.  The recipe uses only German Pilsner 2-Row barley and a little bit of Carapils for the head.  It has 3 hop additions with a different type of noble hops each for bittering, flavor, and aroma.

We're excited about brewing this beer and even more excited about drinking it!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Milestone

This weekend's batch (#44 OktoberWinterfest) marks our first anniversary brewing as "Good Scarlett" - that is brewing with Shawn (and now his wife Donni) as a team. Whenever we are short a person on brew day, I am quickly reminded at how well it works when all four of us are together cooking up a tasty brew.

It is also the anniversary of our journey in to All Grain brewing which has been an absolute blast.  All Grain seems a bit daunting at first, but after your first batch it's easy and after 30 or so it's a cake walk.

Another interesting fact, amazing really, is that this weekend's batch definitively pushes us (including my early solo brewing days) over the 500 gallons brewed mark. 500 gallons.  That's 4,000 pints of beer.

The last 3,500 of those are really solid beers as well! This includes the recent batches of Dunkle and the Riverhouse Ale. The Riverhouse was made for my uncle and is a Ballantine IPA clone.  Ballantine has been gone for a long time so I don't know how faithful it is, but it is a fantastic batch of beer.

In closing, we would like to thank everyone who has supported us with encouragement, taste testing, plumbing, and everything else. Here's to you... Sláinte!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Here Come the Kegerators

Some of the boys have wanted to go in on batches with us, so we've started to assemble kegerators for them.  It turns out finding free refrigerators is easy as pie Craigslist.  I've picked up two and delivered them to the guys in the last 10 days.

We're in the process now of collecting the rest of the parts we need (shanks, lines, etc) as well as procuring CO2 bottles and regulators.  All in all these kegerators are going live for less than $150 each which is pretty good.  Plus, the guys get the extra freezer space, etc.  Good deal.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What is going on in Montana?

Click the image to visit the original full size version.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Brew Day Pics

A big BIPA recipe
Pip pip jolly good

Doni milling the grains
Flaked barley and flaked maize
 4 different kinds of hops in this recipe
 The whole setup
 The boil

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hot Mash Tun Action

I realized that I never posted details about our awesome Mash/Lauter Tun. It's huge (I think it's roughly 45,000 quarts) to accommodate what is generally around 40 pounds of grain per batch.

Shawn put on his engineer's hat and built the Greatest Homebrew Manifold Ever to Grace The Universe. It disassembles for easy cleaning and everything.

Then, because he has an unlimited supply of Awesome, Shawn installed a sparge arm in the lid of the thing. We've been fly-sparging (and just plain fly) ever since.

Too Much Beer? That's Unpossible!

Seriously. We (and by "we" I mean "Shawn") had to buy more kegs just to have a place to put it all.

As a result we're going to relax our schedule just a tad. Big Brew Days will happen a bit more randomly now, so if you're thinking of dropping by keep an eye on the Next Big Brew Day block at the top-right of this page.

Speaking of dropping by, please do and help us free up some kegs. We haven't seen some of you (I'm looking at you ScottScatJeffBeanTonyPaulaPagsSoda) for a while and haven't seen others (RodTyAdamJackieJebMikeJessiePGDave) for a brew day ever. It's a dirty job...

BTW - this batch of Irish Red Ale is on the money, Money. Also, I wish I had taken another picture of the Octoberfest because it cleared up nicely after another week but I couldn't because Tony drank it all sheesh.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


The Oktoberfest has arrived and it is fantastic. It is arguably one of the best beers we have ever made. I can nit-pick about the chill haze or slight adjustments I would like to make to the flavor, but it is very good. Great flavor, beautiful color, and a dry lager finish. You can drink three of them before you even realize what you have done and THAT, meine herrschaften, is what October is all about!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Secret Message

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I Said I'd Never Do This...

Bottling sucks! But I had to free up some keg-space, and I had to send Aric some of our Bloody IPA.

This beer is a real ass-kicker and was nicknamed "The ZJ" by a friend somewhere around the bottom of the inaugural keg. If you have to ask...

(ok fine here)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

We Roll On

Tons of things going on around here. New equipment (look at this place!), new recipes, and new techniques, and of course tons of beer. Here are some of the major notables from the last month.

New Software

Things are getting complicated, so we invested in Beersmith software. This is an excellent product that has been around for some time. We've done two 20 gallon batches with it so far, and it hasn't led us astray yet. It is especially helpful when using more complicated brewing techniques, such as...

Decoction Mashing
We did our first decoction mash yesterday on the Oktoberfest. Using a newly acquired and modified keg (a Weihenstephan keg at that) to boil part of the mash, we ended up with an amazing tasting wort. We are very excited about this beer!

Grain Mill
The new grain mill is working great. The best part is that we can now buy our grains in bulk (much less expensive) and we can buy them at our convenience which helps scheduling. Shawn did his usual excellent work mounting the mill and motor to a rolling cart.

Main Man Aric
He's going All Grain! We're going to try to help Aric out with equipment as much as we can. We're hoping he can drive out (from Kansas City) and pick up some of our gear that we no longer use. In addition, we've offered to build him a new Keggle. As a bonus, we're hoping he can time his trip with our...

Huge Octoberfest Beerfest Party
For those of you that know us, keep an eye on your in-boxes. This party is going to be EPIC!

Our buddy Jeff brought us a case of Grolsch swing tops! These bottles, officially called Beugels, are tough to find these days. Although Grolsch still uses them, these are the older 467ml bottles that are no longer made. Awesome. Thanks Jeff!

Thanks to Aric for sending me an awesome Guinness bar mat (bought in Ireland no less) and number-one-brewing-partner Shawn for the tap/faucet drain thingy. These two items will keep me from having to clean up so many messes around the taps!

Monday, June 29, 2009


A quick update on how the brews have been coming along.

The Good
Four Shepherds Stout - This beer is amazing. We bottled a 12 pack so we can enter it in competitions this summer. People who love stouts love it. People who don't like stouts love it. Epic Win. Too bad it wasn't ready for the Longshot contest.

Watermelon Blonde - This beer not only tasted great, with a big whiff of watermelon on the nose and a nice melon aftertaste after the clean finish, but it looked great too. A nice deep red with a bright white head. Nice. I would have pictures of it, but we drank it too fast.

Designated Hitter Pilsner - With another batch heading towards kegs soon, we cracked a bottle that we saved from the last batch to revisit our first lager. Clean, flavorful, and a crisp dry finish. A very good beer.

The Munich Helles - I'm drinking the first glass right now and it is good. Not perfect yet however. We will continue to work on this beer until it can bring a tear to a Bavarian's eye.

The Bad
Cream Ale (AKA Ice Cream Ale, AKA Flava No Flav) - I screwed this brew day up six ways to Sunday. With no flavor to speak of and a low alcohol content, I can't give it away. I'm praying Shawn can, or we're going to have to have a Beer Pong party.

That Bottle of Batch #3 I found in the Fridge - Holy god was that beer bad. What was I doing...?

The Ugly
Strawberry Blonde - Not a bad beer, but very cloudy and a bit too much strawberry tangy-ness. Not an attractive color either, as it came out kind of pinkish orange.

Pear Ale - We didn't add enough fruit to this, so its really just a very boring blonde. Don't worry, we'll drink it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And a Longshot it Was

We entered Sam Adam's Longshot Homebrewing contest this year. We're not real big on contests, but the chance to have SA brew a batch of your beer (and, yes, you get to help) was just too great a prize to pass up.

We entered three beers - two Pilsners and one Belgian White.

Did we win?


I found posts online talking about the four finalists and none of them were our style of entry. Apparently, the four finalists beers were a Maibock, an Old Ale, an American-style Barley Wine, and a Lambic.

Sigh. I'll hold my tounge for now, but do you see a pattern there?

We should receive our score sheets back from SA by September so we can see how we did.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Batch #32 - Bloody I.P.A.

Since Aric was visiting, we wanted to do an all grain batch. He chose a British style I.P.A. and we brewed it up on Friday.

With an O.G. of 1.069 and nearly an ounce of high AAU hops per gallon, this beer would surely have weathered the trip from Britain to India on a tall ship.

In addition, we will secondary on to oak chips for that authentic "shipped to the colonies" flavor.

I need to check my records, but I think this is, by happy coincidence, basically an all-grain version of Uncle Tyler's Reddy's I.P.A. which we made last year and was delicious.

We named it "Bloody" for several reasons (British slang word, colonial violence, etc), but mainly because during the brew session we spilled a glass of Bloody Mary all over the hop bags. Jess likes to inquire about the status of the "Bloody I.P.A." in her over-the-top British accent which always cracks me up.

Monday, June 1, 2009

One Year of Homebrewing

What a fun year it has been for us! Homebrew aside, just the journey of learning about and sampling all the different styles of beer in the world has been an incredible one. Our taste buds will never be the same.

Jess has recently taken to exploring American Pale Ales, which is quite a leap from her 8 IBU Coors Light days.

Shawn, our good friend and brewing partner has gone from being rather indifferent to beer in general to a borderline obsession with Irish Stouts.

All of us have become enamored with the German Helles and Pils styles which, in my opinion, are the pinnacle result of thousands of years of accumulated brewing knowledge. (If all the breweries in the world were going to close and it was my choice to save just one, I would choose Spaten-Franziskaner and everyone would thank me for it as they quaffed glass boots of liquid Munich gold.)

If you're reading this, you already know this, but drinking bud/miller/coors everyday is the same as eating McDonald's for every meal. Stop it. You're depriving yourself of one of life's pleasures.

The homebrewing itself has been another incredibly fun adventure which really took off when Shawn joined us as a brewing partner and we went to all grain. We've churned out a bunch of good brew, and a few great ones as well - over 250 gallons so far. The satisfaction of draining a pint of excellent beer that you made in your basement is second to none. I think that this adventure will continue for some time...

Thanks goes out to our friends and family for helping us drink good (and occasionaly not-so-good) homebrew and for putting up with my endless talk of brewing related issues.

Thanks to Shawn for joining us and for your unending supply of enthusiasm.

Thanks to Rod, Ty, and Aric for your help and advice over the last year, especially in the early days (Relax, Don't Worry, Have a Homebrew).

Thanks to Dad and Mary for my first set of buckets and all the support.

Thanks especially to Jess - this wouldn't be any fun with out you!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Damage Control

We did a decent job saving a brew-day-gone-wrong yesterday.

Our problem: hitting our temperatures.

We have been very good at hitting our mash temperature so far, but yesterday we let it get away from us. We're so used to brewing in the winter that the summer heat threw us a curve ball and we overshot our temps in a big way.

We brought the temps back down eventually, but the damage was done. Our efficiency sucked and we were on our way to brewing 15 gallons of beer flavored water (see Batch #27).

However, two good things came out of this experience:
1. Early Warning. Lately we have been taking more readings more often including many refractometer readings during lautering and sparging. The numbers we were seeing on this batch didn't look correct from the start. This is the point that an expert could have possibly made adjustmets and corrected the issues before they really became problems. As for us, I'm just glad that we know enough to recognize when things are headed off the rails.

2. Damage Control. We did managed to save this batch. We had to adjust our boil schedule in order to boil off more than normal and ended up with only 13.5 gallons of wort in the primaries. I'm not sure how it will compare to past versions of the recipe, but it will be good beer.

You only really learn when things go wrong, and yesterday we learned a lot.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ice Cream Ale, Better Bottles

We've been trying for a while now to get our batch of Cream Ale to freeze, but no dice. Now that it is warm in the basement, nothing we have will get cold enough. One of our fridges got under 32F, but I think it was going to take weeks to freeze the beer. Who has weeks to wait for beer? No one! So, we'll drink it as is. If it is no good, we'll have a beer pong party or something and get it gone.

Kegging the Cream Ale also gave us chance to see how easy it is to clean up a ported Better Bottle. The answer: very easy. The port made transfer to the keg a breeze and the bottle itself was so easy to clean. I highly recommend getting these bottles. Get the ported ones if you can, but even the un-ported would be a joy to use.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hops: Up, Up, and Away

We planted East Kent Goldings this year and so far they are doing great. The vine on the right is almost half way to the top of the post so soon I will need to run the string from the top of the post to the roof of the house to give it somewhere to grow. Even though we know not to expect much in the way of harvest the first year, it still very exciting.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fruit Beers

We racked our Blonde on to fruit this weekend. Five gallons each on to Strawberries, Pears, and Watermelon. They will be ready to drink in about five weeks - just in time for the hot weather!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Das Boot

Have I mentioned that we like Spaten? We're brewing our first Munich Helles this weekend, so we thought it would be a good idea to sample the style one more time...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fine German Lagers and the People Who Love Them

Who are these people?

Us, that's who.

As homebrewers, we've been studiously avoiding them the way a novice baker might avoid fine French pastries. They just seem unattainable and one feels that any attempt to create them will end only in tears and frustration.

Our confidence bolstered by recent homebrewing successes, we've begun to dive in - tears be damned.

Our first mission was to find our favorite. Early contenders included Spaten Premium, Paulaner Pils, and Hacker-Pschorr Munchner Hell.

The Spaten is amazing and, for a while, was our front-runner. Our local has it on tap, and it is delicious. It leaves a taste in your mouth that demands you drink 3 more, kiss the bartender full on the mouth, and then pick a friendly fist fight with that group of bikers playing pool. Brilliant.

Then we tried the Weihenstaphaner Original and the game was over. Even poured from of a bottle, this beer is sublime. If there could be only one light lager in the world, this should be it. Brewed by the oldest brewery in existence (their records go back to 1040) this Munich Helles, as far as we are concerned, is the best light lager on the planet.

Now we start the quest to make our version of it.

Prepare for tears.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Slow It On Down - Batch #28

A few months ago, I read a few articles that proposed that 60 - 90 minute mash times were a hold over from days gone by. They proposed that modern modified malts don't need anything like that amount of time to convert in the mash. More on the order of 30 minutes was the claim.

You may notice I haven't bothered to link these articles.

That's because they are crap.

At least for us. As we dropped our mash times, our efficiency dropped right along with it. We went from our usual 85%+ down in to the 70s. We could, of course, compensate for this by adjusting our recipes but our Mash Tun is already packed to the gills and it seems like a waste anyway.

For this batch of Irish Stout, we went back to a 60 minute mash and our old numbers returned with an 86.7% mash efficiency. We also beefed up the recipe slightly to push the ABV up a little.

I expect this to be the best batch of the stout so far.

Jess also came up with a great name for this beer. It invokes images of sheep grazing in the green fields of Éire and also sounds vaguely religious which always works for beer. In actuality, it is named after Scarlett, Duchess, Holly, and Junior - the dogs that play frisbee with us all day while we brew. From now on, we'll be calling this beer Four Shepherds Irish Stout.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Better Bottle?

We picked up a ported Better Bottle and are giving it a test run this week. If we are happy with it, we plan to replace all our glass carboys with them.

The fact that they are much lighter and ported are big pluses, but the primary reason for the change is this collection of horror stories about serious injuries resulting from exploding carboys. The chance of something like this happening may be remote, but if there is a safer alternative that works, we're going to go with it.

They are about the same cost as glass, but the ported version ends up much more expensive as the valve is quite pricey. Overall the cost for these things is a bit ridiculous, but with no competition they only have to compete with the price of glass carboys (which all come from either Mexico or Italy.)

If your thinking about buying carboys, I would definitely consider getting a un-ported BB instead. Just the weight difference is worth it. They don't quite have the romance of the glass, but being lacerated to the bone isn't very romantic either.

Imagine doing this with a glass carboy...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Batch #27 - Cream Ale

I don't know why they are called Cream Ales, as they are simply an ale version of an American Lager. I created this recipe from scratch based on the BJCP style guidelines.

My first solo Brew Day in a while went reasonably well, with the notable and serious exception of a very poor mash efficiency. Currently, I am blaming one of our thermometers (and myself of course). Our normal one was in use, so I used a backup and I suspect that it lied to me about my mash temperature. It could also be that my readings were in error.

That's the real problem - I don't know.

Anyway, if the mash was that weak we're going to end up with a pretty weak beer with a alcohol content of under 3%. This means that you could drink 5 of them and still land a Space Shuttle. Since I don't have a Space Shuttle, I've been trying to think of how to fix this beer and I had an idea:

Ice Beer. I can freeze out some of the water content which will concentrate both the taste and alcohol content of the beer. And, of course, the name of the beer writes itself:

Ice Cream Ale!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Batch #26 + St. Patty's Day

The best brew day ever! A bunch of people showed up to belatedly celebrate St. Patrick's Day and to help us finish off the batch #22 Irish Stout and brew batch #26.

We discovered two important things about the stout:
  1. Although very good right after being kegged, the stout is EXCELLENT after conditioning for several weeks.
  2. 5 gallons of stout does not go far at a St. Patty's Day party.

So beer was made, beer was consumed, darts were played and a good time was had. Thanks to everyone for coming out!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Beer Wars

This movie comes out in a few weeks - looks great! Check out the movie site.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Two Brewmasters

Two brewmasters, one German and the other American, walk in to a bar (I'm assuming) and decide to brew the same beer. Each would use essentially the same recipe but use hops from their respective home countries. Also, and this is the cool part, they would each brew the beer in the others brewery.

The result, or rather half of it, is pictured to the left - Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse which was brewed at Brooklyn Brewery in New York by Hans-Peter Drexler.

The other half, which I am working on aquiring, is Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse and was brewed at Schneider in Germany by Garrett Oliver.

I found out about these beers after Headbrewer described tasting one of the versions on his blog. Since he is in Ireland, he can only find the version brewed at Schneider. As of yet, I can only find the version brewed at Brooklyn. If neither of us make any headway, perhaps we should think about setting up a trade. I wonder how much it costs to ship a bottle of beer to Ireland?

You can read more about each beer here and here.

New Kegs

Some new arrivals at the brewery including our new soon-to-be keggle #2. Like the Shamwow it was made in Germany which gives it extra cool-points.

Two keggles will allow us more flexibility, more efficiency on brew day, and the ability to brew 20 gallon batches if we desire. And we do desire.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Homebrew + BBQ = Win

Many of the homebrewers I have met are also in to BBQ. That's real BBQ, as in low and slow in a smoker.

I'm guessing this is because making great BBQ requires many of the same traits as making great homebrew - primarily the ability to slave over something for a long period of time while resisting the urge to consume it all as fast as possible.

I got in to smoking BBQ a few years ago. I didn't have a real smoker, but I modified my existing gas grill (a 10 year old hand-me-down Colman) and produced some pretty good results including a few Thanksgiving turkeys.

Today we retired that old grill (it was nearly impossible to cook on anymore it was so inconsistent) and replaced it with the beauty in the picture.

This is the grill I have been waiting for forever. Whoever designed it is a genius and I hope he or she is rich and happy. The left side is a very nice gas grill. The right side is a charcoal grill and a smoker with a side-firebox. It's every kind of grill you can have in one unit and it did NOT cost a fortune. Awesome.

Tonight I seasoned it for a few hours. Tomorrow we'll be smoking a pork shoulder (and drinking homebrew of course!)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Batch #25 - Irish Stout

A very busy week around here as we kegged the rest of the BW, racked and dry-hopped the Pilsener, and brewed another 15 gallons of Irish Stout.

We have two current issues we are thinking about:

1 - Water Bottle Neck. Specifically heating it. We spend a lot of time waiting for our HLT to hit our target temp. We're looking at a second keggle and burner so we can heat 30 gallons of water at a time instead of 15. We use around 25 gallons when we brew a 15 gallon batch.

2 - Lager Longer. We want to lager the Pilsener for longer than we can right now because it ties up our secondary carboys. We may start moving it to kegs earlier, lagering in the kegs for a while, and then moving the beer to clean kegs.

Monday, February 23, 2009

All Good

We had a great time at the party. Shawn lugged up his much-toiled-over kegerator and it, as well as our beer, was a big hit.

My brother and I spent some lathe-time on Friday night and whipped up the two Mahogany tap handles you can see in the picture. We had a third, but we painted it and the paint was not dry by party time - oops. We had fun experimenting and now have some good ideas for our "official" handles which we will work on in the near future.

Thanks to our hosts and everyone who came to the party for a killer time!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Going Mobile

This weekend our friends are having a Big Ol' Party™ and Good Scarlett is showing up in a big way. We're taking kegs of Irish Stout, Belgian White, and the specially brewed Whitetail Holiday Ale.

We're also bringing the newly pimped-out kegerator to make serving our beer a no-hassle experience. I'll post some pictures after we recover.

See you on the other side!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

St. Practice Day

Patrick's in Frederick last weekend. Bad website, but an awesome bar. Irish music only and a non-stop flow of Guinness, Murphy's, and Car Bombs. Kind of reminds me of a place I used to hang out...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

808 Hours to St. Patrick's Day

But who's counting?

We are! I'm not sure what we are doing on the big day, but the following Saturday Shawn and I will be taking our entire brew rig and meeting other F.O.A.M. members for a St. Patrick's Day Brew Fest! Of course, we'll also be taking along a keg of our Irish Stout. In a kegerator. With a stout tap. And Nitro. Awesomeness.

Speaking of the Irish Stout, it is BLACK GOLD. I was happy with it from the start, but once you push it through a stout tap (yep, drilled another hole in the fridge) it is creamy heaven. Shawn says a stout tap plus beer-gas is even better and I can't wait to try that.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Batch #24 - Designated Hitter(s)

We brewed the Pilsener again today and hit our volumes right on the money. This should bring the ABV down to just under 5%. We'll see how it effects the taste.

We're also going to skip the dry hop on 5 gallons, dry hop with Saaz again in 5 gallons, and dry hop with Cascade in the remaining 5 gallons. Just for the fun of it...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Where the Beer Flows Like Wine...

Before I post about how awesome the just-tapped Irish Stout is, I need to post about the Pilsener.

I didn't have time to post about it before because WE WERE TOO BUSY DRINKING IT ALL AS FAST AS WE COULD.

It was excellent. The best beer I have ever made by a long shot. Shawn took a keg and I kept one (we only brewed 10 gallons - big mistake!) and they were both gone in about 10 days. Everyone that tried it loved it including people that swore they hated homebrew. I took 2.5 growlers of it to a Super Bowl party and it was gone inside 30 minutes.

We will be making some tiny adjustments to it when we brew it again tomorrow. We're going to try the dry-hopping with a different kind of hops in each secondary and we're going to do a better job hitting our water volumes which should bring the ABV down a bit making it more the session beer it wants to be. Other than that, we're shooting for a repeat.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Smells Good!

Shawn checking the nose on his Belgian White on a 22F brew day.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Flannery's In Mercersburg

Last weekend, we went to visit some friends in Mercersburg, PA and ended up at one of their locals: Flannery's.

We have a couple of bars by us that have a good tap selection, but this place takes the cake. A Quad? American Double Imperial IPA? Even better they swap out beers all the time, so there is always something new to try.

Between us we tried everything of interest (no samples, full pours only please). The Franziskaner Dunkle was really good as was the Chub and the Seven Gates.

The most interesting was the Rodenbach Grand Cru. I have heard of this sour style but have never tried one. It was pretty amazing - like drinking cranberry/sprite/mead/cider/beer.

The quad was, of course, totally over the top. I don't even like doubles, so I am the wrong guy to review that beer.

Thanks for a great night T&P - lets go back when they swap out some beers!

Monday, January 26, 2009

(Semi) Live Temperature Data for Batch #23 Fermentation

I'm inputting this data in to a spreadsheet by hand and this chart will auto update to reflect the data. (Note: All done.)

I can't get it to size correctly and legend is cut off. The orange line is the fridge thermostat setting. Fixed.

As you can see, I had to babysit things for a bit around hour 27. To elaborate, the wort temp hit and stayed at 71F (max for this recipe is 72F) despite small ambient adjustments. I finally cranked down the thermostat and let the fridge cool. After about 10 minutes of cooling, the fridge hit 50F and the Wort dropped to 70. At that point I returned ambient to 63 and things stabilized.

UPDATE: Around hour 40 I have started to bring the ambient up as the wort has dropped to 68F - the lower limit of our acceptable range for this recipe. I want to bring the wort back up to 69F or 70F and hold it there for the rest of the fermentation.

UPDATE: As of hour 60-whatever, the wort has stabilized to ambient temp. As the interesting part seems to be over, I will no longer be updating the data set. This was a very interesting experiment and I think we collected some valuable data. We'll be doing this for the next several batches to see how they vary and to see if we can anticipate our ambient temperature adjustments.

Watching the Wort Temps

Now that our Coke fridge has been modified to control the temperature, we need to learn how to use it. As wort is fermenting in to beer, the yeast actually produce heat. I have read various estimate as to how much this will heat up the wort (4 -10 degrees F), but we need to find out definitively. Yeast produce different flavors depending on the temperature of their environment (the wort) so controlling that temperature is our goal.

Using a wireless thermometer, we installed the probe (long probe is looooong) in the lid of one of the primary buckets. This will let us keep a close eye on what is happening inside as fermentation takes place.

For this recipe (the Belgian White) we want to keep the wort between 68F and 72F. As the temperature inside the bucket tries to climb, I will counter it by dropping the temperature inside the Coke fridge.

Eventually we would like to make this automatic by wiring the probe directly to the thermostat, but for now it will be hands on.

As of this morning (16 hours after we pitched our yeast) the wort temp is 2 degrees warmer (69F) than the ambient air in the fridge. Fermentation is going great-guns, so I'll be checking it every hour or so and gathering data.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Batch #23 - Belgian White

Another big brew day and the last one for a few weeks. Things went very smoothly and we have 15 gallons of the Belgian White in the Coke fridge at 68F along with the 15 gallons of Irish Stout that is in secondary.

Shawn has adjusted the BW recipe so we're expecting a spicier and more flavorful beer this time.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What Does Dry Hopping Taste Like?

Our first lager (Batch #21 Pilsener) is in the keg! We lagered for about 4 weeks total. 2 weeks at 50F and 2 weeks at 30F. Both kegs went right in to the fridge to keep them cooooold while they carbonate. The beer is a very light straw color and completely translucent - a first for this brewery.

We split this 10 gallon batch and only dry hopped half of it so we could taste the difference. I sampled both as they racked to the kegs and the un-dry hopped tasted like flat Bud - pretty boring but drinkable. The dry hopped half (or D.H. or Designated Hitter) has much more flavor but is not over hopped at all - at least at this point.

We'll see how they taste once they are carbed up - about 7 days.

Supply and Demand

Our latest problem - getting our ingredients when we need them.

Now that we are brewing big batches we have run in to this problem a few times. Neither of our local homebrew stores are consistently prepared for us to come in and buy 30 pounds of various grains.

To make matter worse, we need to buy these grains no more than a day or so before brew day as once they are ground they begin to go stale.

Today, Shawn is driving to Columbia, MD (far far away) to attempt to complete our grain bill for this weekend. This, of course, sucks.

There are a couple of solutions to this problem.

First, we can submit our grain bill (and hop bill and everything else) to the store early and have them ensure that they order what we need.

Second, we can acquire our own grain mill. This would allow us to buy the grains far in advance and grind them on brew day. It would also allow us to buy grain in bulk which is much cheaper in the long run.

I expect that we may end up employing both of these solutions so that we are not scrambling around the state every time we are ready to brew.