Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Well... Actually...

I ended up bottling the dark ale this morning. I became tied up in a project yesterday.

So the % ABV.. half a point lower than my expectations.. was 4%  ...not bad. I'd like to go stronger but this was my first brew using a mashing tun. My second brew with the tun won't be much better (recall, I used too much water, thinned it out a bit).. but hey..

It'll still taste great, which is my goal anyway.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bottle Day...

I have one brew in the primary fermenter and the other in the secondary. The secondary is going into the bottle today! ...its my normal dark ale with sweet orange peel added to it. I am looking forward to finding out how it turns out.. It needs to sit in the bottle for at least another week before I can try it out.

With that... the wheat beer I started 2 weeks ago will go into the secondary after I've cleaned and sterilized the container. I'm looking forward to that one as well. I really like wheat beer.

That is the nice thing about this hobby; You can indulge your taste without breaking the bank. Each batch costs me about $30 - $40 in materials (grain, hops, yeast, etc...) and produces about two cases of beer. I average about $35 a batch.

Your average factory-made premium beer costs about $12 for a 12 pack.. plus taxes... more if your favorite brew is not on sale (I am partial to Blue Moon).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Dogs dig the biscuits...

I made up a batch of spent-grain dog biscuits..

They were a hit..

I still have some raw material about. I may make up some more for the pups later. I also want to try out one of the various bread recipes out there that use spent grain..

Friday, December 9, 2011

I tried a Spinning class yesterday evening

...and I survived to tell the tale.

It was actually pretty fun. I had to disassociate what I was doing from actual cycling. My cleats did not work with the bikes they had there. Mine are either the wrong style or (more likely) they are mated to my own bike's pedals. I used to toe straps instead.

Because of my personal geometry vs the bike, I did not do any of the standing on the pedals parts.. I just stayed in the saddle.

One.. it feels unnatural to me to stand on a bike (even my own) unless I am actually climbing a hill.. two, kept slipping out of those stupid straps.. and three, there's this object in my way.. below my chest and above my waist. ;)

But it was fun nonetheless. I had a good sweat and it was more engaging an activity in a room full of people than alone on my bike trainer in my house.  On my bike trainer, it is a real struggle to get past 30 min. without getting bored to death.

So.. I'll go back and do it again and maybe some more. ...and to think, when I was in shape and on the trail every day; I used to mock people in spin classes because they were only "play-cycling" and not getting the fulfillment of being out on the open road.

Off Target

I used too much water for the wheat beer.

My pre-boil gravity was pretty on target but I did that check prior to sparging.

I was shooting for an OG of 1.061 and what I got was 1.034

My other brew that is in the secondary (a dark evil brew).. had an OG of 1.040 and was 1.010 going into the secondary (that one is doing fine)

Insult to injury.. its been in the fermenter for two days now and no action. I see some sediment on the bottom but no krauzen or anything happening up top.

So.. the recipe for this disaster was:

6.5 pounds 2-row
4 pounds White Wheat malt
1 pound Carapils

half-oz US Cascade at the start of boil
1 oz US Cascade at 15 min.
half-oz US Cascade at end of boil

Half-oz sweet orange peel at 15 min.

White labs hefeweizen ale yeast

Steeped at 150 Deg. F for an hour.. boiled for 90 min.

I will have to be more mindful of how much water I am using next time.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dog Biscuits from spent grains..

I was chatting with the owner of BFD  yesterday and he told me that he will sometimes hang onto his spent grains to either make bread or make dog biscuits..

Huh.. dog biscuits? Sounds simple enough.. and happily, the internet provides (see, there are things other than porn on the interwebs)...

First ..a video of the process.. (not sure I'd do that egg shell thing)

....and from elsewhere:

Original recipe:
4 cups spent grain
2 cups flour
1 cup peanut butter (all natural)
2 eggs

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Press down into a dense layer on a large cookie sheet. Score almost all the way through into the shapes you want. Bake for about half an hour at 350 F to solidify them. Loosen them from the sheet, break the biscuits apart and return them, loosely spread out on the cookie sheet, to the oven at 225 F for 3 to 4 hours (or until they are really dry) to prevent mold growth. Store in an airtight container to keep them dry and mold-free.

...So I guess I'll go get some PB later and try this out.

And... so I can enjoy as well, maybe I'll make some bread as well..

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

k.i.s.s. .....

Ferb, I know what we're gonna to today...

Well... tomorrow.. This one is simple and cheap, I'll have to go get the parts in the morning.

Friday, November 18, 2011


I have been contemplating changing things around a bit. I've been mashing my grains via the brew in a bag method.

It works ok and it is pretty simple. The materials are cheap... I use paint strainer bags that barely stretch over the lip of my boiler.

The stretching and the lifting of the bag out of the boiler are the pain in the ass parts of the process.

So.. I've been contemplating the manufacture of a false bottom for my boiler. Then.. I can just set my grains directly in the thing, drain out the wort and then I can dump out the grains, rinse the boiler out and use it again.. to boil. :)

Now I shall cruise the internet for ideas. Hopefully I can find some existing materials around the house. The cheapest store-bought ones are in the $30 range and there's no guarantee they'll work in my boiler...

Some ideas from google images...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Just bottled some...

I just finished bottling up my experimental brew from 10/26.. I'm happy to say that I came away with 4.5% ABV going into the bottle. That should taste alright after a week to condition in the bottle. I'm looking forward to tasting how the licorice root changes the flavor.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Experimenting.. a bit

I Last Thursday, I started another baby brew.. I thought I'd experiment with the ingredients a little and ad an adjunct to the wort.. in this case, Dried licorice root.

The recipe as follows....

Mash for 1 hour @ 152 degrees....
5 pounds Maris (UK... was gonna just use 2-row but my supplier/pusher was out)
1 pound Cara Pils
.5 pound Chocolate malt
.5 pound CaraAroma (German.. crystal malt)

Start the boil for 1 hours and...
@60 min. 1 oz Fuggle hops
@30 min. half oz Cascade hops
@15 min. .5 oz Dried licorice root
@5 min. .5 oz Cascade hops and .5 oz Dried licorice root

After chilling and sticking it into the fermenter, I put it to bed with dry ale yeast.

My OG was 1.041 (about 6% sugar)  ....I gotta improve on the efficiency in my system, I need to hit at least 1.050..

It bubbled away happily for a few days and then stopped. I added wheat beer yeast to kick it in again and that got it going for another day or so.

This evening, I moved it to the secondary fermenter.. The gravity now sits at 1.014. So.. I am now sitting at 4% alcohol. ..could be better, will be after a couple weeks in the secondary.

This batch, after bottle conditioning, will prolly be ready to go by Turkey day..

Sunday, October 2, 2011

So I was reading a magazine

I was reading BYO and the latest issue has an article that talks about several old school beers from days gone by and recipes to brew clones of those beers. For the most part, those companies do not exist. Their brands are owned by the big brewers.

Their names live on but they are no longer brewed by the same companies or where they originated. The entire thing is really kind of sad. Take this Wikipedia entry for Hamm's Brewery, for instance. Now they're just a fleeting memory, owned by foreign interests. All that history is ..for lack of a better word, History. If you see a can of Hamms now, it has little connection to the original.. aside from perhaps a warm memory and just maybe they got the recipe right.

At my age, I never had a can of any of the original brew, They were long gone by the time I reached 21 but I do remember the commercials.  They were pretty memorable, with the cartoon bear. If I recall correctly, they used to run the commercials pretty heavily towards the end of Summer/Fall... Ahhh...nostalgia. I may try the clone brew recipe BYO published..

The following one requires you to turn up your volume:

...And one featuring a live bear..

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The corn...

The corn, for all its weirdness, tasted really good. As I mentioned before, it was not full of completely red kernels, just kernels with red spots on them.

I steamed them over rice and the red pigment dripped onto the rice and made the rice red. This did not affect the taste a bit.

I think I will grow some more.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The harvest...

I harvested my corn... last night, I pulled two ears for dinner w/the girl. They tasted really good. Sweet corn, as advertised..

They were not really red kernels. They had red spots on them and the cornsilk was red.. maybe they cross-polinated with someone else's corn in the area.

I ended up with 16 edible ears (not including the ones from last night). Only two of them ended up being "supermarket sized."  The rest were medium to small.

My broccoli is coming up weird.. just like last year. I have healthy adult plants but they are not producing heads... just these long stalks with little tiny heads on them. I am doing something wrong or I am just not cut out to grow the stuff.

I'll sow some more corn next week. I should be able to pick that by the end of September or early October.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Milk stout into the secondary

Its only been a week but the krausen has already fallen to the bottom of the carboy, so I went ahead and moved my brew over to the secondary fermenter.

I took a sample and the gravity was at 1.031 ... which puts this brew at about 3.5%ABV right now.

It does not taste bad at this point. It is not cloyingly sweet as advertized. It is very very smooth with barely a hint of the hops bitterness. Even if this does not ferment up to 4 or 5%, it'll still taste pretty decent. I'll leave it be for a couple weeks.

Ready to bottle...

I am fixing to prime the beer in my secondary fermenter.. its This One that I started in June.. it has had plenty of time to do its thing and it does not taste too bad... in it's non-carbonated way.. :)

I'm moving it to the bottling bucket to prime and I'll let it sit there for a bit so any solids left over from fermentation can settle to the bottom. The FG was 1.008 and that brings my ABV to about 4.25% ...not the 5% I was shooting for but hey.. close enough.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

brewing related activities....

That brew that I started at the beginning of June? ... It started a second fermentation. I had left it in the carboy for longer than I usually do and off it went!... So then yesterday, I moved it over to the secondary fermenter. I'll bottle it up next week.

Yesterday I also started another batch for the primary. I thought I would stretch myself a bit and try something different.. leave the comfort zone a bit. I am brewing up a clone of this:

It called for way more grain than I usually handle. my brew in the bag system was nearly overwhelmed with it. Once the grains were in the water, there was not very much room at the top of my 35 qt. brewpot.

I accidentally let it boil over too. I was not counting on how fast it would heat up. I had the water at about 160 F before adding the grains but then it started to shoot up. I had turned away from the pot for a moment and then I heard it boiling over... dammit.

So I turned off the heat completely and willed it to cool down quickly. After steeping it for a while, I grabbed a spare ale pail and I emptied the wort into it (my pot has a handy spigot). Then I took the pot with the grains, set it on the floor and the ale pail on the counter.

Then I refilled the pot with the wort, making sure to fill it evenly all over the top of the grains.

I did this a few times and then I left it alone. This may have been too long but I let it mash for about two hours total.

After that, It was just the standard 90 min. boil.. adding the hops and the lactose at the indicated times. (this is a MILK stout)..

The wort is as black as my soul, I cooled it down, tossed it in the fermenter and now its bubbling away. I was able to do a full boil too.. no additional water needed to get it up to 5 gallons.

I ended up with an OG of 1.057 ...not full efficiency but close to my mark (was shooting for the 1.060-65 range)

The funny thing is... I've never actually drank a milk stout before I'll have no idea if it tastes like one should taste. All I know is its supposed to be kind of sweet and... errrr... milky tasting. (the lactose does not ferment)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Baby beer bubbling....

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The OG Was

1.040  .... I am going to either need to adjust my process or add more fermentables. The goal was 1.050

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Brew day....

....just so you know.

I am trying for a repeat of my previous brew (recipe is a few posts ago) ... but with a couple of changes..

The shop was out of Cascade hops, so I substituted that out with Columbus. aaand.. they were out of Ca ale yeast, so I am using "Pacific Ale" yeast..

This should taste pretty good, not too far off my previous. I just need to do something about all the danged solids. This brew produced a lot of them the last time around, I am gonna do my best to filter all that out this time around.

Maybe I'll drain through a filter into my bottling bucket and then filter again from there to my fermenter.


Friday, May 20, 2011

So here is the veggie garden

I made the boxes out of scrap fence material from the tear down and replacement of my fence (seen in the photos below). They are both 4' X 6'.... big enough to hold some serious vegetation and yet narrow enough that the middle can be reached from both sides without having to step into the box.

Under the boxes, I lay down scrap weedblocking fabric. I ran irrigation to it by means of a buried garden hose. in the box between the two raised beds is where it terminates into the timer and the drip irrigation system.

All in all, I was pleased with it. The thing was not that hard to put together. Now I need to kill the lawn around them a bit for a border.

How could I have done this?

I let an entire month go by without a new post?! I will have more later regarding my gardening efforts but for now.. what you see below is the dark brew going into the fermenter in March, from the very recipe that I posted in March. I bottled it a little over a week ago and I've enjoyed a few bottles of it the last few days..

It came out a little below my target ABV but it tastes really good. The color is still a dark root beer. I'll probably be brewing this again real soon.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Today's Recipe...

I was going for a dark ale.. Here is what I put in:

US 2-row malt: 5lb 15oz
UK Light Crystal Malt: 1 lb 11oz
US Carapils Malt: 1 lb 11 oz
US Chocolate Malt: 7.35oz

UK Fuggle 1oz @ start of boil
US Cascade .5oz @ 15 min to the end of boil
US Cascade .5oz @ end of boil

Irish Moss .25oz @ 15 min. to the end of the boil.

The goal OG was 1.050 but I hit 1.045 my efficiency has improved on the mashing in the bag. I steeped it for 90 min. at 152-154 deg. F.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cut twice and measure once... or is that the other way around?

my previous measurement was wrong (using a new toy ...err.. instrument wrong). I tested my wheat beer again just prior to bottling it up and it was at 1.010 FG.. which is 1.2% alc on the meter so ..a little math and I'm actually at 3% Alcohol by volume going into the bottle.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The all grain experiment...

I will be bottling it soon. I realize now it was a greivous error to do the bags in the manner that I did them.. The next all grain will be done in the traditional manner I've seen for brew in a bag.. One bag, stretched over the pot so the grains can move about and I can stir them around..

The verdict after the time in the fermenter.. the spec. gravity is at 1.022... which means after making my calculations, the beer is only 1.2% Alcohol by volume.

It'll taste pretty good but you'd need to drink all five gallons to get a buzz.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

All grain.. the video!

Let the critiquing begin!

I ended up hitting lower than the target OG. Next time, I will need to mash with less water, I am thinking.. and also put all the grain into one bag stretched around the top so I can stir. I just thought using two bags would be easier.

Brewing up a batch today...

This is it.. my whole grain experience..

Here's what is going in:

3.3 pounds wheat
5.5 pounds Pale malt
.5 pounds Cara Pils

2 oz Centennial hops (pellets)
Dry Wheat beer yeast

basically.. a wheat beer.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I'm a gonna do it.. going all grain.

I'm gonna go for it... got all the material to do an all grain batch using the ausie biab system.. It is not all that different from what I am already doing with partial mash. The cooking time is going to be longer, for sure.. but what the heck?

I bought a pack of two paint strainer bags from the home despot. They're 5 gallons and they fit fine in my 8.5 gallon pot. This is what I am talking about .

I'll try to remember to document the process in video and pics.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bottle Day!


Today is bottling day. the ABV is up to 4.8 and the brew itself taste pretty good. Time to sterilize the equipment!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Progress thus far...

I am on my third brew. I started the batch of cloned Fat Tire Pale Ale on 2/10. My OG was right on target, 1.050

I put it to the hydrometer test yesterday, 2/23 and the spec gravity is down to 1.020, ABV is 2.8 %

My target is supposed to be 4.8%

This leads me to wonder, will it ever reach that 4.8%? Has it gone to far?

I am opting to leave it alone for another week and then test again.

I am NOT a patient man.

(update... couple hours later)

I are a dummy.. I was sitting here for a moment and I glanced at the insert that came with my hydrometer.. I forgot.. you don't take the literal reading and call it good.. you subtract the current ABV from the original ABV and that is your actual alcohol content.. so I am actually closer to the goal than I thought (another week in the carboy will do 'er just fine)..

The initial reading of 1.050 for the spec gravity points to an initial ABV of 6.5%. The current ABV reading is 2.8% so... 6.5-2.8= 3.7% and that means there are still some sugars for the little yeastie beasties to munch on.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Some Cycling Comedy...

The fellows at work turned me on to this french gent. I must have been living under a rock.

Fellow cyclists, I'm sure you'll appreciate this:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Snail Beer!


Who'd of thunk? I read that a nifty and inexpensive way to get rid of snails is via beer. I filled up a couple of old jelly jars with beer and I buried them in my target locations.

The rim of the jars was set right at ground level. The snails were attracted to the beer and they dived right in! .. No more snail issue.

So... anyone want a jar full of slugs and snails?

(image source)

I solved my bottle storage problem

This is a MAN's kitchen! heh

Thursday, February 17, 2011

This looks like my best bet for mashing on the cheap

Test post

Test post from my android

Funny video..

While looking up mashing processes, I came across this funny advertisement of yore:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On the subject of Diversions...

I ran across my old youtube channel. I lost the original for this and a lot of my other things when my computer was stolen, so this survives there.

...a reminder that just a few short years ago, I cruised along at 20mpg on the bike and I had a crappy camera that was not fit for the application.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why hello there...

Rather than juggle between twitter, Facebook and ElJay, I thought I would consolidate my ramblings about my various hobbies here on Blogger. I might as well make use of the account, It came free with the email address. ;-)

I am recovering from a long hiatus off of the bike, I spent quite a long time in my 30's in the saddle and plotting revenge. I have a new job that is not conducive for saddle time so I have been making do with my bike trainer and the occasional trek around town.. not to mention hitting the ETBT yearly.

I recently took up home brewing as a hobby and that is my main inspiration for this blog.

My first batch was a clone brew of a wheat bear from North Coast brewery.. a not-quite Blue moon. I picked up some supplies from Tim over at Brew Ferment Distill and a 35 quart turkey fryer from the local big box hardware store. Here's some pictures:

My 35 quart pot... there is a handy spigot in the bottom, so I don't have to lift and pour 5+ gallons of wort into my fermenter.

This is a pic of my first batch in the fermenting bucket chillin':

By all accounts.. it came out really good (which is great, since this was my first time). My second batch, a clone of Fat Tire Pale Ale did not come out so well. I bought a hydrometer but I forgot to get the dry malt extract. I had to substitute sugar for it. The alcohol by volume came out low.

After about a week in the bottle, it actually tastes pretty good but the alcohol level was very low (only about 2%, target volume was 4%)

I decided to try again with all the correct ingredients and the spec. gravity going into the fermenter was on target and it is chugging away happily:
It took a long time last week to cool the wort down enough to pitch the yeast into I decided to procure an immersion chiller. Since immersion chillers retail for $75-$150, I decided to make my own.

I went over to the home despot and picked up a 20' coil of copper tubing, some vinyl tubing, clamps, a barbed hose end and an attachment for my faucet. Total cost for this was about $35. The result is as follows.. though I need to do a little soldering to solidify the structure. I am looking forward to using it to chill the next batch of wort:
The next batch will be a full grain one.. eschewing the dry malt and liquid malt extracts. I've been looking at the idea of making a mashing tun but it seems to be more trouble than it is worth since I found some instructions from an late 70's brewing book about mashing without the tun.