Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Getting Organized!

While I am generally the kind of guy that takes meticulous care of his brewing equipment, I have not been the most organized person in terms of making my visible storgae areas presentable. My wife (who is very tolerant of my hobby) and I live in a fairly small and old house. Our house was built in 1949, approximately 1250 sqft, and virtually no closet space. Where the hell did people put their stuff 60 years ago? But back to my point, I have finally gotten a little bit more organized and I was even able to incorporate my kegerator in to the "display". Isn't stainless just beautiful?

My last real project for this is to create something to mount my CO2 regulators to. I want them mounted and out of the way, yet accessible enough for adjustments.

And if you can't tell, I'm just finding things to write about so I can get some pics up of my stuff.

Upgrading My Mash/Lauter Tun

Because I am never quite satisfied with anything, I continually tinker with my brewing equipment in an effort to make things easier and more efficient. I recently switched to fly sparging (from batch sparging) and subsequently added a copper sparge manifold and copper mash manifold. I use a standard SS 1/2" ball valve (weldless kit) for run off into the boil kettle.

The sparge manifold is pretty simple and in it's current incarnation, it just drains from the "corners" lightly into the mash. I think I will eventually cap the corners and drill holes for the sparge water to sprinkle over the mash. I not sure that will help achieve anything, but may give a better sparge water distribution over the mash.

The HLT is located above and to the right. The sparge water is delivered to the MLT through a short length of tubing through the lid of the mash tun. A pic of the quick disconnect in the lid in below. It has proven to be an effective gravity fed system thus far.

Now for the mash manifold. I have just finished cutting and fitting all the pieces needed. My previous manifold was made of CPVC and serviced me well for the sort time it was used. I did have a couple of problems with it becoming disconnected and decided to make a more secure version of copper. I still have to solder a few connections and drill the bottom (which I am not looking forward to doing) so the mash can drain properly. My old manifold allowed me to hit 80% - 82% efficiency and I expect equal or better results with my new copper version.

I'll post an update when this project is complete and I can confirm my mash efficiency.

Monday, August 4, 2008

New Camera!!!

My wife and I finally got around to buying a new camera this weekend since our last died several months ago. That means I can actually start posting my own pics and go back to update some older posts with pics of my brewery, kegerator, and other equipment.

Stay tuned for more...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Football and Beer, Beer and Football

Alright guys...

College football season is almost upon us. I gradutade from NC State and that makes me a pretty big Wolfpack fan. Granted we haven't had alot to cheer about in the last few years, but I think Coach O'Brien has the Pack poised to make significant improvements this year. And I am doubly excited for NC State to be kicking off the NCAA season with the first nationally televised game versus the USC Gamecocks on ESPN. This all leads me to beer (as usual).

I will be working on my supply stocks for the fall season, espcially kegs that I can carry to Raleigh for tailgating. I'll be starting with a Kolsch that I'll brew this weekend, fermenting and then lagering it until Sept 6 when we kickoff our first home game against the mighty William and Mary (insert jokes here). I picked a Kolsch because, let's face it, it will still be 90+ degrees in NC thru the first month of the season. I'll probably follow the Kolsch up with an ESB and then a nice roasty Porter for when the weather starts to turn cool. You can see my Kolsch recipe below. Go Pack!!!

Recipe Specifications--------------------------------
Batch Size: 5.50 gal
Boil Size: 7.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.049
Estimated Color: 3.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 23.2 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

8 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) German
1 lbs Wheat Malt, Ger
1.50 oz Saaz [3.00 %] (60 min)
1.50 oz Saaz [3.00 %] (15 min)
1.00 items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 min)
1 Pkgs German Ale/Kolsch (White Labs #WLP029)

Mash Schedule--------------------------------------
Saccharification: Rest 50 min at 152.0 F
Vorlauf: 1-2 gallons as needed for clarity
Fly Sparge: 45 min at 190.0 F

Monday, July 14, 2008

American Brown Ale

I had a great brew session yesterday. I built a slight redesign of my MLT manifold in order to get better efficiency out of my system, and boy did it work. In three batches of fly-sparging, and a re-build of the manifold, I am up from 70% to a new high of 82%. This is all very good stuff to me, but back to the beer at hand.

After much research and several very average attempts at a good brown ale, I came up with the following recipe. I really hope this one lives up t my expectations. American Brown Ale is one of my favorite styles (and very under appreciated by most) and all I want to do is make one that is good. Anyhow, my fingers are crossed!

Recipe Specifications------------------------------
Batch Size: 5.50 gal
Boil Size: 7.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.058 SG
Estimated Color: 14.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 24.7 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 82.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

9 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter
8.0 oz Cara-Pils/Dextrine
8.0 oz White Wheat Malt
3.0 oz Roasted Barley
2.0 oz Black (Patent) Malt
1.50 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] (FWH)
0.50 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] (2 min)
1.00 items Whirlfloc Tablet
1 Pkgs SafAle American Ale

Mash Schedule------------------------------------
Saccharification: Rest 50 min at 152.0 F
Vorlauf: 1-2 gallons as needed for clarity
Fly Sparge: 45 min at 190.0 F

UPDATE 8/4/08:
English / American Brown Ales are a vastly underrated style in the world of craft beer. And I actually think its difficult to brew a really good one. But I think I have finally created a Brown Ale recipe that I like. This was my fourth attempt and I am actually really impressed with the results so far. It has a great creamy, smooth textured. The flavor is of sweet chocolate, with just enough bitterness and earthyness to balance out the malt. Its been carbed and on drought for just a few days, but it is really beautiful. This might be my best overall batch to date.

Monday, June 9, 2008

New Kegerator

So I just scored a new (to me) Sanyo 4912 fridge that will be turned into my new dual tap kegerator. My wife allowed me to go to Best Buy to get the fridge this past weekend. It was good timing. The last model in the building was a floor model, which had a couple very small dings in the bottom of the door, but is otherwise in great condition. I was able to get it for $129.00 (regularly $209.00) with a 3 year warranty. Needless to say, I think this is a pretty good deal.

I have my new stainless dual-tap tower and an extra Perlick faucet on order from Beverage Factory. I can wait for them to arrive! In the meantime, I'll be prepping the fridge to mount the tower, run a CO2 line, and all the other good stuff that's needed to get beer flowing ASAP.

My old ghetto kegerator will now be used as a fermentation chamber, just in time for the summer (and damn its hot as hell around here already). As usual, I hope to add some pics once we get a new camera.

UPDATE 6/17/08:
So my new kegerator is finished and pouring two kegs nicely (DunkelWeizen and a Rye IPA). I did, however, manage to break one of the pressure gauges on my new dual regulator (MicroMatic). So a new one is on the way. I must say the regulator is definitely worth the money. I couldn't be happier with the finished product. Cheers!

UPDATE 8/4/08:
I am now able to add some pics. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Cheers to Dad! What beer did your father drink?

I am not a father yet, but I do have a Dad and I will be giving a big "Cheers" to him on Father's Day. My dad doesn't drink great beer. I at least have him drinking Sam Adams and Yuengling, which is a big step up from the Coors Light standard.

Speaking of the Silver Bullet, dad's was the first sip of beer I ever had at about the age of 4. We were outside grilling out one summer and I just reached up and took a swig. I'll never forget it. It was one of the most god-awful things I ever put in my mouth, and still is ;).

Long-story-short, I swore I would never drink beer in my life. That all changed on my 21st birthday (believe or not, true story), when I had a Becks Dark. Which then turned into a Michelob Dark, and then declined into pitchers of Busch Light (you can imagine it was a big night for all my friends and roommates to see me drinking beer). And thus my journey into beer began.

But back to good ol' Dad. I at least have him drinking Sam Adams and Yuengling now. I can even get him to try some of my homebrews now and again. But I have him to thank for starting me on my road to finding better the age of 4. Because even then I knew there must be something better than Coor's Light out there.

Cheers to you Dad! And happy Father's Day!