Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hop Trellis

Yesterday I finally finished building a hop trellis in the backyard.  This would not have been possible without the help of my lovely assistant, Mel.  About a month ago I ordered a few hop rhizomes to grow my own hops.  I ordered nugget, cascade, and willamette hops.   I am super excited about getting the hops planted and eventually being able to make beers with them.  The trellis is just over 10' tall at its highest point and is in an "L" shape around the garden.  The long side being 16' and short side is 8'.  The most difficult part of the build was by far digging the post holes.  The soil here is almost entirely clay and I live on the side of a hill, so digging the holes deep enough took a lot of effort and time.  They were dug approximately 3' into the ground using nothing but a couple of $5 shovels bought from the lawn and garden section of a local grocery chain. The first shovel broke after getting halfway down on the last of the four holes.  I promised myself I wouldn't buy another cheap shovel, but I did so anyway to stay on budget.

The trellis is now ready to give the soon-to-arrive hops a happy place to climb.  It also provides some much needed shade from the Texas sun for the garden.  There is still some work to be done providing a better soiled footing for the rhizomes, and I plan on adding a bench on the end for a good place to sit by the garden while adding some extra support to the long side of the trellis.  For the time being however, the build is done!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Beginnings...

It is the start of a new year!  It has been 4 or 5 months since I last posted to this blog, but as usual I will play a bit of catch-up.  I haven't made too many beers in the last few months, and there are many excuses (temporary alcoholic psycho roommate, seasonal job loading trucks/helping deliver packages at UPS, spending as little money as possible, etc).  I have been a part of a couple of brews a friend made (in as far as it was mostly brewed on my equipment and I have been drinking a lot of the end-product).  At the start of this month I did make one beer that would be normal to any one else. 

This beer has been dubbed "Moving Day Dark Ale" (or MDDA) and is exactly that.  I assembled enough ingredients from the left-overs on my shelves and had a go at a 6.5%ish stoutish porterish kinda thing.  This was about as far as the knowledge of the ingredients goes as well.  I learned I need to do a better job labeling.  MDDA likely has about 1.5 pounds of flaked oats, half a pound of black patent, half a pound of chocolate malt, and a total of two pounds of various crystal malts, biscuit, special B, maris otter, and a few others.  All this was supplemented by a few pounds of dried malt extract, which was half light, a quarter amber, and a quarter dark.  The only ingredients I had to buy were a couple of ounces of willamette hops and a pack of yeast.  I procrastinated a bit on bottling and instead filled my keg.  There isn't room for a keg in our fridge so instead it goes outside on cold nights for its momentary enjoyment. 

The reason for this supply eater of a beer was to make a move a little easier.  The same goes for the use of a keg instead of bottles... It is much easier to move one 5 gal keg than a bunch of bottles not to mention the keg can get rolled around in the back of a moving truck.

New Orleans has been a wonderful city.  I found myself planning my beers out more than ever while living there.  In part this is due to the insanely hot summer days.  It is a real challenge to find a cool spot in an old shotgun style house when it is 100+ degrees outside.  The city has a lot going for it.  With NOLA Brewing, Avenue Pub, and all the start-ups that are likely to pop up in the coming year, it will be a great destination for brewers and enthusiasts alike to visit.  There is a great thing about New Orleans and its people; everything is done with just a bit more flare.  I can't wait to try out a recipe for a Cajun IPA or Creole Triple.

That said, where did I move? AUSTIN, TEXAS! well, Round Rock, but it is pretty much AUSTIN!

I have returned to a city where beer is held in high regard.  The homebrew stores are bigger as are the beers.  There are a lot of micro-breweries and brewpubs.  There are stores for beer, wine, and spirits bigger than my old high school's gym.  It is a great place to learn more, and I really hope to use it as such.  I am making an effort to make more beers here.  Not just more beers, but also to fine-tune a few of my favorites and enter more competitions.  Also, after I figure out what my work schedule will be like, I will join a local homebrew club to learn from its members and meet some fellow brewers.  I am quite excited to get going here.

I have the ingredients for my first beer to be made in my new home.  Its is a Rogue Brutal Bitter kit with a few hop substitutes and improvements.  I will be able to do it as soon as I locate the rest of my brewing supplies currently still in boxes.  Pictures of everything will be added in a few days after I figure out where things are and muster up some will-power to unpack more.  Until then, have a good one. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ahtanum the hoppy

Since the last post the "SkateRat Brown Ale" has been bottled and is well on its way to being completely gone.  It is probably the best beer I have made in the last year.  I ended up dry-hopping it with an ounce of Columbus hops as well, and I am very glad I did.  What started out as a mostly traditional English brown is anything but that now.  It pours nice, has a head that sits around for a very, VERY long time, and is (in my oh so humble opinion) a perfect balance of malty, sweet, and hoppy. This will be made again, and soon.

Next we have "Ahtanum."  Ahtanum is well, weird.  I haven't had a chance to taste it yet but this is how it came into being.  I couldn't sleep one night and decided to formulate a beer that embodied my girlfriend.  In retrospect; that is possibly a bad idea if it turns out bad, but we will just hope that it doesn't for now.  The recipe is as follows:

8 lb Vienna Malt
2 lb Munich Malt
1 lb Flaked Rye Malt
0.5 lb Briess Special Roast
0.25 lb CaraRed Malt
0.25 lb Smoked Malt
1 tsp gypsum in start of boil
1 oz Ahtanum Hops (60 min)
1 oz Northern Brewer Hops (45 min)
1 oz Ahtanum Hops (30 min)
0.5 oz Northern Brewer Hops (15 min)
0.5 oz Ahtanum Hops (10 min)
0.5 oz Northern Brewer Hops (5 min)
0.5 oz Ahtanum Hops (1 min)
DRY HOPS - 1 oz Ahtanum (7 days)
                      1 oz Northern Brewer  (7 days)

Wyeast Scottish Ale Yeast (1728)

This is a very strange beer but everything has its reason and purpose.  It is even bipolar in a sense in that it doesn't know whether to be hoppy or smoky/malty.  It should come out fairly red for her red hair.  Scottish yeast for her Scottish ancestry.  so on, so on, blah blah...

Brewing Ahtanum
I also designed a cool logo for this one's label.  She has raven wings tattoed on her back, so I turned some feathers into hops and this is how it came out.

Label on bottle

Actual artwork
Flock of Ahtanum!
That does it for the beers.  But I also made my first soda yesterday morning. I made 5 gallons of root beer!  I took the easy route and made it from an extract, but this was not meant to be a very arduous endeavor.  Recipe is very simple:

4 oz Root Beer extract
2 lb Brown Sugar
1.5 lb Sugar
1 cup Molasses

Root Beer ingredients
After mixing it all up in a warm pot, I transferred it all into my 5 gal keg and hooked it up to the CO2.  After having done this and tasted it, the next batch will be better.  The next batch won't have any molasses and I'll move up to 6 ounces of extract.  It is really good though, and tastes most like a root beer from an old soda fountain.  The PSI of the CO2 is also a bit hard to judge, I currently have it at about 30psi.  I started much lower, but didn't get the carbonation that I wanted.  So I keep creeping up on it and have settled at 30 for now.  I don't know the math for how many volumes of CO2 or carbonation, so any fellow beer geeks can just deal.  This root beer has been dubbed "Maximum Possibility Root Beer."  It is named after a sign a friend had in my photobooth recently saying "Maximum Possibility Zone."

Maximum Possibility Root Beer
As usual comment with any thoughts, questions, suggestions etc.  After checking the "hits" this blog has had recently I find it pretty awesome that it has readers from 6 continents... so man up Antarctica!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

SkateRat Brown Ale, Fion Eorna (Barleywine), Sterling Hop Project, and so on...

I have brewed a number of beers since my last post and I feel like sharing a bit while I wait for some wort to cool.  I am currently brewing "SkateRat Brown Ale."  It is one of the smaller beers I make with an original gravity of 1.044, or about 4.5% ABV.  SkateRat makes for a great session style English nut brown ale.  The only difference in this beer from its English brethren is an additional half an ounce of American Cascade hops with 10 minutes left in the boil.  So um, not soo English.  I brewed it this time as an all-grain beer featuring Maris Otter, Belgian special B, Belgian biscuit, chocolate, and Briess special roast malts.  With only 8.5 lbs of grain for a 5 gal batch it is very doable on my set-up.  As for the label seen above, it is extremely edited.  I am a skateboarder, but there is no chance I could ever get that high off a 5 ft quarter pipe.

The previous beer(s) were designed to feature sterling hops and a very unusual base malt arrangement.  I realized I had never used the hops before and wanted to experiment with them a bit.  The base malt(s) is comprised of Vienna, Maris Otter, and CaraMunich malts with some Aromatic and Biscuit malts to round things out.  The beers were made by brewing a single 6 gal batch, splitting it into 2 separate fermenters, and pitching the different yeasts.  The were both dry-hopped with exactly them same amounts of Sterling and Mt. Hood hops as well.  So far I have only opened one of these beers, but it wasn't carbonated yet.  These should be perfectly drinkable within a week.

Finally, there is "Fion Eorna."  A monster of a barleywine.  A lot of grains, a lot of malt extract, and a crap-ton of honey.  She was brewed on St. Patrick's Day.  A brew session that I will make an annual event wherever I am living.  This beer is also only to be drunk on St. Patrick's Day.  That is aside from a few bottles set apart to check on tastes in the first year.  Fion Eorna has nearly 3/4 pound of hops and just over 5 1/2 pounds of honey.  The honey was added at different stages of fermentation to keep the yeast as healthy and vibrant as possible.  She was also dry-hopped with an insane amount of Cascade and Willamette hops in what ended up being the tertiary fermenter.  I have only had one so far, but I can't wait until next year when I get to open the first 4-pack! At a rate of a 4-pack each year, it will last me TEN!    

Wort is cooled. YAY!! Time for me to tranfer to a carboy, clean up my patio of random brewing equipment/mess, and carry everything back upstairs. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Brew Parade and Rally

The past couple of months have been productive ones! After making the Red Rye IPA (WhyNottaWryRye), several more beers came to be in a fairly short amount of time.  First was the Oatmeal Stout.  I used two pounds of flaked oats in this one in order to taste a beer with too much oat.  I also decided to mash at a slightly lower temperature to keep the beer tasting dry, which is very unusual for the commonly sweet and smooth beer style.  It turned out great, and even has a bit of a bite from the oats in the finish.  The next time I make this beer I plan to use about half of the oats and step up on the roasted grains a bit.

Next to come was a new version of the Vanilla Cream Ale.  I used more grains in this extract version than any previous beer I have made.  I also used a little less vanilla than usual.  It finished conditioning in the bottles a couple weeks ago, and I have to say for my taste it is way too sweet.  This could be from a number of things, but I am quite certain it comes from using the Euro Blend Ale Yeast.  This yeast strain tends to leave more residual sugars in the beer; I underestimated this greatly.  All is not lost however, Mel seems to really like it and I am extremely capable of having one every now and then.

The same day as making the VCA, I made my first Cascadian Dark Ale.  It consists of a simple malt bill plus a small amount of debittered black malt to give the beer its dark color while not adding too much body, or a heavy taste.  Total amount of hops in this one is about half a pound, and after adding the dry hops to the secondary last night it smells amazing!

Finally, I made a Juniper beer.  This is a bit of a wild one.  In total there a half pound of Juniper Berries in the five gallon batch.  Four ounces in the mash, two in the boil, and two just after the boil (flame out).  The recipe is as follows:

  • 4 oz Juniper Berries, crushed
  • 2 lb flaked Rye
  • 1 lb Aromatic Malt
  • 1 lb Crystal Malt 80L
  • 4 oz flaked Wheat
  • 4 oz CaraPils
  • 4 lb extra light/pilsen Dried Malt Extract
  • 2 oz Hallertau Hops (90 min)
  • 2 oz Juniper Berries, crushed (90 min)
  • 2 oz Juniper Berries, crushed (flame out)
As if this beer isn't strange enough, I used Belgian Ardennes Ale Yeast.  Which should give the beer some interesting fruity and spicy notes.  Also, it is really really difficult to crush dried juniper berries.  So, add water and use a blender.  It looks gross and gets a very pungent smell/taste.  It is however, fun.

This Juniper beer dubbed "Jumpin' Juniper" will be bottled tomorrow.  In the spirit of this experimental beer, I will use honey to prime the bottles for conditioning.

Last week I returned from Houston, TX where I visited family and attended the American Homebrewers Association Rally at Saint Arnold's Brewery.  It was an educational and inspiring trip to the brewery.  I met a lot of homebrewers and everyone was friendly.  Instead of boring you with words, how about some pictures?

Saint Arnold Parade Car
Mash-tun, Lauter-tun, and Kettle
 Weather permitting, I will be brewing another Imperial Stout in the next week.  Any of you who read this should suggest what other beer should be made next.  I see you, I know you read this, say hi sometime.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Yay Fire!

I finally got to make beer again! Yay! Mel got me the propane burner for xmas and two propane tanks for my birthday. Thank you! I also purchased a wort chiller and enough ingredients to make four beers. These beers are: (drumroll please)
1. "WhyNottaWryRye" - Red Rye IPA
2. Vanilla Cream Ale V
3. Cascadian Dark Ale - or American India Dark Ale, or Black IPA, or whatever
4. Oatmeal Stout VII

With all of this new stuff I now at least have the ability to make partial mash beers, or brewing with about half grain and half extract. I made the WhyNottaWryRye the other night on what turned out to be one of the coldest nights I have had in New Orleans. It was worth it and fun. And I drank a lot. The biggest obstacle I had was trying to figure out the most efficient way to use all this new stuff. But hey, now I know the efficiency rates of my new system, and how to work out the bugs before the next brew. Here is what happened, enjoy.

 The burner and tank

 Brought the kitchen table out for a clean surface

 Mash in

 Mash temperature

Ghetto sparger

 Spent grains

Spent grains as fertilizer


Chill it!

I had fun.  Can't wait to have a drink of it. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

The world of things keeping me from brewing...

I haven't been making beer... at all. The last batch I made was the red ale that I got on the cheap. Since then (mid October), I have acquired more and more equipment with the purpose of making better beer and soon stepping up to all-grain batches. Really, the biggest obstacle has been of the financial variety. There are always the usual expenses in my life like food, rent, bills, etc. However, with the added cost of replacing the coolant pump, hoses, and thermostat on a suburban it doesn't leave a whole lot of spending money.

Secondly, I worked more last month than I have in a very long time. I did at least have a lot of fun doing it. I work for a photo booth company that mostly does wedding, birthdays, and the like. I recently worked a few conventions as well. These are more stressful than most as far as setting up and loading/unloading go.
The benefit of doing them is a lot of down time. Normally I just have to check on the thing every fifteen minutes or so to make sure the paper doesn't get jammed up or run out. This leaves me with a lot of time to read... something that even feels odd for me to say. I finally finished a the biggest book I have ever read, 1001 Beers to Try Before You Die. From this I learned that there are so many awesome beers of the world that I really don't care about. And yes, the United States makes some great beers, so does Germany, so does England, and so does Belgium. Surprised? No. It is rather annoying to read about these supposedly majestic brews that I am likely to never come across. For instance one of them is only served one day a week for only a couple of hours in a remote village in Germany. It was really cool to read about the brewery histories and see the dates of the recipe formulation for most of the beers though. I was happy to see that Rogue, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Goose Island, Dogfish, and numerous others from the U.S. had several that made the cut.

I also finished Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher. This is one of my favorite brewing books. Full of historic references, recipes, and outlandish ideas, it is a very motivating book. I'd have to make a beer every week for a year to do all that I have book-marked. Convention centers have some nice quiet hiding spots to make all of this brew-book reading possible.

I recently acquired a few new books as well:
The Homebrewers Companion by Charlie Papazian
Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels
Brewing with Wheat by Stan Hieronymus

The major reason I haven't made anything in a while is that I need to get a propane burner. I have a new 10 gallon kettle. I can't imagine trying to get 6 or 7 gallons of wort to boil on a stove top. It would likely take half a day while straddling two burners. I don't want to pay the gas bill after a month of that.

I will be getting a burner soon, and have mentally planned out the first batches I will make on it:
1. English Imperial IPA modeled after Stone's Emperial IPA
2. Vanilla Cream Ale (using organic grains, hops, and vanilla beans)
3. Lavender Red Rye Ale
4. American Barleywine
5. Oatmeal Stout
This isn't necessarily the order, but you get the idea.

In closing: Random Pictures!

In order: Realtor convention, Red Ale keg set-up for Halloween in costume, Exploded Pumpkin Ale, What happens to a book shelf when beer explodes?, Bottle Tree!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pumpkin Ale! (a picture story - kinda)

It took me a few days to get around to it, but not for lack of trying. I decided to make a pumpkin ale for Halloween.

So here it goes (Recipe is for an extract brewer with very little equipment):

6-10 lb Pumpkin
1 lb Vienna Malt
0.5 lb Crystal Malt 40L
0.5 lb Malted Wheat
6 lb Light Dried Malt Extract
1 cup Brown Sugar
0.5 cup Molasses
1 oz Mt. Hood Hops (boiling)
0.8 oz Hallertauer Hops (finishing)
1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spices
0.25 tsp Ginger
American Ale Yeast

Cut up 6 to 10 pounds of pumpkins (like the ones for pie)

Roast the pumpkin in an oven at 350 degrees for about an hour (or until soft)

Add grains and roasted pumpkin to pot or mash-tun or kettle or whatever. Let this stew for an hour at about 150 degrees.

Bring Wort to a boil and add brown sugar, molasses, and dried malt extract. Don't let it boil over!

Add Mt. Hood Hops. This is when to start a timer. These hops will be in the boil for a total of 60 minutes. There isn't anything else to do for 45 minutes, so it is a great time to clean up what you can and have a beer... or two.

Today I used this time to siphon off two big bottles worth of the Imperial Stout that I made some time ago.

The rest of the Imperial Stout won't be ready until xmas time after it is aged in an oak barrel that I have yet to even order.

Consider it good luck when making a Halloween beer to have a black cat trotting about in the brewspace (kitchen in my case).

After 45 minutes of boiling, add the Hallertauer Hops. These will boil for the last 15 minutes.

Turn off the burner. Make sure everything is well-stirred. Add the pumpkin pie spice and ginger.

Stir in the spices, and cool down the wort as quickly as possible. For me, this means filling the bathtub with cold water and putting the pot into it.

After the wort is cooled to about 80 degrees, transfer it to a fermenter. Since it is an extract recipe add cold water to get to about 5 gallons (or to get the target sugar levels and specific gravity and potential alcohol and such, but lets not stress ourselves right now.

Add yeast. Make a pretty label.

After cleaning up the sticky mess strewn about the kitchen by the insane amount of pumpkin and whatnots so your girlfriend doesn't freak out about having sticky feet every time she goes through the kitchen; Have a beer and a hookah... you deserve it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Beer Day!

I decided to make today beer day due to sheer boredom. I made a batch of beer that most closely resembles a black belgian or belgian porter. I think I'm going to call it "Belgian Blackout" to go with the beer I bottled a couple weeks ago that is more of a stereotypical Belgian ale named "Angry Belgian Imposter." It is "angry" because of a high alcohol content of about 14%. I also bottled an IPA I made about a week ago. It smells amazing and I can't wait to have a taste. This IPA is actually the cheapest beer I have ever made, being on a tight budget and all. I spent a total of $26 on all the ingredients. The best part is that I could have made it even cheaper, but I refuse to skimp out on hops while making an IPA. It just wouldn't be right.

The "Angry Belgian..." that I mentioned turned out really well. As you may have noticed, I'm on a belgian kick. I like them. A lot. Anyway, I really think it tastes a lot like Corsondunk (spelling?) except not quite as dry tasting. Cosondunk is a fairly popular belgian beer in the U.S. and I have found it in grocery stores most of the places I have lived (not WV).

It has been a long time since I updated this blog... I honestly forgot about it comletely for a little bit. Hopefully that won't be the case this time.

Do me a favor... have a beer.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Here are some recipes... (all for a 5 gal. batch) enjoy...

Oatmeal Stout:
6.6 lb Light unhopped malt syrup
1 lb crystal malt 80L
0.5 lb Black Patent malt
0.5 lb chocolate malt
0.5 lb flaked oats
0.5 lb roasted barley
1.5 oz kent goldings hops
1 tsp irish moss
pacific ale yeast

Honey Wheat Ale:
4 lb pale malt extract syrup
2.2 lb bavarian wheat malt extract
3/4 oz kent goldings hops (bittering)
5 lb clover honey
0.25 oz kent goldings hops (aroma)
burton ale yeast

Lavender/Juniper Gruit:
2 lb cara-pils malt
1 lb crystal malt
0.5 lb flaked oats
6.6 lb pale malt extract syrup
1 lb wheat dry malt extract
2 tsp irish moss
2 oz dried woodruff
1 oz dried lavender
1 oz dried juniper berries
0.5 oz dried rosemary

This is just to give an example of what goes into a few different beers. I try to reuse as many ingredients as possible in beers made around the same time to cut costc a little. If you are curious about any other recipes let me know and I'll post it or find out about it.

p.s.- I expect to make the gruit on Monday or Tuesday. That is actually, Mel wants to make her first beer. I will be instructing her as she makes it. I'm really excited about this one and can't wait to have a taste.