Thursday, May 31, 2012

Before it goes in your mouth, it has to get into the bottle

One of the often overlooked, under appreciated parts to the homebrew process is bottling day. Many homebrewers have moved to kegging their beer for instant gratification. I'm still conditioning mine in bottles for several reasons. First and foremost, I don't have the room or permission from the wife to add a kegerator to our house. Secondly, beer in a keg is only good for so long. In a bottle I can theoretically store my beer forever (For me forever has been as long as a year, but typically doesn't last that long). Recently I spent some time bottling the Cherry Poppin' Wheat. Here's how it went.

First, I had to prep my materials. This meant boiling a cup of water and adding priming sugar- check your recipe for how much.

It also meant cracking the lid off the fermentation bucket. I didn't use a secondary for this brew, so this was the first look I was getting at this beer since I pitched the yeast. I was a little nervous because I let primary go an extra week due to a business trip to Miami. I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.

Next up was to transfer to the bottling bucket and add the priming sugar solution. I took a video- the quality isn't great, but here's what it looks like.

Once in the brewing bucket, it's all up to the brewing wand and the bottle capper.

I use an old school Pepsi crate to house my bottles during the bottling process. I've tried to use old six pack holders and had pretty decent success until this batch. After bottling and capping a six pack this time, I picked it up only to have the now wet bottom fall out resulting in five broken full bottles... Moment of silence...

Thank you. Once all the bottles are filled and capped they can go into storage. I should have taken a video of the capping process. If I was more thoughtful and it wasn't a two hand job and I wasn't already receiving extra help from the kiddos I would have. Maybe next time I'll enlist some help. After cleaning up all my mess and wiping the tears away for my now wasted holiday 5 pack it's time to transport the newly bottle beer to the beer cellar, er basement, for storage until such a time that I can drink them. I typically like to give at least 2 weeks if I can't wait or am running low but prefer longer conditioning times so as to allow the flavor to fully develop. In most cases the longer you wait the better your results, but it's a fine line between waiting forever and just drinking the beer already. One of these days I'll get to a point where I've got enough home brews on hand that waiting won't be such a big deal. But I'm not there yet.

Make sense? Have questions? Leave a comment or send an email- I'll get back to you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is that a strawberry or are you happy to see me?

After a small amount of convincing my wife allowed me some of the strawberries.
I didn't get enough for a full 5 gallon batch, but she did spare me what I needed for a smaller 1 gallon attempt. (Thanks, honey you are the best). In that same spirit of sharing, I'll show you what I'm doing so that maybe you can enjoy some yourself. This recipe is based on the first recipe from Jack Keller's site and modified based on my personal preference and what I had on hand.

So here you go.


12 cups fresh strawberries
4 cups white sugar
2 tsp acid blend (I didn't have citric acid on hand and I figure this will get it close)
EC-1118 yeast (I've also used champagne yeast in this recipe nicely)


1. Cut the tops of the berries and place in a glass jar. Crush the strawberries with you hands. (Here's proof I did that).

2. Add the sugar, acid blend to the crock and mix together.

3. Pour ~1 gallon of boiling water (Should have mentioned you want to start some water boiling before cutting the strawberries).
4. Cool to less than 85F
5. Pitch yeast

That's as far as I've gotten so far. Here's the rest of the procedure, and I'll keep posting updates as we go.

6. Shake/stir daily for 7 days
7. Strain into a fermentation vessel.
8. Top up to 1 gallon
9. Rack after 30 days.
10. Rack again after 30 more.
11. Bottle, age, and enjoy

Here's where I'm at now. More to come.

Hump Day Drinkin' Songs- You can really die from that? edition

If you're a regular follower of the Hump Day Drinkin' Songs posts, you probably figured out by now that I love me some old school country. Here's another oldie but goodie from the Possum. Must be some pretty powerful memories.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What I would have had for you tonight

I was finally able to get the cherry wheat bottled this weekend- though I did drop a six pack in the process. I was planning to write that up and show you some pics and video of the bottling process tonight. I also started some strawberry wine Sunday that I was going to show you pictures of tonight. But my wife's got the camera, so instead you get promises of a better day tomorrow. Wednesday should be a big day. It's the only day of the week we're not chasing kids to ball practice- don't tell anybody with the league we have a night off. So for you, I'll have Hump Day Drinkin' Songs plus at least one of the bottling or the strawberry wine. Come on back, you know you want to.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday morning musings

Happy Memorial Day! My wife took my older boys on their yearly trek around local cemeteries with the boy scouts to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to our country. Stop what you're doing right now and say a prayer in remembrance and thanksgiving for those that have gone before us so we could live the life we live today and write silly internet sites about beer making.

Done? Amen. While they're out, me and the little two got to play GeoTrax. If you don't know what GeoTrax is- you' haven't lived. Pre-school train sets have come a long way since I was a kid. This thing is phenomenal. It's a young boy's (and old man's) dream. You can plan and re-plan, build and re-build some fairly sophisticated train tracks with easy to snap together parts. Do yourself a favor and get some of these for your kids.

They've long since grown bored of that, and we've cleaned up the mess. So I've got a few minutes to blog. Just finished up a guest post for Redsneck. Look for that in the coming days. After bottling the cherry poppin' wheat yesterday, I've now got 3 empty fermentation vessels. What's next? I'm leaning toward a cream ale and probably about to start some Octoberfest.

Looks like it's time to play Little People. Bottoms up!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Think she'll go for it?

Yesterday my wife took 3 of the kids to the strawberry patch to pick berries. I was hoping she'd come back with enough for me to make a full on 5 gallon batch of my strawberry wine. Knowing better, based on the number and assortment of kids she took, I wasn't surprised when the haul was less than 2 years ago. This morning's task is to talk her out of just 11 measly cups of these fresh berries so that I can make a go at 1 gallon of pure deliciousness. Come on, honey, I know you're reading and I know you want to.

Post pleas on my behalf in the comments section, but it's not looking good. She's saying now that I'm asking for more than half of what she has. Might need to make my own trip to the berry patch.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bienvenidos a Miami- I hope you're not looking for craft beer.

So work took me to Miami for four days this week. You'd think in a city that size it would require nothing more than minimal effort to find some craft beer. Well I'm here to tell you that I put forth slightly more than minimal effort and found none.

I spent Monday night at the new Marlins Park (I'll be guest blogging about this over on Redsneck). Here's a sneak peek of a pic I took of the outside.

Marlins Park
I'm used to Great American Ball Park where you can get your fill of craft beer. Not so much at the home of the Marlins. In fact you couldn't even find a Miller Lite. There seem to be 3 options

Heineken: which struck me as odd
Corona: which I suffered through for the first few innings
And a Dominican pilsner called Presidente.

I ponied up the $9 for the Presidente in the 4th inning because I couldn't bring myself to taste any more Corona. Turns out it's essentially the Dominican answer to something nondescript like MGD, except that it's owned by InBev which of course makes it part of the evil empire. So the search for craft beer was looking bleak after 2 days.

I spent Tuesday in meetings and prepping for my Wednesday morning talk. I did wander the streets of downtown dropping into a few shopping areas and stores in search of anything local or craft like. There wasn't even a Sam Adams to be had. I did find cases of Yuengling in a CVS but I can get that in Ohio now.

This brings us to Wednesday. After the meeting was over I was waiting on a shuttle with a coworker. She mentioned that she had a local Amber at the hotel bar the first night of the conference. I of course felt like a dumb ass for not checking the freaking hotel bar, but decided we still had time. We needed food anyway and had time to kill. We arrived at the bar to find out that they were out of this mysterious local amber, but we could have all the Presidente we could drink. How could I resist that. So I had 2 bottles of that with my blackened mahi sandwich- phenomenal meal by the way. If you find yourself at the Miami Hyatt Regency check out the bar and get the mahi.

So, all in all, the search for craft beer was a bust. Next year's meeting is in Boston. I do not expect to be shut out again.

Hump Day Drinkin' Songs-- Thursday edition

So I owe you a song. I blew it this week. I'd like to think I have a good excuse. I spent yesterday morning giving a presentation at a conference for work. And spent the afternoon on planes coming from...

To make it up to you, I'll give you a bonus song from a guy that left way before his time.

I'll fill you in on the beer situation in another post, but don't get too excited.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What do you do with a full primary?

Well, you move it to secondary of course. I've got both a full schedule and a full primary. I've had the cherry wheat in primary for 2 weeks now and with a full work schedule, a full ball schedule and a business trip that starts in 18 hours it's unlikely that I'll be getting around to bottling any time soon. The solution- move it to the carboy and let things continue to work themselves out. I don't use secondary fermenters a lot because honestly I'm not brewing anything that would really benefit. AND- I'm usually too impatient to wait. But in this case, I've got that luxury. So, while I'm waiting on laundry tonight I'll move the cherry wheat from primary to secondary.

Stay tuned for what I hope to be reports on local craft beers from South Beach over the next four days. We'll redefine the South Beach diet. Cheers!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Taking my talent to South Beach

In honor of the Pacers thumping the Heat last night and my upcoming trip to Miami, here's a classic.

With that in mind, what should I be drinking when I get there? Have any experience with craft brew in South Florida? Drop me an email. But remember, Be a man! Put your name on it!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Uncle Ben's Vanilla Porter

One of the best parts of being a new guy is swapping recipes and brews with other new guys. Today I bring you the best of another one of us. Here's the run down on Uncle Ben's Vanilla Porter. He's willing shared so we can enjoy his success. Without further adieu...

Uncle Ben's Vanilla Porter

This is a recipe that I’ve received many compliments on. Now, don’t let the name fool you, it’s just a hint of vanilla to give it the flavor and not over powering at all. Also, as I’ve found with many of my beers, it’s best not to get too excited and crack into them too early. They seem to be better after they age for closer to 2 months than 1.

This recipe is based on a Stovepipe Porter by Otter Creek Brewing (Middlebury, Vermont) with my own vanilla twist.

Heat 1 gallon of water to 160F and add:

12oz British Chocolate Malt
8oz Belgian Cara-Munich Malt
8oz US 60L Crystal Malt
4oz Roasted Barley

Remove the pot from heat and steep at 150F for 30 minutes. Strain the grain water into the pot. Sparge the grains with 1 gallon of 150F water. Bring the water back to a boil, remove from the heat and add:

4lb Alexander’s Pale Malt Extract Syrup
3.25 Muntons Light Dry Malt Extract
6oz Malto Dextrin
1oz Chinook @11.6 AA (bittering hop)

Add water until the total volume in the brew pot is 2.5 gallons. Boil for 45 minutes then add:

1/4oz Cascade (flavor hop)
1/4oz Willamette (flavor hop)
1tsp Irish Moss

Boil for 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the stove and chill the wort for 20 minutes. Strain the cooled wort into the primary fermenter and add cold water until you reach 5 1/8 gallons.

When the wort temp is below 70F pitch the yeast.

Wyeast 1098 British Ale (can also use Wyeast 1028 Londale Ale instead)

When siphoning into the secondary is when we add our vanilla. I use pure vanilla extract but it can also be done by soaking vanilla beans themselves. Use 3-4 cap fulls of the vanilla extract bottle (they are very small) Word of caution, this does not seem like much for a full 5 gallons, but this can easily be over-vanillaed.

T-men, G-men, ATF too

Hump Day Drinkin' songs. 15 minutes of fame edition. Classic George Jones for your mid week enjoyment. Keep those questions coming. Email here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

You've got questions, I've got answers

That's right. Now it's time to ask... New Guy (read that in a Jeff Brantley voice). Have questions related to homebrew? Send them in. Have questions related to some other obscure topic? Send those too. I'll choose one and post a response weekly. You might even see your name in lights. Drop me an email with your question here.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Normally I'd be bottling, instead we'll be celebrating

The scheduled bottling day for the cherry wheat I made last weekend is tomorrow- Saturday. Being a dad as well as a homebrewer sometimes the schedule changes. Tomorrow is one of those days. We'll be celebrating my oldest son's first communion. So the cherry poppin' wheat gets a few days to ferment- which should actually make it smoother anyway and we get to celebrate with my little man. If you're the praying type, we'd sure appreciate a quick mention this weekend. God bless and bottoms up!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Governor Kasich in town for a brewery tour

Ohio's governor Kasich will be touring one of my hometown breweries today as he visits Mt. Carmel Brewing Company on the east side of Cincinnati. I lived about 5 minutes from the brewery for 5 years and never actually knew where it was
until after I'd moved. Still on my list to take a trip back. The new law the governor is touting today will make my trip back a better one. A law enacted in March will lower fees and red tape imposed on smaller, local breweries (including a lift of the ban on samples)that should give them a better shot at competing with the big boys. What's Ohio get out of this? The governor contends that Ohio farmers will see the benefit of the bill as they expect an increase in demand of Ohio grown speciality grains. High five to the legislature and the governor for a much needed spark to the brewing and farming industries in Ohio. If you're ever back in Bethel governor, stop out for a glass of New Guy's latest brew.

CHeck out the story here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hump Day Drinkin' songs- Still country....

Here's your weekly dose of drinking and rocking. Here's one I remember from my childhood- not that I was drinking then, but if I was...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tiny bubbles... In my air lock

The moment of fear for every homebrewer, or at least for me, is after the boil is over, after the yeast is added, after the airlock is added... Then there's the period of nervous anticipation. You know what I'm talking about. That 24 hour period after the bucket is sealed and the airlock is set and you're waiting for those all important signs of fermentation. I mean, after all what good is beer if it's not alcoholic? Seriously, who drinks O'Doul's? No matter how many times I brew, I always have that fear. That fear that it's not going to take. That worry that I've ruined 5 gallons of something potentially amazing. I've managed to be successful again with the cherry wheat and thought I might share with you what success looks like in case it's your first time and you're wondering- or in case you like to rejoice in the success of others. Pardon the video quality- I'm a new guy at that too, but here's a good look at what bubbles should look like. Nothing happens for the first little bit on purpose. There's a lot of waiting involved in homebrewing. Enjoy.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cherry Poppin' Wheat- Get your mind out of the gutter

Saturday, I was finally able to brew that cherry wheat I've been talking about for all these weeks. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of interruptions (Dad, I pooped) and trade offs (installed several various hinges in the barn), but I finally got it done.

Along the way I attempted to get you a video of the addition of hops, but my giant brew kettle made a camera angle that wasn't too close and too foggy difficult to show. In the spirit of a new guy, I'll probably post that eventually, but right now my time is limited-- heading out to enjoy some of that Dead Guy shortly. All that being said, here's the final run down on the cherry wheat.

New Guy Cherry Poppin' Wheat 2012

1. Boil 3 gallons of clean water (adjust downward if you don't have a giant kettle like I do)

2. Remove from heat and add 6.6 lbs wheat liquid malt extract.

3. Return to boil.

4. Add 1 oz. German Perle hops (@ 8.0% alpha).

5. Boil 45 minutes

6. Add Irish moss and a 21 oz can of pie cherries (I've used Comstock) pureed.

7. Boil 15 more minutes.

8. Flame out and cool to 75 degrees.

9. Pitch Wyeast 3333 (German Wheat) smack pack.

I came in with an OG of 1.049, so I hit pretty close to where beer calculus says I should be (1.049) which means I'm aiming for somewhere around 4.7% ABV which for me is a pretty decent session beer. I'll post updates as time goes by. I'm expecting this one to be pretty delicious.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Ohio loosens regulations, craft beer drinkers rejoice

Life just got a little easier for craft brewers in Ohio. As the craft brew market continues to take market share from mega-brewers that continue to try to dominate the market by any means necessary (I'm talking to you InBev), laws such as these will give the little guy a fighting chance. Not only that but they'll make it easier for a guy like me to get a delicious brew without having to wonder if I'm funding the back room shenanigans for our friends from St. Louis.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Time for you to give back a little.

Really struggling to come up with what I want to make next.  I'm leaning toward something crisp that I can drink easily during the hot summer months, but I'm also ready for a nice hoppy IPA.  That's where you come in.  What do you want to see to brew next?  Vote below.

What should I brew next?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hump Day Drinkin' songs... Slightly late edition

What a day.  I know I owe you your Hump Day Drinkin' song.  So here's that.

Now for the reason I'm late, and not brewing.  On the way home tonight I heard this awful grinding noise in my front brakes.  Sounded just like metal to metal.  After wrestling the thing home, I made a bee line for the parts store- in my other car- and quickly dropped 85 big ones on new pads and rotors.  Three beers later my car would once again stop.  Consequently, I really got my money out of those brake pads.  Pictures coming later if I remember.  That's a big win!  Then it was on to the database systems final exam.  That wasn't such a big win, but it did not lead to me brewing that cherry wheat I've been planning for the past 2 weeks.  At any rate, there's your song and my excuses.  Back at it tomorrow with hopefully more time to get this cherry wheat in a bucket so I can start planning my next brew.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Top 5 reasons I make my own beer

Everybody loves lists.  That's still true right?  So here's a list of my own.  I reserve the right to change my mind, but here you go.  The top 5 reasons I make my own...

5.  Quantity- It’s a heck of a lot easier to convince my wife to lay out the money once to brew 2 cases of beer than it is to get her to lay it down 8 times to buy that as individual six packs.

4.  Control-  I’m not afraid to admit it… I am a control freak. . I know what I like and I want it now.  Unfortunately l can’t always find it at the store.  When I can’t, I can make it my own.  For example, I like cherry wheats but I also like them a little hoppier.  So I took the general recipe, made some tweaks and will soon be drinking something similar to what I found at the store with my own little twist.

3.  Fun- Everybody needs a hobby.  I won’t tell you that cleaning bottles is fun, but I will suggest that the output is amazing.

2.  Cost- For what I spend on six 6 packs of Miller Lite, I can get 2 cases of a homemade, higher quality, higher gravity (ABV) beer.

1.  Finally the quality—I’m not at the mercy of some mega corporation trying to cut a buck from the bottom line to decide what my beer tastes like.  I get to decide on my own.  If I want to make a summer slammer to drink while mowing the grass, I can.  If I want to make a winter warmer to  sip by a fire, I can.  I’m the decision maker in what quality brew I turn out.

Success or failure- and there have been a lot more successes-  rests within my own hands.  I’m the master of my own destiny and it tastes good.  See something at the store you really like but want more alcohol, do it.  Really like Coors Light?  This probably isn’t for you.  But if you enjoy, for lack of a better term, more sophisticated beers and are looking for a way to cut down on the cost, home brewing might just be for you.

Hopped up on cherries

I know I've been promising you a cherrry wheat for some time.  I've got ingredients now all I need is time.  Finals week is catching up to me. It's like being back in undergrad.  Anyway enough excuses.  I thought I'd give you a sneak peek at the recipe.  I've decided that last year's brew wasn't hoppy enough so I'm subbing in Pearle for the tettnang, but still should come in about 4.5% ABV which makes for a nice summer session beer.  Here's what I'm planning, let me know what you think before it's too late...

6.6 lbs wheat malt syrup
1 oz Pearle hops (60 min)
1 tsp Irish moss (15 min)
21 oz can pie cherries (pureed) (15 min)
Wyeast 3333 German Wheat yeast smack pack