Sunday, June 30, 2013

First brew of 2013 - Black IPA

So, it's been a pretty long time since I brewed.  In fact, I'm embarrassed to say, the last beer I brewed was over a year ago! (yes, I made a mead last fall, but that doesn't really count...).  I've been excited to finally get back to it!  My parent's bought me a recipie kit from Austin Homebrew for Christmas - a Black IPA.  It's an all grain kit, and the grain is un-crushed; good because it keeps better this way, but I didn't have a grain mill so I haven't gotten around to brewing it until now.  I finally bit the bullet and bought a Barley Crusher grain mill with a 7 lb hopper.

Brew day went pretty well, considering how long it's been since I've brewed!

The new Barley Crusher mill worked like a charm!

I had to improvise a new fermentation chamber as the last one I built was insufficient to deal with the Houston summer heat.  So for now, I hooked up my temperature controller to an old minifridge.  The minifridge's internal thermostat doesn't work anymore (it just runs at full all the time until everything freezes), so I figured since I was going to bypass that anyway and use my temperature controller, it would work perfectly as a fermentation chamber!  I removed the door lining, and the fermentor just barely fits.  Looks like my next project will be to build a bigger fermentation chamber around this fridge.

Black IPA

Estimated OG: 1.078 SG
Estimated Color: 24.6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 171.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 76.7 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     
14 lbs 12.0 oz        Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)          
8.0 oz                Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM)          
8.0 oz                Brown Malt (65.0 SRM)                    
8.0 oz                Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM)    
1.04 oz               Millenium [15.20 %] - Boil 60.0 min      
1.04 oz               Warrior [15.23 %] - Boil 60.0 min       
1.04 oz               Zythos [10.90 %] - Boil 60.0 min         
1.04 oz               Zythos [10.38 %] - Boil 30.0 min         
1.04 oz               Falconer's Flight [10.85 %] - Boil 15.0  
2.0 pkg               California Ale (White Labs #WLP001) 
1.00 oz               Falconer's Flight [11.40 %] - Dry Hop 
1.00 oz               Zythos [10.90 %] - Dry Hop 

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 16 lbs 4.0 oz
Name              Description                             Step Temperat Step Time     
Mash In           Add 5.58 gal of water at 160.3 F        150.0 F       60 min        

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (0.36gal, 3.99gal) of 168.0 F water

Friday, June 28, 2013

3rd Year Hops!

The hops have been doing pretty well!  Just thought I'd add some pictures of their growth.  I had to add a fence to keep the deer out (we have a heard of about 20 who migrate through our yard every day!).  One of the plants even has about a dozen cones on it already!

Friday, March 15, 2013

New Property - New Hop Trellis

My how the time flies!  Much has changed since my last post.  We moved further into the country so that we could have some more land and have room for a big garden, chickens, etc.  Our new home is a beautiful log cabin on 1.6 wooded acres!  But the real selling point for me was the barn - a 2,000 square foot metal building!  I have big plans for the barn: workshop, climbing wall, storage, but best of all - an upgraded brewery!

I decided to build a new hop trellis on our new property.  Fortunately, I found a dead tree trunk in the woods that was perfect - probably about 12 feet tall and fairly straight.  I screwed 3 eye bolts in at the top of the trunk.
Then I attached a steel guy wire, and a length of twine to each eye bolt.
I dug a 3 foot hole, and put a piece of brick at the bottom to make a stable bottom.  After placing the trunk in the hole, I filled around it with crushed stone so it will drain, and hopefully the trunk will be less likely to rot.  I evenly spaced the 6 lines around the base of the trunk, and dug a hole at each line for a hop hill.
My daughter helped me with the digging... :-)  I dug up the root ball from our old property and cut off some rhizomes about 4 or 5 inches long.  After planting a rhizome in each hole, I filled the hole with steer manure compost, and covered the mound with mulch.  Finally, I ran some drip irrigation lines from the garden to each mound.
Looking forward to seeing how they grow in the new location!  I don't expect a large harvest this year, since I am starting from small rhizomes again - they will mostly be establishing their roots this year.  Still, it would be nice to get enough to make a fresh hop IPA!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

My First Mead

A friend of mine has discovered that he has a gluten sensitivity, and wanted me to try making a mead.  I decided to go with this recipe.  Compared to making beer, this looks like it should be pretty easy!


  • 15 lbs of honey (I used a local wildflower honey available at my local homebrew store)
  • 5 tsp acid blend
  • 5 tsp yeast nutrient
  • 1 packet of champagne yeast
I made a starter the day before.  On brew day, I mixed the 15 lbs of honey with water into the boil kettle for a total of 5 gallons.  Mix it up and slowly bring the temperature up to 170 deg F.  Hold the temperature for 20 minutes. (there is some disagreement here between those who make mead - some say the heating is unnecessary due to the antibiotic properties of the honey, and claim the temperature affects the taste.  Others say the heating is necessary to pasteurize it.  Since this is my first mead, I just decided to play it safe and go ahead and heat it).  Chill the mixture to 70 deg F.  Then add 5 tsp of acid blend and 5 tsp of yeast nutrient.  Finally, pitch the yeast.  After 3 months, you are supposed to transfer to a secondary carboy to finish fermenting.  Looking forward to seeing how this one comes out!  Could be a long wait, though - honey is a slow fermenter, and apparently can take 6 mos to a year to fully ferment!

1/13 update: racked to secondary carboy.  Checked gravity: 1.104 SG.

6/18 update: Checked gravity: 1.074 SG.  This is clearly taking longer than anticipated.  I think I will pitch some new yeast.

6/27 update: pitched packet of LALVIN EC-1118 yeast and 1 tsp of yeast nutrient.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Taddy Porter Clone

Well, today is both Father's Day and my birthday.  My wife surprised me this morning with the sweetest pictures and cards from my daughters.  She also suggested that I have a brew-day this weekend, so I decided to make a Taddy Porter clone which I've been thinking about doing for some time.  I've been reading some old brewing texts lately, and reading up on the history of Porter.  Very interesting beer (and one of my favorites!).  It seems that historically porter was made primarily with brown malt.  Most modern porters, however, use pale malt as the base, and varying amounts of roasted malts (black, chocolate, patent, etc.) to get the color and flavor.  Some recipes I saw also used treacle or blackstrap molasses.  These sound intriguing, but I settled on the following recipe without molasses:

Recipe: Taddy Porter Clone
Style: Brown Porter
TYPE: All Grain

Recipe Specifications --------------------------
Boil Size: 7.74 gal
Post Boil Volume: 6.24 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.10 gal
Estimated OG: 1.052 SG
Estimated Color: 23.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 27.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 76.4 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients: ------------
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
8 lbs 8.9 oz Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) Grain 3 77.9 %
14.8 oz Brown Malt (65.0 SRM) Grain 4 8.4 %
14.8 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L (40.0 SRM) Grain 5
8.4 % 9.2 oz Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM) Grain 6 5.3 %
1.63 oz Fuggles [4.20 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 7 23.6 IBUs
0.65 oz Fuggles [4.20 %] - Boil 10.0 min Hop 8 3.4 IBUs
0.9 pkg London Ale Yeast (Wyeast Labs #1028) [12 Yeast 9 -
Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 10 lbs 15.7 oz
Name Description Step Temperature Step Time
 Mash In Add 15.73 qt of water at 166.1 F 152.0 F 60 min
Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (1.51gal, 4.12gal) of 168.0 F water

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Second Year Hops (Cascade)

We moved the hops to the back yard this year.  We lost a couple trees in the back yard due to last year's drought, which is unfortunate, but also provided an opportunity because now I think there is enough light in the back yard for the hops to grow!  I moved our raised garden bed close to the house, and ran some twine up the the eve of the second-story roof.  That should give the vines plenty of room to grow.  The biggest problem this year seems to be caterpillars.  Specifically, hop merchants!  I have to check them pretty much daily to pick them off.  They can eat some leaves pretty quick...
The hops are sharing the garden bed with arugula (bottom) and peas (right).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stir Plate Build

OK, so I've been doing all-grain for a while now, and have been looking for new ways to improve the quality of my brews.  The things I've identified are: making starters, better oxygenation of wort, better temperature control (the peltier thermoelectric fermentation chamber turned out to be a bit under-powered, but we'll save that for another post).  I think making starters will have the greatest impact on my beer quality, and it may also save me money since, at the same time, I think I may start "washing" and re-using yeast, which is by far the most expensive ingredient.  I've done small starters before, using a mason jar covered w/ foil that I just shake periodically, but I'm looking to do a little better, so I built a stir-plate.  Parts list as follows:
(1) computer fan
(1) potentiometer
(1) DC spst lighted switch
(1) dial knob
(1) cigar box
(1) DC adapter
(4) bolts w/ nuts
(4) nylon washers
(2) neodymium (rare-earth) magnets
hot glue
(1) teflon magnetic stir bar
I bought all of the electrical components, switches, knobs, etc at radioshack.  I picked up the wooden cigar box for free from my local liquor store.  And, I found an old DC adapter in my box of wiring junk.  I bought the magnets at Ace Hardware, and I bought the stir bar at Austin Homebrew Supply.

I drilled four holes in the top of the cigar box for mounting the fan, and holes in the front for the switch and speed knob.

 The fan is mounted on the under-side of the box lid.  The two rare-earth magnets are hot-glued to the spinning hub of the fan.  Notice I ended up using a different fan than what I started with.  The first one spun too quickly, and kept throwing the stir-bar.
 My first yeast starter on the stir-plate!