Sunday, January 31, 2016

Brewery (I mean home) Repairs

My hobby has been abated for a few weeks because of a lack of climate control in the basement, where I do ales in winter.
But tonight I have a well made Amber starting up in the downstairs bath.
This was made possible by the new heater I had installed yesterday.
New upstairs too.  And fresh AC units.
The whole story would bore you more than you already are, but lets just say that a perfect storm of 20-year old HVAC units, a somewhat lax attitude toward fixing the basement and an unusual Nashville snowfall led to a cold house, an uncomfortable family and a big overdue expense.
The new outdoor units look pretty nice, though.
And I'm looking forward to brewing in comfort with the new vent installed in the garage.

Good Beer To You.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Yeast and Bottle Caps

Last week I decided to bottle my Brown Ale and sanitized a batch of bottles without checking to see if I had caps first.
 Cleaning nearly all of my flip tops was frustrating but at least now I have a set of crown tops ready for the Bock that's going to be ready next week.

Now for the more serious mistake.

I often save the healthy trub from the bottom of the fermenter when I package my beers and use it a few more times to save money.
Also, the pitch will be really good if you use it within a short time.
I'll re-pitch California Ale yeast 4 and sometimes 5 times before I get too worried that it's dirty or tired.
If I really wanted to explore this aspect of brewing right now I'd get a microscope and "wash" the yeast, re-using it indefinitely.
I'd have a small lab.
On the lower left of this photo you can see the clear glass growler that contains last week's 1056 I harvested from the Brown.
I noticed it when I reached for a beer to celebrate my efforts on today's just finished IPA.
Of course, I began to wonder what yeast I actually pitched after chilling the wort.  After some detective work I have determined this to be the 4th use of 1056 I last pitched on November 22nd into a Pale.  Before that I used it in an Amber and a Blonde.  I have great hope for this beer despite the circumstances.
Although I am taken aback by the string of challenges and failures of the last six months, they only cause me to re-double my efforts and learn from these painful mistakes.
Don't get me wrong.  The IPA will probably be just fine.  That yeast, although 7 weeks old, will probably start right up and make a great beer.
But I've learned a lot in the 15 years I've done this.  One principle is that the reduction of variables, balanced against the cost of that reduction, is a key contributor to success.
If I am lucky enough to get funding for a small brewery in my neighborhood I am going to need a methodology that reduces beer production to a set of tasks that, properly repeated, will yield a product of consistent and reliable quality.
I think I have my process down pretty well.  I just need to pay a little more attention to my own rules and procedures.
Peace, Love, Beer.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

My Beer Runneth Over. Not Good.

To an experienced brewer this photo says it all.  You open the bottle and out comes a gentle fountain of foam.  This beer got infected somehow and since every bottle suffered in the same way I'd guess the beer wasn't the greatest when I put it in there.
This is the last of a batch of Steam Beer I made some time ago.
I'm still not having much luck making this beer well since we moved from Memphis 4 and a half years ago.  A bad fermentation is just an added insult.  This does not happen often in my brewery.  But every once in a while I'm reminded to pay more attention to sanitation. 
I can't help but to try and make this beer again.
Maybe in the Spring.
My beer is plentiful, though.
I have kegged (and already drank about half of) a great tasting English Pale.  And I'm lagering an Oktoberfest for a few weeks in the keg for the Winter.
Out of CO2 right now.  But I'll get filled up by the weekend.
I just bottled an Oktoberfest I made right after the first one and put it in the stock room along with the Amber I bottled last weekend.
I made a Pale today using the yeast I harvested by racking the IPA I made a week ago.
The IPA, surprisingly, is taking a bit longer for visible fermentation to fall off.
The Pale (on the left) is just getting started.
I'm going to have a lot of packaging to do in the next couple of weeks.
Good Beer To You.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bitter October

I decided to make the best use of my yeast.
I made a Best Bitter right before we went on vacation.
This is a good beer.  I find myself rationing it over time as my supply diminishes.
So I thought, why not make two batches so I can enjoy it throughout the year as I continue to make my core group of American Ales. 
I have the yeast, after all. since I bottled Bellevue's Best Bitter yesterday.
So I made it again.
 Good mash temperature.  Decent efficiency.
I think I'll drop this one into the keg and save the bottles I packaged yesterday for the Winter/Spring drinking season.
Same with the Oktoberfest I made nearly a month ago.
My good neighbor, Eric likes this beer so I'll keg the batch I've got in the fermenter now and turn the yeast around this weekend for a batch of bottles to make Eric happy for the Winter.
He has mowed my yard twice when I have been out of town or out of sorts.
I think he deserves a well made beer.
 And, as always, Good Beer To You too.

Monday, September 28, 2015

It's October. Where's The Maerzen?

Yes, I know this beer is normally made in March and lagered until it is ready to be consumed in the Fall but I like to make it around the time it gets cool enough here to ferment ales in the basement leaving the fermentation vault in the garage available for the month it takes to finish a lager like this one.  There are other beers to be made in the interim.  Bitters, Alts, probably another Amber and an IPA.  Maybe even a Rye IPA.
Anyway here it is.
Good krausen on top despite the vault holding the temperature to around 51 degrees.
I had made a starter from a fresh pack of Bavarian Lager yeast a couple of weeks ago.  It started a little slow and I didn't get to brew anyway so I held it for a week and stepped it up a few days before I pitched it on Saturday.  I didn't forget to crash it to about 53 degrees before I poured it into the wort, which I chilled accordingly.
I did a decoction for this beer.  That is, I mashed the wort at about 122 degrees for about 30 minutes and brought a portion of it to a boil before I put it back in the mash tun to bring the mash to a rest temperature of 155.
This is an old technique that has been used historically with malts that might need a bit of help converting their starches to sugars.
The malts I'm using probably don't need the benefits of this step, but, you know, it's a bit of a lost art and I believe that making great beer is a creative act, so I did it anyway.
If this beer is competition worthy I'll enter it and, of course, post the result.
Until then.  Good Beer To You.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Slow Yeast

First, the Pale that fell on the floor tastes fantastic.
One of my best versions of it.  Just in time for a couple of competitions coming up.
Since then I've made a Blonde, a Stout and a Brown.
Today I'd like to make an Oktoberfest.
But the Bavarian Starter I made last night is not as active as I'd prefer.
I'm sure this will eventually get going but if I'm going to make beer during the next two weeks I need to make it today.
It's early in the day so I'm going to wait til this afternoon to hopefully see more bubbles in this airlock.
If not, I'm unwilling to risk the grain and hops.
Good Beer To You

Monday, August 3, 2015

Accident? Maybe. I Doubt It. I Guess We'll See.

The picture says it all.
I was getting ready to crack a carefully measured Pale grist and...
Well, I don't really know what happened but I looked and saw the heart of my beer on the floor.
I have to admit I wasn't really perturbed by this.  I mean the grain is a bit 'dirty' anyway being malted on an open floor at a malt house somewhere.
So I swept it up and weighed the total to see how much I lost.
As it turns out, I lost only about 1.6 ounces of the total.
I added a pinch of this and a pinch of that and made up the loss.
The variance from the recipe percentages will be negligible.
I made beer twice this weekend and my fermentation vault door will only shut when a large 6.5 gallon carboy and a 6 gallon carboy are inside.
Nothing more.
So on Sunday I made a short batch of Pale (5.2 gallons) so I could fit both in the same fridge.
I prepared a starter for the Amber I made on Saturday and used about 2/3 of it for the beer.
This left about12 ounces of good California Ale yeast (combined with a bit of saved Amber wort) to be started for the Pale I made on Sunday.
The beer started well and I can't wait to see if scraping spilled grain off of my garage floor will become a great tasting Pale Ale.
I pledge to be honest with the results.

Good Beer To You.