Monday, December 3, 2012

Packaging Beer

I've had keg problems for a while now.
I would fill them with beer and force carbonate them only to find that most of the gas leaked out within 12 hours or so leaving me with well made, but flat, beer.
I have avoided doing anything about the problem and focused on bottle conditioning.
This weekend I decided to package my Octoberfest in bottles to keep from ruining it in a leaky keg.
And hey, this is a beer I want in bottles anyway.  It's a beer I like having in stock but drink only occassionally.  In fact, the 3 bottles on the right are left over from the November 2011 batch.

Anyway I googled some kegging stuff and decided to re-build my 3 Cornelius kegs.
I immediately ordered a dip tube brush, new O-rings and some Keg Lube from a reputable homebrew supply.
When the stuff got to the house I scrubbed the vessels clean with Oxy Clean.
Oxy Clean is a 2-sided coin. 
It's fairly inexpensive and does a good job but you need to rinse it off very well.  I mean really rinse it off.
I let the kegs soak overnight and took them apart before scrubbing the inside, outside, lids, dip tubes, connectors and poppets.
Then I dried everything off, put on the Keg Lube, re-assembled everything and hooked up the gas.
These kegs are holding gas well, even at a fairly low PSI.
I feel accomplished.
I can't wait to get some beer made so I can test my new draft skills.
Good beer to you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

GABF Notes

This weekend my wife took me to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival.
For those who don't know, it's the country's largest place for brewers, homebrewers and a huge mass of beer lovers to meet and celebrate the greatness of beer.
I'll let you use the GABF link to get all the particulars and statistics but as you can see, there were lots of people and lots of beer there.
Along with the hundreds of booths featuring thousands of beers from every corner of the nation, were various beer related displays.  These included beer and food pairing demonstrations, t-shirt sales, homebrewing software for the I-Pad and a bookstore, to name a few.  There was even a spot reserved for a select group of invited brewpubs and a free photo booth brought in by Yard House.
I got the chance to meet a few influential and renowned brewers and taste some of the best beer in the world.

It was cool.

But activities outside of the festival are what interested me.
Don't misunderstand me.  I'm as beer crazy as just about anybody who was there.  But this weekend was a nice chance for my wife and I to enjoy some time together with no distractions in a place that's special to me.
We spent our first full day in Colorado hiking the base of the Flatirons and enjoying great food and beer in Boulder.  Jenny had as much fun as I did.
We stopped by West Flanders Brewery on the Pearl Street Mall and had a nice sampler of beers.  The server claimed them all to be belgian but the IPA just tasted like a good IPA.  The other beers were good too.  I didn't spend lots of time evaluating them.  I just took them as they came to me and experienced them without the "beer judge" perspective.
The brewery and bar were nicely appointed as well with most of the gear right behind the bar area, nice wood floors, snacks and comfortable seating.

Then we went to The Sink and enjoyed one of the most delicious pizza I've ever had.  It was called The Buddah Basil.  We subbed chicken for the tofu and it was great. 
This is a place I came to a couple of times when I was a graduate student at CU in th early 90s.  
I don't have lots of memories of this place but the experience felt like a homecoming anyway.
Anybody who knows me knows I love Colorado.
Finally, the evening before we came home was spent with our good friends Laura, Kevin, Cole and Julia Farynaz with a wonderful dinner at their home in Parker.  We had lost touch a little bit during the past two crazy years.  But when we arrived it was as if we hadn't lost a day.

All in all, it was a great long weekend.
Beer was the reason we went.  We bought tchotchkes and t-shirts when we were there.
But we came home with much more.

Good Beer To You

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Yesterday I made a new batch of American Pale 208, even though I still have about a case left from June.
I am nearly always able to make the same beer twice.  That is, most people would say that two versions of the pale taste the same.
But yesterday's measurements are almost exactly the same as those for the June 8th batch.

The final gravity won't be in for a week or so but I'm proud to have hit the mark for starting gravity, bitterness level, efficiency and color.
I even made sure the various bitterness levels calculated for each hop addition matched those from June.  That version of this beer is so good I want to duplicate it.
I know these numbers should be close anyway and that there are other factors affecting the finished beer like yeast health, pitching rates and fermentation temperatures but I'm excited anyway.  A bad sparge can really screw up the wort.
I chilled the beer to 65 degrees and pitched a liter of healthy yeast slurry I grew up the day before.
The fermentation looks good.  I set the vault to hold it at 68 degrees while the yeast does the rest of the work.
We'll see how the beers compare side by side in a month.
Good Beer To You

Friday, July 27, 2012

Beer For The Weekend

Again I must apologize for being an absent blogger.
I want more readers so I'm trying harder to become more regular and dependable with my posts.
This weekend I managed to get Saturday off to attend the 11th Annual Mafiaoza's Music City Brewer's Fest.  Fifty breweries pouring 100 beers if the ads are accurate. 
Jenny and I are going to the afternoon session.
I'm excited to be drinking beer on a Saturday instead of chasing car crashes and crime.  Plus, I hear a couple of old friends from Memphis might be there and I'm anxious to visit with them.
Today, though, I'm making a Steam beer.  I hit the mash a little high at 153 degrees but I don't think it will significantly change the character of the beer.
It's a pretty simple recipe.
Two row, C-40, Northern Brewer hops and, of course,  California Lager Yeast.
The new screen in the bottom of my cooler is allowing for a nice slow sparge.  It still stops running here and there but is easily started again.
I'm excited to have a supply of the beer added to my beer room.  This is one of those batches that I will savor over a number of months instead of drinking it on a regular basis like my Pale and IPA.
I'll not save it for years.  It won't celler well after 12 months or so, but I'll make it last.
This will ferment low at 62 or 63 degrees.  I hope the 7-day-old Ordinary Bitter I have in the fermentation vault is finished because it's about to get cooled.

I'll let it sit for a few more days in the hope that the yeast will continue to clean up after itself.

Friday, June 29, 2012

New gear in service today

Last week I started to make a Brown and got a stuck sparge.  The wort stopped about a quarter of the way through.  I had to transfer it to a couple of buckets while I cleared the not so obvious obstruction.  I put the wort back to the tun and the same thing happened again, 3 times.
This phenomena has happened before but not nearly as much.
I think that my old plastic false bottom, that I have used for 7 years, is softening under the heat and weight of the mash and pushes the opening against the bottom of the mash tun.
I suspected the tube connecting to the spigot as well so I replaced them both.
The new screen is stainless and, I presume, will not fail.  The new tubing is heat resistant silicone.
As I sparge this American Brown the thing has now stopped twice making me think that there is more to do.  A small adjustment to the valve has fixed the problem both times so I think there might be some grain getting caught in the flow out to the kettle.
I will monitor the performance of the new stuff carefully.
Peace, love, beer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fresh IPA On The Way

Tomorrow I have to rack the Pale I made last week into a smaller fermenter and dry hop it so that I can get a batch of IPA going.
I'm really into this IPA right now.
I have been drinking it all year and I'm still trying to get the water just right.  I think a little gypsum might accentuate the bitterness just enough to make it more... well, IPA-ish.
Whatever I decide, I'm trying to perfect the process for this beer so I'll keep good  notes on tomorrow's session in ProMash.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Brew Day

The starter I made yesterday was still bubbling well when I put it on the wort this afternoon.
This brew went pretty well with only a minor issue of sparging too much and getting slightly more of a slightly smaller beer.
My assistant brewer took the day off.

I was only about 3 points off the gravity I expected.  1.056 is still a nice reading for a drinkable, non-session american pale. 

The first hops went in after I had stirred the pot a bit giving it the look of a giant cup of hot chocolate.  The boil started soon after.

I like this beer.  Its probably my favorite.  I've made it many times and it has recieved a few medals.
Some might say the grist for this beer is a bit 'muddy' with 5 grains but it took a long time to get it just the way I like it.  I have always believed the biscuit malt brings in a hint of breadyness (if that's really a word) without being overbearing.
And you can't go wrong with Cascade and Amarillo hops.  The Amarillo can be tough to get but the Cascade carries the beer anyway.
I matched the IBUs for each addition to a previous version of this beer that got a 44.5 at competition two years ago.

The total bitterness is on the high side for an American Pale but I think it matches the gravity pretty well.

I chilled the wort a bit lower than the 68 degrees I try to get to in cooler seasons to minimize heat picked up during the transfer to the fermenter.   I mean if the garage is 80 degrees the beer is going to get a little warmer as it falls from the boil pot into the carboy.

I put the beer into the vault and set the temperature controller to 65.  It won't ferment that low since the yeast will create some heat as it eats the wort and expells good tasting beer.  But I have learned that during the first 48 hours of a vigorous fermentation the fridge needs to work a bit to keep the beer at the proper fermentation temperature. 

I have high hopes for this beer.  
I go through it so fast. 
I'll need to start thinking about making it again about 2 weeks after its ready to drink.
There is an IPA and an American Brown to be made in the meantime.
Good beer to you.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tiny Batches

I'm down to one bottle of American Pale 208 so I've decided to make some tomorrow morning.  I was at the brew shop earlier, getting the grist for this beer and an IPA, unsure about wether spend money on fresh yeast.  I am pretty confident of the California Ale yeast I harvested a few weeks ago so I decided to get some dry malt and grow up two good samples tonight while I sleep.
I boiled up a half pound of dry malt, chilled it and split it, and the harvested 1056, into a couple of sanitized growlers.  This way I'll be able to make beer tomorrow and then on Saturday before I go to work.
I don't really need to have more beer over here but I think making beer relieves more of the stress from my job than drinking it does.

Naah... drinking it is very relaxing.

Anyway, I'm making Pale at 8AM.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Vacation IPA and Packaging Ruby

We have been looking forward to going on vacation at our house for a while.  Memorial day weekend marks the end of our first year in Nashville and with me working weekends we are ready to be playing together as a family for once.
So as I began to bottle a delicious IPA a couple of weeks ago, I decided to package some of it in plastic soda bottles I've recycled.
These containers can be taken to the pool at Disney without getting the evil eye from the staff and travel well in the car on the way to Orlando. 
Plus I can save my glass bottles for home.

I have put beer in these before for canoe trips and they work well.
The bottles aren't very attractive with amber colored IPA in them but so far the beer has poured out splendidly with no off flavors from the previous soda.
Anyway, I only make note of it as encouragement to anybody out there who's wondering if it can or should be done.

On another note I bottled an Irish Red on Thursday that I'd made 12 days earlier. 
I called it Ruby.
The beer tasted pretty good as I took a gravity reading but, to me, looks too dark and isn't red enough. 

This isn't my recipe.   And I'm sort of bummed about the color since I got the recipe from a reputable book written by a couple of brewers considered to be among the best.
That's not to say their formula is bad.  I may simply have bought the wrong grain for this beer.
I guess we'll see what the color looks like after Ruby carbonates and I get her into a tasting glass.
Good Beer To You.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Memphis Pro Am Winner Announced

I just got word that one of my friends at FuzzyBrew just won the Memphis Pro Am Competition.  It's a contest to see who can make the beer that will best represent Bosco's at the Great American Beer Festival held in Denver this Fall.
Congratulations to Mike Erskine for his Red Ale.
Bosco's will now scale up Mike's recipe and make a batch that will go on tap at the brewpub later this Summer.  A sample will go into the National Pro Am competition at GABF where I think Mike will be on hand to serve it.
Nice brewing Mike.
I can't wait to try your beer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New beers to post.

I have lots of beer here.  And there are a few more to come.  I recently made a Hefeweizen to add to the beer room.  I figure there are a few fans around who might be interested in a classic German Summer beer.  I'll take some to the St. Henry Men's Club next month along with a Blonde and a Pale I still need to package up.
I have wanted to work on the brewery more lately but my attention has been diverted toward my daughter's First Communion, which happened this Sunday.
She and her 95 fellow communicants did great and we're proud parents.
We celebrated with a house full of family and food.  It reminds me of how grateful I am for the people who make my life such a joy.  Starting with Jennifer and Hallie.

My weekend was made possible by them.

Good Beer To You.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day and a Bottling Run

Well,... I can't really call it a bottling run since I don't own $100,000 worth of stuff that automatically fills, labels and caps the used bottles I drink from, but I do have a really good helper.
We were learning to ride a bike this morning while I was getting ready to bottle an American Brown Ale and she asked to help fill bottles.
I let her fill them and cap them too.

She did a great job and I'm proud of her.  She doesn't see what fascinates me so much about beer, but she knows it's important to me and wants to be part of it.  Of course, it will be at least 10 or 12 years before I'll let her try beer for herself.  And helping me like this is rare for her, but she had fun.
Our normal activity is watching Disney Channel together.
We had a family day yesterday at the Nashville Zoo with Lunch at Bosco's.
I make note of it because Jenny and I each had a wonderful glass of Irish Red. 

Thanks, Karen Lassiter and Adam Hargrove for making such a delicious beer to commemorate our favorite March holiday.  If you happen to be near Hillsboro Village, stop in and have a pint.  It's very flavorful.
The photo is by Hallie. 
Good Beer To You.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Brown Ale

Today I decided to make an American Brown Ale.  I usually hop it with Amarillo but this time I used some Citra I've had laying around for a while.  The Amarillo will be saved for later Pales and this beer is a house beer for every day drinking so I'm not too worried about it.  Still, I'll be interested to compare the Citra flavor with the Amarillo.  Who knows,  maybe this beer will be better than usual.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Name New Place... Possibly

I've been thinking about Bluff City Brewing's identity.  When our family moved to Nashville it seemed as if BCB should be rebranded to reflect our new location.  After all "Bluff City" is usually associated with Memphis and I want my brand to be known as an honest, trusted brand... whatever that means.
Back in June I simply changed the sub-title in the header to reflect our placement in the state as opposed to just Memphis.  But our logo (well done by my friend Andris Linder) reflects the "M" bridge.
I suppose the thing I'm really worried about is the marketing challenge.
When I started BCB my general plan was to eventually morph my little beer blog into a working brewery.  My dream is to eventually make beer for a living while finding pathways for my enterprise to become a powerful asset to my community.  I have yet to earnestly start satisfying the considerable governmental regulations, trademark concerns and of course, funding for the enterprise but I still intend (maybe now more than ever) to run my own small brewery.  I've at least begun with this identity.
But is this brand worth saving under the circumstances?
Can Bluff City Brewing be identified as a Nashville entity with roots in Memphis?
I don't know.
But as I was thinking this morning about what a new brand might be I bought a couple of domains that might turn out to be what BCB evolves into.
All thoughts and ideas are welcome.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Win For Pale Ale

It's a couple of weeks late but I need to mention the gold medal my American Pale won in Memphis last month.
The results of this competition are a mixed bag for me.
While I'm proud (and a bit shocked) that my American Pale got 3rd Best of Show at Homebrew Extravaganza, I'm also aware that it was one of 7 beers I sent down there.
The other 6, I thought, were competition worthy but none of them placed.
This tells me that I have much more to learn and, more importantly, that more brewers in Memphis are making great beer.  The competition is getting tougher, and that's a good thing.
Cheers to all who entered the Memphis competition.  If you placed with your beer enjoy the recognition.  If your beer didn't place then you can enjoy the learning experience the scoresheets can give.  I've said more than once that winning is great but the information on the scoresheets is the real treasure.
I'm excited to see what treasure my scoresheets will bring.
Good Beer To You

Thursday, February 9, 2012

New Brewery Library and Market research

Okay, so my brewery is really the garage most of the time.  But I did manage to get a shelf up in the BCB board room to hold my volumes of literature associated with the craft.

It's not much by carpentry standards but it'll do the job.

Tonight I took a few beers to the St. Henry Men's Club meeting and received accolades for my efforts.  Most of the men who tried them enjoyed the experience.  It's good to hear comments about my beer from men who really enjoy beer.  Most of the feedback was positive.  But it's the polite, standoff-ish reviews I'm most interested in.  The "I don't really like dark beer" people are important and I want to make a beer that wins them over too.  A Light Lager or Blonde recipe might bring them into the tent.  Also, I want to be knowledgeable but I don't want to come off like a beer snob.  If we're going to preach the gospel of full flavored, hand made beer, we need to make it a religion that can include everyone who drinks beer.
It looks like a low malt, low alcohol brew is on the horizon.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Session Pale

I've been making lots of beer lately.  The IPA I made last week will be ready to be packaged in a few days.
The bottom of the fermenter looks like that about every time.  I think most of what you see there is suspended yeast but there is usually lots of break material that gets through the screen and settles on the bottom.  The the fermentation process generally cuts the thickness of the bottom layer in half and I finish with about 5.5 of the 6 gallon volume you see there.
Today I made a light Pale Ale.
It's basically a scaled down version of "208," my best and most frequent brew.
Big brother's gravity is about 1.059 to 1.061.  The light version is designed to be a 1.039 beer, or about 3.7 percent by volume.
This beer came in at 1.040 or maybe 1.041.  It's hard to tell the level.  I'll err on the conservative side and call it 1.040.
There were a couple of recipe changes as well.  Biscuit malt was replaced by some Victory malt I had to get rid of.  And Munich Dark was put in place of Munich Light for the same reason.  I also added a half pound of C60 to bolster the flavor for such a low gravity beer.
The idea is to make the same great Pale Ale with 33% less alcohol.
This beer, I hope, will come close.  I have made it three times before with moderate success.
It'll never be the same as American Pale 208.   But I'll be able to drink more in the late evening without having an unpleasant morning.
Good Beer To You.