Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks For Beer

Bellevue Bitter turned out to be a nice beer.  But cold weather is really the best time for me to brew so I moved on to other beers I "need" to make.
I kegged a Pale I made as a house beer last week and made it again for the bottle on Friday.
The gravity looked good and the beer started well.
A bit of trub slipped through the strainer when I put the wort in the carboy but, as always, I expect it'll settle out.  The color was nice too.
I bottled Eric's Oktoberfest on Monday and saved the Bavarian Lager yeast so I could make the beer again yesterday.
Although I'm not sure how much good it does, I did a decoction.  I do this while a low temperature mash step is performed to maximize the starch content of the grain for the main mash.
Some of the wort is drained off and boiled for a few minutes.
Then the hot wort is added back to the 122 degree mash to bring it to 155 so the starch conversion can take place effectively. 
The starting gravity was a little light because I sparged a bit too much but I got an extra quart of beer to drink.
The cold weather helped but I did have to pump ice water through the chiller to get the wort to 53.
I pitched the yeast and set the vault to 52.  As of this morning there appears to be a nice layer of krausen forming on top of the beer. 
This is good given the chilly fermentation temp. 
The yeast will work for 4 weeks before the beer is packaged and conditioned. 
I expect this to be a nice, malty beer with an unmistakably clean lager taste.

Hoppy Thanksgiving.
And, good beer to you.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bellevue Bitter

I bottled my best bitter today.
I made Bellevue Bitter a couple of weeks ago and was really pleased by the color of the wort during the sparge.

It looks like melted caramel.
The fermentation went well and the beer finished out at 1.010.
This will be a nice 5.1% English Pale when it carbonates.
The last time I made this beer (formerly called Big B's Best Bitter) it won 3rd Best of Show only to be outdone by my American Brown, which got Best of Show that year.
I hope this beer is as good.
Peace, Love, Beer.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Draft Beer Quality on TV

Yesterday, while on my day job, I had the chance to cover a Draft Beer Quality conference held for the continually expanding number of local craft brewers here in Nashville.
I had the chance to meet and interview Linus Hall of Yazoo who explained how seriously he and his team are concerned about the way their product is handled between the time it leaves the brewery and when it is presented in the glass to a consumer.
Topics included CO2 pressure, how serving lines are cleaned and the size and length of the pressurized beer line from the cooler to the bar.
The event was put on at the Mercy Lounge by a couple of industry experts including New Glarus' Jeff Schaefer.  New Glarus isn't even distributed in Nashville but Jeff says he wanted to come here and offer his expertise to this emerging market.
You'll see him at the tail end of this news package I shot for WSMV.  It was supposed to be a smaller story but I'm interested in this topic so I stayed a little longer and asked if our afternoon shows could use it.
The story also includes the perspective of Christian Spears of the newly opened Tennessee Brew Works.  He says the conference could not have come at a better time since his tap room opened only days ago.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Octoberfest, Beer Fest

Once again, to my delight, Fall is here. 
Cool air blowing leaves about always improves my demeanor.
But so does a well made beer.
I know that Marzen is supposed to be made in March and drank in October but I didn't get to it in the Spring and it's difficult to chill the wort to pitching temperature in the Summer.
It looks good.
I was a bit worried about the ferm though.  I made a starter from some saved wort and a vial of German Lager yeast but I didn't get to make the beer for four days after.  I chilled the wort to 52 degrees and pitched the starter, which had been waiting at that temperature.
It appears to be fermenting as vigorously as a lager can at 53 degrees.
I think this will be a great beer.
Much of it will go to my next door neighbor, Eric.  He needs to know that I have not forgotten our friendship and who helped me put brakes on my wife's old car.

Also, a new brewery has opened here in Nashville.
Tennessee Brew Works has been up for about 6 weeks now with their taproom now open at 809 Ewing Avenue.
I was shooting a story at the 2nd annual Tennessee Beer Festival in Donelson a couple of weeks ago and met founder Christian Spears. 
He and his crew had 3 beers there.
Basil Ryeman is a spicy, fruity farmhouse ale that includes Basil.  My wife would probably like it a lot.
There was Extra Easy, an English pale and an IPA called Cutaway.
Since I was working I was unable to try any of them but the steady crowd hanging around their booth assured me that all were good.
I enjoyed talking with Christian, who offered advice and encouragement to my brewery project.
I am grateful for someone who is willing to help me find answers to the questions my business plan has created.
I'm pressing on in spite of the challenges but invigorated by them as well.

Beers on the horizon include my own ESB, a Pale and an American Amber to replenish my empty beer cellar.
Good Beer To You.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My Carboys Runneth Over

Late last week I made a Blonde Ale and an American Stout using the yeast from the Pale I made a week earlier.  I racked the beer and saved the trub, pitching it into the wort the same day.  Both beers started well.
The gravity looks good for the Stout.  I think this will be a good beer.  I don't make it often but I'm beginning to like the style more.
All this brewing means just about every fermenting vessel I have is full right now.  I'll package the Pale on Thursday and slow down for a while.
I'm back into the mire of the plan for my brewery project.  The details seem to multiply logarithmically every time I look at the materials.
Right now I'm looking for some counsel on landing a site for it and the determination of build out costs. 
I'm also looking for like minded principals to join me.  I know I can't run this thing alone and I need a couple of co-founders who also believe in the transformative and synergistic power of beer.
In the end it's more about community and connection.  Beer is a great vehicle for this.  My dream is to have a product and a place people will use to meet and collaborate on everything from the monumental to the minimal. 
Of course, I hope to collaborate about new and exciting beer as well.
Good Beer To You

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Browns, Bitters and a double batch of Pale

Things have been busy at my house this Summer.  I bottled an American Brown ale today.  And I packaged up an Ordinary Bitter on Tuesday.  I have been mowing the yard and taking care of the cars and the business plan for my brewery project has been languishing.
But with our daughter back in school and my shift change at work I can get back to it.  I find the more I write, the more there is to write, but answering questions about every aspect of the business makes the process, and the project more interesting.
Last Friday I made a double batch of Pale.  Half for the keg and half to be bottled.  This brew is about as much volume as my mash tun and kettle can handle.
The volume was so close to the lip I thought I was going to have a boil over a couple of times.
I was pleased with the gravity. 
I was one point short of the target but closer than I thought I might get under the circumstances.  I do not usually handle this much wort.
I split the starter I made from a package of California Ale Yeast and some saved wort and pitched it into the beer divided into two carboys.
Fermentation looks good.
Peace.  Family.  Beer.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Eclectic Ales Launching On Kickstarter

One of my West Tennessee home brew buddies is starting a brewery in Jackson and he could use our collective help.
Ben Pugh is a good brewer.  He not only makes great beer, he supports the brewing community and the community at large.  As a past president of the Bluff City Brewers and Connoisseurs he has helped pave the way for lots of people starting out in the craft of making and appreciating great beer and has participated in many charitable ventures where beer may have been the focus, but community improvement was the end result.
His new company, Eclectic Ales will (I'm told) be the first craft brewery in the Jackson area.
I'm supporting this endeavor all the way.
And you can help support him at  A small donation will help him start bringing great beer to the Jackson area.  If you can't help financially, I'm sure he would appreciate a 'like' on his Facebook page.

In other, much less exciting news, I made a yeast starter tonight from a bit of English Ale trub I saved a few months ago and a quart of wort I saved from the Amber I made last week.
I normally don't use yeast this old but I have a few pounds of Maris Otter malt and a few ounces of Kent Goldings that I can use to make a pretty good Ordinary Bitter (English Pale).
I love this beer because it is so flavorful while being so light on the alcohol.  I'll drink it almost as fast as I can make it.  I can come home from work and enjoy a couple of pints without staggering to bed and having an unpleasant morning.
The business plan for Trace Brewing has been on hold for a few weeks while we get our daughter through the Summer and ready for school.
I'm back on it first thing Monday morning,... right after I get her to the first day of the 4th grade.
As always, I promise to post more.
Good Beer To You

Friday, June 28, 2013

It's Summer Again

The sun is out and the beer is nearly ready.
I made a Hefeweizen a couple of weeks ago and decided to bottle it yesterday.
I got 59 bottles of lawnmower beer.  This will probably last a year since I don't really drink this style.
I do know a few people who like it so I make it in the late Spring.
I also cleaned out the fermentation chamber today as I boiled up a Pale to put in it.
This thing doesn't look like much but it's a vital part of my brewery, especially during the warm months.  Best $50 I ever spent.
The business plan is moving at a much faster rate these days.  I joined the Brewers Association to get access to the market data I need to accurately forecast success or failure of my project.
I'm quickly learning that finding a building is problematic.  It has to be the right building in the right place.  Not too close to the school or church.  It has to have various attributes like adequate water supply and sewer lines.  This will be tougher than I thought but I'm pressing on anyway.  I'll try to be more regular with my posts.
Good Beer To You

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bock To The Future

I had the morning off work one day this week and decided to package up my Dopplebock.
The finishing gravity was a bit high at 1.023 but I hope the strength of the beer will help mask the sweetness left behind by the yeast.

I'll let it finish in the bottle for a few weeks and then lager it for a couple of months and hope that it corrects itself.
In hindsight I probably should have raised the temperature in the vault to about 70 for a few days to make sure it was done before I got so deep into the bottling process.
Not a big deal, though.  This is an educational beer. 
I can make my regular menu of Pales, Browns, Blondes and Stouts like AB can make Bud.  The same great beer every time.
But this is a new style, new yeast and a slightly different process.
I'm not at all unhappy with this beer because of the added skill it will give as I taste it and evaluate it's flaws and strengths.
As I wait to try this as a fully carbonated beer, I'll try to study this style a bit more.
Good Beer To You.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Grain Supply Is Up,... Gravity Is Down

I made a Pale on Friday and was surprised to find that I had over shot the sparge and missed my gravity target.
This beer usually comes in at 1.057-1.059 but was fairly short at 1.051.  My adjustment to the batch size by a 1/2 gallon was, I believe, where the problem arose.  I shortened the grist by the appropriate amount but fell into my regular sparge routine.  Of course I got more wort than expected but the efficiency, normally 73-75% was a dismal 67%.
This won't affect the beer that much.  In fact, the difference will probably be un-noticeable.

The weather is allowing me to ferment in the warehouse for a few weeks.

I shortened the batch size to allow myself to get an extra batch of beer from a 50 pound sack of 2-row.
I just bought a sack of Briess and poured it into storage so it will keep as I use it over the next 5 weeks.
Finally,  The Dopplebock looks pretty good.  It's been set at 51 degrees for 3 weeks now.

I think it'll be ready to be transferred next Friday into a bright tank  to lager a couple of more weeks.

After that I'll need the fermentation vault because the approaching Summer will make the brewery too warm for the wort.
Good Beer To You.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Crowded Stockroom

Well, the beer is piling up at my house.
Today I made a Dopplebock, funded by my winnings in Memphis. 
This is the biggest beer I've ever made at 1.087 and the 8th time I've brewed in as many weeks.  I mashed the 20 pounds of grain for it at 155 degrees.  I want this beer to be a thick, sipping beer to have around for a long time. The ABV I'm expecting will be at least twice that of an Ordinary Bitter so this beer will be consumed sparingly over several months.

I used the same pack of California Ale yeast for the other 7.
I made an IPA, a Pale, an American Amber, an American Brown, a different IPA, a Blonde and an Irish Red.  I know, an Irish Red with 1056?  We'll see what it tastes like when I package it this Thursday.
I harvested yeast from one beer as I brewed another and got some very fast starting fermentations.
I saved the yeast from the Red but I'll probably throw it out and reset that yeast next time I need it.
I want to make a Bitter this week but I need to get a few pounds of Maris Otter 2-row and a package of English Ale yeast.
My goal is to fill every bottle and keg I've got now and brew fewer "regular" beers during the hot months to concentrate on Belgian beers and Bohemian Pilseners.
Plus I want to finish my business plan for BCB.
Those lofty goals, along with my responsibilities as a husband and father should keep me hoppin' through the Summer and into the Fall.
Peace, Love, Beer

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Reds, Browns, Blondes and Business Plans

I bottled my American Brown today.  It really tasted good so I can't wait for it to carbonate.
But the Winter conditioning room (the downstairs bath) is getting a bit crowded so I moved a Pale and an Amber to the stock room.  Right now I have an IPA in the fermenter and the Brown ale in there. Tomorrow's Blonde will join them when I make it.
I received my competition results today.
Don't get too excited, it was a mix bag.  Some scores were really good.  Others surprised me for being fairly low despite my personal assessment of the beers.  I guess you fall in love with your own work and lose your objectivity.
Oh well, I'll gladly take the prizes that came along with the medals.
Thanks to the generosity of my friends at Rebel Brewer, I'll make beer on into the Spring.  They supported the Memphis competition by providing gift certificates to all the medal winners.  Tom and his crew there do a great deal to expand and improve home brewing in Tennessee.
Finally, I think it's time to finish my business plan for Bluff City Brewing.
I'm approaching it with a casual urgency.
Don't misunderstand.  I'm as interested as ever to go pro.  I have thought about it for years.  The thing is, I meet a lot of people who like my beer.  But when I meet possible angel investors, I'm not seen as a plausible risk because I'm not ready to hand them a plan detailing a path toward successfully achieving my business objectives.
Hopefully, that will soon change.  My new project is to finish a 5-year business plan for Bluff City Brewing,... or Bellevue Brewing, or West Nashville Beer Co., or whatever it will be called as soon as possible.
Maybe I can get it finished before 5 more breweries open up in the city.
Good Beer To You.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Victories and Fresh Beer

I sent a few beers to Memphis for Homebrew Extravaganza 2013 and was surprised to win a few awards with old beer.
You can check out the full list of winners here but I managed to get a silver medal for an American Stout I made 15 months ago, a gold for a Blonde Ale I made last March and a Gold for an American Pale I made in August.
I'm not so surprised at the Pale.  I've made that beer with both Memphis and Nashville water and it has won lots of medals.
The Blonde I didn't expect to do much, though.  These lighter ales do not usually hold up for more than 6 months or so.
The Stout was a real surprise.  I don't drink these beers that much so a batch lasts quite a while.  I had some of it left and sent it to have more entries in the competition.
I did have high hopes for some other beers that didn't do anything.  American Amber, Oktoberfest, Ordinary Bitter.  I thought these would get some attention.  And they might have scored well but got out scored by other beers.  Every year there are more great brewers out there, so I'm not surprised.  I'll wait to get the score sheets to see how they were judged.

In other news, my Blonde and Pale were well received at the Mardi Gras school fundraiser, held at The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, our former parish in Memphis.  Our friend Vince Higgins was one of the primary organizers and says the beer went over well.

Finally, in an effort to replenish my beer room I've brewed four Thursdays in a row.
The thing is, I don't have lots of carboys laying around and I really like a 14 day fermentation cycle.  So for 2 weeks straight I've had to bottle a beer just to free up my six gallon tank, then rack over the beer from my 6.5 gallon tank, harvest the yeast and clean the 6.5 so I had someplace to put the beer I was making that day.

These were pretty busy brew days but what I'm really trying to do is take advantage of the basement bathroom temperature.  Right now it hovers around 66 and will keep an active fermentation in the 68-70 range. 
I would use the temp controlled vault in the garage, but I want to do a Dopplebock in there for about a month.  I'll use the vault when it warms up.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New Gear, New Methods

Regards to brewers and beer lovers everywhere this new year's day.
Since I believe well made beer is a unifying force, I hope the new year brings full flavored fellowship to everyone at your house.
At my house, though, the brewing process needs some adjustment.
I have sampled at least 3 different beers made within the last 4 months and noticed the same or similar off flavor in all of them.
My limited experience judging beer tells me the flaw is astringency.
The only major change to my process this year has been the way I handle grain.
Late this Summer I was excited to add a new mill to my brewery.  I previously had been cracking my grist at the homebrew shop.  But I wanted to expand the all-grain experience to include this step so I bought a nice mill from Rebel Brewer, a reputable homebrew shop here in Nashville.
The  mill came pre-set to a certain width so I attached it to it's base and milled an IPA grist in early September.
When the beer was finished I caught the astringent flavor out of the keg and from one of the small number of bottles I fill when I make 6 gallons.
At the time I wasn't sure what the problem was and thought I might have caught a bug in the fermenter or failed to rinse the keg well enough after I cleaned it.
I refurbished my kegs.
Then I made a Steam Beer and an Octoberfest.
The Octoberfest is good beer but the Steam Beer has something minor (I believe astringency) wrong with it.
I most recently made another IPA and an American Amber.  Both are young beers but after tasting them last night I think the same flaw is there.
Since I got the mill my efficiency has notably improved.  I used to struggle to get 74% and now I easily achieve 80%.
I'm developong a theory that the gap might be set too small and that I'm grinding some of the grain.  The finely ground barley then allows tannins and husk material to get into the beer.
I have adjusted the mill and intend to try the new setting on Thursday when I make another IPA.
But I don't think that's the end of it.
Other processes need to be looked at as well.
The occassional swirl of the carboy might excite the yeast a little bit.  But as I have read lately, it also might cause bitter compounds that are attached to the side of the carboy at the surface to be swirled back into the beer.
I also intend to review the loosness of my mash.  I normally use 1.45 quarts of water per pound of grain but I think now that I should try 1.25 or even lower to thicken the mash and to help adjust the PH.
Finally, I'll probably try a lower sparge water temperature to reduce the risk of rinsing tannins into the wort.
If the problem persists I'll start looking at the water.
Comments and suggestions are welcome, as always.

Good Beer To You.