Friday, January 29, 2010

School is now in session!

Alright Ladies and Gents it's time for book club. And this week we're looking at Lee W. Janson's (PhD!!!) book, Brew Chem 101: The Basics of Homebrewing Chemistry. Coming from an engineering school, I've run into my fair share of doctorates, both students and teacher. Most of these people have one thing in common. Sure, they know differential algorithms, Poisson distributions, and boundary layers, but you can't bring them down off their high horse to explain something in terms everyone else can understand. Now Lee Janson may be a "doctor", and she does, in fact, hold her doctorate in biological sciences and biochemistry. But make no mistake, Lee is not one of these people.

As a matter of fact he does a fine job in turning a complex subject into a piece of reading that doesn't feel like you're reading a chemistry textbook. Yeah, he uses words or phrases like "protein strings" and "benzene rings", but he does it without shoving it down your throat. To be quite frank, you can even gloss over it if you really want.

This book is pretty short at around 100 pages, but Lee really cuts to the chase and does a good job about it. It's definitely a good read for the intermediate to advanced homebrewer, especially if you're doing all-grain batches.

Reasons to dog ear a page? This book's section on mashing and sparging  does a great job at covering the subject, and goes into good detail why you do certain temperature rests and what temperatures. The book also has a very in depth section on beer's off flavors which will help you troubleshoot your beers.

I would say the only reason not to buy this book is if you already know everything about the chemical interactions in homebrewing and/or have your degree in biology or chemistry. Lets not be modest.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

And now presenting...

So I got a little frisky this weekend. On Thursday I decided to upgrade my tool collection with a table saw. I've been doing woodworking for some time now that I've moved into Florida, and I decided it was finally time to graduate. Well on, top of finally making the drip tray for my kegerator (posts to follow), I went and made myself a light box.

What the heck does this blogger need a light box for you say? And if you're any familiar with light boxes, you'll admit that is one f-u-u-u-nky looking light box. Well my friends. I call it the "Pint Light". That hole perfectly fits the bottom of your standard pint glass. The result is pure awesomeness, and a great way to view the true colors of your home brewed beers. And here is the beautiful product.

Along with a nonchalant homage to my alma-mater. And the beautiful brew showing its stuff is my Nut Brown Ale.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Brewers unite!

I'd like to start this one off by saying I had a fun start to my Friday. It's the little things in life right? Well last night it rained all night, 8pm to 8am pretty much. Coming into work, mildly excited that it's Friday, more excited for the Friday evening, I noticed that the roads across from where I work are flooded with over a foot of water.

I'll say it first, I'm a country boy wannabe. Just a few months ago, I got a truck, and I really have wanted to take it off-roading. Now living in urban Florida hasn't presented me with many opportunities. But I saw the water and I pulled a u-turn. And I plowed through that water. And that water kicked up high than the roof of my truck. And it was awesome. Now I realize it may sound lame, but I was happy, and like I said, it's the little things in life.

But back on topic. I was cruising the web for beer brewing information (big surprise) and I came across the guys at Checked out their blog and they sound like a 3 man version of Dave and I. The posts over there are humorous and inspired. It's cool to see some guys out there with the same dream Dave and I have. It seems that they are also much closer to their goal, they predict to launch their beers this year. Give their website a look-see. And they love their hoses.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Do you feel my flow?

This post is a follow up to "Foamy Beer? No fear!" that I put up part way through December.

For some follow up, I had some issues with the beer lines in my kegerator. At the very first installment, I didn't realize that they needed to be any certain length. They were roughly 3 feet long, and they poured a very foamy beer. Then with some research at Homebrewtalk, I found (but I misinterpreted) that my lines should be 5 feet long. However, I was still pouring foamy beer. After more research, I found that for different beers, at different levels of carbonation, really need different lengths of line. Some might pour foamy, some might pour too flat.

This can be cured with the worst case scenario lines, which would end up being about 10 feet. I wasn't ready to throw out my old lines, and I wasn't ready to run 40 feet of tubing inside my kegerator. In comes the post "cure for your short hose troubles" (Link here).

These handy plastic mixing sticks, used for mixing epoxy, fits perfectly in the dip tube on the liquid side of your keg. The intent is that it creates the resistance in your line you need to pressurize your keg to the appropriate carbonation level, and still pour a good beer.

And here's proof. At this point in my pour, I would've had an entire pint full of foam. But by the time the pint is full, I've got a nice 3/4" head on the beer. Now it's not perfect across the board, some beers pour a little foamier than others. But that's quite alright. My system pours a hundred times better now, and I can keep all the kegs carbonated at the correct level. 

In my opinion you shouldn't operate a homebrew kegerator without one of these handy dandy little mixers. So if you have one, go back to my December post about them, and order a few of McMaster Carr. They're so inexpensive, especially compared to how much you've spent on the rest of your system, there's no reason not to.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Nuts to you.

That's right time for the review of my first nut brown ale. First I'll say that I learned something with this beer. Maybe it should have been more obvious to me in the past. But recently I haven't been letting my beers age for nearly long enough. After having it finish in the primary fermenter I kegged it right away and naturally carbonated it using 3/4 of corn sugar. Well after a week I was ready to crack that keg open and wow. The flavors were way overbearing the hops were too intense, and the mouth feel really just wasn't that great. After letting it age for another 2-3 weeks (month total) it's a whole different story.

The nut brown created was good. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being brewery-worthy, and 1 being a dump, I give it a 6. It's a decent beer overall, but for what I was aiming for it didn't really hit the mark. The bear has a nice hoppy aroma to it, which I appreciate. As you can see it has a very dark brown color, almost black, but not quite. Head retention is pretty poor. It drinks very smooth and has a very dry character to it. It has a pretty distinct hop flavor to it. Not as strong as one of Stone's Arrogant Ales, not by a long shot. However I was really going for a much more nutty, mild brown ale. The hops really just overpowered what I was going for. A great beer, definitely, but not quite the target I was trying to hit.

On a side note, Christmas and the wife was very good to me. I now have a stack of brewing books to read through, including "Clone Brews," "The Brewmasters Bible," "Brew Chem 101," and "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing." As I finish these books I'll let you know what I think about them. I'm halfway through Brew Chem 101, and I can tell you it's definitely a fun read. But I'll let you know more when I'm done...

Did you know what really distinguishes Ale and Lager yeast? Raffinose. Ale yeast doesn't break down the sugar Raffinose completely, where Lager yeast does. That's why Lagers tend to be such crisp clean beers. Thanks "Brew Chem"!