Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Knick Knack, Paddy Wack

I've got a bone to pick with the Newcastle DraughtKeg. First lets start with Newcastle. About a year ago Newcastle announced that they were going to start producing their beer in the DraughtKeg system which has been exclusively Heineken up to this point. I was super excited about this because it meant two things: 1) Heineken might finally be releasing their icy cold grip on the DraughtKeg system, and 2) I can buy one for my wife, who loves loves Newcastle. So I go to my favorite import store. Nope. Homebrew store? Nada. Target? Nein. Publix? No way. Maybe I haven't been looking in the right places, but I've exhausted my search. I haven't seen this little keg anywhere. Please, if you know where to get it, throw me a bone here.

Secondly, and this goes out to you Heineken, let the death grip of the technology go for the love of all that is Frothy! I feel the Draughtkeg is a fantastic little system. And matched with the Krupps Beertender, an unbeatable choice for a refreshing, draught quality, commercial brew. If you like Heineken of course. Because Heineken is the only brewer to distribute their beer via DraughtKeg. Well, that and Newcastle, but I've already gone there. I have purchased a DraughtKeg of Heineken just to try the system out, and it was the best Heineken I've had, but again, I dont like Heineken.

In a perfect world, I'd love to see some of our smaller craft beers dispensed in these mini-kegs. Hit me with a Stone, or a Dogfishhead, or a Shocktop. Lagunitas anyone? But at this point I'd even be happy with a Budweiser.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rain Rain, Go Away

I planned all week and dug out my equipment, but the weather would not cooperate with me.

One of the hassles of having a small condo is the association. They are like Rhinoceros in two important ways, they can bully you with their threatening posture and they fear fire. I could understand banning turkey fryers since it equates to a dark age weapon of sorts (when filled with hot oil and a potentially explosive frozen fowl), but a cauldron of boiling wort won't explode any time soon. Even if it boiled over, it would never burn; aside from leaving a huge sticky spot in the yard there would be no appreciable damage.

Why do I bring this up? The size of my condo necessitates an outdoor boil and the association forbids it. This would be a problem save for the fact that we just rented a studio for my wife; it has a parking lot near a hose, which is as close to ideal as I'm likely to get (mooching off of a rented space). Hose-water is no good for beer, but I can just buy 5 gallons of deer park at BJs and use the hose for cleaning/chilling.

After overcoming these obstacles and after 5 months, I was finally able to start my outdoor brewing. I went to Princeton Homebrew, bought a Red Ale kit, new hydrometer, new crystal thermometer, and another copy of "The Brewmaster's Bible."

As an aside, Beer stores are more like the hobby stores of yore. It is the entry point to a whole community of brewers; shopping there is never boring and is often enlightening. People who only buy mail order are really missing out. How much fun is a train set in your basement if you're the only one who sees it? After chatting with the owner and another customer named Nate for about an hour we finally agreed that beer could solve all the world's problems and I said my farewell. I was re-energized and ready to start. With rose colored glasses, I stepped out and looked at my car which was now soaking wet. Drat.

I texted Gene hoping he would say rainwater would not contaminate my brew, but deep down I knew. I'm not risking a $39 kit and all that time just to end up with vinegar. I hope I find some time next week!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hangin Out With The Geek Out

Ok, here's a fair warning. Things are about to get a little technical. In the name of Emeril... BAM!

In prep for the HERMS system, which should be starting in about a week or two, I decided to visualize what the inside of the control box should look like so I can plan what parts I need. For a refresher the HERMS system works by taking the mash from the mash tun and circulating through a copper coil submersed in hot water. When the temperature needs to be raised, I have two valves that will actuate and send the wort into the submersed coil. When the temperature is set, the valves return to normal positions which bypasses the coil in the hot liquor tank (HLT), and continuously circulates the mash keeping the temperatures across the mash nice and uniform.

I was running into some headaches with this design. Trying to figure out how to economically convert my 120V AC power to 12V DC power was one. Thanks to suggestions over at, and my continuing stubbornness to throw away old electronics, I was able to dig out an old PC power supply which will perfectly fit the bill. This also makes it easy to mount and power a small computer fan on the side of the box to keep things cool.

I also decided to add a single pole double throw switch (I think thats what it's called) in between the valves and the PID controller so I can take over the valves from the controller if need be.

The circulation pump will just have an on/off switch.

The second PID controller is solely to monitor the temperature of the HLT for now. Depending on how much of my budget is left over, I'm going to rig a propane burner to be controlled by it. I still have more research to do on that subject however.

I've also read recommendations to put fuses inline of my controllers for protection. I still need to look into that as well.

Whew. That's why I went to Engineering school.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hi All

Hi All, and thanks to Gene for welcoming me to his Brew Blog! I fully intend to switch over from my previous hobby home brew blog (which documented my first attempt) to this one.

My brewing history is somewhat brief but I have been a self-titled connoisseur since college. I think I can take credit for introducing Gene to his first real Belgian ale (St. Bernardus Abt 12), and I am passionate about the history and variety of beer. I'm even in the "Rare Beer of the Month" club (which so far has been disappointing.)

I have successfully made one batch, but my former partner found the deepest dankest place in his basement to store our equipment; while at the time it seemed like the perfect place, some of the plastic items were not totally dry. One thing lead to another, and we brewed up a big batch of mildew, mold, and otherwise unsavory microorganisms (as opposed to the savory ones found in Brewer's yeast.) Rather than imitate my Viking predecessors, roll up my fur lined tunic, and just roll on ahead using that equipment (with my trusty generations-old moldy stirring stick,) I have decided to thoroughly cleanse my gear prior to preparing a food-product therein.

I also intend to re-build my wort chiller; my idea of separating the coils (while it seemed like increasing surface area was a good idea) was not that effective. Turns out, it was so tall most of the coils stuck out over the surface of the liquid, completely nullifying their effectiveness.This Dr. Suessean creation will probably find a home eventually. Possibly a landfill, but hopefully an art museum.

Oh! I'm also responsible for designing the brewery website and logo.

I'll keep you all posted.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A little restructuring...

I've had some news brewing that I'm pretty excited about (no pun intended). To keep a long story short, Dave fell off the face of the earth. You can't have "A Tale of TWO Brewers" without a second brewer. Step in my new co-host (& struggling comedian) Nick! Nick probably knows me better than anyone else considering we attended elementary school together and lived within walking distance from my house. We've spent a lot of time together, and now share the same brewing obsession. Nick currently hails from... well somewhere in New Jersey (I keep good track of my friends obviously). It's been a little while since he's brewed since his development doesn't allow propane burners on the back porch (all together now... llllllaaaaaammmmeee). He's not on a schedule, but from time to time he'll post his wise-@$$ two brewing cents. So, Nick, welcome aboard!

HERMS update... no construction yet. However I have gotten a series of parts together and they keep coming in. I've recently received some polysulfone disconnects, which should make life easier in the long run. I've also picked up some copper tubing & fittings for future manifolds and thermowells.

I was running into a lot of difficulty trying to figure out how to make a device to keep my not-water-tight thermocouples water tight. After a lot of debate, and not a whole lot of feedback, I took a step back and reassessed the situation. I then realized that i don't even have to submerged the whole thing into the mash, and water-proofing wasn't even necessary. Well damn.

I also picked up another PID controller and thermocouple because I wanted to be able to monitor the hot liquor tank temperature, and eventually control the burner with the PID controller. It's on its way!

Also got my new beer boxes (boxes to hold all my bottles) 90% done. Just needs some sand and paint now!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patricks Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day all! Raise a pint of your favorite Irish beer...
(Harp & Guinness for me)
And Cheers!
Prost! (German)
A Votre Sante! (French)
Salud! (Spain)
Nien Nien nu! (China)
Proost! (Dutch)
Salute! (Italy)
Kampai! (Japan)
Na zdravje! (Macedonia)

But most importantly, today...
Sláinte! (Ireland)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beerview : Great American Pale Ale Homebrew

It's been some time since I've done a review. And today I've got one for my most recent brew, the Great American Pale Ale. Really it's just a recipe I came across on the web. I was looking for a pale ale to do again (in memory of the inaugural beer brewed, a pale ale). I have to say I'm happy with what I've found.

The beer pours with about a 1/2" head, which quickly dwindles and rests at a modest 1/4". The beer has a beautiful golden haze to it. At the first whiff you can smell some aroma hops which is a dose of Cascade. However the beer itself isn't very strong on hops, nor is it on malt. There is a nice balance between the two. Again the beer is fairly modest, not have a very strong flavor to smack you in the face with like some beers do. It is dry and crisp, and almost reminds you of a lager, with a little more depth of flavor. It's also got a mild punch at 3.9% ABV.

Again I mention that I'm quite happy with this beer. It's a strong base to base more unique pale ales off of. By removing the aroma hop addition and possibly taking the bittering hops down by a third. I can use the recipe to launch any other pale ale I decide to attempt to craft.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Empty bottle

And as far as content is concerned possibly an empty post. For I have made absolutely no progress since my last post on my beer boxes, my herms system, or even the wifey's island (crap). And the wifey is coming home early (yay!). And she'll notice the island isn't done (crap). Fingers crossed she'll be so happy that she's home that she wont care about the island not being done. That or I'll be picking out a Coach purse for her in recourse.

I guess I haven't accomplished absolutely nothing. I have been drinking a substantial amount of beer. You see, I invited the boys over a way back for a night of drinking & gaming. It was a good time, however there was a noticeable lack of drinking (which was quite odd for drinkers of our caliber). So my backup 24 pack of bud light was left untouched, and occupying a significant portion of my allotted beer space. Well I'm just down to a few more bottles. I'm sure I can polish them off before the wifey gets home. Do I need to? No. But the guidance counselor always talked about setting goals right?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Man I'm old.

So I guess, I suppose, it happens to be... my birthday. Hoo-rah. Ha ha. I've never been one to make much ado about birthdays but the wife certainly does. However, she's out of town so it's just me, the dogs, beer, and some power tools. Not in that order, and not in that combination of course. What am I doing tonight? Finishing some beer boxes. Working on the SWMBO's project. Having a liquid dinner, writing this blog, and doing some gaming. And I am a-ok with that evening!

Speaking with the father in law today, he brought to a point that I never really did follow up to my post regarding the handle and the epoxy for the kegerator. Technically it didn't work, but it did do it's job. I managed to get the kegerator out far enough so that I could yank it out the rest of the way easily enough. However once it got to that point the handle popped off like the cap of a mich-light at a frat party. I guess in the end I got what I wanted. I was able to mount the kegerator on my dolly I custom made myself. And now it rolls o-so-smooth.

Well since it is my birthday, I've got some drinking and gaming today. And I suppose I need to go to bed at some point so I can coach at the meet tomorrow.

Oh yeah, and I'm 26.

Monday, March 1, 2010

When the cat's away...

The mice start busting their little mouse behinds. While the SWMBO is out to the West Coast, I've removed her car from the garage and turned it into a workshop.

I've got all the materials for her Island in there, and my beer boxes, and whatever wood I may need for my new HERMS setup. I decided to get started today with the bottle box. I figured it would be a good warmup before I started doing the serious projects. Unfortunately I did get back a little late (ran out of the dog's medicine so I had to make an emergency trip) so I got partly done with one beer box. When it's all done pictures will follow. HERMS is on hold for now until I get another coaching paycheck (should be this Thursday), and I'll dive into some copper and start creating valve manifolds and the heat exchange coil for the hot liquor tank.

And on a completely unrelated note, here's a link of me using my new birthday gift... Link!