Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Lot Like Christmas!

It's beginning to look a lot like Porter!
Beer's so rich and daaark.
Take a whiff of the beer again; So rich with toast and grain.
Tasting malty rich, with the yeast i pitch, and a color like tree baaark!

It's beginning to look a lot like Lager!
Smooth and light with sceeeent.
I've completely lost my track, I'll finish two before you're back.
Drink one down, another round, I've hardly made a dent!

I'll spot you the tip, if you take a sit, I may even buy you one...
I could take a shot, I may need a cot, a few more and I may be near...
And Jack and Jim can take a seat, tonight it's all for beer!

It's beginning to look a lot like Bit-ter!
Hops and malt abound.
The Tett is nice and fresh, the flavors all well mesh.
I grow my hops, i have five crops, the grain I also ground!

It's beginning to look a lot like Wei-zen!
Wheat and grain alike.
The taste of fruit is nice, with just a touch of spice,
I think I am done, I can't feel my thumbs, I have to take a hike...

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
Joy to you and me.
If you're at the bar that's grand. I think I can barely stand.
I don't want any more, I won't fall off the floor...


Please... don't mind my snore.

Thank you to our loyal readers. Knowing there are people out there enjoying this blog other than our mothers makes this all worth it. It's nice knowing that people actually enjoy reading the site, and I hope it encourages others to get into the joys of homebrewing. Everyone, have a Merry Christmas, and a happy New Year. Let's make 2013 the best year of homebrewing yet!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Phase 4: Buff Your Keg

You can "buff your keg" and you can buff your keg.

Please "buff your keg" on your own time.

I've already written about polishing your keg, but this phase was also the time to figuratively bedazzle the kegs as well. Doing this involved a few neat little accessories...

Sight Glasses - Thanks Bobby_M! Who wants to get up on their tippy toes whenever they're curious how much water left they've got in their HLT? Or maybe the sparge has stuck. Sight glasses let you tell how full your keg is from afar. Bobby_M has got these great little glasses pre made and ready to go. Drill a whole, affix the glass, and calibrate your measurements.

Thermocouples and Compression Ports - You have to get a few special O-rings for this one, but they're cheap. You could even let me know, and I'll send you a few if you need. I've got some extra (23 to be exact). Again, drill, affix, jab in your thermocouple, and tighten 'er down. Link up with a Auber PID Controller and you're ready to rock and roll.

Valves - Gotta have valves. You've got that pump, now use it! I made sure to put a valve in between my disconnects and my kettles where it connects below the liquid line. If I need to change a hose, I don't want boiling water shooting out everywhere. That would be bad.

This stage is probably the easiest. Polishing is easy, but time consuming. Valves, ports, and glasses are all easy to install, but there's a lot of drilling involved. If you value your bits, use a few to get up to your hole size. Don't just start drilling a 1/2" hole with a 1/2" bit. I started with a 1/32" and worked my way up from there... (1/32 to an 1/8 to a 1/4 and so on). Also, watch out for your belly-button. Make sure you use a lot of oil as well. You need lubricant. Not for "buffing your keg" (well maybe, but that's not my point), but for keeping your bits sharp while drilling your holes.

It's been a long road! Don't slack on small things just because you've been working on it so long. You're almost done!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Phase 3: Plumbing

The entire idea behind this section is simple. Take stuff from point "A" and move it to point "B". The straightest possible solution would be the straight line, but it's not necessarily the most efficient. I already had a March Pump, and I wasn't really planning on buying another one. At this point in the process I don't think the wifey really was all concerned about my spending, but another pump is a pretty big deal. I was doing pretty well flying under the radar at this point and I wasn't screwing that one up.

If I wanted to make this design as inefficient as possible, I probably could use 6 pumps, and a crap load more connections, disconnects, copper, etc. Instead I was able to design the whole system to use only one pump. There are a number of transfers that occur during brewing:

1) Fill hot liquor tank.
2) Fill mash tun.
3) Circulate mash through hot liquor tank.
4) Sparge mash using hot liquor tank water.
5) Lauter mash into boil kettle.
6) Chill wort.
7) Drain kettle into fermenter.

I was able to take care of the mash circulation and sparge using one pump and a bunch of solenoid valves. I also plumbed it in such a way (by accident) that I could send a shot a water through the pump to clear out any air that had nested itself into the pump head. The fills and the chill are taken care of solenoid valves that control the water supply from the garden hose. Lauter to the boil kettle is taken care of gravity, oh sweet gravity. Currently there's just a solenoid hanging out because I'm still using my immersion chiller. I decided that the plate chiller was too much of an addition to design/purchase into my system at this point. When the chiller gets installed it will have its own pump circulating hot wort through it. You can see a lot of the system in the picture. Once I finish writing about the construction, I'll be taking many more detailed pictures and placing them all in one spot for the world to see. Major purchase items for this section:

15' (about?) of 1/2" copper
2x 10 count bags of 1/2" copper elbows
2x 10 count bags of 1/2" push / 1/2"FPT fittings
2x 10 count bags of 1/2" push / 1/2"MPT fittings
4x 1/2" copper tees
4x 1/2" FPT/ 1/2" Barb Fittings

Again, I already had the pump handy, and I had already built my hot liquor tank some time ago, disconnects and high temp hose purchased previously as well. At the start of this phase I was going to make an attempt to hard solder the entire thing without using unions. The unions are stupid expensive for what they are, but the best price to go with is at McMaster Carr. It wasn't worth the effort, and the entire thing would be physically impossible to take apart. I ended up installing a valve backwards, so that turned out to be very important. If you don't know how to sweat copper, practice and test a handful of fittings first. Use flux. Check to make sure the solder worked its way around the fitting. At the end of sweating all those pieces together I ended up with 4 leaks. I think that's pretty good considering the 100+ joints that I sweated. None the less seeing those leaks develop was both frustrating and disheartening. Do it right though. Separate the joint carefully, sand, and re-sweat the joint. You only have to get it right once. If you don't get it right, it will leak your entire pitiful brewing life.

The entire process wasn't overly difficult. Just tiring and time consuming. It's slow and tedious work, but worth it. In summary, lessons learned:

1) Buy a hose fitting and a few caps. Use this to test your joints frequently before assembling the whole mess.
2) I started with polysulfone disconnects. New they worked great, but as they aged the seals broke down  and became difficult to connect/disconnect. I'm currently switching to cam-lock fittings and they work great.
3) A lot of valves only work one direction, keep that in mind.
4) Use unions to make it easy to service.
5) Design in a method to purge air from the head of your pump.
6) Make sure to throw in manual valves where you plan to remove your kegs. Otherwise you'll disconnect it and all the fluid will run out before you get to where your going.

I hope this information is helpful! I can't wait to do a beereview again! If you have any questions please feel free to comment below. I'll get right back to you, and I can take pictures of requested areas.

Areas of R2-DBREW, you sick bastard.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Phase 2: FIRE

Not gonna lie, phase 2 made me a little nervous. The principles were all there. Fill pipes with gas, shoot it through an orifice, and light a burner. Really no different from how your gas grill works or the turkey fryer.

But I wasn't so comfortable with it. 

Regardless I forged ahead.

This phase required a short list (relatively) of parts:

-   Black Iron Pipe and fittings.
-   1/4" Copper Tubing (for pilot)
-   Gas Rated Teflon Tape (Yellow)
-   1/4" Propane Gas Hose

There's a lesson written into the list here. Initially I had my burners, gas valve, pilot, thermocouple. I was doing some additional reading (post order) and found the gas valve was a low pressure gas valve. It would not operate correctly looking at 30 psi gas pressure. 

Well crap. 

I took out the manual and I confirmed that it was, in fact, only operable up and around 11" of water column (1 psi equals roughly 28" water column, or the amount of pressure required to lift a column of water 28"). I did some more research and found I could convert my burner to work on low pressures, hence the low pressure conversion and the low pressure regulator. You can see the regulator and the gas valve in the picture below.

Originally I didn't have enough pressure pushing through my regulator. No issues on the low pressure side, but the lack of pressure on the high side would cause flames to shoot out the back of the burner. There was not enough force to entrain the air and push it through the nozzles. The gas would pool in the venturi and just light out the back. Kind of exciting when you're not expecting it. Probably because I thought it was going to blow. Also because I was showing it off to my wife at the time, and her precious 350Z was parked right next to me. 

Switching out the regulator and cranking the pressure up to 30 PSI did the trick. So far so good. The first brew day went well. I'm not sure how much more gas the system used, but the extra juice was noticeable bringing the wort to a boil. The burners require some tweaking to get the flame just right. I still have to tweak my low pressure burner because it turned the bottom of the HLT black as Dad's "well-done" hamburgers.

Next week: Phase 3 - Plumbing.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yesterday's "Pearls Before Swine Comic" was awesome.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Two Brewers!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Phase 1: Steel Construction

It's time I start writing about how R2-DBREW came to be. Truly it came from months of brainstorming and perusing other people's home brew systems. I found what I liked about other people's systems and started to scribble out one of my own. I came up with a 2 tier system design that only uses one pump (until I get my plate chiller). First task was to lay out how I was going to build the thing and what size pieces of metal I was going to use. The metal is relatively cheap, but it's important to lay out how you're making your cuts so that you make efficient use of the pieces. All in all I ended up buying 48' of 2x2 11 gauge square stock steel, and 48' of 1x1 11 gauge square stock. The total came to about 125 bucks if I can remember. Considering a 2' section of square stock at Lowe's is $8, that's an awesome price. It's imperative to find a metal yard to get this metal from. You'll have to take a second mortgage on the house if you buy it all from the big box store.

Mite saw outfitted with aluminum
foil guard and metal cutting blade.
Next is cutting. There's a few options you can do here. My metal yard sold the metal in 24' segments, but cuts it in half for consumers for free. If you want it cut beyond that it was $2 per cut. Officially, a self lubricated horizontal band saw would be ideal, but unless you're working in a metal shop, you probably don't have one. And if you do, you're definitely not reading this for a how-to. I took my normal miter saw and replaced the blade with a metal cutting blade that you can get from Lowe's for under 10 bucks. You need to make a few modifications though. Take off the dust catcher. The metal sparks will burn through that in no time. Secondly, take off the plastic piece that directs the sawdust to the bag, this will also melt after a lot of cutting. If you can't remove it, take some aluminum foil and cover the plastic that comes in direct contact with the shower of sparks you'll be creating.

Finally we can get to cutting. It's wise to set yourself up so you can easily make your first cut and move to the next. Measure your first cut and give her a rip. Let it be known, there will be sparks. A pretty solid shower of them. Which can only be described as awesome. Don't point that shower of sparks towards anything particularly flammable. I hung a fireproof (later to be known, not weld-rod proof) blanket behind my saw while I cut. Take your first piece, file off the burrs, and measure it again. Make sure it's exactly what you want. Then using your first piece, measure out and mark your second piece. After your second piece is done, use your first piece again to measure out the next cut. If you don't, whatever small errors you make on each cut will compound to the next one. Lets say you end up cutting pieces 1/16" short when you cut. If you use the same piece to measure, each piece after that will only be 1/16" short. If you keep using the piece you just cut, after 8 cuts you'll be an entire 1/2" short. That won't work. I learned very quickly that metal is unforgiving. You have to make your cuts just right, and often you'll be hammering stuff into place.

Ratchet straps to keep metal square.
Then it's time to weld it all together. You can do this however you want, but regardless of the type of welder, plan out your stages so that the welding sites are easy to get to, and the structure can (relatively) support itself. I learned a neat trick to use ratcheting tie downs to clamp metal together. It works great and doesn't cost nearly as much as a set of large clamps. Be careful getting the metal too hot near them though. You don't want to melt the strap. Try to weld everything in the same plane at once and then you can tack the two sides together. It's impossible to cantilever a piece of metal out and expect to get a nice square weld. Also try to make it so the seams you're welding are accessible. You will eventually have to weld in tight corners as you move along, but might as well make those as few as possible. Once you have everything together, drill a small hole in each piece of steel that is closed off on both ends. You don't want the air to heat up inside and explode (it happens).

Keep in mind that you're embarking on a big project! I spent a lot of time putting this together. I started July 1st, and only just finished October 27th. A solid 4 month project. And there's still some improvements that need to be made.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bad Omens

I had a little mishap last weekend, which is why I didn't post before I took my trip to Vegas. But I'll get to that.

Last weekend I used R2-DBREW for the first time, 100% completed. R2-DBREW worked great. Everything around it was trouble. First thing, R2-DBREW is HEAVY. Not heavy like a big ol' bag of dog food mind you. Heavy like trying to pick up the tail end of a Honda hatch-back heavy. I managed to wheel it to the backyard... back is another story.

While everything heated up I milled my grain. I did nothing different than I had in the past, but my drill freaked out. Which made me freak out considering how close it was to my genitals. I started loosing the speed control of my drill, which was strange, so I tilted it up (off of my lap). What I found was thick milky smoke pouring off the battery of my drill. The only images I had in my head was those of exploding laptop batteries. I placed the drill on the ground, and I watched while I listened to the battery smoke and sputter. I wanted to get my drill off that battery. I needed to save my drill. I ran and got my welding gloves and managed to pull the battery off and place it at a distance. The battery had melted holes in the sides of the casings. The battery proceeded to smoke for about 10 minutes, but was too hot to pick up for the next 8 hours. Unfortunately... my drill didn't make it.

He was a good drill. With almost 6 solid years of service. There was no task that he back down from. No job that was too difficult. Whether it was plowing screws through plywood, or drilling holes in slabs of concrete, he never wavered. We've been through a lot together, he and I. We've been through plywood, concrete, drywall, studs, aluminum, and most recently 11 gauge steel.

He will be missed. *sniff*

*Ahem*. Excuse me. I digress. Anyway this should have been an omen. Since the only way I could mill the grain was on full speed, I had a very hard time running my mash process. The liquid did not want to move through the grain bed, leaving dry spots. Leaving me with a low OG.

I wrapped everything up and proceeded to bring R2-DBREW back to the front yard. I made it about half way when I turned around to pull R2 walking forward instead of back which is when tragedy struck. I caught my heel underneath one of the steel 2x2, 11 gauge, square stock legs. All 800+ (estimate?) pounds of R2-DBREW was unrelenting and cut into my heel. I'm no doctor, but it must have bounced off my Achilles' tendon. The blood flowed from my ankle like beer flows during Oktoberfest.

Perfect. I can't walk. The day before my 1 week vacation to Vegas. Not much walking in Vegas right? Wrong. You walk everywhere. Oh, and I forgot to mention the second half of my trip. Hiking the grand canyon. F*(%@.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Magnetic Doughnut

I have emerged on the other side unscathed.

Well, mostly.

I still have my sanity and my health (sort of). My wife hasn't left me. But it's been a long few weeks. I'm not the only one suffering at work, these are just one of those tough times. Could be worse though. I suppose I could be mooching of the government for 70+ weeks (I only mooched for 6 months).

Better crazy busy than crazy unemployed.

But free time has been scarce like hair stylists to Donald Trump's haircut. I haven't gamed in weeks, I'm falling behind on The Walking Dead, and the deadline for me to brew is coming closer and closer. The brew off is December 14th. I have to have a Belgian Dubbel brewed next weekend before I leave for Vegas. Or I'm late like a high school cheerleader's period. Thankfully, a lot of progress has been made into the past 2 weeks.

Controls are all wired up, and this weekend I troubleshooted and cleaned metal shavings from the inside of my kegs. Figured those would work themselves through the G.I. so well. I'm calling R2-DBREW 99% complete right now. All she needs is a few cosmetic zip ties and we're good to go.

Troubleshooting went better than expected. A few things were wired backwards. Two connections had slipped. Two copper joints leaked badly. One valve was installed backwards. Finally, I learned something about my pump.

So pumps have impellers right? Impellers are these rotating things that look like a squished spider from the top down. They take (in this case) water and fling it out the other side. The whole point of these March beer pumps is that they're food safe. The actual motor, with all its' oilyness and bearings are separate from the impeller housing. How does the motor spin the impeller? Effectively with a magnetic doughnut. Doughnut, connected to the motor, spins the impeller using magnetism. They're separated by a thin sheet of metal. Well apparently that magnetic doughnut is exposed to the outside. Once you mount it on your brewing rig, call it a day, then proceed to drill holes in metal above it... bad things happen. By showering little (hot) metal shavings over the motor like fireworks ashes on the 4th of July, that magnetic doughnut sucks those shavings in like a Dyson with a mission. Those metal shavings bind that motor up quick, causing you to have to take the entire thing apart.

Thankfully the pump was probably the hardest part of my troubleshooting. I should be good for next weekend. If not, I'm screwed. I need a beer bubbling next weekend.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Perfect Storm

Seems the rough times just keep on trucking!

I've got the perfect storm of situations here. I've got a brewing competition on December 14th that I have to have a Belgian Dubble ready for. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, except that my brewing system is in a million different pieces right now making a Decepticon like transformation into R2-DBREW. Backtracking that means the last weekend I could brew is, ideally, November 9th.

Right. November 9th. I'll be on a plane flying back from my awesome week-long vacation in Vegas, so that pushes my brewing date back to November 3rd-ish.

Oh, but wait, I said that my brewery still isn't finished. Right. Backtracking that, allotting time for troubleshooting, I have to be finished the weekend of October 28th, ready to brew the next weekend. Shouldn't be a problem, I've got plenty of time! The weekends. Probably got an hour a day during the week. Right? RIGHT?

WRONG. One of my coworkers quit, and now I'm handling his projects. A good bump in responsibility for me. But with a major project deadline looming on the 22nd, and a myriad of other smaller projects with due dates peppered between now and then, I've got a negative amount of time during the weeks. What's negative? That means the time I need to work + the time I need to relax + the time I need to sleep is greater than the allotted 24 hours in a day. Woohoo.

Right, and there's a deadline strategically placed the week I'm in Vegas. Have to get that done a week early as well.

What does this mean? Things are crazy. I've got a lot of things on my mind. I'm spending a lot of time on the weekend getting R2-DBREW done. While I spend time with my wife hanging out, watching our favorite crime scene dramas and the Yankees getting hammered harder than a frat boy during senior week, I am multitasking by stripping wires and wiring up my control box for the system. My hands are getting calluses from gripping and ripping those tiny pieces of insulation off the end of the wires. I'm almost done with the box itself at this point and I have over 40 feet of wire crammed into this little control box. But it looks great...

I'm getting very close to the end of the project and I'm getting a little nervous. Things could go wrong. Plug in my box and fry something. Hook up the water and it's spraying out of all the joints. Flames keep shooting out of where they aren't supposed to... For now, I'll just sit and enjoy the boot of beer my wife just poured me.

How awesome is that.

R2-DBREW... 85% done.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Beereview: Sam Adam's Thirteenth Hour

For one who's never been a huge fan of Samuel Adam's, I've sure been writing a lot about it lately. I guess that happens when you visit a brewery. While I was there I managed to pick up some bottles of their "Barrel Room Collection," which is a unique collection of Belgian style beers that are only sold in their breweries. Some time ago I tried the "New World" which is a Belgian Tripel. New world was a great beer, good body, and on the easy side (relative to tripels) to drink. Not too long ago I tried the "American Kriek," which is aged over some fancy cherries. I'm not one for fruit and beer, and in turn, I thought the beer was awful. I wish I would have known that ahead of time, and I would've given it to someone to drink and I'd keep the bottle. The wife and I couldn't handle it though, and it was... this is even hard for me to say... dumped.

Today I have the "Thirteenth Hour," a dark stout, Belgian style. This beer will complete my trifecta of Barrel Room Collection beers on my shelf. The beer pours black, but not as thick as I would have expected. It looks more like a porter right now than it does a stout. The head is thick, but not creamy like a stout would be. The aroma is great, with some Belgian wine notes, and some roasty coffee aromas. The beer itself is complex. The first sip comes across with the strong Belgian beer taste, as would a St. Bernardus or a Delirium Noctorum (my spellchecker hates this post). It's sweet, bordering on a flavor not unlike a barleywine. Finally, last and not least, are the coffee and roasted notes mentioned on the bottle.

Not a bad beer. I can't say it's one of my favorites, but they really captured the essence of what they were trying to accomplish, creating a Belgian style stout. I think it's more of a Belgian style porter myself. Regardless I'll definitely be finishing this bottle, probably slowly sipping in front of the tube playin' Borderlands 2 the rest of the afternoon.

R2-DBREW is finally nearing completion. I finished the keg fit-out yesterday, and I'm going to proceed starting the control box. I'm still debating whether to go ahead and add the plate chiller now or later, and I have to figure out how I want to do that. Status today? 70%.

Let me know what you think about this beer! Or what kind of chiller you think is best! We love to hear from you. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Oooh Shiney!

Ever notice when someone says something will be a "great opportunity" for you, it's always about something that's going to totally suck at first? It reminds me of Calvin's day referring to something that will "build character." Well, I've had a good opportunity fall in my lap at work. It really is one, but that doesn't make it any less stressful. That combined with my typical resistance to change has made this past week more than just a little stressful. So that made it particularly nice to have a quiet weekend. I didn't get as much done on R2-DBREW as I planned, but made good progress none-the-less.

Two out of three kegs are fully polished. Even though I was just standing in the garage with a fan on me, it was exhausting. I spent about 4 hours on Saturday doing two of the kegs, and an hour today starting on the third.

Polishing the keg is easy. I found a great how-to on homebrewtalk that gained such popularity it earned it's own sticky in the DIY thread. Start to finish (without keg, and without angle grinder) it's about a $50 investment. The DIY thread has you go with Gator Grit, but anything similar would work just fine. You need a "medium" grit pad, a "fine" pad, a buffing pad, and number 2 and number 5 polish. To use these pads you need a backing accessory for your angle grinder. Start with the medium and get to polishing. It takes about 3 hours to complete a keg depending on how rough of shape it was to start in.

If there's a bunch of stickers on your keg, you're going to want to get some "Goof-Off" or similar product and remove all the goop. The goop will gum up your grinding pads pretty quick. That being said, getting the sticky off is a pain, and maybe you want to just buy some sacrificial sanding pads instead.

You start with the medium pad, then move to the fine pad, and then the buffing pad. You apply the number 2 polish first, by holding the end of the stick (like a big piece of chalk) and holding it against the wheel. Then polish away like you did before. Apply the polish compound regularly. I wouldn't mix polish compounds on your buffing pad either, your #5 finish probably wont look as nice.

After all the hard work you should be able to see yourself in the keg. Take a rag and soak with mineral spirits or acetone or similar and wipe all the residue off. Now you've got some kegs sportin bling so serious Flava Flave is jealous.

While you're here, visit the link on the side of the site and get yourself a subscriptions to Brew Your Own!

Monday, September 17, 2012

R2-DBREW Update

R2-DBREW is coming along well.

Phase 1 - Frame - is obviously complete. It's been done a while now, and is still holding strong and looking great. We're getting close to the point where it's time for a sweet (black) paint job.

Phase 2 - Gas Train - is complete sans troubleshooting. Also been done for a while, and aside from some errant flame geysers, we're all good.

Phase 3 - Plumbing - has just been completed! Copper now runs to everywhere it needs to. All the solenoid valves have been installed, teflon'd, and are ready to be hooked up to my soon to be controller. I have a spot for future expansion to a wort chiller. Sweating the copper was as easy as I remembered it, but this was a much larger scale. Getting it to line up with the frame was a pain as well. But getting the pump to line up with the system was the biggest pain. It did not want to fit together. Things are all clamped down now, and the water side has been tested. I can't really test the keg side of things until the kegs are all ready to go and the control box is done. Again, complete sans troubleshooting.

Phase 4 - Kegs - will be next. The kegs need to be outfitted with all their fancy new equipment. I have some compression fittings ordered from Brewer's Hardware for my thermocouples. I also have some weld-less sight glasses from Brew Hardware (note the difference). But before all that goes in I have to strip the kegs as they are and get them polished.

Phase 5 - Control Box - should (again, sans troubleshooting) be the last phase of this project. I've gone and purchased a new box and a few components. I'm still laying out the wiring diagram to make sure I have everything accounted for. There's going to be a lot of wires running in this box, but I'm going to do things a little neater this time and have dedicated hot and neutral bars to make everything a little neater. I'm also planning on using the appropriate wire connectors so everything is really neat, and not covered with solder, electrical tape, and wire nuts.

There's still a lot of work to be done! Now I have a deadline as well. The next work competition is December 7th, which means I have to brew by the beginning of November (mid November I'm on vacation!). Which really means I have to be done, up, and operational by the end of October. I plan to be wiring the control box after next weekend, so I should have plenty of time for troubleshooting. I'm tired just thinking about it. 

Finally I will leave you with a picture of where I'm at today! No close ups yet, I plan to do a full write up after I'm done with the project.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Sponsors!

We've got some new advertising on our website here as you'll see on the right side of your page. I've been subscribed to Brew Your Own for some time now and I'm pleased to be able to help spread the wealth. Use the link on this page to get your own BYO subscription!

Make sure to use that link though because I want my kickbacks.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Boston Beer Co. Tour

It's been a long few weeks.

I remember back in June one of my coworkers walking into my cube and telling me about a major deadline that got pushed up from October to July. He asked "What do you think? Is this possible?"

Considering all the other projects going on I responded "Well, July and August are going to suck."

My predictions came true, and I never could expected the additional stuff to happen, some bad, some good. Two of Nikki's family members passed away within the space of a 3 week period. That was really awful. We've done a lot of flying recently. Nikki got a new job downtown, which is awesome! She's loving it there.

But all of this happening on top of me getting slammed at work has been stressful. I haven't even touched R2DBREW for the past 3 weeks. I did just pick up some copper pipe and fittings the other day and I've made a little bit of progress this past week, and I'm going to continue this week. The plumbing is moving along pretty quick. I think plumbing will be done in a week or two. Then keg modifications and shining. Then controls. And at some point, painting.

I haven't been the only one slammed either. The other brewers at work are experiencing the same workload. So much so we've pushed back our next Brew Comp. to December 7th (I think). Which is good because I will have R2-DBREW done by then. God help me if I don't, because that means either major setbacks or that this onslaught of work continues for the next 3 months.

I'm excited for this competition because we're switching it up a bit. We all put a different style of beer up for brewing. When the invite gets sent out everyone who accepts will vote on which style of beer we should brew! I think that makes the whole thing more personal and will get more people's interest.

To continue my last post however, the Boston Beer Co. tour was great! If you don't know Boston Beer Co., A) you should smack yourself, B) after you recover realize that they are who brews Sam Adams. What I didn't know is that they also brew Angry Orchard Cider and Twisted Tea. Who knew? Well our tour guide was very informative and really knew her stuff. I was totally the beer geek in the crowd, being the only one knowing what the Reiheitsgebot is. The tour was short. First she showed us where all the brewing equipment was. Really it is quite a small brewery there. That's where they do all their experimental stuff. Maybe 8 fermenters total. Not large one's either. I learned there that Sam Adam's decoction mashes all their Sam Adam's beers! I had no idea. I didn't think any breweries took the time to do such a labor intensive mash cycle. For those keeping track at home, decoction mashing is where you take part of your mash, put it in a side pot, boil it, and add it back to the mash, thereby raising the temperature of the mash. It's kind of like infusion mashing, but instead of water, it's your mash.  And it takes a lot longer.

The next part was the tasting room which is where things went from good to good-er. We got to taste 3 of Sam Adam's beers, the Boston Lager (of course), the Whitewater IPA, and... huh. I actually can't remember, but there was a third one. They gave us these sweet little sampling glasses. The people at the other end of the table weren't very thirsty apparently. This is where it got really good. They gave up the rest of their pitcher to us, and my brother in law and I proceeded to imbibe. Next was the gift shop, where I picked up some goodies on the way out and then off to Doyle's, where I had another pint of beer so I could get my free glass!

All before noon.

It was a good trip.

Been there? Let us know!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Beer Filled 24 Hours

So I mentioned last week about posting from my vacation spot pending inebriation.

Inebriation happened, posting did not.

Currently I'm sitting in the Albany Airport however drinking a pint of "Saratoga IPA." Not a bad IPA, just not very unique. The kicker here is that with a 22oz glass I get a 3 dollar shot of liquor! Why the hell not. Unfortunately the nice scotch and expensive vodka was a steep 5 dollars. I do love scotch, but I managed to squeak a shot of silver 1800 Tequila which is one of my favorites. And with a reasonable price for a beer and a delayed flight, I'm going to be lit getting on this plane.

I love flying.

Boston was fantastic! I'm recollecting the best I can, it's a little fuzzy. We got in late on Wednesday and immediately hit the bar scene. The history of this place is layered on thick as the BS on your favorite candidate's political agenda. History is oozing out of Boston's pores, and to tell you the truth I don't care much about it. The bartenders were awesome however and very quick to offer up a sample of beer. If you follow me on Untappd, you'll see I earned a number of badges that night. We had one beer at each bar (and a number of samples). The night went like this:

Bell in Hand - I really wanted to see our bartenders Honker's... Ale. The Honker's Ale was awesome, I dont remember why, but it was good.

Union Oyster House - I had the Sam Adam's Boston Brick Red. Normally I wouldnt have gone for a Sam Adam's but the brick red is only sold in choice bars in Boston. Why not get a beer you cant get anywhere else?

The Green Dragon - sounds like something out of a sci-fi video game, when in fact it is another crazy old hole in the wall bar in Boston. Favorite bar of the night. I love a good ol' hole in the wall. Had a Harpoon IPA. Good. Local. Win.

The Beantown Pub - Cool place, had a Crisp Apple from Angry Orchard which, get ready for this, is made by Sam Adams! Go figure. Angry Orchard was awesome.

Finally we stopped at the Scholar's Boston Bistro, where I had a Racer 5 IPA. The IPA was good and strong, weighing in at 7% ABV. I gave it 4 stars, which means it was good, but I can't for the life of me remember why. The location however was way too posh for my liking. The exact opposite of a hole-in-the-wall, this place was trendy. My fellow metro-sexuals probably would've liked this place. But the bartenders were cool and again offered me a number of samples.

Finally (the next day) we went to Doyle's. I'm skipping over the Boston Beer Co. tour because I've said too much already. But go to Doyle's and buy a $6 Sam Adam's product and you keep the glass. Score.

Thanks for the recommendations of places to go. I would've loved going to the Harpoon Brewery but I just didn't have the time. I was in Boston for less then 24 hours, and covered a lot of territory. And I was tired. I slept half the way back to the airport to continue the other half of my vacation. Some guest I am. Also, thank you Chelsea for driving us around in Boston, but get your AC fixed. Wow. Hot.

Monday, August 13, 2012

This post has nothing to do with the Olympics

But that doesn't mean I'm not watching it as I compose the medley that is this wonderful blog.

This upcoming week I'm doing a short tour in Boston beer. This post will be relatively short, because I plan to be sober enough to be able to blog from Massachusetts. Heading out Wednesday and arriving in Boston on Wednesday night I plan to hit up some brew pubs with the brother-in-law and wife. Then the next morning we'll be heading to the Boston Beer Company to partake in what I understand is a pretty outstanding tour. Again, pending sobriety, we may have some on the spot commentary. At least some tweeting. Afterwards I'll be heading up to the northern parts of New York to a technology dead zone to spend some quiet time and do some fishing.

R2-DBREW is coming along swimmingly. The frame is 95% done, pending some tweaks along the way. The gas train is 95% done pending on some troubleshooting. The next step is to install the pumps and plumbing, kegs, then the controls. Then trouble shooting, and a killer paint job and then it's time to get serious and do some killer brewing.

About troubleshooting. What is troubleshooting anyway? Trouble shooting? I have nothing to shoot. No matter. I finally tested my gas train, which made me a little nervous. Nothing should go wrong, as long as there aren't any leaks you shouldn't have any explosions. I checked and double checked for leaks. I checked the low pressure side, I checked the high pressure side. Low pressure works perfect. High pressure.... not so much. After a few seconds of burn flames start shooting out the back of the burner venturi. Flames are not supposed to be coming out of both ends. I sat and stared at it for a few minutes. I tried it a few more times, and now I know that it certainly happens ever time. I had two choices, delay building and troubleshoot, or put it off... Put it off!! I'll troubleshoot everything all at once at the end of the build.

Low Pressure Side

I think it's safe to say R2-DBREW is at 50% completion. After a month and a half of construction, I'd say that progress is pretty good. Save last week progress has been fairly steady. Things got crazy at work as multiple deadlines collide in one exciting (stressful) week. Hopefully after getting back from vacation things will be a little calmer, but I'm not counting on it.

I hope you enjoyed the Olympic games! I'm supported the Olympics by drinking beer, just like many fellow Americans!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Beereview: New Belgium Ranger IPA

This is a short story about a man shown the world, only to have it ripped away from him.

Which is way too dramatic to describe what I'm about to tell you. First we're starting a beereview about a beer so striking, that I'm still able to write about it 2 days after drinking it. New Belgium has quite a cult following. Many people have never heard about it. Those who have will tar and feather you if you speak the name in vain. Fat Tire is there flagship beer, but this post isn't about Fat Tire. This post is about their stance on IPA's, the Ranger IPA. My coworker Jeremy brought this in for me, but I'll gripe about that later.

Ranger IPA is one of those radical craft beers that are starting to come in cans. So far, so good. I haven't had a bad (craft) beer from a can yet. Something about the craft beer in cans just tastes a little better. I picked up a 12 pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in cans, and it tastes awesome! Also, I can fit more cans in my fridge than I can bottles, double score!

Not knowing what to expect, tired and lazy on Friday night, I sat down to watch the Olympics with the Ranger in hand. I look at the can, "New Belgium huh? People go pretty crazy over Fat Tire... I wonder how this will be." I don't even sniff it before I drink it. I take a swig... and holy s***. The hops in this beer are amazing. Sweet, fruity, citrus-y, smooth and easy to drink. Finally an IPA not packed to the gills with cascade hops. Not that cascade hops are bad, but in large quantities they have a pretty harsh bite to them. A big part of why I'm not a huge hop-head. No, no, these are Simcoe hops, something... different. The beer is so smooth, so rich, tasty, and drinkable! A fantastic IPA, but you can still pound these like you were trying to forget the night! I hand it to my wife, only once she promises to give it back. Well, it was a struggle to get it back from her. Both of us agree, New Belgium Ranger IPA is our new favorite IPA. Personally, its climbed it's way up my beer list quick.

Now for Jeremy, and why coworker Jeremy is both a saint and a do!$#bag. I text Jeremy, "Dude, this beer is amazing!" He says "yeah, bittersweet thing huh?" Then he proceeds to drop the news on me. New Belgium isn't sold in Florida. Nope. It's sold in Georgia, sure. Not here. If I want more Ranger, I have to drive over 3 f*%(ing hours to get my fix. What's Georgia got that Florida doesn't?? Peaches? Pecans? Seriously people. Georgia is not usually on my mind. Georgia started as a PENAL colony. If you don't know what that means, it's not phallic. But it probably smells like one. That's a colony where people go as punishment. A prison. Why does New Belgium send their wonderful product there, and not to poor Florida.

Dear New Belgium, this is a personal plea to bring your delightful nectar to Florida.

I have finished. Hopefully, it will be enough.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Beereview: Rocket Dog Rye IPA

It's no secret I'm a huge fan of dogs.

Our dogs are part of our family. After a day or two vacation, we miss our dogs. They're allowed on our couch. They sleep in our bed. They eat with us at the dinner table.

OK, that last part isn't true. They eat on the floor.

But my love of dogs, especially our dogs, makes me a sucker for beer with dogs on them, or brewed by dog-friendly breweries.

Today's beer is technically a special request from the wifey. I've had some of these special beers sitting in the fridge for a while, and she got a hankerin' (that's right, I used the word hankerin') for a new IPA (she is a hophead after all). The beer comes from the Laughing Dog Brewery, which I've reviewed before. Another beer I got suckered into because of a dog on the label. I'm about to open the Rocket Dog Rye IPA. I have absolutely no idea why it's rocket dog, but really, who cares? I'm excited because this will be my first rye beer. Considering the love I have for rye bread (Jewish or not), I'm looking forward to this. Lets pop the top.

We've got a gusher here! As I cracked the top the foam started rushing out of the bottle so I went and finished opening it in the bathroom sink. First glass poured all head, and the head is still dying down (see picture). I poured a second glass while the first is settling, and that had a much nicer pour. The aroma is very faint and almost fleeting, but with some sweeter and not so citrus tones which makes me think that the hops used were mostly from across the ocean. The aroma doesn't have that biting citrus of our American hops like cascade. The color is almost a lager-like golden hue, with a rich white foam head that doesn't want to go away (much to the wife's dismay as the first poured glass is hers, heh).

First sips are surprisingly strong. I wasn't expecting such a bite from the hops because of the weak aroma. The beer is biting, and does have citrus notes, but not what I'm used to. I get a strong taste of grapefruit to this beer, which I've never experienced before! The drink is smooth and light body. I do get a small amount of rye-bread malt coming through under the hops, and I like it.

This is a great beer! It's unique, and peak's my interest to other rye beers. I'd like to hunt down a less hoppy one so I can experience the rye malt more. I really like the unique hop flavor to this beer. I attempted to do some research at their site, but it's site is broken. Looks like someone forgot to pay the domain provider the rent.

R2-DBREW update is at 20%. I welded the axles and mounted the wheels to the frame. I've got all most gas parts ordered, save a few fittings here and there, and temporarily screwed together. I've also gotten my hands on some expanded metal mesh for the bottom level of my rig to store stuff on. Next steps, putting the other feet on the rig, installing mesh, installing gas train. Rock and roll.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Great Way to Start a Week

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. What better way to start a week than to wake up to an email auto-generated from Homebrewtalk.com in my inbox.

A while back I posted about my homebrew tattoos. At the same time over on Homebrewtalk.com I found this thread about homebrewers posting tattoos. I figured why not! I love showing them off. Just this morning I got an email about this guy getting a tattoo done inspired by the pictures I posted! How friggin cool is that. Someone who liked the  idea so much he got it tattooed on his arm. I've been on cloud nine all day for that, and I gotta say I really appreciate him sharing that with me. Hopefully he doesn't mind but I'm going to post a picture of it below, and here it is! It's pretty awesome in it's own right. Thanks again, SingleaLeBrewing!

Progress update on R2-DBREW, the frame is now completely welded together. Next is to install the wheels and the gas system. Once I get my hands on a step bit again the wheels are as good as done. I've got a bunch of parts for my gas system in hand, but I have to start by securing the burners to the frame.  In this picture, the burners are just resting on the rails. We'll call it 15%. Also, when TIG welding, be careful where you swing your welding rod.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Malady Melody

My welding has been coming along at a fantastic pace. I think I'm really getting the hand of this TIG stuff. Next thing I know I'll be making motorcycles and arguing with my dad. No more sunburns, but I've must have lost 5 pounds to sweating alone. Working in pants and long sleeves in the garage when it's 95 and 70% humidity out is like trying to work inside of an easy bake oven.  Not ideal. What's even less ideal is getting sick right in the middle of the process. Tuesday night I decided to stay up late and do some welding. I wrapped that up around midnight.

Which actually brings me to a side note. I swear I could do anything in this neighborhood and nobody would notice. As long as I don't have music blaring at 2 am, or increasingly seedy vehicles coming to and from my house, I'm in the clear. I thought that boiling a pot of unknown substance in my back yard would at least raise an eyebrow. Now I've got butchered kegs, pumps, burners, and little boxes with flashing lights. I'm actually very surprised that no one has called in and said I'm operating a meth lab or an illegal still. When I was growing hops I thought for sure one of the neighborhood kids would steal a few cones and try to smoke it. Now I'm in my garage until the wee hours in the morning welding up a storm, all mad-scientist like, and I get nothing. Maybe I live in a better neighborhood than I give credit for. Or maybe that is how passive suburbia has gotten. I don't get a single question. Which is actually pretty sweet I guess if I ever get a still running...

I digress. I stayed up to midnight welding. Great. I wanted to keep the door closed so my dogs could check in on me from time to time. They stay a little bit more calm that way. I did think about how the Argon (used in welding) might affect me, but the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) didn't say anything except for it's not oxygen, so you'll suffocate if you breathe pure Argon. So I was in the clear. Went to bed that night not feeling great, so I double checked that MSDS in the morning. Started to feel progressively crappy throughout the day until it was a full fledged head cold. Well that killed my productivity for the week and the weekend. On top of that I'm competing this upcoming weekend, so I needed to kick this cold quick. So I was very careful not to overdo it. Oh, and I was going to do a beereview today, but I swore off beer and soda until my competition (llllaaaame).

So here's a picture of my progress! I'm going to say we're at 10%. Most of the welds are just tacks right now, I'm currently going through and finishing them off.

And here's a parting gift for you all. A coworker sent me this link about how a community came together to save a brewery, all thanks to social media. A storm wiped through northern Virginia and left a lot of people without power. Which really sucks if you're a brewery that has thousands of gallons of lager that has to ferment cold. Check out the link about how everything transpired.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Indoor Sunburns

Today I close down my current brewing implements for major overhaul! This will be my last brew before I roll out R2-DBrew my new brewing contraption. My final brew? ATOTB#010, a Mexican lager. Cerveza baby!

My brew day was damn hot. You can probably track back my summer brew days by doing a search of me complaining about the heat. But while I was sitting still, milling my beer, sweat was pouring off me like tequila on Mexican new year. That was early in the day too, we had yet to hit maximum heat. My rig was feeling the heat too. Today again I was having valve issues. I made sure to test them ahead of time, and they were firing fine. When it came for them to perform however I got nothing. I ripped open the box and started poking at it with my multi-meter like a kid playing a deranged game of Operation. I really couldn't figure it out. I was getting really erratic measurements. I ended up hard wiring my valves to the power source and it worked for a time. Time enough for me to get through the mash. At this point my only conclusion is that my transformer (120v AC to 12v DC) is overheating. I think that makes sense. I made the transformer by ripping up a old GameCube power cord. Maybe it's not meant to take the Florida heat. I'm going to attempt to get a replacement coil that will switch my current solenoid valves from a 12vDC operation to a 120v AC operation, eliminating the transformer altogether. 

We will still have beer in the end however. The lager is sitting in the garage lagerating as we speak.

Which brings me to the status of R2-DBREW. I've begun tacking and welding things together. I've got the taller half of the frame mostly complete, and the lower half is ready to have some legs put on it. Progress? Maybe 5%. 

Lower level prepared for legs

Upper level ready to be added on to

I learned a few lessons on TIG this past week that I'm going to share. First one:

Heat bends metal. This is pretty self explanatory. I had heard to do small tack welds before going full bore on the thing to avoid warping metal. Well after welding the top of my frame together I picked it up and realized the side pieces had bowed up where I had originally done my welds. I managed to fix it by jamming the entire thing in my vice and hanging my floor jack from it with a set of ratchet straps. From there I was able to get underneath the questionable structure and weld it overhead. The entire time I remembered why I don't do some projects with other people around. Other people would have convinced me that the entire thing was a bad idea. Well, maybe it was, but now it's fixed, and I've emerged unscathed. Secondly...

You can get a sunburn from welding. This one (I feel) is a little less obvious. Obviously you wear the big mad-scientist helmet to prevent the bright spark from damaging your eyes. And obviously you should wear long sleeves and pants to prevent sparks from burning you directly. Well, I was in a white t-shirt and gym shorts. Why? Cause I'm the man that's why. But my wife might argue that. Some might say its because I was an idiot. Well welding with such devices gives off a lot of UV light as well. Lots of UV light equals a sunburn.  Which sat uncomfortably on the inside of my elbows and on the tops of my knees. When I realized the cause I thought to take my shirt off entirely and work on my tan. My coworkers convinced me otherwise. So from here on out, while it's 95+ degrees and humidity in the 80%+, I'm wearing long sleeves and pants.

Any other tips? Let me know! We would like to hear from our readers!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Heavy Metal

It's officially started.

My brew rig is currently under construction.

This weekend I picked up 48' of 2x2 11 gauge square stock steel, and 24' of 1x1 11 gauge square stock steel. I got as far as taking the big 2x2 pieces and cutting them into 24 smaller 2x2 pieces. Progress complete? Maybe 1%. Making all the cuts took about an hour and a half, and my miter saw, meant for wood, handled it pretty well.

There's a note in that. If you're going to use a wood chopping miter saw with a metal cutting disc in it instead of a blade, it will work. Be sure, however to cover anything in direct spray (within 4" of source 'ish) with aluminum foil. Most of my saw around the blade is metal, but the port where the wood would normally spray into the bag uses a plastic fitting. Part of this fitting is now a little bit melted, but no big deal though. And if it wasn't obvious, don't use the dust bag. I'll put a wager that that will catch fire.

It was a little awkward going to the metal yard. Mind you, picking up stuff these days is a lot easier now that I own the truck. I look at least slightly the part. However it was casual Friday at work, and I stopped by the yard on my way home. So there I am, waiting between Joe Schmo Welding truck in front of me, and Junior and Sons Fence Construction behind me. There I am, wearing a bright purple graphic 'dig-dug' t-shirt, shorts, and five-finger toe shoes. It didn't really occur to me until I was pulling up that I hadn't dressed the part. No matter, Junior and Sons behind me helped me securing the stuff to my truck despite my naive look.

Next step is welding everything together. I went to Aerogas (another place to not walk into with toe-shoes) to pick up some argon and welding rods to do some TIG welding. Have I TIG welded before? No. It should be easy right? I've MIG welded before, and it's easy enough. The catch is my MIG welder doesn't use gas, so the welds are really messy. My TIG uses gas, and my 220V outlet (now properly wired). I'm thinking by next weekend, after a half hour here and there, my stand should be, well, standing. We'll see how it goes.

At the same time my coworker Aaron is cutting the top out of a keg for me. He had a friend that had one, and I need a new boil kettle to do a double batch in. He said he'd get it for me, and he'd like to cut the top out because it sounds like fun. He said if he screwed it up, I wouldn't have to pay him for the keg. Didn't take me long to accept that offer. It probably wont take very long for him to realize it was a bad idea after he spends over an hour trying to get the stupid top out. Thanks Aaron!

I've been putting a lot of thought into my rig name. I figured it has to be sci-fi 'ish (only cause I'm a sci-fi buff), clever, and have the word 'brew' in it. One buddy came up with "Hoptimus Prime" which I actually really love. But I think I really want the word brew in the name. So far I'm leaning to "R2-DBREW." But I'm still open to ideas! Let me know! Post below!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rainy Day Blogging

So during the summer it rains almost daily in Florida. That seems like it's an awful lot to be called the sunshine state. The deal is that yes, it rains daily, but that daily rain is from about 3:30 to 4:30 in the afternoon, give or take an hour or too. It's not often that we wake up and go to bed with rain, but today is definitely one of those days.

So we had a little party last night. A little party where I only new a quarter of the people there. I didn't expect to hand out much beer, not knowing the pallet of our audience. The wife had all bases covered and bought a 18 pack of Miller Light (with the siiiick vortex long necks). By the end of the night, only 4 Miller Lights were empty. With the number of pints I handed out, those numbers equal the score of game six in the Stanley Cup this year (6-1 for the uneducated). People loved A Tale of Two Brewer's beer.

This is also one of the first time's I've had all four taps going at the same time. On tap was my Carpe-IPA, Saa-wheat!, and my most recent brews, Northern Brewer's SH2B (ESB), and Beersmith's Pilsner! The ESB was a big hit, and so was Saa-wheat!.  One IPA lover loved Carpe-IPA. The lager received decent reviews.

Speaking of the lager, for my first I'd say it came out great. The beer itself was mildly cloudly, and sweeter than I would have liked. Still, everyone agrees, it's refreshing and easy to drink! I'm getting ready to brew up another batch. This time the batch is going to be my first double batch. Since it takes so long for the Lager to, well, lager, I'm going to have two running at the exact same time. Which also means I have to upgrade my brew kettle.

This afternoon is going to be spent designing the frame of my brew rig on AutoCAD. I want to push to brew on the 14th and use my new rig, so it's an ambitious schedule. In the meantime I'll also have to get a keg and cut it up for my new keggle. We'll see how it goes!

I'm going to need a name for my brew-rig. It's gotta be badass. Any ideas? Brew-magnon? Brew and Let Brew? UberBrew?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Unexpected Results

I have this whole afternoon to myself. I'm pretty stoked to keg some beer and clean out the kegerator. Well...

The wife and I had a great idea for some shelves to put in the man room to spruce up a wall and create more storage for my growing collection of beer related goodies. After two weeks it went up yesterday, and it looks fantastic (if I do say so myself)! It's all carpentry-like and such. I cut notches in the posts and the shelves that interlock, and I even covered over the screw holes so you'll never see them! I feel I'm really kicked my carpentry up a notch. We made sure it didn't interfere with anything like the dart board scoring machine or the swing of the keg door. Right... the door. Well it turns out while we are clearing the keg door, there's not actually enough room to pull the kegerator out itself. It gets a little more than half way out and stops. I've got no room to move the kegerator from side to side either. This is going to take some engineering to figure out how to do this without creating any major destruction. So my plans for kegging this weekend are shot. Maybe sometime this week though. I'll cross my fingers.

On a side note, a momentous occasion has occurred. I finally kicked my bottomless keg of porter. I've been trying to kick that keg for a number of months now. While I'm not really complaining... I need the space in my kegerator to keg my next two batches. I was going to planning on kicking it Wednesday night, well, 3 nights and 8 beers later it's finally kicked. Not that I can do much with it though. It's stuck in the kegerator at the moment, held hostage by the shelf.

I just put in the order for my first Banjo Burner from Amazon. Should be here by Wednesday. I guess this unofficially marks the beginning of the creation of my brew-magic style brew stand. This one isn't going to cost me 6 g's though (looks like that price has gone up). I plan on starting with welding the frame together and mounting the burners to it. After that it should be a piece by piece build from there on out. Mount the pump, controls, gas, etc. Soon I'll be brewing in style.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hot Zone

Today... wasn't the greatest day. Not really for any particular reason. Just in a 'get out of the wrong side of the bed' sort of way. Really nothing was going wrong. I was just in a poor mood.

That's when I decided to put my regulator away. I open up my closet...

And there's mold growing on my beer.

I can't even explain how I feel about that.

Well I guess I can, cause that's what this post is about. That was such a downer. This was the ESB from my extra long brew day with my valve issues. All down the drain. Probably soon after this post I will be dumping it.

I can't say I don't know what I did wrong. Which is a blessing and a curse. At least I can learn from it and not do it again. However it also means I knew exactly what was happening when I screwed it up.

At the end of my boil in the brew session, in transferring the beer to my nice and clean fermenter, my flow stopped. Dead stop. Not a trickle. I had a mass of dry hops at the bottom of my pot thicker than the peat marsh of Ireland. Well I decided to use my fancy new funnel with a built in screen which should have worked great. Well that got stopped up too. Before I knew it I "sanitized" my hand and reached through my wort and pulled the screen out. When I did it I thought it was a bad idea. But I was at the end of a 7 hour brew day, and I was tired, and I wanted to move on.

Like I said, at least I can learn from this. I've been having increasingly greater troubles due to the fact I don't use hop socks. It just seemed like a waste to me. Well, now I know better, and last time I was at Heart's I picked up 10 of them. Also I now know that hands don't sanitize very well (which I kind of expected). C'est la vie.

Speaking of troubles, remember that CO2 leak I was paranoid about? Turns out my paranoia was a reality. I replaced that CO2, and a month later that CO2 ran out. I went to Heart's and I got a new manifold. I was constantly paranoid about my old one leaking. I installed it, pressurized the line sans keg to see if the gas side would hold. Next morning, no pressure. So I isolate the gas side. Great. But at this point I'm sick and tired of leaks so I take the entire gas system from the CO2 to the disconnects to the pull and dunk the entire thing up to the gauges (dont want to get those wet). The leak made itself known quickly. I swore it would be my disconnect, but nope. Those are built well. Turns out the barbed fitting I screwed into my new regulator had a steady flow of CO2 escaping. Well, I've since taken it apart and using Loc-Tite, sealed the threads and re-attached. We'll see how my plumbing skills prove themselves.

... and wow. Just figured out something. I went to edit my shot of my "infected" beer and it turns out it's not mold, but just bubbles that formed on the top. I popped the cork and it smells great! Hallelujah! Anyone ever see bubbles like that?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Beereview: Newcastle Summer Ale, and Happy Memorial Day!

Hopefully by the time you read this it will have stopped raining and you're about to be enjoying a nice barbecue with your friends.

Lets not lie to yourselves... when you read this it'll be Tuesday, because that's the day when you're supposed to be "working."

Regardless, happy memorial day! Enjoy the BBQ and a beer, this holiday is the one to usher in the starting days of summer. For me, that means a beautiful trucker's tan from commuting to work, a lot of hot brew days hanging out in the pool, and the start of Corona season. It also means a game or two of beer pong or flip cup for me in the near future, because it always seems like I get sucked into one of those around this time.

This is where my beer geek comes in strong. Are you so snobby that you don't play flip cup? I doubt it. So when you do play, to you pour a good craft beer, just to pound it as fast as possible? That's a waste. But you don't drink the "domestics." Hmm what a conundrum. Memorial day is a great day for American mass market beer. It's hot. There's drinking games involved. A thick dopplebock is not refreshing. An ice cold, tasteless Coors Lite is though. So crack the top of your PBR! Have a happy memorial day!

But please don't forget the real reason we have memorial day. To pay homage to our fallen soldiers. Granted, I can't think of a better way to pay homage then to crack a beer. Keep it in the back of your mind though. There's people that risk their lives so that you may live the way you do, and don't think twice about it. That's brave. Hell, I'm sitting here blogging, and my office chair seems a little too high...

Now for the beereview! I got my hands on another limited edition release from Newcastle, their "Summer Ale." The beer is only being released from May to July this year, so go grab one quick to try for yourself. Newcastle describes this beer as a light golden beer, medium flavor, and a dry hoppy finish. Sounds like their going for an American lawnmower beer, except with a little flavor. Which I could use right now spending the day in the garage making shelving. Lets crack this top.

The beer pours a real pretty deep gold color with a lasting white foam head. Aroma is mild, slightly toasty, and slightly hoppy. First taste is smooth. The body is simple and smooth just as you would expect from the brewers of Newcastle. The taste is very much like some of our American domestics like Coors or Budweiser, but with a little more flavor, and a distinguishable hop character. Not like the generic extracted "hop flavoring" that Miller adds to their, wait for it, triple hops brewed Miller Light (no! say it aint so!). That said, I can't pick out which hop it is, but it has a nice citrus/grassy flavor and texture to it.

This is actually my favorite from the Newcastle lineup so far. Original Newcastle is too sweet for my style, and Founder's Ale was good, but not special. This is a great summer beer, easy to drink, and doesn't cut corners where the body of the beer comes in. Cheers Newcastle!

Anyone else try this? Think a dopplebock is refreshing? Post below. Argue me. I dare you.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wacky Liquor Laws (and Second Floor Donkey Naps)

Goofy laws are nothing new to me, especially after having lived in Pennsylvania for several years. I'm sure every state has its share of either religiously motivated, trial determined, or just plain idiotic laws (my favorite being Arizon's law that "Donkey's cannot sleep in bathtubs.") but Utah has to take the cake for some of the most regorously enforced and downright asenine laws related to alcohol. This is on top of the fact that a man can have any number of wives yet a husband is responsible for every criminal act committed by his wife while she is in his presence.

Recently, I received an email from Jason Vance about his new documentary "Liquor Behind Zion’s Curtain" which he described as " hard look at Utah’s crazy liquor laws from the 1800 to present day." I watched both trailers and it seems like they have made some great progress in version 2. from version 1. They are about 60% done with the documentary, and I can't wait to see how it turns out!

From what little I've heard about Utah, you apparently can't pour a beer in view of a child, although they have no problem drinking in front of them. I'm not sure if this is still the case, but this "can't be shown making drinks" law was easily (and ludicrously) circumvented by simply serving somebody the bar mix, dekuyper's whatever, or soda alongside enough airplane minis to allow the person to mix their own drink at the table. It would seem to me that any children present would be far more influenced by seeing a family member mix this kind of drink under the table (and "out of view") than they would seeing a bartender quickly and professionally create a drink. Nothing creates desire in a child more surely than express prohibition.

My own experiences with beer related laws aren't nearly that extreme but seem to be just as stupid. In Pennsylvania for instance, you not only can't buy beer in a liquor store (which are all state owned and controlled,) there are two distince types of beer stores with their own specific rules. If you wanted to buy small quantities of beer you can buy up to 2 six packs from a six pack shop (but not 3!) per vehicle; if you wanted to buy larger quantities of beer you must purchase them by the case or keg from a distributor (which can be a big pain, especially if you want to buy a varied selection of craft beer.) What does this mean? You can't buy 18 beers in the state of Pennsylvania, it's 12 or 24+. Also, bonbons or other chocolates containing minuscule quantities of alcohol are not allowed. Weird right?

Does your state have any weird laws? Have you experienced any of this Utah strangeness? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Greenville, neither green nor a village...

It isn't a long weekend with Uncle D if I don't wake up every morning with a hangover.

Just got back from Greenville, SC visiting my Uncle D, which is always a constant party. Of course I learned a few things. I learned that my first company vehicle is going to be a Jeep, and that Jeep will never have it's doors or roof on. Ever. I learned that if you want to drink all day, you have to start in the morning, and to start in the morning in Greenville, you have to plan the night before, because they don't sell booze before noon. I learned that not only do cats love cheese whiz, but they can also come dangerously close to jumping off a 12' drop and dance in the face of danger.

It really was a great trip. We spent some time at the zoo. By no means was it a large zoo. But they did have a pair of lions in a coma. A pair of special elephants that would make the rain man jealous. A funny looking animal called a Coatimundi, looking like a mixture of a squirrel and an anteater, eating his own poop. I'm glad my dogs aren't the only one.

We also spent time at Frankie's Fun Park. On the outside it looked like a sketchy place for children to go have peeping toms look at them through the masks of clown suits. On the inside it was actually a pretty sweet place. On the downside my wife forgot her ID, and was denied beer at Johnny Rocket's. Slap the cuffs on me, I've married a woman not old enough to drink beer.

Spent a good part of a day walking around downtown Greenville as well, which was very pleasant. Greenville is much more family friendly than Orlando. Hear me out here, I know I don't have a "family" according to the government (I feel that my dogs count, but I still can't deduct them on my taxes). Downtown Greenville was friendly for a guy like myself to walk around. Downtown Orlando isn't nearly as friendly. Between the glam metro-sexuals looking down on everyone who doesn't have the latest pair of One Religion (did I get that right?), and the hipsters clogging the sidewalks with their "fixies" that they barely know how to ride and their bowler hats that they don't wear right, Orlando just isn't as friendly.

But finally, to the beer! In downtown Greenville we stopped at a brew-pub called the Blue Ridge Brewing Company. The Blue Ridge was fantastic. I absolutely loved it. It wasn't a huge, made-up production. It was a brewery with a whole bunch of tables and an awesome kitchen. This place just oozed of beer geekiness. The main windows in the front are obstructed by nothing else than the brewing system itself. The system used was a two tank system, with a combination mash/sparge/hot liquor tank on the left side, and a boil tun on the right. I dont remember right off hand, but I believe I saw that it was a 10 bbl system. To the left wall was a row of fermenters, all nice and shiny. The tables were awesome. Tables? Yes. This inspired the engineer-geek side of me, because on the tables were the schematics for the refrigeration and steam system for the brewing system and the fermenters. YES! Calling out valves, pressure reliefs, back flow preventers, plate chillers, and all sorts of other good stuff. It was inspiring for me. So much so I had to push Nikki way down into the corner because I couldn't read her half of the plans from where I was sitting. I sampled their flight of beers which included their Kurli Blonde Ale, Colonel Paris Pale Ale, Rainbow Trout ESB, Total Eclipse Stout, a potent Barleywine, and a Blood Orange Honey Saison. The beers were all great. The stout had great body. All of the beers were lacking a little bit in the aroma department. The bitter really smacked you with the hops. I could drink the Kurli Blonde all day long. I had their "Butcher Shop Pizza" which was absolutely fantastic. The entire pizza was gone pretty darn quick.

Greenville is a great place! If you ever get a chance to stop at Blue Ridge, definitely go. Tell them Eugene sent you. I guarantee no-one will know who the hell you're talking about. Unless it's the drunk 30-something in the corner. Then that's my Uncle D. He'll know who you're talking about, but you're talking to the wrong guy. But he may just buy you a drink.