Monday, April 30, 2012

Beereview: Rosemary Homebrew

Creativity is a funny thing in brewing. People travel down a lot of different paths when designing beer recipes. People look at companies like Dogfish and scoff at their beers. Many of the beers don't follow into any BJCP style categories. That doesn't mean they're not good beers, quite the contrary. Many of these beers are amazingly unique. I mean raisins? Who thought raisins would taste good in beers? I've met a number of these brewers before, and many of them are the type to open the pantry or spice cabinet (or even look in the back yard to see what's growing) and see what strikes them that day as a good idea. Sometimes, sure, the ideas are very bad. Tasting those the first time out of the keg is much like the "why did I decided to jump off the parking garage" mornings after a long night of drinking. But sometimes the beers are downright amazing.

Some brewers on the other hand will start with their BJCP guidelines. While they may push the boundaries of these guidelines, they see them as a restriction. Which is fine! The crazy beers I mentioned above will have a very difficult time winning a beer competition. Nor will they appeal to the mass public. Throwing artichokes in your beer probably will not get you your flagship brew. Even if it does, I must say you have a very odd clientele. Or maybe your clientele is only your mother. Then yes, you're beer is special.

But trying to push the limits within the boundaries of the BJCP does make sense. There are still millions of unique beers out there who all fall into the main 23 BJCP categories. It's very much like stock car racing. The cars are kept at very tight constraints, but there's still plenty of room to make tweaks and improvements. It is this area of brewing where you will likely find your flagship beers. Pabst Blue Ribbon is called such because it won first place at the Worlds Fair in Chicago as America's best beer.

This all really boils down to the back-story behind today's beereview. One of my fellow brewers, Jeremy (no, not you East Conway), here in Orlando went and made his own "rosemary" beer. As peers we were skeptical. As men, we jeered and poked fun. You most often see rosemary on pizza and chicken. Not in beer. We weren't really sure if he got his recipes mixed up or not. Well I've tried it. And I'm glad I'm not competing against it...

Let's crack the top to my first peer beereview! This is Jeremy's first foray into bottling off the keg. Congrats Jeremy, you win a cookie for this one. The beer pours a hazy amber color with a thin, but lingering head. The aroma is, well, rosemary. It smells a little bit like Spaghettio's (thanks for the description @NikkiDJ27 [wife]). My history with canned spaghetti isn't great. It's a little bit of a turn off to have that memory. However the beer is great. The rosemary gives the beer a great tart taste that's still sweet to the palette. A very unique taste that's still quite refreshing. Cheers Jeremy! Great work. You might want to try your hand in herbal (no-hop) beer!

Fun fact: the Greek goddess Aphrodite first arose from the sea draped in nothing but rosemary. Let that image mellow in your head a little bit. You're welcome.

Have you tried an herbal beer out there? Share your experience!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Deflated Keg

Maybe it's nothing.

Maybe it's something.

But whatever it is, after spending the time to transfer my Saa-Wheat! beer to a keg, I come to the kegerator and my CO2 tank is out.


There's not a drop left of gas in the tank. Sure, I suppose it's been a little while since I've filled that tank. But I don't feel like it should quite be time for a fill yet. I've force carbonated a number of beers off of it too. I can't help but feel it's a leak though. It could just be my past experiences with CO2 leaks in my kegerator manifesting itself in some obscure paranoia. I think it's time to replace my home made manifold with a real one. I think it's also time to get something that will work a little better than Teflon tape at sealing these threads. I'm not quite sure what that substitute would be yet. I'd really appreciate some recommendations.

I feel like my beer is so vulnerable now... All... Uncarbonated...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Inflated Ego

Just last night the wifey and I went to a party at a friends house. Walking out the door Nikki said "aren't you going to bring any beer?" So I said, sure, why not. I dusted off one of my growlers, gave it a sniff to make sure it wasn't musty (the sniff test is the all knowing test, works for milk, meat, beer, juice, clothing...), and topped it off with some Carpe IPA and headed off.

Well what a hit. I think I need Nikki to become my new PR person. Being a white male mechanical engineer tends to work against me in the public relation department as you can imagine. And why would it? My ideal work day involves sitting in front of two widescreen monitors in a 8x8 carpeted cave with a 60 oz. Diet Pepsi and the phone cord unplugged.

I gave out some cards and met a couple who were all sorts of excited to hear about my beer stories. Long story short, they requested two more growlers of it! Maybe we'll trade favors later on.

Speaking of PR, I was contacted by Newcastle again promoting their new "No Bollocks" campaign. Stay tuned, there might be a giveaway in the very near future.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Epic Mash Tun Success

The mash tun has been completed. Not going to lie, it was a pain. Mostly because of my busy week and tight schedule to brew. Stayed up late cutting and grinding both Tuesday and Thursday night in desperation to get this thing done before my brewing session this weekend. Only to find out I didn't have practice on Friday so I had then entire afternoon free.

Yes, it had to be this weekend. This is my competition beer, which is at the end of May, and my next few weekends are booked. I didn't want to cut it any closer.

So! Do you want to make your own amazing mash tun like mine? You need a few key ingredients...

1 keg. You can either purchase it at a place like here... or grab one that fell off the truck. But this way you're on your own. If you're going to find one that fell off the truck, make sure it's a major manufacturer. I think their kegs are easier to cut.

1 false bottom. I'm not talking some surgical implant on your hottest pin-up model. I'm talking about a screen at the bottom of your keg to come running interception when the grain tries to rush out of your keg. Pick your poison. I used the 12" bottom and replaced the elbow with a 1/2" plug, since I already owned the screen. Also, make sure you cut your top big enough that you can fit the screen down in.

1 spout. If you're using it as a mash tun, you're going to have to get the mash out, right? I ordered from Northern Brewer. If you've been looking for a chance to spout off, it's time. But don't let it happen again.

1 autosparge. Yes, it's a Blichmann product, but it won't kill your bank account like most of them. Many brewers are dead set in their method of sparging, and I don't blame them. Sparging is a finicky process. And brewers hold on tighter to their means and methods than a gullible coke addict with a bag of Pillsbury bread flour (bleached). I've done work in fluid engineering, which doesn't qualify me at all to judge sparging process, but it seems to make sense to me that this is the best way to do it. That being said, I've never done it any other way.

1 sight glass. Shout out to Bobby_M at Homebrewtalk. Bobby owns where i got my sight glass kit. This makes checking for problems super easy. Maybe your pump lost prime and is no longer feeding your mash. You'll see the level dropping without getting off your chair. Stuck sparge? You'll see the level rising before you blow the top off. Depending how you control your temperature you might want a combo with the thermometer in it. If you don't then you also need...

1 compression fitting. I got mine from Brewer's Hardware. My thermocouple did not match the size of the compression perfectly, but there were very happy to spec me some o-ring sizes to order. So if you have an Auber thermocouple like this one. You need some o-rings this size.

A lid is nice too.

Then you're pretty much ready to rock! Get yourself a few drill bits or a nice, and I emphasize nice, step bit. I only say that cause I ordered one for 12 bucks on Amazon and destroyed it on my stainless steel. Your largest hole will be 3/4" inch for your spout mentioned above. Also, cutting off the top is hairy (like gorilla level hairy) depending on the tools available. Plasma cutter? No problem, also, I envy you. Cutting wheel, fine, but you might need to purchase some more wheels. Recip saw? Get more blades. Hacksaw? See you in 2020 (unless the world ends).

The rest is up to you! There's many ideas and theories on mash tuns out there, tweak it as you will. Any suggestions? Please post!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Stepping up?

Cue the angel music. Note, this is
NOT my keg. I can only hope.
I attacked my new mash tun design this weekend. And it fought back. Viciously.

It started during the week cutting out the top. Which went swimmingly. Actually, couldn't have been a better time in the garage. All at once I was using my blowtorch (rough, quick cutting), my cutting disc (smoother, slow cutting), and my handheld grinder (smoothing) all at once! Fire, air, and electricity all coming together to make something beautiful.

As I said last week, I'm sticking to Anheuser keggles from here on out.

This keg is fierce. Like Sasha Fierce. I was ready to mount all my fittings to the keg and call it a day, a process I figured would only take an hour. Oh no. Apparently, the super high quality step bit I purchased on Amazon for an amazingly low 12 dollars (step bits typically going for 50 - 100 dollars) didn't feel like cutting anything over a 5/8" hole. While tight for the sight glass and the thermocouple port, this was not happening for the spigot or the autosparge.

This is one of the reasons it's nice working for a bigger company. Resources. A few phone calls later and I've got a 3/4" bit arriving at work tomorrow and I'm going to tear that keg a new one. Quite literally. Then I'll ream it out. With a file. Bring it.

I plan on being ready for brewing next weekend. Lets hope.

Sidenote, the lager is coming along well. It was off to a slow start, which concerned me. I understand that everything points to fermentation should start slowly. But when I have ales consistantly starting in around 12 hours. Waiting for 48+ for signs gets me worried. By the time it did start, I already had a second digital thermometer in the fridge, called the store, and had ordered New Brewing Lager Beer. Impulsive, maybe. But the book looks like it has a lot of great information in it. I'm excited to dive on in.

Got any lager stories? Share! Post below! Let us know you're alive.