Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hiatus

Due to some unforeseen circumstances I will be taking a temporary Hiatus from my responsibilities to A Tale of Two Brewers. Keep checking back from articles from the Brew Crew however.

Don't worry, my brewing equipment didn't get hit by a truck.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Klutz

Today was another brew day.

I In-sink-erated my stir bar.

I bent two thermocouples.

I shattered my hydrometer.

But, today was a good day. I almost hit 60% efficiency. For the first time since maybe last November, I will have a higher starting gravity than I expected. Ooorah!

The stir bar was unfortunate. It started two weeks ago when I brewed and forgot to take the stir bar out of my yeast starter. I dumped it into the fermenter with the rest of the starter and thought well, I'll get it next week. That's not entirely true I guess. My true stream of consciousness was Well, shit. There's no way I'm going to remember that's in there. I'll try to get it next week. Well I did forget. And I never even saw it hurtling down into the garbage disposal. The advertisement says you can grind almost anything. So far, it's true. It took a little doing, and it wasn't even until I ground that little puppy up for a few minutes until I even looked down. Which is when I saw the cracked carapace of my little stir bar. Looked liked one of Universal's Minions took a dive into a snow blower. I only ever found bits of the shell, the magnet is now part of the Ocoee waste management system. 

This just in! As I write this, my wife is cooking dinner and made an attempt to grind some leftover chicken guts. Well, it sounded like my little chewed up minion was jumping around the inside of the disposal with a big ol' monkey wrench. Turns out, the magnet was not part of the Ocoee waste managment system. But broken up into three tiny magnets, all stuck to the walls of my disposal. Fun.

The thermocouples were the only things that broke because of me being a jackass. Which is pretty good for today because most of my accidents are from me being a jackass (see: welding sunburns, broken anti lock braking sensors, and a torn tire sidewall). While returning R2-DBREW back to the garage i made a run to get over a tree root. I didn't get over it, and my kegs fell off R2 and bent the thermocouples attached in half.

Yeah they're not supposed to bend like that.

Finally, and this is the accident I'm most excited about, I shattered my hydrometer. I was done with everything, just doing some final cleanups. Took my wine thief out of my sanitizing tube, went to slide the hydrometer out, and where my hand was gripping, the hydrometer just slid right through. But now I have an excuse to get a pair of cool narrower scale hydrometers from Northern Brewer.

Friday, August 2, 2013

IPA Kit and a New Chiller

When the IPA kit arrived in the mail the first thing I noticed was the enormous bag of hops.  My first kit had
3 oz of hops in it.  This one had over 14 oz.  As a new-found hophead, needless to say, I was excited.

The recipe called for a few brewing techniques new to me.  The first was dry hopping, a process where you add hops (either pellet or whole) to the fermenter directly without boiling.  Additionally, the recipe called for secondary fermentation, also known as racking, where you siphon the beer from a primary fermenter to a secondary container for further fermentation and polishing.

But these weren't the only new brewing techniques I would be trying on this batch.  I was also going to be using a wort chiller. I know I've gone on about not buying a bunch of expensive equipment when you are just starting, which I still believe.  This was a freebie.

My boss, a former homebrewer, gave me his copper wort chiller that had been sitting in his garage for the last ten years (the coils looked a little gnarly).  After reading various blogs and forums, I learned that you can clean the chiller by boiling it in a vinegar solution.

So now there were three new brewing techniques I would be using.  All this had me a little nervous again. Add to the fact that the kit with all the hops was a little more expensive, I did not want to mess this one up.

I used the wort chiller cleaning as a practice run for brew day.  I boiled the chiller in a mixture of vinegar (10% by volume) and water for 15 minutes and then set up the tubes to see how long it would take to cool down. It was faster than my ice tub method, but not as fast as I thought it would be.  But I had to remember I was in Florida and it was June.  The garden hose was in direct sunlight, so the temperature differential was not as good as it could be.  One of the tubes was leaking water into the pot - a potential source of contamination.  So I remedied that before the brew session.

All in all this batch went well.  No major mishaps.  The wort chiller did take much longer than I thought it would, around 22 minutes.  I attribute that to the hot temperature outside and direct sun baking the 50 feet of garden hose. My next project will be figuring out how to reduce the wort chiller time.  I have a few ideas, but I'm not sure which will work best.  Time to experiment...

-Brewer Brendan

Monday, July 29, 2013

New Belgium is Coming to Florida

This week New Belgium is finally rolling their beers out in Florida. We Floridians are extremely excited.


I have had coworkers (that are silly enough to take car trips) bringing me back six packs of Ranger for over a year now. My wife and I are absolutely in love with New Belgium's Ranger, and would cherish and fight over bottles that made it back to our house. I even suspect that from time to time my coworkers would intentionally give me just one bottle of beer to see what sort of battle would ensue on my home front.

Those petty home wreckers. You know who you are. As a matter of fact, you're reading this while you're supposed to be doing work right now.

If you don't know who New Belgium is, shame on you. They are most known for their flagship beer, Fat Tire. But they also put out dangerously good brews like Ranger, Shift, Rampant, and a series of seasonals. Like many awesome breweries, it started in some dude's basement in Fort Collin's Colorado. Said dude had a bike fetish, and rode around some sweet European towns looking for awesome beer, and taking notes from what he remembered from black out nights (I may be embellishing a little bit). Sounds like an awesome vacation.

Well that vacation paid off, as now they are the 3rd largest craft brewery in the United States, second only to Samuel Adams, and Sierra Nevada. Like I said, you've probably heard of them, because you likely live in a less sheltered state than Florida. But if you do live in Florida, and you've never had the opportunity to get a hold of a package of Fat Tire. Clear your calendar. Grab a golf club. Call your local purveyor of beer and find out when it's getting delivered. Go early, and be prepared to battle hoards of the undead (see: golf club) to get yourself some. It's going to be an exciting week for you.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Multitasking

Brewing
Mythbusters just did a show on man vs. woman myths. Apparently men suck a multitasking. That doesn't deter me.

Today was my busiest brew day ever. Not only was I brewing, but I was also cleaning kegs, cleaning draught lines, kegging last weeks beer, carbonating and sanitizing. Being so busy almost made me forget about how my efficiency still blows.

Cleaning Kegs
I really thought I had it this time. I spent almost an hour at HeartsHomebrew bouncing ideas back and forth with Dave (the owner). What's the one thing that is different between what used to be, and what is going on now? Filtered water. I figured that maybe, since charcoal was a base, that it pulled my pH out of the range of good sacchrification. So I went back to using the garden hose for today's brew. Turns out it didn't make a lick of a difference.

Cleaning Lines
I have bit the bullet and accepted the fact that my efficiency sucks and poured extra grain into the recipe. I just barely missed my goal. Falling short at an embarrassing 44% efficiency. Though I may have a new lead. I took my thermometer and stuck it into the mash in a number of locations. My mash temperature may be reading almost 5 degrees high. Maybe that five degrees will make a difference...

The silver lining is that I believe I have all the kinks in R2-DBREW worked out. Mechanically, the brew day went off without a hitch. I still have a few rocker switches to replace. But all in all the beast is in good operating condition. It's still heavy as sin, maybe I'll start thinking about paving the path from the garage to the back yard...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Holy Poop Im Brewing

I'm brewing right now.

Like right this second.

Boil just kicked up and I threw my 60 minute hops into my new stainless steel hop sock. I'm hoping it really does the trick, and we'll see. But as I write this I am somewhat... frustrated.

One thing I'm frustrated about are the garbage rocker switches I purchased from the local parts store. Another one of them has bit the dust on me and I had to open up the box and tie together the wires for my mash tun temp sensor. I did my due diligence ahead of time however, so I was able to get right to brewing (sort of) this morning.
We'llBut what I'm really frustrated about is my mash efficiency. I can't say for sure how crappy it is right now, but my pre-boil efficiency was supposed to come in between a 1.04 and 1.045. I just barely hit 1.03 on my refractometer (which works awesome). I really don't see what I'm doing wrong at this point, but I'm still working out the kinks. This is my process for this recipe:

I heat my mash water to 156. I'm constantly recirculating it, and when I need to add heat I send it through a coil immersed in 180 degree water, and when I don't need heat, I bypass it.

Usually I use the mash water and sparge water that Beersmith suggests. This time as an experiment I tried mashing with my full boil volume and drain the entire thing into my boil kettle. So far, no success. I didn't have the sugar i needed before I drained it into my boil kettle, which doesn't bode well for my OG.

Well we shall see.

EDIT: Oh. My. God. I forgot to add my caramel malt... Le sigh.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Stainless Time Machine

Something eventful happened to me today. Something I've never experienced before. Something that many of you haven't experienced as well. No, it has nothing to do with brewing. It's bigger than that. That's right, I said that.

I used duct tape... on a piece of duct.

Anyway, now that you're back up on your chair, we had our brewing competition last Friday. A good time was had by all as usual. I loved the way my beer turned out. Congratulations to Brad, our new homebrewer, for coming in second place out of the five of us! This time we had an unprecedented 25 gallons of beer. Almost every ounce of it was consumed.

Alas. I got last place. Again. This is not what I had hoped for. I got three votes this time. And none of them were my own. I got 3 solid votes this time. I'm grateful, but I was planning on winning this thing.

That being said, I'm not entirely surprised. I hopped the crap out of my beer with Simcoe pellet hops. I was inspired by New Belgium's Ranger IPA. Well when my wife and I tried it, she looked at me and said

"This isn't going to win."

She's blunt like that. I can always count on her for an honest answer. She did butter up to me a little bit...

"I like it. But you aren't going to win tomorrow with this. Which is good, because then you can bring it home and I can drink it."

My beer was pretty heavy. Dark, thick. Which foreshadows on some clarity issues I've been having. There were noticeable chunks floating around. I thought it tasted great, another buddy said it was his new favorite. I even got a lot of complements saying I always have unique beers (I think that's a complement). But unique doesn't win the popular vote. Oh well, till next time.

In the meantime I did finally order what is effectively a gigantic stainless steel teabag. The thing looks like a
weird stainless time capsule, or maybe some giant alien suppository. Whatever your imagination tells you, it's intended to hold back pellet hops from messing up your brew day. I ordered it from StainlessBrewing. We'll see how it works on my brew day next weekend.

Cooking up an ESB next weekend! Have a safe and happy 4th of July everyone. Don't blow off your foot.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Finished Product: First Homebrew

I cracked the top of my first homebrew.  The Verdict: good, not great.  I’m not a technical beer reviewer, but it was fairly smooth and malty.  The taste is distinct, different from commercial beers. I can’t quite place it, but it’s not infected.  Apparently when it is, you don’t really have to ask…you know.  Even though it was a stout kit, it was definitely more of a brown ale by color and taste.  I’ve given some bottles to relatives and a homebrewing friend from work, and they all gave it passing grades. (I’m going to assume they are not just being nice; plus, no one spit the first sip up sitcom style).  I’ve read in the reviews that sometimes bottled homebrews taste better as they age.  We’ll see if that holds true.

I feel like I’ve benefited from the boom of the homebrew market.  With several homebrew
companies, I imagine competition and on-line reviews has led to quality, easy to use kits.  Seems like most people could get one of these kits and brew a drinkable beer better than the mass-produced beers.  Already, I’m thinking of my next homebrew and trying to modify a recipe by adding more hops.  Since my first brew session I’ve become a hops junkie; the more the better.  But I’m still a novice with a lot to learn about those two simple ingredients: malt and hops.  So I’m going to stick with the kits a few more times.  I’ve already picked out my next beer: a massively hopped IPA.  I’ve ordered it from one of the large on-line stores.  After reading homebrew blogs, it seems most homebrewers use one of the big two.  So I’m going to try them both myself to see which I like best.

-Brewer Brendan

Monday, June 24, 2013

Goodness Gracious

I've received my low pressure valve for my Banjo Burner. Next brew I hope to have no more fireballs.
Switches have been replaced. They should be nice and switchy now. I'm still nervous about my gas valve. But it's fixable throughout the brew process.

Brew competition is this upcoming Friday. My beer is being chilled right now. Currently sitting partially carbonated. This week I'll wrap up carbonation, and try a few samples ;) to make sure everything is right. I know I'll beat my competitors, but I want to destroy them. Judgment day is coming.

I have a theory that may fix my efficiency debacle. I measured my preboil efficiency out of my mash tank and it was spot on. After sparging it was low. Way low. Frustratingly low. I get the face that I added water, diluting the mixture, but the new water is supposed to pick up sugars along the way. Well what if I put my entire volume of boiling water in the mash tank to begin with. Constantly washing the grains with all my water instead of just part of my water. Then, theoretically, I can skip the sparge all together and just let open the gate all the way to fill my boil kettle. Maybe, just maybe, I'd be able to shorten my brew day a little bit. God forbid a change in technique actually shorten the brew day!

For those of you completely in the dark (which included me until not too long ago), go ahead and add Homebrewfinds.com to your bookmark list. Homebrewfinds hunts down all the great homebrewing deals out there on the internet and brings them together like a tween hunting down as many of those pesky pokemon that he can. I picked up a refractometer on this site of 26 smackers. I know look like a brewing superstar check the gravity of my beer. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Spent.

*whew*

It's been an interesting few weeks.

I started off with brewing which was a running disaster. I suppose I'm still in the break-in period of R2-Dbrew. I got started with the motor screaming, and two switches not working. My rocker switches had lost their rock. My pump wouldn't stay on, and my temperature display for the HLT was flickering because the connection wasn't solid. I was able to use the spare switch next to my pump switch to activate it, and I was able to tape the HLT display in the 'on' position. My pilot wouldn't stay lit in the wind. I kept getting fireballs on my boil burner. I finally caved and decided to start looking into yeast starters. I had everything I needed to make my stir plate, and I should have tested it ahead of time. Well, the stir plate was dead in the water. But the yeast starter was fine, I just had to shake it every few hours. I also came up with the brilliant idea to cool my wort down in the chest freezer instead of using the immersion chiller. Bad idea. It took over an hour to get the wort from 100 down to 90 degrees.

Fermenting went fine, until I skipped the weekend I was supposed to xfer to my secondary. Then I was working late to catch up on things, only to get horribly sick with the stomach flu the next weekend. I haven't been that sick in a long time. It took a solid 5 days for me to get back up to speed. The silver lining is that I lost 5 pounds in the meantime. It's not a weight loss I'd recommend, but it was a jump in my effort to slim down.

Finally I got my beer into the secondary and it's now dry hopping in the garage. I thought I was in the clear until the wifey dropped the idea of a 'cleanse month' on me. A modified "paleo diet." In short, no grains. In shorter? No alcohol. I have been given clearance to drink at my beer competition in the middle of June, but that's it.

It's going to be a long month.

Good thing last month was... oh wait. That was a long month too...

SHEEP!
Middle of Nowhere, Ireland

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bottling Day: Brew Crew for the Save

Happy Memorial Day!

Today I'm going to give Brendan with our Brew Crew the limelight. This got crazy at work (again) and I wound up coming down hard with the Flu. It was an exciting way to spend my long weekend... So I'm taking the easy way out and using Brendan's post to fill up my time slot.

Things got busy and it’s been a while since my last post.  When I last left it, I was worried that a couple of my rookie brewing mistakes were going to cost me.  I’m happy to report that while I’m still a rookie, no major issues occurred.   The morning after my first brew session I was relieved to see the airlock bubbling away.  I had placed the carboy in the bathtub of the spare bathroom to provide a cool dark place with relatively stable temperature.  After two weeks, primary fermentation was over and I was ready to bottle.

Reading the online talk about bottling and going through all the steps sounded as difficult as the initial brew day, if not more so.  Besides all the homebrewers complaining about how crappy bottling is, and how much awesomer kegging is, bottle began to sound tedious.  Add that to the fact that it seems like there is so much more room for error in the sanitation department – checking the gravity for the last time, sanitizing the bucket, bottles, bottle caps, transferring from carboy to bucket, adding sugar, capping, I was a little hesitant to start.  All the potential sanitation breaches were building in my mind: are the counters clean? The tubing? The area I will be bottling?  My biggest worry was if my bottles were clean enough.  Did they have some organic matter or dirt in there that the sanitizer would not penetrate, allowing microbes to remain and ruin the beer?  I held each bottle up to the light and looked through the opening.  The purchased ones were a little dusty but looked new other than that.  The ones I saved (I found Lefthand’s milk stout to have some of the easiest labels to remove) also looked good.  The ones from my friend’s garage…lets just say I didn’t use the ones the family of silverfish moved into.

I filled up the bucket with sanitizer and began to dunk all the materials for the day.

In my day job I’m an environmental scientist, so to help keep things sanitized I stole a page from that playbook.  When taking soils samples, aluminum foil can be used as a sterile material to cover clean equipment to prevent cross contamination.  This is also used it labs too to cover jars and beakers.  So aluminum foil became my new friend as I used it to create sterile counter top space, temporarily cap buckets, and cover materials.

While it took over two hours start to finish, overall it wasn’t too bad.  I did have a few lapses of touching the dispenser against a non-sterile object.  My worst offense was with 4 bottles left, I brushed my leg with the nozzle.  I marked those caps with an X so I could track if they did indeed become contaminated.  So I had a little experiment on my hands. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ireland...

... was amazing.

Easily the best vacation I've taken. Of course the break from work was nice. The total disconnect from the electronic world of constant updates, emails, and alerts was incredible as well. The vacation itself was incredible.

The Irish really know where it's at. The pubs are amazing. The atmosphere in those joints was just perfect. I really wish we had more spaces like that around Orlando. Irish pubs are a perfect happy medium between a truly sketchy hole-in-the wall bar, and some awful trendy club downtown. Heck, even the draft towers are cooler then ours. Each tap handle is like its own mecca to all that is good in that brand. Being able to enjoy multiple beers during the daylight hours without being called an alcoholic is nice too.

The people are awesome, and the music, the live music, is great. The radio stations, however, struggled. I left the states with high expectations. Worst case, I figured, would be some crazy Euro-pop, let only American pop music. But it was worse. Every bar we went into, every restaurant, everywhere we went was playing 80's and 90's pop music. Naturally, Billy Joel and U2 were favorites. But the Pointer Sisters? I can't stand them. Typical mix of a radio station was 45 minutes of talk, one traditional song, one euro-pop song, then eight oldies hits. Many times we drove in the car with nothing but silence to entertain my ears.

The driving... The left side of the road thing wasn't that bad. Actually, it was a piece of cake. The roundabouts were easy as well. What was difficult was the roads. We ended up renting a little Ford Focus, which was disappointing in its' own right. We travel a few thousand miles, and I expect a Citroen, or a Peugeot, a Skoda. No. I get a Ford. Whatever. The point is even in my little Ford Focus, those roads are TIGHT. Many places have 1 lane, two way roads. Taking backcountry winding roads is part of getting there. There is no middle between the highway and the sketchy dirt road. It's either or. Sheep have the right of way. The movie stereotype is real, we had to wait for a big pickup (normal size I suppose but I spent a lot of time in that tiny Focus)  herding sheep.

Stay tuned. We ended up taking over 1400 photos, which we still haven't gone through on the computer. Once we do there will be an album posted on the internet. When it does. You'll find it here!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ireland or Bust!

It's time.

This is the last post before I depart for Ireland and I am ready to get my drink on.

I am ready to be spoiled by beautiful sights and wonderful beer.

I am ready for the fact I may never want to drink American Guinness ever again.

I am ready for a 50 degree drop in temperature.

I am ready to stay in castles and tiny local bed and breakfasts.

I am ready and armed with miniature shampoos, soaps, and deodorants.

I am ready with my MAP (see below).

I am NOT ready to drive on the wrong f*$#in side of the road.

Stay tuned for my returning post on May 13th! Drink happy until then.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pre Vacation Stress

Ireland is less than two weeks away. I've got the sleep medication to knock myself into a coma for the
plane ride. I've got my mini bottles of shampoo and deodorant. The hotels are booked. Everything is good to go. But the one thing you can't put on hold as an Engineer is your work. How do you cope? If you're lucky, you give it to someone else. But in my field it's not that easy. No. Instead you bust your ass before hand to try to catch up, only to come back to a pile of emergencies. Is it worth it? YOU BET.

Of course that means I haven't had much time to do much beer drinking or brewing. I did have a banana bread beer that was awful, and therefore will remain nameless. Not Chelada bad, but bad. So here's a trip around the internet.

The Top 20 Breweries Taking Over America
It gets me all sorts of excited to see how craft beer is taking over America. It makes me wish that I could jump on the bandwagon while it's roaring down the dirt road pulled by way too many oxen that you purchased along with your way to many cases of ammo in Oregon Trail. Regardless, for now all I can do is sit back and drink all the goodness it provides. Some of these breweries on the list I've never remotely heard of, so I assume they're out of my region. I'm really happy to see New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, and Bell's near the top of the list. They all produce some killer beers. I am a little surprised about the number one pick. Many craft beer purists are going to thumb their Beer Snob noses at the first place selection, but read the article and decide to yourself.

Advanced Stainless Steel Growler and Personal Keg
I love me some innovation. There has been an influx of new growlers coming out. But this one takes the cake so far. Not only is it totally sweet looking, comes in different colors, and is engravaeble; but it also has a system to turn it into it's own little mini-keg. Looks like the project will be moving forward as they've secured 236 thousand dollars of their requested $30k.

Can you turn bad beer into good beer?
Can you use a french press to turn bad beer into good beer? The idea seems sound. You are just going to have to read this one and find out the results. Some praise to Gizmodo for at least loosely following the scientific method.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

OCD

As an engineer it's pretty natural to the stereotype that I'm a bit OCD. Some of the typical things get me like bad grammar, people pronouncing height "heighth," guys who flush while peeing at the urinal than flush again because they timed it poorly (this habit still confuses me).

But then there's somethings that really bother me that are pretty unique. Don't get me started on the
I AM A PEOPLE PERSON
person asking for meat samples at the deli while there's 5 people waiting behind you. The people that walk around with complete disregard for the flow of traffic. Blatantly stupid people (is that too vague?).

That being said, my desk at work is pretty messy for your standard OCD person. I consider myself a lot more relaxed than your typical OCD. But one thing that absolutely drives me crazy is when something computer related all of the sudden stops working. "Operating system not found" will lead to an interrupted day, hours at the computer, and probably loss a a half a night of sleep. PS3 wont connect to the internet? That's another 4 hours. Sound isn't coming on? There goes the weekend.

I had (and am still having) one of those times right now. I went to spend a little time working on my Raspberry Pi Digital Beer Menu on Sunday afternoon, only to find it inoperable. The background is coming up, but I'm not getting anything else. I lost the rest of the afternoon to troubleshooting this problem. I ended with the assumption that I have to start from scratch. This time I'll be making a solid backup of everything that's working RIGHT. It seems to have started after I tried adding the feature to be able to sync the data with the "cloud."

So now I sit, and after I'm done blogging I'll be cruising into the night setting up my SD card so I can start over. I still have my PHP code, just have to set up the basics; which since I know what works and where to go, shouldn't be all that bad.


Did I just rant for an entire post...?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hops Coming to the Northeast?

Just got an article from my mom.. Apparently hop farms are attempting to come to where I was born and raised in the Hudson Valley, New York...

This is an interesting proposition if you ask me. Don't get me wrong, I think that's absolutely
fantastic. But so many hops come from just a few regions, Pacific Northwest, England, and Germany. Mainly because they have just the right mixture of humidity, porous soil, cold winters, warm summers, and daylight. Not saying that New York doesn't have those things, but it seems to me that hops from a new region would be bread as a whole new strain of hops. Hops are known to come from very specific parts of the world. Cascade is an American hop from the northwest, Fuggles from England, Tettnanger from Germany. It makes me wonder what they are planning on growing. Well more power to them!! I hope to hear more information about this production in the near future!

It's amazing how time flies. Soon I will have time to brew again, but between work and coaching track things have been crazy. What little  time I get I spend relaxing from the hectic week with my wife. Soon though it all comes to a head with my Ireland trip at the end of April. Afterwards my coaching is finished. I can start brewing and vaulting myself again. Time to do some things I haven't gotten around to in some time.

Random question. I was checking out my traffic sources on my google analytics. Why are some of my traffic sources from Russian porn sites???

Saturday, March 30, 2013

First Brew Day

Today is my first brew day.  I was stoked about all the possibilities but a little worried about making any mistakes that would lead to skunky beer and a wasted effort.  I got my burner out and started it up on the front porch so I could access the kitchen as fast as possible.  After filling the 5-gallon kettle with 3-gallons of water, I dumped all the steeping grains in the mesh bag and the brew was underway.

The stout recipe called for steeping the grains for 30 minutes until the temp reached 170.  A few minutes after dropping the bag in I saw where stouts get their dark color.  The kettle turned a dark tannic like something you'd see if you were in a black water swamp.   This is where my first (but not last) rookie mistake occurred.  I had tied the mesh bag to the kettle, but I didn't do a great job of tying up the bag itself, so some of the grains started escaping.  But this was quickly remedied with a slotted spoon.  After reaching boil, it was time for the NASA bag of malt extract.  Since I was worried about caramelization on the bottom I had my wife stir while I squeezed all 7 lbs of extract from the bag.  That stuff was pretty thick.  I basically had to wring the bag to get the last bits.  Then it was time to bring it back up to a boil and add the bittering hops.  I've become a big fan of hops since I helped a friend brew last Saturday.  Hops smell really good to me.  My perception of beer has changed a lot since I started learning about brewing.  Before, yeah I knew beer was made of some grain called malt and some hops, whatever those were.  But it wasn't a full appreciation. It was like going to Publix and grabbing a cellophane wrapped container of meat or fish, or a can of spaghetti sauce.  You're distancing yourself from all the raw materials and hard work that go into making the finished product.  I'm not going to go off on some rant about having a Neanderthal diet (a great idea if your goal is to live until you are 30) or the omnivore's dilemma.  But understanding the raw materials, what quality smells like, makes you better able to detect those same elements in a finished beer.  So to say the least, it's been a real eye opener for me.

The thing all the books, recipes, and friends warn you about is boil over.  It's not the end of the world if it happens, but more of a mess.  Once I got things going I was working on other things like figuring out how to chill the wort, sanitizing stuff, getting the labels off my used bottles.  So I was back and forth pretty regularly.  I left the lid partially closed with the thermometer allowing a little venting.  I was going to grab a chair when I noticed some foam building up.  I quickly popped the lid and cut the burner way down.  Crisis averted.

The Cool Down
This was what I was most concerned about - cooling the wort quickly.  I was really tempted to go out and buy a wort chiller after reading all the reviews about their usefulness, ease, and leading to better beer.  But I also didn't want to blow $50 on something and then turn out to be a terrible brewer and never brew again.  I was planning on getting a bag of ice the night before (and bottled water for the partial boil method) but forgot.  So after the wort was done I filled the sink with ice, dropped the kettle in there and headed to the store.   I got 4 bags of ice.  Which maybe a little overkill after reading online reviews, but it seemed worth it to minimize cooling time and the potential for contamination.  Filling the tub with water and 4 bags of ice worked really well.  I'm not sure of the exact time, but once I got the kettle in there it was less than 30 mins.  I resolved to freeze some water or stock up on homemade fridge ice next time to save on costs.

Here is where I made my second, mostly likely worst, rookie mistake.  The wort was ready to go (actually a little cooler than anticipated after I added 1.5 gallons of cold bottled water), but the yeast was still chill'n in the fridge at 40 degrees F.  I couldn't believe it.  So I ran the tap hot, filled up a large plastic cup that you get from a college or pro stadium, and put the yeast bottle in there.  A little while later, maybe 5-10 minutes, I took it out and pitched it.  When I opened the top of the yeast vial, some air came out so maybe they were started to get active, but I'm pretty sure they had somewhat of a rude awakening.  I'm going to have to consult with some experts like Mr. Splobucket, but I feel like this has the most potential to negatively impact this batch.  Nevertheless, I'll find out in a few days if the yeasts like their new home.

-Brewer Brendan

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Legislative Success!

I don't normally like to talk about politics very much. The tactic of mud slinging just seems crude and, well, muddy.

But this is time for rejoice! Mississippi has legalized homebrewing! (As if they weren't already doing it. Now they can just do it publicly)

That's right. The state famous for moonshine, rednecks, cotton, and a nationwide method for counting time without using a watch, now can home brew beer to their hearts content! The tyranny in the government has come to an end! Alabama is now the only state that declares homebrewing illegal.

Now you have to ask yourself Alabama, "If all your friends went and jumped off a bridge, would you?"

If you were me? I'd say... "HELL YES! I like to think I have smart friends. If every single one of them is jumping off a bridge, than there must be something pretty awful happening on that bridge."

In other news, my digital beer menu is progressing. I went and got my Raspberry Pi (RPi as the cool people call it) and all the little accessories to get it work. I'm loving having it. When I doom this one to eternal displaying of what's on tap, I might just have to get another one. To just... have.

Since purchasing the device, nights have been spent on my little netbook researching ways how to make this thing even more awesome. Funny thing about linux that makes life really easy. If you google "how do I (action) in linux X ( X being the flavor of linux, whether it be Ubuntu, Debian, Gnu, Suse, or whatever other weird name you can think of)?" You will get a long list of 101 different ways to get to where you're going. The challenge is sorting through and find out what works best for you. The thing with the internet is, someone else has already done what you're trying to do, not exactly, but pretty damn close. Close enough that you should be able to take it and tweak to your heart's content.

Turns out my little netbook has a 3rd use (aside from internet browsing and blogging). It's a pretty useful terminal to access my RPi with (SSH into, for the nerds keeping track at home). The linux terminal really brings me back to my Dos days.

Let me know if you have any ideas how to make my digital beer  menu more kick-ass! Also, I hope you all are enjoying Brendan's posts! We'll be adding more authors to the lineup soon for the ATOTB Brew Crew!

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Downtown Brew

Were you at The Downtown Brew this weekend in Orlando? I'm going to guess that you probably weren't. Why? Because even with being told about it, it was near impossible to find. Unless you happened to be a member of the website ChurchStreetDistrict.Com. Which I also didn't know existed until I heard about the downtown brew.

Even with the lack of publicity, the event was a blast. 40 different beers, and several food vendors made this event worth every penny. It may have even been better than the Philly beer fest. Again, why? Because it was at least 40 degrees warmer. And I'm not exaggerating. The weather was gorgeous, and the beer was flowing. The free food was a nice addition as well.

Standouts from the event? I was very happy Goose Island was there. They may be one of my new favorite breweries. Love the tap handles also. Murphy's was at the show with a Red Ale that was fantastic. I hadn't ever heard of anything but their stout. Budweiser managed to make the list of Breweries, and they were giving out their Lime-A-Rita. The girls were cute, but their beer was disgusting. It would have been a lot better with a lot of Tequila added to it.

I've managed to go years without going to a craft beer fest. In the past 2 weeks I've gone to two. Extrapolating the data will make this a very good year.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Homebrew Internet Overload


I’m thoroughly confused about brewing. I read the instructions that came with the kit, skimmed the brewing book from the kit, and googled homebrewing. All have the same basic ideas, but the variations in methods leave me scratching my head. All-grain, malt extract, hops bag, partial boil, wort chiller: the list goes on. I’m looking through the box to see what I’ve got: besides a plastic carboy and 5-gallon bucket, I’ve got a beer kit for a stout with a silvery 7 lb vacuum bag of syrup that looks like something NASA would send up with the astronauts.
The more I read, the more questions I have. But I’m starting to piece some of the basics together. To create beer you need sugars (from malt), hops, yeast, a sterile environment and time. What methods you use to get through that process is where all the differences in homebrew come into play. How involved you want to be in the process (and how much time you want to spend), what equipment you have, and how much money you are willing to spend (on said equipment) will all dictate the method you end up choosing.

Brewing is a lot like cooking: several ingredients, heat, boiling, multi-tasking. Also, just like cooking you don’t have to start from scratch if you don’t want to. So let’s say you have little time, money, and really don’t want to be too involved in the brewing process. You could find the nearest SkyMall and buy a kit where you mix the ingredients with water, place in a plastic container and then wait. It’s the ramen noodles of brewing: it gets the job done, but c’mon we can do better.

The next level up is working with malt extracts. Here you are basically starting with a cake mix so to speak. The sugars have already been extracted from the malt and boiled down into a thick syrup. So all you have to do is dissolve them in a large kettle, boil them (further converting the sugars into a form the yeast like), and bring them back down to room temperature. This method often uses steeping grains too for color and additional flavors.

The highest and most complex method is called all-grain brewing. In this method you extract the sugars from the roasted grain by a process called mashing before you even start your boiling and hopping. There are no short cuts here.

Each of these levels requires more and more equipment. Also within any level there is equipment you can buy to make the tasks easier and potentially, the beer better. A chiller is probably one of the best examples. After you boil everything, getting the solution of malt sugars and hops down to room temperature fast reduces contamination risk and prevents cloudiness. The low cost, low equipment method is icing the sink or tub and putting the pot or kettle in there. The highest end would be a counter flow device (>$150) that cools the wort to room temp as quick as it can go through there. A mid-level solution would be the wort chiller.

Whether I’m grilling or cooking, I like to do things right and don’t mind getting nice equipment and/or ingredients if it will truly lead to better results. But at the same time I don’t want to spend a lot on something when it’s not going to make a difference at my skill level or if I’m not sure if I’m going to become a serious homebrewer. I read a lot of reviews about different equipment that will make your life easier and lead to better beer. But cutting your teeth on the simple equipment, making mistakes and learning, seems the better course here. It’s like playing guitar, sure the expensive Les Paul or Martin sounds better, but if you’re a beginner is it really going to matter? A professional could make a $100 Fender sound amazing. I imagine it’s the same with brewing to a certain extent: a master brewer could brew some great beer with just about any equipment you give them. After you get a few brews under your belt, then you can get the nice stuff and will appreciate it that much more.

-Brewer Brendan

Monday, March 11, 2013

Philly Madness

The Philly Craft Beer Fest was awesome.

You know what wasn't awesome? Highs in the upper 30's. I haven't felt so god damn cold in a long time. My wife and I had a little argument about the levels of layers I was bringing. I saw  no problem bringing a t-shirt, thermal long sleeve, fleece, scarf, shell jacket, and warm hat for the brew fest. She saw it as overkill and a waste of space. I stood my ground. And thank god I did. What's even more crazy? That woman made me run outside that morning. The gym at the hotel was completely packed.

Who uses the gym at the hotel? No one does that!

Well since the gym was occupied Nikki looked at me and said, "Well I guess we run outside."

I looked back at her and said "Are you f*(&ing insane?"

We ran.

When we arrived at the beer fest we waited on line and listened to "Beer Beer Beer" by Darby O Gill. Outside, staring at the entrance, we saw the tents. That's when it dawned on me that this son of a gun is outside. Chris says "no worries, you can hear the heaters running." No. No heaters. Not one. Well I had a beer. After one or two my worries quickly went away. Beer became the focus.

It also dawned on me the inherent problem of a craft beer festival. With all these wonderful beers to drink, you're bound to find a new favorite. I did find new favorites. I found a Imperial Stout and a Double IPA that were amazing. But I can't tell you where the hell they came from. I'm pretty sure one of them was located near the Stone booth (which was also tasty). That would make the brewery either Narrangansett or Oskar Blues. And with 80 breweries giving out 2 oz. samples, if you want to go to each one you're going to end up with ten pints of beer in the 5 hours alotted for the festival. That's a good amount of beer, and not all those beers are under 6% either.

The festival was a blast. Afterwards we retired to our rooms, and after beating the tar out of my brother-in-law (I clearly won, that firefighter aint got nothin on me), we promptly passed out for an hour, then went to dinner. Good times.

On a side note, I hope you all liked the inaugural Brew Crew post by Brendan the other week! We'll have another one by him this week, and in April we should start introducing other authors! Be excited, it'll be some great stuff.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Brendan: Noob

"Welcome to the inaugural posting of the Brew Crew. As I mentioned before, my idea is to get a team of people writing articles from time to time and get a larger spread of knowledge from different parts of the country, different aspects of brewing, and different personalities in general. This first post comes to you from my friend Brendan who is a fellow beer enthusiast who just got his first homebrewing kit. More importantly, he has a beard. Which already advances him to the higher ranks of brewing. Picture a younger looking John Maier. I hope you all enjoy the new section of Brew Crew posts! Welcome Brendan!"
-Brewer Gene

I’m no beer expert. I’m familiar with the basics of brewing: I know malt, hops, water, and yeast are involved. I know there’s a fermentation process that goes on for a certain period, and yeast convert sugars to alcohol. Yep, pretty basic understanding. I do have an appreciation of beer. I don’t know if I’m a beer snob, but I do know I like good beer. Brewing was not something I’d seriously considered. When my wife bought me a starter homebrew kit I smiled widely, but wasn’t entirely sure it was for me.

Several of my friends brew. These guys make quality beers that you could put up against any higher-end beer at the grocery store. Not only can they brew, they have brewing systems far beyond anything I could dream up or execute. Systems requiring serious engineering skills, schematics, soldering and the possibility of third degree burns. When they would explain the brewing process or some equipment they used or manufactured themselves, I got the general gist. But it was like Chuck Norris explaining to the Karate Kid how to block a roundhouse kick to the face and land a counter crotch-punch. They’re working on different levels.

So, brewing seems pretty complicated to me. My wife reminded me that I make my own greek yogurt. While some of the skills do translate, brewing seems to require better sterilization, more equipment, and way more variables that can be the difference between enjoying a homemade stout and homemade skunky beer. As a scientist by profession, I am hoping my basic knowledge of microbiology, chemistry, and math will pay off as I try to brew my first beer. At any rate, telling people you brew your own beer sounds way better than “Yeah, I can make yogurt.”

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Happy Birthday to ME

You may have already read my post a few weeks ago. This upcoming weekend is the Philly Craft Beer festival. To say I'm excited is an understatement. I've already gone through some game plans. I've got to bring my laptop to take notes. I'll have my iPhone to take notes on the fly, and even voice recording if need be. I'll have a stack of business cards at my disposal. I'm ready to schmooze with some brewers. I think my true success will be diligently alternating my samples of beer with samples of water. I don't see any other way to start drinking at noon and make it through 80 breweries AND to nightfall (at least). I just don't have the spunk that I used to in my college days I guess. I would expect next weeks post to be late. Earliest a Tuesday post.

On other news, I have an exciting announcement to make. For the longest time, ATOTB has gone largely unchanged. We've added a few extras here and there, but nothing too exciting. I'd like to announce the beginning of a new series of posts called the "Brew Crew." I've tossed around the idea in my head to enlist a few people to write an article sporadically. If I get 3 or 4, I should be able to have a fairly regular posting schedule. Well, so far I've got one, but he's stoked and ready to go. You'll see his first post this Friday! So stay tuned. The plan is to have regular Friday posts, but in the beginning it's not going to be so regular.

Here's another preview of an upcoming post. I just finished my forced flow line cleaner, but haven't had the time or chance to test it out yet. Right now it just looks like a pile of parts in a bucket. Once I give it a shot, I'll give it a full write up.

Wish me luck at my beer fest! And stay tuned for our inaugural Brew Crew post!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Digital Menu

So I'm sitting at work today, engineering my butt off. Doing an amazing job as usual. Then a link pops up from a friend. The link contained something amazing. The kind of thing that gets me all excited inside.


What? Not what you were expecting? Get your mind out of the gutter. I was at work people!

First lets introduce you to Raspberry Pi. No, it's not a nerdy version of a baking recipe. It's a tiny open source computer that's taking the programming and DIY open source community by storm. Yeah Arduino is pretty cool, but the Raspberry Pi is a whole computer... for only $35. The stats on the computer are not out of this world, at 512 MB of memory and a 700 MHZ processor, it's still faster than something you might have paid over $1,000 in the late nineties. The idea is that it's cheap, and you can program it however you want. The only limit is your imagination (as long as you're not trying to create some supercomputer mega-cluster). Projects include time lapse photography devices, a web server, a digital frame, and an arcade cabinet to name a few (source). 

So why NOT apply it to beer? I've been wanting one of these things for a while. I didn't even know what I'd use it for. I know it's something I could spend hundreds of my DIY hours diving in to. But now... Now it has a purpose! ShrodingersDrunk over at Reddit has created his own Raspberry Pi device for his fancy kegerator that provides a list of beers on tap. Like a true do it yourself-er however, the project is never finished. While he's cleaning up the interface of the current program he has future goals. Step one, be able to touch a beer and pull up the recipe and tasting notes. Step two, to be able to tell how many beers are left in the keg (weight measuring? maybe).


I must do it. I will do it. First, acquire screen. From time to time my company gives away some of their old hardware. I've never been in the market, but I know a few people who will take any free technology available to them. I imagine I can hit up one of these guys for a cheap monitor.

Second, get Pi. Then learn Pi. Learn the programming. Learn how to plug the little %@#* in.

Third, hook up monitor. Stare blankly at the monitor while the monitor blankly stares back. Figure out how to make awesome.

After a few weeks of this, attempt to sleep.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Glass Blast

If you haven't figured it out already, I'm not a purist by any stretch of the definition. There's a thing to be said about diminishing returns. If there's a drop of beer left in the cup when you go to fill it with a different beer? So what? The solution is dilution. It wont make a difference. I'm not saying mix beers half and half, but a drop won't throw of a pint of beer.

In some ways, it's the same with glasses. Most of my glasses are the standard "pint" glass. There's really nothing special about the traditional pint glass. It's meant to serve a pint of beer, and that's about it. I don't usually make it a point to pull a special glass for a certain kind of beer.

It does have it's merits however. Good glassware is key to fully appreciating a beer. Some glasses present aroma, some allow for the release of carbonation, others for delivering mass quantities to its owner. I came across this article in the LA Times this week. They've come up with a brand new glass for India Pale Ales, the beer which is currently making waves in the nation. The local hipster would tell you they liked it before it became popular. Feel free to punch him in his dumb looking glasses and hang him from his trendy scarf.

Let's go over a few glasses, shall we?

Your Pint Glass is your standard beer delivery device. Every bar has them. If you haven't held one, I doubt you've ever had a beer from the tap. There's nothing special to see here really, open top lets out aroma, thick sides prevent your hands from warming the glass too quick.







This is the Pilsner Glass. Typically taller, but will contain a little less beer. Used for Pilsner, the tall glass accentuates the color, clarity, and carbonation of the beer, while the wider top will maintain a good head. A new trend as of late features laser etching (nucleation site) at the bottom of the glass for a place for bubbles to start forming. It creates a nice effect for these typically high carbonated beers.





A Snifter is probably the most fun glass to pronounce. It also has a hint of a snobby background. Typically used by British rich folk to drink Brandy (stored in a globe) while planning the next battle strategy. Really though, the snifter has its applications with your typically high gravity and thick beers like Barleywines and Imperial anythings. The wide bowl with narrow top traps the aromatics, gives you plenty of room for swirling (releasing more aroma). On top of that, when you hold it in the palm of your hand, the warmth of your hand causes the release even more aroma. 



Welcome the new IPA Glass! Thanks to the help of some of the leading hop heads like Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head) and Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada), the company Spiegelau has delivered this new glassware. The ridges in the sides are meant to aerate the beer, making it release extra aroma. The slender shape amplifies the aroma into a hop smokestack. The wide opening also lends to shoving your nose into the glass for, once again, more aroma. Even the material the glass is made out of is meant to sustain a good head and carbonation.




DAS BOOT (Actually 'The Boat' in German). Probably the most unique and most likely to make someone scratch their head. The boot is a peculiar thing, and the history of it has a few interpretations. The one I like the most is a German general promised his troops he would drink beer from his boot if they were successful. The general kept his promise by getting a glass maker to make a glass boot and drink from that. I've heard these boots being anywhere from a half liter up to 3 liters. What other purpose can this have other than to promote drinking mass quantities of beer??? DRINK UP!!





Have a favorite glass you'd like to talk about? Let us know! Post below!

Monday, February 4, 2013

What Not to Bring to a Superbowl Party

The lack of postage and update this past few weeks is unprecedented. I mentioned the other week that I was down and out with a cold (apparently the flu?) the entire weekend, not beer induced. Well last weekend was a hundred percent beer induced. Had the yearly Monster Jam man outing. PBR came out in full force. I hadn't fully recovered until Tuesday morning. I don't spring back like I used to I guess.

In reference to my slippery fingers, I just transferred my beer to the secondary about an hour ago. The x'fer was over 2 weeks late, due to my... Sub optimal health the past few weekends. At least Monster Jam was fun... I had been pretty worried, because the lagerator had a pretty foul, bitter smell to it. I took a good whiff while transferring and I think we're OK.

But now I sit watching decent commercials interrupted by some sweaty guys slamming into each other while throwing some balls around.

Hmm maybe that doesn't sound right.

The power just went out in the stadium and now they're trying to figure out how to fill the time. I'd hate to be the maintenance guy being chewed out right now because he forgot to replace the 10 year old fuse on the disconnect regularly.

But then I thought, what would you bring to a superbowl party? What would be devastating to a superbowl party? Here's my short list...


To bring to a Superbowl Party:
1) PBR - Or really any cheap light beer. The Superbowl is the pinnacle of cheap beer. There is no other event (save memorial day weekend or any college fraternity party) where the low quality beer comes out in droves like this. This is the perfect application.

2) Yuengling - If you want to pretend to be fancy, bring some Yeungling. Better yet, bring it in cans. Nothing like shotgunning a can of Pennsylvania beer that sounds like it was made in China screams class like that.

3) Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - This is toeing the line of being too fancy for a Superbowl party. It might very well be too fancy. But if you're beer snob friends happen to also watch football, this may be a good choice.

Do NOT bring to a Superbowl Party:
A) Stone Beer - I love Stone. That being said, walking into your party with a case of Double Bastard will certainly get you some WTF looks. Sure people will be curious. But when they try to pound a bottle of double bastard and don't get past a mouthful, the beer will start getting lonely in the corner of the fridge.

B) Dogfish 90 Minute - Lets say you have some IPA lovers. So you've got some Stone IPA, Hopsecutioner, maybe the Sierra Nevada mentioned above. Your friends are half lit, and you switch the beer with a few 6 packs of 90 minute IPA. I give it 90 minutes after that before your buddy is past out under the tree in the backyard.

C) Guiness - lets face it. Hardcore tailgaters and rednecks shy away from Guiness like Republicans on gay pride day at Disney. It just doesn't go over well.

Got any suggestions? Please feel free to post below!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Down for the Count...

Horizontal all weekend. Not because I drank too much either.

But on the bright side... I'm attending PHILLY CRAFT BEER FESTIVAL!


Monday, January 14, 2013

Slippery Fingers and Deep Tanks

I had my second brew day yesterday with R2-DBREW. The brew day itself went very well. It was slow to start (I think I put too much water in the HLT, and didn't turn the heat up high enough), which made for a long brew day, but once I got the pumped primed it was smooth sailing all the way through.

Not one interruption. This surprised me because I was using a tank of propane that I thought was almost empty. I had another for backup I picked up the day before. One concern I still had with R2 was that it'd suck gas like an American Hummer. I thought I killed a good amount of a tank on my last brew, but now I'm wondering how much was actually left in the tank that I traded in. There might have been more than I thought...

The kicker really comes in when I was all done cleaning. When the brewing is done, I chill the wort to 90 degrees. Then I let it sit in the lagerator for a time while I clean up my brewing system. Once I get back to it, it's a good temperature for pitching yeast. So that's what I did. Except this time, I pitched the entire vial of White Labs with it. General consensus on the 'net is that I'll be ok. Honestly there's not much I can do now! Any attempt to retrieve it would just risk contamination further. Here's to hoping. Now the beer is bubbling away just as it should. No detrimental signs yet.

... Just with brew sculptures instead.
Most importantly, there were no crippling injuries. But even with wheels, R2-DBREW is a beast to move off-road. I might just have to put a motor on the thing. We may be able to make a new sport out of this. Brew sculpture racing anyone? Or...

On a side note, photos are up!!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Phase 5: Electronics

It's getting harder and harder to do those cheesy holiday posts every winter. The songs aren't coming to me as quickly. Wordsmith I am not. Beersmith I am. But as long as there are cheesy holiday v-neck sweater-vests, there will be Splobucket's cheesy holiday song. I didn't even realize how cheesy it was until I read it to my wife a few days later. Funny how something sounds completely different in your head versus when you say it out loud.

But the holidays are over! The business world is kicking back into high gear. Kids are going back to school. I can get back to brewing. But before I drink the obligatory Sunday beer again, we've got one last phase to go over. Electronics.

Some items I got from a local electronics/everything store for incredibly cheap. Some I purchased online, and some I had left over from the old box. Lets go over the key components...

1x project box
1x Auber SYL-1512A Temperature Controller
2x Auber SYL-2342 Temperature Controller
1x 24v Transformer
6x On-Off Switches
1x On-Off-On Switch
5x Rocker Switches
3x Auber K-Type Thermocouple Sensors
Crapload of wire connectors and terminals
Zip-Ties

When you pick the box you're going to use, give a moment to think about how big it should be. Then take that and double it. If you're buying in a store, take down the dimensions you need and bring it with you. In the store the box seems a lot more spacious than it actually is. If you're in between sizes, get the bigger one. Got the idea? The bigger the better. (That's what she said)

This phase is all about precision. Use a dremel to cut out the holes in the front of your box. If you got a metal box, I hope you purchased some extra cutoff wheels. You're going to burn through them quick. Mark out everything on the box first, and be precise. The Auber controls only give you 1/16" play. Better to make it too tight and grind out some corners than the alternative. Hopefully you purchased round switches. It's a lot easier to drill the hole than cut a square. After you're done with the lid, think about where your wires are coming into the box and place the terminal strips accordingly. Wire layout is very important here.

Then you start wiring. I almost used 200' of wire to wire the box up and to my system. At least 100' of that is in the box alone. Color code the wires too, which will make troubleshooting the box a lot simpler. Stick with standard colors, black is hot, white is neutral, green is ground. In addition I used 16 gauge red wire for my control (24v) voltage for the gas controller. That should be most all you need. 

Wiring the box is time consuming, but it's probably the only thing you'll do on your rig that you won't sweat a river creating. That's where the terminal strips come in handy. Wire everything together. You'll be cutting, stripping, crimping for hours. Make a wiring diagram before you start. It's your road map to success.

Finally mount your box and connect to all your components. I used wire disconnects before all my valves to I could easily replace them if need be. Then comes the step that makes me more nervous then anything.

Flipping the switch. 

This makes me nervous because there's no in-between for electricity. If you put something mechanical together, you can move it or spin it to make sure it moves correctly. Not electricity. You flip that switch and you're either good, or you have a shower of sparks and fried electronics. Now is the time to also break out your multimeter. If something isn't working as it should, a multimeter is your friend.

You're done! Zip tie bundles together and use those zip tie mounting squares to neaten everything up and make it nice and tight. You've spent months on this, don't slack on the last few hours. This is when I first drew blood on this project. After all the metal cutting, drilling, filing, welding, etc. I drew blood tightening a zip-tie.  Hand slipped and hit the expanded wire mesh. Oh well. 

Now go brew grasshopper! Brew as much as you can. There are going to be kinks that need to be worked out, but it's inevitable. Learn your system. Be one with your system. Drink beer!! I'll post a photo-gallery of detailed pictures next week. Thanks for reading about my construction!!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Test Brew Crew Post

Hello 2013!

I feel like I went on one of those mid-season hiatus that seems to be all the rage with television shows these days. I can't wait for The Walking Dead to come back in February. No worries, next week we'll be back on schedule and talking about R2-DBREW again. Hopefully you can stand it until then.

Usually at this point I look back on my post from last year and comment on all the things that was supposed to happen this year. I wasn't really looking forward to talking about all the goals I missed, and how that's ok because you need to set lofty goals to achieve greatness and all that BS. Turns out...

I didn't set any goals! And I feel great! See, if you set the bar low enough, you come out on top no matter what happens. Did make two huge accomplishments this year.

One of course, is surviving the end of the world. The catastrophe never happened. We're alive! There's some people out there who are really hating themselves right now for spending all their cash and running up their credit card bills. My message to them, think about the hell of a time you had spending all that cash!

Secondly, and you probably saw this one coming, was the construction of R2-DBREW. I'm obviously very proud of this one. It was a huge undertaking for me, and it came to fruition. I learned a lot in the process. I almost crippled myself in the process. It was an exciting time.

This year? This year is a year of brewing. I need to get as many brews through R2-DBREW as I can and perfect that machine. I just need to find some people to finish all that beer I'll be making...

Volunteers?

Happy New Year! Hope you checked into Untappd to unlock your badge!