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