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.