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Brewery Reorganization

I’ve had some organization issues in the homebrewery, so I decided to use some Christmas money to fix.

The shelves are wire shelves from Target.  I only used four of the five shelves.  The bottom two shelves are tall enough for a keg or carboy, and the uppers are good for bottles and other glassware.  The bottom shelf is off the floor enough that I can sweep under it and get a mop under it if necessary.

I do have future plans to move more stuff around – I want the keezer closer to the stairs (currently it is as far from the stairs as possible), and I want to eventually change the sink to a double-tub sink.


Merry Christmas!

I’m sitting here one chapter into my gift…

New Gift!

If you haven’t listened to the podcasts about the book, they are worth a listen (Basic Brewing Radio May 19, 2016 episode, BeerSmith). The basic premise of the book is to interview some all-stars to try and spread their knowledge. Since it would be a mess otherwise, the all-stars are broken out into four archetypes: Recipe (and Ingredient) Innovator, The Scientist (and Process Nerd), The Old School Master, and The Wild One.

I took the test.  Like many others, I fall into multiple groups, but mostly the Scientist and Process Nerd.  Old School Master, Innovator, and Wild are the other three places, with the scores from Scientist, Old School, and Innovator being fairly close.

Also for Christmas I got a pH meter.  Shocking after seeing my architype.

Cheers and Merry Christmas!

Imperial Hoptrooper Brew Day and Tasting Notes

On November 20, I brewed my biggest (and most successful in terms of numbers) beer – a double IPA.  Recipe inspiration came from MadTree’s High series, which is a series of IIPAs that are quite popular and very well rated (note: there are three “highs” that I know of, the Galaxy and Citra, which are linked in the text, and Azacca which is not… but it’s also f**king tasty! There may have also been a Mosaic High).

The recipes are similar.  I did a fair bit of ‘back of the napkin’ analysis on the two beers, looking at the percentages of grain, the AAU at each addition, etc.  I ended up with the recipe below.

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
5.5 gal 60 min 123.7 IBUs 5.9 SRM 1.074 1.014 7.8 %

Style Details

Name Cat. OG Range FG Range IBU SRM Carb ABV
Double IPA 22 A 1.065 - 1.085 1.008 - 1.018 60 - 120 6 - 14 2.4 - 2.9 7.5 - 10 %


Name Amount %
Pilsner (Hoepfner) 10.5 lbs 72.41
Vienna Malt (Briess) 2.25 lbs 15.52
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L 8 oz 3.45
Carapils (Briess) 4 oz 1.72
Corn Sugar (Dextrose) 1 lbs 6.9


Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
El Dorado 1 oz 60 min Boil Pellet 15
Galena 1 oz 60 min Boil Pellet 12.5
Centennial 0.5 oz 30 min Boil Pellet 10
Mosaic (HBC 369) 0.5 oz 30 min Boil Pellet 12.3
Centennial 0.5 oz 15 min Boil Pellet 10
Mosaic (HBC 369) 0.5 oz 15 min Boil Pellet 12.3
Centennial 1 oz 15 min Aroma Pellet 10
Mosaic (HBC 369) 1 oz 15 min Aroma Pellet 12.3
Centennial 2 oz 0 min Dry Hop Pellet 10
Mosaic (HBC 369) 2 oz 0 min Dry Hop Pellet 12.3
Chinook 1.5 oz 0 min Dry Hop Pellet 13
Citra 1 oz 0 min Dry Hop Pellet 12


Step Temperature Time
Mash In 152°F 60 min

I kept closer to the size of the Citra High recipe, mostly because I am still working through efficiency issues (it’s getting better, though).  I still didn’t get MadTree’s efficiency, but to be fair, I’m targeting 75%, not 82%!

Brew Day

I’m happy to say that the only issues during brew day was how long it took and higher than expected grain absorption.  I started later in the day (around 2:30 PM) and it didn’t end until maybe 6:30PM.  There were no stuck sparges, clogged lines or chillers, boil boiled.  I ended up with about 4.5 gallons into the fermenter, which is less than the 5.5 gallons I was targeting.  However, the lower volume works better with my 7.5 – 8 gallon kettle.

Heating initial mash tun preheat water

Lots of hops!

1.070! The most this hydrometer has ever floated!

Airlock Action Shot!

1.004 (ultimately final gravity)

Throughout fermentation, the temperature (as measured on the side of the fermenter) stayed at 68, which is a nice perfect temperature.

Tasting Notes

The Beer

Aroma: Grapefruit mostly

Appearance: Copper, opaque.  White head that starts thick and persists as a thin head.

Taste: Tongue lashing bitterness with citrus tones. Some alcohol flavor.

Mouthfeel: Moderately carbonated, slight citrusy tartness lingers past the dry finish.

Overall Impression: I’m biased, but I love this beer. I’ve been drinking the heck out of this!

OG: 1.071
SG: 1.005
ABV: 8.7%
IBU: 124
SRM: 6

What’s Next With This Recipe?

I want to try two things – one is maybe a little less bitterness.  The other is honey instead of sugar.  I’m wondering if some Orange Blossom honey would work well with the citrus based hops.


Totally “Unauthorized” Look at a New Cincinnati Brewery

Unauthorized? Yeah maybe.  This is in plain sight, so it’s fair game, right? I’m not a journalist anyway…

There is another new “brewery” coming to Cincinnati, Mio’s Pizza in Anderson (at the corner of Eight Mile and Clough Pike).

I go to this Mio’s somewhat regularly (the pizza is great, and the beer list is excellent), and I also go to Paradise Brewing regularly (because homebrewing!). I initially heard about Mio’s plans at Paradise, and saw them coming to fruition over the last few visits.

The plan hanging in the window

The plan hanging in the window (pic: 11/13/16)

Hot liquor tun? 1-2 bbl?

Hot liquor tun? 1-2 bbl? (pic: 11/13/16)

That same HLT (I think). Looks like a fermenter was in the bar and I didn't notice... I guess I'll have to go back for more recon.

That same HLT (I think). Looks like a fermenter was in the bar and I didn’t notice… I guess I’ll have to go back for more recon. (pic: 11/20/16)

Based on the plan, it looks like one 2 bbl fermenter, so obviously not a huge production so it seems highly likely they will still maintain their excellent selection of craft beers*. One of the things talked about with some of the newer craft breweries is a return to having neighborhood breweries.  This seems to fall in line with that, but with brewing being second to food.  Given the small scale of production, that’s probably going to be fine.

I haven’t talked to the owners or anything, but since they are growing hops outside and they have good pizza and service, I’ll definitely give their beers a try, and I’ll be monitoring their progress… as I drop by to have a pizza with the family.

Update: This was supposed to post on November 21, but it did not.  A few weeks (or less) after writing, I stopped in and was told by a waiter that their brewery will be more educational/community, which will be pretty cool!


‘* = the beers I can remember include MadTree Pilgrim, Nowhere In Particular Batch 4, Stone Enjoy By 7/25/16 Tangerine IPA, Figleaf Iso-Trope, Old Firehouse The Chief, Jackie O’s Firefly Amber, Urban Artifact Kicksled.

Made Dark Candi Syrup

I’ve been thinking about my next homebrew being a Belgian Strong Dark Beer.  In the research process, I found two Chop & Brew Episodes, and both use dark candi syrup.  Since I’m tight (a little) and since it’s basically sugar, I decided to make my own.

Off to the interwebs, I found a post by Mad Fermentationist that mentioned a Ryan Brews post in the comments.  Looking at the Ryan Brews page, I used pickling lime and DAP (yeast nutrient, I used LD Carlson, which I had on hand).

I only scaled the recipe up, so I used:

1 pound sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp pickling lime
1 tsp yeast nutrient

I brought it to a boil and held it to around 280º – 300ºF for 40 minutes.  After that, I removed it from the heat, let it cool for a few, and added 1/3 cup of water and stirred it in to make it a syrup.

The two things I will do differently next time:

  • Dissolve the lime and dap in the water before adding it to the sugar. I had a lot of large flakes that I think (operative word!) are from the lime.
  • Use a better thermometer setup.  My grill thermometer was reading 280º for a while including in boiling water, so I hope the thermocouple isn’t ruined.  I’m letting it dry and will test it later. Edit a few days later: the thermocouple is saying 129º while sitting next to the food thermocouple reading 73º. I’ve ordered a replacement!

Cleanup of this stuff isn’t too difficult, the best way is to boil everything, even if you don’t make it to a boil, very hot water can dissolve the sugar/caramel.

Water Part Deux

So after the low mash efficiency last few beers AND my perception (note 1) of low mash efficiency in my last beer, I started looking at water more.

After looking at my options, I found a page on Braukaiser, and ended up purchasing an aquarium test kit that tests GH, KH, pH, NO2, and NO3.  The NO2 and NO3 are unnecessary for brewing, and I had 0 ppm for both of those anyway.  Using the spreadsheet and my 180ppm measurements for both GH and KH, I found Ca = 51 ppm and Mg = 13 ppm.

That’s not too different from my old measurements:

Ca: old 54, new 51

Mg: old 13, new 13

The two interesting differences are alkalinity and pH.

Alkalinity: old 123, new 180

pH:  Old 8.1, new 7.5.

The total alkalinity is a concern – that’s the ability of the water to buffer changes in acidity.  And my pH is lower than expected.  So I may not have had the wort in the proper pH range.  This could be why I’ve had efficiency problems.


No nitrites or nitrates. 7.5 pH, 180 ppm of both Ca and Mg.

That being typed, I need a good pH meter.  That’s really the only point that I came to after all this.

Note 1: I initially thought that I had really poor efficiency, and there is a problem somewhere in my measurements… particularly not taking a pre-boil gravity.  I have the first running and the second running and the OG, and I determined a potential amount of sugar in the two runnings and it may be okay.  The real problem was that I had far too much strike water and didn’t make any adjustments.  I DID figure out that if I use Denny Conn’s method, I can safely assume his assumption that 10 pounds of grain absorbs 1 gallon of strike water, because mine is a hair over that.

On to the next beer!

Homebrew Ramblings 1

When I started writing this, I was sitting and waiting on the mash.  This was my first brew since my attempt at the Redneck RIMS.

I’m not trying that again. I don’t think it was smart to cobble together some stuff and do something that just made things more difficult.  I’ve been reading a lot, and a few posts on the Beer Simple Blog kinda got me to change from trying to make RIMS happen to just concentrate on making beer.

Last Sunday’s beer was inspired by Great Lakes’ Nosferatu. It’s an awesome beer.  I don’t brew clone beers, but I DO use clone recipes as starting points.  I changed the base malt to Maris Otter, and I’m using all Chinook hops.  I’m using Northwest Ale yeast, too.  When I initially typed this, I was in the mash and temps were looking good (154 – 155).  Unfortunately, there were other problems, but in the end, I have about 4.5 gallons of beer and I learned a few things for the next time.


  • Dried hope cones go into a bag, because despite what I’ve read in someone else’s brewing book, they don’t create a “filter bed”, they get stuck in pumps and plate chillers.
  • Better Bottles can’t handle 200ºF wort.  They tell us this, and we’d do well to remember.
  • Expect that pumps change how much water your grain “absorbs”.
  • Speaking of pumps, standardizing all fittings to one singular fitting (i.e. cam locks or tri-clamps) is probably a good thing to do.
  • Disasters will happen.  Even homebrewing should have a disaster recovery plan (backup pumping system, a backup method to chill wort isn’t bad either, backup measurement devices, etc.).


Homebrew Tool Calibration

I have issues.  Efficiency issues.  The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have a problem. The second step is finding out who/where to blame the problem on!

This is the first in a series, although I do not know how long the series will be (until I fix the problem).

The most likely problem based on the sheer number of times I’ve done Internet research on this problem and had conversations with other homebrewers is the crush.  I’ve never wanted to accept this as the problem because my LHBS uses the same mill (that may have changed now that they’ve moved to being an actual brewery and don’t want to spend two hours milling grain).  However, I did my due diligence and accused asked them…

The Twitter conversation goes on longer, but the end result is to check everything.  So I did…

Temperature Probes

Three temperature measuring devices: a dial, a Javelin, and an old school floating thermometer.

Three temperature measuring devices: a dial, a Javelin, and an old school floating thermometer.

I compared the three at two temperatures and two of them (the dial and the Javelin that I normally use) at a third.  In ice water, the floating thermometer and the dial agreed at 34ºF while the Javelin read 35ºF when the battery was kept out of the ice water (while it is waterproof, I think it is better to keep the battery out of the water).  In tap temperature water, they all read 73ºF.  In near-boiling water (with the stove turned off), the dial said 194ºF and the Javelin said 195ºF (I didn’t try the floating thermometer).  I feel fairly confident that the Javelin, which I use the most, is close enough.


My Alla Hydrometer.

My Alla Hydrometer.

My tap water (not distilled!) is at 0.999 SG after correcting for temperature, so we’ll go with 1.000. That’s a single-point calibration, which assumes that the hydrometer correctly measures throughout it’s range… which is a lofty assumption.

The second point was 15g sugar + 150g water, which by calculation should be 9.1º Plato, I got 10.2º Plato.  HOWEVER, my scale is only accurate to 1g, so the range is 14.5g – 15.4g sugar + 149.5g – 150.4g water.  This means that the calculated error could be anywhere from 8.8º Plato to 9.3º Plato.  So I’m reading about 1.1º Plato high there.

I did a third point as well.  30g sugar (29.5g – 30.4g) +150g (149.5g – 150.4g) water.  Should be 16.7º Plato in the range of 16.3º Plato to 17º Plato.  I got 15.8º Plato, 1.1º Plato low.  16.5º Plato is 1.068, 15.8º Plato is 1.065.  While this sounds like a lot, it isn’t, and I’ve been having problems on the order of 10 points (e.g. wanting 1.052 for 75% efficiency pre-boil and getting 1.043).

All this stuff seems so screwy (I tried the third point test twice) that I’m not considering this to be a done deal.  But I’m buying a few more hydrometers!

pH Meter

I admit that I haven’t been as nice to this meter as I should – I dropped it in wort and rinsed it off, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t waterproof.  But this thing is currently unusable.  I checked it using distilled water (pH of 7.0), my tap water (pH of 8.1) and tap water with cream of tartar dissolved in it – which creates a buffer at a pH of 3.6.

Dr, Meter pH Meter.

Dr, Meter pH Meter.

Front of the pH Meter.

Front of the pH Meter.

I believe this meter worked correctly once.  However, it no longer does.  If I calibrate it at 7.0 (distilled water), the 3.6 pH buffer solution from cream of tartar is about 4.6 – 5.7 (that’s a huge range!) and it sets my tap water around 9.2 (it’s alkaline, but it’s not THAT alkaline!).

I’m going to replace this, but for now I’m going to rely on calculations using John Palmer’s spreadsheet.

Next Steps

I’m going to reread How To Brew (just the section about mash tuns) to make sure I didn’t screw up the mash tun somehow (I probably didn’t, but you never know).  I’m going to redo the hydrometer test with at least two more hydrometers that I’m going to get this week (this is one of those things that we should have extras of anyway).  I’m going to replace my pH meter (I kinda implied that already).  I also may get a water sample to Ward Labs to see what my water is actually like coming out of the pipe.


Brew Day: Vampire Dust Pale Ale and a Mead

Yesterday (at the time of writing) was Mead Day.  Since I’m down to just a session wheat beer, I needed a pale ale, and I just wanted to make a mead.

Vampire Dust Pale Ale

Strike Water Additions

Strike Water Additions

Crushed malt

Crushed malt

Redneck RIMS setup

Redneck RIMS setup

Brewing went off with mostly few hitches except slowly hitting my strike temperature due to this redneck RIMS setup (to be documented further later).

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
5.5 gal 60 min 44.9 IBUs 5.2 SRM 1.059 1.011 6.3 %
Actuals 1.054 1.01 5.8 %

Style Details

Name Cat. OG Range FG Range IBU SRM Carb ABV
American Pale Ale 18 B 1.045 - 1.06 1.01 - 1.015 30 - 50 5 - 10 2.3 - 3 4.5 - 6.2 %


Name Amount %
Brewer's Malt, 2-Row, Premium (Great Western) 11 lbs 90.72
Carapils (Briess) 12 oz 6.19
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L 6 oz 3.09


Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Green Bullet 0.5 oz 60 min Boil Pellet 13.5
Citra 1 oz 15 min Boil Pellet 12
Citra 1 oz 5 min Boil Pellet 12
Citra 3 oz 7 days Dry Hop Pellet 12


Name Amount Time Use Type
Irish Moss 1.00 tsp 15 min Boil Fining


Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
London Ale Yeast (1028) Wyeast Labs 75% 60°F - 72°F


Step Temperature Time
Mash In 148°F 60 min

My First Mead

This is the fist time I’ve attempted mead, and I tried to keep it as simple as I can:

Ingredients: 4 lb Orange Blossom Honey, water to make 1g, yeast, LD Carlson Yeast Nutrient and LD Carlson Yeast Energizer

Yeast: Lavlin 71b, 5g


Rehydrate yeast with 125 ml water and 6.25g LD Carlson Yeast Nutrient

Add all honey to fermenter, water to 1 gallon, mix well.  Pitch yeast.  Forget to add first SNA (oops).

34 Brix!

34 Brix!

2 * 2lb Orange Blossom Honey... from Ohio?

2 * 2lb Orange Blossom Honey… from Ohio?

Supplies. Putting the Mr. Beer into use.

Supplies. Putting the Mr. Beer into use.

Following morning: add first two SNA’s, mostly because I don’t have a way to measure to tenths of grams.

The SNAs should be 0.4g Nutrient and 0.2g Energizer each addition, at pitch and at each of 24, 48, and 72 hours post-pitch.

Vampire Dust Pale should be ready in 10 days or so, the mead will be a while.


My First Sour: a Flanders Red?

I’ve been wanting to do a few sours for a while, and recently purchased two Better Bottles for the purpose of one being a sour-only fermenter.  I’m merging two recipes, one is the on the Milk The Funk Wiki, which is the malt bill for The Rare Barrel beers.  Since it is only part of a recipe, I took the other part from the Flanders Red Solera recipe from the Bloatarian Brewing League (a Cincinnati homebrew club) – specifically the hopping, mashing schedule, and yeast.


My base water is pretty close for a Flanders Red, just a tad alkaline.

Base Ranges for a Flanders Red

Base Ranges for a Flanders Red

The only adjustments are basically pH, so once I add a milliliter of Lactic Acid, it puts the water right in line with where it needs to be.

Adjusted Water

Adjusted Water


Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
5.5 gal 60 min 17.1 IBUs 13.4 SRM 1.053 1.012 5.4 %
Actuals 1.046 1.01 4.7 %

Style Details

Name Cat. OG Range FG Range IBU SRM Carb ABV
Flanders Red Ale 23 B 1.048 - 1.057 1.002 - 1.012 10 - 25 10 - 16 2 - 2.7 4.6 - 6.5 %


Name Amount %
Pilsner (2 Row) Bel 8 lbs 71.11
Wheat Malt (Barrett Burston) 1.5 lbs 13.33
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L 8 oz 4.44
Oats, Flaked 8 oz 4.44
Vienna Malt (Briess) 8 oz 4.44
Carafa II 4 oz 2.22


Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Mt. Hood 1 oz 45 min Boil Pellet 6


Name Amount Time Use Type
Lactic Acid 1.00 ml 60 min Mash Water Agent
Oak Chips 4.40 oz 7 days Secondary Flavor


Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
Roselare Belgian Blend (3763) Wyeast Labs 80% 55°F - 80°F


Step Temperature Time
Mash In 156°F 90 min

This is still in progress, and the oak is questionable at this point.