Latest Posts

New Brewing Setup Plan

After the last beast of a brew day, I want to fix my setup to make the next brew (soon, hopefully) easier.  I don’t need all the fancy-pants pumps and stuff, but I do need a good way to heat water quickly and safely.  Convenience is pretty important to me as well, so I’m not going to brew in my garage (no sink and poor electrical and poor lighting).

So I drew (literally) my plan.

New Setup!

New Setup!

This is a plan in four phases, and since I’m looking for content, I’m going to have a post for each phase.

Phase 1: 120v Upgrades This is minor upgrades to the electric at my brewing area including an outlet at the brewing station and a better light.

Phase 2: 240v Wiring This is the major part of the wiring.  I’m not afraid of electricity at all (I’ve been shocked a few times), but I do take care (which is probably why those shocks weren’t enough to kill me).

Phase 3: Control Box Since I don’t have hundreds or thousands of dollars sitting around, I’m making my control box myself.

Phase 4: Finish Up and Testing I’m not doing all this stuff for my health!  There’s a few things that will have to be added in, like a pump.  Realistically, I’m going to need to another kettle, too, but that will be a while.

Cheers!

Another New Year Goal Post [Beer]

Ahh, the new year.  The time every blogger writes a post filled with resolutions that they never get around to tracking or caring about.  And I run three blogs on four topics (since this blog is both running and beer), so this is one out of four.

I’m a little different, I actually care about my goals. I’ve been thinking about the content of the goals for a few weeks, because there is some real importance to them to my brewing.  So here they are…

1. Build a Better Brewing Area

My wife does not like the smell of wort, and my stove cannot heat 5+ gallons of wort very well.  In fact, in my last post I lamented about the brewing situation.  This will change, and it will change soon.

2. Unlock All of the Style Badges on Untappd

In becoming a homebrewer, I’ve thought A LOT about different beer styles.  However, I’m definitely biased towards IPAs, Pale Ales, and Amber Ales.  I want to change that for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I believe someone that is truly a brewer (whether professional or homebrewer) should have a well developed palate to know about beer.  The list below is what is left at the time of typing (which is a few days before New Year’s Day, when I set this to post), and these will change before then because the last time I went to the good beer store I bought 1 IPA and 5 other beers).

  • Heffenista (Hefeweizens, 4/5)
  • Trappist Travesty (Trappist Style, 1/5) Update: 2/16/15
  • Pucker Up (Sour styles: Sour, Wild, Lambic, Gose, Berliner Weisse, Flanders Red, Flanders Oud Bruin, Gueze, or Faro, 3/5) 1/22/15
  • Trip to the Farm (Saison/Farmhouse, 2/5) 1/11/15
  • Fruits of Your Labor (Fruit Beers, 1/5)
  • Down in Smoke (Rauchbier, 0/5)
  • I’ll be Bock* (Bock styles, 1/5)
  • Brewnettes Have More Fun* (Brown Ales, 4/5) 1/29/15
  • The Wine of Beers (Barleywines, 2/5)
  • Keep Your Wits About You (Witbier, 1/5)
  • Hey Honey (Mead, 0/5)

(*) = The Untappd count is incorrect here – I have check-ins prior to the badge start date, so they are not counted.  Not that it matters that much, I’ll drink a few more or re-drink some of them.

3. Visit Many Breweries in the Cincinnati Region

This is a hard one because breweries keep opening up, but there is value in going to the source.  For starters, some of the breweries just aren’t at the local growler house when I am OR the beers they bottle are styles I don’t care for AND they have better beers on tap.  Sometimes also they have experimental beers on tap.  Usually draft tastes better, too (at least to me).

So in thinking about this blog post, I’ve made it out to Listermann, 50 West, and Old Firehouse, and I’ve been to Moerlein and Moerlein Lager House a few times.  I intend to make it to MadTree before or just after this posts.

I’m going to limit the rest to Rhinegeist, Great Crescent, Rock Bottom (I’ve been there before, but that was as a Bud Light drinker), Mt. Carmel, Blank Slate, Paradise (my LHBS, so one of my next trips will involve tasting AND buying ingredients), Ei8ht Ball, and Braxton (I did buy a growler and some stickers through KickStarter, seems I should make it out there!).

There’s a lot more in the region (like Bad Tom Smith, Cellar Dweller, Rivertown, Quarter Barrel, Hofbrau Haus), but the reality is that it is that it is hard to have time to get to them and sample enough beers to make it worth going (and not anger my wife or drag the kids along!).  More are opening this year (Tap & Screw, Fibonacci, DogBerry… and those are the ones we know about!), so that’s why I won’t say ‘all’.  I’m fortunate this year that I have a chance where I will be “in the area” of a brewery for another reason and intend on taking care of blogness after taking care of business 🙂

4. Brew One Style that isn’t IPA, Pale Ale, Amber, Porter, or Stout

I have so far brewed a Pale Ale, an IPA, an Amber, and a Stout.  I feel like I want to brew a saison or a barleywine or something like that.  Or maybe a lambic.  Or a gose for the summer.  I don’t know, but something that isn’t ‘normal’ or a derivative (like a spiced amber ale that can be classified as a winter ale).

5. Make Headway into Kegging

I don’t like bottling beers.  There, I said it.  Like many other homebrewers.  Kegging isn’t inexpensive to get into, but it is inexpensive to maintain (like brewing – it is fairly inexpensive to brew, but not inexpensive to buy the necessary equipment).  I have a small CO2 tank, but no regulator and no kegs.  And no fridge or keezer.  And the CO2 tank may be too small to do more than one keg.  There are dependencies all around, but I do want to be more than 1/4 of the major components into kegging by the end of the year.  Depending on how much I want to look at Craigslist (etc) will dictate when I actually begin… and how quick I can make a better setup will dictate how quick I start buying more kegging equipment.

So there you have it! Another goal post from another random beer blogger.  Got any thoughts? Leave ’em in the comments!

Cheers!

Beast of a Brew Day

I decided to brew an amber ale last weekend.  Brew day started a little late because of family stuff, and it went later because of brewing stuff.

First off, I have water issues.  Not dirty issues, chlorine issues.  Because of that, my brewing water comes from my refrigerator as de-chlorinated cold water at around 40 degrees.  I also had to do a few things related to my boiling bucket, because I really don’t like the idea of lifting 5-6 gallons (40-50 pounds) of hot water and trying to control it.  And siphoning? FORGET ABOUT IT.  I found that my auto-siphon bends in boiling water.  So I added a valve.

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Yes, this is how I get water to brew. It sucks, but the water is chlorine free.

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Locate twice, drill once. I nearly put it at the wrong spot, but before drilling I stopped and stood back to look and realized I wanted to go an inch to the right.

I pulled both my strike and sparge water and put them in clean ale pails before leaving for the hardware store for a valve and a cooling solution.  The valve is temporary, and it even leaks, so I’m not going to show it.  I’m going to order a three-part valve soon.

The Boil

The boil was long.  Well, not long to boil, long to bring to a boil.  I’m pushing the limit of my stove.

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Insulation to try to keep heat in.

I used the recommendation of using a towel or blanket to keep the heat in.  This made a little difference, but not enough.  And it isn’t a great solution, as in the process of moving stuff around, I ended up with the following picture:

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It’s not easy to tell in the pic, but the towel is charred. I nearly started a fire.

After waiting bloody-hell forever for boil to start and giving it the hour to boil, it was time to cool.

Cooling

The cooling solution sucks.  I bought 1/4″ refrigerator line that I thought I’d run the wort through on it’s way to the ale pail.  I figured I’d send the wort through two buckets, one with tap-cold water and the other with ice cold water.

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Fifty feet of copper tube.

I ran in to two problems.  The first is that sanitizer in 1/4″ copper line can freeze.  At least, I think that’s what happened.  The other is it takes FOREVER to drain the bucket.  It brought the wort down to 50F (20+ degrees below pitch temperature), although initially, some of the wort was as low as 34 degrees.  It took a few hours to drain the bucket.  This is not a good solution.

RDWHAHB

This was one week ago.  Yesterday, prior to dry hopping, I tasted the beer from the fermenter (and tested gravity, although since dry hopping may cause additional fermentation it is an unnecessary measurement).  I am VERY pleased with the flavor so far, so I think the ounce of Citra hops I threw in there will make it nearly perfect.

Regrouping

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The sparging sprinkler worked well!

 

I was initially going to do another brew this weekend because January is a busy month for me.  I decided that now is not the time, which means I will run out of my Left Coast IPA.  That is a tragedy (I really do love IPAs), but I’ll survive, especially with that amber ale coming.  I’ve decided that I need to make significant headwind at making Batavia Basement Brewing Company actually be in the basement.  This means a heating element, temperature controller, water filter (this is in the works, and wife approved), and some two-phase electrical work.

Prost!

Charlie Is Right. RDWHAHB.

The words of Charlie Papazian in his book, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing (if you don’t own it, click that link and buy it, help support my site!) ring out on nearly every beer forum anywhere.  It’s hard to follow the advice sometimes, but that doesn’t change that the advice is good.

My last brew is one that was… interesting.  It was my first all-grain brew, and it was big.  I also messed up a few places, I forgot to add the lactose until into the boil.  I didn’t get the yield I wanted (and didn’t sparge to get it, even though I should have).  My OG was high.

Fermentation was interesting, too.  I split the batches, which resulted in about 2.25 gal (8.5 l) of wort once boil was over.  I used Wyeast 1968, with a starter, which may have gone according to plan.  I fermented one in a carboy and one in a bucket.  The carboy bubbled and bubbled.  In fact, I let it ferment an extra week because of how bubbly it was!  Even with the FG settled at 1.034 (readings taken over a week apart, not just 3 days), it was still bubbling like it was fermenting.  The bucket didn’t start bubbling at all.  At one point I thought maybe it needed to be aerated and I shook (sort of) the bucket.  It bubbled then (and only then) and so much so it pushed all the sanitizer out of the airlock.  It’s FG settled to nearly the same as the carboy.

I will admit, I was worrying.  The samples were a little thick and too sweet.  I don’t care much for sweet beers.  Two nights before bottling, I added a shot of vanilla tincture to one.  The night before bottling, I added around 8oz of cold coffee to the other.  I bottled them on the day before Thanksgiving, not without a minor issue.

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“Check the spigot, dummy!”

I try- but never succeed- in giving beers a full two weeks of bottle conditioning.  I put one of each batch in the fridge 10 days after bottling, and cracked one open as a nightcap after one of my kids’ birthday party.  It was the vanilla, affectionately known as E=1/2mvStout (yes, I’m an engineer).  I was still concerned that it would be thick, sweet, and not good.

I was wrong!

It was good.  The vanilla was not as strong as I wanted (but perhaps I could have that as a play on the ‘1/2’ in the kinetic energy formula). The head is not what I wanted, but it’s a starting point, and a damn good one.

So the next evening I tried the coffee one, E=MCStout.  I was concerned all along that the coffee flavor could overpower this one, as I have had coffee stout beers that were just too powerful with the coffee.  At this point, though, I knew it was at least a 3.5 star beer, so I was less apprehensive about trying it.

It was better.  Better than the vanilla stout.

The moral of the story: Mr. Papazian is right.  Relax, don’t worry.  Have a homebrew.

Prost!

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Relax. Don’t Worry. Have a Homebrew.

Mash Sparging Sprinkler

Edit: I’ve decided that this is a bad idea. There is a TON of heat loss through this. Don’t do it unless you have a way to maintain temperature in the mash tun.

I have a brew in the fermenters, and my first all-grain batch is going to be … interesting.

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My first mash

One of the reasons why it will be interesting is because of the lack of a good way to evenly sprinkle water into the mash.  So I fixed that problem.

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In place and ready

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Ready for me to add the hose barb connector.

There’s a ton of holes off the bottom of the holes (I say off the bottom because I drilled at about a 30-45 degree angle from the bottom, this would hopefully equalize pressure.  I won’t be pushing a lot of water through this, as it will be coming from the hot liquor tun through 5/16″ hose with only gravity as pressure.

Next brew day is coming up.  I can’t wait.

/A

Running: 888 Miles In, 112 To Go…

I’ve been doing a lot on the beer side, but not much worth writing about.  On the running side, there’s not much worth writing about mostly because you have to be pretty damn funny of a writer to get people interested in running blog posts.  Since it’s Monday morning and there is no such thing as funny on a Monday morning, I figured I’d at least update this blog with a nice milestone.

I guess I could go to Memegenerator and grab the “ain’t nobody got time for that” meme pic and add “Jokes on a Monday Morning? ANGTFT!”, but it’s Monday morning and I don’t have time for that.

Since starting on my crazy-assed goal of running 1,000 miles this year last June (when I had somewhere around 420-450 miles in), I’ve run an additional 420-450 miles to make it up to 888.  I figure I should break 1,000 around Thanksgiving.  I’ll break 900 this week. Because I’m crazy.

Cheers!

Building a Mash Tun

A few weeks ago (and I think I posted something quick about it here), I bought a 12 gallon cooler to be used as a mash tun.  Over the past week and weekend, I started getting it together.

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Ball valve with washer and … fitting.

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This is sort of the way things went together. I did add some exterior caulk between the internal washer and the cooler to provide a water-tight fit (and I tried several times to not use the caulk, but there seemed to be no way to do that without ending up with a leak).

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All fit and no leaks (after the fourth or fifth try).

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Starting on the copper for the drain lines. This is clamped down (gently!) on one end and I drew lines on my workbench at 1/2″ intervals to speed the process of sawing the slots.

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Sawing the lines.

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Interior of the lines before cleaning. I found that a 1/2″ drill bit fit through the 1/2″ copper, so I ran it through a few times to remove the burrs.

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The lines all in place prior to washing with vinegar and then soap and water.

Beer Update

The IPA is probably ready to be bottled, but I spent all my time doing yard work, building my mash tun, and fixing a Christmas tree stand that nearly sent a tree tumbling last year (She Who Must Be Obeyed was NOT happy about that!).

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The color is lighter, probably because I added the DME near the end, but I was still looking for lighter. I’ll also want to get it clearer.

 

First Homebrew Bottled!

It’s been two weeks (at the time I’m typing this) since I brewed the very first batch.  I’ve learned a ton since brewing, and a ton since trying to do things like check gravity.  On that last thought, I bought a wine thief to make checking gravity easy, but even after getting acclimated to using it.

September 19, 2014: Checked gravity, got 1.014.  Tasted beer.  Initial flavor very citrusy (specifically orange), followed by a bitter slam.

September 21, 2014: Checked gravity, got 1.012.  Tasted beer. Citrus flavor more subdued, and bitter slam gone.

September 22, 3014: Checked gravity, got 1.010.

September 23, 2014: Checked gravity, got 1.010.  Ready for bottling!

I don’t know if bottoming out the wine thief on the bottom of the ale pail made any difference, but the flavor change after ~36 hours was pretty substantial.  I had a ton of stuff to do on September 21, so the gravity change was well timed.

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Evidence of fermentation!

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The color is about right for a pale ale.

In other news, I was given birthday money (kinda weird feeling to still get birthday money when you’re 36), but I decided to spend it on a handful of homebrew things – a cooler to be used as a mash tun, a spare airlock, another lid (since I’m using my bottling bucket for sanitizer for now and want a lid on it to keep dust out), and some tube.  Through reading one of the forums or Reddit or something, I saw someone post that they use a spray bottle of sanitizer with things like checking gravity (when removing the lid).  I decided that I should do the same.

In addition to buying more stuff, I cleaned up an area in my basement that will ultimately be used for brewing.  I do want to get an electric boiling kettle that I can use down there as opposed to using my stove.  I also want to build an exhaust hood that would cover that area so when I’m boiling I can exhaust the steam as opposed to letting it go through the house – this is especially important in my basement as there is no air return duct in the basement, only a supply duct.

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The food dehydrator is dehydrating hot peppers, which is why there is an airlock on the bucket marked ‘sanitizer’.

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Bottle supply.

Bottling Day

There’s not much to talk about with bottling except that I was reminded of something – that little hole on the bottling bucket spigot is important.

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Yeah, that little hole.

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…and that’s why.

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1.010. Pretty much right in range of where it was expected.

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42 bottles of made-my-own 6-pack.

Cheers!

Hudy 14k: Some Sort of Race Report

So Saturday, September 20, 2014 I ran the Hudepohl 14k.  This is one of the funnest races on my calendar – so fun I paid for the 2015 race already!

The course

The course is an easy course, which is hard to do given the hills in Cincinnati.  The first 3.3 miles (or so) are nearly flat, and there is a slight hill coming back into Over-the-Rhine via Harrison.  After the loop, there is a major hill up Brighton Bridge (ending around mile 4.5).  That hill is short but steep.  The last hill is Liberty Street hill, and all of us Brew Hogs know that hill well, as it is on both the Hudepohl 14k and the Bockfest 5k.  There is a little bit of a hill towards the end coming from the intersection of Pete Rose Way and Eggleston to the finish line on Mehring.

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Marked along the course are the location of several breweries that were once in Cincinnati – some still existing, but many are ghosts of prohibition, which killed the brewing industry in the city.

The course is well monitored by volunteers that make sure that we don’t get turned incorrectly at the 7K/14K split (which is very early on).  This event is put on by same group that organizes the Flying Pig Marathon, and they know how to put on great events.

My performance on the course was pretty awesome.  I maintained a reasonably consistent speed (consistent meaning that there wasn’t a lot of speeding up and slowing down), and I negative split the race.  Of course, with Endomondo (or any other program), the first mile seems a lot longer because I started the timer when I THOUGHT the gun would sound, and I was a little bit off.  I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I was running near a six-pack (see the website) of convicts and suspects including Lindsay Lohan, Ray Rice, and Adrian Peterson (complete with a switch) and my dislike for black eyes and busted bums! 🙂

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One thing that really shocked me was when I actually looked at Endomondo, I told me I had 6 trophies for best distances/times.  I’m pretty shocked I could get my best 12 minute, best 1 hour, best 3k, best 3 mi, best 5k, and best 10k all in one race, but I’m certainly not complaining and it FELT that good while I was running.

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The Weather

Partly sunny, low 60s at the start, upper 60s at the end.  No rain, roads dry.  Wind was light.

Fueling Strategy

Everyone talks about fueling for marathons and half marathons, nobody talks about fueling for a 14k or 15k, although for a lot of runners it is pretty important but not complex.  I took two Gatorade Energy Chews around mile 3.5.  I didn’t want something as potent as Gu, and truthfully the Energy Chews taste better.  That also put me taking the chews just before the second water station, where I ended up with a Gatorade (I wanted water, but I ended up with the green stuff).

Life of the Race and Afterparty

One of the things that makes this race unique is the costume contest.  I didn’t take many pictures, but I did take a few.

The band, Just Add Beer was pretty cool too.  I’d post the videos of them, but truthfully my phone does not do them justice.  Of course being in a runner’s high, having a beer in me, and them deciding to play Gold On The Ceiling may affect my judgement.  Also, one of them was wearing a 7k number and medal.

So the 9:11 min/mi pace was not only a PR for a long race, it was a 10:27 improvement over last year.  So I’m pretty pleased with myself.

/A

The First Batch is in the Fermenter!

Since it feels nice outside, I decided it was the day.

I’m not going to go into specifics, just the things I learned:

  • My wife does not like the smell of wort.
  • I love the smell of cascade hops.
  • I need to prepare several bags of ice for cooling.  I used up the ice maker tray, but wished I had more.
  • Alternating sinks of cool water worked well; just next time I should have more ice (a la above) ready and not drain my sanitizer for it.
  • I need a better thermometer – one with a long stem.
  • I probably need to buy a turkey fryer and boil outside.  If I do that, I should probably consider an immersion chiller.
  • The Mason jar worked well for a yeast starter, but I should use a bigger one next time.
  • Make sure to fill the test tube enough when getting an IG reading.  “less than 1.050” is not an accurate reading.
  • Obviously I took a sip of the wort from the test tube. Not bad, maybe a tad bitter.  Of course it isn’t fermented yet.  I’m okay with bitter beer.

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I probably should have taken more pics.  Anyway, the Ale Pail is in the basement fermenting, and since I am typing this and looking things up it sounds like I need to switch the airlock with the other as there is a little bit of krausen in the airlock.

I am really looking forward to bottling and drinking this!

/A