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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.


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.


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.


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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.


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.


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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.


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.


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.


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.


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!



New Brewing Prep

I intend to post weekly, and this has been revised at least five times.  I hope it is still a coherent post.

I have been figuring out what I need and what I want to do relative to actually brewing beer, and with the help of various posts on various forums, I think I figured out that I am going to start with a starter set that includes a fermenting bucket, bottling bucket, glass carboy, and I think all the tools to make things work.  I had settled on it a few days before Labor Day and while browsing the Reddit homebrewing forum late on Monday night I saw a post that indicated most things at that particular webstore were 10% off, so I ‘pulled the trigger’.  Happy birthday to me a few weeks early :-).  For whatever reason, the “in stock” item didn’t ship until 9/4 late in the evening.  It took so long for them to ship the in-stock item that I thought maybe they know that my birthday is around two weeks away and they’re shooting for that to be delivery day.  Truthfully, for a first experience it isn’t good (which is why I’m going into great depth to NOT give away who they are, although if they screw up twice the gloves are coming off).  I will probably give them another chance, as it’s my first experience and whatnot, but I might be apprehensive of ordering something that I need in a week and probably reserve their second chance for something that I can order two or three weeks out.

There is one shining spot of it – UPS has been getting the 43 pound set from the middle of the country to Ohio at a record speed – within 16 hours (which includes an overnight), they made it from the origin to Toledo, Ohio.  They’re trying like Hell (and will most likely be successful) at getting it to me on Monday.  Conveniently right after the weekend. Of course it could have been here Friday if it was shipped a day sooner.

In addition to the supplies, I stopped by a local retailer (I don’t want to call them a homebrew shop, since they’re a large eclectic grocery store that happens to have some homebrewing supplies as well as one of the best beer stocks in the region).  I quickly located and purchased the LME, DME, yeast, and hops.  However, I was a bit disappointed in the hops selection.  I was able to find Soriache Ace (bittering) and Cascade (aromatic) hops, but there was a lot of Cascade and some other varieties of almost all aromatic hops – very few bittering hops.  Their refrigerator was mostly bare.  I’m going to check them again and see if it was just that they had a lot of purchases prior to Labor Day.  I also want to check another local homebrew shop or two.

In the meantime, I’ve been saving and washing a lot of bottles.  I’ve been on the lookout for “Grolsch Style” bottles, but haven’t found any Grolsch lately (and the last place I bought it at appears to no longer carry it, although they do have the bottle in the picture below).  I think I’d prefer those to having to cap bottles, but I know I’m probably going to be using normal bottles for the first batch.  And the second.  Probably the third too.  Most likely even the fourth.

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I did wash and remove the painted labels from four Stone bottles.  Using the hint provided on Home Brew Talk, I soaked the bottles in Star San (prepared according to the label on the back) for around 22 hours.  I was able to wipe all the paint off the Stone IPA bottles with a damp rag.  Same with everything that wasn’t blue on their Self Righteous IPA.  And the same with everything that wasn’t gold on their Ruination (there is, unfortunately, a lot of gold on those bottles).  However, I decided I’d try something abrasive (which happened to be a bar of Lava soap since I was at my utility sink) and it started taking gold off a Ruination bottle, so I took a dish scrubbing pad to those bottles and that took the remaining paint off.

I’m up to around 30 bottles currently, and I probably won’t be bottling my first batch until early October, so I’m probably going to have enough by the time bottle day rolls around.  And I’m already dreaming of a keg system and one of those conical fermentors that I’ll probably never actually get in real life.

I’ve already decided my first brew will be the Cincinnati Pale Ale as included on John Palmer’s Website.  First off, I live in Cincinnati (a wonderful place to live if you like beer, thanks to Rhinegeist, MadTree, Moerlein, and other breweries), and I like Pale Ales.  I will use extracts (mostly because this is my first and I want to make it easy on myself), but I likely will not be using a kit for ingredients because I want control over what I get.  I think at some point in the future I will go all-grain, but walk before run.

One thing I think I will be doing prior to brew day is figuring out every little detail for brew day from where things will sit and what will be where when it is used.  I figure it might be a smart thing to make sure I don’t get into a position where I have to carry a 30-pound+ vat of boiling wort halfway across the house to dump it into the fermentor… or have to hunt for the fermentor.