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Topics - mmitchem

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Ingredients / Brewing With Grits
« on: March 15, 2013, 01:26:33 PM »
I passed a little country store on my way down to Charleston, SC for work a couple of months back. Apparently there is a local guy around that place selling ground grits in sacks for cheap. Being a southern guy, I would love to impart this traditional ingredient into some beer. Has anyone ever used grits in brewing? It doesn't seem that far out there for some one to have done so, but would love a little insight if anyone has ever used them. Cheers!

Yeast and Fermentation / Measuring for Repitching
« on: November 26, 2012, 07:18:42 PM »
Greetings All,

I have always used a fresh vial yeast starter for brewing. After a few years of buying countless vials I would love to start washing and repitching yeast.

I understand the basics of harvesting and don't really think the washing/collecting will be a challenge. My problem is calculating how much of that yeast to pitch.

I would still like to utilize a starter if nothing more than to introduce the yeast to fresh wort before pitch to get those little guys back into the swing of things. I see Mr. Malty has a great repitch feature and Kai has given me the skinny on viable cells per gram. How much of the slurry is non-yeast? Would it be good to mark my mason jars in mL to know how much is in each jar? My concern is that I do not want to underpitch and I do not want to be wasteful at the same time. Any pointers or practices that folks use to get the yeast count in the good zone?

Thanks in advance!!

Homebrew Clubs / NHC Logistics
« on: November 07, 2012, 04:56:34 PM »
Hey Gang!

This will be the first year we will be attending NHC as a club. I know there are more than a few of you who have made this trip and have learned a thing or two. I am opening this topic to get some tips on transporting our club gear (kegs, equipment, people, etc) up to Philly from Southeastern VA.

Anybody learned a thing or two in your annual pilgrimage?

Homebrewer Bios / Mitchem Ahoy!
« on: November 06, 2012, 06:16:23 PM »
Who Are You (please include a picture):  Michael P. Mitchem

Home Town (City, State): Wilmington, NC

Homebrew Club: Beer & Ale Research Foundation (B.A.R.F.)

I've been a homebrewer since: Around 4 years

Do you have a homebrewing disaster you'd like to share? I am currently renting a house in Suffolk, VA and brew in the garage. I had made an English Barleywine two days before. My wife calls me up very frantically saying the my beer had exploded and coated the ceiling with yeast. The pressure of this big beer apparently blew the blowoff tube right out and volcanoed onto the garage ceiling. That will be fun to explain...

What is your favorite style(s) to brew? German beers with a big malt profile. It doesn't have to be a heavy alcohol beer, just big malt.

What style(s) will you never brew? Not sure if there is one. It is like Pokemon - gotta brew em all...right?

What was the first beer you ever brewed?  How did it turn out? I brewed a Midwest Robust porter kit. The power went off in my house in mid winter and the fermentation temperature was all over the place. When I served it I asked "So who here likes band-aids?"

Have you ever had a homebrew mistake that turned out great? Not yet...and I cannot wait until the mistakes become brilliant!!!

What is your favorite beer recipe? I would have to say my Strong Scotch Ale recipe, "The Scourge of Edinburgh". It was the first beer I ever competed and it scored a 45 at the Palmetto State Brewers Open. Plus it is just a tasty beer. My friends clean me out every time I make it.
Are you a BJCP Judge?  If so, what is your rank and how long have you been judging? I am a BJCP Recognized Judge having passed the new online entrance exam a few months ago. I am off to Charlotte in Jan 2013 to knock out the tasting exam. Fingers crossed...

Do you have a good beer judging story you'd like to share with the rest of the homebrewing world? When you are judging 39 different wood-aged and smoked beers...Good Luck!

Do you have a favorite homebrew trick or gadget that you've found to make your beer better/brewing easier, etc? No real tricks. Everything that I have learned is out there and has been pioneered by far better brewers than me. My only real trick is to sanitize like crazy and control the fermentation temperature. Nine times out of ten the beer will be good ;)

Describe your brew system. I brew on a 2-tier, 3 vessel, half barrel brewhouse that me and my buddy Roy Damuth built in early 2012. It is the Backwoods Brewery in 'Pimp My System'

How frequently do you brew (times/month or /year)? I try to brew 2-3 times per month...more if I can or have the room.

What is your favorite malt?  Why? Weyermann Dark Munich Malt. It is so versatile and has a wonderful character. It is the bees knees!
What is your favorite hop? Why? German Magnum. this hop is a real workhorse. Such a clean bitter and such a high alpha acid level. Awesome and cheap - just like me!!!

Do you have a favorite or house yeast? What qualities do you like about that yeast? I like to use WLP001 for my ale fermentations just because it is so clean and attenuates well. On the lager side I am a huge fan of WLP833 German Bock Lager. That maltiness is so, so nice. MMMMM!

Do you have a good homebrew club story you'd like to share? My homebrew club is awesome. B.A.R.F. has really shown me what brewing in a community is all about. No interesting stories - just a general feeling of pride in my club. They really are a great crew!

What haven't we asked that you would really like to answer? Nothing really...Maybe how do you get better at brewing. To that I say brew alot, ask questions, and write everything down so you do not repeat mistakes.

If you could serve your homebrew to someone famous, who would it be and what would you give her/him? All of them! And everyone else in the world too! Homebrew is a great thing that should be shared by all.

Can you send a picture or two of some labels you've created for your homebrew? We don't make no stinking labels ;)

What's the most unusual ingredient you've ever used in a brew? One time I went outside the German Purity Law and brewed with, dare I say, CORN SUGAR!!! Hahaha - nothing too crazy. Spices and herbs, stuff like that.

Do you have any pets or kids named after beer styles or ingredients? Nope.

How many medals have you won from homebrew competitions? Since I started competing in December 2011 I think I have medalled ten times, maybe?

Do you brew alone, with friends or with someone you live with? I usually brew alone so I can really just float through the brewday. I brew with friends occasionally as well. Both are a good time.

Are you an indoor or outdoor brewer? I brew in the garage these days. I started in the kitchen and have been exiled to the garage :)
List some of the names you've given your beers. Which is your favorite? I made a Milk Stout this year called "Sweet Sweater Cows", hehehe. I also named a Kolsch "Helen's Opera" after my opera-singing cousin who is singing in Koln.


Just wanted to let all of you in the Southeastern Virginia and surrounding area know about this event. Sure to be a good time. Hope to see you there!

Ingredients / Hop Absorption
« on: October 26, 2012, 12:59:17 PM »
Hey gang,

I know in a batch of beer we lose liquid to many culprits. There is grain absorption, evaporation rate, trub, etc. I know I lose alot to hop absorption as well. Anyone have any ballpark estimate on how much you lose to hop absorption per ounce of pellet hops?

General Homebrew Discussion / New Baby Boy - New Brew!
« on: October 15, 2012, 12:53:06 AM »
My wife and I just had our first baby yesterday! So excited. Can't wait to get home and start in on a new celebration brew. It will be a wood aged wee heavy aptly dubbed 'Little Red Head'. Awesome where inspiration can come from. Cheers!

Yeast and Fermentation / Pitching Yeast by Weight...
« on: August 15, 2012, 11:35:22 AM »
Greetings All!

I have read from a few sources (Kai's blog most recently) that pitching yeast by weight is the way to go. I can definitely see where this would be advantageous, especially as my batch sizes increase. Is there a quick and dirty way to estimate yeast cell count based on weight? Thick slurry vs thin slurry? Thanks for the help in advance!

Ingredients / Water Has My Head Spinning...
« on: May 23, 2012, 02:45:16 PM »
I have been paying particular attention to my water lately as it seems to be the next big step in my quest for the best beer I can brew. There seem to be conflicting views on water...from what I can tell, and that may be way off ;)
I have been primarily comparing Bru'n Water and John Palmers RA spreadsheet to compare results of mineral additions. But here is where my confusion comes in. I heard John Palmer say on a Brewstrong podcast that if you get your RA in the ballpark of where you want it, then your mash pH should take care of itself in getting in good brewing range (5.2 to 5.5). This really doesnt take into play your grainbill or anything like that. However when I look at my water profile and mash acidification on Bru'n Water, the pH is pretty high (6.1). I also remember John saying that if you get your RA right, and your sulfate to chloride ratio where it needs to be, you are 99% of the way there. Seems simple balancing only these 3 things...
For dark beers, John calls for a relatively high RA (like 250), while Bru'n Water has a relatively low number for black beers. The higher the RA, the less acidification takes head hurts...
All of this has my head spinning and I feel like either one is better than the other or I am missing a vital piece of the puzzle. Anyone want to weigh in on this? Thanks in advance!

Yeast and Fermentation / Mixing Lager Yeasts - Pros and Cons
« on: May 18, 2012, 03:16:35 AM »
I have read alot about people mixing lager and ale yeasts together to get the best of both worlds. I have also read that in most cases a dominant yeast will usually lend the most character to the beer.
With that being said, I am conducting an experiment mixing two lager yeasts together. I threw 2 vials into my flask to make a starter - 1 vial WLP833 (German Bock) and 1 vial WLP838 (Southern German Lager). They both look pretty close when complared on White Labs yeast charts. I know that the WLP838 tends to drop out of the beer pretty fast making it pretty clean. The WLP833 tends to be slightly more 'dusty' and doesnt drop out as fast. Other than that - I would say they are pretty close in most respects with the obvious flavor differences.
I really like these two yeasts - alot! Hence the experiment at hand. I pitched the big starter onto an Oktoberfest I like to brew.
Has anyone done this before? What was the outcome? Thanks in advance :)

Pimp My System / Backwoods Brewery
« on: May 16, 2012, 12:07:10 PM »
Thought I would take a few minutes to share the photos of the build for my new brewstand. The frame is based on the 2-tier Sabco stand in a reverse setup (left to right instead of right to left). It utilizes both gravity and a pump for liquid transfer. 2 Auber PID's regulate the HTL and MLT temperatures by opening and closing the valves on 2 Honeywell standing pilot solenoids. The control panel also features a master switch, a pump switch and a timer to help keep me on track with mash time, hop additions or whatever other time-sensitive tasks need to be accomplished on brewday. It is a low pressure gas rig with 2 BG12 style burners up top and 1 BG14 on the bottom tier.
The project was fairly quick and is a testament to hard work and open collaboration. I moved to the backwoods of Suffolk, VA and joined the brewclub BARF based out of Norfolk VA. When I realized I wanted to make a brewstand after pricing out prefabricated ones, the club was quick to offer suggestions and talent to help make it happen. Royal Damuth and Adam Shifflett were the first two to offer up their expertise. Adam was finishing up his own brewstand and had many valuable lessons to share that he had learned in building. Royal is a fantastic welder and took on the task of welding the frame together and offering up design input that was very concise and accurate. Together, we built one awesome brewstand that I use at home, which I have dubbed the Backwoods Brewery.
Enjoy these pics of the build and feel free to ask any questions or pass on suggestion that you might have. Cheers!

Events / NHC Certificates...
« on: May 02, 2012, 06:56:00 PM »
I was wondering when AHA sends out certificates for beers that qualified for one at NHC?

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