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Messages - Jeff Renner

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The Pub / Re: Martini's
« on: July 08, 2010, 10:57:18 PM »
Oh, and I prefer to shake, hard, for about 45 seconds, to break up the ice cubes.  I love to pour my martini into a glass from the freezer and see slivers of ice float up into a layer on the surface of the martini.

The Pub / Re: Martini's
« on: July 08, 2010, 10:53:55 PM »
I have some definite thoughts on this subject, without going into the heresy of calling a vodk .... .   Oh, that's right, I said I wouldn't go into that.

So while I certainly recognize that you should be free to drink whatever you want, I ask those of you who like dirty martinis to consider the care that the master distiller went to to chose perhaps more than a dozen botanicals, in careful proportions, for the gin, and then what splashing in olive brine does to that careful balance.  You might as well use bottom shelf domestic wino gin.

When Tanqueray Ten came out what, some ten or more years ago?, I fell in love with it.  Much more up-front than my long time favorite, Beefeaters.  So I used that in my martinis, except when I could score an even more in-your-face gin, Anchor's Junipero from my sister in California.

But after a while, I found these tiring, and so my wife and I tried a blind taste off of these two vs. Beefeaters, with Seagram's thrown in as well.  Gin:vermouth @ 5:1.  We did Tanqueray Ten vs. Junipero and Beefeaters vs. Seagrams, then the winner of each vs. one another.

The winner?  Good ol' Beefeaters for its finesse without being wimpy.  What I started with 40+ years ago!  [Hey you kids, get off my lawn!]

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Sharing beers at the NHC
« on: June 17, 2010, 03:33:53 AM »
After many years of my asking clubs to have at least one beer of session strength (I recognize that we're trying to show off our biggest and baddest beers), the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild (AABG) has decided to present a session beer themed club night.  So please stop by our British Pub at club night and take a break from the liver-busting (albeit tasty) beers and relax.  I think we have about a dozen tasty but low alcohol beers.

One beer that we are presenting is my "April 7, 1933," a 3.2% abw (4.0% abv) Classic American Pilsner.

Here is my "point-of-sale" description"

"In March, 1933, just after FDR and the new congress took office, Congress passed the Cullen-Harrison Act, amending the Volstead Act, and raising the definition of "intoxicating liquor" under the 18th Amendment from 0.5% abw to 3.2% abw (4.0% abv).  The act went into effect on April 7, 1933; breweries shipped at midnight and taverns opened at that hour.  After 13 years, thirsty Americans at last could have a beer.

"This is that beer."

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: spruce tips
« on: March 24, 2010, 01:08:42 PM »
There is definitely no Christmas tree character in spruce beer the way that Mike makes it.

I've also had one made by Bosco's in Tennessee.  Owner Chuck Skypeck brought it to a conference, maybe MCAB in Cleveland.  It's sort of reminds me of a mild lemony flavor, but not at all sour.

Alaskan's winter beer also has Sitka spruce tips in it, but I've not had it.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: spruce tips
« on: March 23, 2010, 02:58:27 PM »
Here is a recent email Mike sent to our club (Ann Arbor Brewers Guild) in answer to a question.  Reposted here without his permission, but I know that he won't care as he loves spreading the gospel of spruce beer.


Mike wrote:

I 'discovered' spruce beer while I was putting together recipes for my historic brewing demonstrations.

My historic mash tun is half of a whiskey barrel with a hole in the bottom. To separate the grain from the wort I would use straw or pine branches - these don't add any flavor but work pretty well.

One day I used spruce branches - WOW

The key to using spruce is - not to boil it!
All my spruce goes into the mash - and I use lots of it! - 5 to 7# per 10 gallons.
I use - 'any old spruce' - mostly white (less flavorful) or blue (more flavorful).
I usually use the last 3 tips on a tree. These tips are usually 4 to 6" long. I leave them attached to each other - as this makes for a better - more stable - filter bed in my mash.

If you use an 'old X-mas tree' - make sure it does not have tinsel!

If I were going to do this in an extract batch I would steep the spruce boughs in the water - before adding the extract - at between 140 - 165F for 30 to 60 min. Remove the spruce before adding the extract. Proceed as usual.

Spruce can be used in most any style - my favorites to date would be - Belgian Spruce IPA, Hoppy Spruce Stout, Sour Smoked Spruce Beer.

If you have a smaller quantity of spruce - some brewers in the group - have had success adding a pound or less at the end of the boil - steeped for a few minutes before cooling.

I have never done much with the 'young new growth' - when I chew on it - it has more of a green grassy flavor - and have never had enough to try by it's self.

Trimming spruce trees will stunt their growth as mine are not 'spreading out' much any more - that is why I am using more white spruce these day than blue spruce.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: spruce tips
« on: March 23, 2010, 02:54:14 PM »
Our local spruce beer expert, Mike O'Brien, recommends using last year's new growth.  He lays them on the bottom of his mash tun and adds the grain and water on top, so that the subtle flavor is extracted during the mash.  You'd never guess what the flavor is - it sure isn't Christmas-tree like, but it's wonderful.

Mike reckons that a grocery bag of tips is about right for a five gallon batch.  He does say, though, that his spruce trees are looking a little weird lately.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Yeast choice for wheat beers
« on: March 05, 2010, 05:34:40 PM »
As an old fan of Dan McConnell's YeastLab W-51 weizen yeast, I highly recommend the WLP351 Bavarian Weizen, which WhiteLabs got from Dan.  It is available in March and April.  It is by far my favorite weizen yeast.  Check out the description and reviews at

All Things Food / Re: Pressure Cookers
« on: March 04, 2010, 01:05:48 PM »
A pressure cooker can speed up decoction or pseudo-decoction, too, although with the ramp-up to temperature and the cool-down period (don't open the valve or run water on the cooker or you will get boil-up in the grains) may make the time about the same.

But there are other advantages.  Because you don't put the grains directly in the pot (they would scorch; you put them in a smaller pot or bowl) you don't have to stir to avoid scorching the way you normally would.

The pressure cooking also produces more intense malt flavors (melanoidins).  For me, this is the big advantage.

I like to use this method for cereal mashing corn or rice* and for pseudo-decoction, in which about 1/3 of the grain bill is briefly mashed separately, the boiled before being added to the main mash.  I have an article in the current Zymurgy with more details about this technique as well as a recipe for a killer Munich Dunkel using it.

* see

All Grain Brewing / Re: Campden Addtions
« on: March 03, 2010, 03:52:10 PM »
I think that adding it to warm or hot water would work fine, but you'd probably want to stir it immediately so distribute it before it all volatilizes.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Kraeusen removal, what difference does it make
« on: February 24, 2010, 02:48:45 PM »
The source of braunhefe and whether or not to remove it has been a matter of conjecture and discussion among homebrewers over the years on HBD and when we get together at meetings or NHC.

Based on the observation that I get more with a heavily hopped beer, and that the currently fermenting SS Minnow Mild (16.5 IBU) had nearly none, it seems pretty clear that it's at least partly from hops, maybe with some break material in it as well.  It has an almost waxy feel (presumably from hop resins) and is unpleasantly, and intensely bitter.

Over the years on HBD, some argued that if left in, it would impart an unpleasant, harsh bitterness to the finished beer, and other argued that if you removed it, you were removing some of the hops bitterness that you paid good money to get into the beer.

When the attendees of MCAB II visited the A/B pilot brewery in St. Louis ten years ago, the head brewer for that unit (whose name escapes me now) gave us a complete, behind the scenes tour.  This is a 15 barrel exact miniature of their regular breweries.  One things he pointed out was that the fermenter was designed so that the kraeusen rose exactly to the underside of the top, where the braunhefe stuck.  When the kraeusen fell, it left the braunhefe behind.  Of course, A/B has exact repeatability, so this works for them.

I do all of my ale fermentations in a cut-off Hoff Stevens 1/2 bbl keg, and when the very thin layer of braunhefe rises to the surface on the first or second day, I skim it off.  This is before the yeast rises (I almost always use a top fermenting yeast, most often WLP Essex).  This is mostly a habit based on these old discussions, though I'm not certain it's necessary, but see de Klerk below.

I ferment lagers in oversized carboys, so I can't remove it, but since I rack the beer into kegs when fermentation is still active but slowing, I can leave it behind as it floats on the surface of the little bit of foam that remains at this stage.

Here is what the only professional text (the 1957 standard reference "A Textbook of brewing" by Jean de Klerk) I have says:

On managing  top fermentations (pp. 409-410), "This brings us to the third stage of fermentation.  The head gradually falls in and finally forms a brown, bitter-tasting cover.  The brown colour of the cover is due to the oxidation of resins and tannins."  He then writes that you must rack to the conditioning tank when there is 0.8 - 1.0% fermentable matter left, and then "the cover of scum that forms at the surface is carefully skimmed off and discarded."

On managing top fermentations, he writes (p. 411), "Since the cover of dirty material on the surface cannot be skimmed off at the end of fermentation because it is mixed with the yeast, it is removed before the yeast starts to purge from the wort."

All that said, I don't think that all professional brewers do skim.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: The BEST thermometer in the World
« on: February 24, 2010, 02:05:22 PM »
Does anyone have experience with a wireless remote read thermometer?  That would really be handy, especially when heating mash water out in the garage in winter.  I could hang out in the house where it's warm.

My daughter has one for cooking, but I have no idea how accurate it is.

All Grain Brewing / Re: Campden Addtions
« on: February 24, 2010, 12:12:52 AM »
This has been a hot and controversial topic over the years among homebrewers.  It has its own acronym, HSA, for hot side aeration.  In theory, at least, if the wort components are oxidized in the mash or any time before chilling, they won't get unoxidized (reduced) later, although the problem may not show up immediately.

If you are a masochist, do a google site search for hsa and stand back!

All Grain Brewing / Re: Campden Addtions
« on: February 23, 2010, 11:17:26 PM »
I pour in water and stir, but I'm careful not to incorporate air.  Same when I do a decoction - I'm careful not to splash more than a minimum.

All Grain Brewing / Re: Campden Addtions
« on: February 23, 2010, 06:13:38 PM »
Denny - I can't say I've noticed any difference, probably for the same reason that you gave, but it's cheap insurance.  I don't always remember to do it.

I don't know the correct dosage, either, but I use about 1/4 tsp in a ten gallon batch.

All Grain Brewing / Re: Campden Addtions
« on: February 23, 2010, 01:52:32 PM »
Extra SO2 won't hurt, and I add some potassium metabisulfite powder (cheaper than campden tabs) to my mash as insurance against oxidation.  It's volatile and is gone by the end of the boil.  Some yeasts, especially lager yeasts, produce SO2, which helps against oxidation in the same way.

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