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Topics - gmac

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The Pub / Worst Homebrew Ever!
« on: February 10, 2011, 06:23:31 AM »
Maybe this has been done before but what's the worst batch you've ever made?  We're all proud of our successes and achievements but what's the worst beer you've made.  How did it go bad?  What did you do wrong?  

I'll start off by telling you the story of what has certainly been the worst brew I've ever done (although in a weird way, it turned out to be the best I could ever hope for).  

Back in University, about 20 or so years ago, I wasn't that focused on the overall quality of the homebrew I was making.  Quantity and alcohol content were the driving factors.  So, when I went home over the Christmas break, I decided to make some homebrew to take back to school with me.  We weren't allowed to brew beer in our residence although  I did fill my garbage can with potting soil and tried to grow a giant pumpkin but that's off topic....  Now, back then I was usually doing all-malt extract brews with my own hops and whatever other ingredients we decided to add. For this batch I went with a classic recipe - and I use that term very loosely - that my friend and I basically pulled out of thin air.  The beer was called "Count Hannibal Slim's Royal Ace of Spades Oatmeal and Coffee Breakfast Stout".  Hannibal Slim was my buddies Jack Russell Terrier, the Ace of Spades reference was in part homage to the colour of the beer and the classic Motorhead tune we were listening to during the process and the oatmeal and coffee were literally a couple packages of Quaker Instant Oatmeal and a pot of black coffee that we dumped into the brew on a whim.  

Because I was pressed for time before I went back to class, I only had about a week to get the beer done and bottled before I had to get back to failing classes.  We boiled a couple gallons of water, added our malt extract, coffee, oatmeal etc (this was not a mash process, just a straight up addition) and hops and boiled it for an hour, added it to a carboy with water and pitched the yeast.  But, because we were limited on time, and knowing that micro-organisms should work faster under warmer conditions, I kept the carboy at about 90 degrees for the entire brewing process.  After 5 days, we bottled into plastic bottles with table sugar and then I surrounded the hot air registers in my parents house with bottles and draped blankets over them to really insulate them and keep the heat in.

Needless to say, it was the most cidery, off-tasting, putrid beer you can imagine but I drank it happily.  In fact, when one of my female roommates brought her friend over I offered her some too.  Surprisingly, she drank it and even tried to convince me that she liked it.  I was so impressed with this girl who could stomach this horrible brew, and keep it down, and pretend to like it that I ended up marrying her.  So, what was probably the worst homebrew in history was a great litmus test to help me find an amazing women and now, 20 years later she is finally letting me brew beer again.

So that's the worst beer I've made (so far - there's always room for failure).  What about you?

Kegging and Bottling / Keg Fridge
« on: January 24, 2011, 02:52:06 AM »
I've only been back into homebrewing for a couple of batches but I remember now one of the big reasons that I quit.  Bottling sucks. 

So, I'm going to put a hole in the fridge downstairs and set up a keg system.  I'd like some thoughts on where to drill a hole, what to do when I've drilled it etc.

I was thinking the side because I assume the door would be hard to open with the lines etc.  Is it safe to drill just anywhere? 

Also, I can get refurbished ball lock corny kegs for $85.  Is this a decent price?  I have a CO2 tank that needs to be re-certified but that shouldn't be a problem.  Assuming it's ok and I can get a regulator and lines, is it worth it or should I just get the 3 keg system with tank/regulator/lines etc?  Cost is $499. 

Let me know what you think because my bottling days are very soon going to be over!!!

Commercial Beer Reviews / Leinenkugel's Fireside Nut Brown
« on: January 20, 2011, 04:28:19 AM »
I picked this up the other day.  Wish I hadn't.

Very disappointing beer.  The "nut" taste was reminiscent of hazelnut but was over-powering and very unappealing to my tastes.  To be honest, I only drank half of the bottle and dumped the rest and I don't know when the last time was that I didn't finish a beer.  Just not pleasant.  The label mentions "with natural flavor" so I don't know if they've added some sort of extract to enhance the nuttiness but it was not good.  I drank it from the bottle so I can't comment on colour or lacing.

If you've tried this and you liked it, I know where you can get 11 of them real cheap...

All Grain Brewing / Canadian 2-Row
« on: January 19, 2011, 04:32:51 AM »
I'm starting to put together a grain bill for my first all-grain batch.  I was checking out my normal on-line supplier for base grains and they list a Canadian 2-row malt.  The goal is an English style Pale Ale, nothing too overly-adventurous for this first attempt.  So my question is, does anyone know how this malt would compare to Marris Otter English 2-row?  Price of the Canadian is about 60% of the Marris Otter.

Equipment and Software / Blow off tube
« on: December 30, 2010, 06:27:16 PM »
Can someone post a picture of how they made a blow-by tube for a glass carboy?  I tried to make a one but fitting I put into the rubber bung was too large and it seemed to expand the rubber too much and it wouldn't stay in the carboy mouth.  I can probably drill out the rubber to make the fitting I have work but is there a better way?

Questions about the forum? / Book Reviews
« on: December 29, 2010, 04:17:46 AM »
Just a thought but I'm looking to expand my homebrewing library and I wondered what you'd think of a section for beer-related book reviews?  Maybe it can't be done for legal reasons or something, I have no idea but I'd love to see what others have read and what helped them or what they didn't really think was worth the money. 

All Grain Brewing / Schematic
« on: December 26, 2010, 06:36:57 PM »
Can anyone post a general schematic of an enclosed home brewing system?  I'm looking for ideas and am going to start compiling materials in a week or so (just need some bigger kettles for now but eventually they would go into the system).  I've been checking out the "Pimp My System" posts and they look awesome but it's not always easy to tell where product flows, what are hot zones and what are cold zones etc. 

Some general questions.
What is better, a horizontal system with pumps or a vertical system? 
I'm leaning towards an Igloo cooler type infusion process rather than step mashing just because it seems easier but since I'm starting from scratch, what's better?
I have this crazy idea of incorporating some load cells so that I can weigh grain and water etc as I add it.  Does it need to be this precise? 
In the boiling kettle, would you include a cooling coil as an integral part or have a separate one for immersing?  Is it a pain to try to stir with a coil in that can't be removed?  I can see how it would be but hey, it's one less thing to have to move around.
Aluminum or stainless kettles?  Does it matter?

General advice would be appreciated.  I have the advantage of having a good friend (and main drinking buddy) who owns a machine shop so making/modifying stuff isn't a big deal.  His son is also an engineer so I am sure he can provide some helpful input as well.  Danger in this situation is making something over engineered, not under. 

General Homebrew Discussion / Watcha get for Christmas?
« on: December 26, 2010, 04:20:32 PM »
So, anyone else get homebrewing stuff for Christmas? 

I got "Designing Great Beers" by Ray Daniels and a subscription to BYO. 

What did you get (things you bought yourself for Christmas are perfectly fine...)?

Equipment and Software / Star San
« on: December 24, 2010, 05:40:59 PM »
I bought some 5 Star - Star San on line and it arrived in a jug inside a sealed plastic bag.  For some reason, most of the direction were smudged off on to the plastic bag. 
So, can some one please give me the direction for mixing this to sterilize equipment.  I need to do a carboy and siphon hose etc today and then bottles in a few weeks.

Beer Recipes / Muskoka Cream Ale Clone
« on: December 24, 2010, 04:52:37 AM »
Need some help from my brethren here in Ontario.  I am looking for something that will get me close to Muskoka Cream Ale.  Any suggestions?  Extract is all I've done so far. 

Kegging and Bottling / Using "Twist-off" beer bottles
« on: December 23, 2010, 05:44:06 PM »
Again, I tried searching first because I am sure others have asked this but can you use twist-off bottles for bottling homebrew?  I don't care if they twist off or not but I have lots of them and very few non-twist bottles.  I'm slowly building them up but I can only drink so much beer a day although I'm giving it a hell of a good try. 
If you can do it is there a special cap? 

Extract/Partial Mash Brewing / Steeping Crystal Malt
« on: December 22, 2010, 10:08:33 PM »
I'm going to do an extract brew and I intend to use 1 lb of 40 L crystal malt to improve mouthfeel and colour.  I will probably also add about 2 tbsp of black patent malt to darken it a bit more. 
When I steep the grain, should I do it in a grain bag in the whole 6 gallons I intend to boil or is more/less effective to do it in a smaller volume so I can control the temperature better.  I'm thinking maybe a gallon of water at 150-155 degrees F?  How long would you steep it for?  Or, just throw the grain bag in and let it sit in as it heats up and pull it out before it boils? 

Is 1 lb of crystal malt enough to really make an impression in 5 gals of beer?  If not, how much for next time?


Yeast and Fermentation / Do I need a starter?
« on: December 19, 2010, 08:53:05 PM »
Most of the posts that I've read here recommend using a starter to increase the pitchable yeast numbers.  But Wyeast says that their Activator should be enough to ferment 5 gals of wort without a starter.  I am sure that they are correct but is there benefit from doing a starter anyway?  I'm very new to liquid yeast.  I searched for "Starter" before posting and found way too many posts to search through them all and adding "Making" to the search just made it worse. 

If you recommend a starter, can you give me a really simple beginner level recipe?  I was thinking 1/4 cup of DME boiled in 1L of water in a sterilized 2L bottle with an airlock?  I assume you don't want a lot of blow out because you are trying to capture and keep the yeast, not let it go out the top.  I am going to be using Wyeast ESB ale yeast (sorry, forget the #).  I don't have a stir plate or anything like that, just a pop bottle right now.  I am assuming if I start a starter 24 - 36 hours before I intend to brew that would be enough?


Ingredients / Bittering Hop Rates
« on: December 19, 2010, 08:30:16 PM »
I normally use 1 oz of Northen Brewer boiled for an hour in a 6 gallon boil.  Just wondering what would happen if I used 2 ounces of Northern Brewer and only boiled for 30 minutes.  Would I get similar results? 

Extract/Partial Mash Brewing / Thin head
« on: December 17, 2010, 07:01:09 PM »
I've started to get back into homebrewing and I've done two batches so far, one cream ale that is still aging in the cold room and a steam beer that is ok.  But, one thing I've noticed with the steam beer, and remember from homebrewing  before was that the head of the beer was unusually thin and disappeared very quickly.  Any tips on getting a more rich and foamy head on the beer?  The ingredients were: 6 lbs of Golden DME, 1 lb of malted rye, 1 oz of Northern Brewer, 1 oz of Saaz hops with 1/2 added at 15 min from the end of the boil and the other half 5 mins from the end.  Yeast was Wyeast California Lager.  I'm embarassed to say I broke my hygrometer so I have no idea what the OG/FG were.  Priming was done with 2/3 cup of regular sugar dissolved and boiled in water and the beer was bottled in used 2L pop bottles because I am lazy and hate cleaning small bottles but am too cheap to buy a keg system yet (it may come soon though).
Is it just because of the fact that it is extract? 

I'm about to do another batch with another 6 lbs of Golden DME, 1 lb of Caramel malt (40), 2 oz of Northern Brewer (I like bitter beer) and either Fuggles or Goldings aroma hops (I've got both) and Wyeast London ESB liquid yeast.  I wanted to ask before I start to make sure that there  wasn't something obvious that I'm overlooking.


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