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Topics - tomsawyer

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Yeast and Fermentation / Pitch Lagers Warm and Chill?
« on: August 16, 2012, 12:35:20 PM »
I was reading this last issue of Zymurgy and saw the recpe for Ofest that was BOS of the Boneyard Brewoff.  The guy said he pitched at 60F and then chilled to 50F after a day.  That struck me as being a little unconventional, but its hard to argue when his beer won BOS at an established contest like the Boneyard.  anyone else doing this successfully?

I was bummed not to be able to judge last year's Boneyard, they moved it to January and I had already made plans.  Good bunch of people in the BUZZ club and they bring some excellent judges.

General Homebrew Discussion / Berlinner or Lambic?
« on: April 30, 2012, 01:34:13 PM »
I've been making sours lately and thought I'd try another Berlinner weisse since the first one was fairly well received.  I did some things though that I think may have put the beer more into a lambic category.

First of all, I used mostly unmalted wheat (4lb + 1lb malted wheat).  I like the flavor of unmalted wheat and it gives a really light color.  The remainder of the grist was German pils (5lb).  I see most recipes call for wheat malt.

Second, I mash-hopped 3oz of Saaz.  I read that on a recent thread here, but later I found another thread that said Lactobacillus Delbreuckii is very susceptible to hops.  This was a no-boil batch so maybe I'm OK.  But I wonder if I messed up by mash-hopping since BJCP guidelines say no hop aroma either.

Third, I got scared the lacto might not take and poured in a bottle of a really sour lamibic I made back in '10.  This is going to give it a little Brett, hopefully not too much.
Fourth,  my OG came out at 1.040.  I'm not too worried about this although it is above style guidelines.  I can dilute if I need to.

I used a no-boil approach and pitched a vial of Whitelabs Lactobacillus while the wort was still at 100F.  It was still somewhat warm this morning.  I didn't make a lacto starter but was thinking I'd give the lacto a head start of a day or two.  I'm not seeing any activity though and that is a little worrisome.  I'll be pitching a blend of WLP300 and WB06 for the Sacch.

So do you think this is going to be a lambic or a Berlinner?  I hope its the latter since I've brewed three lambics in the last couple of months.

Equipment and Software / DC Water Pump Review
« on: April 11, 2012, 01:13:51 AM »
I saw these for sale at, researched and found they are a small pump designed for use in solar hot water heaters.  Pump body and impeller are Ryton, with brass inlet/outlet.  They are made to run off a solar PV so they work on a range of DC voltages.  I bought a Pumpsflo 15 that is supposed to pump 3gal/min.  I am wanting to use it for whirlpooling with an IC, so I plumbed it up for this and gave it a run tonight.  Heated water in my kettle while running this little pump, went to 97F and measured flow.  It was 2gal/min, enough for a nice whirlpool from what i could tell.  Primed itself nicely although I didn't start it when the water was already hot.

I bought this for $61 from ebay (free shipping), the ones from the site mentioned above are about $84 with shipping ($70 apiece if you buy two) and they come with an AC converter and the brass is mostly coated with Ryton.  If I build a brew stand I'll probably buy a March but these things are a nice alternative.  Its less than half the price and has less than half the flow, seems fair.

All Grain Brewing / Hitting A Color?
« on: March 23, 2012, 07:05:47 PM »
I don't use brewing software, just a calculator and a few equations to get my IBUs and OG.  I generally just wing it as far as color, but what would I need to do to determine this empirically?  Average the L values of the malt?

I ask because I've made a few brown ales lately and I haven't been making those much, and its been kind of a seat-of-the pants thing to get the right level of "brown".  Not that it matters that much.

General Homebrew Discussion / Brewing Class Picking Up Steam
« on: March 06, 2012, 07:34:53 PM »
Last fall I pitched the idea of a brewing and beer appreciation class to the local community college.  They don't do much by way of advertising other than put out a course schedule, and I admittedly didn't help with flyers or anything.  The first class had only 3 students but I went ahead and taught because I figured it might help get the word out so to speak.  Recruited one person to our homebrew club out of that group so it wasn't a total waste.

I was scheduled to teach it again this month but as of yesterday I had three students who had paid and I was going to have them cancel the class.  I was whining to the community education director about how I was surprised there wasn't more interest in brewing given the seeming popularity in many areas of the country.  Then this morning one more person signed up and paid so the class is on.  Right after that I get another email that two more are signed up.  Don't know if they paid but if so that might be six people.  That would be a great class size, enough so they will fill up some of the time with questions and relieve me of talking for two hours straight.  They'll still get some individual attention too.  The class is four sessions on consecutive Thursday evenings.  The last class meets at the local brewpub for a brewery tour and a flight of their beers, they had something like ten last time so its a nice platform for tasting and discussing beer styles.

All Grain Brewing / Gelatinizing Raw Wheat
« on: March 05, 2012, 04:26:00 PM »
I made a lambic wort yesterday and used raw wheat in the recipe.  I wanted to gelatinize it so I'd get a better recovery of starches.  My first attempt involved putting 6lb of wheat and 3lb of pils malt in a kettle with 1qt/lb of water, starting at 125F for a protein rest and then ramping to boiling (per Wyeast mash in Sparrow's Wild Brews).  This was a disaster because I scorched the grist when I put the heat on (a induction cooktop on high is a bad idea).  I could smell burnt grain so I pitched this out and started over.

Rather than risk another scorch, I boiled 1qt/lb of water and then added the crushed wheat, the resultng temp was 180F which I think is enough to gelatinize.  This stuff turned to a thick solid after 15min, but it certainly seemed to gelatinize.  Took awhile to mix into the main mash of pils malt, but it seemed to do the trick.

It was a long day making the lambic but the wort came out well.  Used plenty of aged hops, it gave the wort a nice sour aroma early in the boil.  I got a terrible efficiency but then between the raw wheat and Old World Pils malt, there was a humongous protein break and the large whole hop charge didn't help matters.  Fortunately I made a large batch so I managed to eek out 5gal.  The Wyeast 3278 lambic blend smelled wonderful.

Wood/Casks / Wood Barrels for Presentation Purposes
« on: February 27, 2012, 07:43:55 PM »
I got a 3gal wooden barrel for Christmas (a request).  I intended to use it for an authentic take on cask conditioned ales.  I have not yet done the full Monty on this, but I did use it for the first time on Saturday's brewclub meeting.  I used my beergun to fill it with ESB.  I ran into a few things htat I thought I'd pass along so you don't make the same mistakes (you can make different ones instead).

First, I got the beer cold by placing it outside overnight.  I also put the keg out in the cold since you want the container to be at the same cool temp as the beer.  The outcome of this was that  the wood shrank a bit and the spigot became loose as well as one of the end hoops.  I found this out as I filled and beer ran out on the kitchen floor.  A quick malleting fixed both loosened items.  I continued to fill until I got foam coming out the bung, then I plugged the hole with the hard bung.  This resulted in beer starting to ooze out of a few places in one of the heads, and around the spigot again.  I ran it out on the porch and pulled the bung to relieve the pressure.  I left the bung off for fifteen minutes as foam oozed out of the barrel.  Once that subsided I replaced the bung and then drained some of the beer (into a glass) to pull a slight vacuum.  This worked well, and I drained a little more every so often so as to keep the barrel sealed and to keep my whistle wetted.  By the time the barrel was transpoprted to my friend's house for the meeting, it had lost a couple of pints and there were no further leakage problems associated with pressure.  The beer was a hit at the meeting, although there was no oak character detectable from such a short residence time.

I've learned some valuable lessons from this experience that should allow me to get a nice cask conditioned ale from it soon.  Most importantly, I'll use a minimum of priming sugar as well as some leaf hops and gelatin.  And I'll keep it in a plastic tote as secondary containment.  I think the gradual increase in pressure is more likely to allow the seals to be maintained, plus there will be no shrinkage of the wood until its time to give it a very modest chill.

Anyone else done this before?  I know wood kegs were the norm some time ago, this has given me a new appreciation for whats involved with that.

Ingredients / New Hop Varieties
« on: February 27, 2012, 01:48:27 PM »
I've seen a lot of new varieties (or at least new to me) show up at the places I buy from this year.  I'm always interested in trying new stuff.  So far I've brewed with Whitbread Goldings, Pacific Jade, and UK Pilgrim.  I have several more in the freezer waiting their turn.  Herkules is one I'm anxious to use.  Last year I tried the Falconers Flight blend and liked it, I just used it again as well.

Anybody taking advantage of the new varieties?  I really haven't tried any of the beers above jus yet, most are bottled and will be ready in a couple of weeks.

And on a related topic, I'm not sad that theres a shortage of certain hops and I think by the time the growers ramp up production we brewers will be on to the next hot hop.

Equipment and Software / Going Electric in Winter
« on: January 30, 2012, 05:55:25 PM »
Due to the purchase of a new glass top stove that is too wimpy for a rolling boil on 4gal of wort, I was forced to use propane outdoors.  This has probably been good for my beer, however during poor weather it is inconvenient.  I recently saw a 2200W/115V electric heating element online, then ran across the thing in The Homebrew Shop in St Charles IL (shout out to Ed and his crew).  According to the kid working at the shop, he's getting a rolling boil on 5gal batches in 45min, good enough for my purposes.  The thing has temp control and can be dropped in a plastic MLT for mash temp regulation as well.  I'm already envisioning a no-sparge step mash.

In any case, its now part of my brewing paraphernalia.  I haven't tried it yet, might throw it in a pot of water tonight just to see how quickly it works.  This will keep me from having to open the garage door to brew in winter.  The garage sits under two bedrooms in the house (including mine) and its hard to recover proper temperature when you let the heat out.

General Homebrew Discussion / Pressurized Fermentation in a Cornie
« on: January 23, 2012, 01:13:20 PM »
I'm running my first pressurized fermentation in a cornie keg, pitched yeast to 3gal of ESB last night and the keg was showing pressure this morning.  I roused the yeast and the pressure shot the the 7pai setppoint and began hissing out of the spunding valve.  I intend to run the pressure to 15psi in a day or two.  I didn't shorten the dip tube so I will have to pull a little of the beer before counter-pressure transferring to a clean keg.

This is my second pressurized ferm, the first was done on a large conical (Brewhemoth).  It went quite well, typical FG, clean flavor and some free carbonation.  Plus its pretty darned fast from pitch to pint.

Yeast and Fermentation / British Ale Yeast Flocculation
« on: January 22, 2012, 11:35:41 PM »
I got some WLP002 and was growing a starter on a stir plate.  Apparently overnight it got cool in the house (low 60's) and the yeast dropped out of the wort.  It was all coagulated this morning and I couldn't get it suspended again with vigorous stirring/shaking.  I checked the wort and it was only at 1.030 (started at 1.040).

So my question is, what happens when one of these high floccing ale yeasts drops like this?  Do they produce something on their cell surface and makes them stick together?

Its no big deal by the way, I brewed a nice bitter today and will pitch the starter later this evening.  I'm going to keep this beer upstairs where its warmer, and do a pressurized fermentation.

Took the test for the second time today.  I'd like to think I did better on this one, I just need a better tasting score to bump to Certified but I took both parts for fun.  Man that exam is a real test of time management.  I'm not sure why it is that way, I guess they are just making it challenging.

It was administered by the guy who runs the homebrew store in Galesburg IL, Something's Brew'n.  I arrived in town early enough to check it out and that is one fine homebrew shop.  Small footprint but they have a great selection of hops including a lot of new varieties, an assortment of specialty grains some of which I hadn't seen before (and I shop a lot), Wyeast and Whitelabs yeasts, and all the latest/greatest gadgets.  All prices were in line with online stores.  I broke down and bought a Beergun after being seduced by the recent thread in the equipment section, a 5gal plastic jerry can for no-chill, some new hop varieties, tubing, Maris Otter, carageenan finings, and another rack for my bottle tree.  Talked to some people after the test and they order from SB and it sounds like they are all really well satisfied.

Anyway, thanks to Jim and Mary for the hospitality and the invite to take the test.

General Homebrew Discussion / White Castles and Beer
« on: December 22, 2011, 04:50:18 PM »
Sliders and beer, whoppers and beer, beer makes everything better.

Equipment and Software / Brewhemoth Brag
« on: December 11, 2011, 09:22:59 PM »
Judged a homebrew contest sponsored by the St Louis Brews this weekend.  Its a tough job but someone has to do it.  Entered three beers, and managed a second place on a Flanders red.

Most importantly though, I won the grand prize in the raffle.  It was a Brewhemoth conical fermentor with all the bells and whistles.  We're talking a 22gal stainless steel conical (easily ferments a half barrel/15.5gal), tri-clamp version, with the internal cooling coil and the pressurizing attachment.  They even included the tri-clamp valves and hardware so it is completely ready to go. 

I was totally stunned when they read my number.  I've been a small-batch brewer but this system will let you brew 5gal just fine so it will see a lot of use.  I'm already ordering some extra hardware to explore closed-system pressurized fermentation, something I only learned about when I started looking at Brewhemoth threads on another forum.  I've also got a plan for temperature control with the chiller unit.

In any case, thanks to Josh and Dale for donating such a fantastic prize.  Enjoyed judging a round with Josh on Saturday, not knowing he was one of the guys running Brewhemoth.  The company is based in St Louis and the guys are award-winning homebrewers.  Go check out their website and be prepared to be jealous.

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