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Topics - tomsawyer

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All Grain Brewing / Saving the Planet, Going Domestic
« on: July 22, 2011, 11:59:53 AM »
I'm thinking of spending the next six months or so trying to brew with only domestic malts.  The thought is to reduce the number of food miles from my ingredients.  Doesn't hurt that domestic malts are significantly cheaper as well.  Anyone else do this and how much am I giving up in the process?  I brew a little bit of everything, but my house beers are APA, best bitter and hefeweizen.

All Grain Brewing / Rahr Pils vs Rahr Old World Pils
« on: July 22, 2011, 11:55:19 AM »
I am wondering if anyone has tried either of these and/or if someone knows the differences between the two.  I'm thinking of trying one of them on my next order.

Also I love Rahr 2-row but have heard some less than outstanding reviews of the pale malt.  Any feedback on this?  I love bitters.

Commercial Beer Reviews / Pubarschknall Anyone?
« on: July 05, 2011, 06:53:01 PM »
We had a German consultant in a few weeks ago, a fellow out of Cologne Germany.  He was talking to a friend about beer and crazy translations, and mentioned that his father and brother like a beer called Pubarschknall.  According to him it literally translates as "fart a$$ bang" and was named because when the beer would get somewhat old it would cause some serious digestive disruption.  I looked it up on the web and apparently its a brown ale that is only 1% ABV.  One web translation had it as "beer-fueled flatulence", just slightly less surly than the literal meaning mentioned earlier.

Just thought I'd share, and see if anyone has tried this ale.

General Homebrew Discussion / BU:FG as a Hopping Tool?
« on: June 16, 2011, 02:17:21 PM »
Just read about this in Strong's book and I admit I hadn't ever heard of it before.  My initial impression was that it made sense inasmuch as the bittering is perceived as part of the finished beer, not the wort.  Of course its not necessarily a stand-alone value because a big, dry beer vs a big sweet beer are going to show bitterness differently.  Presumably the sweet will balance a higher bitterness, whereas the higher ABV of the dry one will accentuate the bitterness.  So I suppose we should be looking at both and getting in a range that is acceptable on both ends.  Better yet, it'd be nice to combine the two into a single simple formula.  Somebody should really work on that.

First question, who has been doing this math and what sort of value ranges are you finding to be preferable?

Second question, how do you utilize both paramaters so you cover all the bases?

I have my ideas but thought I'd listen to others' opinions first since I really haven't mulled this over much.

I posted a thread about recipe development that has some interesting insights into the ways people come up with original recipes.  I did it because, while I've been successful at times, there have been a few styles that I've never been able to brew to my satisfaction.  Belgian dubbel and Dusseldorf alt are two examples of styles I've brewed multiple times and have yet to be really content with the outcome.  I've even worn myself out drinking the mediocre attempts and have had to give up brewing them for awhile.  Its frustrating not to be able to brew something that does justice to a style.  I'm not talking about brewing a beer that rivals a Westmalle or Zum Uerige, but it should have some of the essence of the style.

So this thread is about those styles that have eluded you so far.  I know that we are often our own worst critics, but we're often the most knowledgable set of lips to slurp down the products and we want to brew to our own satisfaction first and foremost.

Anybody else got a testimonial?

General Homebrew Discussion / Who Dumps Beer?
« on: June 13, 2011, 03:43:53 PM »
I recently met a really serious brewer who said he will brew and evaluate a beer, and oftentimes just dump it if it doesn't live up to his expectations.  Given that several iterations might be necessary to develop that perfect recipe, I can see the utility of this.  I've never been scared to dump beer, especially since I make small batches.  I wondered how many of you do this routinely?  Its a waste in one sense, but as a hobby I don't think its much more expensive than any other and life's too short to drink mediocre beer.  As long as you don't run short of course, which never happens at my house.  I'd give it away but I don't know that many people who like homebrew, plus giving away beer that has one flaw or another (unless very slight) seems kind of wrong.

General Homebrew Discussion / Recipe Development
« on: June 13, 2011, 03:37:49 PM »
For those of you that like to tweak and come up with your own recipes, how does your thought process work and what references do you utilize in finding a base recipe to work from?

Myself, I usually look at the BJCP style description, then I go to BCS and to Northern Brewer's recipes, and work from there.  I'll also check Designing Great Beers if the style is covered, although I can tell the info is somewhat dated as far as the types of specialty malts involved.  And lets face it, in a lot of cases the specialty malts make the difference.  I'll brew the beer and evaluate it, then consider changes at that point.  I've just started entering a few beers in comps, and these evaluations also help.

So how do you experts develop these excellent recipes I'm drinking at the competitions?  I'm sure a good brew club comes into play for some.

Wood/Casks / Cask Conditioned Mini-Keg
« on: June 09, 2011, 01:42:02 PM »
I was inspired by Brewing TV's how-to's on cask conditioned ales, so I decided to give it a shot on a scale appropriate for my needs.  I had an old 5L Warsteiner mini-keg sitting on a shelf so I inspected it for potential use.  It has a plastic bung on one head that comes complete with a hard spile.  I can vent the cask by pressing sideways on the spile, this is how you'd normally let air in as you draw from the keg.  It has a spigot on the side of the keg, about 1" above the other head.  This is positioned perfectly to let me draw brew without pulling the yeast, gelatin and hops from the very bottom.  Plus the spigot is made where you pull it out but you still have to turn it to open the tap so it won't push out from the pressure of carbonation.

In any case, I had a small batch of Best Bitter done so last night I put together my cask.  First I put some boiled priming sugar solution (I used 25g of jaggery, a kind of brown sugar from India), then I racked the beer into the keg nearly to the top, then added a little gelatin in solution, then a few First Gold hop pellets.  I bunged and rolled and shook it gently.  I put the keg in the kitchen so it would be relatively warm and carbonate quickly.  Now comes the hard part, waiting!  I'll check back in when I tap and see how it worked, though I see no reason why this won't go exactly as planned.

General Homebrew Discussion / My First First Place (Brag Warning)
« on: June 06, 2011, 01:06:27 AM »
I judged a contest in Champaign IL (BUZZ Boneyard Brewoff) and entered some beers.  My kriek got a first place and third in BOS.  I was pretty pleased with this, especially since Jeff Sparrow was judging the category.  It is my second time entering a contest, and this beer got a second the other time I entered it.

Enjoyed judging three flights too, and I happened to help judge the categories that produced the first and second place BOS.  First was a Munich Helles and second was a British Mild, both brewed by the BUZZ Club's own Anthony Benjamin.  I think that means I can tell a good beer when I taste it.

Last part of my brag, I won a stirplate and the two volume set of De Clerck's books in the raffle.  That was one heck of a haul.

Other than a slight hangover this morning, it was a banner weekend.

Kegging and Bottling / Corny Keg Pressure Relief Valve Leaking?
« on: May 26, 2011, 07:56:56 PM »
My friend got a corny keg for free and asked me to pressure test it.  I put some starsan solution in it and pressurized it to 25psi then shook it.  The pressure relief valve leaked as judged by soap bubbles coming out the metal holes in the lid where it screws in.  I removed it, cleaned and inspected it and put it back on.  When I recharged with gas it seemed to be OK but this morning the keg had no pressure.  I'd poured out the Starsan so I don't think it absorbed into the liquid.  I've never had one of these valves fail on my own kegs.  I suppose its just a weak spring and the thing needs to be replaced?  Its the type with the gray plastic body.

I really enjoyed the episode of Brewing TV where they put together some real ale kegs at Summit Brewery.  My question is, when they add isinglass during kegging, what happens to it?  I know it settles out but how do they keep from drawing it out when they tap the keg?  Is there enough of a low spot in those old style kegs to let it settle out in the belly area?  And how would one accomplish something similar with a corny keg?

General Homebrew Discussion / Fermcap S
« on: May 10, 2011, 12:27:26 PM »
I got some and used it this last weekend on three boils and it worked great.  I love being abel to walk away from the pot when it gets close to boiling.

My question is, how does this stuff work?

Also, are there any potential negative side effects?

All Grain Brewing / APA With Falconers Flight Hops
« on: May 09, 2011, 04:04:22 PM »
I brewed a batch yesterday, just a basic APA recipe with a good dose of this hop blend at 60,15, 5 and FO.  I'll also dry hop with it.

The hops smelled like they had Simcoe (that grapefruit with a slight onion note), which I see that they do.  Also Citra and Sorachi Ace.  Actually I've been using these in my APA blends for the last couple of years, just to get the grapefruit, tangerine, and lemon notes all at once.

I also read the story on this stuff, very cool.  Check it out.

I've always used tap water for my brewing and I feel like I have a decent process worked out.  Still, I wasn't getting quite the malty flavors in my malt-forward brews.  The hoppy brews came out fine.  The single analysis I have for my municipal water shows 90ppm sulfate, not overly high but I've come to suspect it might be the source of a certain sourness and the lack of malty flavor.  Plus I don't know how variable it is but the source water is the Mississippi river. 

In any case I've started using RO water and building from scratch.  The first attempt was a hefeweizen recipe that was coming out pretty well but a little tart.  Just had the first bottle from the new batch and I'm really pleased, it has more grainy flavor and none of the tartness.  I have a best bitter kegged and chiling and just bottled a dubbel, so I'll have more evidence for or against this hypothesis in the coming days.  I'm hopeful, and frankly excited since this has been a thorn in my side for some time now.  Plus I found out Walmart sells 5gal of RO for $1.65 so its not even a huge expense like I had thought.

Actually it was a webinar on Beer Quality issues offered free by the American Chemical Society.  I assume it was for ACS members only, however it is supposed to be posted on Youtube in a week.  It was around 40min with some Q&A afterwards.  It was interesting, he spent a lot of time on foam formation and stability issues.

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