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Messages - surfin.mikeg

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Commercial Beer Reviews / Re: 2 Below by New Belgium
« on: January 14, 2014, 10:22:26 AM »

Well, if that's true, luckily you can make it yourself! A friend of mine made a clone that was nearly spot on - all gleaned only from info on the NB website (nice Walt!). Check it out:

Your link is broken, which is really too bad.  I also really liked the 2 Below.  I grow Sterling hops, so I'd like to check out this recipe.

With that recipe, the malt bill does not match N.B.s.  Kinda bummed I can't find 2-Below in SF.

Regarding Fat Tire being decent or not - isn't that a good BJCP American Amber Ale example?

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Chemistry of Beer
« on: January 14, 2014, 12:19:01 AM »
I do product engineering for two accredited online schools (i.e., writing software), this is the kind of thing I'm in the middle of daily.  Seems like a prototype product with a lot of promise; it's fun to check it out. 

Initial thoughts:
1. Videos did not play well, I gave up and went to the assessment.
2. I would think an initial assessment would have quite a few more questions. I was 8 for 12 with no chemistry background, couldn't seem to correct the third question.  Building course material and writing exams takes effort, curious to see how well the reading material covers the next exam.
3. Forums and social aspect - we've dropped all of that; it's superfluous.
4. As far as I can tell this is a MOOC, they usually don't survive unless there are paying students in a decent portion of classes. 

It's good to take advantage of this and read up on all the material provided.

Beer Recipes / Re: How do YOU spitball new recipes? Name your process
« on: January 10, 2014, 10:23:02 PM »
My first kit was awful (a gift way back in the day), so I've been putting recipes together ever since.  I split it into two categories:  something to match a style (Doppelbock, Pilsner, Kolsch), or just trying to make an experimental yet very drinkable beer. 

What worked for me when starting was to take something like a Fat Tire clone and just trying different things.  I've also emailed most breweries in my area to ask how they put together specific brews (IPAs, ESBs) and for the most part they're extremely helpful.

IPAs are the test-bed.  As a guideline I limit to 4 or fewer malts and limit crystal malt usage to no more than 5%.  I go through phases, like weaning off of CaraPil and now using MO as a base malt and exploring how to get a maltier profile from that.

I rotate through various hops one by one to get a handle on each flavor and bitterness profile.  It takes time.  Each recipe is heavy on hop usage.  I've been working through the bolder hops like Chinook, Apollo, Nugget, then Cascade and Centennial, then Perle, Willamette, Opal, Saaz, and so on, but trying to keep each recipe simple so the flavor profile is obvious.

I think in terms of n-factorial experimental design, so consider all aspects of input and figure out how to sample along the way.  For example, splitting a batch of wort between 2 yeasts, bottling some when the yeast is finished, then dry-hopping the two batches 2 or 4 different ways, then bottling and kegging.  If I want to go one step further, say trying bourboned-oak or perhaps an infusion (as in garlic + lemongrass + ginger), I'll use flip-top bottles and try it on a small portion of the batch.

All Grain Brewing / Re: Low OG
« on: January 02, 2014, 09:34:45 PM »
How would you describe your grain crush, and how did you measure?  FWIW, it also helps to measure pre-boil as well.

The Pub / Re: New Year goals?
« on: December 31, 2013, 12:45:57 PM »
Anyone else have fitbit?

I only hear good things about that.

New Year goals:

1. need to learn what is "good dub-step"
2. stretch, surf and skate more
3. my homebrewery had a good pace until I transitioned to kegs and dual batches (15g at a time), now I gotta revisit the organization and work-flow.  Seems like I have too much beer on hand.

OK, but again, cara-red is not a crystal malt so if you expect it to act like a crystal malt - yeah, you'll be disappointed. It's like saying "I like CaraMunich better than Munich I" - of course you would if you were expecting the performance of a crystal malt.

You need to use a good percentage of cara-red to get the noticeable color and flavor contributions. Start with at least 10%-15% total grist. I wouldn't recommend using 10-15% of crystal in many beers, so you can see where the difference is starting to lie.

Keith, that is a rather nuanced comment; thank you.  The only reference I can find on the web is here ( 

I look to keep my crystal usage below 5% to be distant from "brown" and "grainy".  That said, I'm curious if you could comment on what happens when hitting the upper limits on caramel usage in recipes.  For example, Weyermann has CaraRed at 25%, and would you formulate something like Briess' C40 usage in a different manner from crystal C40.

Again, thanks.

Refractometer - Only works accurately if I have a uniform wort sample, which takes 3-4 tries.  Feel like I'm making guesstaments instead of measurements.

CaraRed - passing on this in favor of British Crystal malt, it just smells/tastes better to me.


Beer Recipes / Re: Dry Hopping w/ Willamette
« on: December 28, 2013, 08:46:06 PM »
I don't know Willamette enough to comment on the dzlater's question (I don't care for it unless it is fresh).  With 4 really good hop varieties in the kettle, IMHO I don't see the point of introducing it in the dry-hop unless there's some really smooth blend being worked out.

With HoosierBrew's suggestion of using Simcoe and Centennial, that's a really nice combo.  Plays nice together.

dzlater - what did you go with?

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: flavor contribution from dry hops
« on: December 23, 2013, 08:33:34 PM »
+1 to getting flavor from dry hopping - it's significant. The larger the amount of dry hops you use, the more flavor and aroma you get. I don't think it's far off to call it 50/50 flavor/aroma.


I really didn't understand how pronounced the effect was until I started splitting my batches to experiment with dry-hopping, one for a single hop and one for a blend of two or more.  IMO, unless it's for a specific traditional style, it's now one of the more important parts of the recipe.  I'll save the more select, fresh hops for it.

I'm just getting into the water quality aspect; they're like two keys for the same puzzle.

The Pub / Re: Whiskey
« on: December 14, 2013, 08:03:37 PM »
Maker's Mark is like the Sam Adams of craft beer. 

Good way of putting it.

I don't think the comparison works, saying that after visiting Maker's Mark in Louisville.  What I observed was slightly more than 75 bourbons on their menu, with some surprisingly unbiased opinion to try bourbons grouped by style.  My takeaway from visiting with them was to appreciate the regional culture and the efforts of individual distillers.   I'm not much of a bourbon drinker but now like to see some variety on hand.

Beer Recipes / Re: Which Style?
« on: December 12, 2013, 08:14:21 PM »
I like it

Would love to know what you perceive differently in the taste now that you are working on your water profile.


All Grain Brewing / Re: 16000 rpm motor for grain mill
« on: December 11, 2013, 12:03:58 AM »
Just thinking it through - how about a worm gear, say, or building it out component by component.  This product line is available from many vendors:


All Grain Brewing / Re: 16000 rpm motor for grain mill
« on: December 10, 2013, 03:31:29 PM »
The thing about using an inexpensive voltage reducer is that house voltage is not always consistent.  It's not gonna be great for fine-tuning on the low end, but you could cut the rpms by 1/3 to 1/4 and try it from there.  The main concern is to have lower speeds for safety.

Torque-wise, it kinda depends on your setup and how much continuous grain is being fed through.  The crusher I'm using is built with skateboard bearings and a light feed and so it's not much of a concern.  Personally, I'd go with a cheap drill.  It'd take the fun out of the project but would be easier to design and adjust.


All Grain Brewing / Re: 16000 rpm motor for grain mill
« on: December 10, 2013, 01:16:04 PM »
16000 rpm is fast enough that the spindle design and diameter of anything attached to it needs to be taken into consideration.   I use something like this to bring rpms down to safer levels:

Ingredients / Re: Post your water report
« on: December 07, 2013, 04:35:48 PM »
This is a Ward report for softened well water; the location is about 15 miles south of San Francisco, in a hilly section about a half-mile from the ocean.

TDS Estppm 538
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm0.90
Cations / Anions, me/L8.2 / 8.2
Sodium, Na186
Potassium, K< 1
Calcium, Ca < 1
Magnesium, Mg< 1
Total Hardness, CaCO37
Nitrate, NO3-N5.8 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 10
Chloride, Cl 199
Carbonate, CO3 < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 92
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 75
Total Phosphorus, P 0.04
Total Iron, Fe< 0.01

From taste, most of the Sodium and Chloride is from the softener.  I appreciate this thread as it's challenging me to learn water chemistry for brewing but really to get a grasp of the house well water as well (for things like skin care - need to drop the Ph).

Brew-wise, my darker beers taste great, my IPA hop aroma fades within 2 months, and I've never had a crisp snappy taste on anything like a Pilsner.  The one local pro brewer who has similar water is diluting half with RO and adding gypsum, advising to read up and use Bru'n Water.  The numbers make sense when using Martin's spreadsheet, it's nicely done.

Asking openly: 

What's your process for measuring mash Ph and adjusting?  Do you measure when the grist is added and/or adjust over time?

Decarbonating by boiling:  any advice on how long or how hot to heat the water?  My water heater puts out quite a bit of what looks like baking soda when I clean it, so I'm wondering if it makes sense to start decarbonating using the heated water as a source.

Many thanks.

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