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Messages - smkranz

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Equipment and Software / Re: Barrels
« on: February 28, 2015, 10:55:05 AM »
Brewing beer for barrels is a technique in its own right to make really great barrel aged beer. You've probably had a barrel aged beer or two where a brewery put something in the barrel that was overwhelmed by the barrel character or clashed with what the barrel brought. I'd encourage you to focus on making great all grain beer first and pick up a barrel down the road once you've mastered all grain.

It's really not complicated.  Get a barrel and go.  I've barrel-aged an IPA, an American Brown Ale, Saisons, a Biere de Garde (an extract), a Russian Imperial Stout, several Belgian Dark Strongs (extract and all-grain versions), and several meads.  They're all great.  For the Woodinville Bourbon barrel which arrived last week I'm thinking maybe a Scottish ale of some sort.
  • Brew what you like.  All-grain or extract.  Fully ferment it, and if it tastes good...
  • Rack it into the barrel.  Fill it up to the top.
  • Taste it after a week or two, and when it has the barrel character you like, pull it.  If you leave it in longer than you should have, you can always blend a second batch into it to adjust.
  • Repeat.

Equipment and Software / Re: Barrels
« on: February 24, 2015, 01:22:36 PM »
I bought two of those Woodinville barrels. Mine were from Rye whiskey. So I decided to make a Rye Barleywine and a Rye Imperial Stout to put in them.

They are an absolutely great investment and you can use them over and over again (though the best whiskey flavor will be after they are initially dumped.) You can even use them for fermentors since the are 8 gallons. You can turn it into a sour project at some point in time after you get bored.

Just be sure to check the beer regularly as it ages. Because of the greater surface are you will pick up the flavors very quickly. A 5 gallon bbl I used a few years ago gave a RIS a great, deep barrel flavor after only 2-3 weeks.

BTW: These barrels smelled fan-damn-tastic!

Couldn't agree with you more.  I have used Woodinville's Bourbon and Rye barrels with great success, and they are absolutely no work.  Several of our club members just ordered more of them, and the per-unit shipping cost went down just enough (from about $45 each to about $30) to rationalize the purchase.  This will be my 4th Woodinville barrel.  Someone once asked me whether these barrels are worth the cost.  My answer was (and is) that I can rationalize pretty much any homebrewing purchase that I can get past my spouse and into the door.

I've never used them for primary, and have only aged beer and mead that was already fully fermented.  No rinsing or cleaning between batches, I just dump and fill.  After the third or fourth beer (they are fabulous for aging mead as well), they're perfect for making sours.

If you get enough folks in a club interested, they'll quote you a volume discount, but then they'll ship on a pallet and you need to have them shipped to a location (e.g. homebrew shop, brewery) with a receiving dock.  We did that a few years ago, and people liked them so much, the homebrew shop where we shipped them has since bought them for their own stock.

Homebrew Competitions / Re: NHC first round judging?
« on: February 12, 2015, 08:28:45 PM »
I can dream can't I?

Yes, but sometimes dreams come true.  I am planning to sign up.  Do you have any hotel recommendations?

The Roadway Inn in Montgomeryville is worth every one of its one star rating [emoji53] , but it's affordable and really close.  Last year we stayed at the Homewood Suites in Lansdale (about 5 miles away).  It is much nicer, and we had a 2-room suite with a fold-out in the living room.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: origins of commercially available bretts
« on: February 11, 2015, 08:06:23 PM »

Check this out!  It appears that Brett trois from WL is actually a sacch. strain and maybe a new species!

Yeah I've seen those reports but some claim the independent test Omega Labs had done has some flaws.  White Labs is also having an independent test done on the strain that is supposed to be more accurate but it isn't done (or the results haven't been released yet).   I've also seen pictures of fermentations with 100% Brettanomyces bruxellensis  trois that have pellicles.  So if it's not brett it may be a cool saccharomyces strain.  Regardless, the flavor profile of Brett brux trois sounds good so I just ordered three vials of it for a "farmhouse" ale with 100% "brett."

You won't regret it...this Saison was barreled (after primary fermentation with T-58) three months ago with Brett Trois and a little maltodextrin for it to chew on.  It smells and tastes like Brett, and the pellicle is a constant amazement to me.

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Bottling for competition
« on: February 10, 2015, 11:25:23 PM »
Obviously, bottling from a keg is what you have to do if you kegged that particular batch.

But wanting to enter a beer in a competition is irrelevant to whether I bottle condition a beer or keg it, except if the beer is still in a barrel or conical and a competition is coming up soon.  In that case getting it reliably carbonated in a keg first and then bottling with the Beer Gun is the way to go.  I won't enter beers that are not already carbonated exactly how I want them before they go out the door to a comp.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: late sugar addition
« on: January 04, 2015, 05:24:01 PM »
My recollection of reading Yeast (White & Zainasheff) is that adding sugar to high-gravity worts after fermentation begins will maximize the yeast's ability to metabolize all of the sugars in wort.  The theory is that if simple sugars are added up front, the yeast will attack them first because they're easier to digest, and will potentially poop out before taking on the more complex sugars.  I have done this for a number of years on big beers, with success.

All Things Food / Re: Pretzels
« on: December 19, 2014, 06:11:22 PM »
Follow Jeff Renner's recipe.  I've been making them for years...I was raised in a German household with German bakeries in our Philadelphia neighborhood which made Laugenbrezel, so we grew up with them.  When Jeff's recipe appeared in Zymurgy, I was in heaven.

The only things I do differently now, after making them for ten years or so, are to:
  • lower the oven temp from 400 to 385.  It helps avoid over-baking them if you turn away for a minute, and they still turn out perfectly with that awesome dark mahogany finish; and
  • divide the same batch of dough into 15-18 pretzels instead of 12.  The pretzels still rise up to a perfect size, and you get more of them

Homebrew Clubs / Re: Club Membership Cards
« on: December 19, 2014, 05:26:20 PM »
We have an editable PDF (with lines for the member's name and year) posted on the member-only page of our web site.  Any member has access, and can print a card if they like.  A couple LHBS in our area give club members a discount but I have not heard of a shop questioning the discount or requiring the physical card.

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Anyone using Party Pig and how good is it ?
« on: December 19, 2014, 04:54:33 PM »
The Party Pigs are just OK, I had several of them a long time ago and gave them what I thought was a fair shot.  You still have to prime with sugar, as the pressure pouches only work to push beer out of the Pigs and do not carbonate the beer.  The pouches are a recurring cost which got pretty annoying for me.  And then the pressure pouches have to be "activated" by pumping air into the Pig with a clunky hand-pump.  Then when the pouch activates and fills the pig with pressure, you bleed off the air inside, and start dispensing.

There is a collar assembly which fits around the neck of the Pig to seal the push-button faucet into place.  It was more annoying for me to assemble than it should have been.  The last straw for the Pigs for me, was the time I *thought* I had installed the collar and tap, then pressurized the pig to activate the pressure pouch  The collar was in fact not installed snugly (operator error, I admit), but the activated pressure pouch caused beer to spew out of the pig until the pouch was spent.  It was an unholy mess.

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Rubber coated black tactical beer bottle project
« on: December 19, 2014, 04:40:03 PM »
Expanding my bottle rubber-coating to shades of blue.  Rubber-dipping beer bottles is just plain stupid fun.

Wood/Casks / Re: Cleaning and Care of a Barrel
« on: December 12, 2014, 05:46:59 PM »
Knob Creek will have to do.

Wood/Casks / Re: Cleaning and Care of a Barrel
« on: December 12, 2014, 08:34:17 AM »
I may stop by to visit tomorrow, with a couple more fifths of Four Roses.

Wood/Casks / Re: Cleaning and Care of a Barrel
« on: December 11, 2014, 06:16:08 PM »
On the advice of our local micro from whom we bought two full-sized barrels, we prepared our barrels in between fills (sat empty for 3-4 weeks) by:

  • rinsing with hot water several times;
  • re-charging with fresh whiskey, slosh it around, rotate from time to time.  We used 1.5 fifths of Four Roses, the same bourbon that was originally in the barrels;
  • flush with CO2, and fit with a solid bung.

Prior to re-filling, we dumped the bourbon.  Of 1.5 fifths of bourbon we put into the barrel, barely a pint came out when we dumped it.  Don't know how much might have evaporated versus getting sucked back into the wood.  We did nothing else to keep the barrels wet, inside or out.  Upon refilling, there were no leaks.

Equipment and Software / Re: Brew Shop - An Android Homebrew App
« on: December 08, 2014, 10:46:07 PM »
I downloaded your app today and rooted around in it.  Good start. 

If I'm using a brew-day utility, it has to have mash calculations (volumes and temperatures), and automatic timers/alarms for hop and other kettle additions.  Also must add "other ingredients", and make it customizable so that users can add whatever...fruit, spices, etc.  I also particularly like the very easy sharing of recipes from the BeerSmith Desktop to the mobile app using BeerSmith's Cloud storage.

In all of the brewing software I have used, the thing which developers seem to love to include but which I do not find useful at all, is an ingredient inventory function.  I buy stuff all the time, and I gave it a good try in the software I used long ago, to enter stuff as I bought it.  But it was honestly more of a PITA than a useful tool to me to keep up with the inventory.  I'm guessing maybe some folks like that function, though.

I do not have software development knowledge or skills, so I'm sure this is quite a project.  Some years ago I built a relational brewing database using my Palm TX and an off-the-shelf database called SmartList To Go.  Neither of them have been available commercially for years now, but I still use it sometimes.  For the technology, it's pretty versatile, has very accurate mash and water use calculators, and the built-in timers are the bomb.  But it's main limitation is the number of malts, sugars, and hops I can use in a recipe (3 or 4 of each) because I ran out of available fields in SmartList.

Good luck with your project.

Kegging and Bottling / Rubber coated black tactical beer bottle project
« on: November 14, 2014, 10:19:47 PM »
I will be bottling a bourbon barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout this weekend.  There were 13 brewers involved in the project, so the final volume each of us wound up with was around 4 gallons.  I've been QA'ing the beer since kegging my share a couple weeks ago, but that has to stop or else it will be gone before I know it.

I decided that to make this beer last longer, at least some of it should be bottled in the smallest bottle commonly available to homebrewers, which are these 187 ml (6.3 oz.) clear bottles.

Since clear bottles are bad for beer, I set about to coat the bottles with something.  I couldn't find a suitable paint which would apply easily, adhere well, and resist cleaning and sanitizing.  So I came upon this liquid rubber stuff:

The tools for the job (to cover a case of 24 of these little bottles) include:

  • 2 cans of black Plasti Dip (found it in stock in my local Lowe's).  You can also buy white Plasti Dip and colorize it to whatever color you want, but you'll probably need to go online to find the colors.
  • VM&P Naphtha (thinner).
  • A clean and empty 4.2 oz. Pringles can.  Cheddar Cheese worked very well.  This can is not the real tall Pringles can, but is just the perfect height to let you dip the bottle up to the crown.  If you get a taller can, you'll probably want to cut it down a little.
  • Your favorite vinyl or rubber gloves.
  • Crown caps and capper.
  • Drill and a small drill bit.
  • Coffe cup hooks - [edit: get the plain brass version instead of the painted ones, to avoid flecks of paint getting into the bottles.  Probably no big deal, you have to rinse them out anyway, but why not avoid that if you can].
  • Laundry drying rack.

The Pringles can is used to dip the bottles, because it is just a little wider than the diameter of the bottles so you can dunk the whole bottle in there with a relatively small volume of liquid.

The Plasti Dip needs to be thinned so that it doesn't sag, and so that you don't use up all of the product on just a few bottles.  If you thin it too much, however, you'll have to dip the bottles twice...there is a sweet spot but I honestly didn't measure how much naphtha to add to one can to get there.  There is room in the product can to add the thinner (Naphtha).  Do it a little at a time, you probably won't want to fill to the top.

Fill the Pringles can a little more than half-way full with the thinned Plasti Dip.  Cap a bottle, drill a small hole in the middle of the cap and screw in a hook.  This will give you a handle to hold the bottle, and let you hang it up to dry. [Edit: if feasible, consider drilling the holes into the crown caps *before* you cap the bottles.  Otherwise small bits of the drilled cap can drop into the bottle.  No big deal, you'll rinse them out anyway, but why not avoid that altogether?]

Start dunking the bottle into the rubber, and go up the neck as far as you can up to the crown.  Then when you pull the bottle out, go as slowly as you can humanly go (like, take a whole minute to pull one bottle out).  This will keep as little product on the bottle as possible, and keep it from sagging (slumping?).  You'll get 3-4 bottles done before you have to add more product to the Pringles can.  Because I hadn't measured the Naphtha-to-product ratio, I had to just go by sight and feel of the mix when I added more Plasti Dip and naphtha to the can.

If you have the right consistency of Plasti Dip, and you pull the bottle out slowly, there will be minimal dripping from the bottom of the bottle.  I held each bottle up out of the can for about 20 seconds, then ran the rim of the Pringles can around the bottom of each bottle to smooth it out and catch any product that started to look like drip spots.  But at the right consistency, with Naphtha as a thinner, the Plasti Dip sets up fairly quickly and leaves the bottom of the bottle nice and flat with just a couple passes from the rim of the Pringles can.  There were no drips once each bottle was hung to dry on the drying rack.  The product can be re-coated in 30 minutes if you want a thicker coat (which I found unnecessary), and dries completely in 4 hours.  When dry, remove the hook and un-cap the bottle.  Rinse, sanitize, and fill.

The finished bottle is very cool looking.  The Spousal Unit calls them the Batman Bottle.  The rubber clings tight and dries flat and smooth.  (And if you ever want to remove it, it can be peeled off amazing product.)  Because I coated the bottles all the way up to the crown, I will need to cap these with a bench capper since a hand capper needs to grip the shoulder below the crown which would tear into the rubber.  If you use a hand capper, you'll want to dip the bottles just up to the shoulder of the crown instead of going all the way up to the crown.

p.s. I also tried the spray version of Plasti Dip on a couple bottles.  To get the right coverage requires two coats, because doing one coat with enough product leads very quickly to sagging.  The finished product from the dipping process looks better than spraying, and gives a more consistent result.


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