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Messages - smkranz

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General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Opening Fermenter to check hydrometer
« on: September 21, 2015, 09:22:20 PM »
For a mere $200: (Gives you real-time gravity and temperature readings.  Actually works.)

Otherwise, suggest using one of these to pull a sample:

The Maryland Microbrewery Festival Homebrew Competition is open for Judges/Stewards, and entry registrations..

The Festival and competition date is Saturday, September 26. Entries are due at drop-off and shipping locations by end of business on September 12.

Each entry is judged by at least one BJCP-ranked judge, tho sometimes one of the pro brewers at the festival steps up if we hear from a judge at the last minute who can't make it.

It's a relatively small comp (200 entry cap), so chances of placing and winning a prize are pretty decent. This year prizes are planned for 1st, 2nd, and (depending on prize availabity) 3rd place in each prize category.  Prize categories depend on the entries received.

Best of Show winner is brewed commercially by 2-time Maryland Governors Cup winner Dog Brewing Co. of Westminster, MD for draft sales at Buffalo Wild Wings' Maryland restaurants.  (Dog also brews for its own pubs and bottled sales, under its Pub Dog and its new Rexx Reserve brands, and contract brews for the likes of  Stillwater, and an Omnipollo Agamemnon Imperial Stout with Maple Syrup, among others.)

Entries are welcome from around the globe, but to be prize-eligible an entrant must either:

1. Be a Maryland resident;
2. Be a member of a Free State Homebrew Guild member club (easy & cheap to do...see the Rules); or
3. Register to Judge the comp, regardless of residency or club affiliation.

Entrants get great feedback and win cool prizes...check the site for prize Sponsors.  Judges get the best Judges' Breakfast anywhere, free festival admission, a free Buffalo Wild Wings lunch, and possible free overnight accommodations (based on availability...there are a few spots left).  Again, check the site for Volunteers info.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Controlling sourness
« on: August 16, 2015, 06:40:07 PM »
Best Saison I've ever made was a traditional Saison fermented with Belle Saison at 80+° with no citrus or spices added, but with Brett-like Trois yeast pitched in secondary with a scooch of maltodextose added for it to eat. It's tart, and dry, and tropical.

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Bench capper
« on: August 13, 2015, 09:25:36 PM »
The manually adjustable Agata capper (the one with the black button in the capping head) is what I prefer.  Tried the auto-adjusting version and it just seemed to involve more awkward motions during a bottling run.

My capper is mounted to a heavy poly cutting board, and my work space is the top of our clothes washing's right next to the beer fridge with beer and gas lines all ready to go for keg and BeerGun connections.  Works just as fine for bottling primed beers. Spills run into the washer. Cleanup is a breeze.
The capper mounts to the board with four metal "mirror clips" I found at Home Depot.  The clips screw into the board, and the offset end of the clips holds the capper base securely to the board, letting me mount and dismount the capper almost instantly instead of screwing it directly onto the board. 

This capper has done probably a couple thousand bottles. I have marked the side of the shaft with lines for each of the different sized bottles I use.  Super simple and easier to use (for me) than the self-adjuster.

Commercial Beer Reviews / Re: Commercial Saisons
« on: August 11, 2015, 06:55:35 PM »
St. Feuillien Saison has become my favorite commercial version, better and more reliable than DuPont.  All St. Feuillien beers are stellar.

My own recipe is my favorite homebrewed version.  Stupid simple recipe, just Belgian pils malt, Kent Goldings (boil and finish), and shoot for upper 50's O.G.  Sometimes I add some Candy syrup.  Try using a continuous-rising mash from 113-162 degrees over 90 minutes as described in Farmhouse Ales.  I use either WLP565 or Belle Saison yeast, start it off in the mid-70's and crank it up to mid/upper 80's over 7 days.

Always turns out.

Events / Re: GABF AHA/Special Events???
« on: August 11, 2015, 06:32:57 PM »
Will be doing GABF on Thursday and Members Only, as well as the Pints For Prostates Rare Beer Tasting on Friday afternoon.  The Rare Beer beer/brewery list has been released on the FaceBook page.  It looks heavy on barrel aged beers, and a little light on IPAs (thank goodness):

The long awaited Denver Rare Beer Tasting beer list has been released! A very limited number of General Admission tickets remain and VIP tickets are sold out.

•   Abbey Tripel Reserve, Abbey Brewing, Abiquiu, N.M.*
•   25th Anniversary Perseverance Ale, Alaskan Brewing, Juneau, Alaska
•   Vallum, Avery Brewing, Boulder, Colo.
•   Barrel 178, Bear Republic Brewing, Healdsburg, Calif.
•   Bell’s Tawny Port Baltic Porter, Bell’s Brewing, Kalamazoo, Mich.
•   2012 Oak Aged Cherry Biere de Noel, Big Sky Brewing, Missoula, Mont.
•   Samuel Adams Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru & Samuel Adams Utopias, Boston Beer, Boston, Mass.
•   Love Child No. 5 & 2013 Bourbon Barrel Quad, Boulevard Brewing, Kansas City, Mo.
•   Brandy-Barrel Rye Wine & Birra Minestra, Breakside Brewery, Portland, Ore.*
•   Brooklyn Hand & Seal, Cognac Edition (Ghost Bottle), The Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, N.Y.
•   Bourgogne Blanc, Bruery Terreux, Placentia, Calif.
•   Pumpkin Smash & White Raspberry, Cascade Brewing, Portland, Ore.
•   The Cut: Bing Cherry, Casey Brewing & Blending, Glenwood Springs, Colo.*
•   Black Gold, Central Waters Brewing, Amherst, Wisc.*
•   Nightmare on Brett Port Barrel Aged, Nightcap & L'Brett d'Cherry, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer, Denver, Colo.
•   [Banished] Tough Love I Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout I, Crux Fermentation Project, Bend, Ore.*
•   Collage (Conflux No. 1), Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore.
•   Barrel Aged Palo Santo & Festina Lente, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, Del.
•   Mango Tango, Elevation Beer Company, Poncha Springs, Colo.
•   Old Sage Brett & 2011Brainless on Cherries Belgian-Style Ale, Epic Brewing, Salt Lake City, Utah
•   Firestone Walker XVII & Maltose Falcon, Firestone Walker Brewing, Paso Robles, Calif.
•   Bourbon Barrel Aged Sexual Chocolate, Foothills Brewing, Winston-Salem, N.C.
•   Barrel Aged Snowed In, Funky Buddha Brewing, Oakland Park, Fla.*
•   2014 Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout, Goose Island Brewing, Chicago, Ill.
•   American Sour, Grand Teton Brewing, Victor, Idaho
•   A Sour Patch Divided, Great Divide Brewing, Denver, Colo.
•   Once Upon A Time & The Count Whiskey Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout, Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, Loveland, Colo.
•   Barrel-Aged B.O.R.I.S. VAN WINK Imperial Stout & Barrel-Aged Silk Porter, Hoppin’ Frog Brewing, Akron, Ohio*
•   Ursae Majoris, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Ann Arbor, Mich.
•   Laughing Dog Tenth Anniversary Barrel Aged Imperial Rye Ale, Laughing Dog Brewing, Ponderay, Idaho
•   Cable Car, The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, Calif.
•   Saranac Javanac & Saranac Imperial Barrel-Aged Rye Porter, F.X. Matt Brewing, Utica, N.Y.
•   Whiskey Barrel-Aged Blackberry Barley Wine Ale, New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, Colo.
•   2013 Incorrigible White Sour, New Holland Brewing, Holland, Mich.
•   2014 Bourbon Barrel and Vanilla Bean Aged Olde Voyager & Between the Berries and Me, NoDa Brewing, Charlotte, N.C.
•   Genesis 2015, NXNW Restaurant and Brewery, Austin, Texas
•   Ignorance is Bliss, Odell Brewing, Fort Collins, Colo.
•   ProCATstination, Perennial Artisan Ales, St. Louis, Mo.
•   Anniversary Ale #3, River North Brewery, Denver, Colo.
•   Cold Brew IPA, Rogue Ales, Newport, Ore.
•   Twig and Berry, Schooner Exact Brewing, Seattle, Wash.*
•   Barrel-Aged Rain Check Spiced Stout, Sierra Nevada Brewing, Mills River, N.C.
•   Ornette, Spangalang Brewery, Denver, Colo.*
•   Fydoor’s Classic, Stone Brewing, Escondido, Calif.
•   Barrel-Aged Batch 666: Sympathy for the Devil, Sun King Brewing, Indianapolis, Ind.
•   Barrel Aged Balt the More & Barrel Aged Old Pro with Peaches, Union Craft Brewery, Baltimore, Md.
•   Mountain Man & Verboppin' Frogoten, Verboten Brewing, Loveland, Colo.*
•   Dark Arts: Tequila Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout with Brett and Espresso & Montmarretto: Barrel-Aged Sour with Montmorency Cherries and Almonds, Wicked Weed Brewing, Asheville, N.C.
•   Tart Project: Saison, Wormtown Brewing, Worcester, Mass.
•   2014 Chianti Brett Saison With Sangiovese Grapes & Deux Rouges Grand Cru (Batch Two), Yazoo Brewing, Nashville, Tenn.*
(* Indicates brewery's first appearance at Denver Rare Beer Tasting.)

Equipment and Software / Re: Auto-monitoring fermenter
« on: July 14, 2015, 05:51:03 AM »
Cool idea.  Just happens that I recently deployed the new BeerBug I purchased at the AHA conference.  It monitors gravity, temperature and alcohol, uploads data points to a cloud server every 15 minutes, and let you see it on desktop or smartphone app.  My current fermentation is here:

The historical graphing is off, because I was not able to properly calibrate the Bug until this morning.

Events / Re: Public Big Brew Day So Everyone Can See.
« on: July 09, 2015, 05:03:56 PM »
Our club conducts a homebrewing demonstration and information tent at the annual Maryland Microbrewery Festival.  The festival is on private grounds, and we are invited by the owner/festival sponsor. 

The single biggest request we get from visitors to our tent, is "Can I have a taste of homebrew?"  Because the festival has a beer event permit from the County, and microbreweries are there serving their beers to patrons who pay to get in, we are not allowed to serve samples of homebrew.  It is frustrating, but we've gotten over it.  We have asked, to no avail, to be allowed to serve small samples.

Other than that annoyance, the venue is a large draw for several thousand guests, so we have a built-in audience that is already interested in beer.  The tent can get very busy with people walking through to get a look, and it requires several people dedicated to hovering over potentially careless guests (who have been drinking beer) to keep them safely away from hot kettles and burners.

We also used to publicize our annual Big Brew event which is held at members' homes.  We used to draw a few occasional curious onlookers, but that was pretty much it.  Because we also do the festival, we stopped trying to make Big Brew a public event.

So my suggestion is, try to hook up with a festival or other event/venue where there are already people interested in beer. 

Events / Re: 2015 NHC Impressions
« on: June 16, 2015, 01:21:57 PM »
My room at the Town & Country was fine, as it was 4 years ago.  I didn't sleep great, but that had more to do with the time change and the volume of beer consumed, than the bed.  It was not in one of the towers, but was a pretty fair walk from the main action.  Would have liked a 'fridge and a microwave.  Because there also was no in-room safe, I left the "do not disturb" sign in my key slot for the entire stay (Tues thru Sun), since it was just me, there were four sets of towels.  The lunch buffet in the Trellis restaurant (about $24 with tax) was badly priced but it was convenient, so I used that option twice.

Had another good time re-taking the tasting exam on Wednesday, and judging on Thursday.  Both events went smoothly.  The only things I wanted to do but missed, were the BJCP reception and members meeting.

Holding Club Night outdoors was good except for the spotty lighting.  It was crowded, but I was pretty much always able to find beer and a place to park as needed.  Maybe because I was pacing myself, and didn't have as many homebrews as some other folks in this thread, I didn't have many beers that weren't at least decent.

Our club has participated in many Club Nights in distant towns, but we didn't have enough people going cross country this year to pull it off.  Next year in Baltimore we'll be there in full force.  We have also never told someone that their beer wasn't worthy to put better way to generate ill will and hurt feelings among friends than to tell someone that the beer they thought was pretty good is in fact dog piss.  So maybe we've just been lucky so far.  A few years ago (Minneapolis maybe) a guy came up to our booth at the end of the evening for last call, and told one of our members that his beer was the first one he had tasted, and it was so good that he wanted it to be the last one he tasted.  That was a good feeling.

Come to Baltimore next year.

Homebrew Clubs / Re: AHA Club Insurance Program
« on: June 16, 2015, 11:35:32 AM »
I don't disagree, but I still need to see the policy language first.  What's a covered event?  What are the definitions, and exclusions?  I assume there is an "other insurance" clause which for some types of claims (e.g. a general liability type of claim) might consider a homeowner policy as primary.  Request for both policies has been made thru West's web site.  I was kind of disappointed that specimen policies were not made available at the NHC seminar on the insurance program.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Can I check my brew??
« on: June 12, 2015, 06:35:20 PM »
There is no reason not to test the gravity of your brew, at any time.  Plus especially as a new brewer, testing and tasting your beer as it ferments will only give you more information and understanding of your beer and the brewing process.  Just practice good sanitation with a thief to pull the sample.

Homebrew Clubs / Re: AHA Club Insurance Program
« on: June 05, 2015, 06:24:39 PM »
I've had several club members ask me whether we should enroll in this.  To date, I have responded to them that I didn't see a particular need.  There is no social host liability in Maryland, and most of our events are at members' homes, or at other venues where we are invited to do demonstrations and where I believe the property owner's liability insurance would apply to anything that happens.

But, I'm an insurance claim guy, and before I can give any of our members what I think is a reliable answer, I would need to see the policies, both the general/liquor liability policy and the D&O policy.  I haven't been able to find it...are they available for review?

Equipment and Software / Re: BrewEasy
« on: June 03, 2015, 05:53:27 PM »
Since starting this thread, I have added a Tower of Power gas controller, and am also using Blichmann's Top-Link software on a laptop to create mash profiles for the controller.

The gas controller works very well.  It is simple to connect, and fairly brainless to use.  It turns the gas on and off ignites the burner with an electric spark element when the system needs heat.  Coolest thing it does is turn itself back on, literally in seconds, if the flame blows out from a gust of wind.  It comes with a temp sensor which plugs into the system on the output side of the pump, on the way back up to the top of the mash.

There is a differential of several degrees between the measured temperature coming out of the lower kettle, and the actual mash temp inside the tun.  On the 10 gallon system, Blichmann recommends starting with the 1.25 gallon/minute orifice in the tube coming out of the mash.  Using that flow rate, the differential between measured temperature off the pump, and inside the mash, was about 8 degrees.  I up-sized to the 1.5 gallon/minute orifice, and this differential came down to about 1-3 degrees.  Once the mash settles into a temperature, maintaining a temperature for an hour, the differential went down to almost zero with the larger orifice.  Doing this creates a little more suction on the mash and you need to watch out for a stuck mash.  But I've done it now on three batches with zero issues.  Just be sure you let the mash sit for the first 15 minutes as recommended, and avoid using a fine crush.

The latest addition to the system was the communication cable, and plugging into a laptop with Blichmann's Top-Link software.  I first tried installing the software onto an old HP mini computer running XP.  It installed but didn't run correctly...the on-screen buttons were missing.  So it now runs on a larger HP Stream 11 running Win 8.  Works perfectly.  Creating a profile on the software is easy but I suggest you view the videos on Blichmann's site to see how the program runs.  I used it to create a mash profile for a Saison using the Saison Dupont mash profile described in Farmhouse Ales.  It is a continuously rising mash starting at 113 degrees and rising to 162 over 1:45.  This gives an increase rate of about .5 degree per minute.  Send the profile to the device using the software, run it, and by worked absolutely perfectly to turn the burner off and on about three times a minute, gently ramping the temp from 113 to 162 degrees over the hour and 45 minutes.

At any time, you can stop running the profile and return the controller to manual control, or just use the device's panel to enter a new target temperature if you want.

The software lets you save profiles for later use, and it also has an option to graph the progress of your mash for later viewing, if you want to tweak it for future batches.  One thing which seems like a glitch, is when I went to the graphing option, then closed out and went back to the main screen, the program closed down.  Opening it back up, and the same mash profile was still running and picked up where it left off.  Actually, the videos say that once you send a profile to the device and run it, the controller is doing the work and the desktop software is just monitoring it.  But stopping the profile on the desktop, or turning the switch on the device to On or Reset will also stop the profile from running on the device.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Who's Attending BNA10?
« on: June 01, 2015, 06:40:21 PM »
Went to one a few years ago (I forget which year), and thought it was kind of a cluster...more for the young'uns.  Plus we'll be schlepping around to beer places during the day, and I keep reminding myself: must p-a-c-e.

But I didn't say I wasn't going...  :P

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Who's Attending BNA10?
« on: June 01, 2015, 05:45:59 PM »
Went to one a few years ago (I forget which year), and thought it was kind of a cluster...more for the young'uns.  Plus we'll be schlepping around to beer places during the day, and I keep reminding myself: must p-a-c-e.

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