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Messages - smkranz

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Wood/Casks / Re: Cleaning and Care of a Barrel
« on: December 12, 2014, 03:34:17 PM »
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 12, 2014, 01:16:08 AM »
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 09, 2014, 05:46:07 AM »
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 15, 2014, 05:19:47 AM »
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.


Equipment and Software / Re: Cutting the bottom off of a Better Bottle
« on: September 22, 2014, 06:29:08 PM »
I want to use an old Better Bottle carboy for a hopper on my new JSP grain mill.  Has anyone had any luck or have any advice on this? 

Honestly at this point I think I'd shred it if I tried cutting it with anything I have.  My best guess is to use a torch to cut the bottom off.

If there's nothing wrong with the carboy, I would save that puppy and buy a 5+ gallon jug of water from BJ's.  The deposit is only $5, and they have a 5.25 gallon capacity.  I did this exact same thing for my old PhilMill.

Beer Travel / Re: Atlanta
« on: September 19, 2014, 01:42:02 AM »
We have an office there and I've never had a bad beer from Sweetwater.

Homebrew Competitions / Maryland Microbrewery Fest. Homebrew Competition
« on: September 07, 2014, 07:34:59 PM »
We could use some more judges for the Maryland Microbrewery Festival Homebrew Competition.  BJCP not necessary, though all flights will have at least one BJCP-ranked judge.  BJCP points are awarded to all Judges so if you ever plan to take the exam, your points will follow you.

We're up to about 145 entries at this writing, with one more week of registrations to go.  Hopefully there will be enough judges on hand to do the whole thing in one morning session, and judges can enjoy the festival in the afternoon.

In addition to the above information, the following edits apply:

1.  We are accepting sours for judging and prizes, though not for BOS.
2.  Out-of-town judges may bring their entries with them if a drop-off point is not conveniently located near them.
3.  Overnight accommodations for out-of-town judges are actually about full.  But we're still taking names, as there are always a few judges whose plans change and they wind up canceling.

Please send a PM with any questions.

Homebrew Clubs / Re: Accepting Donations
« on: September 07, 2014, 07:12:23 PM »
I am nervous about accepting it because, for me, it gets too close to the line of selling beer. Besides, we do these events to support the charity, not to get a donation. I want them to send "our potion" to the charity also.

Have any of you heard of this going on? If a club were to accept this, are they breaking the law?

Thank you very much for your time in this matter.

Late to the game on this question, but:

1.  I don't think there is anything close to selling beer involved with this. 

2.  If the organizer has funds to disperse back to your club, that means they clearly met their donation target plus expenses, and want to throw you some bones to show you guys some appreciation.  If you don't take it, they'll no doubt find someone/something else to spend it on.

3.  I would graciously accept it, and if you have no use for it, make a club donation to the target charity yourselves.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Member Benefits
« on: September 07, 2014, 06:36:59 PM » has a club affiliate program, similar to the AHA club discount program.

When someone clicks through the link on your site, they get a discount on their purchase, and the club earns a small rebate.  We get a rebate check from them once a year.  It's not a lot, but it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick and aside from the rebate, members get the discount benefit.

Beer Recipes / Re: Dark Saison?
« on: August 31, 2014, 10:45:19 PM »
I would leave out the dry hops to let the spiciness of the rye and yeast shine, and maybe add a little bit of plain sugar or clear candi syrup.  Otherwise, looks great.

Homebrewer Bios / Re: Brewer Bio: Clarence Swann
« on: August 20, 2014, 04:35:16 AM »
I need to BeerGun a few kegs of beer this weekend to create more capacity.  Or drill BF6 for faucets and a gas line, and just get 'er done.  Looks like the weekend forecast will thwart any outdoor tasks anyway, so the indoor plan needs to take some shape.

Homebrewer Bios / Re: Brewer Bio: Clarence Swann
« on: August 17, 2014, 02:36:03 AM »

(I know that's a word because it's in )

Hit me up if you're interested in sharing a brewskie tomorrow.  The Spousal Unit thinks there are chores to do, but I predict needing a break  :P .

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Chlorinated Water
« on: August 16, 2014, 11:59:56 PM »
I suggest you directly ask your municipal water dept. what form of chlorine they use. 

If they use free chlorine (as does my municipal water dept.), it is easily stripped out with a simple charcoal filter.

But if they use chloramine, which is a more stable compound, you should go the campden tablet route.

The Pub / Re: F Cancer
« on: August 12, 2014, 09:27:12 PM »
Thanks for bringing this up. 

Whenever my club participates in an event with an information table, I give out prostate cancer wristbands.  I buy them as give-aways, 50 at a time, from which is also a recipient of funds from

My personal interest is that five years ago today, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 51.  (No history in my family.)  Seems like forever ago.  But two surgeries later, plus radiation and hormone therapy :o, and my PSA level is now undetectable.  I get tested every six months.  Probably another 5 years to go before my doctor will utter the word "cured".  My cancer had already spread, but I probably would have never known but for early testing.  My doctors were amazing...they are my heroes.

The federal government, and elements of the medical establishment, claim that prostate cancer is over-diagnosed and over-treated.  F them in addition to cancer.  If those DBs had their way, I would never have been tested, never biopsied, never diagnosed, and for all I know I'd be sitting here now with incurable cancer in my bones.

So, get longer...drink more beer!

Homebrew Clubs / Re: AHA Club Insurance Program
« on: August 08, 2014, 05:40:22 PM »
I would think there is a need for better Club recognition, such as clubs required to provide yearly rosters of paid members, up to date by-laws.  The way it stands now a club could pay for 3-4 members, even though there are more than that in the club.  I would think that the Broker & the Carrier would want a more accurate count other than one done on the honor system.  The real test will be when the first claim is filed.

Misrepresenting the number of members in a club on an application for the purpose of paying lower dues would constitute insurance fraud, and would likely be grounds to 1) deny any claim and/or 2) rescind the policy on the offending club.  The homebrewers I know wouldn't behave like that.

That said, my club is not participating.  Maryland law does not recognize "social host" liquor liability if someone were to leave one of our club events at someone's home, and cause injury or damage.

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