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Messages - smkranz

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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.

Events / Re: Call for judges at NHC?
« on: May 07, 2015, 07:01:05 PM »
Mark, I just saw this question answered by Sandy Cockerham on FaceBook.

Equipment and Software / Re: Temp. Controller Question
« on: April 04, 2015, 06:02:50 PM »
I have purchased two single-stage Ranco controllers, pre-wired, from here:

The last one I purchased was only a couple months ago.  It was $16 less than morebeer (even after you add shipping).  I still probably would have purchased it from morebeer had they not been out of stock at the time.  ETC Supply is very fast to ship.

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Jocky box?
« on: April 04, 2015, 05:50:33 PM »
This is a write-up of our club's jockey box build from a bunch of years ago.  It uses a 4-circuit cold plate.

Since this write-up, we have replaced the cooler.  This time we ran all of the beer supply lines out through one side of the box instead of the rear, as it is more convenient to hook the kegs up that way while the box is sitting on a table.

Beer Travel / Re: New Orleans Beer Spots?
« on: March 22, 2015, 06:41:33 PM »
Cooter Brown's is a tavern and oyster bar uptown in the Riverbend part of town.  Pretty darn good beer list.

It was our go-to spot while I was in school many years ago, and it's still going strong (went back for a visit last November).  Also suggest a stop at the Camellia Grill which is only a block away.  Old habits die hard.

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.

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