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Messages - el_capitan

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General Homebrew Discussion / Re: New maltster in town
« on: January 25, 2017, 06:32:18 PM »
Are you using Valley Malt?  I looked into their stuff but haven't tried any yet.

To the OP, what kind of beers are you thinking you might make?  I would think that some blonde ale, cream ale, or a pilsner hopped with some american "noble" hops might be nice.  Maybe some sterling, ultra, liberty, etc.  But I would keep it lightly hopped since you want to show off the malt.

Those are some nice, clean, herbal hops varieties.  I really like Sterling, and I grow them at home.  I just brewed a Sterling Pilsner that is fermenting now.  I agree that a lighter beer with a simple hops schedule would be a good start. 

Homebrewer Bios / Captain Morgan
« on: January 25, 2017, 06:28:39 PM »

Hey everybody -

I'm Morgan, and I live in Alexandria, MN.  I started brewing the same year I started teaching - 2005. I brewed some root beer with my 7th grade Life Science students and realized, "Hey!  I can brew real beer too!"  My friend's dad taught me to brew and gave me a starter set of equipment, and I was off and running.

Teaching science is a great job, and brewing is such a scientific hobby that I've been happily brewing and learning now for 12 years.  I brewed with extract for the first year, then moved on to AG.  Now I brew the occasional extract batch but I'm still mostly AG. 

I teach a couple beginner's homebrew classes each year at a local LHBS, and I act as kind of a local "brewing advisor".  In my community, I find that a lot of people brew but there isn't a solid homebrewing community, so I'm focused on connecting people who brew and widening the community. 

A couple friends of mine who I met through brewing about four years ago have just opened a brewpub in town, the first in over 70 years.  It's been cool to be working with them behind the scenes as they planned it out, brewed test batches, and built the brewery.  I have had the opportunity to brew a few batches with them, which has been really cool.  It's called Copper Trail Brewery - check 'em out!

I have to say that brewing has opened up a whole new world for me.  Once I got started with the DIY mindset, I quickly got involved with gardening, composting, woodworking and carpentry, etc.  I'm always interested in learning new things and I get a lot of joy out of the creative process.  I started quilting before I started brewing, and that is a great creative outlet involving color theory, mathematics, design, and an element of spontaneity - much like brewing.  I also teach beginner's quilting classes from time to time. 

I took my username for obvious reasons - during college my college radio DJ name was Captain Morgan.  Spanish is a fun language that sticks with me for some reason, so El Capitan it is.  I have to thank the AHA members and those who used to frequent the NB forum for sharing so much information over the years.  Continually learning from this community has helped me to keep growing as a brewer, and I share a lot of the information I learn here with other local brewers.  So, thanks you guys! 

With three young boys, I don't have as much time as I used to for forum posting, but I still read a lot of the info here and appreciate the community we've built.  Rock on!

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Kegs carbing at different rates?
« on: January 25, 2017, 06:13:59 PM »
I've noticed differences in keg carbing, and I think it ties in to oils at the surface of the beer.  For instance, my BVIP seems to carb really slowly and I think it's due to the vanilla oils.  I've had similar results with really hoppy IPA, where the hop oils could possibly create a somewhat impermeable layer at the top of the beer.  Purely anecdotal evidence though.

All Grain Brewing / Re: Boil temps - do they matter?
« on: January 25, 2017, 06:07:34 PM »
I've read that a good boil really looks more like a simmer vs a volcano.

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+1 - though I will say that it doesn't really matter except for your evaporation rate calculation 9and possible scortching if it gets insanely hot). You really can't boil too hard. The boil won't get hotter than 212 (depending on your elevation obviously). A gentle roiling boil will give you everything you need and save you gas and from having to top off with water at the end. On my 14 gallon kettle I can get the wort about a half inch from the top of the kettle and boil for 90 minutes without having a boil over (well, mostly.) Just got to gently feather that gas regulator.

It does matter.  TBI is very real.

TBI?  I think the use of acronyms without definition come across as pretentious and divisive.  You can't assume everybody knows what the heck you're talking about.  When I first started reading the LODO thread, I was very turned off by all of the SMB, BtB, etc.  It's almost like you need to be "in the know" or part of some clique to even gain access to the info.  Not very helpful, IMO (in my opinion).   ;)

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: New maltster in town
« on: January 25, 2017, 05:58:09 PM »
I recently brewed something similar as a test batch for my sister's upcoming wedding.  She wanted a beer like Shenanigans from Indeed Brewery, which is a really light summer ale.  I used Sorachi Ace, which is what the brewery uses.  It came out really nice - with lots of soft malt character backing up the lemony hops.  At first it was a bit too lemony - kind of like a shandy.  Over the next month or so it really settled down and melded together.  Calypso might be another nice option, since it's supposed to have a distinct orange character, although I haven't used that one yet. 

WY1450 is always a nice yeast to use, since it will accentuate the malt and hops flavors, while giving a great body to the beer.  I think it's cool that you're supporting the local brewing economy.  Cheers!

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Old bottles
« on: January 24, 2017, 05:32:51 PM »
I still have a couple cases of Old Milwaukee returnables here - the glass is a lot thicker and more durable.  I think your best option is to do a soak in Oxyclean, although that would certainly remove your labels.  You could just fill them most of the way with water, then dose each bottle with Oxyclean to loosen the crud.  Then hit them with a bottle blaster and follow up with a bottle brush.  If the case was closed, chances are that there's not too much junk in there.  However, I doubt the bottles were rinsed before storing, so they could have some extreme crusty mold going on.  Good luck!

The Pub / Re: Songs you never want to hear again.
« on: January 20, 2017, 08:51:01 PM »
Oh, that's easy.  Crazy on You by Heart.  Terrible song.

I think Heart is one band that could have just never happened, and their absence would not have any downstream repercussions. 

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Small Batch Brewers - Let's Talk!
« on: January 18, 2017, 05:16:54 PM »
I started with 5 gal batches, scaled up to 10 gal for a few, then dropped back to 3 gal for a year before coming back to 6 gal as my sweet spot.  Small batch brewing was fun though and I still do some that way.

1. What's your usual batch size?    -3 gal, unless I split a 5.5 gal batch into two 3 gal glass carboys.

2. Why do you brew small batches? - More variety, fresher beer, so many recipes and so little time

3. Do you brew, extract, partial mash, all grain?  - AG

4. What's your basic process?  I.E., BIAB, tiny cooler (😉), just stir in the extract, etc.

I actually do use a 5 gal Igloo cooler with a braid for the mash tun.  I use a pony keg as a HLT and boil in my 10 gallon Polarware.

5. Do you have a favorite piece of equipment that you like to use especially for small batches?  - The tiny cooler is key.

6. If you've brewed larger batches how would you comapre the two in terms of effort?  Time?  Equipment needs?  Recipe consistency?  -

For me the smaller batches are kind of awkward for my system for a couple reasons.  Mainly, the HLT doesn't pull siphon easily with volumes under about 3.5 gallons.  I can burp the line a little bit and get it to siphon through, but it's kind of sketchy with near-boiling sparge water.  Also, the temp probe in my Polarware kettle is just a bit too high to read a 3-gallon volume, and the immersion chiller is partially sticking out of the wort, so it's less efficiently cooling.  As for effort, it's pretty much the same as doing a 5 or 6 gallon batch, which is a big reason why I don't do small batches as often.  I'd rather brew a "standard" bigger batch of beer and just bring more growlers when I hang out with friends.  My efficiencies were consistent with what I typically get - 75 to 80%.

7. What am I missing that should be known about small batch brewing?

I don't know what you know, so I can't say what you're missing!  It was a great way to audition a bunch of different beer styles and expand my brewing repertoire a bit.  You can experiment with recipes without such a commitment.  Once the base recipe is kind of fine-tuned, I think it's more valuable to split a 5 gallon batch into two 3 gallon carboys (or pails) and test variables that way (yeast, dry hops, other additions, etc.)

Good luck with the book! 

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: I offer this for open ridicule ....
« on: January 18, 2017, 03:55:06 PM »
I wonder if the guy cooks?  After all, you can go to a restaurant and get whatever you want to eat.

I'm in this camp.  I enjoy crafting my own stuff - making my own meals, growing herbs and vegetables, making my own beer, etc.  I don't necessarily do it because its cheaper or better, I simply enjoy the process.  There's some reward in that itself - homemade/homegrown.

Exactly.  I've never seen my wife as mad as the time a family member criticized us for trying to grow as much of our own food as possible.  He said, "Not only is it impossible to grow enough food to feed your family all year, think about what you would be giving up by spending your time doing that?  I can go to the co-op and buy any variety of tomato I want, and I don't have to grow them." 

We feel that there is tremendous value in doing things, rather than just getting things.  The process enhances the product in such a way that the time spent is its own reward, because you're doing meaningful work that validates your own life.  I'm all for creative pursuits - making quilts is a huge time investment, but you're creating things that otherwise would not exist.  Our beers are the same way - each one is unique and fleeting, creative products of our careful attention and personal investment.   

All Grain Brewing / Re: Honing Your Skills
« on: January 16, 2017, 08:55:08 AM »
Nice job on hitting those high OG's.  I always have some light DME on hand in case I need to boost gravity on those big beers.  Did you hit your intended volume as well as your OG?  I guess that's the true test, eh?  Knowing preboil gravity will allow you to adjust your boil intensity or add gravity points as needed to hit your intended OG. 

All Grain Brewing / Re: Honing Your Skills
« on: January 16, 2017, 07:50:07 AM »
Brewing bigger beers like RIS and barleywine are challenging and probably not representative of how your system works in a regular setting.  I always have low and fairly unpredictable efficiencies with bigger beers.  A simpler beer like a SMASH might help you get to know your system better.  I have really enjoyed a SMASH with Vienna malt and Centennial hops. 

All Grain Brewing / Re: Honing Your Skills
« on: January 16, 2017, 07:34:47 AM »
Congrats on getting started with the hobby - it sounds like you're interested in the continuous learning aspect of brewing, as well as the historical and experimental sides.  Cool!

As for measuring water, I picked up a metal yardstick.  It's aluminum, I'm pretty sure.  I measure the volume and gravity of my wort pre-boil.  I had to add water to my kettle a gallon at a time and measure the height change.  With my kettle, it turns out that each gallon add 1.5" of height (I'm lucky it came out so even).  So now I can just dip in my yardstick and divide the measurement by 1.5 to get volume.  Keep in mind that boiling wort expands about 4% from a cool state, so I also tend to multiply that result by .96 to get a true volume. 

Then it's just a matter of  Volume x Gravity = total points extracted.  Compare your extraction to total points of gravity added through grains and adjuncts, and you'll get your efficiency. 

I carefully measure water volumes in a similar way:  First I had to add carefully measured volumes to a plastic water cooler carboy (aka Culligan jug).  Then I marked the level at each gallon with a Sharpie.  I divided out the distance between the full gallon and made incremental markings at each 1/4 gallon.  So I can either pour or rack from those jugs and know how much water I'm adding. 

One great resource for getting started is "Brewing Classic Styles" by John Palmer and Jamil Zainasheff.  I have brewed about 20 of the recipes and have enjoyed all of the beers.  This will help you hone your technique while brewing proven recipes.  You should also download the free version of Bru'nWater, which will get you started on water chemistry in an easy way.

I learned a lot (and still do) from spending time on forums like this one.  The Northern Brewer forum used to be really great, but with recent website reboots and shake-ups, a lot of the more knowledgeable folks have migrated over here.  I think the NB forum focuses more on beginning brewers, so you might find that really helpful.  I think this forum tends to push the edge of brewing a bit more, and has a focus on higher-level brewing topics which may not be as useful and accessible for newer brewers.  Still, you won't be ridiculed for asking questions here, so ask away and then get ready for a flood of advice.

Finally, depending on where you live, you might have the opportunity to meet up with other brewers and learn from them.  Northern Brewer has lots of free class options, and they're a good source of info.  You can't always count on the info you get from your local homebrew shops. 

I guess that's enough to get you started.  Again, welcome!  Good luck.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Kombucha
« on: January 13, 2017, 08:10:35 PM »
I brewed it for awhile. It was pretty easy and you can do endless variations in flavor. Eventually I stopped drinking it regularly enough to keep going and got sick of all the fruit flies it was attracting.
I brewed a few batches myself, but I'm not a fan of vinegar at all, and that's really where the acidity is coming from in Kombucha. I have some water kefir grains lying around (similar beverage to kombucha, but less vinegar from what I understand), but I haven't brewed with it yet.

I've decided that as much as I like the idea of alternative fermented beverages, what I'm really looking for is an adult soda-like beverage. I think I'm just going to make my own soda and leave it on one of my taps in my kegerator. I see myself enjoying that a lot more in the long-term.

A few years ago, we bought a case of coconuts.  We drained the coconut water and used it to make kefir with some of the dry kefir grains sold in packets.  It came out really nice and fizzy and tart.  I don't like coconut water plain, but this stuff was awesome.  We scraped out the meat and I think we kind of fermented that into yogurt as well.  Yumm. 

I've had mixed success with kombucha, but it certainly is a fun experiment.  The maple sap idea sounds pretty awesome too.  This year for New Year's Eve, I defrosted a jug of apple cider from this year's pressing and force carbed it for my wife and kids.  That was also pretty killer.  I've been wanting to mix up a keg of mojito for a couple years now - maybe this summer I'll give that a shot. 

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Tips for Bottling from Keg
« on: January 13, 2017, 08:03:43 PM »
I used a home-built bottling gun for a while but always had issues with foaming and wasting tons of beer.  Last year I bought a Blichmann beer gun and have been very happy with it.  About a week after I bought it, NB came out with the Last Straw bottle filler which also looks nice, although I haven't talked to anybody who has actually used one.  So, if you like to bottle beer from the keg for friends or whatever, I don't think you'll be disappointed with a Blichmann.

I'm not a huge sports fan, but I always root for the red-shirt foosball guys.

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