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Messages - svejk

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Equipment and Software / Re: Torn between purchases
« on: April 29, 2014, 03:00:08 PM »
Jumping in late on this one, but seeing as nobody suggested going for the grain mill I figured I would add my 2 cents.  There is no doubt that fermentation temperature control would do more for the quality of your beer, but a mill is one of the few pieces of equipment that will pay for itself and then allow you to save enough to buy that fermentation chamber. 

I pay about $0.77/lb for bulk base grain, while the LHBS charges $1.60/lb for the same grain by the pound.  For every 10 pounds of grain I use, I save over $8.  Over the last decade my mill has paid for itself many times over. 

As an added bonus, if you ever get into a bind and need to sell your mill, used mills go for almost as much as new ones so it is really a no-brainer!

Equipment and Software / Re: Indestructible hydrometer
« on: April 10, 2014, 03:37:24 PM »
Does it exist? I need one.

A refractometer is almost indestructible.  Admittedly, it is less convenient post fermentation, but I find that my hydrometers last a lot longer now that I have one refractometer and two hydrometers.

Equipment and Software / Re: Recommend a Grain Mill
« on: April 08, 2014, 07:58:41 PM »
Most brewers like their mill, and I'm no exception with my adjustable JSP maltmill.  The biggest selling point for me was that I was able to add the option of a gear drive for the second roller.  There aren't very many mills that offer that ability.

Beer Recipes / Re: Belgian Dark Strong recipe help
« on: April 08, 2014, 06:10:35 PM »
Another data point that might be worth considering is targeting a final gravity and letting that determine your OG to get the right ABV.  St Bernardus has a FG of 1.010 which means that an OG of 1.090 will be 10.5%.  Since you'll be barrel aging this beer, I can see bumping up the OG to stand up to it, but for general BDS purposes, I thought it was an interesting data point that St Bernardus finishes so dry.

I'm also intrigued by the blend of yeasts you mentioned and will try that on my next attempt.  One of the best examples of BDS that I've had from a US craft brewery is from Pfriem and it turns out they use the Leuven strain of yeast.  This isn't available to homebrewers currently, but maybe a blend will get close.  Here is an article that discusses the Pfriem beer:

Beer Recipes / Re: Belgian Dark Strong recipe help
« on: April 08, 2014, 04:47:46 PM »
After brewing several BDS versions over the years, I have settled on a strong preference for recipes that keep the specialty grains to a minimum, or even skip them entirely.  It really comes down to your preference since the category has a lot of latitude for the strengths of different flavors.  One very enlightening test would be to taste St Bernardus 12 and Rochefort 10 side by side.  If you prefer St B, then I'd recommend significantly reducing (or even eliminating) the specialty malts, and if you prefer Rochefort then you could probably leave them as is.

One other thing I'll add is my impression that beers with pronounced speciatly grain contributions will probably score better in competitions, but beers with minimal specialty grains will be much more drinkable on their own.

Equipment and Software / Re: very frustrated with my Barley Crusher
« on: March 17, 2014, 08:39:32 PM »
I had this same problem when I first purchased my JSP Maltmill.  Fortunately I was able to buy the gear drive option which solved it for good (luckily I had the Model A because the gear drive isn't available for other models).  I'm not sure whether Barley Crusher offers a similar option, but if they do I wouldn't hesitate to make the investment.  I'm also not sure if there are other mills that offer the option to drive more than one roller, but if my Maltmill ever needs replacing it will be a requirement for me.

Beer Travel / Re: Köln, Dortmund and Düsseldorf recommendations?
« on: March 11, 2014, 08:28:06 PM »
Brauhaus Bonnsch in Bonn does a very nice unfiltered kolsch style beer and is an easy train ride from Dusseldorf or Koln.  When I was there in Sept 2012 they had an excellent marzen as well.

The Pub / Re: Brandy/Cognac/Armagnac
« on: February 22, 2014, 05:32:20 AM »
They didn't have any Pierre Ferrand 25 at BevMo, so I'll keep looking for it.  I did pick up a bottle of the Pierre Ferrand Amber 10 and in a blind tasting between that and the Kelt VSOP, I thought they were both very nice with a nod toward the PF. I can only imagine how great that 25 must be!

The Pub / Re: Brandy/Cognac/Armagnac
« on: February 22, 2014, 12:29:58 AM »
Thanks for the reply. I'll pick up a bottle of the Raynal VSOP.  I also think I should try some California brandy as well since I haven't tried any from there yet.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Highest OG for all-malt brew
« on: February 20, 2014, 08:58:53 PM »
My highest was 1.137 for an all grain barleywine and it finished about 100 points lower than that.  Even with a high fg, it was amazing after aging an a mini bourbon barrel.  I did mash at 148F for almost 2 hours and needed to pitch an additional slurry from a brewpub to shave off the last few points. 

That said, if I had to guess, I would be very surprised if you would be in any danger of approaching the theoretical OG of 1.170 without extended boiling because first runnings tend to max out at a certain point and you would really having a hard time rinsing additional sugars from the mash if you aren't sparging and the solution is already saturated with sugar.

The Pub / Brandy/Cognac/Armagnac
« on: February 20, 2014, 06:40:20 PM »
I just spent some time reading through the Whiskey thread and really enjoyed seeing the different recommendations.  Over the last year or so, I've picked up a few bottles of brandy (mainly cognac under $100) and the Kelt VSOP is the one I've liked the best.  Any other good brandy recommendations?  I'm not opposed to spending more if it is worth it - I just would have a hard time dropping a bunch of money on the random chance that the price was justified.

Equipment and Software / Re: "Permanently Wet" Coating for containers
« on: January 23, 2014, 09:53:11 PM »
I could see this being very useful for handling honey when making mead.  I usually dip a ladle into the bucket of honey and it is hard to minimize the drips, but if the ladle was coated with this, I would think it would make it considerably easier.

All Grain Brewing / Re: Lbs in a barley much?
« on: January 13, 2014, 04:07:54 PM »
In addition to the great advice already given, here are a couple of points I will add:

1) Be prepared for your efficiency to drop as your OG goes up.  The reason for this is that your first runnings max out at a certain level (usually 1.080's for me), and as you sparge, the gravity decreases thus diluting the wort.  Unless you are planning for a super long boil, it is very difficult to sparge the grain to the level you are used to, so you will end up leaving a fair amount of fermentables in the mash tun.  For this reason, I don't think 17 lbs is enough for a 5 gallon batch.  My biggest barleywine had 33 lbs for 5 gallons at 1.147.

2) Yeast choice is super important.  I prefer Wyeast 1728 Scottish because it is a workhorse that has high tolerance for alcohol.  With big beers like this, you also need to pitch a lot of yeast, so I prefer to make a small beer like a Scottish 60 and then use the yeast cake from that beer to ferment the barleywine.  It also doesn't hurt to give the beer a second shot of oxygen about 12 hours after pitching to make sure your yeast are given every advantage to finish out the beer.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Idea for siphoning to keg?
« on: January 09, 2014, 07:08:15 PM »
I prefer the autosiphon myself, but one way you could create a vacuum in the keg would be to slosh around some boiling water in it to heat it up.  Dump out the water and seal the lid.  As it cools, a vacuum will develop as the air inside cools and contracts.  You'll want to have your racking cane already in the beer, and once you hook up the liquid out post to the keg, it should start a siphon.  You would need to vent the keg after the siphon slows down since it will eventually stop pulling, but I think this would work.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: barrel aging question...
« on: December 31, 2013, 03:57:16 PM »
I've never heard of anybody trying to carbonate in a small barrel before, but I suppose you could do it by putting a strap around the barrel to hold the bung in place.  That said, my suggestion is to fill the barrel with whiskey and brew a full 5 gallon batch of imperial stout.  Rack the beer to a secondary and let it bulk age for a few months or so until it is tasting great.  At that point, the barrel will be well infused with the whiskey flavor, so you can rack the whiskey out and put the beer in. 

As mentioned above, the beer will be infused with the barrel flavor very quickly so you should taste it every week or so to see when it should be pulled.  If you find that you overshoot your target for the barrel flavor, you can blend it back with some of the base beer to hit your target.  The great part about this plan is that you can give the barrel a rinse and put the whiskey back in it to get ready for the next batch. 

I've done this myself with a 2.5g oak barrel and it has worked very well.  I do find that using kegs makes that whole process much easier, so if you don't have a kegging system it might not be practical.

One other thing I wanted to mention is that if you do plan to rack pre-carbonated beer into the barrel, you may end up with excessive foaming (think mentos and diet coke), so you'll want to plan accordingly.

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