Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Day 1- Preparations for Operation Autumn Ale

So, now that Aaron's officially smashed the champagne bottle against the hull of our brew blog, launching out into the digital sea, I figured I would give some observations, insights, photos, and commentary into our first brewing adventure, the Autumn Amber Ale from Midwest Homebrewing Supplies.  Please feel free to chime in and give us tips, hits, comments, or general banter/mocking as we blog our adventures and blunders.  Just remember, we are by no means master brewers at this juncture, nor have we acted as one on TV either.

Our adventure began on an abnormally warm October Saturday morning drive to Midwest Supplies, just a quick jaunt away for us in a nearby suburb.  After a quick obligatory ogling the BMW M5 in the parking lot, and walking through the doors you can feel that kid in a candy shop feeling wash over you.  The first observation that came to me was the smell, a pleasant mixture of grains and hops, along with a occasional waft of unknown scents from the organic gardening area of the warehouse.  Once I got past the olfactory sensations and looked around, it began to dawn on me once again, I have no idea what I'm doing.  Maybe it was some sort of spidey sense tingle, or the look of lost puppies on our faces that drew the lady working nearby in the wine making section to us, I'm unsure which tipped her off first at this point.  But through her patience, assistance, and time she was able to get us set up with everything that we need to brew our first batch of beer at home.

Upon arriving back at Josh's, herein referred to as our brew castle, brew quarters, or any other pleasant sounding variant by me, we dropped in the instructional DVD that was provided to us to give us the basic timeline and outlay of what to expect.  While watching we found it necessary to follow the first, and golden rule of home brewing, have a beer while participating in any sort of brewing activity.  After figuring out the approximate time need from start to fermentation, and assigning reading from the various books amongst ourselves, we decided to regroup the following day to craft our first batch.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Future

In stark opposition to the non-occurrence that has been this blog lately, brewing is continuing onwards with a vengeance. I think it's quite accurate to say that each batch is getting better and better. Actually, we just debuted last night a clone of Surly Furious entitled "Ferocious." It is quite good. I am pleased. All is right in the world again.

At a football watching party today (I know, weird), a woman who had tried one of our latest batches came up to me and expressed how good she thought our beer was. I think that was the first time a neutral and detached person had commented on the beer to me, so that was immensely satisfying. Here's to a productive 2011!

The photo above was taken at the Surly Brewing Company in Brooklyn Center, which we had the good fortune to tour on Friday night. In a happy coincidence, the tour leader was actually the founder and president of the brewery. I think in this photo, we're standing in front of about 5 pallets of British malt. Brilliant.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Secondary Fermentation Fun Festival (updated with photos)

With great delay, I'm pleased to present my account of what is undoubtedly the most interesting thing you'll read today. Well, maybe that's not true, but here it is anyways.

In a burst of inspiration (and well, necessity), we decided to transfer both the amber ale and the hefeweizen from the primary fermenter to the secondary fermenter in one evening. Generally, this consists of opening up the first fermenter, sucking out the beer with this magic siphon device

As an aside, to clarify our terminology, "primary fermenter" is the fancy schmancy, hippie lovin', homebrewer's term for a plastic five gallon bucket. That's right folks, a five gallon bucket with a lid. The secondary fermenter is a giant glass jug, like a Culligan water jug, but not.

Upon opening the primary, we couldn't help but note the ring of shit that encircled the bucket, surely from the yeast. It was, utterly macabre. Offensive to the eyes, offensive to the nose, offensive to all that is good. But, having gotten over that little trifle, we proceeded to siphon the beer from the primary into the secondary.

Let me tell you folks, this siphon thing, it is absolutely remarkable. You just put the first bucket up on a height, get the device pumping, and it siphons liquid up and out of the bucket, and down to the second receptacle. I couldn't tear my eyes away from it. Fantastic.

Anyways, after that magic device siphoned off the beer into the glass carboy, we were left with a five gallon pail caked with a layer of revolting yeast sediment. This, as far as I can tell, is the primary advantage to two-stage fermentation, because I'm fairly certain the Reasonable Person does not want what we witnessed in the bottom of that pail floating about in their beer. This wasn't even the kind of pleasant unfiltered yeastiness you sometimes seem in Belgians, but more like the disgusting residue of a biochemical process. Which of course, it was.

After that excitement, not much to tell. I'm sure we took some hydrometer measurements, but I couldn't tell you what they were. I'm positive we took some photos, but I couldn't tell you where to find them.

I suppose, we did try the beer after the first fermentation. I would say that they both had a similar colour - even the hefeweizen seemed kind of amber to me. The hefeweizen tasted quite normal to me, it tasted like it was right on its way. The amber, I don't know, I'm a bit hesitant on it thus far. I don't know, it seems lacking in the "fullness" area thus far. So, we'll cross our fingers and hope for the best!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 6- Hank's Hefe Weizen Fermentation (10/21/2010)

So, just went in to check on the Hefe Weizen, make sure that it's fermenting before leaving for a short trip. Got this shot of the beer fermenting nicely.

Day 5- Hank's Hefe Weizen Brewday! (10/20/2010)

Stopped by Midwest Homebrewing Supplies again today while out and about on business meetings and picked up a few more brewing supplies and another beer kit, the Hank's Hefe Weizen.  The decision to try the Hefe Weizen next was met with some resistance by Aaron, who thought we were out of the Hefe Weizen season.  This time in our kit we decided to splurge and go for the Wyeast Activator yeast pack, so once I got back to the office I started the yeast by smacking the activation pack inside to prepare it to pitch into our wort later on in the day. 

Aaron wasn't able to join us for the brewing, as he was tied up with law school obligations that night, so once Josh and I got home we got to work.  This time we decided to try to boil the water/wort on the side burner of the gas grill outside in hopes of a speedier brewing time compared to the electric stove burner.

After the water finally getting to 150 F we added our grains for steeping.  After a good 20 odds minutes we removed the kettle from the burner and added both the liquid and dry malt extract to our grainy water mixture.  Once we got the malt extract thoroughly mixed in it was time to bring it up to a boil.

This proved to be pretty challenging, as the gas side burner had issues bring this much liquid volume to a boil.  We found that putting on the lid was the only was to achieve this, which meant we had to keep a close eye on our wort to watch for boil overs.  While waiting for our wort to come to a boil we got the hops ready to add in.  And yes, it does have a striking resemblence to the feed for the goats at the petting zoo.

After hitting a good rolling boil we added our hops, and kept a close eye on it for the hour that it takes to impart the flavor into the wort.  After a good hour of boiling the hops, we removed them and the kettle from the heat to take inside to cool it down.  This time we made sure to avoid the contamination issues in the last batch, but as we don't have a wort chiller yet, we went with the ice cooling method.

Once bring the worth to 78 F we transferred it to the primary fermenting pail and added enough purified water to bring our batch up to 5 gallons.  Before we added our yeast we took a specific gravity reading of 1.052, which was within the 1.049 to 1.053 starting gravity range that was in the directions. 

Once stirring it with our sterilized spoon to increase the oxygen in the wort to allow the yeast to go to work we added our yeast at a temperature of 76 F, capped up the lid and moved it into the fermentation room with its brother, the Autumn Amber Ale and popped on the airlock.

After cleaning up everything, we decided to call it a day.  One more batch in progress!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 3/4 - Fermentation in Process (10/18-19/2010)

Here's a short little video from last week of our first batch fermenting happily in my other room.  Keeping the fingers crossed for a good result.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Obviously, advertising is getting a bit ahead of ourselves, considering we haven't even transferred the beer into the secondary fermenter yet. Hell, we haven't even confirmed that the beer is drinkable yet. But in the interests of being thorough, and looking forward to a leisurely future as flannel wearin', exquisitely bearded, Ginsburg readin' craft brewers - any future ads should be exactly like this.

And not like this.

Rule number 3 - get a badass sweater.