Category Archives: homebrewing

Brew Stand Build

After 7 or so years of homebrewing I finally upgraded to a larger 3 vessel system and built a single tier stand. The project has taken a little while and there are still some loose ends to finish but I had my first brew on it for Big Brew (after a test brew) and it worked pretty well! I’m also still working out some kinks with shooting video (mostly that I live on a noisy street and have two young children so audio and time are not great) but I hope to finish up and publish some tech videos soon. In the meantime, here’s a time lapse montage of some of the build.

YouTube?!

Hello! It’s been a busy month with holidays, work and illness. I just finished a whirlwind weekend of home brewing. Midway through it occurred to me I should capture some video to start messing around with shooting, editing and learning the functions of YouTube. I imagine this will be a very slow process, but feel free to subscribe if video content interests you!

What am I Reading 2 – Long Overdue update

Hello! I’m hoping to get back to posting again after another year long hiatus. The reality is that 2 kids, home-ownership, work and a lot of excuses have gotten the better of me. It’s also true that I’ve been home brewing, doing some beer tutoring, gotten to take some awesome work trips (which I should really share in more depth here), but let me first catch you all up on some beer-related reading I’ve been doing.

The Homebrewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer – Ron Pattinson

Homebrew Guide

A book clearly targeted at homebrewers, but really it can be appreciated by any style or historian geek. It’s full of historic European recipes scaled to 5 gallon batches along with origin facts and other tidbits. It was interesting to see how the grists and hop loads changed across the style between eras and breweries. I think my favorite part of the book is the research Ron has done that disproves or challenges a lot of the beer lore that gets tossed around for fact. I haven’t brewed a recipe from it just yet, but you can  be certain it will be one of the milds when I get around to it.

Session Beer – Jennifer Talley

Miller Lite
(Excuse the beer choice. Limited options in the air.)

A book after my own heart! Jennifer Talley is an accomplished brewer with a personal history of brewing session beers, arguably thanks to starting brewing in Utah. Unbeknownst to be, she spent some time brewing for Auburn Alehouse in CA at which I’ve spent quite a bit of time and for certain enjoyed a few of her creations. This book would be great for intermediate home brewers who are familiar with the process of brewing and focusing more on style development or working on concepts like bitterness/sweetness ratios, etc. While I think I enjoyed this book mostly for the personal connections I found, rather than any groundbreaking knowledge I got from it, I do like that it dipped a bit into the sour brewing realm and published some downscaled versions of some pretty popular commercial recipes.

Yeast – Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff

Yeast

Truthfully I’ve read this a few times before over the last few years (you can tell by it’s lovingly abused exterior), but I picked this up again this year with the much more focused lens of a brewery lab tech and was specifically targeting their thoughts about unhealthy fermentations and low abv.

What I like about this book is that it’s as nerdy as you want it to be. While it’s definitely not geared toward newer brewers, you can read through the more basic sections and go along until things stop making sense, skip forward and get more basics. And then like I did, go back and revisit it later and figure out all the knowledge you missed. A worthwhile read and reference book for later.

That’s all for now! You all have favorite beer books you’ve read recently?

The Bug is Back

There was a point about 4 years ago where I was homebrewing every two weeks, had multiple batches of kombucha active and had started to play with water kefir and sauerkraut. My kitchen started to look like a biology lab. Needless to say I was very much into fermentation. And then life happened. Luckily I always had time for at least one batch of one ferment or another, but my time was limited with moving to a new state, finding and then working a full time beer job and raising two children. Passionately pursuing the ins and outs of fermentation was no longer a priority. Call it luck or intuition, but moving to Eugene, OR was a boon for someone as into microbes as I am. We have 2 homebrew shops, roughly 15 breweries,  multiple distilleries, a world-class cider producer, an annual fermentation festival and a whole lot of people interested in all of the above. So while it took some time to shake out the larger life details, I can say with great pleasure that the urge to have fun with fermentation is back thanks to a few welcome additions. In part, the flame was lit by something spicy and new.

Kimchi!
For years I had steered clear of Korean food under the impression that it was a bit of the fiery side for me to tolerate. Luckily in recent years having known more families willing to enlighten me I got exposed to a few tasty side dishes that kindled my curiosity for the funky stuff. Admittedly I watch a lot of Maangchi on YouTube and after watching her integrate kimchi and other fermentation into yet another video I figured it was about time to try a batch for myself. Other than a few confusing moments of trying to scale back the recipe size and also guess at how many pepper flakes to hold off  things went really well. I like my cabbage well fermented so I did let it go considerably longer than she does, but all in all it wasn’t scary and I’ve been nibbling at it over the last few weeks to much delight. Using unfamiliar ingredients was enjoyable and reminded me to add foods I have on hand into products I had never really thought about before.

“Homegrown” Kombucha
I’ve been a lover of Kombucha for years now, but I never really took to getting to creative about my addition of flavors. I’m usually happy without much else in it although I am partial to adding lime and ginger slices upon bottling. In regularly visiting small local markets, I noticed commercial Kombucha producers adding an array of seemingly out-there ingredients such as chamomile, lavender, turmeric and hops. Being a lover of IPA  and realizing the small amount of hops I grow in my yard might work as a dry-hop turned out great in one batch. The herb garden we started last year provided a wonderful combo of mint and rosemary. Really what excited me was being able to walk out my door and start seeing (and tasting) homegrown fermentation creativity. The other thing that led to better and more frequent Kombucha is something I’d been meaning to do for years, but only recently felt the push to do – building a kegerator.

The Joys of Kegging
I’ve never hated bottling in the way that so many of my fellow homebrewers do. Perhaps it’s the love of seeing products from start to finish or the tangible feel of glass and the hiss of a well carbonated bottle being opened. All the romance aside, with the way my schedule and utter lack of time goes these days, I’ll reserve bottling for special occasions. I’ve been collecting used draft parts over the last two years knowing someday I’d have enough second hand soda kegs, spare regulators and other bits to throw something functional together. Realizing I could have homebrewed beer, kombucha, as well as packaging-free sparkling water at home was enough of a pull for me to seek out a deal on a chest freezer and finally put it all together. The amount of time I used to spend bottling homebrew and Kombucha really added up. Kegging takes a fraction of the time and takes far less floor space and setup. I was perpetually short on bottles, and given that I barely had time to brew, dumping any product due to lack of glass was a crime. It’s all this savings of time and space that has really been put back into experimentation and finding new techniques or products to make.

What’s next?
Because winter is thawing here, I’ve already got ideas going for what I can plant and have on hand in a few months to add to already existing ferments. Mostly some additional herbs to add to kombucha, a new variety of hop and possibly some vegetables to pickle. I’ve also gotten to homebrew considerably more recently and did my first lager. I am now plotting the next few months of beers to have on hand through seasons change. In the longer term, there’s a couple new-to-me ferments that I would like to take a crack at. The few real misos I’ve tasted have been mind-blowing, but something about working with koji is daunting. Someday I’ll get a proper miso and sake going, but until then, I’m just trying to keep the right amount of ferments on the counter going that won’t get my family to think I’ve lost it. While my temporary time away from frequent ferments was tough, I can say I’m glad the bug (really all the bugs) is back. Let me know in the comments what cool ferments you have going!

11A – Mild

About 8 weeks ago on a very rainy day I brewed an English Mild, arguably influenced by Morrissey.

IMG_9009

Realistically it was the recipe “Through a Mild Darkly” taken directly from the Zainasheff/Palmer book, “Brewing Classic Styles”. I brewed this specifically for my BJCP project because it’s not very easy to find packaged Milds in the US and despite the fact that I love hops, I admire this style of beer.  When Anchor Brewing released “Mark’s Mild” as a reaction to the apparent double IPA/hops craze we put it on draft in our bar and I fell in love with the approachability of a “dark beer” for our “light beer” patrons.

01

My version of the recipe came out fairly dark, but has a nice rounded sweetness as I mashed above 156°. Estimated abv is around 3.14% and IBUs around 20. I pitched SAF-ALE US-05 and fermented at 68° and raised to 71° after a couple days. I bottle conditioned to a fairly low level, which gives it a nice soft bubble.

I’ve already got another BJCP beer homebrewed and ready to drink. In the meantime, check out the official 11A – Mild specs from BJCP

13C – Oatmeal Stout

Spotted some Firestone Walker at the store and was inspired to use the rest of my flaked oats for a homebrew. 13C is the BJCP category for Oatmeal Stout and so far my beer falls within the stats.

I am using some East Kent Goldings for hopping and Maris Otter for the base malt. Unfortunately it wasn’t worth an hour of driving to get some British yeast, so I’ll use the US-05 that I’ve got.

Pretty easy to spot the missing ingredient!

13C