Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kegerator Build Part 2

A couple weeks ago, I bought the mini fridge that I would use for the insides of my kegerator. While brewing one Saturday, I took some time and separated the internals from the useless (to me at least) outer shell.

It was a lot easier than I had anticipated, all that was required to take this apart were a screwdriver (or drill), a hammer, a clamp, and a couple blocks of wood.  The key was to do it slowly and work in small sections.  In order to make it a bit easier to work with, I removed the door from the fridge.

The next thing I did was remove the steel shell from the insulation and disconnect the compressor from the frame.

Next, I took out the freezer compartment that will distribute the cooled freon inside the kegerator.

After that, I took had to peel away some styrofoam to get the cooling lines out.  At that point, the guts of the fridge were completely removed.

The last thing I did was flatten out the freezer compartments with some clamps and blocks of wood so it will fit up against the wall for my build.

Like I said, if you're planning on doing this yourself, just take your time.  I was terrified that I would nick a freon line and my $50 purchase would be a lump of trash, but just checking what I was taking apart along the way really helped.  All in all, this took me about 45 minutes from start to finish.  While my single hop additional beer was boiling was a perfect time.

On deck: Hail Storm Hefe (3/11)
Primary: Kitchen Sink Ale
Secondary: Maibock, Dark American Lager, German Pilsner
Total for 2012: 25 Gallons

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Kegerator Build Part 1

I am about to embark on the most extensive build that I have ever done.  As I had posted in a previous blog, my wife and I moved into an old farm house recently.  What I didn't mention is that we are expecting our first child in the beginning of May.  Everything I have heard says that a stockpile needs to be made in preparation since my free time will be limited for a while.  So, like any homebrewer, I decided to build a kegerator to help save me the time of bottling.  I was surprised that it really didn't take much convincing.  Marygrace was 100% on board, we just had different ideas of what the kegerator would be/look like.  We have a small pantry, and I wanted to put a fridge in the basement and run the lines through the walls and hook up the taps in there, but I was vetoed on that suggestion and what I ended up with was a gutted fridge from the 1940's (maybe) that we found on craigslist.

As I said, this project is going to be massive, and so is the fridge.  Its large enough to fit four kegs and underneath in the small cabinet, I will be able to stash a couple tools and the CO2 tank.  One of the biggest challenges is going to be taking apart a mini fridge and somehow getting the internals into the fridge.  It sounds like it will be hard, but we shall see...

Someone had previously gutted this fridge and turned it into a tool chest, so one of my first orders of business was to take out all of the shelves and door compartments.  Below are the before and after pictures.

There are still a couple things that I need to get done, the most challenging perhaps, is to buy a mini fridge, disassemble it and transfer the parts into the kegerator.  The next step after that will be to insulate the kegerator and pipe in the taps, but that is a lot further down the line.

We're still not 100% sure on what we want to do with the colors, but we are thinking a robin's egg blue with white/cream doors and chrome accents.  This definitely wont be something that happens over night, so I look forward to constantly updating this blog on my progress with it.

On Deck: Maibock
Primary: German Pilsner, Dark American Lager
Secondary: Light American Lager, Vienna Lager
Total for 2012: 10 Gallons

Friday, January 27, 2012

16th Annual Amber Waves of Grain Competition Announced

Before I get onto the meat of my post, I just wanted to put out there at Flying Bison's Chilly Fest will be happening this Saturday 1/28 at noon until 4 pm.  Unfortunately, the health department shut down the chili part of it, so there will no longer be a chili cookoff, but there will be live music and beer a plenty.

In other news, the Niagara Association of Homebrewers has announced its 16th annual Amber Waves of Grain homebrew competition.  The deadline for the competition is March 10th and judging will take place on March 23rd and 24th.  And, like always, the Brewers Night Out will be held on the 24th.

I am really looking forward to entering this competition.  I'm hoping to get some great feedback from the judges and hopefully some good will come out of it.

On Deck: Dark American Lager
Primary: German Pilsner
Secondary: Light American Lager, Vienna Lager
Total for 2012: 5 Gallons

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Years Ball Drop Weizen Bock

Like a lot of the beers that homebrewers brew, this one falls a bit out of its intended category.  Originally supposed to be a Dunkel Weiss, I got an inkling that the beer would be falling out of its style when I measured the grains and I was at 12 lbs (the kit said that it should only be 11 lbs).  Even if I had ended up with my planned 5 gallons (I ended up with about 4 1/4 or 4 1/2), I would have had an original gravity of 1.056, on a bit of the higher side for a dunkelweizen.  (It should be noted that this was a kit that I had bought when Jay and I started brewing all grain over a year ago from and also worth noting is that this is my first 5 gallon all grain batch with this equipment, so that is why I was a bit off on my final volume and my efficiency was a paltry 71%.)

When Jay was moving away last year, we brewed an extract Dunkel Weiss for his going away party.  Unfortunately, this means that we ended up scavenging the hops from the kit in order to brew that beer and I had to find some hops to put in it.  One of my friends had brought over some whole hop flowers, cascade and nugget, and these had provided the solution to my problem.  I threw in a half ounce of nugget for 60 mins and another half ounce for 10 minutes.

For the yeast, I went with a standard WYeast 3068 Weihenstephan blend.  Listening to the Basic Brewing podcast and reading Brewing with Wheat by Stan Heironymus, I feel, really helped me on how to properly ferment this brew.  From Basic Brewing, I learned that although the yeast will ferment at higher temperatures, you will get better ester production if you start fermentation at lower temperatures and increase it over time.  What really helped me out from Brewing with Wheat was an interview with Jonathan Cutler from Piece Brewery and Pizzeria in Chicago.  Basically what he said is with a hefeweizen, you really want to under pitch it, under aerate it, and even kick the fermenter when you walk by it.  Just generally mistreat it, and it will produce more isoamyl acetate, or the banana flavors.  Finally, I decided to go a previously untrekked route by myself and do an open fermentation for primary fermentation.

The end result, I have to say, was pretty amazing.  Personally, I think it was one of the best beers that I have brewed.  It is dark in color, holds a great head, and has a nice light clove aroma.  The beer is full bodied, with an excellent sweet banana flavor, and the slightest tart finish.  I'm hoping that the next few beers that I brew can turn out just as well, and based on the Vienna Lager I tasted last week, they're on their way.

As I said earlier, I had a couple of friends come over to help.  They decided to bring their cameras along and got some nice shots after our first snowfall of the year.  I'll leave you with a couple of them (the pictures, not my friends).

On Deck: Dark American Lager
Primary: German Pilsner
Secondary: Light American Lager, Vienna Lager
Total for 2012: 5 Gallons

Monday, December 19, 2011

Back From My Absence

It's been a long time since I've posted anything and I feel that I should really apologize for that.  Brewing took a little bit of a back seat for me over the past few months.  My wife and I moved into a new house in the country which brings a whole lot of brewing excitement with the multiple varieties of hops that I plan on growing as well as different herbs as well. (There may be a gruit coming up here over the summer and possibly a fruit beer in a year or two after my plants have established themselves.)

I've even started brewing five gallon all grain batches again now that I can set up my Igloo cooler and turkey fryer in my garage.  Last weekend I brewed a Weizen Bock with some of my friends whole Nugget hops, but I'll get back into that in a later post.  I was so excited about it, brewing all grain batches again that is, that I've been working on my own plans for a Brutus 10 system with the possibility for an expansion to twenty gallon batches later down the road.

I had hit somewhat of a roadblock a few months ago with my BJCP challenge and didn't know what the problem was.  (If you'll recall, I was getting somewhat of a metallic/cleanser type taste in my beers.) Well I realized that it was the iodophor that I was using for sanitation.  It hit me one night when I went out for a couple beers at Buffalo Wild Wings and the ones I drank also had that same faint taste and iodophor after all is a commercial sanitizer used in breweries and restaurants.  Oddly enough it is one of those things that some people can taste since my wife had no problems with them at all.

I feel much better about my processes now and am excited to get back on track.  I'll have a week off work coming up shortly, and I am hoping to get a couple more batches brewed.

On Deck: Light American Lager
Secondary: Weizen Bock
Total for 2011: 88 Gallons

Friday, September 23, 2011

Status Update

It's been a while, a long while.  I keep meaning to update the blog, but we have been busy.  Marygrace and I have recently been looking for a house.  The good news is, we found one.  The bad news is that I don't really want to start another batch of beer until we move.  (Although I will make an exception for a pumpkin stout for Halloween.)  The house is good, but my recent brewing attempt have been rather lackluster.  It seems that brewing works in waves for me since I don't really repeat any of my recipes and I always like to experiment.

I believe that one of my issues may be coming from my conical fermenter.  I bought it on eBay over a year ago and it has been working great, but recently every beer that I have brewed in it (Lite American Lager, German Pilsner, and Hop Harvest) have had a stale water flavor with slight metallic undertones. The last time I cleaned it, I noticed that some of the chrome coating on the thermometer was peeling and I think this may have something to do with it.  I'll have to replace it, but until then, I'm back to carboys and buckets.

The Gose that I brewed isn't as great as I would have hoped either.  Since I used aciduated malt, as suggested by Brew Your Own, the flavor produced is more similar to a wort spoilage, rather than a true bacterial infection of the beer.  It gives the beer a bit more of a sour milk/tea-like flavor than anything else.

The beer that I tried to make with wild yeast that I captured has scared me.  I smelled it a short while ago and it still reaks of DMS.  After tasting it, it was still present.  I will have to try this experiment once again after we move.

My mead is a shining star of what I have done recently, proving to myself that it was not my water source that was the cause of my stale water off flavor mentioned above.  My one complaint about it though is that I rushed it too much.  I should have done another one or two carboy transfers, but I didn't, and the bottles have a very small layer of yeast on the bottom.  Either way, it was my first go at it, and my lesson was learned.

I'm in a slump right now, and I'm glad that I got all of that off of my chest.  I'm hoping a couple easy extract brews and means can get me out of it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Gose is Loose!!!

I have been excited about this beer ever since I read an article about it in Brew Your Own magazine toward the end of last years hockey season.  Something intrigued me about it from the very start.  What couldn't be loved about a salty, sour, spicy beer, and whats more, it's name lent itself perfectly to somebody who's a Buffalo Sabres fan.  The Gose is Loose was born.

The Gose is a northern German beer brewed in Leipzig.  Just like most other beers, the location of the played a huge role in its development.  The natural salinity in the water of this part of Germany gives the beer its distinct dry, salty taste, and the beer was originally spontaneously fermented giving it the sour flavor.  Today these same qualities can be mimicked with sea salt and acidified malt.  As for the corriander in the beer, who knows where that came from.  I could go ahead and say that it was partially from being influenced by some Belgian beers, but I wouldn't know for sure.

This is going to be a long month before I am able to drink this beer, and even longer until hockey season starts...


And of course, I had to run out of airlocks and didn't realize it until it was too late:

Primary: The Gose is Loose, Harvest Ale, Wild Yeast Test Batch
Secondary: Wildflower Mead
Carbonating: Ginger Ale
Total for 2011: 78 Gallons