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