Powered by Blogger

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Pre-Aged Pils

A couple of years ago when a friend of mine was getting out of homebrewing (WTF?!?), he gave me a Pilsner kit along with some other equipment. I've been using most of the equipment, but the kit has been collecting dust in my cellar. I'd been all grain for a while when I got it, and going back to almost all extract wasn't that appealing. However, my keg ran out the other day, and I've been brewing so much lately that a quick extract brew now seems attractive.

I was a little concerned about the age of the kit, but since the malt extracts shouldn't age too poorly I decided to go for it. As near as I can tell the kit was packaged in August of 2000, so 6 years ago. My main concerns are the hops and yeast. ProMash tells me that the hops should be almost depleted of acids, so I added an ounce or so of some other old hops I'd been storing for a year or two. It still didn't calculate out to much over 18 IBU, but it is a Pils.

The brew went pretty smoothly, and it was nice to finish it in 3 hours rather than 6 as for all grain. The recipe directions called for mashing the few ounces of Carapils while heating the 2 gallons of boil water and taking them out around 160. Then boiling the extracts and the bittering hops (Perle) for an hour, with a late hop addition (Saaz) with 5 minutes left. I added an ounce of half German half American Hallertau whole hops 20 minutes into the boil.

After the hour of boiling I had about a single gallon of wort left, so I chilled it and added it to my primary glass fermenter along with 4 gallons of top up water. It still looked pretty dark, which is the main reason I got away from extracts in the first place. I plan to leave it in primary for a week and then keg it. At least if the 6 year old yeast still works, which is a big IF.

I normally use bottled artesian water which runs me $7 or so per batch, but for this one I just used filtered water from my fridge. Since I was given the kit and used essentially tap water this batch isn't going to cost me anything, unless I need new yeast. I'll post updates as it goes.

I also tried to keg off my contribution to the World Brewer's Forum, a California Common that I am calling Common Criminal in keeping with the Dirty Dozen theme. I knew that I had a little extra, so I set aside 12 brown competition bottles. While I was filling them though the siphon tubing popped loose of the bottling wand and my beer started pouring out on the floor! I quickly got it rerouted into the keg, but lost about 1/3 of a gallon. It made my keg a tad light, and I couldn't add the bottles since I had already added corn sugar to them before filling. I think the keg ended up about 95% full, so I'm not going to cry over spilt beer.

I also ran into some trouble trying to cap my competition bottles. I was using Amstel Light bottles, and for some reason 4 of the 6 refused to let themselves be capped. I ran through about 20 caps before I gave up. It would look as if everything were perfect, but I could pop the cap with my fingers. Not sure how I got 2 of them capped, but the other 4 ended up in my belly. A little sweet from the corn sugar, but good taste anyway. Can't wait to see how this one turns out at the WBF.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Great Beer: Young's Double Chocolate Stout

I am drinking a wonderful beer tonight - Young's Luxury Double Chocolate Stout. The double refers to Chocolate Malt and dark chocolate. Both work together to give this beer a creamy chocolate taste that is pronounced yet not too sweet.

This brew comes in at 5.2% alcohol by volume, and I have found it in 12 or 16 oz cans and 16.9 oz bottles. Young's is brewed by the Young & Co's Brewery PLC, The Ram Brewery in Wandsworth London.

I recently attempted a clone of this beer using Ghiardelli Premium Unsweetened Baking Cocoa, but it doesn't even come close to the chocolate aroma and taste present in this outstanding beer. I did like mine enough to enter it in the 2006 Colorado State Fair Homebrew competition, so we will see what the judges think tomorrow.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The GABF Pro-Am

This year's GABF marks the first of what will hopefully be many Pro-Am competitions. Commercial craft breweries from around the nation have paired with award winning homebrewers to scale their recipes up to commercial quantities. These entries will be available for tasting at the GABF, and there is a special best of show style judging that will take place on Saturday afternoon. The competition is intended to increase the bond between craft brewers and homebrewers.

The craft breweries were allowed to select a best of show recipe from an AHA sanctioned homebrew contest held between January 2005 and June 2006. According to the latest issue of Zymurgy magazine there are around 30 entries. One of them is mine.

I entered two of my favorite brews in a contest at an AHA membership rally at Odell Brewing in Ft. Collins Colorado. Both placed in the top eight, and my Whale Tail Pale Ale took best of show. This was amazing to me as this was my first competition. Another member of my homebrew club, Rick Bobbitt, took third place with his Black Hole Porter.

I'll be writing about my experience brewing my recipe on the Odell 5 barrel system in the next few days. Needless to say it was a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to the GABF for a whole new reason this year.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The World Brewers' Forum

The best GABF Thursday night party is without a doubt the World Brewer's Forum. The Keg Ran Out Club homebrew club has put on this event for the past 11 years, and this year makes a dirty dozen.

This year the WBF theme is "The Dirty Dozen: A Dozen Years of Brewing Excellence". The KROC members will be brewing 12 different styles of beer to serve at the event. My own contribution will be a California Common, which is sitting in secondary right now. New Belgium Brewing has also generously donated a keg of one of their sour beers.

The WBF will be held Thursday, September 28th from 8pm to midnight at the Hyatt Regency in Denver. There will be a silent auction and raffle, with proceeds going to benefit Barry Anderson, a club member who was seriously injured in a skiing accident in March. There will be tons of brewery schwag like T-shirts and hats plus gift certificates, homebrew equipment and other nice prizes and auction items. Barry's favorite recipe, a Toasted Coconut Porter, will also be served at the event.

The WBF will also feature two distinguished speakers: John Palmer, author of "How To Brew", and Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head Brewey. Both of these guys are great speakers and are not to be missed.

Admission is FREE, but please RSVP to wbf@kroc.org. More information is also available on the club's website.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Great American Beer Fest

This year is the 25th annual Great American Beer Festival, which is held in Denver Colorado at the end of September. The GABF is America's number one beer event, with over 1600 beers from 380 American breweries. All of these beers are available to be sampled over the three day event, and if you can get them all you are a much better drinker than I am.

The GABF runs Thursday September 28th, Friday the 29th and Saturday the 30th. Thursday and Friday the GABF runs from 5:30pm to 10pm, and there are two sessions on Saturday. The early session is the "connoisseur" tasting and awards ceremony and runs from 12:30pm to 4:30pm. The Saturday evening session is the "drunk fest" and runs from 5:30pm to 10pm.

Over the past few years I have been to the Thursday and Friday sessions, but this year will be my first Saturday. Thursday is sedate and fairly quiet, but Friday is a bit more lively. From what I have heard Saturday night is completely out of control. I'll be going to the afternoon session for the ProAm awards and volunteering Friday night. Thursday night my homebrew club will be hosting the World Brewers' Forum, which I'll discuss tomorrow.

Hope to see you at the GABF!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Kegging Your Homebrew

I've recently started kegging my homebrew beer, and I have been very pleased with the results. I used to spend a lot of time bottling my beer, and I always hated the yeast sediment and how much of a hassle it was to take my beer anywhere.

The keg has solved those problems. Now I can pump finished, carbonated beer straight to a growler or a soda bottle and it stays good for a day or so. I can also use a counterflow bottle filler and bottle carbonated beer that will stay fresh for long periods of time. I have not tried the filler yet, but I am eager to try it out and post about my results. I've heard they can be difficult.

As you can see from the picture above the setup is not very complicated at all. The five pieces are the used Pepsi keg (not Coke, those use a different style of connectors) with the gaskets replaced, the CO2 bottle, a dual gauge regulator, the gas side line, and the beer side line and tap. I bought everything but the keg online at morebeer.com. You can pick up used kegs and gaskets at your local homebrew store, or sometimes online via craigslist or eBay.

It took me a little while to get the carbonation level dialed in correctly, but since then I've been told the secret. Chill the beer to 40, crank up the CO2 pressure to 40psi, then leave it for 48 hours. Then release the pressure through the vent in the keg lid and lower the regulator pressure setting to around 9psi for serving. This is a lot faster than bottle conditioning and the beer is more consistently carbonated as well. Win freakin' win baby.

By the way, when I first tried to use the regulator I had some trouble finding out how it worked. A quick google turned up that the screw set into the center of the regulator is used to raise or lower the pressure. There is a nut that you use to mark your position for the next time as well.

All you ever wanted to know about beer, and then some

I plan to use this space for a brain dump for everything I know about beer. Beer is one of my favorite subjects and I hope to be able to share that love with the world.

I'll be covering homebrewing, the local Colorado beer scene and beer in general. I'd also like to answer any questions that get posted.

I'm enjoying a 36 oz. mug of fresh homebrew as I write this. It is the first batch I have kegged and it has turned out very well. It goes much faster from the keg though, so I should probably start planning my next batch. I'll keep you posted.