Wednesday, September 18, 2013


So, I took a final gravity reading on Monday evening after a trip back to Homebrew HQ to replace a broken hydrometer (they were very nice about it, since it broke through no fault of my own).  It was a steady 1.014, just like the previous two, so into the fridge in the garage the carboy went to cold crash for a day.

Most of the bottles I used are Sam Adams bottles, which still had the labels on them.  I read in a couple of places, and also had a friend suggest, that OxyClean will take the labels right off.  With a fresh container of OxyClean picked up at Kroger on the way home, I filled up my cooler with water and a couple of scoops OxyClean, and put the bottles in to soak.

After heading over to my brother's new house to help him move some furniture around, I checked on the bottles soaking in OxyClean, and found a whole mass of bottle labels floating around.  Had a quick dinner of leftover pot roast (just as good the second time around!) and then got the bottles rinsed and onto the bottom rack of the dishwasher to dry.  After getting tomorrow's dinner marinade made and the pork chops marinating, it was time to bottle!

I got my 5 gallons of sanitizer solution mixed in the bottling bucket and sanitized everything I'd be using, minus the bottles.  I put a little bit of sanitizer solution into a small bowl, and dumped my bottlecaps in there.  Once the bucket and equipment had time to soak, I transferred the solution to my brew kettle to use as a bottle sanitizing station.  While this was all going on, I had my 5oz of corn sugar boiling in 16oz of water.  Once the bottling bucket was empty of sanitizer, I hooked up the bottling wand thing to the spigot and poured the priming solution in.

The carboy had been waiting patiently on the kitchen table this whole time, warming back up after being in the cold for just over 24 hours.  I grabbed my fancy auto-siphon out and started racking the beer into the bottling bucket.  That took about 10 minutes or so.  Once that was done, I started bottling.  The bottling process itself took just over 30 minutes, probably.  After cleaning up the kitchen, I put my box of 40 full beer bottles ( I was expecting 50, guess my testing samples took more out than I thought) into a nice dark spot to carbonate and condition.  I'll check on them in a week and a half or so, see how they're doing.

I'm hoping to brew up my IPA this weekend, but it's a drill weekend, so we'll see!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Homebrew Headquarters

So, Erin and I made a trip over to Homebrew Headquarters in Richardson after we both got off work today.  I knew I needed a hydrometer so I could start taking gravity readings, and I figured I'd see what else they have that I need/can use, plus get some ideas/ingredients for my next batch.

The people at HBHQ were extremely nice and very helpful.  I got the hydrometer and wine thief right away, and we decided that we might as well get all the stuff for my next batch while we were there.  I've been going back and forth on doing a pumpkin ale and an IPA, but leaning toward IPA, because I would rather wait until I get into all grain brewing to do the pumpkin ale.  So, IPA it is.  I asked the guy what he recommended for a recipe for a good IPA.  We decided to go with a more citrusy, piney IPA, so we took the house recipe and swapped out the English hops for American hops.  Here's what we ended up with:

7lbs Light LME
1cup light brown sugar

1/2lb Light Crystal Malt 20L
1/2lb Cara-Pils Malt
2lbs 2-row Pale Malt

1oz Chinook (bittering) 60 min
1oz Centennial (flavoring) 10 min
1/2oz Centennial(finishing) 5 min
1/2oz Centennial (dry hopping)

Safale US-05 Dry Ale Yeast

We also picked up a package of patriotic American flag bottle caps (awesome idea, Erin!), some sanitizer, and cleaning solvent for all the brewing equipment.  Also, got enough corn sugar to last me about 8 batches or so.  Our shopping was rounded out by a package of whirlfloc, which will help clarify the beer.

After a stop for dinner, we got back home and unloaded the goodies.  The yeast and hops went into the fridge for storage, the grains and the extract went with my brewing kettle to be ready for brew day.  The sanitizer I used to make a couple of gallons of sanitizer solution, and put the wine thief in to soak for a few minutes.  After it was all sanitized and ready to go, I let it air dry for a bit, then headed for the pantry to pull a sample of beer out of the carboy.  Dropped the hydrometer into the sample in the thief.  Temperature-adjusted gravity reading is 1.014.  From what I can find, the expected FG for this recipe is 1.010 to 1.015, so I'm in the range. 

I'll take another sample tomorrow, then another on on Sunday after we get back from College Station.  If they're all consistent, then I'll do a 24-hour cold crash in the fridge to help clear the beer, then bottle Monday.  3 weeks of bottle conditioning, and they'll be ready to try out!  So, sports fans, plan on second week of October for my first tasting!  Well, first bottle tasting.  I couldn't let today's test sample go to waste, had to try it out, of course.  It tasted like flat beer, which I guess is good, since that's pretty much what it is at this point!

Gig 'Em and BTHO Alabama!!!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The old keg cap switcheroo...

I was browsing this thread over at HBT today, and some of the stories remind me of a party we had my junior (I think?) year at A&M.  I shared it there, and thought I'd share it with whoever actually reads this!

So, we're doing our normal Saturday night keg party at the duplex I lived in off campus. We had a kegerator, but for these parties, we would just have the kegs in a trashcan on the front porch to keep people out of the house as much as possible. Anyway, we had a keg of Keystone Light, with another sitting in the kegerator as a reserve. This one obnoxious guy kept complaining that we had the audacity to have Keystone Light for a party, and that we should have gotten "a real beer, like Coors Light!" As the keg gets close to being floated, we start taking up a collection for a second keg. Mr. Obnoxious donates, chiming in with something along the lines of "I'm gonna chip in, but you better not bring back any more crap beer." Having bought many kegs over the course of the semester, we have quite a collection of old plastic keg caps in a jar in the kitchen. So, we grab the extra keg of Keystone Light and slap on a Coors Light cap. As we bring it out, we make a big show out of taking the cap off, making sure Mr. Coors Light sees it. And he does, and he says stuff like "damn right! About time we got some real beer up in here." After the keg is tapped, he's first in line to fill his cup. After taking a big chug, he proclaims "hell yeah, now that's what I'm talking about. Finally some damn good beer!! You heathens don't deserve to be drinking this!"

We all about died laughing. He never did figure out why, either.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Home brewery name

Like any good home brewer, I have to come up with a name for my new endeavour, even if I never enter a single competition.  I had a ton of good ideas in my head, but apparently I'm not very creative or original, as every idea I had already existed in one form or another.

There's already a Minuteman Brewing Company.  I thought about Arrowhead Brewing, after the 36th Infantry Division patch I wear.  Nope, that's taken too.  Same for Doughboy Brewing.  I switched my thinking from wider military themed to more specific field artillery themed.  Reg Leg Brewery is taken, which is too bad, because it's a pretty awesome name.  My neighbors recently moved to Colorado Springs, where Red Leg is located, and he's promised to send me some beer!

After giving up on the military themes, I just decided to go simple.  I love my home state of Texas, so I've gone with Texas Ale Company for now, as you can probably see from the URL of this here blog.  I'll starting playing around with a logo this week, see what I can come up with.


The home brew experiment begins.

So, this is my first ever attempt at blogging so we'll see how it goes...

Home brewing is a hobby I've always wanted to get into, but never got around to it.  Mostly because I'm far too lazy and impatient to actually try to brew beer, then wait the 6 weeks plus for the beer to be ready to drink.  Who wants to do that when the beer store is just a few blocks away?  As it turns out, there are a whole lot of people who do.  Check out the bottom of this entry for links to some great sites for homebrew newbies like me.

Anyway, to get on with the birthday was fast approaching, and my wife and parents were both asking me what I wanted, and that I needed to update my giftlist, since it hadn't been updated since Christmas ( is awesome, btw).  Not having any ideas what to add, I did some Google searching for MANLY gift ideas, and one of them was a basic homebrew kit called Mr. Beer.  I figured, why not.  Not wanting to just grab the first kit I found online, I did some research and read some reviews and found the Northern Brewer Deluxe Brewing Starter Kit.  It had some great reviews, and looked to have pretty much everything I'd need to get started, including a recipe kit for my first beer.  It has 3 options to pick from (an American Wheat, a Session Beer, and an Irish Red Ale), but I didn't specify when I added it to my giftlist, preferring to be surprised.

Fast Forward a few weeks later to a few days before my birthday, and the doorbell rings.  After calming Enzo (our 4 year old English Springer Spaniel) down, I open the door to see the UPS man has left behind a large box with pictures of beer and brewing equipment on it (thanks, Mom and Dad!!).  I, of course, am very excited, but it's still a few days before my birthday, so I decide that I should be patient, and wait to open it until my actual birthday arrives (yes, I was acting like a little kid instead of a soon-to-be 37-year-old man, but I don't care).

 After heading to College Station for the weekend to see the Ags BTHO Rice, and see Johnny be Johnny, I decided that a Sunday morning/afternoon was the perfect time to brew up my first batch of beer.  I opened up my kit and did an inventory.  Everything was there, so no worries there.  I found the recipe kit and read over the instructions and ingredients list.  Nothing seemed too daunting, but I did have one small problem...we didn't have a stock pot nearly big enough for my new hobby.  Our largest pot is 2 gallons.  As you can tell from the instructions, I'll be starting off by boiling 2.5 gallons.  I'm going to need a bigger pot.  So, it was off to Wal-Mart.  Believe it or not, Wal-mart didn't have anything larger than about 4 gallons.  I wanted something 5+, so I'd have plenty of room to expand and avoid boilover.  Off to Target we went.  Target had a much better selection, and after some impromptu Googling of the difference in hombrewing in aluminum and stainless steel, I went with an 8-gallon aluminum steamer pot.  I also picked up a small notebook to take notes on the process, so I can find what works and what doesn't for future batches.

Back home, I popped in my DVD that came with the beer brewing kit and watched the video on brewing beer, along with the one on sanitizing my fermentation equipment.  Confident that I now possessed the knowledge necessary to be successful in my first batch, I headed to the kitchen to get started.

Following the recipe kit instructions, I poured 2.5 gallons of water into my pot, and dumped the grains into a muslin bag to steep in the water.  With the thermometer that came with the kit in the pot, I steeped the grains for 20 minutes (it was right at 170 degrees at that point), then removed the grains and threw them away.  I then waited for the water to begin to boil so I could add the malt extract syrup.  And waited....and waited...and waited some more.  Tip to others considering this....heating that much water in a pot that big on an electric stove top isn't all that easy.  A turkey fryer burner (or other outdoor propane burner) would have come in very handy.  It will also allow you to do your brewing outside, and not prompt your wife to declare that you have overpowered the Scentsy and made the whole house smell like beer!

Anyway, back to brewing.  After finally getting the water boiling, I turned off the heat and added the softened-in-hot-water-in-the-sink malt to the water and stirred, thereby creating wort!  After another long wait for the wort to come to a boil, I added the first batch of hops.  30 minutes later, the second batch of hops went into the wort.  Another 30 minutes later, and it was done.  Now to cool the wort down to 100 degrees or so, so it could safely be poured into the carboy (glass or plastic 6.5 gallon water bottle, basically.  I have plastic ones).  The instructions, and most forums, will tell you to cool using an ice water bath in the sink.  Ok, sounds like a plan.  Oh, wait, my ginormous pot won't fit in the sink.  And, we have dinner reservations in a half hour.  Ok, I put the lid on and put the pot in our beer fridge in the garage, after clearing out some room.  Several forums said this shouldn't be a problem.  Next time, I'll have a better plan for cooling the wort (more on temperature control a little later).

After dinner at Pappas Brothers Steakhouse (yum!) for my birthday, it's back home and time to get the fermentation started.  While we were gone, everything required for fermentation was sitting in a sanitizer solution (the sanitizer came with the kit) in the 5-gallon bottling bucket (not used yet, but perfect for this purpose).  I siphoned the solution in to the 6.5 gallon primary fermentation carboy and let it soak for a few minutes.  After draining the carboy, and with the help of my loving wife, poured the now-cooled wort in to the fermentor.  Again following the instructions, I aerated the wort in the fermentor to get it ready for the addition of the yeast.  I pitched the yeast into the fermentor (brewing term for adding) and sealed it up with the airlock.  Moved it into the pantry to sit and ferment.

Now, the optimal temperature for fermentation of ales is between 60 and 70 degrees.  This being Texas, there's no way I'm getting anywhere in the house that cool without paying an outrageous electric bill.  The instructions said 78 degrees or lower, so I figured I was fine without any extra cooling.  Looking back, and for next time, I would have used a swamp cooler or similar setup.  From my research, I should be fine with this batch, it just may have some off flavors.  We'll see in a few weeks.

So, it has now been 8 days since fermentation began.  When I got home from work on Monday afternoon and checked on it, it was fermenting like crazy.  Lots of activity, with a good inch and a half to two inches of krausen (foam cased by the fermentation process) on top of the beer, and a bubble every few seconds from the airlock.  Looking good so far!  I've been pretty good about being patient since then, only looking in a couple of times a day.  Of course, my wife did notice that the pantry smelled like beer right away.  I'll be doing the fermenting somewhere else next time!  I'm working on a plan to get the fermenation temperate down, anyway, so it would have to move somewhere that I have more room.  After 3 or 4 days, fermentation slowed down considerably, and now there's pretty much no activity at all.  I have yet to purchase a hydrometer to check the specific gravity of the beer, so I don't know if it has stabilized yet.  I plan on making a trip to Homebrew Headquarters in Richardson this week, and that's on my shopping list.  I'll probably give it another week, and bottle next weekend.  Then I can start planning my second batch, learning from my mistakes as I go, all the while creating beer!  How awesome is that?

I'll try to keep this updated with my experiences as I continue along this great journey of beer making.  Of course, I have to thank my wife, Erin, for being such a good sport and supporting my new hobby as much as she has, even though I've made two parts of the house smell like beer now.  She's not much of a beer drinker, so hopefully I'll be able to make something that she likes!

Some links that I've found handy in this process: