Thursday, February 27, 2014

Going to All Grain with a new Brew Kettle

Last weekend I brewed for the second straight weekend, with the help of a hockey buddy who wants to get into homebrewing, Josh.  We did a Magic Hat #9 clone from Austin Homebrew Supply.  To make room in my primary fermenter, I racked the Imperial IPA over to a secondary.  It was at about 1.032, so it still has some work to do, so I made sure to take some of the yeast cake with it.  Probably not the best idea in the world, but it took all of a few hours to be back at it with a nice thick krausen, so all is good.  We ended up not getting nearly as much boil off as I expected, so almost 6 gallons of Magic Hat went into the fermenter.  I still hit my OG, though, so it should be fine, just more of it!  We'll see after it's bottled and conditioned when we do a blind, side-by-side taste test!  I have them both fermenting happily away upstairs in the guest bathroom in swamp coolers.  With the cooler weather the last few days, I haven't even needed to add frozen water bottles to keep them both around 64-66 degrees!

The next day I was musing about moving on to all grain using the Brew in a Bag method, but knowing I probably need a bigger kettle than my current 8 gallon one.  My totally awesome wife started browsing through stock pots on Amazon and gave me a few ideas.  I eventually settled on a 16 gallon Bayou Classic stainless steel kettle with ball valve spigot, and she ordered it!  This is going to be awesome!  I have a couple of 5 gallon paint strainer bags from Lowe's that I was going to use as brew bags, but now I'm afraid they might not be big enough for the 16 gallon monster that's supposed to arrive on our doorstep today.  I'm going to Homebrew HQ after work today to get a new hydrometer (the old one got accidentally dropped, and they're extremely fragile) and a few other things, so I might see what they have there.  There's also a guy who makes custom BIAB bags and charges pretty reasonable amounts.  We'll see on that.

Another thing I want to get into is making yeast starters.  It seems easy enough, and I won't have to buy two vials of yeast for the high gravity beers like I did with the Smoked Porter and Imperial IPA.  I've been working on some all grain recipes recently.  I've got ideas for an ESB, a Kolsch, and a Belgian Trippel.  I'll probably start with the Kolsch, since it will be the simplest and cheapest.

Speaking of beers, I've been trying to come up with catchy names for all my beers.  Originally, I was thinking of using artillery terms and slang for all the beers I make, since I'm an FA officer in the Guard.  That led to Charge 8 Imperial IPA and Willy Pete American Wheat.  Lately, though, I was thinking maybe I should stick to the theme of the brewery name, and go with Texas-based names.  I had the idea of using figures from the Texas Revolution and have beers like Jim Bowie Blonde and Juan Seguin Stout.  I expanded to Texan military heroes from all eras and wars, to be able to do something like a Chris Kyle Kolsch or an Audie Murphy IPA.  If anyone actually reads this blog, I'd love some input!  Naming beers is half the fun of brewing them (the other half being the drinking part, of course....ok, maybe its more 20/80 naming/drinking, but you get the point!)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Next Beers, Jester King, and Beer Labels

It was a good Super Bowl weekend in Austin.  Dad's birthday was Super Bowl Sunday, so we went out to eat with Mom and Dad Saturday night.  Since Austin Homebrew Supply was on the way to their house, we made a stop there.  We also went out to the Jester King Brewery for a couple of hours first, since it's not far from their house, either.

At AHS, we picked up some supplies for my next two batches.  After asking for the wisdom of my Facebook friends in helping me come up with the next beer to be brewed, I settled on an Imperial IPA (also known as a Double IPA).  I did some googling on IIPA recipes, and found this article by Vinnie Cilurzo on brewing Double IPAs.  Vinnie is the owner of the Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, CA, the makers of the Pliny the Elder Double IPA, which has the top ranking on Beer Advocate.  So, a good guy to get beer brewing advice from.  In that article is his all-grain recipe for a 5-gallon batch of Pliny the Elder.  I decided that I'd start with that recipe and tweak it some, to reflect my own hop preferences.  First, I had to convert it to extract, since I haven't gone to all-grain yet.  With the help of Beersmith 2, I came up with this:

Grain Bill
11lbs Extra Pale LME
10oz Crystal Malt 20L
10oz Carapils Malt
3/4lb corn sugar

Hop Schedule
4oz Chinook - 90min
.75oz Chinook - 45min
1.25oz Simcoe - 30min
.75oz Centennial - 0min
2.5oz Simcoe - 0min
1oz Chinook, 1oz Simcoe, 1oz Centennial dry hopped for 12-14 days
.25oz Chinook, .25oz Simcoe, .25oz Centennial dry hopped for the last 5 days

While Labs WLP001 California Ale Yeast

Basically, I substituted Chinook for Columbus and messed with the amounts to come out with even numbers, so I wouldn't be short or over by getting 1oz bags of hops at AHS.  I'll be sure to report back once it's ready to drink in a couple of months.

We also got AHS's Magic Hat #9 clone kit, since that's my wife's favorite beer.  Hopefully it turns out good!

After the homebrew store, we met my parents at their house and headed out to the Jester King Brewery.  It was not at all what I expected.  I've been to several small breweries for tours, and I was expecting more of what I had seen at those.  50 people at most, more there for the free (or cheap) beer at the end of the tour than the tour itself.  At Jester King, there were a few hundred people out there.  It must be the "in" place to go for Austin-area hipsters, because I was surrounded by them!  For as many people there were, though, the people pouring did a great job cycling everyone through the tap room.  We were in line for maybe 15 minutes before we walked away with 10 different beers between the four of us.  You can get anything from a 4oz sample all the way to a 175ml bottle.  They also had an outdoor pouring station with a smaller selection of their beers.  The outside area has a bunch of picnic tables, and it was a beautiful day, so we found an empty one and started testing out beers.

Now, not only is it not your normal brewery as far as tours go.  They are a farmhouse brewery, and their beers are not your normal everyday beers, even for craft beer lovers.  They ferment with farmhouse and wild yeast strains, as well as souring bacteria in many of their beers.  They also use local well water and all organic grains and hops.  The result is a wide spectrum of flavors, many not found in more "traditional" beers.  Some of their beers can be quite sour.  You really need to go in with an open mind!  I liked pretty much everything I tasted.  The Noble King, Black Metal, and RU55 were my favorites. My parents and wife all liked Mad Meg.  They also sell bottles to go, so if you find something you like, you can pick up some to take home!

Once we got back to my in-laws' house Saturday evening, I started playing around with beer labels on  Erin had seen a display setup for them at AHS, and grabbed a card that had a code for a 10% discount.  They produce custom, reusable beer bottle labels.  You can pick from any of their pre-made labels, or design your own.  I used one of their pre-made labels where you can upload your own background and came up with this for my IIPA:

Charge Eight refers to the max charge on a M119A2 howitzer.  I thought it was a fitting name for an in-your-face Imperial IPA.
Hope everyone had a wonderful Super Bowl weekend.  Is baseball season here yet?