Posted on 11:16 AM, under

As an experiment to find the purpose of Twitter I decided I was going to "Tweet" all week and come the weekend decide if this was something goofy or if it was something I just didn't understand. I have already found one use for it. I follow James at Basic Brewing on twitter and yesterday I got a message on my cell phone saying "Interviewing Chris Colby in an hour and a half on growing hops in planters. Send me your questions!" So I was able to rattle off several questions directly to him. Then on the way home last night after a late meeting I was standing outside putting gas in my truck in the 17 degree weather with the wind blowing and I get this text message: "CharliePapazian: Is it time for a beer yet?"

...Charlie felt my pain... he knew what I was thinking. ...yes Charlie, it WAS time for a beer.

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Hop growing attempt #2

Posted on 2:12 PM, under ,

Well, if you look back to one of my previous posts about growing hops you'll see that in 2007 I tried to grow four plants. I didn't post about it but they failed... miserably. I decided that was from poor soil conditions as well as the fact that they just didn't get enough sun light in my back yard. I've attempted to grow a few different veggies and other plants in my yard over the years and we are just too shaded to be able to grow much at all. However, last year I did find an area over on the North side of my house that seems to get plenty of sun. I built a raised bed, filled it with compost and grew huge tomato plants as well as a huge crop of catnip. So, I've decided to try growing some hops over there as well this year. Since I don't want to give my raised bed away to only growing hops I'm going to try to either grow them in some small to medium sized containers or build a small raised bed behind my current one. It'll have to be pretty small, maybe 2ft x 2ft because there are some rather large holly bushes back there that are kind of awkward to work around. They probably need cutting back (or down) as well, so maybe that will give me a couple more inches to work around. Last year I planted the catnip and tomatoes as I said earlier. The catnip was perfect but the tomatoes grew HUGE, almost as tall as I am and they were equally that wide as well. But, they only produced about 10 or 15 tomatoes. And I think I know why, as I learned a little bit about soil in last weeks Master Gardeners class. Certain soils will encourage either vegetative or reproductive growth. Meaning my soils encouraged vegetative growth since the plant itself was huge but didn't produce much in the form of the reproductive portion of the plant, the tomato fruits. The catnip on the other hand was great because I wanted the leaf part of the plant, or the vegetative portion, not the flower or reproductive portion. That is something I will have to watch on the hops since I really want the flower portion and not the leaves. I may end up with a hop vine (or bine) that is 20ft tall and has 1/2 oz of hops on it. I'd rather have a 6ft tall plant that has 2+oz of hops on it. This will take a little more research, luckily I have about a month before hop rhizomes go on sale so I should be good.

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Back to brewing

Posted on 12:29 PM, under

Woo hoo, I managed to avoid blogging for the entire 2008 year! Well, that wasn't really on purpose to be honest. 2008 was a dry year for me in the brewing world. I think I may have actually only done four or five batches all year. I'm off to a little bit better start this year since I've started doing small batch beers. I did a one gallon English IPA back around Jan 2nd that I just bottled it up this past weekend. I'm probably going to do a few more of these since they're easier and quicker to do. Plus, I can do them inside where its nice and warm. I plan to pick up a small two gallon cooler and convert it into a small mash tun so I don't have to buy expensive malt extract all the time. Plus, if you buy 55lbs of base malt you can do A LOT of one gallon batches. Yeast is going to be the most difficult thing for me to figure out. Knowing exactly how much yeast to pitch will be tricky. I'm thinking that this is where using my slants will come in handy. For a one gallon batch I can grow my slants up to about the 50ml size and be good. Instead of trying to grow them up to a full 1000ml volume. Dunno, time will tell.

I will also be doing as many full batches as time allows me to do so. I have the ingredients for my house APA as well as Norther Brewer's Cream Ale. I've had those for a good while so I need to get them going as soon as I can. Yeast, again, is a problem. I don't have any on hand right now and since the LHBS has closed down I can't make a quick run to pick some up. I may have to just grow up a 1000ml starter and cut a little off of it for small batches as well.

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I've got planned for this sunday to do Charlie Papazian's Silver Dollar Porter from his Complete Joy of Homebrewing book. It'll be interesting to do since I've actually got the exact yeast strain he used to develop the recipe with (the Cry Havoc yeast from White Labs.) So my only diversion from his recipe will be that I'm using Maris Otter malt instead of domestic 2-row. Should be good anyway I think.

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Beer cellar

Posted on 9:33 PM, under

The beer cellar is coming along good. The plan is to start buying two or more of the same beers so I can taste one now and age the other to see the difference. Some beers seem to age better than others. It'll be interesting to see which ones favor age and which ones seem to taste better fresh.

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AHA Rally at Yazoo

Posted on 11:22 AM, under

Yesterday the AHA had a membership rally at the Yazoo brewery in Nashville. The event started at 2pm and we arrived soon after. We were greeted at the door by fellow MSBC member and current president Mike Semich. After a couple of the guys I rode with got signed up to join the AHA we entered into the brewery stopping off at a temporary tasting area they had setup outside with a three tap jockey box. In this jockey box they had three different IPAs on tap labeled as #1, #2 and #3. Well since there were three of us and three different beers to try we decided no matter how goofy it would look we would each get a different beer and taste it and then swap. After trying all three I came to the conclusion that Yazoo was incapable of making a bad IPA. I'm not a hop head at all and have only found a few that I can say I really like so it was a treat to taste three from one place that were excellent. After walking into the brewery we caught up to a tour that was in mid session being led by Yazoo founder and brewmaster Linus Hall. As we began listening in on what was left of the tour the rest of the crowd moved out from behind the tall conical fermenters and I looked for fellow members of the MSBC that may have gotten threr earlier. I did see one more member. Jason F. but right in front of him was a bit of a shock... it was Charlie P, the Brew Father. After mingling about for a while we asked Charlie if we could have a picture taken with him. Of course obliged (more than once actually since we had some camera issues). It was a great time. It was the first AHA event I'd ever been to, but hopefully not the last.


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Back in Business

Posted on 11:09 AM, under

Well, I think I've figured out my summer heat chilling issues. After some discussion on our homebrew club forum I decided to give a sump pump a try in chilling. My process was as follows:

I killed the heat, draped a Star San soaked kitchen towel over my boil kettle and started running tap water thru my immersion chiller. When I hit the 100 degree mark I started running water thru the sump pump which was setting in my Gott style cooler filled with ice. The water ran thru the chiller back into the cooler w/ the pump. I only used 2 bags of ice.

Raw data:

0 mins: 212f
5 mins: 150f
10 mins: 110f
15 mins: 100f
20 mins: 77f
25 mins: 65f

I don't think I've EVER gotten below 75f even when my tap water is cool. (currently my tap water is right at 80f) My sump pump is a 1/4 HP ~2800GPH pump with a 1 1/4" valve. I reduced that down with a 1 1/4" x 1/2" fitting then with a 1/2" MIP x 3/8" Barb fitting and attached some 3/8" hose to a female garden hose connector which attaches directly to my IC. I had originally decided to stop brewing during the hot/humid months but I think since this works I'm back to brewing anytime I can.

I'm going to give it another try this weekend and redo the infected beer I did in July.

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I've had a run of bad luck with my beers lately. The Brown Ale I did a while back seems to be infected and the Ordinary Bitter I did last weekend is really infected. I mentioned this to Rich, a fellow homebrewer, and he pointed out that this was one of the reasons the Germans started lagering their beers during the summer. They found it hard to actually brew anything during the warmer months. Of course now we know that it is because of the higher amount of infectous bacteria in the air during the warmer seasons. I've come to the conslusion that I will either have to stop brewing during summer (nooooo!) or find better ways of keeping my un-inoculated wort away from the beasties that would love to ruin it. This last beer that I did I had a big issue with wort chilling. I chilled it down to 100f with my immersion chiller but after that it wouldn't drop. After I waited about 45mins for it to drop I decided to just cap it off and stick it in my fermentation box and let it cool. I came back down after about 3 hours and it was still at 80f. So, I pitched my yeast and closed it up. The yeast was a little suspicious as well. Usually when I just pitch a vial (OG=<1.040) I will just put the vial in my pocket and vent the CO2 every hour or so while I'm brewing. This vial never built up any pressure. I think the vial must have been exposed to some high temps while in shipment to my LHBS since it's "use by"date was Aug '07.

A couple of pics of my lost beer:

My plan is to attempt another English beer this weekend, probably a Dark Mild or an ESB. That is if I get my chilling techniques down. I want to use a sump pump in a bucket or cooler of ice water to push water thru my immersion chiller and adding a ball-valve with a "hop stopper" like item on the inside to filter out the hops (I'm using leaf hops).

We'll see how this beer comes out. If it gets infected I may just have to stop brewing during the summer, or switch to extract brewing and return to the kitchen for a few months.

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