The Pipeline

The Pipeline

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ordinary Greatness

It's always nice to keep a beer on tap that you can drink more than a few pints of and still remember to feed the dogs. English bitters are a great beer for that. For a long time I would never order an ordinary bitter or extra special bitter off of a beer menu because I always thought they were going to be, well...bitter. In fact they are usually much less bitter than a standard American pale ale having an average IBU of 25-35.

Since trying a few I thought it was time to throw one on tap. My plan was to shoot for a beer on the high end of the ordinary bitter style range but after hitting some really good efficiency on my new system I ended up with a wort more resembling a premium bitter, clocking in at 1.045.

Gregg and I made 10 gallons of this beer using imported ingredients that will resemble a beer that would get served to you in England. Although these are typically served from a cask, which I don't currently have, I plan to keep the carbonation low at around 1-1.5 volumes.

Brew day went well and we ended up with exactly 10 gallons of wort. To make things more interesting Gregg decided to pitch WLP 001 and I pitched S-04 English Ale yeast so that we could taste how each yeast effected the flavor of the final product.

Fermentation started within a few hours and was churning strongly by morning sitting right at 68*, ambient temps of 65*. One day into fermenting I slowly lowered the temps down to 65* to keep esters at a minimum. It was done within 3 days and had already flocullated and dropped out, S-04 is a workhorse!

Brewed 3/5/11

3/13/11 - FG 1.010 Tasted some diacetyl but it was very clear.

3/22/11 - Diacetyl was gone, Kegged.

Ordinary Greatness

13.3 LBS Maris Otter
8 oz Crystal 120L
4 oz Special B
1.5 oz Fuggles 60 min
.7 oz Fuggles 30 min
.6 oz East Kent Goldings 30 min
.4 oz East Kent Goldings 10 min
Irish moss 10 min
Yeast nutrient 10 min

Thursday, March 3, 2011


My obsession to find a good deal on brewing equipment on craigslist lead me on a two hour drive, in a blizzard, driving a rear wheel drive box truck with bald tires to pick up a boat load of goodies for a steal. I was able to grab 3 SS 10 gal. pots with ball valves and thermometers, 4 propane burners, a 3 tier gravity brew stand, kegerater, some carboys, corney keg, 2 CO2 tanks and regulator, 2 propane tanks, wort chiller, as well as a bunch of other misc. stuff. Luckily for me this guy used the system once then decided (or someone decided for him) to quit drinking. Quitter.

So anyways, I was very excited to give my newly acquired system a test drive, and my buddy Gregg got to brew his first all-grain batch with my old pots. I had just tasted a very good rye IPA and wanted to take a shot at my own.

The brew day got off to a rough start with one of my new pots having a leak and Gregg missing his mash-in temps...3 times! Its OK Gregg your Mom still loves you. Once we got rolling though everything went smooth. We smoked a good cigar and drank some good home brews. I had just kegged my French Saison which turned out really well, so we got to sample that for the first time. That might end up being one of my standard house beers.

Rye IPA: Brewed 3/3/11

10.5 #s 2 row
1 # rye
1 # wheat
.5 # crystal 60L

1 oz centennial first wort hops
.5 oz simcoe 10 min.
1 oz citra 2 min.
.5 oz simcoe flame out
.5 oz each simco, centennial, citra dry hops

irish moss, yeast nutrient 10 min

wlp001 1500 ml starter on stir plate 2 days before

3/30/11 If you like a face full of hops, this beer is for you! Real good, hoppy but not real bitter. Could prob use a bump up in the early hop additions to balance it out just a bit.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Simple-Hard Apple Cider

Although beer is my love, I also enjoy wine, a mixed drink and some good old fashioned hard cider. I have made apple wines, and dry ciders but what I really like is a semi sweet cider. From what I have read Woodchuck's Cider in the bottle has a gravity of about 1.028. That is really sweet! My dry ciders that are fermented with wine or champagne yeast finish around 1.000, maybe a little higher.

So with Winter hopefully winding down soon I wanted to make a semi sweet cider that would be ready to be put on tap in about 6 weeks. Like anything else, ciders are as easy or as hard as you want to make them. I have tried my fare share and have tasted great examples of both. For this recipe I went very simple. Apple juice, champagne yeast, apple juice concentrate, and potassium sorbate. Thats it! Believe it or not, it tastes extremely similar to Woodchuck.

Step one: Buy 100% apple juice or apple cider that has no preservitives in it. (I usually make 3-5 gallons)

Step two: Sanitize a carboy and funnel. (You don't really have to have much head space because you don't get a krausen.)

Step three: Pour half of each jug of juice into the carboy and recap them so that you can shake the rest to aeriate. Shake the carboy to aeriate the other half. Pour the rest in from the jugs.

Step four: Pitch some Champagne yeast or wine yeast.

Step five: Wait a month. (Ya I know it sucks)

Step six: Add potassium sorbate to kill off the yeast. How much to add depends on how much you are making. If you want it dry, you don't need to add this, just bottle or keg as is.

Step seven: Backsweeten with cans of apple juice concentrate. This gives you the flexability of getting it to the sweetness you enjoy. I will probably bring this one back to about 1.018.

Step eight: Keg and enjoy.

Side note: Once you add the potassium sorbate and kill off the yeast you will not be able to carbonate this in a bottle. This may be obvious but I figured I would throw it in anyways.

If you want it to be sweet and bottle it AND have it carbonated you will just have to sweeten each glass you pour, seven up works great.

If I only knew how easy this is to make while I was in high school.....

Simple Hard Apple Cider

Made 3 gallons 2/11/11

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why do you homebrew?

I asked this question last month because I think a lot of us brew for lots of different reasons, and for multiple reasons. Having studied biology and a lot of that being micro biology I really enjoy the process of cultivating yeast as well as providing them with the best habitat, or living environment for them to be successful and do exactly what I want them to do...make good beer. We as brewers don't make beer, we make wort, and the yeast do all of the hard work to make it all come together for us. Without yeast, beer is not possible.

I also enjoy sitting in the garage, smoking a cigar and hanging out with friends while we drink beers from previous batches. Some beers come out better then others, but I don't fret the occasional mediocre batch, especially if I was experimenting with something different because I know that I had a great time making it. Not to mention being able to learn from those mistakes.

From the poll results it seems like most people enjoy the science behind beer and the process as much as they like to drink that beer and share it with others. So tell me more, what got you into brewing, and what has kept you going back for more? Even after all those broken carboys, infected batches, stuck sparges, messy boil overs and bottle bombs! Lets hear it in a comment below!

Poll Results: Why do you homebrew?

Like the process                            61%
Cheap Beer                                  15%
Drinking it                                     46%
Having others drink it                     38%
Make something you can't buy       23%        
The science aspect                        46%
Other                                             0%

*could choose multiple answers

Monday, January 31, 2011

2 beers 1 day: French Saison & Irish Red Ale

Smelling the Greatness

Over the past few weeks I have been showing my buddy Gregg the ropes in the world of brewing. He has officially 'caught the bug'. So we both wanted to brew this weekend. I had a French Saison planned and he wanted to try brewing his first beer without my help.

We both made starters a few days before, I went with Wyeast 3711 and he chose WLP004. I chose 3711 for a few reasons, I wanted the beer to finish very dry and I have heard of this yeast putting a serious whooping on some sugars, taking it down past 1.010. Also I wanted all of the peppery and citrusy esters that it is known for.

My malt bill was simple for the Saison, mostly Belgian pilsner and a little Belgian wheat. I have been on a very simple malt bill kick lately to try and understand what each of them does for any given beer. I wanted to accentuate the peppery, spicy yeast notes by only using Saaz hops which can have those same characteristics.

Being Gregg's first beer he chose to do an extract batch with specialty grains, light malt extracts, roasted barely for that nice red color and some crystal 80L.

Brew day went well except for the fact that I didn't hit my efficientcy that I was hoping for but I think it is because I did a single batch sparge instead of splitting it into two batch sparges which is my normal.

Irish Red Ale
Brewed on 1/30/11 By: Gregg

5 Gal.
OG 1.067
FG 1.020 (anticipated)
IBU 20
SRM 17
6 lbs Light DME
3 lbs Light malt extract
6.5 oz Crystal 80L
3.5 oz Rosted Barely
1 oz Cluster 60 Min.
.5 oz Cluster 30 Min.

1/31/11 - Lets just say its a good thing we put a blow off tube on that bad boy!

French Saison
Brewed on 1/30/11

5 Gal.
OG 1.046
FG 1.010 Anticipated
IBU 26

9 lbs Belgian Pilsner
1.25 lbs Belgian Wheat Malt
1 oz Saaz 60 Min.
1 oz Saaz 10 Min.
1.5 oz Saaz Flame Out
Yeast Nutrient & Irish Moss
Wyeast 3711 (Made 1 Liter Starter on stir plate)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Royal Oak Stout

Since I had such a nice, relaxing time making my Honey Amber Ale on my stove inside I was quick to do something similar. For this beer I decided to do a partial mash on the stove top using a steeping bag to mash in. I'm not sure where this beer will end up but here is how it got started. I am getting low on stouts, I only have 4 bottles of an oatmeal stout left that I made last April but am planning on saving these for a while to see how they age out.

The base wort is pretty simple, just using a few pounds of maris otter, pale LME,  crystal 80L, and some chocolate malt. I don't want it to be a sweet stout, dry stout, American stout or an export so I guess this one won't fit into any category or specific style which I think too many brewers focus on. I want to make good beers that taste good to me, not for a judge who is worried about IBUs, SRMs etc.

Rehydrating Yeast

This beer is made to focus on the specialty grains and malts. It doesn't have any finishing or dry hops, nor will it have a specific yeast character as I chose to use a very neutral strain. I am also going to be soaking some oak chips in some crown royal for a week or so before I add it to the secondary fermentor to give it that bourbon barrel stout flavor which I hope stands out but isn't over powering. To accomplish this I will only use about 3/4 oz of oak and 4-5 oz of crown. I will be taking samples almost everyday until I get the taste right where I want it. I know from sampling some other beers aged in oak that it can easily become way too oaky.

What I haven't decided yet is if I am going to funk this beer up with some Brett. And if I do, what Brett. I will use. It most likely will be Brettanomyces bruxellensis which is moderate in its flavors and intensity. Who knows, It may even get some sour cherries added to it this summer. Stay tuned to see what the future holds...

Royal Oak Stout

Brewed by: Gregg and I
Brewed on 1/14/11
3.8 Gallons partial mash
O.G. 1.061
F.G. 1.015 (anticipated

IBU 33.7
SRM 33.6
85% efficiency

3 lbs maris otter
3 lbs pale LME
10.1 oz roasted barely
5.6 oz crystal 80L
2 oz chocolate malt
1.5 oz fuggles 60 min.
.4 tsp yeast nutrient 10 min.
.4 tst irish moss 10 min.
Nottingham yeast (rehydrated)

1/21/11 Racked to secondary. Gravity: 1.014. Tasted good with lots of coffee notes.

2/9/11 Added .75 oz of oak chips that I have been soaking in 4 oz of Crown Royal. (added the Crown too)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dave's Dort

I typically don't brew lagers but a few things made me go ahead and make one. For one, I just bought a brand new stir plate and couldn't wait to make a big starter and put it to use. Northern Brewer has their own stir plate on their website for about $62 if anyone is looking for a good one at a decent price. Also, my basement has been sitting right at 49-50* F ambient which will be perfect to get a nice clean lager beer.

Also, I can't be the only one with friends and family who do not like to drink 8% ABV 90 IBU imperial IPAs or vanilla bean imperial stouts. Why? I don't know... but this will be a good beer for those that like an easy drinking smooth malty beer.

I started this project off by making a 1.5L starter of White Labs 838. Going off of the book 'Yeast' by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff this size starter and a fresh vial of yeast will produce about 181 billion cells without a stir plate. And also in that book it says that a stir plate will double to triple the amount of cells produced making this come out to about 262 - 343 billion cells assuming everything is perfect!!! Using Mr. Malty's yeast calculator I need about 364 billion cells so I should be fine. I wanted to make sure the yeast were extremely healthy since I was going to be fermenting at the lower end of the yeast's temperature range.

The brew day got off to a slow start because I undershot my temps when putting the hot water in my mash tun. I had to take some water out and boil it (twice) to get my strike temps where I wanted them. I mashed in at 155* for an hr.

I cooled the wort down to 62*f to give the yeast a head start before it got real cold and set it down in the basement. It was showing activity within 6 hrs and had cooled down to 55*. Since then it has been cruising right at 50* and has been fermenting very steady for 4 days now with a very nice malty smell to the CO2 being released. I plan on keeping it down there for 2 weeks then bringing it upstairs and raising the temps to 68* for a diacetyl rest for two days before racking and lagering for 60 days in the mid 40's.

Dave's Dort
Brewed on 1/9/11

6 gallons All Grain
73% efficiency
OG 1.043
FG 1.012 (anticipated)
IBU 26.4
SRM 4.9

8 lbs Belgian Pilsner
1 lb 12 oz Munich
.75 oz Cascade 60 Min.
.75 Saaz 30 Min.
1 oz Saaz 5 Min.
.5 tsp Irish Moss 10 Min.
.5 Yeast Nutrient 10 Min.
WLP838 1.5L starter on stir plate

1/21/11 Moved upstairs to 68* ambient for a diacytel rest for 2 days. Gravity: 1.010. Could taste some diacytel. (cooked corn flavor) This should all disipate after the rest and lagering time. clear, nice medium straw color.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Destination: Pittsburgh

Debbie's and my latest overnight getaway was down to Pittsburgh, Pa to check out as many breweries/brewpubs as possible in a 24 hr period. After some research on the web we thought we knew what we were doing and where we were going...

Our first stop was planned to be the South Hills Brewing Supply Store to check the place out and possibly grab some leaf hops I was after (which they didn't have). We arrived only to find out that they are not open on Mondays which I neglected to notice on their website. Whoops. So after driving 30 minutes out of our way we went right to our next stop on the list to visit Rivertowne Pourhouse.

We were starving and very excited to try some (or all) of their 18 beers they make on-site. Right when we walked in you can see all of the mugs from the mug club and some of the fermenters they have on display. We were lucky enough to sit down at the bar next to Andrew, one of the two head brewers. He was very nice and gave us lots of samples of some of his favorite and not-so-favorite beers.

After trying probably 15 of their beers including one that is made with a ton of pineapple he gave us a tour of his operations there. They brew on a 15bbl system they acquired from Chicago and brew a wide variety of ales and lagers. Andrew then wrote us out a map of where he thought we should go try some beers. The first stop was Full Pint Brewery which is only a production brewery, not a pub. Even though the growler hours were not going to work for us he said to knock on the door, drop his name, and we were sure to get a tour and some free pints.

After getting lost we pulled into what was a cluster of warehouses one which had the small sign we were looking for. We knocked with no answer and decided to just walk right in. Sure enough someone was in there and once we explained who we were and that Andrew sent us, we were good to go since Andrew is part owner. Mark was nice enough to let us try as much of the beer as we wanted. We also got tastes of all the beers in the fermentors, one being an imperial IPA that is sure to turn out great. We left Full Pint with a variety case of the beers they make and then we were on our way to find the rush hour.

After composing ourselves from a day full of craft beers our plan was to go have dinner at Church Brew Works which once again was closed on Mondays in January and the first week of February. We ended up at Penn Brewery which is a production brewery. The theme was very German and kind of a cool set-up...which is about all they have going for them. They didn't even have a beer list and the socially awkward server couldn't tell us about any of the expensive samples we were trying. The only beer that I might consider drinking a second time was the Rye IPA. As for the food it was almost inedible. I left there still hungry and very unsatisfied.

Before we hit the road in the morning we made our way back to Church Brew Works. As soon as we pulled in we were super excited. It is a catholic church built in 1902 or 1903 turned brewery a few years ago. The food was awesome and the beers were great too. They are continuously switching up what they have on tap and also have some specialty beers in 750ml bottles to take with you. A must see if you're in Pitt. Pa.

Overall it was a good getaway despite a few hiccups. What is your favorite brewery/brewpub? What city's do you recommend checking out with a decent population of good craft beers?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Honey Amber Ale

So I was leaving work to start my week 'staycation' and really wanted to brew some beer. The only thing was it was 4:00 PM, snowing and really cold out. I decided I was gonna do something I haven't done in a long time and brew an extract batch on my electric stove.

I wanted to brew an amber ale but decided that 25% of the extract bill was going to be honey. Since it was all on a whim I wasn't able to get great quality honey but it should still turn out fine. Since my stove struggles to get anything over 3 gallons to boil I decided to do a 3 gallon batch and possibly add some water at the end to bump it up to 3.5 gal.

I boiled about a gallon of water for ten minutes covered in tin foil then threw it outside to chill in the snow while I brewed. I brought 3 gal. up to 155*f and steeped some crystal 80L for a half hour or so to get that nice amber color and sweetness I wanted. It smelled really good and the whole time I was wondering why I don't do this more often when there is inclement weather, which around here is quite often.

For the hops I decided to only use one variety so that I could really taste it by itself, I chose cluster. I wanted to keep the IBU's on the lower end so I didn't go overboard with early additions. Also since it is so cold out and I heat my house with wood I had to choose a yeast that could handle a temperature swing down to the lower 60's so I decided to use S-05.

I finished the 60 min. boil and chilled the wort down to 70ish in an ice bath which I later added some snow balls to when I was out of ice. It chilled rather quickly and I decided to add the water I had boiled earlier even though I didn't really need it. I had drank a few beers and getting more beer out of the time spent just seemed logical at the time.

Honey Amber Ale

Brewed on 1-7-10
3.5 gallons
Extract w/ steeping grains
OG 1.044
FG 1.012 (Anticipated)
IBU's 24.2
SRM 12.5

3 lbs light malt extract
12.2 oz crystal 80L
0.6 oz cluster 60min.
0.8 oz cluster 15min.
1 oz cluster 0min.
1 lb. honey into fermenter
dash of irish moss at 10min.
dash of yeast nutrient at 10min.
S-05 rehydrated

12 hrs later: happily fermenting with a 1 inch krausen.

1/21/11 Finished very dry at 1.008 although it tastes sweet. Tasted very good with lots of citrusy almost tangerine notes to it. Kegged.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years Eve IPA

New Years Eve 2010 in Northeast OH was such a beautiful day out. We had sunny skies and it almost hit 60*F which is crazy for this time of year! The best way to end the year on a day like that is to invite the guys over, sit in the garage and brew some beer.

I wanted to brew something hoppy that would be a good session beer, so I decided to keep the OG around 1.050. I also had been reading a lot about 'first wort hopping' and wanted to give it a try. From what I have read it adds some complexity to the flavor while only contributing a little bit of bittering units. I also wanted to keep the malt bill very simple. I chose to use some maris otter I had laying around and some crystal 40L. Brew day went great, hung out with the dogs, and drank some brown ales and porters I had on tap. We mashed in at 150*F which is exactly what I wanted so that the beer would have a lot of fermentables and finish nice and dry, although the maris otter should add some body and maltyness to the beer. We used Tetnang for the FWH and cluster, chinook, and cascades for the rest. We ended up hitting an OG of 1.055 but only collected 4 gallons which I contribute to more boil-off than I had expected. We cooled it down to 75*F fairly quickly with an immersion wort chiller since the ground water is nice and cold right now. I pitched some S-04 that I made a starter with a few days prior. I originally wanted to use Wyeast 1056 but when I got it out of the fridge it smelled a little funky and decided to dump it.

Planning on keeping this in the primary for about 3 weeks then getting it into the keg with some more homegrown cascades. I have an empty handle on my keezer and need to get something in there!

New Years Eve IPA
Brewed on 12/31/10
5 Gallon (Anticipated)
All Grain
Measured OG 1.055
Anticipated FG 1.014
IBUs 40
SRM 6.8

8 lbs 8 oz Maris Otter
8 oz Crystal 40L
.75 oz Tettnang FWH
1 oz Cluster 60 min
1.5 oz Homegrown Cascades 3 min
1.5 oz Chinook 3 min
Plan to put 1.5 - 2 oz Homegrown Cascades dry hopped in keg.
.5 tsp yeast nutrient 10 min
.5 tsp irish moss 10 min
S-04 (used starter, second generation)

1-3-10 Airlock activity has slowed almost to a stop. S-04 usually finishes very fast for me.

1-12-11 Due to a quick swing in temps at the house it got stuck around 1.023. I racked it to a secondary to let it sit another 2-3 weeks. It still tasted really good so even if the gravity doesn't chance I might just keg it and drink it as is or add some Brett. and make it a funky ipa...

1/21/11 FG 1.018 Tasted good, decided to keg as is and not dry hop since it really didn't need it.