End of the Year Wrap Up

Welcome to another installment of My Life as a Home Brewer – 12/23/14. Make sure to like, reblog, follow, share and comment on the blog. This post will deviate slightly from the normal layout, but let’s get started.

What’s Happening Now

We wiped out the remaining stout to make Christmas presents. We have a case of IPA, brown ale, and hefeweizen left. However, the hefeweizen won’t be ready to drink for another week. I doubt we are going to do another batch this year.

The Christmas Six Packs were a success -at least I think they were. My grandpa, uncles and cousins seemed pleased about getting beer for Christmas, but only time will tell if they liked it. The six packs had two brown ales, two IPA’s and two hefeweizens. We told them that we had just bottled the hefeweizen and to give it two weeks to carbonate.

The trick we learned about putting the heating pad around the fermenting bucket from Jeff at Paradise Brewing Supplies seemed to be a success. We are yet to taste the finished beer, but when I opened the fermenter there was a pungent smell of bananas. This is characteristic of brewer’s yeast when I talked about it in my Thanksgiving Beer post and I anticipate another successful fermentation. We await the final product.

More from My Life As A Home Brewer

Thanksgiving Beer

Tour of Rivertown Brewery

How Well do You Know Your IPA?

My Unadulterated Opinion

This week’s flavor comes from Diesel Punk Brewing and is their stout. Let me deviate for a minute from the normal review and talk about the ascetics of the packaging. I love the look and marketing of this brewery. The Steampunk idea of meshing Victorian technology and futuristic sci-fi, ie: spaceships powered by steam engines, combines perfectly with the DieselPunk Stout. Remember in my Six Packs for Christmas post I talked about how the first stouts were made during the Victorian era. Here Diesel Punk combines a victorian classic with a futuristic concept to symbolize the progression of the beer industry and humanity itself. A subtle, but nice touch.

I have to be honest, I was not impressed with my first beer from the six pack. It tasted like a classic stout, but that’s all it was, a classic stout. There was nothing to set it apart. It had all the right flavors, but I didn’t have that, “wow moment” on the first drink. However, as I progressed through the six pack over the next several days I found myself liking the beer more and more.

It had an aromatic, light brown head and a dark brown color that is almost black, but not quite. Roasted malts of coffee, espresso and chocolate abound in this beer. The aroma matches these flavors and the bitterness of the hops was just right. There was a nice balance between the bitter and sweet. The drinking experience was smooth and pungent. This is not a beer for Christmas dinner, because it will over power anything on the table. Regardless of my initial thoughts, I liked it. Drink this beer.

The Year End Wrap Up

This has been an amazing experience for me to home brew with my father. I just returned home from being gone during four years of college. Home brewing with dad has been so much fun and has brought us together on a different level (not that we had relationship issues before). I want to thank him for footing most of the cost and having these experiences with me. We learned so much and had more fun.

Brewing beer is awesome. Neither one of us had ever done anything like it, but had talked about it for years. We made eight beer batches since July 4th and only had one bad batch, which I think is fantastic for two new guys. We hope to keep up the pace for next year and try something, “outside our comfort zone” to quote my dad from this evening. I don’t know what that means, yet.

This was also my first blog launch. I had dabbled with WordPress before, but never created a full site that I solely managed. I learned a ton about web writing and can’t wait to bring you better content with the new year. Let’s briefly recap the site statistics as of writing this post.

The site since my first post, What Home Brewing Is Not, that went live on 10/21/14 has had 353 site views with 325 of them coming from Facebook alone. I wrote ten posts with Kegs, Growlers, Bombers, Bottles and Cans being my most read post at 35 views. I had readers from five countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark and Austria. I didn’t make any financial income from the blog or contributions to it.

Thank you for reading My Life as a Home Brewer – 12/24/14. Please like, reblog, follow, comment and share on your favorite social media sites. Thank you to all who read and shared during these last ten weeks. It’s because of you that I will step up my game for next year with a new WordPress theme, proper web hosting and much, much more. I have so many ideas to turn loose in the new year and I can’t wait to show you.

If you have any suggestions, comments, or anything else about the new format for next year, please feel free to email me at mylifeasahomebrewer@gmail.com.

I will not post next week on 12/30/14 since as it is the last Tuesday of the year and I look forward to posting on 1/6/15. See you next year!

Prost!

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Read the D**n Directions

It helps if you follow the recipe

Hello Internet and welcome to another addition of My Life as a Home Brewer. Don’t forget to like, follow, reblog, and share on your favorite social media platform. Let’s get to it.

What’s Happening Now

The brown ale is done and tastes amazing. I know, I know I always say that I don’t like brown ales; yet, I like the Bofo Brown Ale in my Thanksgiving Beer Review and I like this one. Maybe my taste buds are changing. I still prefer an IPA to anything.

If you remember in my Watch for the Over Boil entry we added maple syrup to the batch during the boil. I can’t taste the syrup in the beer and I don’t know if that had anything to do with me liking the beer. I think we should have added the maple syrup to the batch during the fermenting stage instead of the boil, but hindsight is always 20/20. Still, it’s a great beer.

We have almost wrapped up the six-pack gifts (pun intended). I can’t wait to see the look on my family’s faces when they get beer for Christmas. I think the six-pack will have our stout, brown ale, and the IPA. The hefeweizen is still fermenting and our family Christmas was moved up to this weekend. We will see if we can get it bottled in time, but if we can’t we still have other beers to use.

Make sure you read the directions for your beer recipe. When people ask me how hard it is to home-brew I usually tell them something along the lines of, “If you can bake a cake, you can make beer. It’s all about following the recipe when you’re starting out.” Well, apparently I can’t follow my own advice while making a hefeweizen.

First, the water was supposed to be heated to 152 degrees, then taken off the burner to allow grains to steep for 20 minutes. Next, I brought the water back up to boil for an hour. What was supposed to happen was the steep for 20 minutes, bring the water back up to 160 degrees, take it off again, add dry malt and steep the bag of grains for 20 more minutes. I didn’t realize this until dad said something nearly 30 minutes into the boil. We then took it off the burner, added the malt and put the grains back in for the remaining 20 minutes.

The boil was back on after the steep. We added the hops and liquid malt at the proper time and finished out the batch without any more issues. We brought the temperature down from 212 degrees to the appropriate 76 in a matter of a few minutes and immediately dumped the batch into the fermenting bucket. To do this we just poured ice straight into batch to get the recommended final amount and it cooled quickly. I recommend this method for cooling the wort. Just make sure you start with less than the final amount or you will water it down.

I think the beer will turn out okay regardless of the mixed up steps during the boil. I’m not sure how important it was to follow the steps perfectly, but we will find out in a few weeks. I’ll make sure to report how the beer looks and tastes.

Hey, Did You Know?

This week’s Hey, Did You Know? will be a short one and consist of a tip we learned last week. At the tap room where we buy our brewing supplies the proprietor told us to wrap the fermenting bucket with a heating pad and a towel. This was a great idea because we heat with wood and our house temperature fluctuates throughout the day. This way the beer will stay at a consistent temperature during the most critical point of the process, fermenting.

We used an old electric heating pad, a bath towel, and some yarn. It works great and the yeast are going crazy in there. It’s fun to sit and listen to the CO2 bleeder. Just make sure that your heating pad is set to its lowest setting.

 

More from My Life as a Home Brewer

Six Packs for Christmas

Thanksgiving Beer

Drinking and Politics

 

My Unadulterated Opinion

This week’s flavor comes from Christian Moerlein and it’s their Barbarossa. According to Christian Moerlein, the beer is based off of Frederick I, Emperor of Germany, also known as Barbarossa. The legend says he never died and still lives in an enchanted cavern until the ravens cease to fly, which will mark his triumphant return. The label of the bottle has a king with an enormous red beard being served a giant goblet of beer. Nice touch.

The beer’s classification is a double-dark lager and it hits the mark. The beer is crisp, with a white head and a light body weight. The color is dark amber with a tinge of red. The dark malt used in this beer is savory and sweet. It balances well with the hops and no one flavor commands your attention. The beer changes as it moves across the palate. The complexity of this beer is great and I love it. Well done Christian Moerlein and here’s to you Emperor Barbarossa. I’ll be looking for your triumphant return.

Thanks for reading this entry of My Life as a Home Brewer. I had fun and hope you did too. Make sure to like, follow, reblog, and share on social media. I look forward to the next entry on December 23rd, 2014. Until then, Prost!

Featured Image Credit Craft Beer Explorer 

 

Six Packs for Christmas

Six Packs Make the Best Gifts

What’s Happening Now

This week has been a slow one in terms of brewing. We have the ingredients to make a hefeweizen, but did not get to brewing it. Life got in the way and we had other last minute commitments.

We have an IPA and a Stout that are finished and are waiting to be drank. Our brown ale should be done bottle conditioning later this week and by the next post I will be able to tell you if the maple syrup we added made any difference. You can find that brew log at Watch for the Over Boil.

The Christmas season is upon us and everyone is scrambling around for the best deals, latest gadgets, hottest clothing, and shiniest jewelry. Why not give the gift of beer this Christmas? That’s what dad and I are doing this year.

We have all this beer sitting downstairs and an extended family filled with Bud Light drinkers. The plan is to create a six-bottle variety pack for my uncles and cousins who are of drinking age. It will house six beers: two IPA’s, two stouts, and two hefeweizens.

This is a great, cheap, and easy way to give gifts during the Christmas season -and we don’t have to go a mall or wait in line.

Hey, Did You Know?

Porter vs. Stout- Do you know the difference?

Porters and Stouts historically stemmed from the same family of beer. The difference is summed up well by Wayne Wambles, brewmaster at Cigar City Brewing in Craft Brewing Business blog, “’Simply put, most people approach it from the perspective of stout being roasted barley-centric, which gives coffee to espresso aroma and flavor, and porter being more chocolate and mocha oriented by the use of chocolate malt.’” Stouts have an espresso aroma and flavor, while porters have a more chocolate and mocha flavor. Stouts tend to have high levels of bitterness, while porters are sweeter.

Beers for the Christmas table

This is going to sound similar to my Thanksgiving Beer post, because there are a lot of similar flavors at Christmas. Every Christmas dinner table is going to have some variation, but I think most will have a centerpiece of meat either ham, turkey, or roast beef -unless you’re at my grandma’s house, because she makes all three (thanks Nana). These three meats and their perspective sides won’t have a lot of stand out flavors so we don’t want to pair strong beers that will overpower the rest of the meal.

Look for beers that have low bitterness (hops) and a higher sweetness (malts) flavors. Brown ales, stouts, porters, bocks, marzens, and hefeweizens are all great beers to have at the Christmas table. My recommendations are: Bofo Brown Ale (review found here), Great Lakes Christmas Ale (review below), and Rivertown Dunkel (review here). These beers are going to be high in malt flavors and sweetness, while being low in bitter coffee and hop flavors. You’ll be pleased with any of these beers at your table.

Now you know.

My Unadulterated Opinion

This week’s flavor comes from my home state of Ohio and it’s called Christmas Ale by Great Lakes Brewing Company. This is my favorite winter ale and will be for some time. I could drink this beer until it ran out and I was unfit to drive to get more.

The beer is lighter in color than I expected from a winter ale and it’s quite clear. This is one of the few beers that is exempt from our beer drinking rule –see the About page for rule. Mine wasn’t very carbonated and had almost no head, but that could be from many different factors and not a deal breaker for me. I don’t care that much about a foamy head on a beer anyway.

What sets this beer apart for me is the hint of cinnamon. Other winter ale archetypes are bursting with cinnamon, have tons of sweet malts, and roasted nut flavors everywhere. This beer has all that, but in reasonable portions. I don’t hate the little brown spice, but I don’t want it to be overwhelming. The cinnamon is subtle and allows the other flavors to meld together and compliment one another.

Drink this beer.

Conclusion

Make sure you comment below, like, subscribe, and share the blog. You can email me at mylifeasahomebrewer@gmail.com to suggest beers to be reviewed or topics discussed. I’m always open to constructive criticism. Frankly, I do this for the readers and I want to bring you want you want to read.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you on the other side of the pint glass.

Discussion question

What types of beer would you put in a sampler pack as a Christmas gift?

Featured Image Credit Schulte

Kegs, Growlers, Bombers, Bottles, and Cans

What’s Happening Now

We bottled the brown ale on Thanksgiving night. It fermented for nearly a week and a half, but we aren’t worried about that. A few extra days in the fermenter won’t hurt anything. For a recap, we have half a case of stout, a case and a half of IPA, and are aging two cases of brown ale.

We have forgone buying fresh bottles for the last few bottlings. We have started to recycle old bottles from previous brews or the commercial bottles that we drink. Even my girlfriend’s family has a box of bottles they save for me when I go visit them. We haven’t bought new bottles for around six weeks or maybe longer. It’s ironic and humbling to see our beer being put into Sam Adams, Lagunitas, Rivertown, or Christian Moerlein.

RAR_HB_12_02_Wash

Our process starts with bleaching the bottles in soapy water. Bottles usually have residue from the previous beer that has settled and dried in the bottom. We allow the bottles to soak in a mixture of bleach and soapy water for about ten minutes. This gives us more time to set up the rest of our bottling process. One of us will pick up the bottles two at a time with some water in them, shake, and pour out the gunk that was in the bottom.

The bottles are then transferred to the sanitation sink where they are rinsed of bleach and sanitized with Star San no rise acid satiation. I like this sanitizer, because the bottles don’t require rinsing and the solution won’t hurt the yeast as they carbonate the bottles during conditioning.

RAR_HB_12_02_Capper

The bottles are set on the floor six or eight at a time and the bottling bucket is set up on the counter in the kitchen (I didn’t have a good picture for this, but next time I promise I’ll take a high quality picture). We use a pvc hose and special bottling nozzle. Our last batch was around 5.6 gallons, which made exactly 48 beers. We have a special capper that puts the final touch on the bottles and seals them tight (see above). I have high hopes for this batch. I’ll let you know how it tastes in two weeks.

Hey, Did You Know?

For the last couple of months I have been only discussing beer in bottles. There is a myriad of different ways to store, transport, condition, and consume beer. I wish to focus on the most popular families of containers. There are kegs, growlers, bombers, bottles, and cans. I will discuss the first three. I trust you know the last two.

Kegs are a great way to house and transport a large amount of beer, because they usually come in ten gallon or five gallon installments and are lined with stainless steel. The stainless insures the integrity of the container, but also the beer. Stainless steel is very smooth and does not allow for many microbes and other things to set into the metal; thus, kegs are easy to clean and maintain. They are very popular with restaurants, pubs, and breweries. These entities get to save on container cost because one keg eliminates a lot of bottles and cans.

A problem with kegs is that they are very large requiring a very large refrigerator. They are not for the typical home brewer that does 5 to 7 gallon batches.

Next is the growler. These containers are made of dark glass or steel and are usually a half-gallon or gallon. This is a better for people who want a larger volume of beer with the convenience of bottle sizes.

More breweries and bars are starting to allow for a growler exchange program. You buy a growler and pay to fill it up. Once the growler is empty you take it back and exchange for a filled one, but only at the cost of the beer. You only buy one growler and you don’t have to pay for container cost again.

A downside of the growler is that usually exchange programs will only exchange their branded growler. You can’t take growler “A” to tap room “B”. However, there are some places out there that will let you exchange any growler regardless of where it’s from. Remember and go back to these places, because they are good guys and such establishments are few and far between.

My friends are Paradise Brewing Supplies outside of Cincinnati allow outside growlers. They don’t exchange different growlers, but will fill them and only exchange their branded growlers. We also get all our brewing supplies here and consider them family at this point. Check them out if you live near Cincinnati or are visiting.

Bomber, this piece is not a growler or a bottle, but a hybrid. Bombers are between the 16oz. bottle size and the 64oz. half-gallon growler size. This week’s My Unadulterated Opinion beer is from a 24oz. bomber (keep reading). I am not aware of bomber exchange programs, but I’m sure they are out there somewhere.

All of these containers have different styles and sub categories. This is not an end-all-be-all explanation, but it should get you started.

 My Unadulterated Opinion-

This week’s flavor hails all the way from Oregon. Rogue Ales & Spirits is the best-kept secret tucked away on the West Coast. One of my favorite beers from them is their Dead Guy Ale. This beer is a take on a Mailbock, which are known to be lighter in color than other Bock beers and have a significant hop character.

Dead Guy Ale falls perfectly into that category with a burnt copper color, medium head, and hop flavors from Perle and Saaz hops. As soon as it’s opened floral notes fill the area, which is uncharacteristic of lagers, but it creates a smooth drinking experience and I’ll allow Rogue to break the conventions here –see my post Brewing Over an Open Fire about the difference between ales and lagers. The carbonation on mine was good and I enjoyed drinking this beer. Dead Guy Ale is one of my favorites from Rogue Ales & Spirits and they make a killer Mocha Porter, which you will see in a later post closer to Christmas.

This beer is a lager to be drank during the spring, but I love this installment and it came in a bomber. I think Dead Guy Ale can be enjoyed anytime of year and not just spring.

Drink this beer.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to comment on the discussion, follow, like, and share the blog. You can email me at mylifeasahomebrewer@gmail.com. If you’re looking for a freelance writer check out the Hire Me! page.

See you next week on the other side of the pint glass!

Discussion-

  • What other types of beer containers can you name? What are your favorites?

Featured Image Credit: Active Beer Geek

Other Image Credit: Ryan Ross