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 

 

Watch for the Over Boil

Learn One of the Dangers of Home Brewing

What’s Happening Now

We were finally was able to get back into brewing after a several week hiatus. I apologize for the lack of brewing updates – renamed What’s Happening Now. We heat with wood here in the valley and our weekends have been spent cutting, splitting, and stacking it. I estimate we have half of our wood supply for the winter ready to burn and 20 years worth already cut in the woods ready to split.

We brewed the brown ale for the second time over the weekend. Check out my Brewing Over an Open Fire post for the story of the first time. We followed the recipe exactly with the exception of adding about half a cup of maple syrup to the wart as it brewed. This was an in-the-moment decision and the first time that we have strayed from the original recipe. I’m excited and a little nervous to see what comes up. Now we wait a month. I’ll be sure to give a full report when that is done.

Other beers that we have are the Imperial Stout  and the IPA. I’m not sure what we will brew after the stout has run out. We have less than half a case left. It’s the house favorite. I like having two beers to drink and one in the fermenting/conditioning stages. I’m open to suggestions. Comment below.

I would like to discuss a serious danger with home brewing. Be careful of the over boil. I cannot stress this enough and we almost had a catastrophe over the weekend. We have had wart start to foam up before, but never come close to the top of the brewing pot. The other day was the closest that we have had to an over boil. The wart foamed up to nearly the rim when I was able to reach it, take it off the heat, and snap the featured picture. This type of incident is the thing that will ruin your stove and consume hours of your time in clean up. Make sure you are always controlling your heat and stir occasionally. I have to admit I was not watching the boil. I drafting the next section that was, Factoid, now called Hey, Did You Know? Brew safely my friends.

Hey, Did You Know?

“Why does my beer smell bad? It doesn’t taste well either. What happened?” I’m sure you’ve heard or uttered those words to yourself before. That would be called skunked beer. There are several ways that beer goes bad while still in the bottle, but the most common factor is ultraviolet light. A term for beer being exposed to too much ultraviolet light – sunlight or florescent light in store – is light-struck.

Have you ever noticed that your favorite beer comes in cardboard packaging with the bottleneck covered with a paper band and probably in brown bottles? These elements are not just for marketing purposes, but also to protect the beer from ultraviolet light that is emitted from the florescent lights in the store. When beer is exposed to ultraviolet light for a long time the hop molecules, isohumulons, are ripped apart. At this point there are atoms floating around in the beer looking for a home. The lost atoms bind to sulfur atoms and they create a molecule similar to the smell of a skunk. Hence, skunked beer.

If you are fermenting or aging beer in a carboy make sure that your beer is not exposed to light. If your carboy is clear then cover it with a towel or paper bag. We age our beer in food grade plastic buckets that sit in a dark room. Once the beer is bottled we put it in sealed cardboard boxes and store them in a closed cabinet under a sink in the basement. The beer doesn’t see light until we pour it into a glass to drink.

Some beers will come in a clear or green bottle and are usually import beers. Breweries are not in the business selling skunked beer to Americans. These beers usually have that bitter, sulfur taste on purpose. This is the foreign equivalent of sour beer.

Now you know.

 My Unadulterated Opinion-

This week’s flavor comes from Rivertown Brewery and their take on Winter Ale. I had very high hopes for this beer considering it hails from Rivertown and it’s a dark winter ale. It has all the characteristics of a classic winter ale. It has pumpkin, cinnamon, and burnt almond notes, which spell out for a great seasonal beer. The color is right and the little head is aromatic. It goes down smooth and lines the throat with a creamy texture.

However, I found the cinnamon to be over zealous. There should be a harmony of flavors in a

Rivertown Winter Ale and Rivertown Glass from our tour

Rivertown Winter Ale and Rivertown Glass from our tour

sweet winter ale to compliment the cider drinkers and the smell of ham at the Christmas table. I didn’t get these here. This arrangement is all about the cinnamon and it’s too much.

I also found that my sample was a little flat. Maybe that was just an isolated incident to that batch, but there was not much of a head as you can see in the picture. That picture was taken a minute after I poured that glass of beer.

I had very high hopes for this beer and bought the six-pack for $8.99. It’s not a terrible beer, but I will finish my six beers and won’t buy it again. There are plenty of great winter ales out there. This is not one of them. I hoped that I would never find a beer from Rivertown that I didn’t like. I even liked their sour beer. Don’t let this review be a reflection of the brewery as a whole. I love Rivertown and the great guys I met there – check out our Tour of the Rivertown Brewery to see how much I like them, but I just don’t like this beer. Check out Hop Baron, Old Bruen, or Dunkel.

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. Make sure you go and read the backlist posts.

PROST!

Discussion-

  • What do you look for in a winter ale style beer?

Hey, Did You Know? Credit: Skunked Beer

Tour of Rivertown Brewery

Fortune Favors the BraveIMG_1222

Last week my girlfriend surprised me with reservations to tour the Rivertown Brewery in Lockland, Ohio just north of Cincinnati. Rivertown Brewery, started in 2009, have now have reached: Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Florida. They have two brews a day to meet up with their demand. I have been to several breweries in the Cincinnati area, but never had a formal tour. This was such a great experience and I highly recommend anyone reading take a tour of your local brewery. We drank beer through the whole tour -that’s a plus.

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We got there over an hour early like the tickets said to. As soon as we walked in there was a huge a bottling machine capable of filling 72 bottles at a time (back left of picture). The whole place smelled of fresh grains and sweet malt. Their taproom stood off to the right of the door. We had a few pints while we waited for the tour and talked to the bartender.

IMG_1220

Six o’clock hit and Josh, Rivertown Brewery’s general manager, gave us a tour of the brewery. It started with showing us the different types of ingredients they use in the beer. We sampled different malts and grains. Josh encouraged only smelling the hops – and rightly so. We moved into the room with their 31 barrel (976.5 gallons) mash tun and half a dozen fermenting vats of varying sizes.

Next was their old bottling machine. At 24 bottles at a time the machine did it’s job well, but Rivertown Brewery is expanding too rapidly for the small thing to meet up with demands. They have a huge rotating 72 bottle capacity machine, but it is not in operation as of yet.

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Josh moved us on to the wooden barrels where they age some of their beers, the pallets of bottles and kegs, and finally to a cooler the size of a three car garage. After the tour we met back up at the front bar and some other employees answered questions.

The shining star of the whole visit was their sour beer. Yes, dear readers, sour beer. I’m not talking about old, skunked, or stale beer. Sour beer is the new style of beer that brewers are making. Think about how food companies take cream and add bacteria to make sour cream for your tacos. This is the same process. Rivertown takes a few of their “normal” recipes, adds bacteria, and creates sour beer.

I wasn’t excited to try it at first, but I knew that I had to take the plunge for my home brewing readers. I did it for you. It took some getting used to, but by the end of the night I got a full pint down and was satisfied. It’s not a beer that you throw back during a sports match or one to sip on.

The preferred technique from the Rivertown brew masters is to drink it in large mouthfuls to saturate the taste buds. The first few drinks were the worst, but as time went on the beer got so much better. I felt myself waiting with anticipation until the next drink. It tasted like someone took a beer and put Warhead candy into it.

I thought that sour beer is genius and Rivertown expects it to be the next big thing. There are several breweries across the country that makes sour beer. I don’t know if this will ever rival the IPA as the flagship of craft brewing, but it could give it a run for it’s money.

Check this beer out and my new friends at Rivertown Brewery. I can’t thank them enough for the amazing experience and knowledge they shared with us. I would also like to thank my lovely partner in crime for surprising me and arranging everything.

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.

Discussion-

Had you ever heard about sour beer and would you ever drink it?

PROST!

 

Brewing Over an Open Fire

Brewing Update:

My girlfriend Jackie at her uncle's bonfire.

My girlfriend Jackie at her uncle’s bonfire.

As promised in my What Home Brewing Is Not post I will tell the story of when we had to brew over an open fire.

It was our first brew that we had ever attempted. The day was July 4th 2014 and we decided to brew for America. A week earlier we went to the local brewing supply store and bought: a 6-gallon brewing pot, a 6-gallon food grade fermenting bucket, the CO2 bleeder, no rinse sanitizer, a large spoon, thermometer, and the kit of ingredients needed to make the batch.

12, noon hit, we cracked open beers, cheered for God’s America, and got ready to brew. The water began to boil with the bag of grains and we took it off the heat to steep for thirty minutes. After the steep we brought it up to nearly a boil and then the power went out in the house. We had an electric stove. It was a perfect day outside of Cincinnati on the 4th. The sun was shining, there was a little breeze, birds were chirping, everything was perfect outside; but sure enough the power was out inside the house.

We were scrambling around the kitchen trying to figure out what to do. We were committed. It was time for the one-hour boil or we would have to throw out the whole batch and start over. This was our first one, our first attempt, our first shot. We had talked about brewing for years and we were not going to give up now as our forefathers did not give up on that heroic day.

He looked at me and said, “Smoker.” A few weeks earlier my father built a hog smoker made of concrete blocks and metal roofing for my sister’s high school graduation party. The fire was lit in a matter of minutes and the brewing pot was on the spit outside.

The batch started to boil again and we breathed an uneasy sigh of relief. The hour went by and we cooled it to 68 degrees, placed the beer into the fermenting keg, poured the yeast, and waited.

Four weeks later it tasted great. It was a brown ale style, which I am not keen on, but for what it was I enjoyed it. I found that it had a burnt, smoky taste and it was a hit at our summer parties. Our pot still has the burn marks from the fire and every time we pull the pot for another boil I think of the first time.

Factoid- The Classic Misconception: Ale or Lager?

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-01/beersci-what-difference-between-lager-and-ale

Diagram of Ales vs. Lagers

After about ten minutes in the craft-brewing scene I’m sure that you have heard the terms ale and lager. Unfortunately, they are all too often used interchangeably. I will put this misconception to rest with the help of Popular Science Magazine. The difference is as fundamental as both use different types of yeast: ales have top feeding, warm activated yeast; while lagers use bottom feeing, cold activated yeast.

Ale yeast usually ferments more quickly than lagers and they are often sweeter, fuller-bodied, and fruiter in taste. Classic ales are: IPA’s (my favorite), Pale Ales, Porters, Stouts, Wheats, and Browns.

Lagers are the most widely consumed and available style of beer in the world. They ferment slower than ales and are known for a “crisp” taste. Classic lagers are: Bocks, Pilsners, and Marzens.

You are now smarter. Read the article. It’s neat.

 

Community News- Pacific Flavor Coming to the Midwest

http://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2014/10/13/hawaiian-craft-brewer-chooses-cincinnati-to-make.html

Kona Brewing

Kona Brewing Company will be releasing three beers in Cincinnati, Ohio, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier. They will be having tastings at Jungle Jims in Eastgate, Ohio on 10/31 and 11/02. They plan on serving their Kua Bay IPA, Lavaman Red, and Black Lava Lager to be sampled at the tastings. I doubt I can make it, but I am excited for the Kua Bay IPA to go on sale.

 

 

 

Review- Coors Brewery Batch 19 Pre-Prohibition Style Lager

Batch 19 and Glass

Batch 19 and Glass

This week’s flavor comes from Coors Brewery and their Batch 19 Pre-Prohibition Style Lager. I had never heard of the beer until over the weekend while I was talking to one of my girlfriend’s uncles at a bon fire (see picture of her above in front of the flames). I should have avoided the beer pallet of a man with a Miller Lite in his hand. “Situational awareness,” says my dad. Her uncle is a nice guy, but this is not a good beer.

I grew up with one rule about beer passed down from my father and his father before him going back to the beginning of time, “If you pour a beer into a glass and can see through it don’t drink it” (I have found a few exceptions to this rule, but do not tell them). I knew that I had made a mistake as soon as I could see my fingers on the other side of the glass through the beer.

I will try not to be cruel, but I did not enjoy this beer. It tasted like anything else from the Coors brewery. There was nothing special about the beer to mention. The six pack cost $7.99 at Walmart and the remaining beers will be used as cooking beers. Do not drink this beer.

 

Wish list:

Next week I will review a beer that I know I like and can give you a good review (probably an IPA).

I will also do SEO and other maintenance to the site in order to increase traffic to the site.

 

PROST!

 

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.

Discussion:

 

  • Tell a story of when someone recommended a beer to you, you tried it, and you wondered how in the world he or she could like that beer. Remember to hit comment at the top.