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

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

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.