Archive for the ‘Brewing Equipment’ Category

Wow, this site is still here? I guess I will update it.

Since last we were here…..

Oktoberfest 2011 came and went.   Fun again, good beer, first use of my “pin” cask.   The cask worked out great, I brewed an ESB and loaded the cask with whole Centennial hops and I was really happy with the result (well other than the beer that sprayed all over when we vented it – a little lighter on the carbonation next time!).   Still up in the air if we use the cask again this year or not though.

The whiskey barrel aged imperial stout has been kegged & bottled.   1/6th of it has Intelligentsia Black Cat Expresso added, and it turned out fantastic.   As a change I took some Intelligentsia Analog Expresso and added it to a second keg.  I didn’t think this was as good as the first, but still interesting.  The rest of the barrel has been either bottled, will be soon or I may keep one keg full for winter.  Currently, the barrel is filled with a sour Belgian stout that is tasting really good and I will likely pull some of that off in the next month or two to bottle and then continue to use that barrel “solera style” for sour stout like I am with the two wine barrels with the lambic and flanders red.

I rebrewed some of the lambic a few weeks ago to pull some out to use a bunch of the door county cherries we had gotten last year so hopefully that should be ready in a few months.   I plan to use the rest of the cherries we got last year in a small batch of the sour stout.

I know that it’s still 3 months away, but one of the beers for our Oktoberfest party is already done and lagering.  I brewed a helles bock type beer for the “official” festbier.   We didn’t have any lagers last year so I really wanted to do one this year.  It was down to a helles, a traditional bock, and the Vindicator doppelbock.   Since I was already going to have a big double IPA on draft, I figured the lighter of the options might be the best choice.   Anyway, I sampled the helles a couple days ago and it’s quite good.   It should only get better as it lagers in the low 30s.   I brewed it on one of the hottest days of the year so far (98 degrees) so it was quite the brew day but I eventually got it chilled and seems like everything worked out great.  The rest of the beers are best served fresh (IPA, Double IPA, Hefe, etc) so I’ll likely get them done at the end of August or first week of September so they are at their prime come the end of September.

In the last couple of weeks I brewed 3 different beers, all of which are hop focused.   The first was a 100% Citra hopped IPA.   This was a repeat (with a few tweaks) of a beer I did last year and I think I have this recipe down, it turned out great.   The second is a hoppy wheat beer brewed with WY3333 German Wheat yeast and Amarillo hops which is currently fermenting.  This was also the first beer I used my hopback on which was packed with Cascade and Centennial hops.   Can’t wait to try this in a few weeks, it should be interesting – partly because I had a few issues with the mash, and it ended up a bit lower than I wanted.  The third beer I brewed recently is a “Session IPA” – basically a lower alcohol version of an IPA I guess.  I am thinking this should come in around 4.5% abv, and about 42 IBUs, all provided by Simcoe and Amarillo hops.   It smelled fantastic so I can’t wait to try this one also.

Lastly, I think it is time to upgrade some/most of my equipment so I will likely not be brewing anything for the next month or two as I try to gather all the necessary materials & parts to build a new system.  I might put some pictures up during the fabrication, but then again it’s been 15 months between posts so maybe not :)

Nailed it!

So, I installed some “sample ports” on my barrels today….that is to say I drilled a couple of holes in the barrel heads and plugged them with stainless steel nails.   I was a bit nervous about this holding a seal, but it seems a LOT of breweries are successfully now using this method made popular by Russian River.  Upon completion of drilling the holes, I had some taster glasses ready to get some samples before inserting the nails.  I am surprised at how good these taste already.  The beers have not been in the barrels that long, so the level of sourness must be do to the high pitching rate of bugs that I used on these batches.  There is a very slight hint of oak flavor in each, but nothing overpowering which is good.  I was a bit concerned that the barrels may have still had a lot of oak character remaining to leech into the beer.   I will probably check them again sometime around August to see how they progress and decide if I should pull any off for blending or just packaging straight as-is.   I also pulled a small sample from the sour stout I brewed up at Jeremy’s a couple months ago…still needs some time as the brett and lacto still have some work to do, so I will probably also check this one out again in August & decide what to do with it.

Double Barrel

Well, brewing 120 gallons of beer in 10 gallon batches over 3 nights and one full day is a lot of work.  The math worked out to over 3,000 lbs of carrying – be it water, grain, wort, barrels…so yeah, I am a little sore.    On the positive side, I was hitting my gravities with such consistency I was worried that the refractometer was broken.   The only mishaps over those 12 10 gallon batches were some spilled grain, and not leaving enough headspace in the flanders red barrel for the krausen and having an avalanche of yeast and foam pour out the top.  I am really looking forward to trying these two beers but it’s going to be a while before they are ready.

It had been a few weeks since I picked up the barrels and they had been empty at the winery for a week or so, so I was concerned they may be a bit loose.  So, I heated up about 6 gallons of water to dump in to make sure the barrel was  water tight (which it was) and it was interesting to see the water come out quite red from the wine still in the wood.


The lambic style beer was brewed Wednesday – Friday nights and had undergone much of the primary fermentation in assorted bottles, buckets, and carboys, so when I filled the barrel I was able to get it quite full and not be worried about overflow.  I didn’t take that into consideration when filling the flanders barrel ( it was all brewed on Saturday and transferred to the barrel on Sunday) and the result was a vigorous fermentation sending foam and yeast out through the bung hole and all over the floor.  Though it was cool to see as it looked like many pictures I have seen of the barrels in many Belgian breweries – though I am sure it won’t be as “cool” to clean up tomorrow after the fermentation slows down a bit.



All in all it was  fun, yet exhausting few days, and I can’t wait to get a taste of these.   I think next up will be a rebrew of the Wit, a Golden Strong, IPA, then a Berliner Weisse (probably partigyle with the Wit actually)

oktoberfest brew

Well, with all of the projects around the house and my recent focus on sour beers, I nearly lost track of the fact that I needed to brew a Maerzen for our Oktoberfest party in September.   Three months is not ideal, but roughly a month fermentation and two months lagering will hopefully produce a decent beer.

This year I wanted something a little lighter, more in line with modern Oktoberfest beers than the darker traditional versions we had the previous two years.  I also realized too late that I was out of Hallertau hops, so I substituted Sterling and German Tradition hops for the Hallertau I originally had in the recipe.

One lesson learned is that producing a lager when it’s 95 degrees out is not the easiest thing to do, so next year I’ll try to brew it early in the spring (as is the tradition) when the temps are cooler and lager it the 6 months until the party.    In order to help crash the wort temperature from boiling to 50 degrees as fast as possible, I used a splitter on the garden hose to run both an immersion chiller and a counterflow chiller in tandem.  The nearly 60 degree “cold” water, however, could only take it down so far – actually to 58 somehow.   So, I was forced to kick it old school and put the semi-chilled carboy in a sink full of ice water to take it the rest of the way to 50 at which point I pitched the yeast and it went into the fermentation fridge.  There was a fairly vigorous fermentation underway in less than a day @ 49 degrees F in the fridge.

Below is the recipe I came up with for this years batch.

Oktoberfest 2009


14.0 Plato

9.5 SRM

24 IBU

Grain Bill:

43.5% Munich

26% Pilsen

26% Vienna

4.5% Caramunich 60


22 IBU Sterling @ 60 minutes

2 IBU German Tradition @ 5 minutes


3 Liter starter of Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager

Half Barrel Fabrication Shop

So I spent parts of this past weekend helping hook a brutha up with some shiny new all grain equipment. Namely, a screen for the mash tun, new keggle, and a counterflow chiller.

The screen was easy, cheap, and works great in the cylindrical 10 gallon coolers as a filter. It’s much easier to take apart the hose with an angle grinder and cutting wheel than a hacksaw and needle-nose pliers!

The keggle went fairly smoothly as well once I got some new cutting wheels. Somehow, the wheel that was on the grinder wore down in a really strange pattern and was way off center. Also the step bit I have been using for conversions has taken a severe beating and is becoming quite dull….disappointing for a $30+ drill bit (and I bought the cheaper one – maybe that’s why it’s wearing so fast), but I think it should be able to make it through my last keg before it’s completely done.

The counterflow chiller was interesting. I bought one several months ago and LOVE IT. Chills super fast, and isn’t all that more difficult to use than an immersion chiller. So, we used mine as a template to build a new one… went pretty smoothly despite our mediocre soldering skills. The main issue we had was shoving the copper tubing through the hose. We used what we thought was a decent amount of soap/soapy water to lube up the copper so it would slide easier….well, it was still quite a wrestling match to get it through (though we did end up making like a 30 ft chiller which might be a bit longer than is needed, but oh well). Anyhow, we ran a couple tests on it and no leaks so seems to have been a successful couple days in the shop.

Next up for the shop?

1- Redesign my grain mill set-up to give it a smaller footprint

2- Build some storage boxes for the champagne and Belgian style bottles I use for my sour beers

3- Design and build the mobile brewing unit 9000 (aka brewstand)

4- Build the bar for the basement