Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Name My Kegs!!

Now that I've acquired some new (used) kegs, I decided that I need names for all of them. I'm naming them because I want to be able to differentiate among them. I've had some problems with leakage, and more recently a couple of my beers have acquired a bit of sourness after being kegged, so I want to eventually upgrade all the gaskets. poppets and O-rings, just not all at once.
Of course I could just number them, but I figure that it might be easier to remember that Moe Szyslak needs new O-rings and Homer Simpson has a suspect poppet vs. keg 2 and 6 needed the aforementioned parts. Plus, home brewing is a fun hobby! There are already enough numbers involved, O.G. F.G. AA%, IBUs, SRM, etc.

So I now have six five gallon kegs. I need six names. If it were four it would be easy--no not John, Paul, George and Ringo, but Robert, Jimmy, John Paul, and Bonzo. (I never was a huge Beatles fan). I could go with fictional characters like from the Simpsons above, or real people names like the guys from Led Zeppelin, or colors, or you name it. In fact, YOU NAME IT! Yes, I am looking for suggestions from my readers. All eight of them.

So please leave suggestions in the comments. The winner gets some home brew.

Follow Ups

This is just a quick follow up to some previous posts:

1) I don't need to buy new kegs. Steve Hamburg from my brew club, The Chicago Beer Society, gave me 3 kegs that he no longer uses. I gave him approximately 3 gallons of my Toasted Coconut Porter in return.

2) I haven't yet sent my B.U.Z.Z. brewoff entries. They're packaged up and ready to ship tomorrow; I hope they get there by June 1st. I cut the entries down to 4. I didn't have time to bottle the Tripel, and the Toasted Oatmeal Lager got drank up at a Memorial Day Cookout. (I actually saved enough to bottle a couple, but the travel faucet that I left on the keg opened up on the ride home, dousing the back seat, and not leaving me enough for a competition entry.)

More about the new kegs to follow.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

B.U.Z.Z. Off!

Well, even though I have an O-fer going so far this year in homebrew competitions, I'm going to get back up on that horse, or in this case a buzzard, and try again. The Boneyard Union of Zymurgical Zealots (B.U.Z.Z.) is holding their annual homebrew competition on June 6.
B.U.Z.Z. is the homebrew club of the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, my alma mater, so I think it's my duty as a faithful alumna to enter (and win) their competition. If I can get everything together, I plan on entering multiple categories:

Pilsner--Your Mother's Mustache--Classic American Pilsner
Belgian--It doesn't have a name yet Belgian Porter--Belgian Specialty
IPA--Alpha King Clone, Omega King?--American India Pale Ale
Belgian Stong Ale--Tripel Your Pleasure--Belgian Tripel
Spice/Herb/Vegetable--You Sank My Coconut!--Toasted Coconut Porter
Specialty--Toasted Oatmeal Black Lager--Specialty
So far only the Pilsner and the Belgian are bottled, but everything else should be ready to go, it's just a matter of me bottling it. Have I mentioned I hate bottling? Anyway, look for Señor Brew's alter ego in the winners list for the B.U.Z.Z. Brewoff 2009.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Trippel Your Pleasure, Trippel Your Fun!

Holy Smokes! I just racked my Belgian Trippel from Primary to secondary, and it is awesome! (Of course I took a little taste). I knew that it would finish dry, especially with the sugar addition, but wow! It started at 1.057 before the sugar addition, which upped it to 1.080, and finished at... 1.004! That's 10.5% alcohol by volume, or at least it was when I went to school.

It's not carbonated yet, and I'm sure it will taste even better once it does, but it has that peppery citrusy Belgiany taste to it, yet slightly subdued. I fermented pretty cool for a Belgian, around 64F. You don't taste the alcohol, nor any cidery flavors that you are rumoured to get from cane sugar. Pure cane sugar, that's the one!

I brewed this as part of a split batch at the Big Brew...I'll have to post the recipe once I dig it up--if I even wrote it down at all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Tale of Three Porters

I'm finally getting around to posting my porter recipe. I say it's a tale of three porters because I made a very large batch (around 15 gallons) and then split the wort between three different yeasts. So here we go:

17 lbs 2-row
3 lbs pale chocolate malt
1.63 lbs flaked oats (Jewel brand Quick Oats)
1 lb caramel 80L
1 lb caramel 40L
1 lb flaked wheat
1 lb toasted 2-row (toasted in the oven for 15 minutes @ 350F)
1 lb toasted flaked oats (Jewel Quick Oats toasted for 15min @350F)
0.5 lb UK Chocolate malt
10 oz rice hulls

I mashed the above for 2.5 hours at 152F. I did a batch sparge and collected approximately 18 gallons of wort. I boiled for 60 minutes, there was only one hop addition 2 oz of Galena 13.1% AA boiled for the whole hour.

The batch was split between Chimay yeast (cultured from a bottle of Chimay Red), Wyeast London 1968, and Wyeast Munich Lager yeast--yes I made a porter/lager. The London and the Belgian fermented at 64F, and the Munich at 56F. In hindsight, I would have fermented the Belgian a little warmer, to bring out more esters and phenols.

But wait, it gets better. After primary fermentation of the batch on the London yeast, I added 8.8 ounces of dried coconut that I toasted at 350F for about 20 minutes.

So I have a Belgian Porter, A Toasted Coconut Porter, and a Dark Lager Porter.

O.G. was 1.046, the Belgian and the lager finished at 1.010, I haven't yet measured the Toasted Coconut.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Opening Day Alt Update

Well it's approximately six weeks into baseball season, the Cubs are in second place in their division, 1.5 games out, and I opened a bottle of Opening Day Alt over the weekend. It's much better than it was April 5th when the season started. It has cleared up completely, and the bitterness has mellowed to the point where it is just about perfect. I wish I had bottled some in 12 ouncers, because this beer is competition worthy, although it propably would get dinged a few points for my choice of hops. It just goes to show that patience is rewarded in this crazy hobby we call homebrewing. Never rush your beer--now if I can only listen to my own advice.

Time to buy more kegs?

As I mentioned in my last post, I have run out of keg space. It might be time to buy more kegs, especially since I have to transfer my "You Sank My Coconut!" Porter to another keg next week, and there is no way I'll have a free keg. Plus I have a number of beers in either in primary or secondary that will need to be kegged at some point soon. Here's the rundown of my current beer situation.


5 gallon: Obfuscator Doppelbock. Status: lagering. Ready to drink: Early June
5 gallon: Dark Unamed Lager. Status: lagering. Ready to drink: Mid June
5 gallon: "You Sank My Coconut!" Porter. Status: Dry coconutting. Ready to drink: next week
2.5 gallon: Pseudo-Alpha King Clone. Status: Dry hopping. Ready to drink: next week

IN PRIMARY (in 6 gallon glass carboys)

Belgian Tripel ~5 gallons Ready to secondary: Now
Pils ~9 gallons Ready to secondary: Now

IN SECONDARY (in 5 gallon glass carboys)

Pseudo-Alpha King Clone. Status: Dry hopping. Ready to keg/bottle: next week.

Too much beer? It's a good problem to have.

You Sank My Coconut!

I couldn't leave well enough alone, and decided to fix the floating coconut bag problem I was having with my Toasted Coconut Porter. The plan was to pull the bags out, weigh them down with glass beads, suspend them in the keg with fishing line, and add some sugar water to the keg so the yeast would naturally carbonate the beer and scavenge the oxygen that I was sure to introduce by this whole process.

I boiled the glass beads in the sugar water solution--killing two birds with one bead, sterilizing the beads and sugar at the same time. When I opened the keg, I saw that the bags of coconut had sunk on their own! This would be fine, except that I don't want the coconut in the keg for the whole time; I'm just "dry-coconutting" for about a week, and since the bags aren't tied to anything, there is no easy way to pull them out.

Since I had the sugar solution ready, I added it even though I didn't really disturb much by opening the keg. My new plan is to let it naturally carbonate and "coconutate" for a week, and then transfer it to another keg so it doesn't get too "coconutty". The only problem is that I don't have a free keg. It might be time to buy some new kegs.

Of course, I sampled a little even though it's warm, flat, and only been on the coconut for three days. There is quite a bit of coconut on the nose, and it has a little coconut finish. Another week, carbonated, chilled, it should be perfect.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Let's Do...Megan Fox

So I racked (no double entendre intended) the porter to secondary and added the toasted coconuts (again, no double entendre intended). I toasted the coconut for a little longer than originally planned, about 22 minutes at 350F. I resolved my "which is the bigger pain-in-the-ass" conundrum by using the bags ( get the point), but also using the corny keg as my secondary. This way, I don't have to worry about loose coconuts (why did I use this photo?), but also don't have to worry about fishing the swollen (this is getting weird) coconut bags out of a carboy.

The only problem? And yes, there's always a problem, if you haven't yet figured that out from reading this blog. Actually, there were two problems. One, I tied some nylon string to the bags so I would be able to pull out easily (here we go again) the bags of coconut. The strings were tied to the handles of the keg. Well the string was too thick (?!?) and the keg wouldn't seal. So after doing some research on the intertubes, I decided to use monofilament, a.k.a., fishing line.

I opened the keg, and encountered problem number two. I didn't weight the bags of coconut down with anything, so they were floating at the top of the beer. I decided at this point not to mess with anything further, thinking I would oxidize and/or contaminate the beer. I cut the string, put the top back on, and sealed the keg with a shot of CO2. I figure that since the keg is almost completely full, most of the coconut is in contact with the beer. I'll turn the keg upside down every other day or so, so the bags float to the other end and all the coconut makes contact with the beer. This is of course assuming the bags don't rotate as they float their way up.

Oh yeah, the photo of Megan Fox is just because I promised another photo of her in an earlier post. You know, I haven't even seen any of her movies?

Let's Do...Organic

I decided to try to add coconut to a beer after tasting a Trader Joe's "Almond in the Coconut" candy--delicious. It made sense to me to add it (coconut, not the candy) to a porter, and since I had a number of odds and ends of malt types lying around it was perfect to make a "kitchen sink" type porter. You know---everything-but-the-kitchen-sink goes into it. In this case it was going to be everything-including-coconut-but-still-not-the-kitchen-sink goes into it.

I'll have to post the porter recipe later, but I split the 15 gallon batch three ways, mainly for variety, but also because I have never added coconut to a beer, and didn't want to risk having 15 gallons of undrinkable "Malibu Rum-Beer".

So it's time to add the coconut. Actually, it's way past time to add the coconut, because it has taken me awhile to find unsweetened preservative-free coconut. I finally discovered some at Whole Foods. I was hoping that they had it bulk, which would tend to be a lot cheaper, but unfortunately they had it pre-packaged, so I paid $2.75 for 8.8 oz. I have seen it online for under two bucks a pound, but since I would be ordering a small amount, the shipping cost wouldn't make this a viable option.

Tomorrow, I will be toasting the coconut! 10 to 15 minutes at 350F should do the trick. Then I'll rack the porter to secondary in a five gallon glass carboy, and add the 8.8 ounces of coconut. I debated whether or not to bag the coconut before I add it, but ultimately decided to just pour it in unbagged. I figure that the potential pain-in-the-ass of straining around coconut shavings come kegging time are outweighed by the potential pain-in-the-ass of fishing a swollen bag of coconut out of the carboy. It will sit in secondary for about two weeks--look for an update about June 1st.

Final note: as you will see from the soon to be posted photo, the coconut is reduced fat. On the back label they say they use a steam process to do this. For my porter, this is a good thing--you don't really want any fat in a beer if you can help it--it could lead to reduced head retention and spoilage.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fat Weasel Ale

So I thought I would critique a beer that I found in my fridge. I didn't buy it, it was just there. I wrote this kind of stream of consciousness, although influenced by the BJCP reports I get back from the competitions I enter with my homebrew. Enjoy.

Appearance: Pale golden, medium white head, crystal clear.

Aroma: buttery, slight corn and malt aroma, no discernable hop aroma.

Flavor: very slightly bitter, buttery, hint of malty sweetness, a little corny (DMS),very little neutral hop flavor.

Head persists, mouthfeel medium, dry finish, alcohol warmth, upper medium carbonation.

Alcohol 7.1% by volume.

Not my favorite beer--too much diacetly (buttery, butterscotch) and one dimensional in flavor. You also sense the alcohol burn.

If I had to catagorize it, I would call it a strong cream ale or malt liquor?

Steinhaus Brewing, New Ulm, MN.

Beer advocate had it listed as an American Strong Ale. I'm guessing the wifey picked it up at Trader Joe's, because that's where everybody on Beer Advocate mentioned they got it from.

Would I attempt to clone it in a homebrew version? No.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

AHA Big Brew video

Check out the beer nerd at the one minute mark who propagated yeast from a bottle of Chimay. Yes that is yours truly, Señor Brew.