Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2014 Year In Review; part 2: What I Didn't Plan to Do, But Did

Last year (2014) was a big year for me, not only in accomplishing many of the goals I had set out, but also in terms of other things I never set out to do.  Of course, not everything could fit into one post, so this is the follow up to the first one.

As mentioned in the first half of this posting I built an incubator last year and also didn't finish the remodel on my entertainment room.  One part of the remodel that wasn't exactly planned but was added was a Yeast Lab.  Of course this isn't completely finished, but I am off to a good start.  I have a desk with a covered area that is easy enough to sanitize.  I have a couple flame sources to create up-drafts.  I have lots of 25ml and 50ml vials for culturing from plates and bottles.  I have a few test tube holders.  I made an inoculation loop using a Xacto knife handle and Stainless Steel wire from the craft store.  I have made a few rounds of plates including some with chalk added to differentiate acid producing cells in mixed cultures.  Of course sterile vials and plates can't be done without a pressure cooker which I also got earlier this year.  I also made yeast extract for growing even more cells in starters.  I scored a fair amount of lab glass including lab jars and quite a few 150-250ml Erlenmeyer and Boiling flasks at a local restore.  The incubator is in the lab area as well.  I have been able to culture quite a few yeasts this year in the lab: Sierra Nevada Kellerweisse, St Bernardus house abbey strain, a new blackberry culture, as well as yeast from Dupont, Wicked Weed, Fantome, Trinity, Ale Apothacary, Ancorage/Crooked Stave, Lost Abbey (Mo Betta), and a few others.  I even have a 20+ year old slurry from Vapuer that I am assisting another brewer from back east resurrect and so far we've got some new growth.  I have a small starter going from Oakshire's Hellshire II that was infected with Lacto, hopefully I am able to get that strain from the dregs.

As stated in my first post about the year, I won Best of Show for a Gueuze and was afforded the opportunity to brew with 2 local breweries.  First, winning the BOS came with a prize to rebrew my beer with Falling Sky Brewing.  Falling Sky is a fairly new brewer pub that grew out of our Local Home Brew Shop, the brewmaster worked their before taking this position.  Unfortunately, the way this prize works is that it is to be released later in the year for GABF as a Pro-Am entry, and sours don't turn that quickly (my beer was 2.5 years old).  Also, they don't do sours, and have no place to house a barrel.  We opted to do a mock up by sour worting the same grain bill as my beer, then doing a whirpool with bright and fruity hops to give it lots of the fruity notes from my beer.  I was talking with the brewmaster at another local brewery, Oakshire Brewing, about the issues with doing a rebrew of my beer, and he offered to do it on his system.  I built up the yeast from dregs of my bottles, pitched it into 10 gallons of my own rebrew, fermented it out, gave that to Oakshire who put it onto 1/2 a barrel of wort for 3 days.  I went in on a Friday morning and brewed a 10 barrel batch with them and that pitch of yeast had it kicking with in a matter of hours.  A few weeks later and it went into 3 wine barrels and a gin barrel to age for awhile.

I change my kegging procedures slightly this year as well.  I still rack via CO2 force, but I moved from doing this through the lid of the keg into the bottom to going to a liquid out disconnect attached to the liquid out post down through the dip tube while venting CO2 from the top of the keg.  This allows the entire system to remain closed and purged of O2.  I follow this up after a couple weeks in the fridge by racking the beer off of the sediment in the first keg into a second keg via a jumper - liquid out QD to beer line to liquid out QD - taking the beer from the bottom of one keg and filling from the bottom of the other in a closed system.  This has greatly helped to keep my beers fresher longer, and to clarify them more.

I was also afforded a chance to have my writings published.  I was contacted by a member of our brew club for recipes for his homebrewing column in NW Brewing News, a regional beer magazine.  I forwarded my IPA and Black IPA single boil, split ferment recipe to them.  I also wrote an article in BYO magazine on the full topic of single mashing with split processes - partigyle, single boil - split ferment, and split boils.  It was awesome to write the article, work with the staff at BYO on editing and information, and to have 6 recipes in print.  I am even working on another couple articles for them for this year.

Having the article in print got me an opportunity to lead our tech talk/educational topic at our brew club meeting on the same topic as the article.  I was also able to do another tech talk on building your own Temp Control unit.

I was able to get a seat for February 2015 to take the BJCP taste test, so I have been doing some study (not nearly as much as others in the club) to prep for the test, as well as partaking in an off-flavors study.  As of the writing of this post I have successfully passed the online portion of the test, and now need to bone up on the guidelines for the closed book tasting panel.

My wife purchased me two really awesome presents for Christmas too.  A mill, so now I can buy in bulk and save so much money on grains.  And also, the Brewers Association's Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery by Dick Cantwell.  More to follow on that one of course.

I also read American Sour Beers by Michael Tonsmeire, Yeast by Chris White, and reread portions of Farmhouse Ales.

Of course, just like last year, I will be posting a "What I Hope to Do and Brew This Year" article soon...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

2014 Year In Review; Part 1, What I Planned to Do

At the beginning of the year I posted a thread on the things that I wanted to accomplish as a brewer over the course of the coming year.  Well, the year has come and gone, and I thought it would be good to reflect on what I did accomplish, both in terms of fulfilling the desires I had for the year as well as things I didn't think about 12 months ago but have done anyways.

One of the first things I said I was going to do was make it a year of competitions, and boy did I.  I entered 3 BJCP comps in our area and placed in all of them.  The first comp of the year, KLCC, I entered 7 beers.  4 placed.  I took second place with a 1+ year old Dopplebock that had taken 1st in May of 2013.  I also got 3 1st place ribbons for an American Brown, Oak Aged Double Stout, and my first sour that was 2.5 years old at the time of judging.  This beer also happened to take Best of Show.  This lead to brewing a couple beers at local breweries (more to follow).  For the Sasquatch brewfest I had 2 beers place.  An American Stout took 2nd (recipe was a collaborative effort of lots of brewers on the Beer Advocate homebrew forum).  I also had an all Vienna malt, Amarillo and Simcoe hop bursted American Pale Ale, fermented totally with 100% Brett Brux Trois take 1st.  The judges were blown away with the explosion of hops and tropical fruits.  In the BOS round it was knocked out when one judge picked up a medicinal note in the finish.  All judges jaws dropped when I told them it was 100% Brett.  I also entered a brand new competition this year in our area.  I entered an IPA and Imperial Red IPA, both took 1st place, and the IPA got a 40/50 which is totally unheard of in the competitions held in Western Oregon.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Keezer Build

I have had quite a few issues with the kegging set up I had.  Mainly, it was due to the fridge being just big enough to squeeze 6 kegs into, but in so doing, I could barely get to the quick connects on top, and couldn't get to my dual regulator or 4 way splitter if needed.  I lost quite a bit of beer over 2 years to kicking up sludge from the bottom of the keg whenever I had to move them around.  I had a Vienna Lager that never got properly lagered due to this.  Recently I started jumping the beer from the keg in the fridge to a clean keg and getting it off the sludge.  It has worked wonders, but is not 100%, and I still face the struggle of getting my tap line off and getting the jumper on.  I really wanted to get a freezer and build a collar, installing real taps.  I waffled back and forth for quite a while.  One consideration is where I would store my hops, bottled beer, and yeast/plates (we kept the fridge and moved it to the garage).

For the end of the year (and of my time in ministry) I got a large financial gift from the church as a bonus and was able to get the freezer I wanted - on sale - as well as buy the wood and other parts for the build. I just couldn't do the fridge anymore.  After stalking the Home Brew Talk thread on Keezer builds and freezer specs for months, I set my sights on the Magic Chef 6.8 cu.ft. freezer.  With a collar it holds 6 kegs, which is exactly what I wanted.  Other models in the 7 cu.ft. range only held 4-5, even with a collar.  When Homebrew Finds put it up as on sale at Home Depot I went for it.  That model is no longer going to be sold at HD and so once my local stores had sold out, I missed my chance.  After talking to multiple people I found a very gracious young lady who located one in Southern Oregon and had it transferred for me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

RECIPES: #76 Feed The Machine (IPA) & #77 Release the Panic (100% Brett IPA)

7 oz Whirlpool Hops for 10 gallons
Thus it begins.  The process I swore I would never do.  Rebrewing a recipe with tweeks.  I have day dreamed of owning my own brewery someday, and have declared that I would never have house beers, the same recipe brewed over and over again.  But then the day dreams are seeming to become more serious.  I recently felt led to step out of ministry, that youth ministry is not where the Lord is calling me.  In the midst of this, I have been wondering where my calling may actually be.  My pastors have stated that they are excited to see where the Lord uses me in the future, and they all hope it is in brewing.  Then my wife buys me Starting Your Own Brewery, 2nd Edition for Christmas (a super expensive book), seems like she is behind the idea.  In light of all this - the possibility of actually owning a brewery - the thought of having solidified recipes, house beers, repeatable, excellent, it all comes rushing in.  Regardless of whether I actually have year round house beers or not, I need a solid recipe to give potential investors, something repeatable and unique, something I can brew on a big boy system and know if I did it right or not.  Thus it begins.  Rebrewing a recipe with tweeks.