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...

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