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My new used whiskey barrel

If you haven’t been following our Facebook and Twitter, and let’s be honest, why wouldn’t you, you missed the news that I recently came into a 15 gallon used whiskey barrel. Actually a buddy of mine and I went halfies on it. I’ve been wanted to do some barrel aging for some time as it seems like a new fun challenge.

02-22-01As you can see it looks like a full sized barrel, just scaled down a bit. The barrel was sealed immediately after it was drained and when you swish the barrel around a bit you hear a bit of whiskey in it. I’ll post a few things about barrel aging beers and tips if you want to do something similar as well. The first beer to aged in it will be a Rye IPA, which was brewed on Presidents’ Day (all 15+ gallons). After that we will fill it with a Belgian Tripel and then an Oatmeal Stout. From there I need to do some planning. Anyone have any specific questions on barrel aging homebrew that I can answer in a future post?

 

Yeast Washing: A how to

Yeast is the single most expensive ingredient that you will purchase as a homebrewer. Per unit it blows away any other ingredient. Grain is generally $2.50 and under per pound. Hops runs $2.00 and under an ounce. And we don’t really put water into the equation since it’s cheaper than anything else. Yeast on the other hand is usually $6-12 a vial or smack pack depending on the store, variety, and rarity of the yeast stain you buy. Even dry yeast runs around $3.00 a unit. For this reason, many homebrewers like to reuse yeast and thus, bring down the cost per unit of their yeast. But what happens if you want to brew a stout and then a light colored ale? There really isn’t a good way of getting all of the beer and wort separated fully.

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I’ve been trying to make some strides in my homebrewing costs and I stumbled into yeast washing. The idea behind yeast washing is that you take a yeast cake, add water, and then pour the slurry into smaller containers. You then give the slurry time to separate and repeat. The heavy materials (dead yeast, hop particles, etc) will settle to the bottom and the healthy yeast will remain in suspension or layer on top of the heavy materials. You then pour the good stuff into another container and get rid of the heavy materials. Now let’s get into the nitty gritty. (more…)

Homebrew updates

I haven’t posted about homebrewing in a little while and I just wanted to give some updates. So far this year I have brewed 15 batches of beer for a total of 75 gallons. It’s crazy to think that I still haveĀ  125 gallons to go in order to meet my state allowed maximum. I’m still drinking some of the beer that I brewed during the summer. I have a Belgian IPA on tap right now along with my Pumpkin Ale. I’ll get a recipe up for my Belgian IPA shortly.

The pumpkin is pretty good and it is received some rave review from my friends. I want to dial back the spices a bit and give it a touch more body. I’ll probably end up rebrewing this one before the fall is over with a different yeast that doesn’t attenuate as well so that it can have a bit more body. The Belgian IPA is good, but not great. It is suffering from sitting in the keg too long. IPAs need to be drank quickly and this one sat in a keg for a month and a half. The hop freshness is wearing off and is nothing compared to what it was when it was fresher.

I recently brewed a third version of an IPA I have been working on. I changed up the yeast and the hops, but everything else is the same. I have magnum as the bittering hop and two additions of citra. The yeast change was more out of me being cheap than anything as the IPA was pitched on a yeast cake. I recently kegged, what I am calling, an American Bitter. It uses American malt and hops, but a bitter grain bill profile and an English yeast. It came in at about 4% and initial tasting has this one being drinkable in decent amounts. I’ll get a recipe up on here once I’ve had a chance to really test it out and make sure it meets my internal standards.

On the equipment front I bought 2 new kegs from Keg Connection. With shipping they came in at $78, you really can’t beat that. I also scored a deal from Northern Brewer for buy one get one Better Bottles. That brings me up to 4 Better Bottles and one glass carboy. I’m hoping to do a number of lagers this winter once the basement cools down and I should have no problem filling all of the carboys up. I haven’t ordered much in way of ingredients recently but I did get a bag of grain at the beginning of October from Midwest Supplies for $32. I had a coupon that took away shipping and then some. I can’t get grain for less than $45-$50 around my house so this was a good deal.

I have plenty of ideas that I want to try out in the coming months. I’ve also had the hankering to do a sour beer as well as a barrel aged beer since I just found out they sell used 5 gallon whiskey barrels. I’m going to hold off on the sour beer idea until it warms up and the barrel is a temporary dream. What I really want, and have wanted for awhile, is a fermentation chamber. I would love to make one myself and have it be able to hold two Better Bottles and two kegs. Time and budget will see if that idea comes to fruition. I’m going to start posting more homebrew updates as it’s an area of the site that I have really been slacking on. I generally try to post every even day, and I’m thinking that every third even day will be devoted to homebrew. Anyone else up to anything in the homebrew world?

Want some funk

I’ve brewed a whole lot so far this year and I have done something that I have never done before; brew a lager. I’m three lagers deep currently with plans for one more before my basement starts warming up to above lager temperatures. Other than lagers I have been wanted to try brewing a sour beer for some time. I know that it is a time consuming process that can take years and blending different versions of the beer and all of that, but I still want to do it. My current problem is that I don’t have the fermenter space for it and I would need to dedicate one to just funky beers from now on.

My buddy Mike has been wanted to do a sour for some time as well so I think we are going to brew together at some point and pump one out. He sent me a text today talking about aging in a wine barrel. Since we don’t have the combined capacity to brew that much beer I suggested taking the oak chips that he uses in his wine making and dumping them into our future sour. Now we just need to plan out the beer and decide on what we want to brew. Has anyone out there brewed a sour before and/or do they have any suggestions or resources on brewing sour beers?

Growing the homebrewery

During the summer I did a post about homebrew wants and needs. Since that time I have added a gas burner and a larger pot. Check off two of my three “needs.” More kegs will hopefully be coming by way of Santa, so I think I have my homebrew needs covered for the time being.

I started homebrewing in college when I found that homebrew was cheaper to make than buying cases of beer. The results also generally tasted better as well. I started with a Mr. Beer and used it for 6-12 months and then upgraded to a 5 gallon system. I stuck with my 5 gallon system for some time and I have recently upgraded things to a new level.

I still do 5 gallon batches but with my new kettle and burner I can do full wort boils. I have noticed a marked increase in my beer quality. Last Christmas I was lucky enough to have a wife that allowed me to build a keezer. I’m hoping to upgrade some of my fermentors to Better Bottles soon as well as get a new mash tun.

Since I have been out of college I have much more disposable income (it’s easy to move up from zero), but I have decided to stick with my slow growth pattern. This allows me to tweak things as needed and really zero in on things that might be causing problems in my beer. One thing that slightly annoys me about some homebrewers is their need to have tons of gadgets. Even some new homebrewers have the latest and greatest without fully understanding what they are doing. I’m all for the love of brewing, but I find it a bit unnecessary to buy every piece of equipment an established homebrewer has right away. I always come back to what my parents told me growing it, “it took us our whole lives to have what we have. You can’t have it right out of the gate, you need to work for it.” It’s a good lesson for anyone let alone homebrewers. I will continue to grow my homebrewery, as I work towards my future goals.