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Baseball and beer

Spring training just started up which means that my favorite sports part of the year has just begun, and hopefully will last until October. If you don’t know I am a huge Phillies fan and not one of those fans who only likes them when they are good, but a 1997¬† Phillies fan when they finished up 68-94 and 5th in the NL East. With that said, what is it about beer and baseball that just go so well together. I have done my share of tailgating before a game, but that does not compare with having a quality brew in your hands during the actual game.

My most memorable moment where good beer and baseball mixed was two years ago when the Phillies made the playoffs in the first time in what seemed like forever. It was the NLDS vs. the Brewers (odd?), Game 1. I had a Sam Adams Octoberfest in my hand with my buddies surrounding me as we cheered on the Phils to their first win in the playoffs that year. Needless to say they went on to win the whole show. Something about the cold of the game and the beer was just rewarding and added to the overall experience of watching something I love to watch.

One of the highlights of the game is when the Miller beer guy came into our section and people started throwing stuff at him and booing him just becasue he was selling Miller. Miller is made in Milwaukee, just like the Brewers, get it? Philadelphia fans are passionate to the point that the poor guy couldn’t make a sale of a product that was made in the same city as the team we faced. The guy was a 100% Philadelphian too. Anyone else enjoy a beer and a baseball game?

What do I need to homebrew?

One of my buddies just recently asked, “what do I need to have to be able to homebrew?” He actually brewed his first batch of beer tonight after he got his starter kit in the mail. I thought that I would take a few moments to go over the very basic things that you need to have as a new homebrewer. I am going to leave out a few things that typically come in a beer kit, becasue, as a new brewer you simply don’t need or shouldn’t be worrying about them. If you don’t want to read my explanations, simply scroll to the bottom of the page for the final list of necessary equipment.

Boil Pot

11-13-02The first thing that you are going to need is a pot to boil your wort in. A basic definition for wort is the liquid that contains all of the sugars that the yeast will eat. Your pot can really be any size, most people will say that you need to have something big enough to boil a few gallons and I would agree with that. I started with, and still use my 20 quart pot, and have had great success with it. You can find a stainless steel, 5 gallon pot for 20-50 bucks depending on where you shop. My local Big Lots has them on sale right now for $20. You can read my entry on brew pots here as there are a few other (aka cheaper) options out there, but I am going to stick with stainless.

Fermenter

11-13-01The next thing you have to have is something to ferment in. Most beers are brewed in a closed fermenter. What this means is that once the wort and yeast are combined, there is no other air introduced to the container. Just think of a water bottle, once you put the lid on no extra air can come in. Some brewers do open fermentation where the beer is put into a container with no lid or cap, and is left alone. This is fine as long as nothing falls into the beer, there is minimal air movement, and you are willing to risk airborne critters entering your beer. In either case, the beer needs to be in something rated food safe. If it is a glass carboy you have no problems, and if it is a plastic bucket, just double check to make sure it is food safe.

So we have something to boil the wort in and somewhere to put it once it is done boiling. Now we need a way to get it out of there once the fermentation is complete. Actually, let me back up for a second. Most brewers like moving their beer from one fermenter to another after the fermentation has completed. This does a lot of things for you if you are going to be storing the beer for a long time, but if you are ready to go right to the bottle, you don’t need to worry about a second fermenter. Remember I am going for a basic list here, so no secondary.

Siphon and bottling equipment

Getting back to moving that beer out of the fermenter and into the bottle, we need something to do that with. There are two options a siphon (aka a racking cane) or an auto-siphon. What both of these devices use is basic physics (pressure) to move liquids from a high pressure to a lower one. There is a little more to it, but that is the general gist. A siphon you must start and then work it into your beer. To be honest I’ve never used one. An auto-siphon is slightly more expensive (about $5 more), but well worth your time and effort. You simply pump it and the liquid starts flowing. Pretty easy. Along with your siphon or auto-siphon you are going to need a tube to transport the beer to where you want it.

Our next few things kind of go hand in hand. At the end of the tube from your siphon you want to have a bottle filler. A bottle filler has a spring loaded tip that only allows your precious beer to flow out of it if the tip of it is depressed (on the bottom of a bottle). They run in the 2-5 dollar range. Just make sure that you are getting one that is spring-loaded. Obviously we are going to need some bottles as well. To top off the bottles we need to have bottle caps and also a capper that crimps the caps onto the top of the bottle.

Sanitize brother, Sanitize

There is the equipment side of things. The other necessary thing that you have to have, repeat HAVE TO HAVE, is some type of sanitizer. It can be as simple as bleach or as cool as a non-rinse sanitizer. In any case it is absolutely necessary. You can have the best equipment in the world, but without sanitation, you can’t make good beer (and possibly not even drinkable beer). Yikes. This is because there are tons of microscopic¬† critters out there that like beer as much as we do. If they get into your fresh wort, they will compete with your yeast in eating the sugars. These critters can make some terrible smells and tastes if given the chance. So just kill them when you have the chance, all of them.

11-13-03

So a quick recap of things absolutely necessary to homebrew:

  • Boil kettle: size doesn’t matter but a 3-5 gallon one will serve you well
  • Fermenter: because you need somewhere for your yeasts to live
  • Siphon: so you can get your yummy beer into a bottle
  • Bottle filler: you need to fill those bottles in some controlled fashion
  • Bottles: what else would you drink your beer out of?
  • Bottle caps: you want your beer to be carbonated don’t you?
  • Bottle capper: those caps need to stay on the bottle somehow
  • Sanitizer: other little critters like beer as much as we do, don’t give them a chance to have it

Well there you go, all of the stuff you need to make beer, other than the ingredients of course. I’ll cover that in our next into to brewing post. Thanks for reading and let me know if there are any questions that you have. This is in no way a complete list of things that you could have, but this is the necessary list of things. There are plenty of other products out there that will make your homebrewing experience easier and more satisfying.

Beer Pioneers trailer

08-04-01This movie has been in the works for fifteen years now and has all of the big names in the craft beer industry in it. There is a trailer on the website linked here. It is nice to see a bunch of movies taking place about the beer industry. The other movie that recently came out was Beer Wars, and soon we can expect this. I’m really looking forward to this as it looks to tell the story of craft breweries from the owners/brewers perspective. To quote the website,

Beer Pioneers explores the history and evolution of craft beer in America, from Anchor Brewing and New Albion to Merchant du Vin and the Maltose Falcons. The documentary takes an in-depth look at the people, places and events behind the craft beer revolution.

Filmed over a 15 year period, director Jay Sheveck interviews many of the early pioneers and revisits dozens of historic breweries and events that helped shape the modern day craft brewing industry. Archival photos, films and breweriana compliment the narrative, shedding even more light upon the earliest days.

Beer Pioneers reveals the story of the American craft brewing revolution unlike any other documentary to date. The final feature-length documentary will debut in Summer 2010.”

Spontaneously fermenting

Basic Brewing Radio recently did an interview with one of the brewers at Allagash Brewing Company about spontaneously fermented beer. You can see the video below that started the whole conversation. I think it is pretty cool and an awesome experiment for a production brewery.

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Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine has built a cool ship for spontaneously fermenting beer. This is a traditional method for brewign in Belgium. This is the inaugural use of the cool ship. You can see that the beer is coming from inside the brewery. At this point it has just been filtered in our whirlpool. the beer passes through the sieve so that there are no pieces of spice or hops in the cool ship. The beer will sit in the cool ship overnight, allowing the beer to cool. When the temperature is right ambient yeast will begin to ferment the beer, in this way it is spontaneously fermented.

Really Miller Light?

09-03-09-01This blog generally only talks about good beer and beer related things, but I just saw something that irritated me to no end. It was a TV commercial about Miller Light. I’m used to that type of thing, generally it says tastes great, less filling and flashes some hottie up there. But no, this commercial went after the craft brew industry a bit. It talked about how Miller Light is hopped three different times. I wasn’t even sure there were hops in that swill. To quote a recent article:

“MillerCoors shared its new Miller Lite ad campaign with investors, saying it will focus on the brand’s taste to woo new consumers. One ad played for analysts touted the fact that brewers add hops to Miller Lite three times while it is being made. It also used a slogan familiar with its fans: ‘Great taste, less filling.'”

I guess this isn’t really that suprising since they also claim they are a true pilsner beer but come on.