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Homebrewing Update

It’s been some time since my last post on this site. At the time of my last post I had just returned from vacation and jumped right back into a promotion at work which has kept me very busy. While I haven’t been posting a ton (like nothing at all in a month and a half) on this site, I’ve been very actively homebrewing. I thought that I would leave some notes below on my activities before getting back to beer reviews later this week.

Whiskey Barrel

My buddy and I split the cost of a whiskey barrel several months ago and we have produced a very nice Rye IPA and Belgian Tripel from it. The Rye IPA has passed its peak freshness in my eyes but the Tripel is firing on all cylinders. I expect that beer to age nicely and be around for some time. Currently to barrel has a Robust Porter in it (recipe coming soon) that hits some nice notes from the first tasting. It’s been in the barrel a little longer than what I would have liked and has become over-oaked as a result. I added some fresh beer to it a few weeks ago and that seems to have rounded it out nicely. I hope to bottle it this weekend. Going into the whiskey barrel will be a Belgian Dark Strong Ale that has been fermenting strong for three weeks now. I don’t know how it is doing it, but there are still bubbles coming out of the airlocks.

Kegs

The kegged portion of the Rye IPA is in one of my kegs and the other one has a Fall Session Ale. It’s a nice beer that comes in at 4% ABV, but has a ton of flavor that makes it drink like a higher percentage beer. I have a keg of the Barrel Aged Tripel waiting to go on tap once the Rye kicks. I need to replace the O-rings on one of my empty kegs along with a new poppet valve.

Fermentation

All of my fermenters are currently full, which is not something that usually happens for me. Three of them are taken up by the Belgian Dark Strong Ale which will be put into the barrel this weekend. Another fermenter has an American Hoppy Wheat Ale in it that is hopped with a generous amount of Citra, but stays at 4.5% or so ABV. My only glass carboy has three gallons of the fresh Robust Porter that didn’t fit into the barrel. I am toying with the idea of fermenting a few gallons of cider and mixing the two before kegging but I have to let that idea rest for a bit. I also just got two new fermenters in the mail today thanks to Northern Brewer’s buy one get on free sale from last week.

Brewing List

I have a number of beers in my mind that I want to brew pretty soon. The first thing that I need to knockout is a Pumpkin Ale. The one that I brewed last year really hit the mark for me and I am only going to be making slight adjustments for this years batch. I also have a Winter Warmer in my mind that needs to be brewed in short order. Finally I have a bunch of NZ hops on hand so I want to make an over the top IPA and Pale Ale, but those may have to hold off a bit as I want to make sure that I can drink them fresh and I don’t have the keg space to put them in right now.

Reviews will be back later this week and I plan on posting more homebrewing articles as well as I have a lot going on right now with it.

Keezer Part 2

My keezer project is coming along nicely. I purchased the collar in order to raise the height of the lid on my chest freezer. By doing this I will increase the height of the chest freezer and give myself the height I need for an extra keg as well as a place to mount the taps. There are tons of ways to go about doing this, but living in an apartment gives limited power tool options.

I really only have a drill, so making this thing simple is very important. I made a trip to my local Lowe’s and picked up the required hardware. My chest freezer is a 5.0 cubic foot GE model. It measures 29”x22” and those were the dimensions that¬† I decided to make my collar as well. After some searching online I found that a typical Cornelius keg is 26” tall but you want to leave yourself some room for the connections and hoses. This means that I needed to give my collar a height of ~10” in order to have the room necessary for an additional keg.

One quick sidenote. The GE chest freezer will fit two kegs with no modifications, but the right side of the freezer has a “bump” in it for the compressor. This bump makes it necessary to add a collar to fit a third keg. You can see the bump in the right side of this image.

While at Lowe’s I found a long construction grade piece of lumber that measured 144”x12”x3/4”. This is perfect for what I needed and I found an associate to cut it down for me (free at Lowe’s) to get two boards at were 29” and two that were 19.5” since I needed to account for the board thickness. The other nice thing is that these boards cost in the neighborhood of $10. I also purchased some angle brackets, woods stain, polyurethane, and some sand paper. After all was said and done, it came in around $25.

Once I got home I sanded down the boards and applied the stain with a brush I already had. After two coats it was the color that I wanted. I gave the stain the required amount of time to sent and then I added four coats of poly, making sure to sand each one (but the last) with 200 grit sand paper. Doing this allows the layers of poly to bond properly with each other. I’ve had poly peal off by not doing this before.¬† I then screwed in the angle brackets to the outside and inside walls of the wood to make a sturdy box. I also used liquid nails to help hold them together. More coming in my next Keezer update.

Anyone catch Food Tech last night?

I will be the first to admit (and my wife will fully stand behind this) that I am a dork when it comes to seeing how stuff is made. Modern Marvels is one of the best shows ever produced as far as I am concerned. On of the History Channel’s new shows is called Food Tech and they show you how all of the components come together to make a meal. One week they will take pizza and show you everything from pizza over construction to how tomatoes are harvested and the next will be Chinese take-out.

Last night they had baseball food on there. So basically hot dogs, ice cream, cracker jacks, and of course beer. For some reason I am still fascinated by the beer making process, even though I make my own and know what is going on. Maybe it is all of the stainless steel but I just love watching it. They showed the flagship Bud plant in St. Louis as the example of how beer is made and it was just impressive. They have primary fermenters that hold 2,000 kegs, that’s 1,000 barrels or more than some breweries produce in an entire year in just on fermenter. The scary thing is, they have dozens of them.

Did anyone else catch Food Tech or are you not like me and don’t really care how it is made as long as it tastes good?

Foam-Free beer dispenser

A Russian company has come up with a great way to dispense beer, a foam-free dispenser. How great would it be to go to your local brewpub, order a growler, and not have to wait five hours for the foam to go down? According to the companies website:

“PEGAS is a unique product meant for foam-free dispensing of foamy beverages from kegs. PEGAS is mostly used for filling bottles with draught beer. You can also use it to dispense: cider, wine, kvass, lemonade, fizzy juices, carbonated drinks, mineral water, etc. from kegs.”

I’m not sure if I would like to have this for a bar drink or not, but I could see it’s advantages. I’m a fan of a decent head on a beer, but that head is also wasted space, making me pay more money for less beer. This product could “solve” that problem.