The Belgian Triple

Watch out for this one!

This beer is a whopping 9.5 percent! We have just begun the carbonating process. In two days time, we will bottle our precious ichor with our newest installment of equipment, the bottling gun! It is a home made contraption that is rumored to in fact be more effective then the store bought rendition! It works by first purging the bottle of all oxygen by infusing it with C02 from our tank. Then the bottle filler uses a “bung” mounted on the filler tube to create a pressurized and sealed bottle. The filler reaches the bottom of the bottle, insuring safest transport of beer with little to no irritation (foaming). The piece de resistance is a pressure release valve that lets C02 out as the bottle is filled with beer. This is a huge step up in the bottling game and extremely advantageous for us because the Belgian Triple is a beer that does well with extensive bottle conditioning. We will only know truly from trial and error but it could be another month before the Triple has reached its prime. I am looking forward to observing its transformation.

In other news:

I have yet to brew my next batch but I have settled on an amber ale that my girlfriend had shown interest in brewing. I’m looking forward for multiple reasons, the main one being that I hope this will be an opportunity to get my girlfriend more invested and interested in the brewing process. She has most certainly played a vital part in past brews but this will be the first beer that she will be making executive decisions with flavoring and other crucial aspects of the brew.

A new Style of Beer

For the coming summer:

So I think it’s safe to say at this point that I’ve had my fun in experimenting with IPAs. It was a blast and I can’t wait to try another one in a different style and make my process better and better. There is a ton of fun in not having to be as consistent as a brewery. I can experiment with any aspect of the process purely for learning and that’s how I like it!! We’ve had the IPA on tap at my house for the past week now and It’s been a blast showing it to friends that I have over. I’ve gotten some really positive feedback and the reviews are in! This is the highest quality brew for me to date! Super exciting to be making such progress and it’s inspiring make me try even harder next time. To be more precise and more exacting. So for this next beer, I’m thinking I will brew a witbier or a kolsch. Something very light and refreshing for the coming summer! But I may go the opposite way and brew a porter. We shall see!

Bottling Day:

So we’re going to bottle what’s remaining of my beer very soon, then keg my friends belgian triple. At this point we’re both cruising on the rhythm and it feels good. We’re both very proud of the fact that our precision when it comes to sanitation has prevented us from any sort of bacterial infections.

Ivy the Hedgehog!

Our hedgehog is now safe and sound in our home. She has acclimated to us and our home quite well so far! She’s a very well mannered hedgehog! Friendly to new people and accustomed to the sounds of our home.

Carbonation Station

Lift Off!

Our Keg and C02 tank/regulator set up has arrived. It couldn’t have been timed better with my second IPA finishing the dry hopping process! We cleaned our shiny keg the next day and siphoned my beer out of the carboy and into the keg.  Then we closed up the keg. After inspecting it and making sure all of the lines were safe and securely connected. We started the carbonating process by setting  the regulators pressure to 30psi. After 24 hours with the C02’s PSI set to 30 we adjusted it to 12 psi for the next 12 hours, in order to finish the carbonating process. After only 36 hours of carbonation we were able to enjoy my beer at last!

So far, this is one of my favorite beers that we’ve made to this date! It is very satisfying to experience the subtle difference between this IPA and the last one. The major difference, to me, being the chinook and galaxy hops, Instead of the more citric and floury Centennial and Citra hops. This is definitely an exciting moment for both myself and my good friend! We have already reached a level of success with brewing that I honestly thought we would never reach and it makes me deeply content. I personally would pay good money to drink this beer. Yet it is on tap in my fridge! Needless to say, life is good! The beer finished at the goal final gravity of 1.017 and the galaxy chinook dry hop and carbonation really completed the beers flavor.

The Home Stretch!

Hop Mania!

Thanks for tuning in to another installment of my hoppy adventures! In other news! I’ll be getting a hedgehog of my own within the next couple of weeks and I couldn’t be more excited!!! But at this rate, maybe I should’ve gotten a rabbit? That’d be a bit hoppier.

troll

Down to Business

Last Wednesday I began the dry hopping process by first siphoning my beer off of the yeast cake, into a bottling bucket. Then harvesting my yeast for future use! Then after cleaning and re sanitizing my carboy. I then tested my beer, which is sitting at 1.018, very close to my goal final gravity of 1.017. After taste testing the sample I transferred the beer back into the clean carboy,  and added three ounces of hops.

  • 1 oz. of Galaxy hops (pellet form)
  • 1 oz. of Chinook hops (pellet form)
  • 1 oz. of Centennial hops (you guessed it! pellet form)

I shall extract the hops come Wednesday morning and then cold crash the beer and let it all settle out before the carbonating process.

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Floating muslin bags filled with hop pellets
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Extracting my beer for testing with a thief!

Getting Even More Serious!

We just ordered our own 5 gallon keg and carbonation system! We are sooo excited to announce that we will now be able to carbonate our beer within 48 hours. All from the comfort of my home! This is a huge deal to me because we will now have our beer available on tap. Plus we won’t have to worry about upsetting the sugar levels by adding too much or too little sugar in order to bottle condition.

Next up on my brew agenda is a nice smooth drinking witbier, a perfect compliment to the hot weather we’ve been experiencing.

No News is good News!

All systems are go!

So this past couple of weeks has been a little less exciting. But that’s okay! Because my most recent IPA has been doing its job well! I’ve tested the sugar levels two times now. A week and a half ago, when tested for the second time the beer was at 1.020 which is .003 away from my goal gravity! So, tomorrow, when I test the sugar levels for a final time I’m estimating that I’ll have reached my goal gravity of 1.017. Which will mean that my beer is at 6.5% abv! Once I confirm this I will rack my beer off of the yeast cake and into secondary fermentation. Where I will dry hop it with Chinook and mosaic hops for seven days as my beer finishes up and mellows out some of the more intense flavors produced during a very active primary fermentation!

That’s what friends are for!

Meanwhile, at my friends house, his Belgian triple is just finishing up and ready to start the bottle conditioning process! The road has been long and arduous, the higher percentage Belgian styles require Brettanomyces bacteria in order to give it the classic Belgian flavoring as well as to help the complete its fermentation. As the beer reaches the higher alcohol percentages the yeast start to go dormant, as the alcohol levels are too high for them to thrive in. The Brettanomyces, however; are better adapted to the higher alcohol environment. This beer is boasting a whopping 10% ABV, not to be trifled with! So far all taste tests have been phenomenal, so we’re really looking forward to the finished product, about three weeks from bottling. We should have both of our beers drinkable right around the same date and I’m looking forward to tasting the extremely different styles side by side!

The Cycle continues!

This week was an exciting week around my house in terms of beer! I finished up processing the IPA (racking, carbonating etc.) While also brewing a new IPA the recipe was all very similar with very minor hop substitutions to experiment around a little bit.

Out with the old!

So here we have it! The long awaited IPA is in full bloom! I traveled down to my friends house in Santa Cruz for the weekend to pay a visit! While we were down there we were able to use his carbonating system for my beer. Taking the carbonating process for 2-3 weeks down to 1-2 days. Normally when beer is bottled you prime it with a little bit of sugar (normally simple sugar, if you don’t want any extra flavors). The Co2 produced from fermenting this sugar in an air tight space carbonates the beer. Instead we infused a five gallon keg of our beer, as if we were going to tap it and then poured the beer into bottles. Needless to say we will be investing in a carbonating setup sooner then later! The review for my first IPA home brew can be found at Home Brew IPA review

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Co2 tank, regulator, keg

Some cuteness!

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Cassian the Hedgehog!

 

In with the new!

Please refer to my previous post “An IPA is born!” for a list of tools and ingredients that you’ll need along the way! Unfortunately I haven’t documented the process but this time around I harvested the healthy yeast from the bottom of my last beer, cultivated it with sugar water and heat, and pitched that into this IPA. There are always trace amounts of yeast and bacteria present in any brewery or winery and it creates a kind of heritage or “terroir” in your end products! We are continuing to harvest and care for our yeast populations from beers past in hopes of creating a “yeast library” of our own!

 

Subtle differences between siblings:

So this time around I changed up what hops I’ll be using in order to expand my knowledge on the subtleties of hops. During the boil I added

  1. 1 oz. nugget (added at 60 mins)
  2. 1 oz. northern brewer (added at 20 mins)
  3. 1 oz. centennial (added at 10 mins)
  4. 1 oz. chinook (added during wort chill)
  5. 1 oz. galaxy (added during wort chill)
  6. 1 oz. northern brewer (added during wort chill)

 

I also wanted to document the chilling process a little more thoroughly, which is a very crucial stage of your beers life! So the following image is our submerged copper condenser doing what it does best!

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Copper condenser and hop bag in wort

In the future I’ll attempt to get some better pictures of the condenser in action but the idea is that you run cold water through the copper coil, which cools the wort by constantly introducing cold water into the much warmer wort. Stirring is highly recommended once the wort reaches about 90 degrees and needs some help along to accomplish its last bit of chilling.

Another piece of equipment I was extremely excited to use is our new grain filter! It made the mash out and sparging process worlds easier!

 

 

Aside from everything else I wanted to show you something I am quite proud of!

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It pays to think fast!

So this picture may not look like too much is going on in it. But in reality I am sanitizing the carboy, sanitizing the racking siphon, and sparging my grain! As well as prepping my yeast and taking a picture. This picture is a testament that my skills as a brewer have vastly improved and I’m proud of it!! Hopefully you all enjoyed this read please let me know if there’s any part of the process you’re curious about and would like for me to go into more detail with! Also I’ve recently found that pinterest is an awesome resource! If you’re curious, check out my pinterest board. It’s got little fun facts and really good visual diagrams about the different processes that help a lot! It’s all about the journey!

A check in on my budding IPA

What happens in the carboy, stays in the carboy

So in these 2 weeks since you’ve last heard from me, my beer has undergone a transformation of caterpillar proportions. The yeast did their job well and were absolutely ecstatic to be able to eat be merry and multiply. The primary fermentation was so ferocious with this particular strain of yeast, renown for their sturdiness and ferociousness. (American Ale II) In fact it was so ferocious that the temperature of the beer started to alarm me by rising to as much as 72 degrees at one point. Certain IPAs have a golden zone of 63-68 degrees. If too much hotter for an extended time the yeast will begin to produce off flavors. I let it do an extended primary and eventually racked it off to secondary in order to dry hop it with 2 oz. of mosaic hops 1oz. of cascade hops (both pellet form) and 1.5 oz. of citra hops in the loose leaf form. The beer has now reached it’s final gravity of 1.020. Meaning it is 6.1% ABV!! Wednesday I will take if off the hops in preparation for the bottling! I can’t wait!!

What I learned

Myself and my friend have continued to upgrade our equipment, as well as our knowledge, based on what we experience. We learned that our mash process was much more difficult then it needed to be for both my IPA and his Belgian Dubbel. My friend was so frustrated by this process he took it into his own hands and looked up cheap alternatives! I’ll be excited to document our new mash cooler in action. It has a steel filter and valve at the bottom to filter out all unwanted grain particles.

In my IPA’s primary fermentation I was so afraid of it reaching too high a temperature that I placed it outside for a couple hours, on a cold night. I ended up regretting this decision, because it killed the yeasts party and they became close to dormant afterward. It was at a crucial point in fermentation, and because the alcohol content was much higher it became difficult to start their roll again. Fortunately there was no contamination thus they had the time to lazily complete their primary fermentation. Because of this mistake they took at least another week and a half to reach the goal Final Gravity. In the future I will be more conscious of how long I cool them off if their temperature is reaching alarming temperatures.

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The floating objects are the loose leaf hops and hop bags

An IPA is Born!

The Brew day is upon us!

Tools:

  1. 10 gallon kettle
  2. 6 gallon pot/kettle
  3. 5-6 gallon glass carboy
  4. funnel
  5. bottling bucket
  6. nylon mesh net for filtration
  7. thermometer
  8. hydrometer
  9. air lock mechanism
  10. 4 muslin bags
  11. large stirring spoon (preferably silicone or metal whisk)
  12. racking siphon
  13. Star san no rinse sanitizer
  14. 1 extra 5 gallon bucket
  15. 1 copper or steel wort chiller (condenser)
  16. A hose with a spray nozzle will make your life much easier and is also necessary for operating the wort chiller…

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Preliminary cleaning

Ingredients:

  1. 11 lbs. of Belgian Pilsner grain
  2. 1 lb. of Munich U.K.  grain
  3. 1 lb. of Crystal 40 grain
  4. 1-2 “smackpack” packets of American Ale II (liquid yeast)
  5. 2oz. Centennial hops
  6. 2oz. Cascade hops
  7. 2oz. Simcoe hops
  8. 10 gallons (filtered water)

Steps:

First things first! You’ll want to sanitize everything!!!! Cleanliness is next to Godly brewing. We have to do our best to protect our little yeast party from getting shut down by some wack bacteria! Speaking of which it’s time to break out the smack pack. Follow directions on Yeast container to wake yeast up and get them multiplying.

Once you’re certain everything is shiny and clean it’s time to pour 3 gallons of the filtered water into your kettle and set the burners on high. Watch your temp and adjust heat accordingly as your water approaches the target 150 degrees.

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Heating kettle and mash to 150 degrees

Next you’ll add all of your grain! Stirring it in thoroughly and continuing to stir for the next hour. After 10 minutes you’ll start another 5 gallons of water and heat that water(a.k.a the hot liqueur) to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue stirring mash frequently and turn up heat during last 20 minutes to raise the heat of the mash to 170 as well.

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The malt grain and hot water (mash)

Make sure you have your clean bottling bucket ready and lined with the nylon net. Pour the mash into your bottling bucket carefully. (The help of a friend is priceless at this crucial point) Then, with all the grain solids captured in the net, pull the net out and hold it above the wort while pouring the hot liqueur over the grain solids in order to extract as much sugar as possible.

Next wash and sanitize your kettle, then pour the wort from the bottling bucket back into the kettle! Make sure to set some wort aside in order to take an original gravity reading! (make sure that your original gravity reading is close to what you’re expecting in this case around 1.060)

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“Mashing out”
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Hydrometer checking sugar levels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now we’re done with the mashing process and ready to move onto what is more commonly known as the brew itself! Put your wort on high and once your wort is boiling start a timer for 1 hour!

Add:

  1. 1 oz. of Simcoe hops @ 10 minutes in
  2. 1 oz. of Centennial hops @ 35 minutes
  3. 1 oz. of Cascade hops @ 35 minutes
  4. After timer ends turn off heat and add 1 oz. of Centennial 1 oz. of Simcoe hops and let steep for 10 minutes.

Remove kettle from stove and hook up wort chiller then place wort chiller in the wort. Chill your wort for 20-30 minutes closely watching the temperature of the wort. Once the wort reaches 70 degrees turn off wort chiller and remove it. Make sure your Glass carboy is ready to go!

It’s time to add the yeast! Pour activated yeast into wort and stir vigorously to aerate the beer and introduce the yeast to a healthy amount of oxygen. At this point, your wort has officially become beer that has yet to be fermented! Transfer the beer into the glass carboy, firmly place air lock and place somewhere warm for the first night. The beer should start primary fermentation within 24-48 hours. Conduct temperature and gravity tests in approximately 1 week.

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All it’s missing is a blanket

 

A Warm Welcome from Me to You!

The best… First??

Old Redwood Brewing is one of my favorite breweries in Sonoma County. They have a plethora of styles on their taplist. The cozy taproom immediately reminds you of a wine Tasting room, as there is Beer being aged in wine barrels and the  beer is very well balanced.

The Start of a Journey

An interesting time to Start as our first beer has just reached perfection! We went with an Honey Deep Brown Ale, adding some Centennial hops near the end for a flowery refreshing finish. The beer has finally reached the proper carbonation level now sports the grainy start of a classic brown ale. But not too malty a middle and a subtle, flowery finish, make this beer have a unique flavor! If you can’t tell, I’m pretty happy with our first brew! But enough patting myself on the back. Time to brew again!

New new beginnings

A first post requires a proper beginning. We’ll get just that with a fresh batch of beer. So we brew tomorrow! I’m refreshing my vows with IPAs. After a long hiatus with IPAs (the hop craze was just too much for me) I’m once again starting to enjoy the intricate flavors present in today’s modern day IPAs