Friday, September 7, 2007

Upcoming topics...

In the days approaching, these are the topics I plan to write about:
1. Bottling the current batch (hopefully with pictures this time!)
2. "Beer of the week"
3. The state of beer literature (in multi-parts!)

I'm also thinking about writing something on the various ingredients that go into beer (like "the water", malt extracts (since I'm not mashing yet), etc), but I need to carve out the time for research.
Also, I'm going to Asheville this weekend, which by the looks of it has quite a microbrew scene, so I'll hopefully sample a bunch of good beers and be able to write about them.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Waiting on the beer...

Once you've got your wort in the fermenter, there's not a lot of action on the brewing front, and it's kind of hard to write about watching the bubbles come up thru the fermentation lock.
So, in an attempt to maintain the blogging habit, I'm going to fill space by posting the contents of my beer bookshelf (limited as it may be):
  1. The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing (1991) - Papazian
  2. Secrets of the Master Brewers (1998) - Higgins, Kilgore, Hertlein
  3. Brew Ware (1996) - Lutzen, Stevens
  4. Designing Great Beers (2000) - Daniels
I'll include links and commentary in an upcoming post, since I have a lot of thoughts about the state of "beer literature", but for now, I'll just stop with the list and leave it as a spark for people to go to Amazon (or the local library) to check them out.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The first attempt...

I brewed my first beer in a long time yesterday. Since it had been so long, I decided to do a simple, "get back on the horse" beer. In my case, this was the "Righteous Real Ale" from Charles Papazian's "New Joy of Homebrewing". It's an easy brew, with a simple ingredient list (dry extract, 2 kinds of hops), which I figured was perfect for the first time back.
If you're interested, here's the recipe I used (which differs slightly from the book):
  • 88oz (5 1/2 lbs) dry amber extract
  • 2 oz. Cascade hops
  • 1 oz Willamette hops.
I boiled the dry extract and the Cascade hops for ~45 minutes, and then threw in the Willametter at the end for a final minute of boiling. The original recipe called for gypsum to be added, I think, and I just forgot to add it. It also called for 1 1/2 oz of Cascade hops, and 1/2 oz of Willamette, but the portions I got at my local homebrew store (American Brewmaster) were in 1 oz increments, and I didn't feel like measuring precisely. Besides, I like a hoppy beer.

With the recipe decided on, I decided to go for a full boil (all 5+ gals at once), and took the opportunity to break in a turkey cooker which I'd purchased when they were on sale at Lowes for the express purpose of doing homebrew. It worked pretty well, especially once I mixed everything up and boiled the wort. It seemed to have no trouble maintaining the boil I wanted, and the clean up was much easier (no boilovers on the cooktop to worry about!). I think I probably need to get a bigger pot, since the one that came with the cooker is probably only 7 gallons or so, and I was constantly having to watch for boilovers. That, and I need a longer stirring implement.

After the boil, I cooled the wort by icing the pot in the sink. I have an immersion chiller that I made myself long ago (out of copper tubing and a garden hose), but we're under water restrictions in my town, and I figured dumping water onto the lawn (or running it thru the sprinkler) might not be wise. The sink worked fine for a first attempt, but I think if I'm going to be brewing more regularly, I need to come up with a better method (especially since humping a heavy, hot brewpot from the garage to the sink is not the safest thing I've ever done). I was thinking that maybe I could build a chiller out of the same "copper tubing + hose" contraption might work, but using a closed system, where I could have a pump pumping water from a cold water reservoir, thru the coils, and back into the reservoir might work. I dunno, I'll have to think it over.

After cooling, I strained the wort into my fermenter (the old plastic bucket), and pitched the yeast. I've always had trouble with my fermentation being too hot, leading to a funny "banana" taste (I think it's the esters(sp?) that develop from a high temp), so I tried to find the coolest spot in my house to do the fermentation. In my case, that's a guest bath with its own a/c vent.
It seems pretty cool now, and my temp on the fermenter says 74 deg, which is about where I'd like it. (maybe a little cooler). This is another issue I'll have to resolve, but if fermenting in the bathroom works for now, then fine by me.

So now, my beer is happily bubbling in my bathroom, and all is right in the world for a little while.


Well, this is the first post to my new blog, "Piney Grove Homebrew", thru which I mean to chronicle my adventures in homebrewing. I've been brewing my own beer, on and off, for the last 6 years or so, although I'll be the first to admit that the last couple of years have been mostly "off". But now, the stack of homebrew equipment in my garage has gotten too hard to ignore, so I'm picking the habit back up again.
My goals for brewing (in the short-term) are simple. By the end of the year, I hope to be:
  1. brewing all grain beers
  2. Kegging my own beer.
I'll post later about my first brewing attempt after a long layoff.

(Note: The name of my blog comes from the road that I lived on when I first started brewing beer, "Piney Grove Wilbon Road". I always joked that the brewery I would someday start would be named the "Piney Grove Brewery")