Sunday, November 4, 2012

Update: Harvest Wee Heavy (2012)

It's been awhile since my last post, but last weekend I finally got around to bottling my pumpkin beer. Some of the spicing didn't come out as strong as I had intended, luckily Rick lent me some of his pumpkin pie flavor extract - I ended up using about 10 drops for the entire batch.

Head past the break for some additional photos from the bottling day.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ribs 'n Stuff

Last weekend I smoked a few pounds of ribs. I started with my homemade dryrub (mostly brown sugar and black pepper), and then smoked the ribs for nearly six hours.
My uncle got us a bottle of Dreamland Barbeque sauce (from Alabama) which I mopped on the ribs during and after cooking. We also had some corn and fried green tomatoes from the garden to go with them.
Good eats!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Update: Harvest Wee Heavy 2012

Last night I transferred my Harvest Wee Heavy (Pumpkin Scotch Ale) to secondary for some simulated bourbon barrel aging. A little over two weeks ago, I charred some American oak staves in my oven and cut them down to 3" lengths (so that they would fit in a mason jar), and put them into a jar with some Buffalo Trace bourbon. Now that they've had plenty of time to soak up the flavor of the bourbon, I added the jar - whisky and all - to the secondary at racking.
Final gravity was 1.018, a few points under my estimated FG of 1.024, giving an approximate ABV of ~8.4%. It's a bit dryer than I had expected, but the hydrometer sample still tasted pretty close to last year's batch. I will need to add more spices at bottling, however, probably using a tincture with vodka.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Custom bottle caps

Last month I ordered some custom bottle caps from BottleMark, which arrived this past week. The quality is pretty nice.
Although I mostly keg now, I'll use these for gifts and the rare beer-gunned bottle. I ordered a few different designs, including a sequential run of steam locomotive builder's plate inspired ones (the number is the batch number).
I'll report back on how these hold up to capping/storage.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Local lambic + garden updates

The Pinot Gris grapes I planted in spring have been steadily ripening for the past few weeks, and a few days ago approached a great balance of sugar and acidity. Over the weekend, I harvested about 10 ounces of grapes. Not bad for the plant only being a year old, but not nearly enough for a full batch of wine. Probably not enough for a fruit lambic, either, but I decided to add them to my lambic anyway.
PS: Look at the size of the catepillar I found on the tomatillo plants!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Brewday: Harvest Wee Heavy (2012)


 Last year, I brewed a pumpkin scotch ale that ended in disaster as I lost almost the entire batch to bottle bombs.
A year later, and now I primarily keg my beers, partly due to this beer. In hindsight I think the culprit was a faulty kitchen scale (since replaced), but since I never really got to try this beer when it was finished, I set out to rectify some of last year's mistakes as well as re-brew it with better equipment, techniques, and - most importantly - not botching the priming sugar.
I used the same recipe as last year, with a couple of tweaks - British pale malt instead of Golden Promise, as the LHBS was out - and adding a pound of Munich for some added maltiness. The hop bill, yeast strain, and everything else remained the same. The biggest change this year was using canned pumpkin instead of buying and roasting my own pie pumpkin, but this was simply because fresh pumpkins aren't yet available at the grocery store.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Red Flanders update

Last night I took the first sample of my cherrywood flanders red. It has been a great test of my patience to not crack it open, but I knew that trying it any earlier than six months in would be a waste of time.
It was a bit thinner than I had hoped, but the color and overall flavor profile are showing promise. I was waiting on a taste test before decided whether or not I would add fruit, but I feel that the cherries will give the bugs some additional food to sour it up a little more.
I added 4 pounds of canned cherries (3 pounds of Montmorecy cherries and one pound of a sweet Queen Anne variety). I'm going to ignore it for another 3-6 months, and then hopefully it'll be ready to bottle.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Another Double IPA update


Tuesday afternoon I was able to rack my double IPA to secondary for the second round of dryhopping. After spending 11 days on some Cascade and HBC342, it was time to add the second dryhop addition.
While racking I took a gravity sample to make sure everything was progressing. The expected FG was to be 1.010, and to my surprise, the hydrometer read 1.008! That puts this DIPA at ~9.5%. I drank most of the hydrometer tube sample, and I wouldn't have been able to guess it was that high. Oter than that, the taste was excellent, with a really smooth bitterness. With another 3 ounce of dryhops, I can only imagine how great this is going to smell.
I'll transfer this beer to a keg after 10 more days of dryhopping. I'm contemplating a third dryhopping in the keg, but I don't think this beer will be on tap long enough for it to matter - it's delicious!
Here are a couple more photos:
Transferring to secondary.
1.007 (1.008 temp corrected). Wow!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Hops Harvest 2012: Drying and storing

After drying out in the hot garage for 4 days (I added a fan after day two), the first round of Cascade hops were dry and ready for packaging last night.

After drying I had ~3 ounces of hops. I bagged them in 1 ounce increments so I didn't have to open more than I needed, and used the vacuum sealer so that they will keep for a long time.

Here are some photos from last night:
All dry.

Vacuum sealing the hops.
Look at all that lupulin. Wow!
Into the freezer they go.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hops Harvest 2012 (and garden update)

I have been keeping track of my hops daily for the past couple of weeks, as it seems they were getting closer and closer to harvest time. On Friday I noticed that the majority of the cones on the plant were ready for harvest - thanks again to everyone's insight on judging "ripeness". Since I knew I wouldn't have time after work next week, and I could just leave any undeveloped cones on the plant for a second harvest, I decided that Sunday would be harvest day #1. I say number one because there are still a lot of burrs left on both plants, and I plan on a second, smaller harvest in another two to three weeks.
I decided to put the awful weather we get in the summer here to use - hot with low humidity - to dry my hops.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Double IPA update

The double IPA has been happily fermenting along for a week and a half, so this morning before I went to work I was able to add the first dryhop addition.
I have been expirementing with adding dryhops to primary after the fermentation has died down in order to require one less racking if I am doing multiple dryhop additions (I will still rack to secondary if I am only doing one addition). This way, I avoid oxygenation and contamination issues just a little bit more. I also try to flush my carboys with C02 when lots of hops are involved.
I added 1 ounce of Cascade hops and an ounce of HBC 342 experimental hops that are described as grapefruit/watermelon/floral, which I feel should pair nicely with the Simcoe, Cascade, and Centennial that I will be adding in the second and third hop additions.
Next Sunday I will add another ounce of Cascade and an ounce of Simcoe, followed by a third and final hop addition of an ounce each of Simcoe and Centennial.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Batch Eleven (60/40 blend)

As some of you may recall, Rick and I bottled a few "blend" bottles of our Batch Eleven collaboration that was composed of 60% cherry chocolate rum porter and 40% blackberry porter. I finally opened up a bottle a few weeks ago.

Appearance: Dark brown with minimal tan head.
Smell: Cherry, berries, chocolate, caramel, vanilla, tobacco, some fig. Very complex.
Taste: Similar to the nose; lots of berry notes (cherries, blackberries, raspberries, and wine), oak, and hints of chocolate and molasses.
Mouthfeel: This one wasn't overly carbonated, about medium in body.
Overall: I think I still prefer my version for it's more aggressive chocolate and oak character, but this is still an enjoyable diversion.

Verdict: 3 Stars (out of five)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Brewday: Double IPA

Yesterday I was finally able to break in all the new equipment I've been collecting, building, and blogging about the past few weeks. This was my first true 'all-grain' beer, since I have been using the BIAB (brew in a bag) method up until now for all of my beers (not counting collaborations on other peoples equipment, of course). I wanted something I could put on tap without having to wait months for oaking, aging, or souring, so I decided I'd brew an IPA to fill up my last keg. I drew a lot of inspiration for the recipe from some clone recipes (Pliny the Elder, Knuckle Sandwich, and Stone Ruination to be specific) and some sage advice from fellow homebrewers.

My friend Rick showed up for the brewday, he brought a few IPAs for "inspiration" and I cracked open a couple beers from the cellar as well. I had a great time but next time I definitely need to get an EZ-up because I almost fried in the near-100 degree heat without any shade.
I was expecting a few hiccups along the road, but nothing major really happened. I will need to upgrade to a larger HLT (that one only holds 6 gallons) for my next batch though; I didn't add enough water to the mash tun so I did an accidental cereal mash for 15 minutes while I hurriedly heated up a second batch of strike water. Other than that, this was probably the smoothest brewday yet, and it almost seemed easier than doing BIAB. Best of all, my efficiency for this batch was ~76%, which is way better than I was expecting. All in all it took about 7 hours from heating up the strike water to putting the carboy into the fermchamber.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Garden Update: To the heavens!

Well, it's been nearly a month since the last garden update. Since then my Cascade plant has reached the top of the roofline (about 20') and the Centennial is about 4 feet tall!

Unfortunately, the Pinot Gris grape vine seems to be the only plant that survived the spring frost and intense heat waves, but is bearing fruit. There are 4-5 decently sized bunches on there, so I'm hoping to get enough must for a small batch of grape lambic.

Maturing nicely. I will probably need to net these within the next 3-4 weeks.

No more growth for the year. But plenty of grapes!

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Chill Haze is quieter than usual this month, but I hope to chew through the backlog of reviews and updates soon. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

DIY Temperature Controller

Last month, I bought a 7 cubic foot chest freezer on sale at Home Depot. I live in Reno, a place where it tops 100 degrees in the summer and can dip down into the 20's in the winter, so I knew that I would need a fermentation chamber eventually, and that when I did build one, a dual-stage controller that would allow me to control both a chest freezer and a heating element would be essential.

Rather than spend $150+ for a dual-stage controller, I opted to go for the DIY route, which is far cheaper, and gives me a fun weekend project to satisfy my inner tinkerer. I used this guide from HomeBrewTalk, and bought most of the parts at Home Depot and RadioShack; the controller was from eBay, and took a little over two weeks to get here from mainland China.

The parts, ready for assembly.
Parts List:
  • STC-1000 Dual-Stage Temperature controller    $23.99
  • RadioShack Large Project Box    $5.99
  • 14-gauge electrical cord    $11.99
  • Black "Decora style" outlet    $1.99
  • Strain-relief connector    $1.74
  • Grommet variety pack    $2.39
  • Wire nut variety pack    $1.88
  • Electrical tape    $0.59
Total cost:    $50.56

And now for the build:


It only took me about 3 hours to build the whole thing, and most of it was spent cutting holes in the project box - my first time using a dremel tool! - and stripping the insulation from the wiring. Right now it is sitting in the closet, I plan on hooking it up to the chest freezer this weekend and getting everything ready for use.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wolfberry Mead update/bottling day

This past weekend I got around to bottling the wolfberry (gojiberry) mead I made a few months ago. I didn't take a final gravity reading, but based on the taste and the starting gravity I would assume it's somewhere north of 12%.

I didn't take a lot of photos, but I did taste a sample as I was bottling. It was hot, but very tasty. The wolfberries gave it a slightly fruity, vegetal character and a great orange color.

Ready to bottle!

The large bottle marked "C" and the two smaller bottles will be sparkling mead.

Garden update

It's been awhile since I've posted about the status of our garden. In addition to the usual suspects - tomatoes, pepper plants, squash, etcetera - I also planted some wine grapes and hops this year. I had to be more selective with the grapes than hops due to the harsh winters (30 F and below). Unfortunately, the grape I was most excited about, the Traminette, seems to be DOA. I will likely replant it next year and cross my fingers.

Cascade. The centennial in the back isn't doing nearly as well. This picture was taken on Friday, it's now even taller (over six feet!).

Pinot gris plant. The goal, eventually, will be a Pinotlambicus clone. I will probably only get enough grapes for 1/2 gallon of wine this year, but not bad considering how young the vines are.
Worden grape, a hybrid table/wine red grape. Off to a late start.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Brewing Triathlon, Part II - Thai-spiced witbier

This Saturday, my friend Rick and I finally got around to brewing the collaboration witbier we have been waiting on ingredients for. The LHBS finally got my yeast (WLP410, my go-to witbier strain) in stock again and so after picking up the yeast and other ingredients on Friday, we were good to go.
I also needed to borrow Rick's beer gun so I could keg and fill a few bottles of KG30 for my cousin's thirtieth birthday party on Saturday night.

Lastly, we needed to bottle our secret porter that we originally brewed for a collaboration homebrew contest in Southern California. Unfortunately, we bit off more than we could chew and the beer was not even close to ready when the deadline came up, so it never even got to compete (if it had, I'm sure we'd have done well!).

Ultimately, Rick and I ended up holding a 'brewing triathlon' and decided we would just do everything in one day, so I've split the day into two parts - Part I is here. Today I will talk about the witbier we brewed and attempt to review a stout without laughing.

Part II - Thai-spiced witbier
A little over a year ago, I brewed my first all-grain witbier for a style presentation hosted by Addison Homebrew Provisions. Everyone was invited to brew a witbier and share them during the montly meeting. As I always seem to do, I decided to take the less beaten path and go for a more historical interpretation of the style. Rather than used flaked wheat, I decided to buy some raw spelt berries from Whole Foods and mill them myself using my mill attachement for my stand mixer. Unfortunately, that eagerness turned to horror when I ended up breaking my KitchenAid in the process. In honor for a fallen friend (since fixed!) I named the beer "Greasemonkey Wit".

Long story short, the beer was well-recieved and people have been asking for me to brew a second batch ever since. I finally capitulated and agreed to split a batch with my friend Richard, giving each of us 2.5 gallons. I made some adjustments to the recipe. I ended up having to use flaked red wheat instead of raw spelt since I couldn't seem to find it again. I also increased the grain bill to boost the ABV from the original 3.5% to ~5%, as I found the original version a tad too watery for my tastes. Lastly, I added some additional spices in the form of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and thai chilies based on some success with the ingredients in the past. With these tweaks, I set on brewing a second batch of witbier.

Rick and I mashed in around 9:30 or so, and started the boil around 10:45. I ended up having to extend the boil by 10 minutes because we both got sidetracked bottling the porter and forgot to add the spice additions at the correct time. Other than that, the brewday went smoothly and the sample I tasted from the hydrometer tube was spot-on in color and flavor. As usual, I am using WLP410, the platinum-strain Witbier II yeast, as I prefer its flavor over the year-round variety; order it while you still can.

Thankfully, witbiers have a quick turnaround, so I'll be back at Rick's in two weeks to bottle this one up. Recipe and a mini-review past the break.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Brewing Triathlon, Part I - Batch Eleven and KG30

This Saturday, my friend Rick and I finally got around to brewing the collaboration witbier we have been waiting on ingredients for. The LHBS finally got my yeast (WLP410, my go-to witbier strain) in stock again and so after picking up the yeast and other ingredients on Friday, we were good to go.

I also needed to borrow Rick's beer gun so I could keg and fill a few bottles of KG30 for my cousin's thirtieth birthday party on Saturday night.

Lastly, we needed to bottle our secret porter that we originally brewed for a collaboration homebrew contest in Southern California. Unfortunately, we bit off more than we could chew and the beer was not even close to ready when the deadline came up, so it never even got to compete (if it had, I'm sure we'd have done well!).

Ultimately, Rick and I ended up holding a 'brewing triathlon' and decided we would just do everything in one day. Because of this, I am going to split this up into two posts, with Part I today and Part II tomorrow morning.

Part I - Batch Eleven and KG30

Since there's no longer any need for secrecy, let's get Batch Eleven out of the way. Originally brewed for a competition in Fullerton, it ended up missing the May deadline and was finally ready to go in bottles. Rick and I brewed a single six gallon batch back in February as a tribute to "Black Lingerie", one of the best beers I've ever had. I was able to get the recipe from Daniel, the brewer, and made a few (minor) adjustments to the grain bill, leaving the yeast, hops, and mash schedule intact.
Partially inspired by my love of cordial cherries and Alaskan's Baltic Porter, I decided that I would add cherry puree, cacao nibs, and a concoction of american oak cubes and vanilla beans soaked in rum to my half of the beer. Rick, conversely, went with blackberry puree and a single french oak stave soaked in port wine. The beer was primaried in a single carboy and split up for our expirements in secondary.

We ended up bottling most of it as two seperate batches, along with a handful of bottles filled with a 60/40 blend of the two, my half being the majority. I have my share in a cool closet for the next few weeks to carbonate and bottle condition, but I plan on opening one ASAP to see how it tastes with some carbonation, as the sample I had at bottling was fantastic.

KG30, bottled and labelled.
I also filled 5 bottles of KG30, the wheatwine with honey, oak, and tequila I brewed a few months back to celebrate my cousin's 30th birthday. The party was later that night, and since I didn't have time to bottle it the regular way, I asked Rick if I could use his beergun to bottle it. I racked the beer to a keg on Tuesday, and force-carbonated it at Rick's Saturday morning (I was out of CO2). We let the keg chill for a few hours in his lagering chamber while we brewed and bottled Batch Eleven. After we were (mostly) done with everything else we grabbed the bottles out of the freezer (keep them cold for best results) and retrieved the keg from his refridgerator. Beer gunning is incredibly simple, and I can't believe I don't own one already. It's a huge time saver being able to not have to pick between kegging or bottling, and except for sours, I already keg everything, so I think I will have to get one of these once I start entering more competitions.

Rick filling the bottles.

Tomorrow I will go over the rest of the brewday, including a tasting of an oddly named stout and brewing our collaborative witbier.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

KG30 update #2

Today, I finally got around to kegging my wheatwine. I was originally going to bottle it, but my friend is letting me borrow his beer gun, which works out better because I only need a handful of bottles to give as a birthday present (for more info, read the original post).

Next up is making a label and beer gunning a few bottles before the party this weekend.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Crab Tostadas

Tostadas two ways:

A - Salmon ceviche, cabbage, crème fraîche, whitefish roe, pico de gallo, chipotle aioli.

B - Dungeness crab 'salad', cabbage, crème fraîche, whitefish roe, pico de gallo, chipotle aioli.

Paired with The Bruery's Oui Oui.

DIY Mash Tun

Wow! Almost a month since the last update. I've been busy.

This weekend I built a mash tun using instructions off of this thread. I made a run to Home Depot for most of the parts, but they were out of ball valves at the time, so I had to make a quickie run to Lowe's to finish off the parts list (it was on the way home, so no biggie).

I followed the instructions on the HomeBrewTalk thread to a tee, but made a couple modifications to the basic design. First, I opted to use the more substantial 'bazooka screen' instead of the braided hose filter. I've heard too many stories of the braid crushing under the weight of the grain bed and getting horrible efficiency - or worse - a stuck sparge. I attached a spare stainless steel nut to the bazooka screen to weight it down per advice from my friend Rick, who had problems with the bazooka screen 'floating' and causing him to lose efficiency points. The second modification I made to the design was to add a neoprene rubber washer to the inside of the cooler, between the stainless steel washer and the rubber grommet. My hope is that the rubber washer will  help fill in the gap between the flat washer and the curved wall of the cooler. I'm probably going over-kill, but I'd rather overdo something than have it leak.

After everything was assembled and tightened down, I filled the cooler 2/3 with hot water and left it for ~45 minutes. It didn't leak a drop, so I emptied it out, dried it, and hope to use it this weekend to brew.

Some pictures:

Weighing down the bazooka screen.
All done!