December 31, 2011

Book Review: The Brewers Apprentice

The Brewers Apprentice by Greg Koch and Matt Allyn calls itself "An insiders guide to the art and craft of beer brewing, taught by the masters". The book really does not fail to deliver on this statement.
I liked how the book quickly covered the basics of brewing. I know the basics already and I'm looking for more advanced topics in my reading. The book has an introduction by Greg Koch of Stone brewing and the rest of the book is made up of introductions to the various topics the interviews with we respected craft brewers on the things they are considered to be experts in. Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River is interviewed about bittering hops, Mitch Steele of Stone Brewing Co. is interviewed about water chemistry and Sam Caligone of Dogfish Head is interviewed about using fruit and other strange ingredients. These are really the people who's opinions and methods warrant attention being paid.
It's not all hard brewing information Ray Daniels, founder of the cicerone program, is interviewed about beer evaluation and Ken Grossman founder of Sierra Nevada is interviewed about "making beautiful beer". These are two topics that you wont see in your typical brewing text.
The book is not all text either, all of the interviews have a great selection of photos to accompany them which serves to make things more interesting than just plain text.
I woe not hesitate to reccomend The Brewers Apprentice to anybody remotely interested in brewing. I think the topics were chosen well in that the will benefit new and experienced brewers alike. I can see myself refering back to the book often for troubleshooting, recipe advice or just to look at the pictures.

December 29, 2011

Beer desert

Been awhile since my last post I have been spending the holidays in Spain and there has been nothing really to write about.
That being said I have been looking high and low for some good beer. I can find lots of German beers and a smattering of English beer but it pales in comparison to the flavor of good American craft beer, it's often not fresh and not at all local. I did finally try the local light lager in an act of desperation.
The mahou brewery was founded in Madrid in 1890 by a French entrepenuer. In 1953 the brewery partnered with Philipino owned San Miguel brewery, in the 1960's and again in the mid 1990's Mahou built modern production breweries. In the year 2000 the brewery bought out the 30% ownership stake held by San Miguel making the brewery wholly Spanish owned (amazingly no ABIvbev or SabMiller ownership).
So, how does it taste ?
Surprisingly it tastes like a light lager should, I have yet to get a skunked or light struck glass. It's light and highly carbed, of course, but it has some bready malt character and a nice slightly sweet finish. I can see how it would be good in the oppressively hot Spanish summer months.
It's still not what I like though, it's too light on flavor and really given another good, even acceptable choice I would not drink it. I have been trying to explain the notion of American craft beer to the Europeans but it makes no sense to them, the mention of American beer gets the response of "you mean Budweiser ?, that's crap." .... I know it's crap have you not heard anything I just said ?
Thankfully the wine is really good (and dirt cheap) usually wine gives me a pounding headache but here it seems to not have the effect. I plan on visiting at least one local vineyard/ winery while here.
.... I'm really Looking forward to an imperial IPA and a nice roasty porter as soon as I'm back in the promise land....

December 15, 2011

Book Review: Beer School

Beer School: Bottling Success at the Brooklyn Brewery by Steve Hindy and Tom Potter the owners and founders of the Brooklyn Brewery is one of the best beer books I have read in quite some time. Hindy majored in English in college and did most of the writing for the book. Having written for the associated press for a number of years Hindy knows how to keep the writing easy to read and how to pepper in exciting details (like being robbed at gunpoint or the dangers of the whole organization going under) to keep the pages turning.

The book is intended to be somewhat of a guide for entrepreneurs in general, not necessarily just for those trying to open a brewery or get into the beer or brewing industry. Hindy and Potter chronicle all of their successes as well as their mistakes in an honest fashion.

While the book is not only intended for people opening a brewery it naturally covers many issues one may face when doing so. Hindy and Potter cover issues such as contract brewing, distribution, and building their new brewery starting from the time the two partners decided to go into business together until about 2003, Potter retried from the brewery in 2004 however this is not covered in the book.

Often books on beer and brewing, even ones that deal with the business side of things or telling the larger story of the brewery can get tedious at times. Beer School stays interesting and easy to read for the entire length of the book, probably due to the fact that Steve Hindy had been writing for the associated press for so many years. I managed to tear through this book in about a week which is pretty quick for me. The book comes highly recommended for anybody looking to open a brewery, go pro, become self employed or is just interested in beer and brewing.

December 13, 2011

Brewery Grants

Last week the state of new york and Schoharie county approved $890,000 in grants for Ommegang brewery ($140,000) and Butternuts brewery ($750,000). Ommegang brewery received funds to assist with a $16 million expansion including a wastewater treatment plant and several new buildings. Butternuts brewery is gaining funding to move production into a long vacant industrial park allowing increased production to 25,000 barrels per year and eventually to 100,000 barrels per year.

News of the breweries receiving grant money has not been very well received among residents of Schoharie country and New York State. Many people see the grants for the breweries as unnecessary considering many residents homes were destroyed during hurricane Irene. Further Brewery Ommengang has threatened to leave their cooperstown location, taking the jobs it provides with them if hydro fracking is allowed in their watershed. People don't like seeing them being given free money when they are threatening to leave.

These are not the first two breweries to ever receive grants. Craft breweries are quite often very community oriented organizations. Breweries the size of Ommegang and Butternuts generally employ around 50 to 100 people and support other industries such as distributors, trucking companies and retail outlets. Grant money will serve to keep these community oriented breweries to stay where they are needed and to provide jobs in an area that really needs them.

In short grant money goes towards lots of things, while grant money is available to individuals for housing repairs it is probably not enough. However small business needs grant money too, without grant money to support small business job creation would fall off.

Maybe I'm partial to breweries receiving grant money (especially Ommegang because I love their beers) but I really would like to hope these companies realize the favor they have been granted and will take steps to be even more involved in their communities and provide some support for their neighbors who were victims of hurricane Irene.

December 5, 2011

ABInbev Belgian Beer Cafe

Belgian/ Brazilian brewing giant ABInbev (AKA. World Beer Co or as they see it "the worlds local brewer") recently set its sights for its Belgian Beer Cafe restaurant chain on the United States. Belgian Beer is growing in popularity in the U.S right along the with the growth of craft beer. Belgian Beer Cafe will be a chain restaurant that evokes the feel of a 1920's belgian cafe, it will serve all Belgian beers alongside Belgian food.
The Belgian Beer Cafe in Dubai
Already the chain has been spreading around the world, locations have opened up in 50 cities across 19 countries many of them are found in larger cities but are also found in airports and hotels.
Belgian Brewers not associated with ABInbev have a love hate relationship with the enterprise, on one hand they are appreciative of ABInbev spreading the culture of Belgian brewing around the world, however, they are worried that the mega brewer could do more harm than good to the image of Belgian Beer.
While I'm sure the chain will be immensely popular it would be better to support the small bar specializing in Belgian beer. Hopefully soon a belgian style bar will be opening in downtown Schenectady, From what I hear they will be focusing on belgian as well as craft beer. Supporting the small business man rather than the global brewing giant will ensure small craft Belgian brewers can continue to grow without getting into bed with ABInbev.

November 28, 2011

Logo Design

As we get closer and closer to realizing our dream of opening our brewpub it is becoming necessary to have a logo for our company.
We chose the name Hollis Brewing Company because it is the old family name. Years and Years ago the name was changed by our Great (maybe second great ?) grandfather after a family dispute, he took the last name Hamilton (his step fathers last name) and that is what currently remains as the family name.
We were going for a rustic look that evokes some of the raw ingredients used in the brewing process. Nobody in the massive staff of 2 at Hollis Brewing Company has much if any artistic talent so we had to have people from outside the company do everything.
First off we contacted friend of Hollis Brewing Company Chris DeCelli ( to start the work on our concept. Chris is a talented artist mostly focused on painting, we told him some points we were looking for in our label and he came up with the concept to the right (among others).
Next we needed to clean up the image a bit and add a few elements. For this we contacted Josh with brew brand creative. Brew brand creative is an design agency that caters specifically to the brewing industry, they do logos at different price points for professional brewers, home brewers, as well as suppliers and vendors. We sent Josh the concept we worked on with Chris and sent him to work. We wanted to add some barley to the logo and make the hop cone on the top of the logo a little more realistic, still, we wanted to keep the feel of the initial concept.
Above is the first draft that Josh sent to us, the idea was just to give us the feel of the logo he though we wanted to see.
Im not going to go into specific details of pricing of logos here as I would imagine it is on a case by case basis, suffice to say, The price is very reasonable and we own all rights to the image. We liked Josh's initial design and worked further with him on it.

Here was the first finished logo we got from Josh, We liked the direction the logo was heading but felt it was not quite right, we were not in love with the background colors behind the Hollis part of the logo and we wanted to bring the same realism that the barley had into the hop cone. Also, we wanted the 2011 on the bottom changed to 2009 (this was they year we started brewing serioulsy)

Josh worked on those elements we wanted to change and sent us yet another comp.
After this comp we still felt the background color was not quite right, also the hop cone change didn't make it into the comp so we wanted to work on that. We spoke to Josh again and received the logo to the right next, we thought this was almost exactly what we wanted but not quite there. We still were not in love with the background color but at this point we really liked all the other elements. 
Here is what we received next, this is also the final comp and now our logo. 
This logo is exactly what we were looking for, it has a the rustic feel we were going for and incorporates the barley and hop cone like we wanted, Josh even went so far as to do a little research on his own about the surname Hollis, It a Scottish surname and refers to place of the hollies or place where hollies grow, thats where the holly berries and leafs come from in the bottom part of the logo. 
Josh is available for logos still he can be contacted through his website He is great to work with and has done work for many breweries, home brewers and beer/ brewing related side industries. Currently we have Josh working on the labels for our bottles so look for a post about the bottle labels coming up. 

November 18, 2011

Brewvember/ Pints for prostates

This month mens health magazine is trying to spread prostate cancer awareness amongst men. They have dubbed the month of November Brewvember and have teamed up with Fegelys Brew Works (a brewpub chain with three locations) and a home brew shop in Brooklyn. The guys at mens heath will brew a belgian tripple with brew works of which $1 of every pint will go towards prostate cancer awareness, the Brooklyn home brew shop will be donating 10% of the sales of a special beer kit to prostate cancer awareness too.
According to the American cancer society prostate cancer is the second most common forum of cancer among men. 1 in 6 men will be dignosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, of these men 1 in 36 will die from the disease making prostate cancer the second deadliest cancer amongst men right behind lung cancer.
Rick Lyke was one of these statistics, He was prompted to ask his doctor to do a PSA test (prostate specific antigen) even though he had to pay for the test out of pocket because most health insurance will not cover the test until someone turns 50. Its a good thing he was insistent for the test, Rick turned out to have prostate cancer and early detection saved his life. Rick now advocates men to get tested at 40 rather than 50, even if they have to pay for the test (it costs about $75).
Rick was inspired to try to spread the word about prostate cancer through a medium men were not only comfortable with but often excited Through the Pints for Prostates program. The program reaches out to men at beer festivals and through participating breweries and urges them to get tested and to get tested early, additionally they educate men about the statistics regarding prostate cancer and let them know that it generally runs in families.
The pints for prostates program is supported by some of the top breweries, their website lists Jolly pumpkin artisanal ales, Rouge ales, olde mecklenburg brewery, and Pike pub and brewery. Additionally the program is supported by Rob Todd from Alagash brewing Sam Caligone from Dogfish head, Greg Koch from Stone, Garret Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery and Doug Odell from Odell brewing company. Additionally many more brewers/ brewery owners sponsor the program.

November 15, 2011

Parti Gyle Brew-day

Recently we brewed the first of two batches of our famous porter. Every year when we make this beer we like to try to get a second session beer out of the leftover sugars in the mash.
Generally to do a parti gyle beer you would use only the initial and strongest wort for the first beer sparging very little or not at all, the second beer you would rinse the sugars out of the grain (sparging) and get a second lower alcohol beer.
Honestly were more concerned with getting the first beer we send to the boil kettle reproduced the way we originally made it, our method is not exactly a true parti gyle but it does get us two beers out of one grist. We mash and sparge our first beer exactly as you would a non parti gyle beer with the exception that we stop the sparge a bit earlier than we normally would. Once the first beer is in the boil kettle we add some more grain to the mash tun (about 1/4 of the original malt bill) top off with some hot water and let the mash sit while the first beer is finished. Once the boil kettle is free we run off all the second wort add yet more water and run off again (a process called batch sparging), This keeps the gravity as high as possible.
For our second beer this time we were the least careful we have ever been regarding a beer, we didn't measure out any of the hops (nugget for bittering and goldings for flavor/ aroma) or pay any attention to the gravities.
We like this method because it allows us to produce the amount of beer we want and to keep our original recipe intact. The second beer is just for fun, it allows us to get some essentially free session beers and to experiment with hop varieties we may not have used before.

November 9, 2011

New York State Hops

Recently there has been renewed interest in cultivation of hops in upstate and central New York. Browns Brewing in Troy, N.Y recently hosted the Northeast Hops Alliance who is pushing for more hop cultivation in upstate N.Y.
Hops first came to America around 1630 but did not find their way to new york state until 1808. The crop was small for many years supplying only small or farmhouse breweries but by 1830 hop production was serious business. By then end of the century New York was producing about 80% of the nations hops. There was disaster on the horizon though, disease and pests  wiped out much of the production in the early 1900's then prohibition made hops an obsolete crop.
Today most of the nations hops as well as much of the worlds hops are grown in the pacific northwest, primarily in the Yakima Valley area of Washington. But a recent New York Times article pointed out that hops are making a comeback in new york state.
I emailed Steve Miller at the Northeast hops alliance for some numbers on the New York hops crop, while he didn't have any hard figures he did provide me with some numbers. In the 2011 growing season New York had about 30 acres of hops, each acre yielded approximately 1000 pounds of hops giving us a total harvest of abut 30,000 pounds (not too shabby). Steve also mentioned that much of the crop is sold as fresh hops and not dried and stored. Steve says that the hops conference (held at the beginning of November at Brown's Brewing in Troy, NY) had 185 participants many of whom intend on planting hops or planting more hops for the 2012 growing season. Many new york state breweries are using locally produced hops in an effort to make their product more local, additionally a farm brewing bill has been proposed, where a farm that grows hops or malt can brew up to 15,000 barrels per year provided they use a large amount of their crop in the beer they produce.
I think this is great, I would like to use some New York grown hops in some beers. Hopefully the amount of farmers specializing in hops will increase and we can see some of the innovation with the new high alpha varieties being developed here that we see out west.

November 7, 2011

Pumpkin Ale / IPA #5 Tasting

Recently I made a spiced pumpkin ale . This was my first stab at a pumpkin beer and i think it came out decent. The taste is good but the appearance leaves much room for improvement. In a large glass it looks like dirt water, however, if the glass is very small it has a nice orange color like the outside of a pumpkin.
Aroma(12/12): Earthy, slightly sweet, smells like pumpkin pie :)
Appearance(1/3): No head retention at all , beer pours with some head but it fades to virtually nothing, very cloudy (almost turbid), retains a beautiful orange color just like the outside of a pumpkin
Flavor(15/20): Very savory spiced pumpkin pie flavor, earthy pumpkin notes push through the spices, slightly phenolic character
Mouthfeel(5/5):Carbonation slightly high, rich full mouthfeel, mouthfeel could be better with a lower carbonation level
Overall(7/10): Good beer, phenols dominated the flavor before it had some age but are fading fast, Pumpkin makes the beer savory, full tasting and contributes mouthfeel.
Total(40/50): Excellent range

Another recent brew to go through the brewery was an American style IPA dubbed IPA #5. This is the first IPA I have made that I'm really happy with, it still needs some work but it is the best IPA I have mad by far. Also for this beer i used the blichmann hop rocket for the first time
Aroma(11/12): Citrusy hops dominate, grapefruit and other tropical fruit notes, resiny hop aroma, could use more malt presence
Appearance(2/3): Golden in color, bright white head is thick, doesn't hold on for as long as I would like, has some haze could be more clear
Flavor(16/20): Smooth bitterness, grate hop flavor of grapefruit and citrus, some mouth coating bitterness lingers, clean fermentation character, no malt flavors present
Mouthfeel(5/5): Good amount of body to stand up to the hops, carbonation is appropiate and carries some bitterness away,goes down very smooth
Overall (9/10): Great IPA, Could use more early hops to bump bitterness a little more, malt character could be slightly high but could detract form hop presence, needs to be more clear next time
Total(43/50): Excellent range

November 1, 2011

Spice additions

A few weeks ago i published a post about making spice tinctures for my pumpkin ale. The other day I finally got around to adding the spices and blending the beer.
The tinctures i made were very strong, this is by design so I don't have to use too much to flavor the beer.

I started with 100ml samples of the base beer and just did random small amounts that i thought would work. It took about 8 trials to get things right. notes were kept on how much of each spice was added to the mixture, off of a 100ml sample of beer i was using .5ml-1.5ml spice additions.

I ended up having to consult outside help because both my brother and I totally blew out our pallets with the first few trials, our taste was completely off. I had tinctures of nutmeg, ginger,cinnamon and allspice. I ended up leaving out the allspice because we didn't like the flavor it was lending to the beer.

Once happy with the amounts of spice i scaled everything up for 20 gallons of beer and mixed it in the 55 gallon kettle (which was very carefully sanitized). From here i ran the beer of into kegs and put in the fridge to carb, look for the post with tasting notes soon.

October 27, 2011

2011 Barley crop report

A post on alerted me to the state of the 2011 malting barley harvest and prompted me to do some more digging.
The American Malting Barley Association issued a report in September citing an alarming drop in the 2011 harvest. The 2011 crop year is predicted to produce 115,050,000 bushels, this is down 14% from the 2010 harvest (180,268,000 bushels) and down approximately 18% from the 2009 harvest (227,323,000 bushels).  These are the lowest harvest/ production levels since 1936. Additionally the planted acreage in the 2011 crop year was 2,559,000 acres, this is down from 2,872,000 acres in 2010.
Barley is an important crop for the U.S. From 2000-2009 the barley growing industry employed 1,885,175 people and contributed $25,029,000.00 to state and local taxes.
As the chart shows the use of most of the domestic barley crop goes towards the beer industry, however, a significant portion of the crop goes towards feed for livestock. The beer/ brewing industry generates many billions of tax dollars and pays several billion dollars in wages as the chart below shows.

The money invested in planting malting and brewing with domestic barley keeps money in the U.S economy. A shortage of barley will drive up the cost of malt for many small brewers, potentially exponentially.(Anhauser-Busch/ INBev as well as SABMiller own their own malt houses) These small brewers are generally running on lower margins than the mega milti-national brewers and in many cases rely on lower prices for raw materials to male payroll.
During the hop shortage of 2006-2007 brewers were able to make substitutions for the hops they were unable to source, however if malts are too expensive for small brewers to source they are unlikely to make substitutions to other sources to fermentable material. Perhaps these brewers will produce foreign produced malt from Canada or even China, draining money from the U.S economy.
Any way you cut it the decrease in production of malting barley needs to stop, brewers large and small rely on malt to make their product. If less barley is available the largest brewers will undoubtedly receive their raw and malted barley first spelling nothing but trouble for the smallest of breweries.

October 25, 2011

Oktoberfest Tasting

This year I'm trying to be more on top of my seasonal beers. So far I'm running a little bit behind but not as bad as I have been in the past. I finished up The lagering period of my oktoberfest and quickly got it into bottles.
I Have had several commercial Oktoberfest's (unlike me professional breweries are way ahead of the curve many were released in mid-september) so i had that experience to fall back on. As usual designing great beers was vital in the formulation of the recipe. 
Also for the evaluation of this beer (and all others from now on) I began using the BJCP evaluation sheet and scoring my beers on a point scale. 
Aroma(10/12): Rich malt, slightly sweet finish, hints of sulfur compounds/esters, no hop aroma present. Could be improved with more mall aroma or a heavier malt aroma. An added presence of hops in the aroma would make things more interesting too. 
Appearance(3/3): Brilliantly clear, long lasting white head, bright copper color
Flavor(18/20): Malty complexity, clean fermentation character, slightly sweet finish, could use more hop flavor 
Mouthfeel(5/5): slightly watery, appropriate carbonation level
Overall Impression(9/10): Great drinking beer, goes down easy without blowing out pallet, could use more malt character/body (addition of melanoidin malt or cara pils) additional nobel hop aroma would add complexity at the risk of making the beer rougher on the pallet. 
Total Score(45/50): Outstanding range 

October 13, 2011

Colossal deal ?

There has been talk all over the internet financial and brewing sites lately of Anheuser-Busch Inbev (currently the worlds largest brewing company) making a mover to acquire SABMiller.
This deal would be huge, it would create a brewing juggernaut with sales on every continent (even Antarctica).
The acquisition is rumored to be priced somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 billion, and would become a reality somewhere around 2013. SABMiller's recent takeover of Australian brewer Foster's for $10 billion slowed down the acquisition.
The merger could spell trouble for ABInbev though, anti trust lawyers are rubbing their palms together in the U.S and China. The new company would likely have to sell off its recently acquired U.S holdings in Miller and Coors brewing companies as well as its control of Chinas CR Snow. ABInbev already has very large holdings in these markets so the selloff would only help.
Some think this deal is highly unlikely to end up going down due to the high price of the takeover. However, when Inbev acquired Anheuser-Busch that was the largest merger to ever take place so the company has shown that they are not afraid of large dollar takeovers.
The craft brewing community does not seem too worried about the impending acquisition. Ours in somewhat of a niche market and many people who drink craft beer are aware of who owns what and actively decide not to drink products owned by large multi national companies. It's not necessarily to say that all brands owned by these companies are producing sub par beer (ABInbev recently acquired Chicago craft brewery Goose Island) but many people working in the craft beer industry and supporting the craft beer industry would rather support their local brewery or a brewery that remains independent.
The numbers don't lie. The brewers association reports that in 2010 the craft brewing industry grew 11% by volume and 12% by dollars with 1,716 operating breweries, compare this to the U.S domestic beer industry which in 2010 was down 1% by volume. The craft brewing industry is rapidly approaching a 10% market share with the increase in a knowledgeable consumer who is looking for something more than a multi-national brewing conglomerate.

Here are some relevant links
Brands owned by SABMiller
Brands owned by ABInbev
Where I got my info

October 10, 2011

Making Spice Tinctures

After a very bad experience with a holiday spiced ale and a heavy had with some cloves early in my brewing career i started making spice tinctures in order to control the amount of spice i was adding to my beer.

The process is pretty simple. Weigh out the spices and add a measured amount of vodka. Note the measurements mix together, shake and leave the mixture in a sunny window for at least a week.

This method works for adding pretty much any flavor to your final beer, i have done grapefruit zest, sumac and tons of different spices. If you get spices fresh or from your garden they need to be dried first but thats pretty simple. I like to use dry spices because I don't want to add water to my beer, even though the amount would be next to nothing. I have yet to try making a tincture with hops or coffee beans but maybe when i do my next brew with coffee(coffee porter, watch for the post) i will give it a shot.

This was the preparation for the spice addition to my pumpkin ale, I made seperate tinctures of all spice, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

Once the tinctures have sat for about a week (sometimes i go more, sometimes much more) its time to filter them. I get a clean mason jar set a funnel in it and run the mixture through a coffee filter. I like to let the vodka run through the spices one last time at this point.

Once the mixture is run through a filter Its pretty much good to go. The mixture is extremely strong so it does not take much to flavor the final beer.

When adding the spice mixture to the final beer I will use 100ml samples of beer and experiment with adding various amounts of the individual spices until I get the flavor profile i want. Once I'm happy with the flavor I scale up the amount of tincture used and add them to the keg and carbonate.

Additionally I'm almost always left with some extra tincture so this thanksgiving I'm planning on making some pumpkin pie martinis for the ladies in my family with some whip cream flavored vodka and spice tinctures, possibly topped of with some of that whip cream that has boose in it.

October 2, 2011

Book Review: Tasting Beer- Randy Mosher

In an effort to advance my tasting skills in order to take the cicerone exam I picked up a few books that I figured could help me.
Tasting Beer was an enjoyable read The beginning follows the same pattern any beer book does it follows the history of beer in 20 or so pages going from the ancient Sumerians & ancient Egyptians to the modern brewing industry, stopping to talk about porters in England along the way. Still Tasting Beer is more than just a general beer book.
The second chapter starts the tasting portion sensory evaluation, judging tips, presentation of beer, pairing beer with food. This is the portion of the book thats most useful. Tasting beer can be a difficult subject to broach in print but The book gives you a method to efficiently communicate whats going on in your glass and mouth. The book discusses some of the common flavors found in beers (intentional and off flavors) mouthfeel, carbonation, and how the brewing ingredients and process effect the final product. The book has several charts showing the differences in color, alcohol, and bitterness relative to styles.
The last half of the book is a discussion of styles. They are separated by country of origin and go briefly into the history of the given styles. This part was a bit tedious at times (reading about 15 styles and their original gravities/ IBU's can be boring at times) as it reads somewhat like a list.
Randy Mosher is part of the faculty at the sibel institute, he teaches courses in sensory panel management among otheres. He is a well respected author and lecturer in the beer world.
Overall i really enjoyed the book. I feel it started me on the road to really tasting and evaluating beer rather than just drinking it, however, reading a book is no substitute for experience when it comes to tasting and judging beer but thats the fun part. This book comes highly recommended

September 28, 2011

Pumpkin Ale Brew-day

With fall right around the corner I recently brewed my first pumpkin ale. The idea with pumpkin ales is not to make a beer that tastes like a pumpkin (ever had pumpkin on its own ?) but to spice the beer so it reminds people of pumpkin pie. That being said nearly all pumpkin ales have pumpkin in them, it provides some extra starchiness, orange hue, and some extra  fermentable material. Additionally you couldn't really call it a pumpkin ale if there was no pumpkin in the beer could you ?

The brew-day went pretty good with only 1 or 2 minor issues. Generally pumpkin ales are notorious for stuck mashes and slow runoff''s. I avoided the problem of gumming up the mash with the pumpkin I dissolved the puree in the mash water while the RIMS system was recirculating. Additionally i added extra rice hulls to the grist.

The wort running into the brew kettle after had a great orange color, exactly like the outside of a pumpkin.

The rest of the brew-day was pretty much normal I only used 3 ounces of hops in the recipe, just enough to counter the sweetness of the wort.

I also change my method of whirlpooling on this brew. I lifted the hop bag out of the wort and let it drain over the kettle which let me get the wort spinning much faster leading to a better trub cone after transfer.

I ended up with 4 carboys full of beer, fermentation started within a few hours of pitching. Im letting this beer ferment in the ambient temperatures so it should finish pretty quickly. After fermentation is done I'm going to make vodka tinctures with some typical pumpkin pie spices and add them at kegging.

September 26, 2011

Brewery Tour

If I'm going to be talking about making beer it's probably high time I let people see what I'm working with.
This is the beginning of the obsession. Just a corner of basement jazzed up with some paint  and a few second hand stainless steel tables. At this point the mash- tun was still a cooler and we were boiling in a makeshift kettle that would come apart when the burner was run for too long. This version of the brewery didn't last too long, one big spill of water lead to tile floor, a floor drain, a walk-in cooler and automation for the brewery.

The boil kettle is just a standard blichmann 55 gallon kettle nothing special. The kettle is fired by a 180,000 BTU burner which was made out of a free stainless table, its hard piped natural gas controlled by an automated gas valve.

The hot liquor tank is a very nice piece of equipment. It holds about 25 gallons of sparge water, its heated by a water jacket with an electric heating element that is also automated.

The RIMS mashing system is by far the most complicated part of the brewery. It uses a 30 gallon blichmann kettle, false bottom and sparge arm. Mash water is recirculated from under the false bottom and back over the top of the grain bed. The flow rate is controlled by a flow rate meter and a gate valve. The system is automated with the use of an automated gas valve and temperature probe.

The automation for the system is achieved through a BCS-462, The unit controls the gas valves and takes temperature readings from the HLT, Mash, and all refrigeration spaces. It can be accessed online from anywhere making reading the data logs and changing fermentation temperatures very easy.
The unit can be accessed at  (user: admin, pass: beer) these are guest settings so feel free to visit without fear of changing any settings.
This system needs some more work, the digital temperature and analog blichmann thermometer don t agree and mash temperatures have been frequently missed. Next brew will see a new temperature probe placement which should resolve the issue.

The grain mill is a motorized MM3 monster mill. The extended hopper holds about 20 pounds of grain. This is another system that might benefit from a few small changes. The mill jams occasionally when grain gets behind the roller, also a gear reduction motor would allow the mill to be even stronger also reducing jamming. Also, This thing has zero safety features some yellow lights that turn on when the mill is running could be useful, maybe some scary stickers of a hand being crushed would be a nice touch.

The walk-in fridge is huge. It could probably hold 35 kegs easily  along with many bottles. It was made by sticking out the walls, adding a stupid amount of insulation, a vapor barrier and some finishing work. Cooling is provided by the guts of an old commercial freezer. Additionally the walk-in has taps coming through the wall with chalk board labeling system.
Fermentation takes place in a 27 gallon blichmann conical fermenter when its available. It lives in the seven-up fridge in the above photo. Soon the 42 gallon extension will be making an appearance hopefully in time for the run of assorted winter porters. Next upgrade for this system is a thermowell to monitor actual beer temperature and not ambient temperature.

Thats most of the brewery. I didn't bother showing the storage spaces because nobody really needs to see empty bottles and kegs stacked up. Here are a few pictures of the whole operation.