Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bottling Day

This past Sunday, my assistant brewers and I bottled our world-famous Dragon Spit Ale. In case you are interested, here are step-by-step instructions:

Step 1: Sanitize the "Bottling Bucket" and the tubing using Star-San diluted in about a gallon of water. Also, pour a little sanitizer solution into a little bowl full of bottle caps and the tip of the bottling wand. Shake up the bucket to make sure every spot of the bucket is covered. Let everything sit in sanitizer for a few minutes.

Step 2: Sanitize bottling wand and bottles by pouring Star San from bottling bucket into the bottles. I always use a combination of 1 liter bottles and 12 ounce bottles. Usually I aim for 3 liters bottles and 15 12 ounce bottles, but results can vary.

Step 3: All the bottles are filled, covered with a cap and shaken. Let them sit for awhile while placing the bottling wand and tubing onto the spigot of the full fermenter.

Step 4: Measure out priming sugar. In this case, we are going with 2 1/4 ounces.

Step 5: Boil the sugar in about 1 cup of water. Take off the heat and let cool. While the sugar water solution is cooling, pour the sanitizer from the bottles back into the gallon container to be used again.

Step 6: After the sugar / water solution has cooled, put the solution into the bottling bucket and let the beer from the fermenter drain through the bottling wand with tubing attached into the bottling bucket. IMPORTANT: MAKE SURE THE spigot of the bottling bucket is CLOSED before doing this. Don't ask how I know this is a potential issue. Let's just say that thanks to alert assistant brewers, the loss was minimal.

Step 7: Wash and re-sanitize wand. Not sure this is 100% necessary, but certainly doesn't hurt.

Step 8: Place the bottling tip on the wand and fill all the bottles. Let liquid get to the top of the bottle, and the displacement from the wand will leave the exact perfect amount of head space.

You have to let the smaller brewing assistant get his turn too. As each bottle is filled, place a top on it, but do use bottle capper until the very end.

Step 9: Attach the bottle caps to the 12 oz bottles with bottle capper.

Step 10: Place all the bottles in a Styrofoam cooler and move to the basement. Let the bottles carbonate for 2 weeks.

After 2 weeks, the bottles will move to a conditioning cooler for 2 to 4 weeks and then to the beer fridge. I should be able to drink this beer around mid-December, but will probably keep some on hand for several months.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Cowboy Playground

We rode our bikes yesterday to the "Cowboy Playground". It actually took me a little while to figure out what Tyler and Connor were talking about when they suggested that be our destination. I am not 100% sure I know how to get to this place by car. Its right along a bike path that I use a bunch, but I have never driven here. If I had to drive here for some reason, I could probably figure it out, but it would probably take me awhile.
So, in the picture above, the red thing behind Tyler is a slide that looks like a cowboy hat. The two blue mounds are knees covered in blue jeans and the brown thing sticking up on the very right hand side of the picture is a huge cowboy boot. A giant cowboy is taking a nap and he has been sleeping so long beside the Bear Creek that he is partially buried. In the picture below, we are sliding down his hat. It is a pretty cool playground.

There were apparently a lot of guys named "Daddy" there yesterday. Very confusing. When I hear "Daddy", I almost always assume someone is talking to me. I even pushed one little kid on a tire swing for 5 or 10 minutes before we realized I was the wrong "Daddy".

Usually at the playground, I am the biggest kid on the playground equipment. Yesterday was no exception, but this time there were kids (most of them seemed to be the ones with MY name) that were almost as big as me playing up there as well.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Homebrew Fool

So, this is sort of exciting: esheppy (me) is Mr. Beer's "Brewer of the Month" for November.

EricG (Mr. Beer's Señor Brewmaster and BJCP Certified Beer Judge and member of the American Brewer's Guild Alumnus and the moderator of the Mr. Beer discussion forums) wrote in his email to me, "I would personally like to thank you for all you contribute to the forum-- from your solid advice and insightful questions to your great sense of humor and passion for brewing good beer. Of course, it's nice to see that you're almost always trying something new, whether it be using grain or yeast starters! When you share these experiments, it always adds to the conversation... Anyways, the community surely wouldn't be the same without you."

When I got to EricG's email, I was shocked. Most of the Brewer's of the Month have been just completely impressive people when it come to their brewing knowledge and what great insights they share on a consistent basis. And, there are several people on the forum who I could think of off the top of my head who I think are more deserving of the honor than I. I do agree with EricG that I ask good questions and my readily apparent addiction to home brewing certainly might indicate a "passion for brewing". I do experiment quite a bit, and usually share these experiences (mostly to get advice from the experts). But, honestly, I did not expect to ever be Brewer of the Month, and certainly not this month.

If you are interested in reading the writeup, you can see it by following this link.

In other SheppyBrew news: Mr. Beer has recently updated the stats on most of their HME's and UME's. Mr. Beer's Señor Brewmaster actually told me that he had been recalculating for months and one of my posts (one of my insightful questions mentioned above) gave him the motivation to get it all done and updated. The updates for the most part went pretty far in making all my recipes much more balanced than they were before. Of course, it also pushed a couple of my more recent beers (ones I was making a concerted effort on making balanced) toward the hoppy/bitter side, so we will have to see how those turn out. Most notably, my newest version of Dragon Spit is pretty far to the hoppy side of balanced. Of course, it is still in the fermenter, so it will be awhile before I find out what it tastes like. The original version was very malty and needed bitterness, but I might have gone too far. Stay tuned for updates.

My Rocktoberfest Ale was a pretty big hit. I finished the last of them while watching game 2 of the world series. I plan to make this one of my seasonal beers and hope to have some on hand every October whether or not the Rockies are in the playoffs. The only changes I think I want for this beer are to make it a bit lighter on the color and get the carbonation up to a respectable level. Not sure exactly what I did wrong, but carbonation on this beer was pretty low and me being one of those American Beer Drinkers, I like my carbonation.

I actually tried one of my X-Mas Ales in October. I am well pleased with this beer. This is will be another seasonal regular for SheppyBrew. I think probably based on the taste test, next year I will not have to start brewing the beer so early in the year. I guess I'll have to see how these taste in December to know for sure. Other than possibly decreasing the conditioning time, I cannot think of a needed change to this beer. I do have to be extra careful on the pour of this one so that the cherries in the bottom of the bottle don't get mixed in. I wonder if I might want to try to filter some of those out from the bottling bucket next year. I wonder if I'll remember that a year from now.

I recently bottled Tommy Hawk APA. The taste test going into the bottle tells me that I added way too many flavoring hops. My intention was to recreate New Belgium Brewery's Mighty Arrow APA, but I certainly overdid the Amarillo and Cascade hops in the 20 minute boil range. Live and learn I guess (or should I say brew and learn?) I've already made changes to my recipe, but I'm not sure when I'll be able to fit this one into the schedule again.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Last year, I mentioned "The Other Haunted House" in my blog entry "Haunted". The picture I had on that entry was taken from my phone, and really did not do the place justice, so I took another one this year with my "HD" resolution on my camera. Actually, it is two houses next door to each other, and even with my HD resolution, I had to take two pictures to get the whole thing in. The two HD-sized pictures still did not do the houses justice, so I deleted them. Sometime you will have to come and visit around Halloween and see for yourself.

But ... here are some Halloween pictures:

We spent a good part of the day around Red Rocks ... walking around ... taking pictures ... enjoying the sunshine ... looking around.

Connor with his "Mr. Pumpkin Head" jack-o-lantern. This, really, is the best way to decorate a pumpkin as far as I am concerned. It is especially nice if you have a child you do not want to let use a knife. Both Tyler's and Connor's pumpkins were grown in our garden this year. Unfortunately, a stupid fat squirrel ate our two best pumpkins. I hate that squirrel.

Tyler and Connor went Trick-Or-Treating with his friend Brian and Brian's sister Christine this year. The 2year old little girl across the street from us also came along. Brian is Tyler's age and Christine is a couple of years older. See how Tyler towers above these kids?