Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Riding the light rail

Late after the Rockies game riding the light rail.

Rockies game

We got some tickets to tonight's game. Row 9 from the field. I have never been this close at a professional baseball game.

The way the Rockies played makes me hesitate to call it professional.

The kids got to bed pretty late. Hope they get up ok tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Girly berry

This past weekend, I was drinking one of my latest batch of Girly Berry Ale, and really thought it looked nice in the sun.

The picture does not really do it justice.  It is a beautiful blond ale. Light golden malts balanced with saaz and pearle hops. Yeast esters combined with the hops give this a subtle fruity taste. Nicely carbonated. Bubbles constantly to the end of glass.

Light crisp refreshing. Nice beer.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Tyler expressed an interest in earning some money, so I let him mow our lawn for $5. He did pretty well for his first time.

Not sure he is quite ready for this to be his job, though.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

AG Brew day

Well ...yesterday, on the way home, I stopped by my LHBS and purchased ingredients for my first all grain batch.  I decided to go with Buckwheat's BPA as my first attempt.

Today I brewed it up using my new mash tun and Bayou Classic propane burner.

The first step was to preheat the mash tun. I used about 3 gallons of boiling water to accomplish this.

Next, I heated up about 6.5 quarts of mash water to a little over 160F. I put this in the tun (after emptying the preheat water). Then, I poured all the grain on top of the water, and mixed it all together. My target temp was 150, and my thermometer said 150. Not bad.

Then, I let the mash sit for about 75 minutes. During that time, I poured myself and drank a Buckwheat BPA (from the last time I made it). Really enjoyed it. I also hydrated my yeast and started getting Rutt ready for fermenting (yes, I named my fermentors ... You have a problem with that?).

About an hour into it, I heated up my sparge water to around 170. I also checked the temp again. Still right at 150. I am happy about that.

Once the 75 minutes was up, I sparged and collected the wort. I eyeballed the water amounts on two sparges. Seems to have worked out.

After the second sparge, I started my boil. Even though I used fermcap, I got a little boil-over. Think maybe I need a bigger pot. The propane burner sure puts out more heat than the stove top.

The rest of the boil went pretty much as planned. Hops at 60. Irish moss at 15. Yeast nuitrient at 10. More hops at 5. Had a 90 minute IPA and read a little while waiting.

After the boil, I did my ice bath outside as well.

Filled Rutt. Put downstairs. Now I just have to wait for the yeasties to do their thing.

One thing I should note:  my mashing efficiency was horrible.  I was hoping for 70% (which is not that great) and only got about 61%.  I overfilled my fermenter a little, and the boil-over didn't help, so I figure the efficiency was not quite as bad as I saw, but still not great.

I will need to get that number up quite a bit to make this process "worth it".  One thing I forgot to do was stir in the sparge water and let it soak for a few minutes before draining.  So, I should be able to increase my efficiency next time just because I'll have a better process.  BUT ... I also think maybe I can improve the equipment a bit.  I won't go into details on that right now.

All-in-all I am pretty pleased with the way things went.  I do enjoy brewing outside.  I think my wife probably likes it as well as some of my later stages would have been during the time she was making dinner (tacos ... yum).  So, we were not getting into each others' way.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cascadian Dark Ale

Exciting news!  Well, not new news for beer geeks and readers of BYO (are there non-Beer-Geek readers of BYO?  ... I don't think so) .

A new beer style has been created!  Wooo Hooo!

BYO talks about it in Marc Martin's article Birth of a New Style: Cascadian Dark Ale.  I do not care much for the name, and apparently it has been "changed" to "American-Style India Black Ale".  "American-Style India Black Ale" is a better name, but I do not know why they don't just call it what home-brewers have been calling it:  Black IPA or Imperial Black IPA.  The BJCP doesn't update its guidelines every year, but I suppose it will be category 10D whenever the next publish date comes around.

In case you are not a beer geek enough to follow the link above, but still care enough to know, the numbers around the new style are:
Color = 30+ SRM
Original gravity = 1.060–1.080
Final gravity = 1.010–1.016
Bitterness = 50–90 IBU
Alcohol by volume = 6.0–8.5% 
The important distinguishing factor between a hoppy porter or stout is IPA-like hops in both flavor and aroma.

My Stone Soup IDA falls right into this new category, except I probably don't quite have a dark enough color, and I guess my FG is not quite low enough.  Personally, I think my IDA looks black, so maybe my SRM calculation is off.  I still consider mine in category.  Of course, when I created Stone Soup, there was no "American-Style India Black Ale", so I just called it a Category 23:  Specialty Beer .  Now there are guidelines, I can adjust color and work on my attenuation to get things right in line.  Although, perhaps, I would rather just keep it as is.  It is SOOOOOO good.

I've been telling myself for quite some time that I need to brew up another Stone Soup batch, but now that I have a category to shoot for, I'll have to make the extra effort to "make it happen".

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I just noticed today that I have 10.  Yes, count them, 10 followers of my blog.  And only one of those is a family member.  9 are people I do not even know (at least I do not recognize any of their user names).

I have no idea if these people actually read my blog on a regular basis, but they must have come across it at least once and thought it was interesting enough to "follow".

Had no idea I was so popular.

Monday, July 19, 2010

All Grain Brewing

Sheppy Brew just made its first home-made Mash Tun.  I based it mostly on the plans posted on  Homemade Mash Tun Design.  My Tun is 5 gallons instead of 10, and probably as a result of that, I needed additional washers to take up enough space to tighten the ball value assembly sufficiently to prevent leaks. 

Now I can brew "All Grain" batches.  Real brewing snobs will tell you that if I was not doing all-grain until now, I have not been a real brewer.  I disagree with those people, but that doesn't really matter.  Now, I am an "All Grain Brewer".  Of course, I am still using Mr. Beer fermenters, there are probably still brewing geeks who will say I am not a real brewer.  Those people are just ignorant and wrong, so don't listen to them.

In case you don't know... mashing is the process that converts the starches in malted grains to sugars.  When you use extracts to brew, that process has already been done for you.  When you do a partial or full mash, you let the enzymes in the malted grain take of it.  It is pretty simple.  I do a single infusion mash, which means basically I add hot water to the grain and let it sit for an hour (give or take).  The reason that my mash tun was made out of a cooler is so that the hot water will stay hot for the right amount of time.  Once the mashing is done, you can remove the sugars by doing one or more "sparges", which is basically rinsing the mash with more hot water, collecting the sugars as it passes through.  Mashing and sparging can be a complex subject, but those are the basics.

Really all there is to my mash tun is a water cooler with a modified value for easier drainage of the wort.  It also has a piece that strains out the grains from the collected wort.

I do not know why I've waited so long to make a mash tun and make the "jump" to All-Grain.  Most of my favorite home brews have been partial mashes.  A partial mash is basically mashing part of your fermentables and using extract to fill in the rest of the fermentables.  So, really a partial mash is the same time / effort as a full mash, but high-level brewing snobs make fun of you because you are not "All Grain".  Actually, no one ever makes fun of me directly for not being an All-Grain brewer.  The only All-Grain brewers I know are either too nice (and /or not as ignorant as the high-level brewing snobs out there) or are the guys (or girls) who work in the LBHS's and want me to buy things from their shop.  There is a much higher margin on extracts, so I bet most of my LBHS buddies would rather I continue to use extracts... especially since I made my mash tun instead of buying it from them.  Anyway, whether or not anyone has made fun of me to my face, I do know that there are people who think you are not a "real" brewer unless you do All Grain.

The main advantage of doing All-Grain (other than the fact that you get ridiculed less by other brewers) is that buying enough grain to make a batch of beer is less expensive than buying the extract needed to make the same amount of beer.  Some people will tell you that All-Grain gives you better tasting beers.  I do not know about that necessarily, but we'll see.  Like I mentioned above, my best beers have been partial mash, so maybe a full mash will indeed give me even better beers.

I also recently purchased a Bayou Classic SP10 High-Pressure Outdoor Gas Cooker.  With this, I'll be able to do my boils outside rather than in the kitchen.  It will keep the inside a bit cooler and keep me out of the way when my wife is trying to make lunch or some other womanly kitchen activity.  Theoretically,  it will boil faster and will allow me to boil higher volumes of water than the stove.  That is not a critical factor right now, but if I ever move up to bigger batches, it will make a world of difference.

Stay tuned ... I'll let you know when I actually get to use my new brewing equipment.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summer Sunday

I am sitting outside on my patio a beautiful hot summer late afternoon, listening to music. Almost supper time.

I am in the shade of our big backyard tree with a nice breeze blowing through. I'm enjoying a SheppyBrew (Blackhawk Black) as the aroma of grilling T-bone steaks floats around me.

I am not sure what else I could ask for.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

2nd Quarter Stats

Well ... here it is, the end of another quarter for the SheppyBrew Nano Brewery.  At the end of March, I published some of my brewing statistics for the 1st quarter of 2010.  Here is a quick run-down of how things are going after the 2nd quarter:
  • 2010:  I have mixed 18 batches of beer.  I am still on pace for 36 batches this year.  (should be around 81 gallons)
    In 2009, I brewed 29 batches of beer.

  • 2010:  I have brewed 15 different recipes.  9 of these are brand new to 2010.
    2009:  I had 18 completely different recipes.

  • 2010:  I've done 1 lager.  It was a success, and I will be doing another one which I will probably start in August.  It is going to be an Oktoberfest lager.  I'm going to call it Rocktoberfest II.
    2009:  All my beers were ales.

  • 2010:  All my beers so far have still been Sheppy Brew recipes.
    2009:  26 were Sheppy Brew recipes.

  • 2010:  100% (so far) have been good, very good, great, or oh-my-god fantastic.
    2009:  93% were been good, very good, great, or oh-my-god fantastic.

  • 2010:  9 batches have been partial mashes.
    2009:  I did 3 partial mashes.

  • 2010:  13 batches have had no Mr. Beer ingredients.
    2009:  6 batches had no Mr. Beer ingredients.
One thing I have started doing is replacing Mr. Beer recipes with recipes that I came up with on my own.   Whisky Wife Wheat was a beer I made in 2009, and replaced it recently with Whisky Wife Wheat II.  And, currently both in the fermenters are both Dragon Spit Brown Ale (which was a favorite of mine in 2009) and Dragon Spit Brown Ale II.  I also formulated a new version of Tommy Hawk APA without any Mr. Beer ingredients, which I enjoyed quite a bit during the BlackHawks' quest for the Stanley Cup this year.  I still have quite a few Mr. Beer HME / UME combos that I will try to brew up next to Sheppy Brew originals so that I can compare the results side-by-side.

The Beer Model has a new favorite:  Buckwheat's BPA, which is probably going to have to be brewed up very often to keep up with demand.  I'm not sure why Tracy likes it so much.  It really is more of something I would think I would like (which I do).  Usually, if Tracy really likes a beer, I think it is good, but not great.  This is a rare beer that we both think is great.  I've already brewed this up twice in 2010.  It is probably the only beer I've ever made exactly the same twice without any tweaking of the recipe.

I also have a new favorite.  Well, I guess I have a couple of new favorites:  Quarter Life Crisis and Stone Soup IDA are both wonderfully extremely hoppy creations that have the malty backbones to combine into real beer-lovers' treats.  These were both beers that were brewed in the first quarter, although I did not taste Stone Soup IDA until April.  I've done Quarter Life Crisis twice so far this year, and will probably do another Stone Soup IDA soon.

Yes, I do realize that none of this is very interesting to very many people out there, but it does interest me.  It is fun to look back and remember what I have done.  Anyway, that is all for now.  I'll keep you posted on what is going on in the Sheppy Brew Nano Brewery (even if you don't care).

Friday, July 02, 2010


Here is Connor doing one of Tyler's chores because he "likes to vacuum".   Don't worry, I found other things for Tyler to do.  (FaceBook readers will have to go out to My Blog to see this video).

I do not know if you remember this blog post:  Extra Kids where Connor and his friend David told me that doing dishes was "the funnest thing ever".

Obviously, Connor does not get this attitude from his Dad.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Best Beers in America II

So, just a couple days ago, I posted that The AHA recently posted their 2010 Zymurgy Best Beers In America Poll, and that I had not had very many of them.

Since then, I stopped at the liquor store.  I wanted to buy Russian River Pliny the Elder (#1 on the list), but I could not find it.  Disappointing.  Instead, I picked up  Arrogant Bastard and Dogfish Head's 90 minute IPA.  So, now I've tried 3 of the top 5.  I've had 4 of the top 10, and 10 on the list.  I'll feel pretty good about myself if I can taste 5 or 10 more on the list.

Both  Arrogant Bastard and Dogfish Head's 90 minute IPA are fine beers.  Of course, neither of these are locally brewed, so they are pretty expensive.  I do not know for sure, but I assume if I were in a more local liquor store to either of these, they would be fresher than the beer I got.

Personally, for the cost, I would just as soon drink a local Imperial IPA as I would the 90 minute.  I do not think it is any better than the New Belgium Ranger IPA, for example.  It very well could change my opinion if I were to get one fresh out of the brewery, but Delaware is a long way from Colorado, so my Colorado beers are going to be fresher than anything I'll drink from Dogfish Head.  IPA is not really my preferred style of beer anyway.  Because of that, I do not really have one of my beers to compare to the 90 minute IPA.

Arrogant Bastard is a very interesting beer.  To me, it tastes like a more bitter, less hoppy version of the SheppyBrew Quarter Life Crisis, which is a beer style that I really do like.  And yes, as arrogant as it might sound, I like my beer better than I like Arrogant Bastard.  Again, freshness might be a factor in the "sample" I got.  Plus, I think it is somewhat human nature to prefer something that I, a home-brewer, created over another beer.  That being said, if you were to offer me an Arrogant Bastard, I would not hesitate to accept.  The beer is deep red in color, and aggressively bitter throughout the drink.  It has a nice malty / caramelly background with a healthy dose of American citrusy and piney hops and maybe just a touch of roasted malts.  It is really what I would call the perfect combination of flavors ... except mine just blends them better (IMAO).

Anyway... there you go.  I am on my way to trying more of the best beers in America.


See the big flag Tyler made.

Reminds me of something cute that Connor did.  Last time we watched Miracle (which I have decided is the best sports movie of all time) during the Semi-finals game vs the Soviet Union, Connor asked us to stop the movie.  He ran upstairs and got a little American flag.  During the rest of the movie, he waved his flag and chanted "U S A".  Its real easy to get into that part of the movie.