Sunday, August 29, 2010

15 Year Amber Ale

So, after reading the September edition of BYO magazine, I decided to make a special recipe in honor of our 15th wedding anniversary. The beer model agreed this was a good idea and said she would like to be an assistant brewer.

Click on this link for the recipe of Sheppy Brew's 15 Year Anniversary Amber Ale.

Saturday, we went to Golden to tour the biggest brewery in that town. Then, we went to Golden's 2nd largest brewery ... Purely for research, of course.

the 2nd largest brewery in Golden

Mr. Coors and the boys
a dinosaur in Golden
I preheated the tun early Sunday morning. I also had to bottle up the gold ale in Tuke to make room for our anniversary ale.

After church, the beer model .... errr... brewing assistant and I heated up our strike water for our mash. Unfortunately, I got distracted by the hot brewing babe's body and undershot the 150 mash temp. But, I used beersmith to calculate that I could add about a quart of boiling water to bring the 140 degree mash back up to 150. It worked great. This is actually the first time I have done this kind of adustment. Sort of cool that even when distracted by a hot woman, beersmith will help you get on track.

Anyway, the beer babe went to get groceries while I mowed the lawn and the mash converted sugars. After the hour and 15 minutes, we tried to get first wort, but nothing came out. I guess the braid got disoriented in a way that prevented drainage. I transfered to a grain bag and did a modified steep sparge. Our gravity was a bit low, so we added some extract to bring the gravity up a bit.

brew babe trying to collect first wort
The brewing babe did the first hops addition, and the Irish moss and the yeast nutrient.  She also added the finishing hops, and looked damn fine doing it.
brew babe stirring the wort
the ever important step:  drinking homebrew while brewing
Our OG came out right at about 1.050, which is pretty good considering we planned for 1.051 and had as many issues as we did.  We pitched very close to 60 degrees and will control fermentation temperature for a day or two, then let it go where it wants.

It was actually sort of fun brewing with the hot beer model.  Yes, the sexy body was distracting, but I think maybe with some practice, I can find a way to concentrate despite that distraction.  I need to figure out a better drainage system for the mash tun. 

I expect we'll try the 15 Year Anniversary Amber Ale sometime around mid-October.  Well, let's be honest ... I will not be able to hold out that long and it will probably be closer to the start of October. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pliny the Elder

So, I was at the liquor store last night looking at (can you guess?) ..... beer.

It isn't my usual liquid store.  I have not been to this one in awhile (since 87,000 square foot Tispy's Liquor World opened up near me).  I was pleasantly surprised to see a bottle (literally one pint sized bottle) of Pliny the Elder.

You may recall (or more likely you might not) that a month or two ago (almost exactly two months), I wrote that the AHA had posted their 2010 Zymurgy Best Beers In America Poll. I was somewhat ashamed that I have had so few of the top 50 beers.  I had only had two of the top 10 and 8 of the top 50.  A couple days later, I posted that I had picked up Arrogant Bastard and Dogfish Head's 90 minute IPA.

You can read my blog posts on the subject here ... and here.

Pliny the Elder, was #1 on the list.  I had to have it, but Tispy's Liquor World didn't have it, so I figured I would just wait for them to get it.  I even asked the beer manager of the store to call me when it came in.  I never got a call, so I assume Tipsy's has not gotten it in yet.  I was actually very surprised that Arrow Liquormart had it.

So, today, I tasted Pliny the Elder, the best beer in America.

You probably already know this, but Pliny the Elder is a double IPA made by Russian River Brewing company in Santa Rosa, CA.  It is very light in color and mouth-feel.  It is clear, and dry, and crisp, and extremely hoppy.  It is so easy drinking that you want to have more than you probably should (8% alcohol).  It is exactly what a double IPA should be.

I do not think this is the best beer in America.

I gave my wife a taste, knowing what her reaction would be.  I even told her it was Pliny the Elder, and if she read my blog like she claims, she would know that Pliny the Elder is an IPA.  Tracy does not like IPA's.  So, she doesn't think this is the best beer in America either.

I do like IPAs and have had a bunch of them at brew pubs (mostly here in Colorado).  This ranks up with the best I've had, but I wouldn't mark it above Golden City Brewery's (2nd largest brewery in Golden, CO), or Dry Dock Brewing Company's, or even New Belgium's Ranger IPA.  That is not really a knock on Pliny ... it really isn't.... except this Pliny cost me much more than those other beers would.

Anyway, I'm glad I got to try Pliny the Elder, and cross another beer off my list.  Now, I've had 4 of the top 5 (including #1).  I've had 5 of the top 10.  And I've had 11 of the top 50.  I also picked up a bomber of Stone Ruination (another famously hoppy IPA) which I will try sometime soon.  I expect that I will like it about the same.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Roctoberfest Lager

Today, I brewed my second all grain batch. Today's creation is my second lager. It is an oktoberfest beer that I call Rocktoberfest Lager. My oktoberfest seasonal last year was good, but I expect this one to be better.

I think things went a bit smoother this time than my first All-grain batch. Of course, that makes sense. Most things get easier the more times you do them.

I actually started my mash pretty early in the morning, and then headed out with the beer model and assistant brewers to bowl. Connor got a 56 ... Not bad for for 5 year old. Tyler got an 81 ... Also not too bad. Tracy got 103, which I think is about average for her. I got a 162, which is good for me. After bowling, we had a picnic and came home so I could finish brewing.

So, my mash was longer than ideal. It was almost exactly 4 hours. It started at 150 degrees and I did not measure the temp when I got back. Long mashes never hurt me on partial mashes, so I expect this one will have no ill effects either. Experts will probably say my flavors will be different ... Maybe with a little tannic bitterness, but I will not worry about it.  RDWHAHB.

The sparge went well. This time I remembered to stir up the sparge and let it sit a few minutes. The wort came out a nice amber color, which I think will be perfect for this style of beer. Because of my low OG last time, I actually took a pre-boil gravity reading. I have never done that check before. Beer Smith told me to expect 1.050. I got 1.051. So ... Assuming my volume of wort was right (it was close, but I do not have a good way to measure my pre-boil volume exactly), I was right on track.

I popped open my growler of world-famous Dragon Spit Brown Ale to enjoy while doing the boil. I had read in the Mr. Beer forum recently that carbonating and conditioning home brew in a jug growler (like the one my DS was in) would not work because it would not hold carbonation. So, I was expecting flat beer. I was pleasantly surprised that my growler held the carbonation just fine. And, boy did I enjoy my beer while letting my propane burner take care of the boil.

The boil additions went as planned. I typed most of this blog entry into my phone during the boil.

The ice bath took a full 4 gallon milk jugs of ice. Really not sure how I would be able to do this whole brewing hobby without to chest freezer. I did get the wort into the low 50's before putting it in Tuke. Not bad at all.

My OG after boil and cooling came out at 1.058. Was expecting 1.057. Nice. I guess I have the process down ok.  Unfortunately, after last time's experience, I made my brewhouse efficiency at 65 for the recipe.  So, I did not really improve anything as far as my mash efficiency.  One thing that sticks in my mind is that all my partial mashes were perfect (or even more efficient than expected).  I'm wondering if I used a grain bag and "sparged" by simply steeping the whole grain bag in the water if I would improve my efficiency.  Maybe that will be what I try next time.  

Anyway, I am looking forward to trying this beer.  Now that I actually have this in Tuke, maybe the Rockies will start another one of their amazing runs to the playoffs.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Another great weekend

I woke up this morning in Colorado Springs.

We headed down south yesterday to go to the Cheyenne Moutain Zoo. You can look at yesterday's blog entry for pictures of the zoo. It was an awesomely perfect day, and a wonderfully awesome, uniquely wonderful zoo.

After the zoo, we checked into a hotel where we got to swim in the pool for an hour or so. Then, we headed downtown to the Phantom Canyon Brewing Company where we had a nice dinner and my wife and I had some really nicely brewed beers.

I actually slept through the night (somewhat rare for me) and the boys were even able to stay quiet until past 7 this morning (its like a miracle for those two things to happen the same night/morning on a weekend).

After our continental breakfast, we headed over to Garden of the Gods to look at the spectacular rock formations. I'll post pictures of that sometime this week if I get a chance.

Headed home. Mowed the lawn. Got the boys to help me clean out and somewhat organize our messy shed. It is funny because I got them to do an hour and a half of hot tiring work in return for letting them watch 23 minutes of Sponge Bob. I am such a mean dad, and yet, I am ok with it.

Now, I am sitting in the shade of my backyard, sipping a Sheppy Brew while blogging on my phone. In 20 or 30 minutes, I will start up the grill and make some cheese burgers (krabby patties for the boys).

Honestly, it is hard to imagine a better life than I have right now.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cheyenne Mt. Zoo

Today, we went South to Colorado Springs and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. The zoo is built on the side of a mountain. You make your way up the mountain to see the animals. It is pretty cool.

Some other cool things are how close some of the animals are.

We fed some crackers to giraffes.  We got to pet a wallaby.  A mountain lion walked inches away from us.

One thing the CMZ has that no other zoos I've ever been to have is a chair lift.  From the chair lift, we saw the tiger and the grizzly bears.  Both were located where we would not have been able to see them as well down below.

If you ever are in Colorado Springs.... the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is an excellent activity.  The whole family had lots of fun today at the zoo.

Friday, August 13, 2010

So delicious.  And nutritious.  Yum!

Hey little sis ... it sure doesn't look like you're letting me win this month.  You'll doubled me up again.  Well, after this one, you've only 167%ed me, but I'm sure you'll respond with another one or two before I post another.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


I started out my weekend early Saturday by going to give blood. The experience was not quite as smooth as usual. I actually had a bit of a wait, and I did not get quite the same warm friendly feeling from the staff there. I did not recognize anyone. I suppose my regulars could be on summer vacation. They got my blood out ok. I got a beach towel for giving today. One more donation and I will get my 5 gallon pin. That is a lot of blood.

Then after talking for what seemed like forever about what to do for the day, we finally decided to go to the Argo mine in Idaho Springs. My wife and kids were just there a couple weeks ago. Apparently they liked it.  I let my wife drive.  Sort of a weird experience.

Argo was pretty interesting, and since we were in Idaho Springs, we got to eat at TommyKnocker Brew Pub. They still had their Hop Stike ... Black rye ipa, which is the best beer I have had there. Unfortunately it is a seasonal which means it probably won't be around for long.

Then of course we had to stop at the train in Idaho Springs. Connor won't let us skip it when we are in town.

Came home from Idaho springs. Connor has been asking for a long time if he could spend the night in the backyard. Today I finally stopped with excuses and set up the tent for him. When it came right down to it, he decided he did not want to spend the night in the tent by himself. Can't say I blame him.

Sunday, I got up early and bottled some Buckwheat's BPA. As you may recall (but might not), this was my first attempt at brewing all grain. The sample taste was lighter in color and body than I remember the partial mash versions of B BPA. That is ok. I am going to call this the light version. I filled up my 5 liter party keg as well. Hopefully I will have some sort of party or picnic to bring this to. I do not think I can drink 5 liters of beer in one sitting.

I looked at my sisters blog. She cheated again by posting multiple videos yesterday on different entries. I just can't keep up.

Went to church. Mowed the lawn. Worked on the computer. Typical Sunday.

That was the weekend.

Whisky Wife Wheat

One of my very first beers was named Whisky Wife Wheat.  It turned out well.  It was a nice light American Wheat beer.

The next time I brewed it, I changed the recipe to make it more of a German Hefeweizen.  That beer turned out well too.

But, I got to thinking that really something named after my wife (Whisky Wife ... the Sheppy Brew beer model), should be a bit more Blue Moonish in its flavor character, so the 3rd time I made it, I used a Witbier yeast and some coriander and orange peel along with a healthy dose of flaked oats (oatmeal for most of you).  3rd time was a charm, because Whisky Wife Wheat II is absolutely worthy of the name.  Its silky smooth light slightly oat - wheat flavor with just enough orange coming through is really a nice summer, blue-moon-type beer.

Just because I had some Mr. Beer wheat ingredients, I made another Whisky Wife Wheat with the Witbier yeast and orange with corriander.  On this one, I over-did the orange peel, and it really does not have the nice smoothness that comes with the flaked oats, but it is still a nice light summer orange beer if you are in the right mood.

The beer on the left is Whisky Wife Wheat.  The beer on the right is Whisky Wife Wheat II.  II is better, but I is not bad either.  II is the recipe that I am going to follow whenever I brew a Whisky Wife Wheat.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Tiny bear

This morning, I was in the bathroom taking vitamins when a tiny little bear wandered through our bed room into our bathroom and growled at me. Then, it turned around, climbed on our bed and made a growl that I could have sworn sounded like "I'm going to eat you".  Of course, I must have been hearing things ... because bears can't talk.  Besides, my wife just sort of laughed.  I do not think she would have done that if a bear (no matter how tiny) had just said something like that.

Later, in the kitchen, the bear had gotten into some waffles.  Not sure how he got them out of the freezer and into the toaster, but he did.  Apparently a very talented bear.

I took a picture with my camera.  Not a great photo ... but it is all I have.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Dragon Spit and Moose Drool

Recently, I brewed up my world-famous Dragon Spit Brown Ale and Dragon Spit II Brown Ale very close together.  Dragon Spit was one of my very successful recipes that used a Mr. Beer HME as a base.  Dragon Spit II was my attempt to recreate it without using Mr. Beer ingredients.

Sunday, I tried them side-by-side.  Just for the fun of it, I also added in a bottle of Big Sky Brewing Company's Moose Drool to compare how a commercial example of the American Brown Ale (Moose Drool is listed in the guidelines as one of the commercial examples).  Of course, I knew my beers would not really be the same as Moose Drool ... they use cinnamon for goodness sake, but it was interesting to do the comparison.

Dragon Spit I and II are very close.  For some reason, DSI has a lot more cinnamon flavor than DSII.  Probably too much.  Moose drool is more malty and has a noticeable roasted barley (coffee-like) flavor.  Even without the cinnamon, the Sheppy Brew beers have more hop flavors, and less of the rich malty character.  My beer model and I decided we liked Dragon Spit II the best, and Moose Drool came in third. 

I did decide that I will be retiring Dragon Spit I.  Next time I brew Dragon Spit II, I think I will cut down on the cinnamon.  I will add just a touch of roasted barley to get the flavor more inline with a brown ale.  I'm also going to change the yeast to Fermentis S-04 to accentuate the malts just a bit.  And, it will most likely be another all-grain batch.

I have no idea when the next Dragon Spit Brown Ale will make it into the brewing schedule.

I have to get my Rocktoberfest Lager going.  I promised myself I'd make Stone Soup IDA ASAP.  I really would like to get all-grain batches of Phat & Tyred Ale and Blackhawk Black Ale brewed.  There are a few new things I'd like to try soon (Breasty Bimbo Blonde Ale, Fox Sox Knox Rye Pale Ale, a new version of Eric's Red Ale, and a few others).  I probably should brew some Wetta Blonde Ale just to have some on-hand for the light-beer drinkers during the Thanksgiving / Christmas season.  Oh, and somehow I have to get time to make another X-Mas Ale.  And right now, my beer fridge is full, and I am pretty low on bottles.

So, it will probably be awhile before I am able to brew Dragon Spit again.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Geneva Park Campground

We went camping this past weekend at Geneva Park Campground, which is one of the campgrounds along Guanella Pass Road.  It was a pretty nice campground.  We had fun there.

Saturday, we drove up to the top of the pass, way up above the timber line.  We hiked up there for a few hours.

Daddy ended up carrying each of the boys.  He is either getting too old or the kids are getting too big.  Maybe both.

This photo (right above) is as high as we got.  I do not know the elevation, but it was pretty high.

For lunch, we came back down and hiked on the Mt. Bierstadt trail for a little while until we came across this little area by a little mountain lake.

After a few hours above timber line, we came back down and rested ...

... and played a bit.

The boys and Daddy went hunting large, dangerous game.  You can see the boys fighting off vicious attacks from wild animals while Daddy videos.

The boys took care of setting up the wood for the campfire.

It rained pretty hard on us, but we kept the fire going and stayed under the canopy as needed.

It was a great trip.  We'll have to go back to Geneva Park again sometime.