Friday, April 29, 2011

Kegging SheppyBrew

Saturday, I finally kegged a batch of beer.

I've been brewing since early 2009, and have always just bottled my beer.  I never really minded the bottling process too much when all my batches were 2.4 gallons, but for some reason, the 5 gallon batches really pushed me over the edge, making me despise bottling days.  Cleaning and sanitizing 40 or 50 bottles and then individually filling and capping each one was starting to seem like way too much work.

So, for awhile I've been thinking about kegging.  Cleaning and sanitizing one container is much easier than doing 50.  Filling that container is pretty much just like filling the bottling bucket before.  Of course, I wouldn't have to cap all those bottles.

Kegging takes a bit of an upfront investment. The first piece of equipment on my wish list was a kegerator, so that I would have a place to keep my kegs of beer cold.  I had been on the lookout for a proper-sized mini fridge that I could convert.  I also looked at actual professionally built kegerators.  Some of the kegerators on e-bay were going inexpensive enough that when I factored in the refrigerator, conversion kit, CO2 tank, CO2 regulator, and other miscellaneous "stuff", the build or buy ROI was pretty much break-even.

And then, one day in early March, I placed a really low big on an ebay kegerator, expecting that there was no way I would win the thing.  But, I did win.  So, for over a month, I've had a kegerator sitting in my garage waiting for the opportunity to be used.

And, this Saturday, Fat and Stoopid Amber Ale was ready to transfer.  I stopped by my LHBS (the Brew Hut) last week to get a re-furbished corny keg and some quick-connect fittings for the gas and beer lines.  Then, I stopped by a little later in the week to get my CO2 tank filled up.  Saturday morning, I started to put everything together and test the system when I decided that I did not like the clamps that came with the kegerator, so I went to home-depot at its 6AM opening time to get ones I liked better. 

I sanitized the keg with my normal star san and then pressurized the keg to run the sanitizer through the beer line and tap.  After running the sanitizer through, I simply "racked" my beer from the fermenter into the keg.

Draining the beer into the keg.
Filling the keg went smoothly.  I sealed up the keg, and pressurized it.  I purged oxygen from the head-space of the keg by opening the release valve a few times, and let the keg sit under 30 psi pressure.

Then, I had to move my kegerator from the garage to the basement.  First, though, I moved my little beer fridge from the basement up to our kitchen.  I'm not sure if that little fridge will stay there or either be moved elsewhere or sold.  The kegerator replaced my little beer fridge downstairs.

Inside the kegerator.

The kegerator.
Throughout the rest of the day, I let the kegerator temperature stabilize.  I kept playing with the CO2 pressure, and eventually ended up at about 12psi and 38 to 40 degrees F.  I'll let the carbonation slowly absorb into the beer over the next few days.  Sunday while watching the mighty Blackhawks defeat the evil Vancouver Canucks, I poured myself a beer from the kegerator tap.  It was a very nice beer.  Under-carbonated as expected, but it was certainly coming along.  I expect it will be perfect in a few days.  Isn't it exciting?

I harvested the WY1272 yeast so that I have some for future brews.  I cleaned everything up.  I'm feeling pretty good about this whole kegging step that I've taken.

Harvested some yeast

There are a couple of changes I think I need to make to my setup.  My kegerator will physically fit two corny kegs, but right now, my gas line only supports a line to one keg, and I only have one serving tap.  So, I'll have to get some splitter valves from my regulator to two kegs.  I think for now, keg two will only have a picnic tap attached, and I'll open the kegerator to get beer from it, but eventually, I'll want to run a second tap out of the kegerator.

Right now, my CO2 tank and regulator sits inside the kegerator.  I think I will want to set that up outside and drill a hole through so I can adjust the pressure without opening the door.  This will be especially important when there are two kegs in there.

I may eventually want a bigger CO2 tank.  The one that came with the kegerator is tiny, and will have to be filled quite often (I think).  The tiny tank will probably be perfect to bring camping or to picnics or similar off-site places where I want to bring a keg of beer.

I'm also thinking of adding a tap or two to my big beer fridge, and setting it up so it can hold two or three kegs.  This is probably really far in the future, but it is something I can see myself doing eventually.

Anyway, the important part of this blog post is that SheppyBrew is now available in keg.  Pretty cool if you ask me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

3 to 4

I have not seen the Zizzer Zauzzer Zuzz in awhile. Sometimes I think about where he might be or what he might be doing, whose life he is currently trying to ruin, or why I would even be thinking about him. I can no longer breath under water or fly through the air. I don't really miss those powers, because as I mentioned way back in 2006, the situations in which those powers may turn out useful are very few and far between.  Besides, I sort of suspect that while I had those powers, my immortality was disabled, and now I am immortal once again.  Immortality is a much better power than human flight, don't you think?

The Tweedle Beetles are still around, but I don't find myself obsessing about them as much.  And, for the most part they seem to be leaving me alone.  I'm sure they are working on some nefarious plot, but what do I care?  As long as they stay away from me and mine, they don't bother me so much.  For the most part, their evil schemes were not all that damaging anyway.  I would have liked to win or place in the Breckenridge Duck Races, but losing didn't ruin my life.  Yes, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (now known as only as the Ducks) won that Stanley Cup, but I got over it.  In fact now that the Blackhawks have actually won a championship in my lifetime, very few hockey things bother me much anymore (Red Wing players and fans excluded, of course).

Besides, I can't let those T-Beetles bother me too much.  They make a great beer.


Ok, I was wrong.  The DAMN Tweedle Beetles made those momma-boy Sedin twins and those pansy Vancouver Canucks and the idiotic Green Spandex Men win tonight.  I would not be at all surprised to find out that the Green Spandex Men are actually Tweedle Beetles in disguise. 

Those stupid green men look evil, don't they?  Come to think of it, so does Kesler.

I hate those freeking Tweedle Beetles!!!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Upcoming National Home-Brew Day

National Home-Brew Day is coming upon us fast.  Yep, Saturday, May 7 is the day.  Are you going to brew something?

I am.  Or more accurately, my wife and I are going to brew something.

So far, my wife (aka the SheppyBrew Beer Model) has participated in one brew day.  She helped me brew 15 Year Anniversary Amber Ale the first time.  That beer turned out fantastic.  It is one of those beers that we both like.  It is hoppy enough that I am a bit surprised that she likes it, but it is one of those beers she grabs for herself just about every weekend.  Its hop flavor / aroma comes from crystal hops, which is very similar to some of the noble hops.  It give more of a mellow, floral flavor and aroma than the citrusy American hops, so she is just not associating the beer as hoppy.  It is hoppy, just different hoppy.  I call it an amber ale hopped like a German Pilsner.

Anyway, the Beer Model thinks she wants to brew something.  She says she wants to brew something that SheppyBrew has not brewed before.  She also says she doesn't want anything dark or hoppy.  Unfortunately, all of my future to-brew-list beers are hoppy or dark or both.  Fortunately, this means we can come up with a new SheppyBrew recipe.

But, when I ask her what she would like to brew, the most I can get her to narrow it down to is "not hoppy and not dark".  I can't even get her to narrow it down to ale or lager.

So, here are some beer styles I think I would like to brew that are not hoppy and not dark in color:
  • Cocoa Blonde:  Not too long ago I was at Dry Dock Brewing Company and had a blonde ale that had added cocoa nibs into the secondary fermentation.  I was very impressed and thought the Beer Model would probably enjoy it.
  • Vienna Lager:  I've wanted to do a Vienna Lager for some time.  It is an Amber Ale, but I don't think it would end up darker than 15 year or Buckwheat's BPA
  • Sam Adam's Boston Lager Clone:  I have links to several clone recipes.  We both have enjoyed many Sam Adam's in the past.  I think she'd like this beer.
  • Kolsch:  Practically speaking, I'm not sure a SheppyBrew Kolsch would be much different from Wetta Blonde or Girly Berry, but this is another beer style I've been thinking about trying.  I would probably use the recipe from Brewing Classic Styles.
  • Cocoa Kolsch:  A Kolsch with cocoa nibs.
  • American Wheat:  Tracy loves her gateway wheat beers such as New Belgium's Sunshine Wheat.  We could add honey to make it a honey wheat or/and raspberries or/and apricots or some other girly something (maybe even cocoa nibs) to add some excitement to the American Wheat.
  • Altbier:  She might think the color of an Altbier would be too dark, but she's wrong.  She would love an Altbier.  In fact, she did enjoy a few at GABF.
  • California Common Beer (aka Steam Beer).  I don't know.  I just think she'd like it.
  • Saison:  Who doesn't like a nice farm-house ale?
  • Belgium Blonde Ale:  It's light in color and high in alcohol, what's not to like?  It might have a bit too much of the Belgium funk if we are not careful, but it is worth a try.
So, if anyone out there has a vote, or even more nominations, leave a comment.  The Beer Model gets the final say, but I'm sure she'd appreciate any help she can get making the decision.


I also brewed a batch of Gringo Cerveza Jalapeño Cream Ale today.  It was my first official all-grain BIAB batch, and it went great.  My mashing efficiency appears to be about as good as what I was getting in the mash tun. I split this batch into 2 Mr. Beer fermenters.  I was planning on just adding jalapenos to one of the fermenters in a few days, but now I am thinking about maybe either adding the peppers to both, or maybe adding something else (green chilies maybe) to the other.  I would like to be able to try this beer on Cinco de Mayo, although I am cutting it sort of close by only brewing it today.  I guess we'll see how it goes.

My BIAB process was a little non-standard.  Typically "official" BIAB brewers try to mash with the whole boil volume plus whatever volume of water the grain should absorb.  Beer Smith had me hold back 2.16 gallons of sparge water rather than use the whole boil volume for the mash.  I had sort of assumed that this was because my pot would not be big enough for grains plus the whole 7 gallons of water, but I certainly could have fit more water in.  It might just be that Brad Smith never considered BIAB when he designed the software.  Or, maybe I did not set up my brewing equipment just right.  Anyway, I followed the directions and "sparged" by putting the grain bag in my 5 gallon gott cooler and pouring the sparge water on top.  Again, the mash efficiency seems very similar to what I was getting on my infusion mashes, so I guess it works ok as is. 

The strike temperature suggested by Beer Smith seems to have given me a mash temperature that was higher than I had intended.  I think that is fine with this beer because I was sort of thinking that extra body would not be a bad thing with this beer, but obviously, I need to try to adjust for future beers.  This might be another reason to hold back some water, so I can adjust the temp by adding boiling or frozen water after getting the original temperature reading.

But, other than the minor process note, everything went great.  I am going to keep doing the BIAB.  Almost certainly, my next brew day will be whatever my wife decides to brew on National Home-Brew Day.  I am sort of thinking a wheat beer would be a good idea, since I won't have to worry about a stuck sparge with the BIAB process.  But, whatever she wants to brew, we'll brew.

My first ever all-grain BIAB.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Next iteration of Bluefield Chocolate Ale

So, I am currently drinking a Bluefield Chocolate Ale.  I think more so than any beer I've ever created, this beer is Jekyll and Hyde to me.  There will be some nights when I think it is a wonderful treat, and there will be some nights when I question why I would ever brew such a thing.

Tonight is sort of Jeyde to me (somewhere between Jekyll and Hyde).  I'm not wild about it, but I don't think it is a complete waste of fridge space either. 

I do think its the hazelnut that most screws with me in this beer.  And usually, when I think about it, I keep thinking that peppermint would better compliment the chocolate than hazelnut.  I actually brewed a Peppermint Stout quite awhile ago (Leprechaun Stout) which I thought was a wonderful dessert beer every single time I drank a bottle.  I kept describing it in my mind and to other people as very much like girl scout thin mints (mostly virtual people, but I did actually describe it to a couple of real people like that as well).  And, it was actually a beer that I could enjoy for the beer as well.

Right now ... light-bulb ... Leprechaun Stouticus, but, that is not what this blog entry is about.

What should I do about the Bluefield Experiment?  Should I just give up?  I can't do that ... I've already got a blog label.  Should I continue to try to make a beer that my sister might possibly enjoy?  That seems like a waste, she's convinced herself that she hates beer, and so I'm doomed to failure there.  Should I start taking the experiment seriously and try to use chocolate like beer-lovers might enjoy (more of a subtle chocolate taste)?  Well, that seems like a cop-out since the whole point was trying to make a beer that Mrs. Bluefield might like.  I don't know.  Do you see my dilemma? 

Whatever I do, the next iteration of the beer has to take some things into consideration.
  1. Hazelnut is just too schizophrenic in this beer for me.  I am thinking peppermint may be a better complimentary flavor to the chocolate.
  2. The beer is over-carbonated, and therefore hard to pour with a reasonable amount of head.  I should carbonate to a lower level.
  3. With such a lot of unsweetened cocoa, there is too much sediment in the bottom of these bottles.  I think maybe I should try to cold-crash to keep more out.  Perhaps I should condition in a secondary fermenter.  I wonder if I should investigate filtering.
  4. I do not think both the lactose and the cocoa are a good idea (at least at their current levels).  The final gravity seems just too high.  (I could be wrong about this ... I don't know).
I guess the biggest question is, should I keep the cocoa at this high level (less beer-like) or should I reduce the cocoa and allow the chocolate malt to provide more of that flavor (more beer-like).

I don't know.  To be honest, it doesn't really matter at the moment, because there is no way I'm going to fit Bluefield Chocolate Ale into my brewing schedule for quite some time. At a minimum, I have to brew Gringo Cerveza, Phat and Tyred Ale, BlackHawk Black Ale, Stone Soup IDA, and Eric's Irish Red.  By the time I've done half of those, I'll have other beers I have to brew.

But, I was drinking the beer and thinking about it, so I put my thoughts down on the blog.

Go BlackHawks!!!  Red Wings Suck!!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

1st Quarter Brewing Stats

The 1st quarter of 2011 is over, which means it is time to publish another blog post in the continuing series on SheppyBrew's brewing stats (see SheppyBrew 2009 Stats, 1st Quarter Stats, 2nd Quarter Stats, 3rd Quarter Stats, SheppyBrew 2010 Stats)

So far in 2011:
  • I made 8 batches of beer, which puts me on pace for 32 for the year (33 batches in 2010)
  • I have made about 32 gallons of beer, which puts me on pace for 128 gallons (75 gallons in 2010)
  • 2 of the batches were completely new recipes (18 were new in 2010)
  • 1 batch was a lager (2 in 2010)
  • All the batches were SheppyBrew recipes.
  • 1 was a partial mash (9 in 2010)
  • The other 7 were all-grain infusion mashes (10 were all-grain in 2010)
  • My average cost per 12oz bottle per batch has been $0.54 (I did not really keep this stat for all of 2010, but the average for the 4th quarter was around $0.79). 
Note, 3 of my batches are still in the fermenter.  This is consistent to all the previous posts.  I always assign the quarter / year by date brewed.  But, that does mean my last bullet about cost per bottle is incomplete until the rest of these are bottled.

You may be wondering how my gallons can be so high compared to last year when my number of batches so far this year is tracking to be down a bit.  Part of the answer is that I've made 3 double Mr. Beer-sized batches.  I also purchased a 6 gallon carboy in which I've brewed two beers (Stouticus American Stout and Fat and Stoopid Amber Ale).  So, my batch sizes are mostly twice as big as they all were last year.

Actually, Rocktoberfest Lager is the only one that was truly a Mr. Beer-sized batch this year.  I am considering a double batch of Buckwheat's BPA as two batches because half the batch is fermenting with Fermentis US05 and the other half is fermenting with S33, so they are actually two separate beers.  You may recall that I did a similar experiment last year comparing S33 with T58.  These two batches are still in their fermenters.  I should be bottling them up soon and will probably let you know how they seem to compare.

So far, I do like doing the bigger batches, especially in the new carboy.  The only part I don't like is the longer bottling days with the big batches.  I have decided to start kegging some of my beers.  I've even taken the step of purchasing a Kegerator from ebay, and my batch of Fat and Stoopid Amber Ale may be the first of my beers that I put in a 5 gallon keg.

As I discussed in "BIAB for me?", Fat and Stoopid Amber Ale started out to be another batch of my world famous Phat and Tyred Ale, but I ran into issues.  Partially because of those issues and partially because my mash tun is simply too small to effectively make "big" batches of all my favorite recipes, I am thinking of moving to BIAB batches.  In fact, I am planning on making my next batch BIAB.  It will probably be a Gringo Cerveza Jalapeño Cream Ale for Cinco de Mayo.  I think this will be another batch that I split into 2 Mr. Beer fermenters.  I plan to add jalapeños in one fermenter and leave the other as just a regular old lawn-mower type beer.

In SheppyBrew 2010 Stats, in the "expectations" section I said:
  "I think I'll brew about the same amount or maybe even less.  I'm thinking that I'll concentrate more on my favorites and thus have a bit less variety as well."
At the moment, it doesn't look like I'm brewing less, but I have been concentrating on brewing my favorites.  As I mentioned, only two of my batches were new recipes, and Fat and Stoopid was intended to be Phat and Tyred.  I do think I'll slow down eventually.  I can't drink too much more beer, and I am about maxed out on storage space.

I also said:
"I may or may not let more people try my beers."
In fact, just this past Friday, I brought in 40 bottles of Stouticus to share with my co-workers, so assuming most of them actually take some, I think that will already be more people than have had SheppyBrew beers so far.

I also said:
"I probably will do real 5 gallon batches.  Even if I don't get a 5-gallon fermenter, there will probably be more big batches split into two Mr. Beer fermenters."
Well obviously, I did buy a 6 gallon carboy and have split big batches into 2 Mr. Beer fermenters as well.

I also mentioned:
I would love to get into kegging my beers, but I do not know if that will happen.
Well, it does look like that will actually start happening pretty soon.

So, what's next for SheppyBrew nano-brewery?  Well, I already told you, but just as a reminder: I'll keg some of my beers and I will experiment with (and maybe switch to) BIAB all-grain brewing.

So, there is your SheppyBrew update.  I know no one but me really cares about this stuff.  That's ok, because no one else really reads the blog.  If you want to read something more interesting, try here or here.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Vacation Videos

Here are some videos from spring break.  I apologize again to those of you with slow internet connections.  This will probably take a long time to load.  For those of you reading on facebook, you will have to go to my blog to see these videos.

The first video is of the Shepard boys playing in and around the ocean (the two little Shepard boys had never been in or around the ocean until this trip)
 The next few are the little ones playing in the sand.

 A little crab that Tyler found on the beach.

A ride at Lego Land

Another ride at Lego Land.

And here is an absolutely fantastic video of my wife's foot.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Arrogant Bastard

While in San Diego for spring break, I had dinner with a friend from high school.  He is also a home-brewer / beer geek and happens to live in the same town as Stone Brewery, home of Arrogant Bastard Ale (as well as several other great beers).

I've talked about Arrogant Bastard before.  What I had back then was the Oaked version, and I have to say that I enjoyed the Arrogant Bastard that I had fresh from the tap at Stone better than I did the one I had back in July.  I suspect that both the freshness and the oak flavor before contributed to me liking it better this time.  It was awesome.

I love the description on the back of the bottle:

"This is an aggressive ale. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory–maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beverage will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make things taste better. Perhaps you’re mouthing your words as you read this. "

"At Stone Brewing, we believe that pandering to the lowest common denominator represents the height of tyranny - a virtual form of keeping the consumer barefoot and stupid. Brought forth upon an unsuspecting public in 1997, Arrogant Bastard Ale openly challenged the tyrannical overlords who were brazenly attempting to keep Americans chained in the shackles of poor taste. As the progenitor of its style, Arrogant Bastard Ale has reveled in its unprecedented and uncompromising celebration of intensity. There have been many nods to Arrogant Bastard Ale…even outright attempts to copy it… but only one can ever embody the true nature of liquid Arrogance!"

I copied that text from Stone's web-site, and it seems like an awful lot to put on a bottle.  I know the sentiments on the bottle are the same, but it might have different (shorter) wording.


Here is an Arrogant Bastard Clone recipe that I got from The Brewing Network's Jamil Show:  Can you Brew it Arrogant Bastard Re-Brew.

OG:  1.066
94.8 IBU
22.5 SRM

90% pale 2 row
10% special B

24g Chinook 85 min
24g Chinook 45 min
24g Chinook 15 min
24g Chinook 0 min

WLP 007 Dry English Ale

148 degrees mash

Everyone except Tasty (who actually brewed it) voted it was cloned.  They pretty much decided to take that recipe and pasteurize it to see if that makes a difference.  Personally, if I brew it, this recipe is good enough for me.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

More Spring Break Photos

Here are some more pictures from our spring break.  There are a lot, and I apologize to those of you using dial-up internet connections.  (Yes, I actually do know people who use a dial-up internet connection.  Can you imagine?)

Day 3:  We went to the Birch Aquarium

And then we went to a beach to see seals.

We also played in the water a bit at this beach.  So far, all those people who keep saying "Welcome to Sunny California, are very amusing.

We also had dinner with Grammy and Papa Lou on Day 3.

Day 4 was actually a sunny day.  Coincidentally, it was also the day that the in-laws had to leave.  We went to the beach.  (one closer to our condo than the one on day 3).

Day 5, we went to LegoLand

Day 6 was another cloudy day.  We ended up going to see Rango and then hanging out at another beach and then the hot-tub at the condo.  We may have pictures of day 6, but I have not gone through them yet.  So, you may or may not get another blog post soon.