February 01, 2012

Almost drinking time

So the Delirious Geek is aging in the bottles right now. Here's hoping that it tastes good. Failing that, it should be around 10% alcohol, so I might not notice too much.

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November 11, 2011

Beer here!

Well, after a two year delay, brew day is almost upon me again (the third child kind of put a crimp in my brewing area- it became a nursery). The beer to brew? A Delirium Tremens clone. If you haven't had it yet -look for the bottle with the pink elephants on it- I strongly suggest that you go out and get a bottle. Drive back home, crack it open and sip it. Do not attempt to drive afterwards, as it is more than little potent.

Where was I? Oh yeah: ingredients. Turns out that mice really, really like malt sugar and since I don't enjoy poop and pee in my beer (kind of why I don't like Budweiser), I had to chuck it and order more. And here's where it gets funny: my supplier didn't ship it because one of the two yeasts I ordered was back ordered. They didn't bother to inform in time. Nice, huh? Anyway, I started scrambling for substitutes.

1) Grains of paradise: use cardamom or black peppercorns
2) Belgian candi sugar: use table sugar. Really.
3) Biscuit malt and aromatic malt? Well, this one is trickier because I cannot get the usual substitutes. However, I'm going to modify the amount of Cara-Pils I had planned to use and toss in some other crystal and chocolate malt. It'll be close enough.
4) Wyeast Belgian Abbey Ale or Belgian Strong Ale? Don't have them (thanks guys!), so I'm going to mix Belgian Abbey Ale II and some dry yeast.

Instead of brewing Delirium Tremens, I'm brewing Delirious Geek. My guess is that it will turn out just fine, albeit slightly different than what I was expecting. As with all brewing, ahem, experiments, I'm curious to see just how good the alternative recipe will be.

Bottling day will be a few weeks in the future. I'll provide an update then.

Oh, maybe you'd like to see the actual recipe? Here goes most of what I'll toss into the pot:

15 oz. mixed cara-pils, chocolate and Munich malt steeped in pot at 150F for 30 minutes. Strain water into brew pot. Sparge grains (fancy word for pouring water over/through grain) with 1/2 gallon of 150F water. Bring water to a boil, remove from the heat and add:

7.5 lb. M&F light dry malt extract
1.5 lbs table sugar (candi sugar substitute)
1 lb. Lyle's Golden Syrup
1.5 oz Williamette hops @ 4.7% AA (7.1 HBU) (bittering hop)

Add water in brew pot until the volume is 3.5 gallons. Boil for 45 minutes then add:

1/4 oz Williamette hops (flavor)
1/4 oz Cascade hops (flavor)
1 tsp Irish Moss

Boil for 11 minutes then add

1/4 oz. Cascade hops (aroma)
1/4 tsp cardamom or black peppercorns

Boil for 4 minutes. Remove the pot from the stove and chill the wort for 20 minutes. Strain the cooled wort into the primary fermenter and add cold water to obtain 5-1/8 gallons. When temperature drops below 80F, pitch the yeast:

Wyeast Belgian Abbey Ale II
1 packet dry yeast

Ferment in the primary for 7 days or until fermentation slows, then rack (siphon) into the secondary stage fermenter (5 gallon glass carboy). Prime the beer win the second stage with another dose of the same strain of fresh yeast. In my case, I'll prime with Belgian Abbey Ale yeast, assuming it's sent to me. Bottle when fermentation is complete and beer has cleared (approximately 6 weeks) with:

1/2 cup corn sugar and 1/3 cup table sugar (candi sugar) that has been boiled in 2 cups water.

Happy brewing.

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June 17, 2009

Brewing your first beer, post I: the equipment

Since this will be your first beer, we're going to keep things as simple as possible. Terms that you likely won't hear in this series:

1) sparging
2) protein rest
3) saccharification
4) isohumulone

Things that you are likely to hear:

1) boiling
2) carbonation
3) bottling
4) drinking

Anyway, there a variety of items that you could use for homebrewing, but I don't want to stress you out. In the motto of the American Homebrewers Association: Relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew.

Okay, first things first. You will need a kettle to boil your beer in. Technically, the beer will be called wort at this stage. And now you've added a new word to your vocabulary, although I haven't found a way to use it in conversations NOT about brewing.

Back to the boiling pot. It should be at least 3 gallons, although 5 gallons is probably better and 10 gallons would be better still. But if you want to save money, stick with the smaller pot. Some people get a little too serious about the type of kettle: ceramic coated stainless, pure stainless steel, pots that come with your own personal Emeril to screech "BAM!" every time you add something to it. Me? I went the inexpensive route and bought an aluminum pot. But hey, it's your setup. Whatever makes you happy.

Next on the list as a must have item is a fermentation vessel. You have a couple of realistic choices here as a homebrewer: glass or plastic. 5 gallon glass carboys are easy to find and they're not too expensive. Since you'll typically brew 5 gallon batches, though, you will need to use a blowoff tube for the first couple of days and then add on a fermentation lock. If that sounds like too much effort, a 6-1/2 gallon carboy is probably a better choice because you can stick the lock on top from the get go. And having said all that, I suggest that you go with a plastic fermentation vessel for your first batch. They're usually 6-1/2 to 7 gallons in capacity and have airtight lids with a single opening for your fermentation lock. Also, they're pretty much unbreakable, which isn't the case for glass fermentation vessels. Again, it's your call.

On second thought, you'll probably want to go ahead and order a 5 gallon glass carboy, or at least put it on lay-away. Glass is absolutely required for secondary fermentation. Granted, we won't bother with that for our first beer, but we will for future brews.

How will you get the beer into your fermentation vessel? You're going to need a pretty large plastic funnel. Maybe not for your first beer, but definitely for the next one.

If you want some idea of the potential alcohol in your brew, you'll need a hydrometer, a device used to measure the specific gravity of liquids. The more sugar that's dissolved in the beer, the greater potential alcohol content. And a floating thermometer is useful as well. It's bad form to add yeast to your brew while it''s too hot. Also, you'll need to know the temperature of your wort when taking the specific gravity if you want to correctly determine the specific gravity of your beer.

Since I mentioned fermentation locks in the preceding paragraph, I might as well discuss those next. There are several types available. A picture of the two most common ones can be found here. They both accomplish the same task: let carbon dioxide from the fermentation escape while preventing anything from getting back into the beer.

Once fermentation has completed, you'll need a bottling bucket. I suggest that you buy one with a spigot already attached. You will rack(siphon) the beer from the fementation vessel into the bottling bucket using a racking cane. This prevents having a lot of yeasty sludge from ending up in your bottles. Also, you'll probably want to buy a spring-loaded bottle filler, which makes filling up the bottles a much simpler task. It also leaves about the perfect amount of headspace in each bottle. In my opinion, this small piece of equipment will make your bottling experience less painless.

You'll need bottles, too, about 50-60 12-ounce bottles, or 25 24-ounce bottles. How do you aquire them? Well, you could buy brand spanking new bottles from the store, but I tend to get them from my other friends that drink beer, asking them to save all of their empties. My pals are usually very helpful in this regard, especially after I've promised to give them some samples of my homebrew. By the way, ask your friends to rinse the bottles after they're empty. Cleaning mold out of bottles isn't an enjoyable task.

Okay, you've filled your bottles with your beer. Now you need to cap them. This means, of course, that you will need 50-60 unused bottle caps, as well as a bottle capper to put them onto the bottles. Again, go the inexpensive route and purchase a lever-armed bottle capper. Bench cappers are nice, but more expensive, and they require more effort on your part if the bottles aren't all the same size, which is likely to be the case if you're using castoff empties.

I almost forgot: you'll need a couple of pieces of plastic tubing, too. One piece will attach to the racking cane and another to the bottle filler.

I think that our brewing list is pretty much complete. Let's recap what you'll need:

1 3-5 gallon brewing kettle
1 5 or 6 gallon glass carboy
1 6.5 to 7.5 gallon "food grade" plastic fermenter with airtight locking lid
1 6 foot length of 3/8-inch inside diameter clear plastic tubing
1 racking cane
1 fermentation lock
1 rubber stopper to fit the fermentation lock(It's bad form to not notice until you're pitching the yeast that they don't fit. Not that I know from experience or anything. I'm just saying.)

1 2-3 foot length of 3/8-inch outside diameter tubing which should fit the next item
1 spring-loaded bottling wand
1 large plastic funnel
1 floating thermometer
1 hydrometer
1 bottle capper, for which you'll need lots of new bottle caps.
50-60 beer bottles, preferably the non-screwtop type. Brown glass is the best, but pretty much anything will work.

I forgot to mention how important proper sanitation is. Let's go the cheap route yet again and use unscented household bleach. You don't want your beer to taste lemony fresh. Ugh.

That's enough to get started. We'll go over the limited ingredient list in the next post in this series.

What's that you say? You don't have a brewshop in your town? Have no fear, there are shops all over the country that will gladly ship the stuff right to your door. Check here and here. If you don't find what you're looking for there, then check out these links. Oh, and lots of places sell beginner kits containing most or all of the equipment listed above. Your mileage may vary.

See you next post.

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July 05, 2005

Brewing your first beer, post III: brew day

You've finally acquired the ingredients for your beer and it's sitting in a corner next to your equipment. Now it's time to get cracking so that your beer will be ready to drink before month's end. Let's get started:
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: All temperatures listed below are in degrees Fahrenheit. If you need to convert to degrees Celsius, here's a handy-dandy tool.

1) Immerse your cans of hopped malt extract in warm water for about 20-30 minutes. This will make it much easier to remove the syrup from the cans, which is a good thing. Malt extract syrup is gummy, sticky stuff. Dump the cans of malt extract into your brewing kettle which should already contain 1-1/2 gallons(US). If you use filtered water, you 'll be fine. If you don't, you might consider buying some "drinking water"; distilled water isn't a good choice. Regardless, bring all ingredients to a boil for 15 minutes. If you happened to buy some hop pellets, add 1/2 ounce 10 minutes into the boil, or 5 minutes from the end. This will impart a nice hop aroma to your beer. However, this step is entirely optional. No hops? No worries.

2) Sanitize your fermenter in a dilute solution of bleach and water. Add 1/4 cup bleach to your empty plastic fermenter and fill with cold water. Let stand for about 20 minutes and then rinse thoroughly with hot water to remove all traces of chlorine.
NOTE***: Sanitizing your equipment is the single most important thing that you will do when making your beer. Fortunately, it's also one of the easiest.

3) Add 3 gallons of filtered(or bottled) water to your sanitized fermenter. It should be cold; room temperature isn't good enough. An hour or two in the fridge should be sufficient.

4) Carefully, pour your hot wort(that's the mixture of hops, malt and water you've been boiling on your stove) into the plastic fermenter, splashing noisily. This will provide sufficient aeration for the little yeasties that you'll be adding.

Note: If you jumped the gun and bought a glass carboy, you'll need to use extra care. Make certain the 3 gallons of water you dumped into it are very cold. This will prevent the carboy from breaking due to the thermal shock of having boiling water added to it. Also, you'll need to pour the hot wort through a funnel to get it into the carboy. Then swirl the water around to make certain everything's been mixed well.

Optional Take a specific gravity reading using your hydrometer. It comes with a little tube in which you'll place some beer and then float the hydrometer on it. Feel free to skip this step for your first batch.

5) Add the yeast when the temperature drops below 78 degrees. You'll want to sanitize your thermometer before using it; I usually dip mine in some cheap vodka, which prevents the possibility of some nasty chemicals getting into the beer.

6) Seal the lid onto your plastic fermentation vessel and attach the fermentation lock. Again, I prefer to use vodka in the lock, as opposed to any type of sanitizing solution. Should the temperature drop suddenly, it will be vodka getting sucked back into my beer instead of bleach. If you're using a glass fermenter, sanitize the rubber cork, plug the carboy and attach the fermentation lock to that. Everything else stays the same.

Within a couple of days, and probably within the first 24 hours, an agressive fermentation will begin. The lock will be bubbling like crazy.

7) Sometime between day 7 and day 14, the fermentation will complete. When there's no noticeable activity in the fermentation lock for a couple of days, your beer will be ready to bottle. Which will be the topic of the next post in this series.

Happy brewing.

Update: After my fermentation lock foamed over from the fermenting beer, it occurred to me that maybe I should mentioned a little thing called a blow-off tube. What is it? Simply a piece of flexible plastic tubing inserted into the stopped hole where your fermentation lock goes. If you're fermenting in either a 6-1/2 gallon plastic pail or a 6-1/2 gallon carboy, a blow-off tube is unnecessary. If, like me, you're using a 5-1/2 glass carboy, a blow-off tube is pretty useful. Otherwise, you'll find foam pouring out of the top of your fermentation lock when you go check on your beer. Anyway, here's what you do:

6A) Seal the lid onto your plastic fermentation vessel and attach the blowoff tube. Submerge the open end of the tube into a dish containing an inch or so of water. After a few days, or when foam stops pouring out of your tube, remove the tube from the runner stopper and attach the fermentation lock. All other info in #6 above remains the same.

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June 14, 2005

Brewing your first beer, post II: the ingredients

Our first beer is going to be an extract only brew and, to simply things even further, we're going to use what's called a beer kit. We will, however, discard the directions that come with the kit. Following those instructions reduces the chance of making a decent beer. Anyway.

So what kind of beer kit should you buy? Like anything else, it depends on what kind of beer you like. Stouts, pale ales, bitters, nut brown ale. For my part, I'm going to pick a nice, crisp, refreshing beer, one that will quench my summertime thirst. I'm not usually in the mood for a Guinness just after I've mowed the lawn. To that end, I've decided to brew my next beer using Coopers Draught malt extract kit. It comes in a 3.75 pound can, which isn't sufficient for a 5-gallon batch, meaning that I'll have to buy two. On to the next ingredient.

To magically transform malt sugar into alcohol, you're going to need yeast. Once again, we'll take the path of least resistance and use dried yeast. It's economical and easy to use. I've had good success using both Coopers Ale yeast and Doric ale yeast. The Munton's Ale yeast worked okay, too, but I've had more success with the other two. I recommend the Coopers Ale yeast because it ferments fairly well, even if the temperature climbs up out of the optimal range, which is certainly possible during the summer months.

The next ingredient is obvious: water. What may not be obvious, though, is that you shouldn't use plain old water straight out of the tap. Most municipal water systems are chlorinated and that stuff will make your beer taste like a child's wading pool. However, if your water is charcoal-filtered, you're all set. You could purchase 5-gallons of drinking water(not distilled) from the grocery store if you like, but I think it's unnecessary. Up to you, of course.

After your beer has fermented and you're ready to bottle, you'll have to add a little bit more yeast food to the beer so that it will carbonate in the bottle. So you'll need a little bit of corn sugar, about 3/4 cup or so. This is NOT table sugar and you won't find it in your grocery store. Just add it to your shopping cart when you're purchasing your other ingredients at the local homebrew supply shop.

Optional ingredient: some hop pellets for aroma/flavoring.

The kit you'll buy contains hops already, but these are bittering hops. There will be essentially no hop aroma from this kit unless you add some of your own. If you enjoy a nice hoppy aroma, you might consider tossing in 1/2 ounce of Cascade hop pellets. They have a great floral, citrusy aroma, which I really enjoy. Again, though, it's not necessary. Completely up to you.

To recap:

1) 2 x 3-4 pound cans of any hopped malt extract beer kit. I've chosen Coopers Draught kit for my brew; it comes in a 3.75 pound can.
NOTE: If your kit comes in a 6-7 pound can, you will only need one can. Just an FYI.

2) 5-gallons of water, with all of that nasty chlorine filtered out.

3) 1 package dried ale yeast, purchased separately from what's included with your beer kit

4) Optional: 1-ounce packet of Cascade hop pellets.

Up next in the series: brewing the darned thing.

Posted by Physics Geek at 09:05 PM | Comments (0)

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June 02, 2005

Brewing your first beer, post I: the equipment

Since this will be your first beer, we're going to keep things as simple as possible. Terms that you likely won't hear in this series:

1) sparging
2) protein rest
3) saccharification
4) isohumulone

Things that you are likely to hear:

1) boiling
2) carbonation
3) bottling
4) drinking

Anyway, there a variety of items that you could use for homebrewing, but I don't want to stress you out. In the motto of the American Homebrewers Association: Relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew.

Okay, first things first. You will need a kettle to boil your beer in. Technically, the beer will be called wort at this stage. And now you've added a new word to your vocabulary, although I haven't found a way to use it in conversations NOT about brewing.

Back to the boiling pot. It should be at least 3 gallons, although 5 gallons is probably better and 10 gallons would be better still. But if you want to save money, stick with the smaller pot. Some people get a little too serious about the type of kettle: ceramic coated stainless, pure stainless steel, pots that come with your own personal Emeril to screech "BAM!" every time you add something to it. Me? I went the inexpensive route and bought an aluminum pot. But hey, it's your setup. Whatever makes you happy.

Next on the list as a must have item is a fermentation vessel. You have a couple of realistic choices here as a homebrewer: glass or plastic. 5 gallon glass carboys are easy to find and they're not too expensive. Since you'll typically brew 5 gallon batches, though, you will need to use a blowoff tube for the first couple of days and then add on a fermentation lock. If that sounds like too much effort, a 6-1/2 gallon carboy is probably a better choice because you can stick the lock on top from the get go. And having said all that, I suggest that you go with a plastic fermentation vessel for your first batch. They're usually 6-1/2 to 7 gallons in capacity and have airtight lids with a single opening for your fermentation lock. Also, they're pretty much unbreakable, which isn't the case for glass fermentation vessels. Again, it's your call.

On second thought, you'll probably want to go ahead and order a 5 gallon glass carboy, or at least put it on lay-away. Glass is absolutely required for secondary fermentation. Granted, we won't bother with that for our first beer, but we will for future brews.

How will you get the beer into your fermentation vessel? You're going to need a pretty large plastic funnel. Maybe not for your first beer, but definitely for the next one.

If you want some idea of the potential alcohol in your brew, you'll need a hydrometer, a device used to measure the specific gravity of liquids. The more sugar that's dissolved in the beer, the greater potential alcohol content. And a floating thermometer is useful as well. It's bad form to add yeast to your brew while it''s too hot. Also, you'll need to know the temperature of your wort when taking the specific gravity if you want to correctly determine the specific gravity of your beer.

Since I mentioned fermentation locks in the preceding paragraph, I might as well discuss those next. There are several types available. A picture of the two most common ones can be found here. They both accomplish the same task: let carbon dioxide from the fermentation escape while preventing anything from getting back into the beer.

Once fermentation has completed, you'll need a bottling bucket. I suggest that you buy one with a spigot already attached. You will rack(siphon) the beer from the fementation vessel into the bottling bucket using a racking cane. This prevents having a lot of yeasty sludge from ending up in your bottles. Also, you'll probably want to buy a spring-loaded bottle filler, which makes filling up the bottles a much simpler task. It also leaves about the perfect amount of headspace in each bottle. In my opinion, this small piece of equipment will make your bottling experience less painless.

You'll need bottles, too, about 50-60 12-ounce bottles, or 25 24-ounce bottles. How do you aquire them? Well, you could buy brand spanking new bottles from the store, but I tend to get them from my other friends that drink beer, asking them to save all of their empties. My pals are usually very helpful in this regard, especially after I've promised to give them some samples of my homebrew. By the way, ask your friends to rinse the bottles after they're empty. Cleaning mold out of bottles isn't an enjoyable task.

Okay, you''ve filled your bottles with your beer. Now you need to cap them. This means, of course, that you will need 50-60 unused bottle caps, as well as a bottle capper to put them onto the bottles. Again, go the inexpensive route and purchase a lever-armed bottle capper. Bench cappers are nice, but more expensive, and they require more effort on your part if the bottles aren't all the same size, which is likely to be the case if you're using castoff empties.

I almost forgot: you'll need a couple of pieces of plastic tubing, too. One piece will attach to the racking cane and another to the bottle filler.

I think that our brewing list is pretty much complete. Let's recap what you'll need:

1 3-5 gallon brewing kettle
1 5 or 6 gallon glass carboy
1 6.5 to 7.5 gallon "food grade" plastic fermenter with airtight locking lid
1 6 foot length of 3/8-inch inside diameter clear plastic tubing
1 racking cane
1 fermentation lock
1 rubber stopper to fit the fermentation lock(It's bad form to not notice until you're pitching the yeast that they don't fit. Not that I know from experience or anything. I'm just saying.)

1 2-3 foot length of 3/8-inch outside diameter tubing which should fit the next item
1 spring-loaded bottling wand
1 large plastic funnel
1 floating thermometer
1 hydrometer
1 bottle capper, for which you'll need lots of new bottle caps.
50-60 beer bottles, preferably the non-screwtop type. Brown glass is the best, but pretty much anything will work.

I forgot to mention how important proper sanitation is. Let's go the cheap route yet again and use unscented household bleach. You don't want your beer to taste lemony fresh. Ugh.

That's enough to get started. We'll go over the limited ingredient list in the next post in this series.

What's that you say? You don't have a brewshop in your town? Have no fear, there are shops all over the country that will gladly ship the stuff right to your door. Check here and here. If you don't find what you're looking for there, then check out these links. Oh, and lots of places sell beginner kits containing most or all of the equipment listed above. Your mileage may vary.

See you next post.

Posted by Physics Geek at 06:43 PM | Comments (3)

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