Put me in coach I’m ready to play.
This past week I have had some good exchanges with Michael, the designer of the MyBrewCo.com website. Being a typical male, after reading in Brew Your Own (BYO) magazine that MyBrewCo existed, I jumped in and set up my own “Batch-22 “ (tagline: There’s Always a Batch). After I set up the Batch-22 Brewery, I posted my observations on this site (here) and Michael had responded to those (see the comments).
Thinking there was no time like the present to start tracking my brewing online, I tried uploading an XML file for the Accidental IPA that was exported from my BeerSmith program. This led to an error message that the recipe didn’t meet the database’s needs. Databases are notoriously literal and don’t handle human inconsistencies well. (Michael says the standard procedure for standards is to deviate slightly from the standard.) In the end, I created the recipe on the website by picking ingredients from its drop-down menus. (Note: now when you upload a recipe the site tells you that your “File has been uploaded. We’ll process the file and let you know if the recipes need repairing. You can navigate away from this page.”)
As you may recall, the first version Accidental IPA was supposed to be an an American pale ale from the book, “Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew” by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer. However the original gravity was higher than normal due to some alignment of things* that weren’t there before in my brewing that affected the efficiency of the brew session (apologies for the awkwardness of the sentence). More sugars in the wort means more food for the yeast which gives the beer more alcohol in the end.
Yesterday, the plan was to brew the Accidental IPA on purpose. As always, I got out the trusty Brewer’s Logbook from BasicBrewing.com for my notes–paper and pencil really help capture stuff as it’s happening. I hit the numbers that the beer needed: 12.5 gallons of 1.057 wort pre-boil and 9.5 (I wanted 10) gallons of 1.072 wort into the fermenters.
One reason for notes is that I follow Tasty McDole’s method of mashing, in that I don’t sweat trying to calculate the exact strike water amount (at 1.25 quart/1 pound of grain), but simply put in 10 gallons and then fly sparge (rinse) the grains. Keeping track of the strike water temps for different size grain bills for 10 gallons of water becomes important to put in your notes, if you want to replicate the results.
I also went to MyBrewCo.com and set up a “Brew Job.” (You may set up a Brew Job only if you are registered as a “Brewery.”) I picked my recipe, named it On Purpose IPA, picked the mash schedule from the Mash Template (Infusion, Mash Out, Fly Spare, Medium [body])**, the Brewing Method (all-grain), and a few other details and told the program to “Create” the Brew Job. The program then gives you an overview of the job, including the beer’s profile (tachometer-style dials indicate the IBUs, the predicted original gravity, final gravity, ABV, and color***). Above the dials are tabs relating to the batch: Job, Brew Day, Mashing*, Schedule, equipment, Fermentable, Hop, Miscellaneous, Yeast, Actuals (actual volumes of wort produced), Readings, Notes, Carbonation, and Batch Split.
After the instructions, the “Readings” tab is probably the most beneficial/important. It is here you add a “Reading Type” (Gravity or Temperature). Within the drop-down menu of the Temperature choice you will find: “Ambient, Grain, Mash-In, Rest, Mash-Out, Boil, Into Fermenter, Pitch, Primary, Secondary, Container, Serving.” What was missing, for me, was Strike Water temperature****. I track the strike water temperature so that I can duplicate (or, more often, tweak it up or down because the mash temp was off) the result next time. I would like to see the strike water temperature in there (maybe it is and I missed it). I would also like to see the mash temperature listed in the recipe–mash temp controls the body of the beer. (for more on mash temperature and the body of the beer, see Brad Smith’s write-up here.)
Brewing is a craft–a mixture of art and science. You may think of brewing as I do, a simple process of making a porridge, saving the liquid and tossing out the grainy bits, boiling, cooling, and fermenting. But as you get better and acquire more knowledge, you consider more and more steps/requirements–and there are lots of those. MyBrewCo tries to help you track and manage the stuff involved in making consistently good beer, while trying to be different/better than other online brewing sites such as BrewToad.com. I wish Michael luck in this and will continue to help in dialing in the process.
The MyBrewCo website says it is designed to, “Manage your brewing online.” You can:
*Perhaps my grain grinder has the perfect alignment of its teeth so it gives the perfect crush or switching from brewing in a bag (BiAB) to fly sparging or something else made the mash efficiency go up.
**The choice of the Mash Template is quite important. On my first attempt I wasn’t paying close attention and missed this selection and the first choice in the queue was chosen by default. This would normally not be a big deal, you would go to where you could edit the mash schedule and change it. The only change allowed after the program creates the Brew Job is to change the name of the mash; the temperatures, times, and steps cannot be altered. You will need to delete the Brew Job and reenter the data.
***The color that the program gives is a 10 SRM and the beer is probably a 4.0-5.5 SRM.
****The rule of thumb is to heat the strike water 10F more than the mash temperature desired due to the cooling provided by the grain (at 1.25 quarts of water per 1 pound of grain).
It looks to have promise, but I found some drawbacks as well. I have entered the Accidental IPA recipe onto the site (see that here). I could not enter my outputs from that recent brewing session. Apparently, only “Brew Jobs” can be entered and those occur on a date in the future (or that day). Also, the notes features and mashing information–for all-grain batches–is limited or missing. The xml file upload did not not work for the BeerSmith generated xml (which according to the beer xml site is xml compatible); I had to pick out the ingredients off the site’s system.
MyBrewCo.com is working on more features (see here). I am not seeing the brewing management tools such as the ability to take notes during brewing sessions that every brewer needs and there is no forum, which would seem to be necessary to “connect with friends.”
Despite these drawbacks, MyBrewCo.com does have some good features. The ingredients lists were extensive when I was posting the recipe.
Last weekend I gathered some brewing gear up and headed out to show some friends how to brew beer.
But, I didn’t grab any large pots or big burners. I needed no pot larger than two gallons and could have done my boil on a camp stove. In fact, everything I needed fit into a six-gallon bucket (the list is toward the bottom of the page.)
We were brewing a one-gallon batch of beer.
This size is perfect:
We made the batch using a German Blonde kit from Northern Brewer. (If you are interested in creating your own, you can find a similar recipe farther down this post.)
We started with putting the grain (for added flavor and color) into the kit’s muslin sack and putting that in 3/4-gallons of warm (~140 – 160F) water. We steeped the bag filled with grains for 10-15 minutes and then removed it and brought the wort to a boil. Once the weak wort began to boil we added the 1-pound of NB’s dry light pilsen malt extract and the hops they provided in the kit. The boil lasted 45 minutes.
My brewzaster happened with my hoping that adding four pounds of ice would cool and melt after the boil (assumption being a 1/4 gallon loss to evaporation which leave 1/2 gallon of hot wort). The ice worked well at cooling…it was the melting that didn’t happen–it looked like a pot of iced coffee with cubes of ice filling the pot. So, I transferred the wort to the carboy and added some bottled water to bring the wort up to one gallon. (The original gravity was 1.040SG)
Once we had a gallon of cooled wort, we added one-half package of yeast (no need for a starter with a one-gallon batch) and put the cap and air lock in place.
We plan to bottle it next week.
Steep grains for 10-15 minutes at ~150-160F (65-71C). Remove grain bag and bring to a boil. Once a boil has started, add hops (watch out for boil over). Boil for 60 minutes and cool. Transfer to a fermenter and add 1/2 package of yeast. Put air-lock (partially fill air-lock with water and sanitizer or vodka) or blow-off apparatus (tube on air lock opening and the other end of the tube in a jar of water and sanitizer) on the carboy and put in a cool (about 66F) and dark place for 10-14 days. Check daily to watch for over-active fermentation.
 For small batches we can estimate ~0.25-0.30 ounces of pellet hops per tablespoon.
It’s ninety degrees in the shade, if there were any shade, and I’m carrying a four-ounce taste of beer and a paper hot dog carrier filled with pulled pork up a hill toward a wooden picnic table underneath some live oaks. There’s reggae music playing in the background behind me, and as I walk, on my right a guy wearing a kilt is talking on a smartphone, “Have you ever strapped on a kilt?” he calls into the phone; as though wearing a kilt is completely new to him and wants to know if someone else has had the same feeling that he is experiencing now.
it is now held yearly at the Francis Lake Resort in Dobbins, California on the autumnal equinox—a religious event, of sorts (that goes a long way toward explaining the chanting and drumming later on at midnight). The festival registrar, Paul Keefer, tells me this year’s attendance is around 500. There are 36 homebrew clubs, under an assortment of canopies, pouring homebrew and handing out food.
“Mary, the Queen of Beers” tells me, “If you can’t find something you like here, you may as well pack up your tent and hit the road.” She is of indeterminate age, somewhere between 50 and death. She wears bangles on her wrists and bottle caps serve as earrings. She is to this beer event what the Annie Savoy is to the movie Bull Durham—a true believer in beer. She has tried them all and the only one that satisfies her is the Church of Beer.
Mary is right. While many of the beers are styles that just don’t appeal to me–meads, bretts, sours, and the like–I found a lot to taste: American Pale Ales, India Pale Ales, lagers, etc.
We are an eclectic mix of geeks (the male/female ratio is about 60/40), who probably enjoy talking about beer and beer making as much as we do drinking our product. And, there is a lot of product. According to Mary, Queen of Beers, there are “278 different tastes on tap here.” She knows because she went around and counted them. One booth had a couple of low-alcohol session beers. The 2.8% ABV one tasted like a liquid pretzel, bready and delicious. A friend loved the Kölschs and Milds and he said Berliner Weiss beers both straight as well as with the raspberry and woodruff syrups were delicious.
From the picnic table on the hill, I see a knot of people at the rustic resort’s baseball field. At first I think it could be a pickup game of softball but the spectators are ringed around the infield. I wander down to the field, stopping only to sample a few more beers and finger foods, to find that it is the brewers’ version of a caber toss from the highland games. Mostly guys, but some women too, are testing their strength and skill at tossing an empty 15-gallon beer keg as far as they can. At the time I checked, the farthest toss was 29 feet.
In addition to the keg toss there are other competitions. There is the club competition for historical beers (one of them used molasses and sunflower and pumpkin seeds) and one for beers using brown malt. A chalice filled with samples of all 278 beers sat on top of the trophy. After the finalists were announced someone was going to have to drink from it–whether that was the winner or the losers was not clear to me.
If you were at this or other NCHFs please leave a comment below. As always, regardless or whether you have experienced any NCHFs, your comments are appreciated.
For more on the Northern California Homebrewers’ Festival see their website (http://nchfinfo.org/)
I sent this to the Lake County Record-Bee in hopes of it becoming a regular feature called The Brew Note.
Hello ladies, how are you? Fantastic. Does your man look like me? No. Can he make beer like me? Yes. If your guy can make instant oatmeal, he can make you a beer with more flavor than chocolate. In fact, he can make you a beer with chocolate in it. Or, if you like, you can do it yourself and not break the bank.
If you are tired of the same-old same-old beer, you know what I mean: beer whose only taste is “fizzy.” Then you are ready for craft beer. And, one of the best things about craft beer is you can make great tasting handcrafted beer yourself. And you will gather friends to help you drink your beer.
Here are some reasons to brew your own beer:
What does it take to get started brewing beer? That’s for next time. For now, “Relax,” as the Godfather of homebrewing, Charlie Papazian advises, “don’t worry, have a homebrew” (or a store-bought craft beer if there’s no homebrew around).
Many in the Lake County Homebrewers club are brewing these Single Hop Experiment (SHE) ales this month with the plan to compare, contrast, and exchange the beers at our meeting next month (which should occur on August 2o–the 3rd Monday of the month–at 6pm).
The recipe is very simple. The grain bill is: 9.5 lbs of 2-row malted barley, 0.75 lbs of crystal 60L malted barley, and 0.5 lbs of crystal 15L malted barley. Mash at 152F (this should give a specific gravity after the boil of 1.050). Then the amount of hop added at 60 minutes is calculated to deliver 25 International Bittering Units (IBU–I calculated 0.68 oz of Falconer’s Flight would give 25 IBU), then 1 oz of the hop at 10 minutes and 1 minute before the end of the boil, and 1 oz of the hop in the fermenter as a “dry hop.” The yeast is White Labs California Ale WLP001.
Other than slightly scorching the bottom of my mash tunand ripping a gaping hole in my BIAB bag that I use for my mash…oh and raising the mash temperature waaaay too high again, and I’m a gallon short (4.5 gallons yield), the brew went swimmingly. The wort tastes great. Now, we wait for 14 days….
Kelsey Creek opened its doors to the public for the first time on Saturday, July 14, 2012. Publican Ron Chips had a smile wider than Main Street in Kelseyville where Lake County’s newest public house is located. “It’s been a constant stream of folks since we opened the doors,” Chips said.
Chips showcased one of the centerpieces of the brewery: a Russian made dispenser for filling half-gallon to-go bottles known as growlers. “The growler filler first flushes the bottle with CO2 to remove all oxygen, which is the enemy of fresh beer,” Chips said. “Then it fills the growler slowly so it does not foam. Last, there is a layer of Co2 at the very top. Most growlers can last only a few days without being opened, but mine can last for a month, making the beer fresher for a much longer of time,” he said, “I knew Kelsey Creek Brewery had to have it as soon as I saw it at a trade show.”
The brewery has an outdoor seating area (a beer garden), a long copper bar, and even purse hooks beneath the bar for women to hang their purses while they perch.
Kelsey Creek Brewing’s address is 3945 Main St., Kelseyville, CA 95451, telephone number 707 245-8402, and is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from noon to 8:00 p.m. and Sundays from noon until 5 or 6:00 p.m.
Update (7/21/12): Kelsey Creek Brewing has had to open on Mondays and Tuesdays due to the pent up demand for good and fresh beer in South Lake County. And, Ron now has a third ale on tap: a Scotch ale.
If you are interested in learning about brewing your own beer and want to meet like-minded people, the next scheduled Lake County Homebrew Club meeting is set for Monday July 16th, 2012 at 6 PM at at Guido’s Pizza in Kelseyville. You can visit our Facebook page here.
In the past we have poured samples of our homebrew at this event. This year, sadly, we did not be pour samples.
Bring a glass (for tasting) and some homebrew to share if you have any ready. Paul and I will have two versions of an India Pale Ale that was brewed at the Lake County Home Wine Makers Festival on June 23rd.
Two weekends ago my friend (and prez of the Lake County Homebrewers) Paul and I manned a booth for our homebrewing club at the Lake County Home Wine Makers Festival in Lakeport, CA. It was the first time in at least five years that the booth for the Lake County Homebrewers’ group did not provide tastings of home-brewed beers. We decided to not pour our beers due to an opinion given to us by local officials of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (CABC) that pouring any of our homebrew at public events violates State law (at least as the local CABC interprets their regulations–regulations transform squishy language found in legislation to more concrete, hence more quantifiable language, then officials charged with enforcing the regulations interpret what the regulation’s language actually means). So, our group decided, we just could not risk losing our equipment to a CABC raid of our homes. Some of our group are going pro and will be opening nano-breweries soon and cannot risk pissing off the people reviewing their liquor licenses.
Technically, we did not have beer until we added yeast. We split the 10-gallons of wort into two 5-gallon fermenters and took our half home where we added White Labs WP005 British Ale Yeast to the cooled wort.
I bottled my portion today (two weeks later). The starting original gravity was 1.061. The final gravity was 1.014 SG. That calculates to an attenuation of 76.5% and an ABV of 6.3% (almost a session beer by today’s IPA standards). It has ample piney bitterness and not citrusy.