Northern California Homebrewers Festival 2015

IMG_2088

Our Malt Konocti Mashers’ booth on the right with a little waiting area in front of the dispensary.

IMG_2096

This year’s theme was Prohibition. Under the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, doctors could write prescriptions for alcohol. “You’ve gotta fever and the prescription is more beer.”

IMG_2086

Looking toward “Home” (left of photo) where you register and buy tee-shirts.

IMG_2098

Dr. Paul tasting a prescription to see if it meets his exacting standards.

IMG_2099

Patients could choose from a tasty array of medications.

IMG_2102

Next door to our booth was a “barber shop” where one of the aerosol cans of Barbasol dispensed an IPA.

IMG_2107

The D.O.Z.E. ([Mt.] Diablo Order Of Zymiracle Enthusiasts) booth was a Dept of Treasury office with soda up front and samples of forbidden beer in the back.

IMG_2109

Looking to the left of our booth.

IMG_2111

Evidence tags on illegal beer at the GBA booth.

IMG_2116

The Worts of Wisdom booth had soda in the front (self-serve). Word is that they had beer behind the curtain.

IMG_2113

GBA’s serving list being prepared.

IMG_2117

Almaden Brewers prove that tie-die is not dead, though it should be.

IMG_2119

Silicon Valley Sudzers had some cute names for their beers.

IMG_2120

The Silicon Valley Sudzer branch office of the IRS.

IMG_2124

The Doctor is in.

IMG_2114

GBA getting rid of the evidence by drinking it away.

IMG_2126

A wanted poster for Willie the Brewer on a trash can.

IMG_2128

Across from our booth. The lecture tent and stage on the left.

IMG_2127

The checkered awning is the booth for tasting the club competition beers.

IMG_2130

Lecture tent and stage on the right. More booths on the left.

IMG_2131

The “Library” with the faux stone walls had some amazing food.

IMG_2133

Dr. Jon dispensing medicine to needy patients. The sign in front says, “The Amazing Dr. Paul’s Healthful Elixirs: Good for What Ales You.”

These photos are from the Northern California Homebrewers Festival (NCHF).

NCHF was bittersweet this year, landing as it did, during the Valley Fire. When we set up our booth, we knew at least one member had lost his home and two others were not sure. To say it put a damper on our spirits would not be overstating it.

We thought we might just have a pile of burnt rubble instead of any booth. In the end, we set up and made the best of it.

The theme this year was Prohibition. Prior to the event we did some research (okay we Googled it) and learned that prescriptions were written for alcohol. So we ordered some toy stethoscopes and reflective mirrors for our foreheads, and printed up some fake Rx pads. We prescribed many of the following: Dr. Kam A. Sutra’s India Pale Tonic, Dr. Paul’s Chocolate Coconut Porter Elixir, Blanche’s Nutritive Cream Ale Tonic, Dr. Jon’s Mother’s Milk Stout, or Dr. Jon’s Three for the Road Tripel.

Next year’s theme is…wait for it…Belgium. So if you like beer that tastes like a barnyard with cloves and bananas sprinkled about, you’ll love the NCHF in 2016.

Speed Brewing Your Six-Pack of Beer

At DFH Rehoboth Brew & Eats. Cheers.

Brew one in less than an hour. Cheers.

James Spencer and Steve Wilkes must be the nicest guys on the web. One of these days I would love to meet them. Their Basic Brewing website and (mostly James but more than occasionally Steve) podcasts are fun and informative. I really recommend the podcasts on toxicology of home brewing.

In this video they show how to brew an India Pale Ale in less than an hour (~45 minutes, not counting fermenting and bottling time). This technique will work fine for a pale ale (less hops) or a blonde (less malt and less hops).

Enhanced by Zemanta

This Week in BrewZasters: MyBrewCo and the Accidental IPA (on purpose)

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 Brewery (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).

An Unexpected IPA. It was supposed to be an American Pale Ale.

An Unexpected IPA. It was supposed to be an American Pale Ale.

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.”)

Brewing the Accidental IPA on purpose

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.

About MyBrewCo.com

The MyBrewCo website says it is designed to, “Manage your brewing online.” You can:

  • “Create and upload Recipes”.
  • “Convert Recipes between brewing methods, unit of measures and automatically scale to equipment”.
  • “Let the system manage your efficiency and automatically scale recipes”.
  • “Manage recipe versions, copy and modify any recipe in the database”.
  • Create “An online shopping list, add custom items or let the system populate when a job is created”.
  • “Use our calendar or plug your brewing schedule into your favorite application using the internet calendar”.
  • “Use our online shopping list, add custom items or let the system populate when Use our online shopping list, add custom items or let the system populate when” you are ready to do so.
  • “Manage Brew Jobs, view recipe and instructions”.
  • “Record brew day statistics for analysis.”
  • “Track efficiencies between equipment profiles”.
  • “Record gravity readings and track your beer’s fermentation”.

*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).

Online Brewing Software – MyBrewCo.com

Over time, I will be copying recipes over to https://mybrewco.com/. MyBrewCo is, according to the site, a “free online brewing system to manage your brewing, share recipes and connect with friends.”

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.

Moving into all-grain brewing

Gary Glass, President of the American Homebrewers Association appears in this video. The video shows him pouring crushed malted grains into a plastic ice-chest and adding hot water (hot liquor in beer geek speak) to the grains and making a porridge (aka mash).

There is a formula for deciding how hot (the strike temp) the water you add should be to get the desired temperature for the mash (the target mash temp is quite often ~149F-152F).

After the grain(the mash)  has steeped for a while (60 minutes is common), the liquid wort is drained out to be boiled. (The ice-chest has some tubing on the outside and some screening on the inside to allow the sweet wort out and keep the spent grains in.) After the wort has been captured, it is boiled (60 minutes is common) just as an extract batch would be.

This week on Brewzasters: Brewing A Small Batch not Small Beer

Beer Brewing Supplies and Ingredients

You can brew beer in a small apartment  (Photo credit: billread)

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:

  • If you want to try your hand at brewing beer without spending wads of cash on a five or ten gallon set-up.
  • If you don’t want to spend wads of cash only to find you don’t like drinking five to ten gallons of the same thing.
  • If you have an apartment with little space.
  • If you want to experiment and not commit to five or ten gallons.

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.

Call Me Irresponsible Blonde recipe

  • Est Original Gravity: 1.045 SG
  • Est Final Gravity: 1.010 SG
  • Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 4.5 %
  • Bitterness: 20.0 IBUs
  • Est Color: 3.9 SRM

Ingredients

  • 3 oz  Caramel/Crystal Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM)
  • 16 oz Extra Light Dry Extract (3.0 SRM)
  • 0.23 oz Willamette hops [5.50 %] – Boil 60.0 min
  • 1/2 package of Safale American (DCL/Fermentis #US-05) Yeast

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.

What you need to brew a one-gallon batch

  • Beer kit or beer recipe ingredients
  • One to two gallon pot (i.e., your brew kettle)
  • One-half gallon of sterile ice
  • One-gallon carboy fermenter with airlock
  • Stirring spoon
  • Scale (optional)[1]
  • Meat or candy Thermometer
  • Hydrometer (optional)
  • Cleaner (e.g., PBW – Powdered Brewery Wash)
  • Sanitizer (e.g.,Star San)
  • Mini-siphon or sterile flexible tubing
  • Large measuring cup
  • One gallon bottled water
  • Stuff for after fermentation has completed:
    • 11 sanitized 12-oz bottles (to be used in 10-14 days after brewing)
    • Bottle capper
    • Bottle caps (if you don’t want to mess with capping, you can use swing-style cap bottles)
    • ¼ cup corn sugar or sugar tablets (e.g., NorthernBrewer.com’s 8 oz Fizz Drops)

[1] For small batches we can estimate ~0.25-0.30 ounces of pellet hops per tablespoon.

Observations from the 15th Northern California Homebewers’ Festival

NCHF 15 logo and theme, “Our Founding Fathers.” From left to right: Ken Grossman, Charlie Papazian, Michael Jackson, and Fritz Maytag

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.

I’m at the 15th annual Northern California Homebrewers’ Festival and the first I have ever attended. Though the first festival was held in Skyline Park in Napa in 1998,

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.

Tossing the keg competition

Tossing the keg competition

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/)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.