Photos or it didn’t happen…

Like a tree falling in the woods, brew day doesn’t actually happen if you dont take photos and blog about it. So I’m not quite sure what to make of the Munich Dunkel that was brewed yesterday. Here I am posting about it without any actual photographic evidence of what transpired.

The batch went very smoothly and some good conversation with a brew buddy put snapping photos way on down the priority list.

Yesterday’s batch was number 20 for 2015. I hope to sneak in a couple more before the end of the year. Next up: Barleywine.

Just a jar of yeast

IMG_0041 Wyeast Bavarian Lager 2206 to be specific. Thanks to Hutton & Smith Brewing Company for the hookup. They put a nice sized pitch in a growler for me from their batch of “Way Bock When.”

I harvested this jar from a Schwarzbier that I kegged on Friday and repitched it into a Munich Dunkel I brewed yesterday. Once that batch is done I’ll use it once again for a Cascadian Dark Lager. If such a thing even exists.

Better Brew Day Record Keeping

 

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For a while now I’ve been using a dry erase board to keep me on track on brew day. Sometimes I also work off of a printed recipe, and I often refer to BeerSmith on my phone, tablet, or laptop, but I love having all my numbers up on the whiteboard where I can refer to them at a glance.

I finally took the time to write up a fill-in-the-blanks style chart on the board with a permanent marker so that I don’t have to rewrite the whole board for each brew day. Now I can just fill in the specifics for each recipe in just a minute or two so that once I begin brewing, I don’t have to fumble around for a screen or a piece of paper to figure out what the next step is. My mash in temperature, sparge steps, and hops schedule are all represented (I always weigh out grains the night before, so I don’t bother putting the entire recipe on the board) as well as fields to note my actual volumes and gravities so I have a record of the recipe “as brewed.” Those numbers will be fed back into BeerSmith and saved to the brew log for future reference.

Better record keeping is on of my brewing resolutions for 2015, so the upgraded whiteboard should be a big improvement.

 

I don’t always dry hop saisons, but when I do…

 

I’ll just add about 1/4 ounce each of East Kent and Styrian Goldings. I brew saisons pretty often. Yes, even in winter. This one was intended for Thanksgiving, since saisons pair really well with traditional Thanksgiving fare, but the calendar got away from me so New Year’s Eve is more likely.

This is my first time using East Coast Yeast’s ECY08 Saison Brasserie Blend. I’ve used Wyeast French Saison (3711) in the past, so I’m anxious to see how this one turns out.

Small Batch BIAB Kettle

 

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First off, a disclaimer. Electric brewing is of the devil. We all know this. And don’t get me started on the electric brewers. What with their spotless, soot-free pots and their precise, automated temperature control. It’s propane and propane accessories for me and mine.

Still, I admit that I did have a little fun tonight with my buddy’s small batch BIAB kettle. You may recall this kettle from a few posts ago when we performed a little minor surgery on its dip tube.

The original concept for this rig was that it would be used with an induction plate for 1-2 gallon BIAB batches. It turns out that while the induction plate does a respectable job of heating the strike water and boiling the wort, it was somewhat lacking in the temperature control department. Rather than having a true temperature controller, the induction plate has multiple power levels without the degree of fine tuning one would want for mashing. Furthermore there’s not really a way (that we could find) to use the plate with an external temperature controller.

The next step was to consult chapter one of The “Homebrewer’s Guide for Better Living Through Cash Expenditure.” A close reading suggested a solution: Throw money at the problem.

More specifically, that solution involved a sous vide temperature controller from Auber Instruments and some flexible rope heaters from Omega.

We’re still in the early stages of fabrication, but here are the basics:

  • The flexible rope heaters are wrapped around the kettle and held in place by metallic tape. Eventually a layer of insulation will wrap around the outside of the kettle.
  • The sous vide temperature probe fits into a thermowell in the kettle lid. The thermowell will extend into the grain bed when mashing.
  • The induction plate will be used to heat strike water to approximate mash in temperature.
  • Once approximate mash temperature is achieved, the rope heaters, controlled by the sous vide controller will hold the mash at a pre-programmed temperature. The controller also includes a timer.
  • Once mashing is complete the induction plate will be used to boil the wort.

During preliminary testing, the rope heaters reached around 173 degrees, so I’m hopeful that they will be able to hold steady mash temperatures without the help of the induction plate.

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We still have some fine tuning and fitting to do, but a test batch shouldn’t be too far off.

East Coast Yeast Strains for BeerSmith

Having been turned on to East Coast Yeast by one of my Brew Buddies, I happened upon some intel that I’m happy to share in hopes that somebody out there finds it useful.

Homebrew Talk Forum member PintoBean entered all the East Coast Yeast Strains into the BeerSmith brewing software and was good enough to share the .bsmx file for your loading pleasure. Get you some here.

Southern Brewers Festival

 

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Got your tickets for the Southern Brewers Festival? Got a smart phone? Then your next step should be to get the official SBF app. It’s got the music schedule, the list of breweries, and a checklist to track all the must-try beers:

Get the iPhone version here.

Android users can go here.

Of course, you’ll be checking in all those brews at Untappd, too, right? Be sure to add me to your friend list. Maybe we’ll see you out there.

Digital Beer Tap Menu

 

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For a while now I’ve been drooling over Raspberry Pints, a free open-source digital taplist that runs on the Raspberry Pi mini computer. In fact, it’s been on my project list for a while. I already had a small LCD TV above the keezer in my garage/brewhouse and a decent wi-fi signal. All that was standing between me and a sweet digital beer menu was a little cash, some free time, and that whole knowing how to code thing.

Before I pulled the trigger and ordered a Raspberry Pi, it occurred to me that I might already have all the hardware to pull off a simplified version using the Roku box I already had in the garage. I found a simple solution, but only after a generous application of Google searching. Here’s how I went about it:

I already had the LCD TV, the Roku box, and the wi-fi signal. All I needed was a digital image of my tap menu and a way to display it via the Roku box. I’m no graphic designer by a long shot. I’ve used Photoshop a bit but I don’t have a copy at present, so I used GIMP, an open source graphic manipulation program, to create my menu. I did download Raspberry Pints and stole a couple of their icons for my menu. I also included the check-in icon from Untappd along with QR codes for each brew. Smart phone users can scan the code, pull up the beer, and check in with a couple of clicks.

With my menu finished, my first thought was to put that file in my Google+ photos and use the existing Picasa channel for Roku to display it. No dice. I suspect that Google’s integration of Picasa with Google+ doesn’t work with the Picasa channel, which hasn’t been updated since the integration. I was able to Google a few premium channels that would get the job done, but after a good bit more searching, I finally found a free option in the Roku Media Player, which allows you to play your own audio, video, and images on the Roku. After the Media Player channel is loaded on the Roku, you will need to install the TVersity desktop server on a desktop computer. The desktop server is where you will upload your image file to be displayed. Once the server is installed, just upload the menu, fire up the Media Player on the Roku, and the menu is seamlessly displayed on the LCD.

While this digital tap menu may not be quite as full featured as Raspberry Pints, I’m pretty happy with it. I’m especially pleased that I was able to use the Roku box instead of buying another piece of hardware. Now I can check the digital menu off my to-do list and start working on a BrewPi fermentation controller.

Minor Surgery

My buddy from Hausler Bierworks dropped by today and we performed a little minor surgery on the pickup tube on this new kettle that he will be using for his small batch Brew in a Bag system. This is a sweet little setup. In a Brew in a Bag setup (henceforth referred to as BIAB) the kettle acts as both the mash tun and boil kettle.The grains are contained in a muslin bag, and are mashed in the kettle. Once mashing is complete, the bag is pulled out, allowing all the wort to drain back into the kettle, where it is boiled. My favorite part of my buddy’s setup is that the heat is provided by an induction plate. No open flames or heating coils are involved. The plate  creates a magnetic field which heats up the kettle itself. Here’s a shot of the kettle in its natural habitat.

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The one minor problem with this setup was that the pickup tube left too much wort behind when the kettle was drained. Perhaps Mr. Hausler will comment here to tell us the total capacity of the kettle, his expected batch size, and how much liquid was left in the kettle after it was drained (he told me but I forgot.) At any rate, the amount of liquid left behind was considerable for small batch brewing.

Basically we rotated the pickup tube until it touched the bottom of the kettle and used a Sharpie marker to roughly approximate an area at its tip that would need to be removed in order to allow it to drain as much wort as possible. It ended up requiring that we cut the end of the tube off at a very acute angle. I was doubtful that a hacksaw would do it. The angle grinder was an option and would have made quick work of the cut. We opted to use a Dremel tool with a reinforced cutoff wheel, which took a little longer, but seemed to be a bit more precise. We ended up with a pretty close fit.

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The newly trimmed pickup tube drains the kettle almost completely. We measured the liquid left in the kettle after draining to be right at seven ounces. A big improvement over the untrimmed tube. This should be a great system for developing recipes and I can’t wait to see it in action.