Monthly Archives: November 2011

Rent beer…

Learned a new expression a couple of weeks ago from my friend Alan Brown over at 600 Days to Brewmastery: Rent Beer. It’s the beer that a brew pub or brewery would brew in order to pay the rent. Pretty self explanatory, really, but I had never heard it. It’s a good one and, in this case, a keeper for me.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) I’m not in a position where I have to pay my rent with beer that I make. That said, I’m going to use the expression from now on to describe my sessionable, drinkable pale ales, IPAs, Pilsners, etc., that I brew to go on tap and drink regularly.

To serve along with the rent beer will be what I call my second tap beers. The beers that I would not have brewed until installing my second tap a few weeks ago. Coming up in the second tap line up are Pete’s Pumpkin Pale Ale, LISP, a brew from a while ago called A Bitter Pils to Swallow and the Fin de la Saison. Not necessarily in that order.

Rent beer and second tap

Photo contest!

No, not mine. Fellow blogger at A Good Beer Blog, Alan Mcleod, has announced his photo contest for another year. Beer and photography… Sounds right up my alley.

I submitted the following photos to the contest.

A couple of years ago I won a prize for the photo that is acting as the banner for this very blog. This year? I’ll let you know what happens. 😉


She’s gonna be big ‘un!

Brewed a pumpkin brew last week to put on the second tap. This week I decided that I would brew nearly the exact opposite of what I would normally brew and that it was also my birthday I would just go nuts with the ingredients. From that came the idea of LISP: Licorice Imperial Stout Porter (recipe for LISP).

Grains for LISP

A bigger grain bill than normal for me for a 5g batch. You can see the crystal 110 in bowl, bags of chocolate malt, roast barley, and carafa II on top of a bucket that contains the 9lbs of Munich II and 9lbs of 2 row. WAY more grain than I normally use.

Hops and extra ingredients for the LISP

The grain bill was not only one of the larger ones I have had to deal with but the extras were also numerous. In the photo above are two (of three) of the hop additions on the left, bowl of licorice candies in the middle, star anise on the bottom right, fennel seed on the middle right and in behind are demerara sugar and molasses (not just the plain kind, I sprung for the fancy kind). Missing from the group photo is the licorice root (which will be soaked in Sambuca asap until we add it two secondary in a few weeks) and the third hop addition.

The brew went almost as planned with a bit of a bonus in the middle. I was brewing with my friend, Scott, and we have been talking about a doing a parti-gyle brew for a while. We have plans for an “Epic Parti-gyle” involving many mash tuns and many boil kettles resulting in many more carboys filled with beer. Before we went that far I wanted to see how the basics would work. The LISP was not planned as a parti-gyle but when you brew a beer as strong as the LISP you end up leaving a lot of sugar behind in the grains. Instead of just throwing that away we decided to continue sparging so that we got a few more gallons of wort with the same grains in order to make a porter.

Mild brown on the left, LISP on the right.

The timing with both brews worked perfectly! The big brew came to a boil while we were still lautering for the small brew so it had a bit of a head start. That difference was just enough so that when the big brew was done chilling we immediately started chilling the small brew. Transferred into primary with the big brew and as soon as that was done the small brew was ready to transfer.

I pitched the big brew on a yeast cake from a previous batch of beer–A topic always open for discussion on various brewing forums–but was still worried about the viability of the yeast. It was a decent batch that it came from but it had started slow. No worries, though. I checked on the beer after a couple of hours and there was already signs of fermentation. Came back in a few more hours to this:

Excess blow off!

Not a great thing to clean up but it definitely could have been worse.

After a bit of work with a damp cloth and a bucket of water I devised another solution:

Larger jug inside stock pot... No worries now.

Not a great way to spend several minutes having to clean up the mess but I can say that it smelled amazing! I’m really looking forward to this brew in the deep of winter: A true sipper.

Pete’s Pumpkin Pale Ale

In light of my post about having a second tap I figured I would brew something different (for me) this past week. I ended up taking a stab at a pumpkin ale.

There are many very good pumpkin ales out there: Grand River Highballer Pumpkin Ale, Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale and my favourite from Southern Tier, Pumking. I wasn’t trying to clone anything (although that does give me an idea for a separate blog post 😉 ) I was just trying to create a spiced beer for my “seasonal” tap.

In truth, part of the inspiration came from my daughter who wanted to make some pumpkin cupcakes last week. She needed a few extra ingredients like pureed pumpkin and some pumpkin spices. When we went to the grocery store I had suggested that we pick up a jar of pumpkin pie spice or mixed spice just to keep things simple but she insisted that we already had all the necessary spices at home. I picked up a jar of the mixed spice anyway knowing that I would use it for brewing. She also needed some of the pureed pumpkin but I knew she wasn’t using all of it. Guess what ended up in the mash?

I created the recipe the night before and came up with a pretty straight-up almost pale ale using a few grains I had around. My hops were based on wanting to keep the beer balanced but on the malty side and keep the hops sort of out of the way. The Super Galena (or Super G as I call it) fits that bill perfectly and the experience that I have had with Willamette seems to hold true for that hop as well.

Adding the pumpkin to the mash is debatable with regards to what it adds to the beer but I didn’t feel right calling it a pumpkin beer without the pumpkin. If it doesn’t add anything to the final product, that’s fine. If it does, okay. Either way I’m just using up some leftover pumpkin puree that would have otherwise gone bad in the fridge. Just trying to be practical.

I have posted the recipe here but I wasn’t able to add correctly in BeerSmith the types of spices I used. There was about half a can of pumpkin puree in the mash. I put about a teaspoon of the mixed spice in the last ten minutes of the boil along with 50g of freshly grated ginger and about a half cap of vanilla extract.


Pete’s Pumpkin Pale Ale

New tap!

Now my one lonely tap that I had before has a friend!

I finally gathered all the bits and pieces to install a second tap in my beer fridge this past weekend. Not terribly exciting for most people, I would agree, but, oddly, rather exciting for me.

Up until this point, with one tap, I was quite insistent on brewing things that were very drinkable. I brew them, I drink them. I don’t bottle much so just about everything I brew is being kegged and put on tap.

If I brew 20 liters of an Imperial Double IPA, I have to drink it. As much as I enjoy that type of beer, it’s not the kind of beer I enjoy having on tap. It’s much more the type of beer I would enjoy a bottle of once in a while. Now I can have it on tap!

With the two taps I can brew sessionable or drinkable pale ales, pilsners and IPAs and have a bigger beer, spiced beer, seasonal… what have you on the second tap. Carbonating is easier because both kegs can be set to serving pressure and have one for serving and the other carbonating. Although this does require some planning. 😉

I am disproportionately excited about this and will be brewing my first beer tomorrow to celebrate. I will be venturing into spiced beer land with a Christmas Spiced Beer. Something I would have been unlikely to brew earlier but I now know it can sit quietly and be enjoyed occasionally on the second tap.

Two taps (after)

One tap (before)

Beer Advent Calendar

Who knew there was such a thing?

I mentioned in previous post that I’m a member of a homebrewers’ group called the SOBs. This group, and other similar groups, usually have meetings involving sampling and exchanges of various beer. “Beerjudge” of the SOBs came up with the idea of a beer advent calendar and with the help of “Deev-o” did an amazing job of organizing the entire event.

The concept was for 24 brewers to sign up and provide a beer for one day of the advent calendar. That would mean each brewer brewing a special beer and providing 24 bottles of it so that we could each take home one of each of the other brews.

My brew was one from a while ago that I called Hop Dam Harvest Ale. It was brewed with the Hallertau hops that I grow in my backyard and was brewed within the week after harvesting. It was a strong ale and perfect for a cold evening sipper by a fire.

The starting line up.

The event was great! Very kindly hosted by “The_mc”, we had some decent mild weather which allowed us to visit on the back deck and enjoy a fall Sunday afternoon. We sampled many different beers that people brought that were not involved in the advent calendar. All were excellent! I tried a (burnt?) mead, chocolate stout, hopped up amber ale… And a couple of others that I don’t quite recall. 😀

Once all the beers were organized we had a quick group shot of everybody in front of the beer and then we all descended like vultures in a very organized fashion to fill our boxes with everyone’s beer.

A bunch of SOBs. (Photo credit: Roger Beal)

Here is the list of beer that was brought home:

Beer Style    Beer Name
21B. Christmas/Winter Specialty Spiced Beer    Carobou
American Wheat    Bitter Harvest
SMaSH    sooner
Pumpkin Wit    Witty Pumpkin
American Stout    Chocosol Bourbon Stout
Coffee Oatmeal Breakfast Stout    D’yermakin’ Me Breakfast
session ale    After Thought
Harvest Ale    Hop Dam Harvest Ale
Black Currant Wheat    You Wee Beastie!
Imperial Stout    The Fat Controller
Pineapple pale    Magnum PI
16E. Belgian Specialty Ale    Pomander
Northern English Brown    Off-Kilter
Spiced Rye Bread Ale    Two Loaves-a-loafing
Breakfast Stout    The Pudney V.2
ginger rosemary ale
Pumpkin Ale    The Long Sparge Dark Pumpkin Milk Ale
Chocolate Chip Cookie Ale
Fuller’s 1845 clone    1845ish
Smoked Beer    Imperial Smoked Porter

The beer buffet!

Good clean fun and, as far as I know, nobody got hurt!

We start on December first with the sampling and taking notes to exchange with the other brewers. You’ll definitely be updated…

Got grain.

Buying grain for brewing can be a hassle depending on what you need and where you live. For me, it’s not too bad but I normally have to drive about 45 minutes to Fergus to get what I need. It costs me around $45 for a bag of crushed grain but certainly worth when you figure that I can get around five batches out of the one bag.

A recent group buy through the Southern Ontario Brewers (that’s right, SOBs) allowed me and a couple of brewing friends to pick up grain at a significant savings. Because of the power of bulk purchasing that $45 bag of grain came down to around $25. A very worthwhile purchase even with the bit of extra driving to pick up the bags in Toronto.

I was quite excited to pick up the grain. With the help of the Amsterdam Brewery the SOBs were allowed to have the skids of grain delivered there. This also coincided with an event the SOBs were holding called “Learn 2 Brew” where homebrewers are invited to set up their breweries in the Amsterdam Brewery for the day to show off their gear and techniques. This also allows the public to see how it’s done and ask questions of the brewers.

It’s really the first time since I returned to homebrewing a couple of years ago that I have seen many other set ups. It’s always interesting to see how other brewers “work their magic”, so to speak.

Brewers are a notoriously friendly lot and the SOB group is no exception. I met several new people and re-met some that I had known in another setting. I’ll be attending a meeting this coming weekend where I will, no doubt, meet some more kind folks.

One of the highlights of the trip on Saturday was supporting Amsterdam Brewery and thanking them for their support of the SOBs through the grain delivery and the allowance of space for “Learn 2 Brew”. I purchased a couple of bottles of their Boneshaker IPA that I had only seen at the brewery and not at the LCBO. It was fabulous! Precisely my kind of IPA with lots of hop presence from some classic American hops and with a solid malt backbone to support all the bitterness. At 7.1% this was a true IPA unlike anything else I’ve had from an Ontario brewer. Kudos to Amsterdam!

I had to take it a bit easy on the drive home because of all the grain. Ten 25kg bags in the back of the car is more than I normally carry but we all made it safe and sound!

Fin de la Saison: Stage 2

This is a new one for me.

This particular style of beer (according the yeast package directions) requires a two stage fermentation. The first stage is at normal fermentation temperatures which, for me, are in the low 60°’s F. This will bring the beer down to a gravity reading of about 1.035. Not enough to finish for most styles and certainly not for this style which is supposed to be rather dry–in the single digits, as I like to say–around 1.006 or below.

The second stage requires that one bring the carboy or fermentation vessel up to a temperature of around 90°F. Well out of the range of my cellar temperature but possible nonetheless. I wrestled with several different methods for this and settled on the one pictured.

My first thought was the realization that the carboy would fit inside the large stock pot I sometimes use for brewing. With the temperature increase I was worried about increased fermentation-type activities which means the potential for kraüsen to re-develop and some possibility of overflow from the carboy. In order to minimize the mess I figured I would just put the entire carboy into the stock pot.

For insulation I used an old army parka that was in the basement. Seemed to be the perfect thing since it fit around the stock pot and was certainly insulated.

I then went through several iterations:

  • heating pad under carboy in stock pot
  • heating pad under stock pot, carboy inside pot
  • heating pad on side of carboy between stock pot and carboy
  • looked for a second heating pad (around here somewhere…) but couldn’t find it.

All the while the parka was wrapped around the outside of the stock pot but the temperature was not getting high enough. 😦

I finally went back to plan A (heating pad under carboy in stock pot) and wrapped the parka around the carboy itself between the carboy and the stock pot. Worked like a charm! Reached, and maintained, a temperature of 92°F.

The extra fabulous thing about the parka is that the hood covers up the airlock perfectly. Happy beer, happy brewer!

Commercial brew day

Spent the day–or, rather, the afternoon–at Grand River Brewing on Wednesday. Got called to come in and brew just the one day this week. Rehearsals with the HPO got in the way of my brewing habit. 😉

Wednesday was Jubilation Winter Warmer day at the brewery. I have had the honour of being part of a few seasonals this year. I got my hands on the Highballer Pumpkin Ale, Russian Gun Imperial Stout and, this week, Jubilation Winter Warmer. I’ve brewed almost all the beers at GRB except for the seasonals, that is, up until this year. These beers are usually bigger, more complicated and involve extra additions at various points like pumpkin, demerara sugar, molasses, spices, etc.

It’s a bit of a challenge for me because of these extra additions as it requires a bit more “careful” brewing. Knowing when to add the extra ingredients, keeping track of time, specific gravity, etc., things I don’t normally do during a brew at GRB or at home. Nothing wrong with it, just not my normal routine for brewing.

Next week may bring more commercial brewing but will definitely bring more homebrewing.