Category Archives: brewing

And more random brewing pics

Geez… Almost the same as the last post.

Last brewing day, new lens, random pics.

Here you go: brew day (4 of 4)brew day (3 of 4)brew day (2 of 4)brew day (1 of 4)

Random Brewing Pics

Haven’t done much brewing at home these last few months but the last time I did I made a bit of an effort to take a few pictures with a recently acquired lens. Nothing special here but some random “artsy” shots from the day.


Worst. Brew day. Ever.

Seriously. I don’t think I have had a worse brew day at home or at work.

It started very well with a full tank of water at temp and grain in the hopper. All good. Got some of the water in the MLT above the screen went to turn on the auger to get grain from the mill to the MLT. Dead. Nothing. Nada. Not even a whine.

Checked everything that I could check. Got assistance from the head of packaging to check everything that HE could think of. Still nothing.

Plan B: Mill the grain into individual bags at the point of milling and tote all those bags to the MLT dumping them in one by one and stirring the mash to hydrate. I know it’s what a lot of craft brewers do but I haven’t had to do it until today. All 190kg worth. 😦 Just like homebrewing… x10. I kind of felt like I had the crap kicked out of me and I’m only two hours into my day.

All went well with the brew from that point on but what is normally a 15 minute process turned into an hour and a half significantly extending my brew day. Much clean up ensued with the help of brewery folk available.

At the end of the brew day, at the end of boil, I whirlpool for 15 minutes and rest for 30. During that time a transfer was taking place and a line circulation was needed to sanitize the lines for transfer. That’s right around the time I set up for my cooling in from boil kettle to fermenter. While cellarmen were circulating hot water to sanitize I started to set up my lines but forgot that one of my lines was also one of THEIR lines. I went to disconnect a line that had 180ºF water flowing through it and realized that it was still flowing. Luckily everybody was right close by so I asked them to stop the ciruclation. They did and one of two things happened: circulation was restarted thinking that I had reconnected the line or leftover water in the lines sprayed out at me once I dropped the line.

Regardless, a whole bunch of REALLY hot water sprayed at my chest and stomach and I got burned. Luckily I was very close to our chemical wash station (i.e., cold water shower) and I jumped right in and pulled the trigger. Some relief but certainly not long lasting. I spent the next 10 minutes or so trying to cool my burns down. I was soaked from head to toe with my wellies filling up bit by bit with every spray of cold water.

I tried to stay focused on getting set up for cooling in but was likely a little bit shocky from the experience. Luckily I have a shift brewer around and he took over which allowed me to recover and get a lift home from my daughter.

No damage. Eight hours later or so it feels like a bad sunburn: a bit stingy and slightly pink. No blistering, nothing permanent by any means. I laid down with some ice packs on my chest to keep the burns cool and by the time I got up things were much improved. Always many lessons learned.

Then, tonight at home, I was transferring to a keg and getting ready to rinse/flush gear. I turned on the hot water tap which hadn’t been used since before vacation. (When we go on vacation we shut off the water to the house for various previous reasons. LOL) When the hot water came on it was fine but there were air pockets in the line and it flowed fine for a while then burst forth and sprayed on the ceiling. I thought it was done and kept the hot water flowing it then let forth another burst and sprayed on me.

What? TWICE in one day? Come on! This one was in no way as bad as the first, but still.

Hot water and I are not getting along today. 😦

Hot water, it’s what’s on tap…



Lonely Whole Hops

(The following post is all meant in good fun. I’m not really hostile about other brewers’ practices. 🙂 )


I grow my own hops and have used them before. They’re Hallertau and great for making pilsners, harvest ales, beers where the hops can just be out of the way: fruit beers, spiced beers. I’ve written about whole hops on this blog before. I think I wasn’t kind.

That said, I’m calling out my fellow brewers who don’t say that whole hops are a pain in the ass. Who’s growing them, who’s harvesting them, who’s drying them, and who’s using them? (I know my dear friend Peter is using them and to great effect so feel free to comment, Peter, but I know you’re all over this 😉 )

I think there is a secret that needs to be told and I’ve said it here on the other post: Hops are a pain in the ass AND nobody really wants to deal with that despite what brewers say. The number of times I offer up a free rhizome split and all the positive responses and then… Nothing. Same for picking your own… Well, one person came (in 10 years of offering).

“Free hops. Come and pick your own. Pick whatever you want and take them home and brew with them.” *crickets*

It’s okay, fellow brewers, you can say it and admit it freely here and you won’t be ostracized: Whole hops are a pain in the ass.

All together now…


Brew Stand Brew Day

It’s all come together! It is, for all intents and purposes, done. There certainly is some tweaking to do and a few bits and pieces on my wish list but it works and makes a bunch of beer in one go.

My last brew day I took some pics to show the set up. Some of the line set up is not pretty but that is part of the tweaking. I’ll just have to have a few more brew days to figure it all out. 😉

This is generally what my driveway/brewery looks like on a brew day. The blue cooler is no longer a MLT but is now a bin to tote material from inside: scale, chiller, pumps, etc.

The Brewery

The Brewery


HLT set up for heating strike water. I recirculate the water as it’s heating just to avoid hot/cold layers. It makes the temp reading up top a bit more accurate. This is one place I could use an inline thermometer.




My fly sparge set up. HLT to pump to MLT. MLT to pump to BK. Flow adjusted so hot water into MLT is roughly the same rate as wort to BK. Works like a charm!

Fly sparge

Fly sparge


Top of MLT. Foil with holes just to avoid channeling in the grain bed.




Lauter line into BK. I had originally had the line with the tri clamp fitting as the lauter line and had that attached to the top port. This set up is better with the line going to the bottom of the BK. Less splashing, less foaming, easier to see volume when the wort gets near the top.




This is the set up for sanitizing the chiller. For the last 15 minutes of the boil I just recirculate wort through the lines and chiller. The line set up is not pretty and I’ll be tweaking that so that the moving of lines for cooling in and chasing wort with water is a bit easier and smoother. Using the MLT as a chiller stand was a last minute thought and works well. I had originally thought about mounting the chiller on the stand but knowing now how much back flushing is required it’s easier to have it loose for now.

Sanitizing Chiller

Sanitizing Chiller


Set up for cooling in. This basically works. The line from BK to pump needs to be on the other side of the keg the chiller is sitting on. Part of my waste water from the chiller is going back into the HLT so that when wort is done in the BK I chase the wort through the lines with the water from the HLT. This is another place I would use an inline thermometer just to adjust the flow and get the pitching temps right, or at least close.

Cooling In

Cooling In

There you have it! That’s basically a brew day on my new set up. Thanks to Clay for the build and thanks to Scott for the gas plumbing and pump box! Fantastic work!

Brew Stand Update

Got my burners today!

One big, one small

One big, one small

I have two of the large burners and one small one. I’m thinking one big burner for the HLT, small one for MLT, large one for BK.

Pumps are being housed and wired by Scott. He’s got a nice method using a metal tool box to house everything and have that mounted on the brew stand. It’s protective AND portable.

More updates to come…

Maxed Out

With the brew stand nearing completion one of the things I wanted to do was run my large volume equipment through a brew day. This is not my complete setup, I used only one of the large vessels instead of both and I don’t have my pumps hooked up yet.

My process is pretty common with this setup:

  • heat large volume of water in HLT but what will become the BK
  • mash in with portion of hot water
  • add more water back to HLT and heat up for sparge
  • transfer all sparge water to coolers and empty the vessel
  • sparge from coolers into MLT and lauter into BK

This gives me two vessels to work with and the need for only one burner. I actually use two burners in case of the need to heat the MLT. The second time I brewed on this set up I didn’t need to heat the MLT but the first time I did.

Here are a few pics of the process…

Mashed into a 50L keggle which according to my calculations would be able to hold 40lbs of grain. It did but it was completely MAXED out. No more room for anything! That was, in fact, my intent with this particular brew: max out every vessel to find out what my volume limits were. I found out. 😉

MLT maxed out

MLT maxed out


Tried a new technique for me this time: fly sparging. It’s just setting the flow of sparge water to match the flow of lautering. Not difficult it’s just that I had never been set up for that before. Discovered it’s the best thing ever! It’s just too easy and there’s really no babysitting of the MLT or much scooping of water involved.

My fly sparge setup.

My fly sparge setup.


I did heat my MLT half way through the rest to bring the temp back up. With the MLT maxed out there was really no room for much stirring so I really didn’t have an accurate sense of the temperature. After emptying the MLT I did see that there was a bit of scorching evident but I’m sure I’ll still end up with beer.




Lautering and boiling were just fine and got to about 80L or so pre-boil. Another new addition to my set up is the plate chiller seen in this photo on the work bench. (The pump and burner are courtesy of Scott.) Sanitizing the plate chiller prior to chilling was dead easy. I just hooked everything up in the last ten minutes of the boil and ran the boiling wort through the system. This dropped the temp a bit and halted the boil for a minute or so but I just kept running the system and the boil came back. Super easy!

Sanitizing the chiller

Sanitizing the chiller


The chilling and cooling in itself was super easy. Once the boil was done I whirlpooled and rested (manually, just by stirring the BK). My chiller was already set up from the sanitizing stage so all I had to do was get my carboys in place and fire it up. With this set up and the water turned on about a half turn on the faucet I was able to cool and transfer the full volume of about 80L in just 10 minutes! You can also see it’s reasonably aerated, not something I’ve worried about a whole lot but it’s certainly not a gentle transfer.

Cooling in

Cooling in


There are a few things that will be changing with this setup and moving to the brew stand: My pumps will be wired in, burners will be in place, less moving of vessels, more space for me to move around. All of this… Soon.

Brew Stand Update

Well, it’s in my garage!

Clay finished all the welding on the weekend and I was able to pick it up this evening. None of the hardware–Pumps, gas lines, burners–is mounted but most of it waits patiently. It certainly does a bang up job of holding all the vessels with a decent amount of space in between and VERY solid support.

Here is a gallery of photos courtesy of Clay. I wasn’t around for the build but he took some really fine pictures to show the various stages of assembly. Thanks for that!

GRAB Barrel Project

Another fun project on the go. This time in collaboration with a few people from my homebrew club: GRAB. We’re getting a barrel!

My good friend, Peter, alerted me to an offer that the Montrealers (Montreal’s homebrew club) were getting. It turns out the family of one of their members lives near a winery and the winery was getting rid of some used surplus barrels. For cheap!

Peter contacted me and with very little thought I went ahead and reserved one through him. He was kind enough to do all the logistics and is currently storing the barrel at his place until I’m able to get there for pick up.

Now it’s just a matter of deciding what to do with it. We’ll definitely do some sort of big brew into it with the members of GRAB and that is in discussion on our forum but one of the more important decisions is exactly WHAT to brew into it. Your input is welcome on this. We do know it was a red wine, Frontenac varietal, American oak barrel. Let’s go with that.

Here are a variety of pictures of what I bought with thanks to Peter Christensen and Sebastian Verreault for the photos:

New Project

I’m embarking on a new brewery project: A brew stand!

My friends Clay and Scott are rather handy folks with “mad skillz”. They have built a brew stand before for other friends of theirs and I’m in the market for something similar.

The basic design of the stand is very similar to this but we’ll be adding extras, of course. I’m looking into burners, a pump, chiller, lines, etc., all that to be figured out later.

I realize readership of this blog is a bit limited but I’ll ask both of you: What do you want in a brew stand?