Tag Archives: ale

Not my usual brewing experience…

Got invited a little while ago to brew with the Four Fathers. They’re an Elora-based start up brewery or concept brewery that is just starting to get off the ground with a few good beers and recipes.

I met the Four Fathers when they came to Grand River Brewing for a brew day. We hung out for the day on “my” brew system and had a great time. At the end of the day they invited me to their brewery for a brew day. “It’ll be fun”, they said. “We’ll have a great time”, they said.

They weren’t wrong. Here is what greeted me upon my arrival at “the brewery”:

Four Father's (1 of 4)

Four Father's (2 of 4)

Four Father's (3 of 4)

(Please see title of this blog post LOL)

Behind the scenes, however, it was closer to my usual brewing experience:

Four Father's (4 of 4)

Controlled chaos, moments of confusion, missed timings, near boil overs, slight messiness… Really, just the usual brewing experience.

They have a Sabco BrewMagic brewing system which was a treat to brew on. New to me but if I were to do it again I would do a bit more reading on it and figure out a few more of the features of the system to allow for repeatablility of recipes and programming mash profiles etc. Would love to have one of these for my own use but will need to save up a few more dollars before that happens. 😉

We ended up brewing a session IPA, of sorts. We’ll find out in a couple of weeks. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to have a taste and maybe brew another beer. One more father in the mix of Four Fathers.

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I’m still here

Wow! It’s been almost a year since I last posted something. That’s embarrassing. Let’s get a post in before that one year passes, shall we?

Much has happened over the past year in my many lives to keep me from posting here on this blog but I’m hoping to get back to it regularly in the coming months.

Last year (2014) was a very busy year in many respects. I was busy with my life of playing trombone as I spent a season in the pit in Stratford for Man of La Mancha, teaching at UWO, playing with the HPO and OLC (which just announced their bankruptcy as evidenced by the lovely website. LOL)

Family life was busy with an exchange student here in the fall and another here currently until the end of June. Much accommodation has been made to have an extra body in the house but it seems to be going okay.

Brewing at home was relatively busy last year with a bit of equipment acquisition and figuring out the new (now old) system. It’s pretty dialed in now so a brew day is pretty straight forward. I have even done a double brew day with no problem. (perhaps a future blog post)

The biggest news relative to the topic of this blog is that I am now a full time professional brewer. I returned to the brew house at Grand River Brewing to take over the duties of the former head brewer in late January. I am continuing in that position and thoroughly enjoying it. It’s a steep learning curve but things seem to be falling into place.

It’s quite the adventure and also quite a bizarre life to stand over a boil kettle making large amounts of beer and getting paid for it. Twenty five or so years ago when I first started brewing with Peter there is no way I would have imagined that I would end up where I am right now.

That’s it for this post. Let me try to get back here on regular basis to update you on my own brewing and things I bring from the big brew house to the small and vice versa.

Just tapped a rather pleasant IPA this evening and still have an American Stout… 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.

HLT

HLT

 

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.

Sparging

Sparging

 

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.

Lautering

Lautering

 

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!


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.

Scorch!

Scorch!

 

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.


Forked River Brewing Visit

Finally! A craft brewery in London!

I drive back and forth to London frequently in order to play with Orchestra London and teach at UWO and one thing that has been missing for a long time is a craft brewery. London has long been the home of Labatt, which I drive by on my way to UWO, but it has been a while since there has been a real bona fide craft brewer in town.

I was able to get an insider’s view of the brewery when I contacted Dave Reed, one of the brewers at Forked River. He was very kind to take a chunk of time out of his busy day to show me around the brewery and talk shop with me. I know how busy brewers can be and I felt honoured that he took so much time to spend chatting with me about the general operations in the brew house.

Tanks!

Tanks!

The brewery is very small, as you can see in the photo. It kind of caught me off guard to be honest. For some reason I was expecting something larger. That said, it’s perfectly suited to the space and to their current brewing plans. There also seems to be a fair bit of potential for expansion within the square footage that they occupy.

More tanks!

More tanks!

The thing that struck me most about the visit was that their set up is very much like a glorified home brewery. I want to state that there is nothing wrong with that at all, in fact, I found it quite simple and very common sense. They don’t filter, they just cold crash, like many home brewers. Carbonation is done over days, not hours. The MLT/BK/HLT are all just like a home brew set up. The boil kettle and hot liquor tank especially with them both being direct fired. They just seemed like glorified converted kegs!

Dave in action.

Dave in action.

Now the beer… I tried a sample of their Riptide Rye straight from the bright beer tank and it was excellent! I been withholding judgement on rye beers but Cameron’s Rye PA and this excellent example of the style have sold me on using rye in my own brewing. I will definitely be trying a rye beer in the near future.

I also tried a sample of their Capital Blonde Ale at the sample bar and found it to be quite enjoyable. I like the hop presence in both their beers and both beers are also VERY clean finishing which I do appreciate. I ended up buying a growler of the Capital Blonde and my wife and I quite enjoyed a few glasses of it.

There was their newest seasonal that had just started fermenting. I can’t say what it is but it does sound terrific and I’m sure word will get out quickly. I will certainly be trying a bottle of it myself if I can get my hands on some. I have no doubt that future seasonals will be equally interesting.

Dave and my growler.

Dave and my growler.

Dave was super kind to show me around the brewery during “off hours” and I do appreciate it. I look forward to stopping by to refill my growler on my frequent trips to and from London. Of course I invited him to Grand River Brewing when he has a chance but a start up brewery is a busy place. I’ll keep you posted.


Just in time

Just in time for St. Patrick’s day, my most recent stout is on tap! It’s a Maris Otter-based oatmeal stout with some cocoa thrown into the mash for a bit of extra chocolate flavour.

I’ve done a couple of stouts before on my own and felt them to be a bit thin and astringent. This one I deliberately attempted to counter that and mash-in a bit higher than my normal. For this batch I hit a temp of between 156F and 157F for some extra body.

Nailed it!

2013-03-17 20.13.48

“Happy Pils” and “MO stout“. It’s what’s on tap…