Thursday, August 1, 2013

Selection Wine Kits

I've never blogged on wine kits before so I figure I would give it a shot to lend some information on the process for beginners. These kits come in tons of varieties. I'll plug MD Homebrew here as usual as they have a nice selection of these kits and everything you will need to be successful at wine making. I have only done a few random kits over the years because wine making typically takes longer than making beer in terms of aging. In terms of the brewing or making process it is much easier. There is no boiling involved, just a bunch of racking back and forth into clean fermenters from time to time and putting in some additives here and there.

To get started I used a Pinot Grigio kit. I chose this kit because it's a white wine and they usually can be consumed a lot earlier than red wines. Most reds need to age at least 6 months before you open one and try it. The Pinot kit was a little over $100 but it makes thirst 750ml bottles of good table wine so it works out to be between $3-4 per bottle which isn't too shabby considering you'll pay double that at a wine shop for the cheapest stuff they have. Now, this wine will not sit up against a $50 bottle. It will however hold its on in the $15-$20 range.

The process is rather simple. Clean and sanitize a fermenter that is at least 6 gallons. You need the headspace for fermentation and also for some additional water later on. Once you have a clean and sanitized fermenter, you just add the juice from the bag in and add whatever water the instructions tell you. To be honest the instructions actually are quite good with these kits. Add in the packet of dry yeast and seal the bucket with a lid and airlock full of sanitizer. At this point just let the bucket sit for a week or so at room temperature. Fermentation will begin and you'll notice air bubbles coming from the airlock and you'll be able to smell the wine through the airlock usually.

The instructions say after a week or so to check the gravity with a hydrometer. The next step (which is the step I am on right no with this kit) is to transfer the wine off the yeast into another clean and sanitized fermenter. I did that Sunday and it ended up looking pretty cloudy. In a day or two however so far this week the top half of the wine has cleared and looks more polished. I will do the next steps this weekend which involve adding a little water and then some of the stabilizers and clarifiers. One thing I really like about these kits is they have little to no sulfates for preservatives. That's the stuff that usually gives you a headache when you drink wine. I'll post up again when I do the next racking with some pictures of the product.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Boiling Grump IPA - What a day!

Had an interesting day on Saturday brewing up a clone of Flying Dog's Raging Bitch. I have been wanting to brew this beer for quite some time but never got around to it. Flying Dog actually puts out kits now for their beers monthly, Raging Bitch was earlier this year so I missed it. You have to head up to their brewery to get them but I will do that hopefully in the next few months to try one. I had to resort to crafting my own recipe for this and I had some help. There is a podcast on the Brewing Network that actually did a session to see if they could replicate Raging Bitch so that was the basis of my recipe. The consensus was that they did clone it and it was pretty close to the original. Here is the recipe that I ended up following as best I could. My hops came in at slightly different alpha acids so I had to adjust a little for that but otherwise I just went with what they did:

OG 1.074
SRM 9.8
IBU 73.2
FG 1.013

90 minute boil

16.50lb US 2-row 94% (did not specify the maltster)
1.0lb Crystal 60 6%

Mash at
1.0oz  Warrior 17% at 90'
0.25oz Amarillo 11% at 15'
0.25oz CTZ 15% at 15' (Columbus, Tomahawk or Zeus)
0.67oz Amarillo at 0'
0.67oz CTZ at 0' (Columbus, Tomahawk, Zeus)

WLP400 - Belgian Wit Ale Yeast

Ferment at

The brewer added 0.21oz gypsum to the mash and 0.42oz gypsum to the boil.
Brew Day:
My brew day started two days earlier with making up my yeast starter. I visited Maryland Homebrew for my ingredients as usual and came home and made up a starter. I used the Belgian Wit yeast and I made a serious mistake with this one. I usually make a starter with half a cup of DME and 1000ml of water. This time I used a full cup by accident. I just grabbed the wrong measuring cup and wasn't paying full attention to what I was doing. The next morning I had yeast all over the counter that violently went over the sides of the flask. I figured it wouldn't be a huge problem but on brew day morning I crash cooled it and looked like I had little to no yeast left.
I started milling my grains and heating water and ended up using my cooler cheap N easy mash tun since the grain bill here was 17.5 pounds. I tried putting my tubing back through the cooler spigot and it wasn't going in easy so I had to trim a little off. I have been using the BIAB method so I haven't used the cooler in a long time. Once I mashed in it was time for another run to MD Homebrew. Since this is a bigger beer I ended up getting 2 vials of White Labs 400 Belgian Wit yeast because there was no time for a new starter.
When it was time to run the wort off into the kettle everything went as planned and I didn't end up needing much sparge water at all, maybe 2 gallons and I was up to 7.5 in the kettle. I was getting ready to start the boil and picked up my propane tank to move it over a little from my walking path and noticed that the damn tank was empty. I checked my tank attached to my smoker and that was also dangerously low. No way would I survive a 90 minute boil with that little bit of propane. So, off to Lowes I went to get a tank exchange.
The boil went fine and hop schedule was easy. When it was time to chill the wort I hooked up my plate chiller as usual and notice I was missing a hose. I looked high and low in the house and couldn't find one anywhere. So my luck changed then a little as I had some high temp tubing and miraculously had a stainless steel fitting for the chiller and a hose bard. I was able to make it work. The chiller works great, boiling water essentially goes in and then comes out around 75 this time. I think I was running the worth through a little too fast. I pitched both vials of yeast and then the next morning the beer was off and running with a huge head of krausen on top.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Porter update

The Porter finished up nice and clean. The final gravity is still a few days away from truly being final so I think I will let it rest for another week or two before I keg it up.

I plan to use Gelatin with this keg to try to drop out and flocculate out a lot of the sediment that is leftover. I have seen very good results from other home brewers so I figure I will give it a whirl. Porters are dark so you won't see a ton of clearing but it will clear it up some.

Next on the docket will be another American Wheat. It happens to be a crowd pleaser around here so I need to make some more of it. Possibly a quick brew in a bag black Friday or Saturday. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

November Update - new beers, time to brew again

What the heck has been going on?

I seem to say this a lot but it's been quite a long time since I have updated a blog post around here so I guess it's high time I do so. Brewing hasn't happened mcuh for me lately but mostly due to other responsibilities and just general life. To some degree I wish I was able to brew more but the things that take up my time are more important and that's alright. I'm still finding time to brew and now that I am nestled fairly well in the brewin a bag (BIAG) practice, brewing has become a nice easy task and not a chore anymore.

Back when I used to use a cooler for a mash tun I had to deal with multiple infusions of water and seemed to always be doing something while the mash was going. There's measuring water, timing the heating of your sparge and infusion water if you use it, and then just general maintenance of the all of the pots and equipment. With brew in a bag I drag out my burner, my kettle, chiller, and a bottling bucket (more on that later). That's it. Plain and simple. Brewing this way has made the 4 hour stretch easier, less stressful, and not complicated at all. I want to step through the brew day when using brew in a bag so that others can see just how easy it is to make great beer. If you currently are an extract brewer, you can use the same equipment for the most part, you just need the bag. Mine was made out of Voile material found at a local Joann Fabrics. The total cost even with the ribbon we used for handles was about $14.

Below is a picture parade of my brew day the other day.

I made a porter, so this is the bottling bucket mentioned above with the milled grains. Yum!
Quick shot of my kettle. It's a Blichmann.......ohhh yeah.
One of the more important shots in the series. You can see I use binder clips to keep the bag in place when i am stirring or when I pour the grains in at the beginning of the mash. Note: I do not have the bag in when I am heating the water up. I add it when I am ready to mash.
A shot after I lift the bag out. I usually hold the bag for a couple of minutes to let the sweet wort drain out. I then put the bag in the bottling bucket and let it sit and it collects some more wort I pour in before the boil.
Nice boil going here. I use Paint strainer bags for hops so that I don't need to worry about a false bottom or a filter at the bottom where the valve is. I just tie the bags off with a binder clip so they are easy to open and add more hops.
Boil is over and what I end up doing is just moving the pot and burner up to the picnic table so that gravity can feed the plate chiller. This setup works nicely, just make sure to have a strong enough table to put the kettle on. I get good flow rates here, usually takes about 7 minutes to fill the 5 gallon carboy and the wort comes out mid 60's in temps. I keep the flow on about half with the cold water side of the chiller. Too fast and it won't be as efficient in my experience.
Can't forget the last step, adding the yeast. I make a 1 liter starter the night before brew day and I pour off most of the liquid and pitch the slurry. This batch took about 8 hours to start bubbling away.
Final Notes:
As you can see, the process is relatively easy. If you extract brew now and have a big enough pot then I'd say you can do brew in a bag with little investment. You just really need the bag. My pot is 10 gallons if anyone is curious. I fill to about 8 gallons before I heat water for the mash. I've been using that number for the past few batches and I seem to get about 6 gallons of nice wort out of it.
Until next time..........

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dogfishhead 90 Minute IPA

So I came home today and there in the fridge was a 4 pack of Dogfish head 90 minute IPA. I have had this beer before but wanted to get a review up for it. This beer is a slightly hoppier and maltier version of the 60 minute IPA made by Dogfishhead. I usually find reasons to pick up the 60 minute as often as I can so it was a pleasant surprise to come home to a pack of the 90 the other day. With the increased hops and malt sweetness comes an increase in the alcohol warmth that you start to feel with higher octane beers. This beer is blended well though so no one feature overpowers another. I wouldn't consider this any sort of session beer as it's pretty aggressive. I had two in one night and that was enough. I hope to try the 120 Minute here shortly to see the full range of this beer. I am almost wondering if the 90 is its own beer it a blend of the 60 and 120. Probably the former if I had to wager. This beer gets a 7/10 for me. Drinkable, smooth, but a tad sweet for my taste buds.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Roundup of Brewery activities

It's been a while since a post so I thought I'd blog a little about what's been happening with my latest concoctions. At the end of last week I kegged up the Chinook IPA. The sample tasted great, it was nice and hoppy and really did what I think I wanted - to test our a single hop beer. I hope to tap it sometime this weekend and share with some neighbors. The porter I made a few months back just keeps getting better and better as it ages a little bit. I've had a few of the Kolsch beers so far and while tasty it just didn't hit the mark for me. I was hoping to get a nice crisp clear beer. This beer is a fantastic tasting brew but it looks like something out of Back River. It's cloudy, hazy, and just generally yellow in color. I think next time it gets brewed I need to remember to use the Irish Moss and maybe some other fining agent to clear it up.

My next batch will most likely be either a wheat beer or a brown ale. I have both in stock and am ready to brew however my pot is currently on hiatus getting fitted with a nice bag so I can do a BIAB brew this time around. I have a few other things I will be introducing this time as well. I will start to use paint strainer bags for my hops so that I can keep the sediment down for the chiller. I really want the plate chiller to work but I need to address the hop gunk and I think using the bags along with the Hopblock should do me well. I will also be making yeast starters from now on as I bought a stir plate from Stir Starters. Dan Jeska really does a great job making the stir plates and even puts a label on the bag of the plate that says "Built for the Home Brewery of" and gives your name. Here is a picture of the setup:

Notice the stir bar inside nicely stirring up the water I did as a test. This should help make my fermentations a lot more active and get the beer started a little sooner. I hope to get my final gravities down a bit also as lately I have been ending in the upper teens on most of my fermentations.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Chinook IPA Brew Day 4/1/12

This is no April Fools, the Trompeter Brewery cooked up a nice recipe on Sunday morning. This time around it was time for a nice house IPA. I am trying out a new recipe I concocted. I want to start making some IPA's using a single hop variety each. This way I can better adjust and taste the flavorings of each hop which in turn will make me be a better creator of recipes in the future. I chose Chinook this time because it is heavily used in Arrogant Bastard and since I think that works well in that particular beer I decided to go with it.

The brew day started off with a little hiccup with the mill. The drill I use to motorize it seems to want to not catch the shaft properly all the time which means the shaft starts to slip here or there. I have to stop the drill, tighten, and then go back and mill. I am wondering if this is part of my issue lately with efficiency (more on that later). I used to double crush grains and I think I may start going back to that shortly.

Mash in was great, the temps I was looking for hit dead on at 153 degrees Fahrenheit. I used a paper towel to cover the front opening of the cooler where I could see steam coming out and I attributed to my major heat loss last time. Happy to report that I only lost 2 degrees in the hour mash this time. Below are some pics of the first runnings. The coloring of the runoff was great, a really nice burnt orange. The second runnings were obviously lighter but the mixture should get me the exact SRM I was looking for. I decided to use a darker Crystal this time and use less, so I went with Crystal 120L.

Once the runoff was done I went ahead and got the kettle boiling, did my hop additions, etc. It was a typical boil with no real issues at all. This round I really wanted to try out the plate chiller that I have been testing and plumbing up to the rig. I hooked up the plate chiller inline with all of the fittings when the boil was over. I had sanitized it earlier with starsan using gravity from a bucket so I know it was clean inside. I also baked it a week or two earlier to sterilize it at 350 degrees for a few hours. I started the runoff and within about 3-4 seconds it stopped. I knew this could only be one thing: CLOG. I tried a few different things to get it going but in the end it wasn't successful. Luckily I was prepared and I had my immersion chiller ready to go. I submerged it in starsan and let it sit a few minutes and then put it in the pot and chilled the wort to 68 degrees. 

Here are some more pics of the failed chiller and the rest of brew day. I was a bit low on gravity and I think that is attributed to the milling issue potentially. I hit 1.060 instead of 1.068 which was what was expected. I have been doing a lot of reading on no sparge brewing, Mash in a Bag, Brew in a Bag, whatever people want to call it. The premise is that you line your kettle with a bag, heat a full water boil plus water to account for absorption, and then put the milled grain in. You basically mash in your kettle. I like this because there is time savings involved and the ability to use a lot less gear. The only rub is you need to use a little more grain in your grain bills and figure out your efficiency. You also need to get the right bag. Check back in a few weeks for what may be my first Brew in a Bag or Mash in a Bag brew!