Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Homebrew Home Improvement Part 1

As mentioned before in an earlier blog entry I had a to do list. After checking off #1 of brewing more beer I decided to tackle #2, install a false bottom in my kegerator. Doing this would allow for me to store up to 4 kegs in the fridge and still leave room for bottle storage. Some of you may be asking, "Why install a new bottom, mine has a shelf?". This is a good question. If I had kept the stock shelf in the fridge it would have cracked under the weight of 4 loaded kegs.

Saturday proved to be a great day. The weather was perfect so I headed out to Lowe's to pick up a 2x4 and a sheet of plywood. Once all the supplies were picked up I set to installing the false bottom. The main issue with this design was the bottom of the fridge. If you ever remove the bottom shelf of a fridge you will notice that towards the rear, the bottom rises up at a 45 degree angle. This makes it very hard to make a flat surface for the kegs. The solution was to cut the plywood to fit the inside of the fridge and make legs out of the 2x4s. See picture below for sketch of project.
This sounded easy enough and for the most part it was. Plywood was easy to cut and place into fridge. The two sets of long legs worked fine and seemed to be the correct measurement. The issue came when installing the shorter set of legs. The first attempt resulted in one leg too short and the other one perfect. When I went to recut another leg the battery on the saw died. After waiting another 30 minutes there was enough juice to finish the cut and attach the leg. After sliding the base back in, the keg sat in the fridge nicely. Best part? Under the base there is enough room to store bottles.

With this task scratched off my list all I need is three new corny kegs and the equipment to hook them up and install them. But that is for part II, till then, Prost!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ryen’s Pale Ale Brew Day

This post can simply be summed up in the phrase: RDWHAHB. No I didn’t hit my head on the keyboard and post what came out. RDWHAHB is an acronym that stands for “Relax, Don’t Worry, Have A HomeBrew”.  If I had done this write up immediately after brewing it might have just been titled ”Lessons Learned”, thankfully a couple days and a couple homebrews later everything seems to be working out.
We brewed on Thursday night and for the most part everything went well, better than expected in fact. Taking in lessons from last time I created a “Brew Cheat Sheet” for our schedule and laid out all the ingredients and materials in the order we would need them.
Everything went great, even though we changed a couple of things from the first brew. First, since this was a partial mash we needed to add extract. After doing some research online I decided to add it in the last 15 minutes of the boil to get rid of the “twang” that often accompanies the use of extracts. Secondly I added in a Whirlfloc tablet to clear the beer, because pretty beer is good beer. Finally and most importantly, I used my new Christmas gift, a Wort Chiller. A wort chiller looks like a copper spring that sits in the wort, cold water runs through it and cools it faster. If I had known how much ass this thing would kick I would have gotten it sooner. During our first brew we chilled the wort by placing it in a sink ice bath. This took about 45 minutes to cool down. With the Wort Chiller this process took 15 freakin’ minutes. So much easier and so much better.

Unfortunately that was where the good vibes ran out. After adding the wort to the fermentation bucket I need to bring the volume up to 5 gallons, this is standard. After adding in a gallon of water I took a hydrometer reading. The target Original Gravity for this beer is 1.053, the reading was 1.042, this was bad, very bad. For most reading you might say .011 is pretty close, unfortunately this is not the case. If you were playing football this would be equivalent to kicking a field goal and nailing your coach in the head. Although this was bad it was still ok, the beer tasted fine it just wouldn’t be as strong, that is doable.

Before sealing up the fermenter and waiting for beer to form I needed to add in yeast. For this brew I decided to use liquid yeast from Wyeast. This came in a “Smack Pack” where you have to hit the packet to activate it. The morning of, I took the packet out and smacked it. When it came time to dump the yeast into the fermenter I noticed that the pack had not inflated all the way and as I poured out the yeast, I could diffidently tell that yeast was not ready to be poured but since it was already opened I had to commit.
Once I poured in the yeast and sealed the fermenter I was left to my thoughts about what I had done wrong to get the bad hydrometer reading and the poor yeast. I sat down to research both. After reading some threads on I discovered my bad hydrometer reading was probably due to the gallon of water that I added to the wort to bring it to 5 gallons. When I took the reading right after adding the water I had not given it enough time to mix, thus giving me a bad reading. As far as the yeast, all I had seen told me to wait and that is what I did. On Saturday morning, like a kid on Christmas, I went to my fermenter and sure enough there was the tell-tell sound of bubbles. The yeast was working and everything looks to be going good.
So, after all that we come back to my original point,”When it looks to be going south, RDWHAHB”. Till the next time, Prost!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Coming Up Next

After the success of my last brew I decided to take a minute to figure out what my next steps were in regards to the question of "Where do I go from here?".

Obviously #1 on that list was to brew more beer so I placed an order with Austin Homebrew Supply. The order contained a couple random things (hop sacks, etc.), a wort chiller (!), and most importantly supplies for a Rye Pale Ale. I know it is winter now and most people traditionally look for something a bit darker and malty-er to warm yourself up, but what beer selection would be complete without a nice crisp Pale Ale? Amazingly enough I placed this order on a Sunday 12/4, by Tuesday 12/6 it was on my front doorstep. Now that is impressive! Now it looks I will be brewing a Ryen's Pale Ale later this week.
A couple other things that I look forward to completing in the coming weeks to upgrade the kegerator include:
  1. Installing a false bottom on the fridge for maximum space utilization. Doing this should let me store 4 kegs in the fridge. 
  2. Getting more corny kegs and more taps! Need a place and a way to dispense all that good beer. 
  3. Prepping the fridge to dispense from (hopefully) 4 kegs.  This should be fun...
Hopefully I will have a write up of how the RPA Brew Day went later this week. Till then, Prost!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The First Pour

After weeks of waiting it is finally here! The beer is done and ready to drink! So without further interruption, the first pour:

Doesn’t it look great? The beer was a little overcarbonated but I have sincesolved that issue. More importantly though, is that how it looks is not near as good as it tastes. I will admit that I had reservations about my first batch but overall it isn’t too bad. Although most would say that it tastes like a regular Brown Ale, to me it is something more, maybe the start of something great?
Looks like this weekend will be cold and rainy, can't think of a better way to stay inside and keep warm than with a couple of these.

Thanks to everyone who has been following the blog so far, I appreciate all the reads and comments from people, keep 'em coming!
With the first beer in the books it begs the next question, what to brew next? Till the next time, Prost!