Friday, March 30, 2012

Beer Review

I've tried in the past to keep a beer journal.  A log of all the different brews I've tried, maybe a brief summary of what I thought and a 1 to 10 rating system.  That lasted about 2 months.  I love my beer, but I simply do not have the dedication to stick with that for the long haul.  I will however use this blog as a chance to review the occasional brew.  This week, I chose a smoked porter by O'Fallon.

In general, I've like their brews in the past.  I don't consider them to be a top tier, must have brewery for me, but they usually have good, solid beers.  This however, is not one of them.  If I wanted to drink liquid smoke, I'd go to some crappy, faux BBQ joint and drink their sauce.  The smoke flavoring was over powering, and absolutely fake.  I don't like that in my BBQ, and I don't like it in my beer.  To top it off, the smoke flavor was followed by a weak malt background.  I would not buy this again, nor recommend it to anyone.  I will still continue to drink and try different beers from O'Fallon, just not this one.

First Dark Cherry Stout taste

10 days after kegging, and it's time to try a beer.  As you can see, there's a nice, thick, foamy head on the Cherry Stout.  The cherry aroma is followed nicely by the dark malts in the beer.  Turned out to be a very smooth, tasty, and easy drinking beer.  Props to Jerry at the Bluff Street Brew Haus in Dubuque, IA for putting this recipe together.

As I said in a previous post, I don't usually make my beer from kits, but this was a Christmas gift from my wife.  Also, she knows if I am going to brew a kit, it has to be one of Jerry's.  If you're ordering supplies, check him out online at or stop in to his shop next time you're in Dubuque.  Thanks Jerry for a great beer, I'll be stopping in for more supplies soon!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Kegging Time

My stout is ready to be moved into the keg.  It's been two weeks since I put it in the fermenting bucket, fermenting is complete, and the yeast has dropped to the bottom.  This is a quick and easy process.  After cleaning and sanitizing the keg, syphon, and tubing, I simply transfer the beer from the fermenter to the keg, and attach the CO2.

While syphoning, I simply keep the wand about 1-2 inches off the bottom to avoid the trub (yeast that has dropped to the bottom of the fermenter.)  This helps keep the beer nice and clear.  A lot of people I know like to transfer their beer to a secondary before kegging to help keep the unwanted trub out.  I found if your careful, it's just an extra, unnecessary step, and extra steps always add the chance of either contamination or oxidization, both of which can cause off flavors in the final product.

After all the beer is in the keg, I add some CO2, than open the pressure relief valve to purge out any oxygen in the keg.  I repeat this step about 3 times to ensure the oxygen is out.  Than I move the kegs to it's proper location, and leave it hooked up to the CO2 for about a week.  I'll pour a test beer in a week to see if it's fully carbonated, or if it needs more time.  This is another one of those difficult sacrifices we homebrewers must make.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Neighboring Porter

A few weeks ago, a neighbor, fellow homebrewer, and beer blogger brought me a bottle of his latest Porter.  I forget his exact words, but he thought it wasn't as smooth as he'd like it.  I'd like to say, I thought it was a fairly smooth, easy drinking Porter.  There was a lot of roasted malt character, and that may be what he was referring to, as roasted malt can add some harshness if used in large amounts.  I can think of a few commercial porters I've had that tasted pretty similar to this one.  Overall, I'd say it was a pretty good porter, and look forward to trying more of his beers in the future.

I will say this, the bottle seemed never ending.  I obviously misjudged the size of the bottle thinking I'd have no problems having 2 glasses out of it, but it was easily 4 to 5 glasses.  Not how much I intended to drink when I sat down that night, but these are the types of sacrifices us beer geeks have to make.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ginger Saison

Spring seems like it's here, so I thought I'd brew a light, tart, refreshing beer, a Ginger Saison.  Made with mostly pilsen malts, light dry extract, and a little munich malt.  I'm doing a partial mash this time, using 4 pounds of grain and 3 pounds of extract.  I added 2 oz. of liberty hops in a the start of the boil and 3 oz. of candied ginger near the end.  I'm also using White Labs Saison liquid yeast.  

The majority of the brewing I've done over the years has been partial mash.  It's a little cheaper than all extract, and gives me a little more control both in flavor and in color.  It's super easy to do, and you don't need a ton of extra equipment.  I use a 2 gallon beverage cooler as a mash tun and a stainless steal vegetable steamer as a filter.  It's an incredibly simple, yet highly effective way of doing this.  

Shown below are pictures of the cooler and vegetable steamer, the candied ginger and Saison yeast, and a shot of my immersion chiller in action, cooling the wort after the boil.  I'd like to note, I simply don't dump the unused water down the drain.  It can be used to water the garden, wash the car, or my most common use, I dump it into the washing machine when doing a load of laundry.  The grains don't have to go to waste either.  You can cook with them, making bread, pizza dough, granola, or dog treats, I compost small amounts like today, or on all grain brew days, I'll donate the grains to someone with livestock.  It's great for chickens, peacocks, goats, and cattle.  

One more week until I keg my Dark Cherry Stout, and 2 more weeks for today's Ginger Saison.  Until than...Prost!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dark Cherry Stout

Time to make more beer.  Last weekend I had a family party and was in a homebrew competition in Waterloo, IA at Beers to You.  I went through 8 gallons of homebrew, and I'm running low.  Today I'm brewing an extract kit put together by Jerry in Dubuque.  He owns Bluff St. Brew Haus, a homebrew supply shop, and make his own kits. His kits are great.  Now, I usually don't make kits, as I like to brew my own recipes, but my fantastic wife got me this kit for Christmas.  Also, for the last year I've been brewing all grain, instead of extract.

All grain takes twice the time as extract, but you control every once of ingredient and temperature during the process.  Most homebrewers start off with extract, move to partial mash, than go all grain.  Many who go all grain never look back, and just keep making larger and more expensive system.  That's great, if you have a ton of time, and lots of extra money lying around.  I know I don't.  When I brew all grain I use a 5 gallon cooler as a mash tun, and have 2 -5 gallon pots that I split the boil on my stove.  This system works great for me, not so much for others.  That's one of the great thing about homebrewing, there is no one way to do things, there are lots of ways.  Just figure what works best for you, your space, time, and money, and you can make great beer at home with or without all he fancy, shiny equipment.
Above is the heart of my all grain set up.

Below is my stout starting to boil, and me adding the first hops at the beginning of the boil.

Below is my immersion chiller.  At the end of the boil, it's important to cool down the wort (unfermented beer) as quick as possible.  This decreases the chances of an infection in the beer.  Next we add the yeast, and let it sit for a couple of weeks before transferring to the keg.

Of course there's always the clean up afterwards.  This is an important step, both in the beer making process, and keeping a happy wife!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Coffee Talk

For those of you that didn't grow up in the 80's, you may not get the Crinkle Talk/Coffee Talk reference.  First, Crinkle is my college nick name that has stuck with me through the years.  Second, the great Mike Myers on SNL had a re-occurring skit called Coffee talk, and played Linda Richman.  He'd always ask the audience to talk amongst themselves.  Here, I'll give you a topic.  The chic pea is neither a chick, nor a pea, discuss.


We are lucky in eastern Iowa to have a few great craft breweries.  My two favorites are Millstream Brewery and Peace Tree Brewery.  In my last visit to Millstream I tried a Weizenbock (wheat bock.)  This is a style I've never had before, but very much enjoyed.  Nearly a year later, I decided to brew my own.  One of my favorite things about homebrewing, is creating my own recipes, than seeing them through the process.  I really enjoy being able to come up with a recipe, brew the beer, and when I taste it, it comes out just how I thought it would.  My Weizenbock was no exception.  At nearly 8% ABV it will warm you up, but it also has a nice sweetness to it.  So, thank you Millstream for not only making great beer, but inspiring myself (and many others,) to make great beer as well.  Prost!