Monday, September 1, 2008

Long Weekend Update

Long weekends are great, but don't we always want another day at the end. I know I do. On Saturday before the Huskers took the field we bottled our Black and Blue Brown Ale. Then on Sunday Marcie and I headed to Soaring Wings Vineyard in Springfield for the 2008 Mud Run. We did the 1 mile fun run and everything was going great until we were headed down a slope that preceded the 40 foot mud pit when Marcie stepped on some uneven ground and her ankle gave way. We headed back to Lincoln and the emergency care clinic took x-rays which revealed no fractures but a nasty sprain. At present time she is sitting on the couch with a bag of frozen vegetables on her wrapped ankle. Both of us were running about a 10 minute mile pace, which is ahead of her treadmill pace, but since she can barely walk right now, she will not be running for a while.

As unfortunate as her injury is, we weren't going to let it stop the rest of the weekend plans. We did go ahead and brew our vanilla porter again on Monday. We used the same kit that we purchased last time from Kirk's, but added 8oz of cara-pils to add body. We have become quite adept at the extract kit brewing process, enough that if needed, an extract could be done on a Friday after work if the weekend was going to be particularly busy. All in all, this brewing thing is fun.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I love this time of the year....

I remember back especially when I was in high school and college, this was about my favorite time of the year. Yes I was and still am a self proclaimed nerd I I enjoyed that summer vaction was ending and it was time to go back to school or college. I think it's probably because I have always been a planning type of guy, and the routine of the non-summer months brings back a regular schedule. But now that I am no longer in school, with the full time job and mortgage and bills, I look forward to this time of the year for the not so hot days, cool evenings, and of course COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON AND THE MLB PLAYOFFS!!!!

Okay, I know there is about a month left in the MLB season, but over the course of a 162 game regular season which I have been paying the utmost attention to, now is the time when every game matters that much more, especially when your team is in a pennant race. Right now my Cubs are trailing the Phillies in game one of a 4 game series, but should the game not end in my teams favor, I know that they will try to go out and get it done tomorrow.

On to the other topic, college football. The energy in Lincoln revolves around former defensive coordinator coming back as the head coach of our beloved team. The last time Bo Pelini walked the sidelines in Husker red, he was guiding our team to an Alamo Bowl victory against the Michgan Wolverines. As he teams left the field in San Antonio the Big Red faithful were calling for Bo, in an interim head coach role, to have the interim tag removed and carry on the Big Red tradition. Instead, the AD went out and got some guy with an NFL pedigree, to help keep the program from "gravitating toward mediocrity." If you follow Husker football, you know how all that turned out.

On the brewing front, since the first time around went so well, and the weather will be nice, and we have a Monday where we don't have to work, what would be a better way to spend the day than brewing the vanilla porter? Purchased the extract kit at Kirk's today, along with a few other essentials. Only one change this time, as we are adding 1/2 pound of cara-pils to the grain bag to hopefully let this one have a bit more body than the previous batch. We will try it out and hopefully it will be a drinkable product. We will also be bottling the brown ale that has been in secondary for a week so that there is a good stash of ales for our fall drinking pleasure.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Phase II....Brown Ale...and other ramblings

Friday morning, the primary fermentation of the Brown Ale was still going strong. By the time I got home Friday afternoon, we had gone from bubbles every 8 seconds, to 40 seconds. I became optimistic that there might be something to do with it this weekend. On Saturday afternoon, I took a sample and the specific gravity was right where it should be, 1.012. The starting gravity was 1.042, giving a respectable 3.9-4.2% ABV. I had spoke with a homebrewer at work who recently did a brown ale from a kit and commented that it was really yeasty, and would benefit from a week or two in secondary fermentation. Well, since I did have a couple of extra carboys just sitting around I did go ahead and get that done today. With the long holiday weekend next weekend it will be bottling time. I did taste the sample and if first impressions are a good sign I will be happy once we start drinking it.

On the drinking side of the beer front, Marcie and I along with some homebrewing friends got together for a beer tasting party last night. The night was started out with a wheat ale from Granite City Food and Brewery which went over great. Unfortunately it will be another year before we can drink it again, as they were almost out of it when I filled the growler on Tuesday night. We followed with a belgian wheat, scottish ale from the Olde Town Brewing Company in Ames IA, and then finished up with a 9% ABV tripple, and the kolsch that we had brewed. We did get some great comments on it, so that does give us something to be proud of.

It was then on to the dark beers, and we all agreed that cocoa porter from the Tommyknocker brewig company was great. The biggest hit of the dark beers was by far the Rasputin's Imperial Stout. Pick some up if you see it.

The calendar is our friend. Cubs have a 5 game lead in the NL Central with just over a month to go.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Holy Fermentation Batman!!!

I wonder if the first brewers of beer were planners like me. When I brewed on Saturday I figured that we would see bubbles in the airlock by Saturday night as opposed to Sunday afternoon, and they would be gone by Thursday at the absolute latest, allowing some time to settle out and then go to secondary sometime this weekend.

Well things don't always go how you planned. There are still bubbles about every 7-8 seconds, and here we are at 120 hours after pitching the yeast. Hope it all turns out well.

Isn't brewing great? YES IT IS!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The air is just right right for.......brewing....drinking too

Yesterday was a good day. The weather was great, mid 80s, little breeze, with a few clouds passing by. The dog had just gotten her haircut in the morning. Makes for a pretty good day to brew. We staked the dog out in the yard while I set up the brew kettle and equiment. On the way home Friday, I had stopped by Kirk's Brew and perused his selection with my recipe for the Goose Island Nut Brown Ale clone in my hand. He did have a kit all ready put together for a brown ale, and after running the numbers, his kit was going to be about $10 less expensive than what I had in my hand. So I decided to go with his kit, and substituted a vial of White Labs California Ale yeast for the dried packet that was included in the box.

Everything went really smoothly as far as the brewing process went. The kit called for a 45 minute boil with 1.5oz fuggles, adding 0.5 oz cascade for the last minute. I tightened the connections on the wort chiller that came apart last time and SOAKED Marcie and this time things worked great. We took the 2+ gallon concentrate down to 110F in a couple of minutes while it was sitting in an ice water bath and added it to 3 gallons of water in the fermentation vessel. It was still at about 79F after that, so the carboy was immersed in the same bath and eventually cooled down to 74F with periods of agitation out of the bath. No hot spots in that carboy. Marcie added the yeast and we headed out for the evening, hoping to see bubbles when we got home.

NO BUBBLES!?!?!! None were seen after we returned from the evening festivities, as well as none before I left for church this morning. I was a bit worried, but the did show up after church. But back to last night......

We dined with coach Bo Pelini at Macaroni Grill. Well not with him, but he was there. Then we were off Sun Valley Lanes to use some free bowling coupons we had won at the Saltdogs game. We both had a fun time, and then decided to continue the night downtown. After stopping at the Brass Rail to see Kory, where he bought us a stiff drink, we then headed to Voda for a martini. One turned into more than one, and both Marcie and I saw people from our past, and they were partying together. SMALL WORLD!!! After they sat down at our booth, there were 2 more martinis for Marcie, and 3 more manhattans for me. The tab got a little high priced, but we did have fun. I was feeling allright for church (had to sing), however I cannot say the same for my better half.

And all was better when I got home to the sight of bubbles on the top of a dark carboy. Oh yeah, and the Cubs just completed a 5-1 road trip and hold a 5.5 game lead on the Brewers.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Where the heck did summer go??

Not that my title of this entry is a bad thing. With the arrival of August, we remember that college football is just around the corner. I noticed on the digital TV guide a channel labeled Husker PPV test. I actually turned there to see what they were showing on there, just a promo for now, but Lincoln is definetely ready for some football.

On the beer front, the Kolsch is officially ready to drink, and even though I like our wheat beer better, I will not be throwing this batch out. There is a fair amount of sediment in the bottom of every bottle, which may have benefitted from a secondary fermentation. It does taste decent and fits the bill for a nice refreshing summer beer, but with the arrival of Labor Day and college football season the brewing mind shifts to something a bit darker with some more hop character.

So next on the brewing schedule is a brown ale. I know, not something that exactly slaps you across the face with hoppy bitterness. But lets be honest, with the hops shortage and gas where it is pricewise, I will save the hoppy beers for an imperial stout around Christmas and another IPA when cold February arrives, just to get me through the last part of winter. I found the recipe for a clone of Goose Island Nut Brown Ale thanks to Google and will post it and how I brewed it when I fianlly decide it myself. Need to do more research. Better wrap this up, as dinner needs to be prepared and we have baseball tickets tonight.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Kolsch update

In a turn of events, instead of going to church this morning (we went last night), we started out the morning with some breakfast, a dog walk, and then to the basement to bottle our Kolsch that we brewed last weekend. Our initial gravity started out at 1.055, and this morning we were a little high for finishing coming in at 1.019. The range given with the kit should have been 1.007-1.009. All in all, it comes out to about 3.9-4.0 ABV. The hops came through really strong, so it will more than likely be 3-4 weeks before we can drink it.

I'm sitting here with my Cubs on TV, with a smoked porter in a glass beside me. It was brewed by my friends Brett and Gary, and I would have to say that it mellowed out quite a bit since they bottled it. I had the opportunity to taste it at bottling time, and it was s dry that that it left a layer of dust in the glass. It has since become palateable, but it does have the color of a black hole. No light passes through this stuff. Instead of using liquid smoke, they do actually smoke the grains for this brew. Gary has made comments that in a very short time that I will be brewing more than they do, but I have to give credit that they had a big part in getting me involved in this.

We used the bottling tree for the first time today, and it is one of those things that just makes things a lot easier to do. No more carrying wet cases back to the shelves hoping that your precious brew doesn't find the cruel end of a cement floor. Cubs half of the 6th inning, down 3-1 to the Giants. They are going for a sweep of the final homestand before the All-Star break. The good guys are represented well on the NL squad, but also some key guys are getting some needed rest. Ryan Dempster got the start for the Cubs this afternoon, and is in line for his first loss at Wrigley Field this year. Hopefully they can turn it around and fly the "W" flag.

About time to wrap this up, will continue posting on upcoming breing events.