Archive for the 'Homebrewing' Category

Organic IPA for my birthday!

Posted by Nate in Beer, Homebrewing.
Wednesday, March 19th, 2008 at 8:27 pm

Got an itch over the weekend to brew an organic beer for my birthday – which, at exactly 4 weeks away, had to happen soon.  Like tonight.

With the hop shortage and since I was playing around with ingredients anyway, I sort of threw a bunch of stuff together.  I mean, I had a plan, and it involved a lot of hops, but it was fairly seat-of-my-pants.  The good fun of the evening was I got to use my hopback: a little grant, or holding tank, full of hops.  The boiling hot wort flows over these hops and then directly into the counterflow chiller where it’s dropped from boiling to 75 degrees in seconds.  The result?  All the amazing hop aroma oils will be disolved into the hot beer and preserved as it cools.  The longer you keep them hot, the more flavor but the less aroma you get – this method gives you almost no flavor but a ton of aroma.  (Oh, and I put a bunch of flavor and bittering hops in too.  Mmmm, hops…)

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Halloween in Chicago

Posted by Nate in Family, Friends, Homebrewing, Travel.
Thursday, November 1st, 2007 at 12:03 pm

img_3741.JPGTook a quick trip to Chicago last weekend for a super-fun Halloween party: Heaven and Hell(icious)!  Now that Laurel and Freddie live upstairs from my usual Chicago destination, they decided to throw a joint party and decorate the downstairs like a creepy idea of hell and the upstairs like heaven.  It was awesome!  img_3767.JPGNot sure you can see the amount of detail that went into heaven, but they laid down white paper on the floor (looked good and protected against spills), hung blue plastic on the walls, blew up a million balloons, hung streamers, and even printed a ton of gorgeous cloud pictures to put on the walls!!  No idea who these people are but it shows some of the decorations…

img_3714.JPGKaren and I went as a portable (pirate!) bar, and won in the informal costume contest!  Who could resist a working tap and snack vending machine??  No one.  (You can’t see it, but Karen has a three-compartment snack vending machine like you see in grocery stores.  I rigged it so it was free, and we filled it with bar snacks!)
Laurel dressed up as Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas — including a hand-stitched patchwork dress!  Whoa.  Clearly the costume judges were being nice to their out-of-town guests to have overlooked her…  :)

img_3715.JPGCody brought back out his creepy baby outfit.  Creepy.  Karen let him rest on her bar.dsc01067.JPG

A great time (and much pumpkin ale) was had by all!  Happy Halloween!

Disgorging the sparkling mead

Posted by Nate in Homebrewing, Wedding.
Friday, August 10th, 2007 at 11:28 am

When I last checked in, the mead had been moved to the basement for riddling, the long and slow process of turning and bumping that’s supposed to collect the remaining yeast and sediment in the neck of the bottle.  It went pretty well, but I would change a few things next time – more vigorous turning early on, while things were still at an angle, or possible skip the entire angle thing and go right for vertical.  I ended up having a few bottles with some small but incredibly stubborn yeast deposits on the neck that just wouldn’t budge.  Ah well.

8-9-2007-8-10-15-pm.jpgSo yesterday morning I cleared a space in the fridge for the mead, and I transferred it into the freezer when I got home from work.  As you can see, it was a tight fit…  The goal was to freeze just the end of the neck, but chill the rest of the mead so it would keep more CO2 in solution when it was disgorged.  As it happened, the 5 bottles outside of the box got so cold there were chunks of ice throughout, which ended up being a problem later…

8-9-2007-8-25-19-pm.jpgThis is everything you need for disgorging, almost.  At left is a cooler with 15 pounds of ice (I meant to do 20, but found a bag inside when we finished) and about 2 pounds of sidewalk ice melter (KCl).  In reading now, I realize I might have been better with plain rock salt (NaCl), which can make a colder brine, but I’d also read yesterday that CaCl could go colder still and without checking I assumed KCl might be the same.  In any case – if you’re disgorging, do some more research.  This worked for me.

Next is a bucket of sanitizer holding the plastic champagne corks, and a measuring cup half full of a dry white wine to replace any liquid lost in the process.  The shiny things are the "cages" to hold the corks in place, there’s a test bottle full of water, some S-hooks we used to spin the cage wire tight, and a mallet to knock the caps in place.  Whew!

pict0004.JPGHere’s Karen fiddling with a cage on a freshly disgorged bottle.  The basic process we ended up with was me working the disgorging and her handling the topping up, capping, and caging.  I’d take an upside down bottle, dunk it in a bucket of water to get the ice and salt off, and then hold it about horizontal with my right hand on the neck, braced against my right thigh.  pict0005.JPGWith my left hand I’d pry off the crown cap, and in a dramatic "splurt!" the frozen ice plug would shoot out as I quickly raised the bottle vertical and slid my right thumb over the opening to minimize foaming.  I’d set it down and wait maybe 15 seconds before releasing, then Karen would top it up and go from there.  Normally we’d add some sugar syrup here too to cut the dryness, but two things: it’s really good how it is, and since I know we’re not getting all the yeast I didn’t want to risk another round of fermentation in the bottle…  At right: the ground was littered with crown caps and yeast residue by the time we were finished.

So, yeah, the first few bottles were too cold – I’d read horror stories online about people not being able to get the necks to freeze in the brine, so I went right in the freezer.  When I’d pop the top, not much would happen…  The ice plug was too deep in the neck, so I’d have to try to dig around and fish out the yeast, resulting in foam and some volume loss, often to watch in despair as the yeast gently floated back down into the mead.  Ahhh!  Too late now, so we just capped it and carried on.  The ones from the case were good and cold, but not frozen at all.  About 10 minutes in the brine and ice got me a decent 1"+ ice plug and the new horizontal disgorging technique resulted in near-perfect yeast plug cannons.  Awesome.

pict0008.JPGAt left is most of the bounty!  There are really only 3 bottles that have a level of sediment and haze I’m not happy with, the rest are almost crystal clear…  And I imagine no one but me will notice the haze.  (but if I have my way we’ll hold those bottles back and only use them if we have to).  Ta da!  Now we let the mead rest upright until it’s time to serve it – oh, about 4 weeks and a day from now!

Riddling the mead!

Posted by Nate in Homebrewing, Wedding.
Tuesday, June 12th, 2007 at 7:55 pm

pict3378.JPGYou will need: 1. Leftover board from… some project…  2. Hole saw and drill bit for guide.  3.  Test bottle of water.  4.  Beer (full).

pict3379.JPGYou will end up with:  1.  A riddling rack with too many holes.  2.  A bent drill bit.  3.  Test bottle of water.  4.  Beer (almost empty).

pict3389.JPGIt’s as easy as that, my friends.  All that’s left is to get the mead in place, put a dab o’ paint on the 12 o’clock position so I know where I’m rotating that day, and start "riddling."  (thanks for the links, Rick!)  In a few months I’ll tackle disgorging, which will certainly be an adventure…

pict3374.JPGTwo bonus pics: happy puppy playdate in CO, and this incredible spider web in our house.  That little guy’s like an eighth of an inch across, pict3385.JPGand we watched him build this amazing tiny web so we decided he could stay for now…

Coming up:  I think I found the perfect solution to our outdoor sound system needs!

Chest freezer dying?

Posted by Nate in Consumers, Homebrewing.
Wednesday, April 18th, 2007 at 10:20 am

Dear beer lovers everywhere,

743359_grave_stone.jpgI write to you today with almost unbearably bad news: the much beloved Kegenator (V1.0) is in distress.  It is unable to keep its precious cargo of beer at a deliciously cool temperature, and isn’t showing any signs of improving.  In fact, only about one quarter of the previous cooling area seems to be working at all.  I’ve made inquiry online as to its prognosis, but honestly I have a bad feeling about this…

The question I put before you today is this: should I scour Craigslist for a cheap replacement and face this same disappointment in a few years time?  Or should I buy a new, modern, and highly efficient replacement?  It already seems unlikely I’ll be able to match the dimensions exactly, which means constructing a new collar…


Happy birthday to me!

Posted by Nate in Beer, Holidays/Birthdays/Etc, Homebrewing.
Tuesday, April 17th, 2007 at 10:45 am

Even if I had been able to call up the weatherman and order a perfect day to kick off the grilling season I don’t know if I could have done better than yesterday.  Just gorgeous, it was reading 73 degrees when we went out back to light the charcoal.

nate_cake.jpgAfter last year‘s Hawaiian cake, this year Karen returned to her natural instincts: chocolate, and a lot of it.    She made a triple layer chocolate stout cake using my homebrewed bourbon oak barrel Imperial Stout…  and it was Truly.  A.  Mazing.  You can see me flexing to hold the thing up.

I also found a recipe for wild rice veggie burgers, which ended up being a big hit.  I need to refine my technique for grilling them, I had to pre-cook them a bit indoors so they would stay intact, but I think there might be a better way.  We also used some natural lump charcoal last night which I’m still getting used to — it burns hotter and faster and is much more responsive to airflow.  But less carcinogens!  I also want one of those chimney things to help light them, I don’t want to keep using lighter fluid…

nate_gun2.jpgscott_gun2.jpgAfter eating and drinking for a while, I busted open a sweet present from Scott and Shannon.  The pictures speak for themselves — you’ll notice we’re both out of nerf darts in our guns but still desperately pulling the trigger.  (And safety glasses on tight, natch).

Lastly, I got some Stranahan’s — and can happily report it’s as awesome as I hoped!  And for a grand finale, Karen got the siblings to go in on a long-overdue pint club membership at Town Hall!!!  That means $1 off every beer I buy there, and free drinks from 4-5 on Saturday!!!  Say goodbye to Saturday afternoons, my friends…  Nate’s going to Town Hall (with Karen – she got one too).  Yay!

cake_half.jpgLike an enormous python, I’m still digesting the cake I ate last night… Yum.  Happy birthday to me!


Posted by Nate in Day to Day, Homebrewing.
Friday, March 2nd, 2007 at 4:39 pm

cask1.jpgGot a snow day today (Karen will hopefully post about the huge snow storm we’ve been getting) which is awesome – gave me time to finish up the caskerator!  (Still debating that name…)  First shot is the saw hooked up to the shop vac, a super nice configuration that lets me do work indoors on crappy days like this.  cask2.jpgAt right is the basic frame constructed.  Essentially I built a frame with plywood and bracing to get the shape, then started slapping 2" foamular insulation on it. 

cask3.jpgAt left you can see the corner detail.  I ended up just using wood glue to attach the foam to the plywood, seems plenty strong, and the interior bracing is good.  The whole structure firms up a ton once the back foam is attached.

3-2-2007-11-46-28-am.JPGHere’s me in my "project" shirt trying to figure out what’s next.  Those playing along at home will notice the kegerator is in the laundry room now – I knew the caskerator piece would be big but as I got it framed I realized the whole thing would be better out of the now-fancy-ish basement.

3-2-2007-12-50-47-pm.JPGAt right I’m cutting holes for the fans and an extra one on the left for gas and beer tubes to run.  By sizing the holes under a bit I could attach the fan right to the foam for a good seal.  My biggest concern in all of this, and a problem I didn’t solve until late in the project, was how to attach the caskerator and the kegenator.  3-2-2007-3-01-04-pm.JPGI was planning on just running a 4" piece of duct between them, but I couldn’t figure out how to seal it tightly and still account for the shift when things moved – I need to pull them off the wall to fill the CO2, adjust pressure, etc…  Eventually I ended up with what you see at left – a built out 2" set of foam with some softer foam insulation attached.  Also you can see the hacked thermostat unit that controls the fans.

3-2-2007-3-32-15-pm.JPGThe basic idea is to take advantage of the angle in the floor.  At right you can see I’ve anchored the caskerator to the kegerator at the base to act as a pivot point. 

3-2-2007-3-32-27-pm.JPGAt left you can see how I’ve shoved little shims under the front wheels to push the soft foam into the kegerator.  It ends up producing a really tight seal and still provides movement so nothing breaks when I move them.

3-2-2007-3-23-19-pm.JPGHere’s the kegs inside before closing it up – you can also just make out a wood and foam shaft I built to direct the air intake to up near the top.  I wanted every connection into the kegerator to have the cold air on the downhill side so it didn’t fall into the caskerator and make it too cold.  We’ll see how that works.

3-2-2007-3-39-17-pm.JPGFinally, success!  I’ve only got a british bitter on tap right now, but I’ve got a Scottish 80 Shilling standing by as soon as a tap frees up!

Kegenator addition

Posted by Nate in Homebrewing.
Friday, February 23rd, 2007 at 4:05 pm

An artist’s rendering of what the addition might look like.
(cutaway view)

The kegenator is almost exactly a year old.  It has faithfully poured many a hearty pint in that year, but lately it’s started to seem a little, I don’t know, lonely…  It must need a friend!

Our trip to Scotland gave us the chance to sample many cask-poured real ales (check out CAMRA), and gave me a hankering to replicate that sort of flavor at home.  A quick look at prices told me that a full beer engine was out of reach – let alone the two I wanted! – which left me looking for alternatives.  Real ale is often hand-pumped (via the "engine") from the cellar, but it used to be much more commonly poured from a chest-level cask.

With that in mind, I’ve set out to create an affordable-yet-delicious real ale serving setup at home.  I’m designing a separate chamber to hold the inverted kegs above the level of the faucets, and will rig up some ducts and a fan to pull in just enough air from the kegerator to keep this new chamber at "cellar temperature", about 52 degrees F.  The happy side benefit to this temperature and the fact the kegs are elevated is I’ll have plenty of room underneath for lager fermentation!  Holy two birds with one stone, batman!

… of course, we’re forecast to be snowed in this weekend, so I may be forced to delay this project.  Hopefully not too long, though, last night I transferred a British Bitter into one of the inverted kegs – it should be naturally carbonating as I type and ready within a week or two.  AND there’s a Scottish 80 Shilling fermenting now!  Yum…

Pictures of the build coming soon, I hope.

From Thanksgiving to the Toilet Bowl!

Posted by Karen in Bruno, Friends, Holidays/Birthdays/Etc, Homebrewing.
Monday, November 27th, 2006 at 11:59 pm

I declartable-spread.JPGe Thanksgiving a raging success!  This was Duoteam’s first real adult dinner party.  We used china, dude.  And I was a decorating fool, it was so freaking festive in here.  As I was scurrying around filling dishes with different kinds of candy and nuts and lighting pumpkin-scented candles I suddenly realized that I have become my grandma. 

There was so much food that some of it was barely even touched.  Here’s a list of what I can remember: turkey, ham, Turducknate-plate.JPGen, chestnut soup, pralined yams, beer yams, garlic mashed potatoes and gravy, regular stuffing, oyster stuffing, broccoli salad, green bean casserole, regular rolls and pumpkin rolls with orange butter, pumpkin dip with graham crackers, candied oranges with chocolate ganache, and cranberries.  To drink there was a wide variety of homebrew (Nate’s as well as Scott and Cody’s), homemade ginger ale, brandy, and wine.  Here is a weirdly lit picture of Nate with two, count ’em, two platefulls ready to go.  That’s my boy.

Wait,firemen2.JPG back up.  The Turducken.  The thing of legend and/or myth.  The long-awaited turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken.  And in this case, stuffed with creole shrimp.  I decided to postpone being a vegetarian for this Thanksgiving so as to help out with the vast quantities of meat and because frankly, if a Turducken is in your house you damn well better try it!  But there ended up being so much other awesome food that I was just way more excited about, so I didn’t really eat much of the meat.  I tried some of the Turducken, and for me personally, it was kind of a let-down.  And that’s all I have to say about that.  n-s-pie.JPGBut here is an awesome photo of the boys during deep-frying of the turkey. 

Then for dessert there were 3 different kinds of pumpkin pie: regular, lots of coconut, and just a little coconut with bourbon.  And fresh whipped cream.  Mmmmm.  We all ate ourselves into serious discomfort.  Sierra fell asleepsierra-dog-toys.JPG and Nate proceeded to put things on top of her and take pictures.  Like a pumpkin.  And all of Bruno’s toys.  Eventually we all wandered out to the park to play some horseshoes (Grandma and Grandpa Schroeder just gave us a set – sweet!).  Sierra and I dominated. 

In the evening more friends joined us for some mulled wine and Hoopla.  I haven’t spent much time with my friends for awhile now, so for me it was so great just to have everyone together.  And to not be crabby.  And to not fall asleep in the middle of all the fun. 
Every year Cody puts together a post-Thanksgiving football game which he likes to call the Toilet Bowl.   This was the first year that the Toilet Bowl was held in Minneapolis, and in fact it was at Corcoran Park in our front yard.  We had quiophelia.JPGte a turn-out!  I overheard Cody say later "I’m just not used to playing with people who are… physically fit."  In addition to the football, there were babies!  Or I guess, a baby and a toddler, since Ophelia suddenly became an official toddler, temper tantrums and all (I have yet to actually witness one, I’ve just heard tell from Anni).  Part of the reason for the grbruno-duke.JPGeat turn-out was because Madeline brought her entire family.  This meant a surprise visit from Dusty and Victoria, who were our neighbors for like 3 days before they moved to Iowa.  Boo.  But they brought with them their new dog and Bruno’s new best friend, Duke! 
After the football, everyone came over for some snacks and even more homebrew with the addition of Dusty and Victoria’s brews.  The great Pumpkin Beer-Off took place, which was a taste test between Nate and Scotty’s pumpkin beers.  Here is Peacock, showing us her tasting technique, and possibly her future parenting technique…  Needless to say, both beers were delightful and enjoyed by all.  But Nate’s "Liquid Pie" is a tough one to beat.

I’ve missed my friends.  I’ve missed Nate.  I’ve missed having people over and just enjoying their good company.  This was a much-needed holiday, and I’m so thankful to have gotten to spend it with such wonderful people.  And I’m thankful for this pumpkin-turkey.  pict0004.JPG

3 days, 3 beers

Posted by Nate in Homebrewing.
Friday, October 27th, 2006 at 10:05 pm

The kegenator was looking pretty sad with nothing ready on tap, and what with the holidays fast approaching I knew some drastic measures were needed.  Behold!
(clockwise from the back)
Wednesday: Rye Stout (Christmas)
Thursday: Jalapeño Cream Ale (Sierra’s birthday)
Friday: Mild Ale brewed with wild rice (Thanksgiving)

Say it with me: yum.  Also have a pumpkin beer aging to perfection which should be the crown jewel of the Thanksgiving lineup, although I have to remember to save some for my dad – it’s one of his favorites.  And an attempted clone of Town Hall’s Thunderstorm, an amber ale brewed with orange blossom honey, lemongrass, and … coriander?  I forget.  Mine’s got the honey and I steeped a whole box of the Mandarin Orange Spice tea in there.  Really delicious so far.

(The shirts and tubs of water are twofold: the shirts block the light which can skunk the beer and the water wicks up the shirts keeping the beer nice and cool as it ferments)