I got kind of tired wasting C02 to push line cleaner and sanitizer through my draft lines. I began devising a plan to use compressed air instead but then like a lightning bolt from the sky I had a vision to use simple physics and gravity instead. This vision was quickly followed by another vision of Denny Conn speaking to me, “Cheap and easy, man! Cheap and easy!”
So I sourced myself a particular SS fitting, a 1/4″ MPT to barb, and a standard 2 liter soda bottle. I drilled a hole through the cap and pushed the barbed end of the SS fitting through the top of the cap. The tighter the fit the better. Unless you have some sort of seal around the barbed end, expect a leak but it will be minimal.
Fill your 2 liter bottle with your choice of cleanser or sanitizer, depending on whatever stage of cleaning you are at.
Attach to your line. (Honestly, if you aren’t using threaded QDs by now, you are making your life more difficult) Invert, open your tap and let gravity take over.
Unless you affix some sort of air inlet, you will have to squeeze your 2 liter bottle. No biggie.
Cleanse, rinse and sanitize to your hearts content. Pour yourself a homebrew to reward your brilliance.
Sometimes we forget of all the beverages we can make at home other than beer. Whether you know it or not, you already have the equipment and most of the knowledge to expand to things like cider and wine. Soda pop is also in your tool box. The biggest motivator for making 5 gallons of soda is usually kids. If you have kids, they most likely love soda pop. If you are like me, you limit your kids soda pop intake to some degree or another. But for some reason, I take off the worried parent hat when it comes to home made soda. And I think the reason is because I know whats in it. I know whats making it sweet and my opinion is that kids are better off drinking a soda made with real sugar than high fructose corn syrup and a bunch of chemicals I can’t pronounce.
The first thing you have to decide is if you are going to go the quick and easy route, or you want to get your geek on and make soda pop from scratch. We have a recipe book at Humboldt Beer Works that has dozens of recipes for soda that have spices, fruits and roots and yes, that’s how it was done 100 years ago. But when you flip through the recipes, you quickly realize some of the ingredients may be hard to find. Go for it if you want, but I don’t. The easy route is just getting a small bottle of soda flavoring or extract. From here on out, I’m going to be talking about specifically root beer made with extract, but other sodas are all pretty much the same.
Next, you need to decide if you are going to keg your root beer or bottle it. Kegging it is the easy route. If you want to bottle your root beer, you will need bottles, caps and about 5 grams of yeast. Almost any yeast will do, but preferably you want a clean finishing yeast like US05 or champagne yeast.
Before we go any further, you need to commit to getting some extra equipment. Here is the thing. Root beer extract, and some other soda extracts, is very potent and the smell of root beer will permeate everything thats plastic or rubber. Lets just say stainless steel is the only material safe from permanent root beer smell and taste. So if you are dispensing from a keg, you need a dedicated hose line and quick disconnect. I prefer to just have a dedicated keg for root beer as well. You can go back to using a keg for beer. After all, these were soda kegs at one point, right? The issue is in the o-rings. You can clean your kegs good enough but you should be ready to swap out your o-rings if you want to use that keg for beer again. This also applies to bottling root beer. You need a dedicated bucket for mixing the root beer and bottling it.
Next, the recipe. The great thing about home made anything is that you can tweak your recipe to your liking. I use the extract, 1 tablespoon of vanilla and sugar and honey totaling 5 pounds, but you want to have a balance of a pound on either side with the honey or sugar. I have made a batch that is heavy on the honey and it came out a bit thin and lacked body. Some batches I’ve done 3 pounds of sugar and 2 pounds of honey and vice versa. With this batch, I went with 2.5 pounds each.
Right now you may be choking a bit. “Two and a half pounds of sugar? For a five gallon batch?” Yes, thats the nature of sugary soda pop. It is my belief sugar is less harmful to your body than aspartame. Especially in the long term. But as with everything else, moderation is key. Its going to take several months for my kids to finish off this 5 gallon batch of root beer. I have made a “lite” root beer. Remember the mostly honey batch I mentioned before? I ended up adding a little sugar, less than a pound, and also 8 ounces of dextrine. The dextrine fixed the problem with the thin body.
Next, get your vessel, whether bucket or keg, and get a couple gallons of hot water. Its best to have it around 150 degrees or you can use really hot tap water. I have an on-demand water heater that kicks out 120 degree water, so I just go with it.
There is no need to be super accurate about the volume of water, just try to get at least two gallons in your vessel. Now lets add your ingredients!
Next, stir the heck out of it. I actually stirred this batch prior to adding my root beer extract because I don’t want my plastic brew spoon ruined. If you have a stainless steel spoon, you have no need to worry. Get it stirred and the sugars dissolved. You can even let it sit for a while to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Next, top off your vessel with cold water.
Yep, straight from my kitchen sink sprayer. Once you have topped off to 5 gallons, you are done if you are kegging. If you are bottling, make sure the root beer is within temperature range for the yeast you are using and then mix that in as well. Bottle like you already know how to bottle and you are done. If you think about it, bottled root beer has a tiny amount of alcohol in it using this process. Most commercially bottled root beer, especially “craft” root beer is carbonated another way. By carbonating in the bottle, you are “bottle conditioning” your root beer. Similar to regular beer, most people use a little bit of corn sugar when they bottle. Some people use yeast or even dry malt extract. The point is you are trying to make another tiny fermentation inside the bottle by adding more yeast or more sugar to your homebrewed beer. Since root beer already has the sugar present, your only choice for making bubbles is adding a small amount of yeast. Although hard root beers do exist, your root beer will not have the opportunity to make any significant amount of alcohol.
At this point, if you are bottling, you are done. With kegging, there are a couple more considerations to carbonate and dispense. I’ve already drilled it into your head you need dedicated tubing, but you also need a lot of it. Like 20 feet of it. Soda is carbonated at around 4 volumes of Co2. No beer comes close to that so you aren’t used to needing 20 feet of tubing. I’m not going to get into the physics of it here, but basically if your dispensing line was only 1 foot long, your root beer will come out foamy. So would regular beer. Besides, your root beer c02 dispensing pressure is also much higher than regular beer. It doesn’t have to be high for dispensing, but if you want to set your regulator and forget it, your PSI will most likely be 20 or more. It depends on your system balance. You need the long length of tubing because the root beer needs the distance to travel to come out fizzy but not all foam. Also, your dispensing tubing has thicker walls compared to racking tubing. Its a mix of restriction, pressure and distance traveled that needs balance.
Making root beer may sound difficult but compared to beer but its not. And the first time you make a root beer float with your home made root beer, you know you have done something worth while. Of course, the next step to making that perfect root beer float is making your own ice cream……
“How hard is it to brew?” That’s a question I’ve been asked I don’t know how many times. My canned answer is “Its like making soup. You follow a recipe.” Of course, there is more to it than that. Much of it is what you do after the brewing is done. Sanitation and fermentation are the other areas to really focus on and don’t need a whole lot of instruction, but I will touch upon them.
Brewing and the art of beer making can be very intensive and ever-evolving. You can go nuts if you want to. Below is a jumping off point to give you an idea on what it takes to start. Nobody starts out with a “Pliny The Elder” quality beer on their first batch. Like anything, you have to learn to crawl before you can walk.
To start out, you will need equipment. The easiest way to get this is through an “equipment kit” that has all the gadgets and fermenters and a few supplies to get you off the ground. Most kits come with (but vary):
7.8 Gallon Primary Fermenting Bucket
6 Gallon Glass Carboy with Rubber Stopper
3-Piece Airlock (for Fermenting Bucket)
Adhesive Thermometer (for Fermenting Bucket)
Twin Lever Capper
Beer Bottle Brush
You will also need a stainless steel kettle that is at least 7-7.5 gallons. Some people start out with smaller kettles. Its good to start out with this size from the beginning if you can. You will probably eventually upgrade anyway. You want a bigger pot so you don’t have to make a condensed wort. Homebrewed beer recipes are usually made to 5 gallons. Most equipment, especially starter equipment is scaled for 5 gallon batches. So why not start with a 5 gallon kettle? Well, you can, but its better to do a full volume boil rather than a partial boil and topping it off with water in the fermenter. Often times, you will see beginner instructions teach this method. You need a bigger kettle so you can boil a full 6-6.5 gallons of wort. After evaporation and trub loss, you should land around 5 gallons. Doing it the other way, you often end up with 3-3.5 gallons of wort and you are “topping off” with clean water in your fermenter. In doing this, you will have a caramelized flavor (extract twang) and your hop utilization will be off.
Beer has four basic ingredients: malt, hops, water and yeast. “Malt” for beginners is going to come in the form of malt extract, either liquid or dry. When you graduate to intermediate and advanced brewing, this malt will be in the form of grain. The extract has taken the step of mashing out of the equation. Most extract recipes also include “steeping grains”, which are usually crystal or roasted grains. This gives the extract brew some extra dimension in the form of body, color and flavor. Now lets look at each ingredient separately:
Malt: This will be providing all the fermentable sugars that the yeast is going to feed upon. All alcohol gets its fermentable sugar from some source or another. Beer just happens to come from malted barley.
Hops: These are actually flowers from a vine and provide the bitterness and some aroma in the beer. Adding hops to the boiling wort (and sometimes before and after the wort is boiled) at different times imparts bitterness, flavor and aroma.
Water: Beer is mostly water and can often be a signature to a beer. It is often the reason why styles emerge out of certain geographic areas. For example, the soft water of the Pilzen region in the Czech Republic is ideal for pale lagers and that is what the region is known for. But it wouldn’t do well for English bitters, who’s water tends to be harder and the beer styles that have emerged from there are tailored to that type of water.
Yeast: These are the critters that eat the sugar. The by-product of this is C02 and alcohol. When the yeast gets to work, they warm things up a bit and multiply.
Now that we have everything in place, we can brew. Keep in mind, lots of step by step instructions very just a little bit and this will be no different. Most follow a basic process so don’t let the different nuances bother you.
Collect your 6.5 gallons of water and heat it to about 160 degrees. Then add your steeping grains in the steeping bag and hold that temperature for about 10-15 minutes. At the end of that time, remove the steeping bag and let it drain. Resist the urge to squeeze it. This will just extract some unwanted tannins.
Turn up your heat and bring the water close to a boil. Turn off the flame then add your malt extract. If you add the extract with the flame on, it could scorch on the bottom of the kettle. Turn your flame back on and bring to a boil. Once you are at a boil, that begins your 60 minute countdown timer. Your recipe most likely has hop additions with times noted beside it. If your recipe has a 60 minute addition, add them now. These hops will be providing the bitterness. Hops added later will be geared more towards aroma. Some beers like stouts and wheats have a bitterness addition only. These beers aren’t known for hop aroma.
An hour has passed, and you have added all the hops according to your recipe. Time to chill the beer down as fast as you can. The moment you turn off the flame, everything that touches the wort needs to be sanitized. Most beginners start out with an ice bath to chill the beer down. That method can take a few hours. Its ok, but you want to get the wort down to 65 degrees as soon as you can so you can add the yeast. Its important to get the fermenting process happening as soon as possible. The quicker alcohol is present, the less chance of infection. Don’t let that scare you. Basically, get the good bugs going before the bad bugs take hold. Chilling can be done by using a copper immersion chiller that you run cold water through. And sanitizing the chiller is as easy as dropping it in the wort with about 15 minutes left in the boil. Pause the timer until it comes back to a boil.
Now that the wort is chilled to about 65 degrees, you can transfer the wort to a sanitized fermenter. Making this process as vigorous as possible is good. Aerating the wort is important for shorter lag times (time between pitching the yeast and fermentation starting). If you put the wort in a glass fermenter, this may actually knock off a couple of more degrees.
Add your yeast, affix a stopper and airlock and you have just made beer.
Most ales will need to ferment for about 10 days. In the correct environment, most of the fermentation is going to be done in the first few days but you really want it to sit undisturbed for about 10-14 days. But disclaimer here: Fermentation doesn’t have a timer. Let your hydrometer tell you when its done. Lagers have a much more intensive fermentation schedule and I won’t even get into that in a beginner focused blog post.
Of course, there are a tons of variations in processes, methods, ingredients etc., and it does get much more advanced if you want it to be. This is a basic rundown of what you can expect on your first brew day. Everyone evolves their own style and that’s the great thing about homebrew. If you want a good example of the wonderful variety of the world of homebrew, you should consider attending the 2013 Humboldt Homebrewers Festival, April 6th at the Arcata Community Center.
Oxidation. Typically, that’s an unwanted effect in your finished beer. This is true for most beers, especially in lighter style beers, but in sweeter, heavier and higher alcohol beers it can have a sherry like element that is desirable and is most prominent in old ales. Continue reading “Racking From a Carboy Into a Keg Under Pressure”
For years, I’ve been searching for an Irish grown malt. I never really cared for English malt because it was too bready and biscuit like for my taste. In fact, I’m not a fan of English ingredients entirely, so if you know where to get Irish grown hops, let me know. Occasionally I would do a Google search, get two or three pages deep, click onto a few leads and get nowhere when it came to availability in America. I conducted one such search in late summer 2012 and finally saw two names on one page that stopped me dead in my tracks. Malting Company of Ireland and Brewers Supply Group were staring at me in the same sentence on a global commodities distribution website. Brewers Supply Group is my malt supplier.
I immediately sent an email to my supplier. “Yes,” was the reply, “we have the stout and lager malt available in our California warehouse.” I got the spec sheets and the stout malt was a light lovibond and it didn’t look like there were any problems with using this malt in a lighter colored beer. In fact, this malt, by the numbers, is very similar to Golden Promise. The low protein and high extract had me dreaming of making IPA stand for “Irish Pale Ale”.
The sack of malt came in with a delivery and I took it home. Due to the madness of moving Humboldt Beer Works, I didn’t get a chance to brew with this malt until Veterans Day. The week before, I ran into Peter Hoey of Brewers Supply Group, formerly of Bison Brewing and we ended up going to Strange Brew together that day. He said this was some of the best malt he has ever seen and was hoping to brew with it soon.
I had originally planned on doing a pale ale, but after speaking with Peter, I changed my mind to a SMaSH beer, single malt, single hop. Since this was such a new (perhaps, unproven) malt, I wanted to see what it could do on its own without interference from color or roasted malts. Also, since I’m such a fan of Anchor Steam, my go-to dual purpose hop is Northern Brewer.
Deciding my recipe was done. 100% Malting Company of Ireland Stout Malt, Northern Brewer hops all around to 25 IBUs and of course, Irish Ale yeast. I adjusted my recipe to give me an OG of 1.052 and proceeded with my brew day as normal.
I should have known something was wrong –or right– when I took my pre-boil gravity reading and it was 1.052. My pre-boil was my target original gravity. I needed this measurement to figure out my efficiency. Assuming 35 points of extract –which is fairly average for base malts– I had achieved 95% efficiency. If this malts point value is closer to Golden Promise, my efficiency only drops by 1%. I was so stunned I took two different samples and my results were the same.
Regardless, I extracted a lot of fermentable sugars out of the grain.
My original gravity ended up at 1.058. I fermented with Wyeast 1084 at 62 degrees. The beer finished at 1.009. I was hoping for something more session strength and landed at 6.4% ABV. I did not secondary.
I kegged up the beer and finally poured a draft. What I tasted was a well rounded, full mouthfeel beer. Despite finishing on the dry side, you could not tell. This beer was still malty and didn’t taste dry at all. I didn’t achieve good clarity, but I wasn’t trying either. I happened to run out of Whirlfloc so I used no finings, I didn’t cold crash and I didn’t secondary. It produced a wonderful, pillowy head and was all around delicious.
In the foreseeable future, I don’t plan on using any other malt. I’m going to continue on with my pale ale idea, but now I’m beginning to think this malt would make a fantastic barleywine. So I’m considering both in a partigyle batch. Almost every style of ale with this malt is begging to be tested out.
Malting Company of Ireland makes lager, stout, ale and distillers malt. The stout malt is available at Humboldt Beer Works now.
Saturday, December 1st, I was at Humboldt Beer Works schlepping homebrew supplies and I received a phone call. I don’t even know who it was, I didn’t recognize the name. “I’m reading in an email that you won ‘Best Northern California Homebrew Supply Shop’ in the Northwest Brewing News Reader Poll.”
Silence. Processing. “Uh, what?” was my dumbfounded reply, still trying to figure out who I was speaking to. I obtained an email address of the editor of the Northwest Brewing News, Alan Moen, and fired off a query.
Yes, sure enough, we won. As did the Local Beer Bar for Best Nor Cal Alehouse/Pub and Best Nor Cal Beer Store and Redwood Curtain Brewing Company for Best Nor Cal Nano Brewery. I know what you are thinking on that last one.
Humboldt Beer Works spent most of this voting year in a small space that was less than 300 square feet. But by golly, we packed that place with everything you needed to brew. Our goal was to move into a bigger space within a year, and we did it in the 10th month of operations. We quadrupled our size and expanded our offerings and couldn’t have done that without all of you and many of you voted. Thank you.
The Local Beer Bar opened in March of 2012 and instantly, owner Darren Cartledge put himself on the map as a beer destination. He cut his teeth at Blondie’s Food And Drink in Arcata and hit the ground running with The Local. One of the great reasons to visit The Local is that you can go two days in a row and the beer menu won’t be the same. There is never a shortage of interesting beers at The Local, both tap and bottle. This award is well deserved.
Another well deserved award, albeit misguided, is for Redwood Curtain Brewing Company. But lets make this clear, Redwood Curtain is not a nano brewery. Not even close. So you have heard the 2012 story of Humboldt Beer Works and The Local Beer Bar, now hear Redwood Curtains 2012 story.
Actually no, the ugly part doesn’t need to be retold. The brewery operated previously as a partnership in the beginning of the year and in August, a sea change forced owner Drake Mollberg to take the helm. But that wasn’t all. This sudden transformation punched Drake right in the face during a brewery expansion and the impending birth of his child. All at once, his life got very multi-faceted. Not only did he become sole owner, but he took on all the brewing duties.
So I hereby rename Redwood Curtain’s award to Best NorCal Brewery Owner, because Drake truly deserves it.
I’ve been singing this song for a year. Humboldt County is a craft beer destination in the making. Here’s proof.
It was one of those ideas that a homebrew club lives for. But it was certainly not a new concept for homebrewers. We hatched a plan to brew up a bunch of beer, in this case 20 gallons, and dose each gallon with a different yeast. We didn’t make it to 20 different yeasts but enough to make it interesting. And in January, we plan on getting together and tasting them all. One of the primary goals of a homebrew club should be education and this was great education in yeast and how important of a role it plays in beer.
10 brave souls with 13 different yeasts in hand endured one of the worst days of weather in Humboldt in 2012. But no matter, the testing ground was Heatherdowns Brewery — uber geeky homebrewery approaching nanobrewery owned by uber geeky homebrewer approaching nanobrewer, Jere Cox.
Jere is one of those guys who became introduced into homebrewing with a gift from his wife for Christmas years ago. Little did she know that he would go nuts and fill their garage with a monster stainless 20 gallon system and externally heated/cooled conical fermenter. We are ever in her debt for that wonderful gift.
Over the course of a few weeks, interest spread and people signed up to take part. Here is a rundown of all the yeasts that were used:
Mad River house yeast (American Ale)
Wyeast 1028 London Ale
Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale
Wyeast 1450 Dennys Favorite 50
Wyeast 3725 Biere De Garde
Wyeast 3763 Roselare
Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison
Wyeast 1099 Whitbread
Wyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager
Wyeast 2565 Kolsch
Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale
Wyeast 3711 French Saison
Wyeast 3538 Leuven Pale Ale
The base beer was a simple blank slate, which was important in this experiment. 100% pilsener malt, Magnum, Santiam and Tettnanger hops bittered to about 25 IBU’s and an anticipated ABV at just over 5% — but that will vary based on the yeast and fermentation handling by each participant. The baseline beer was going to be Jere’s made with Mad River Brewing’s house strain which lends itself to crisp and clean finishes. All other strains will be compared to this. Each participant agreed to maintain the proper fermentation temperatures to the best of their ability. Yeasts were pretty well matched to their handlers — from the most demanding yeast going to the most experienced brewer and the most forgiving yeast going to the newest brewer. Late fall/early winter brings the mildest of mild temperatures to Humboldt, so the timing was well chosen.
Is your mouth watering in anticipation? It should be! Side by side comparisons of one beer with only one variable changed is one of the best ways to train your palate. It doesn’t matter if you want to be a better brewer or a better taster, this is an experiment for you. How can one taste them all? It would be easy to tell you when and where. Instead, I will send you in the direction of the Humboldt Homebrewers — let your adventure begin there.
November 3rd was a great day for craft beer in my little world. The day started off with Learn To Homebrew Day by the Humboldt Homebrewers and hosted by Humboldt Beer Works. About 8 people took the leap in to learning how to brew their own beer at home which is probably one of the most rewarding hobbies there is. They also got a demonstration on how to make a yeast starter, which will be a future post here at HumbrewNation.
Partway through the demonstration, I turned my attention to someone who I perceived as needing help, and he turned out to be one of my supplier reps, Peter Hoey of Brewers Supply Group, formerly of Odonata Brewing and Bison Brewing. Peter was pleased to see us hosting a Learn To Homebrew day, which he claimed was not common at a homebrew supply store.
That evening was Strangebrew Beerfest 5. I met back up with Peter and we had a pre-flight beer at The Local. I sipped on a Heretic Gamarye as he gave me a lesson on commercial apple cider that will have me reading labels the next time I choose a cider. (hint: make your own…you will know what’s in it)
I’m going to announce my awards in a minute, but first, extra stroke for the Strangebrew folks and their mission. There is nothing better than drinking craft beer for a cause. And this cause is for the restoration of the Eureka Theater and the bigger picture is promoting art and its many forms.
The Eureka Concert & Film Center is dedicated to the education of the general public in film, theatre, music and other art forms, rehabilitating and maintaining its historic facilities for instruction and public performances, displays, exhibits and other events.
They actually manage several events throughout the year. Check out their website.
(announcer voice) And now….the moment you have all been waiting for….awards that mean absolutely nothing…. based on personal perception and slight bias….accolades that participating breweries will be sure not to brag or even know about….I give you the First Annual HumbrewNation Awards For The Fifth Annual Strangebrew Beerfest! (cymbals crash)
Best Sours: Six Rivers for both the peach and apricot
Best Beer With Wormwood: Humboldt Regeneration with their Absinthe Wheat Wine.
Best Jello Shot: Six Rivers for their Chili Ale Jello Shot (there were no other jello shots, so I can honestly say it was the best)
Best Name for a Beer: Mad River for “Some Dickworthy Shit” (would really like to know the back story to that)
Best Beer That Doesn’t Exist: Marshmallow Kiwi Corn Flake Witbier by….. I forget who.
The “Beer I Really Wish I Had Skipped” Award: Mad River “Return of the Mothership” aka “Funkadelica”
The Palate Wrecker Award: Mad River “Return of the Mothership” aka “Funkadelica”
Best Beer That Wasn’t Beer: Six Rivers for “Norby’s Donkey Punch”
Best Brewery I Didn’t Even Try: Redwood Curtain Brewing Company. (Told ya it was biased)
Beer I Would Like To See Year Round: Mad Rivers “Some Dickworthy Shit” (porter aged in Four Roses barrel)
Best Meat Beer: Mad Rivers “Hawaiian Spamalot” (“dry spammed” in the keg)
Yes, Mad River is represented very well in the FAHAFTFASB and that’s probably due to the fact that they came with the most variety. Their booth alone probably had almost half of the Strangebrew 5 offerings. You can tell Dylan Schatz and his crew are thinking about Strangebrew all year long. Their Strangebrew beer ranged from fairly normal one-offs, to interesting beers from funkytown all the way to beers with ingredients that had absolutely no business being in beer. But that’s the great thing about beer. You can put almost any consumable product in it and at various stages in the brew process. Some are winners and some are stinkers.
Rumor has it that Oskar Blues was very interested in coming to Strangebrew and there is a wide ranging interest in it from several out-of-the-area breweries. But the floor of the theater with seats installed is a very small area and it was pretty full as it was. I’m not sure how many breweries it will take (and an increase it ticket sales) before the Strangebrew folks give in and manage a bigger venue and festival.
Thanks to Sonny and the rest of the Strangebrew crew for all their hard work.
And congratulations to the award winners. Please don’t add them to your list of awards you actually brag about.