Archive | June, 2012

Lagunitas Maximus IPA Review

26 Jun

I saw this little beauty in a local liquor store being sold as a single and decided to give it a try. I like most Lagunitas beers although I can’t say I am all that familiar with them. They are located 40 miles north of San Francisco so their beer is real easy to find in the bay area and hopefully I can go on a trip up there soon. Anyway, here is the beer; Maximus clocks in at 8.2% alcohol with 59 I.B.U. which should make for a good night. This beer pours a medium amber color with a nose of floral and fruity hops that jumps out at you. This drinks fairly easily and is well balanced with its modest 59 IBU. It tastes more malty and bready than you would expect, but it works well to balance the higher alcohol.  Flavors of honey and fruit are very apparent in the taste as well, moving to a slightly bitter finish. Overall very modest for a big IPA and a little on the sweet side with the honey flavor starting to be slightly cloying. Its clearly a well done beer with a large malt profile. I am not sure I would order more than one but with the 8.2% alcohol one may be all you need.

Overall 3.8 out of 5

Happy drinking

Fermentation notes on Kentucky Uncommon

10 Jun

Just under a week now and the yeast is mostly finished doing its job. I pitched the two yeasts at noon on Sunday and when I checked it the next morning I was greeted by a standard krausen on both beers. I used Nottingham in one and US-05 in the other. On day two of fermentation,  the beer with Nottingham fell out and the beer with US-05 still had a small krausen. By the middle of day 2, both krausens had completely fallen out. A gravity read showed both beers at 1.010, that’s 2.6 Brix for you “Plato Nerds” (<—–Mark?). From 1.040 SG or 10 Brix to 1.010 FG or 2.6 Brix was rather quick but good!

I figured it was time to pitch the fruit and let the yeast finish it up. I weighed out 1.5 pounds of cherry puree and 1.5 pounds of raspberry puree for each beer. On day 4 of fermentation there was a small krausen and the beers were a deep reddish purple, like a nice black cherry soda. On day 5, most of the krausen had fallen out on both beers once again and on day 6 another gravity reading put both beers at the 1.007 mark or 1.8 Brix. This will give it a nice dry finish. I’m guessing over the next week the yeast will be able to lower it one more point.

DIY Stir Plate

9 Jun

As some of you may know I am an avid DIYer.  I just love building and tinkering with things so I am actually surprised that I haven’t had a DIY project on here yet. If you don’t usually “do it yourself” a stir plate is an easy way to start, since its fairly uncomplicated and pretty rewarding. First off, what made me build a stir plate instead of just buying one?  Well, cost for one. A common homebrew stir plate can run anywhere from $40 to $100(higher for laboratory quality). I built mine for about $20 but I did have some supplies handy that would have cost me an extra $15 or so. The second reason for this stir plate is in my search to purchase a stir plate I found a lot of unhappy reviews and ill designed/cheaply made products.  In my opinion, no company has stood out to make a quality home brew stir plate at a reasonable price. So I set out to build one, and if you look around on the internet this is a fairly common practice with tons of online resources and information.

Through my research, this is what I came up with.

It is a USB powered computer fan that came with its own speed knob which I fitted with a magnet and protective plexiglass covering. This thing runs like a dream, powerful enough for 2l and infinitely adjustable speed with the awesome knob/potentiometer that the fan came with.

Want to build one now? I thought you might, here is what your gonna need.

1- A 120mm computer Fan. Any will work for a variation of this project but you want the one with the integrated potentiometer. This fan is made by Thermaltake and can be found HERE on amazon.

2- A magnet. Not any magnet, a VERY strong magnet. You can purchase neodymium magnets online that will do the job but I got mine out of an old computer hard drive. These magnets are strong and most importantly the stirbars center properly on them.

3- A pack of small washers and one tiny nut and bolt.  The washers I got came in a pack at hardware store, they are a little less than 1/2in in diameter with about 1/8in hole. These washers don’t fit perfectly but they don’t really need to, so anything close will work. You also need one tiny nut and bolt approx 1/8 in by 1/2in long to attach the knob to the plexiglass top. I used a small self threading screw I had, but i wouldn’t recommend it because unless you are very careful you can break the plexiglass.

6- Plexiglass and spraymount. If you don’t have any laying around, my suggestion would be to go to a framing store. Ask the framer if he has any scrap pieces of plexiglass. (They usually do, since plexiglass is used for framing large artwork and is cut to size) You can offer to buy it off them for a couple bucks but they will usually just give it to you. I got my piece which was about 20″ x 36″ for free, since they were just going to throw it in the trash. If you go to a chain like Micheals or Aaron Brothers they will also have spray mount. Buy the smallest one you can find. I had repositionable spraymount at my house so this is what I used and in my opinion permanent strength is not needed.

5- Stirplate supplies. You want to make yeast when your done right? Well your gonna want a flask, DME, and most importantly a stirbar all are easy to find online or at you local homebrew store. You NEED the stirbar to properly place your magnet, so just get all your goodies at once. I found that the bars 1″ through 1.25″ work best. You want your bar to be about a long as your magnet, this will ensure the bar is centered and spins true.

6- A USB charger.  Chances are you already have one, (my fiance did!) or you can source one online or at a local thrift store. If you cant find a USB charger you can use any ac-dc converter with about 5v and ~1000 miliamps.  My charger is 2amps (2000 miliamps) but this fan does not draw that much power and is rated for 5v at .3 amps for a max of 3.6 watts. You might have to do some testing if you chose power supply rated for a different amperage or even volts, but if you go higher on the volts you have to use less amps to not fry the fan. If you are changing the power supply please do  yourself a favor and do the appropriate research. ALSO you should know enough about electricity to be safe, and use good judgement even though these are low voltage systems.(I am not responsible if you electrocute yourself.)

7- Tools. You will need a screwdriver(Phillips#2) a drill with a decent bit set, a metal ruler/straightedge a utility knife and a pen.

Sound complicated yet? Its really not. You can do it, I know you can!

Here is how the fan comes.

This fan is more expensive than a normal pc fan, but this one is SOLID and has a built in potentiometer for speed control. It also comes with a retractable USB cord that hooks right up to the fan. Take your screwdriver and take off the protective shielding and speed control knob. Keep the little bolts that hold these on and we will reuse them to attach the plexiglass.

Then get your plexiglass, ruler/straight edge a pen and utility knife, we are going to cut this sucker to size.

For those of you who haven’t worked with plexiglass, its not all that hard but keep in mind it is slightly brittle so be careful with it. If you score properly the plexiglass will easily snap with clean lines. First measure out a 6.5″ section and make a line with your pen on the protective outer plastic(keep this on). When you have that, properly place your straight edge and score along it. I used a cutting mat under my plexi so I didn’t mar up the kitchen table but anything even cardboard will work.I like to do the first passes light, then once I have a groove I try to put more and more pressure on it. I did mine easily with 3 light passes and 3 hard passes from edge to edge.

Once your satisfied with your scoring place your plexiglass on the edge of the table like so, with the ruler on top.(scoring facing up)

Hold the ruler tight to the face of the plexi and in one quick motion push down on the outside piece of plexiglass. It should just snap right off giving you a nice clean break. Repeat this process until you have a nice square 6.5×6.5 inch piece of plexiglass for the top of your stir plate.

Now we need to drill the mounting holes into your new plexiglass top. Mark your holes where you need to drill. I did mine with a leftover plastic fan shield from a past stir plate project but you can use the metal fan shield that came with the fan just as easily. Center it and tape it to the plexiglass then just drill the holes out. You can use the bolts that came with the fan to check you holes and see how they will sit when assembled.

Note that drilling plexiglass can be hard, you can easily  crack it if not careful. I like to start with a very small bit and gradually move up to the size I want, I usually use 3-4 different drill bits. This is a good time to drill your hole appropriate for your knob, it should be 1/4″ in from top left corner.  Congratulations you now have a slick stir plate top that is easy to clean and protects you stir plate from the threat of exploding starter krausen.

Now we are going to place your magnet. First we apply the spray mount. Do this outside and on top of something because this stuff can be nasty. Give your magnet a light coat of spray mount from opposite directions. Less is more with spraymount, you don’t want it to run or be too goopy. Let it dry. Yea you heard me right, let it dry. This stuff will stay sticky and will coat the magnet and not come off, making your life much easier.

What you see on the magnet isn’t spray mount, its residual glue from the hard drive. It wasn’t going to interfere so i didn’t worry about it. You should barely be able to tell by looking at your magnet that you sprayed it, but it will be sticky.

Then place your magnet on the appropriate side of your fan as close to centered as you can.

This is the hardest and most critical part of the project. If the magnet is not properly centered your stir bar will spin uneven and get thrown off the magnet. This is why we have repostionable spray mount, you should be able to move your magnet just by pushing on it or peeling it up and replacing it. You will need your stir bar and you flask with water to test that its centered properly.

If you can’t tell, I taped two washers to the bottom of my plexiglass so I could test, reposition the magnet and test some more. This magnet gave me a hard time because the bar is attracted to one side more than the other. My bar kept getting thrown and I couldn’t figure out why until I looked down at the bar and where it sat on the magnet. Remember we aren’t necessarily centering the magnet just the stir bar to the spinning of the fan. After that my stir plate worked perfectly and the bar spun true at all speeds. I marked around my magnet when I found that perfect spot, so if for any reason it moved or I wanted to take it off i can.

After that all that is left to do is assemble and finish up. Make sure you put your washers on to keep the magnet from hitting the bottom of the plexiglass. Bolt your knob down using another washer on the bottom side and make sure all your connectors are on tight. That’s it! You now have a stir plate that in my opinion looks better than most on the market, is just as functional, and cost a fraction of the price. Plug it in and start propagating yeast!

Stop shaking that starter home brewers! A stir plate is grows twice as much healthy yeast as a normal starter so get to it and make yourself one of these.

Kentucky Uncommon Recipe

6 Jun

Separate the specialty grains from the 2-row. Mash the 2-row for 48 hours at 118F and steep the specialty grains between 150F and 170F for up to 20 minutes. Also fruit will be added during fermentation changing the SRM entirely to a bright red. Add 3 pounds of cherry puree and 3 pounds of raspberry puree.

Kentucky Uncommon Sour Ale

6 Jun

Kentucky Commons are a traditional sour beer from the Kentucky region that have been brewed for over 100 years. Who knew America was keeping it weird that long ago? Turns out this beer was made to be a nice tart refreshment on a hot summer day, much like it’s counterpart, the berliner weisse and the farmhouse ales that were being brewed during the same era half way around the world.

After putting together this recipe I realized it’s uncommon to add fruit to a kentucky common, so it’s a twist on the style almost like a lambic meets kentucky common. I will post the  actual recipe separate for category purposes, but I’ll explain it here. It’s a very simple recipe, but it’s the process that many people find technical. I used 2-row for my base malt and as my souring malt. I used carapils to help with head retention and used crystal 10 lovibond to help round out the body. I will be adding the fruit during the end of fermentation, 3 pounds of raspberry puree and 3 pounds of cherry puree.  I want this beer to be a very tart beer with at least some roundness to it’s body to balance the sweetness with the sour and make it a refreshing “uncommon”.

So here’s the skinny on the process… I began the mash on 6/1 with only the 2-row. I used 2.5 gallons of 4:1 RO water to tap water ratio to give me a 5.2  mash pH which is ideal for this style. This amount of water to grain gave me just a little bit above 1.25 qts per pound of grain. I mashed in at 150F for 50 minutes then raised the temperature to 170F for 10 minutes, then chilled the mash to 120F. From this point I transferred my mash kettles to my “Coleman Sour Chest” (see the sour mashing technique test post for more info on this chest). After transferring I had to inoculate the mash with the desired bacteria. There are many ways to go about this such as buying strains from white labs and wyeast but Lurking Goat likes to stay weird so I pitched 3/4 cup of raw grains on top of each mash. I then purged the kettles with Co2 and taped them shut. I left the kettles this way for 48 hours.

The raw 2-row grain husks contain the wanted bacteria known as Lactobaccillus delbruckii. After pitching the raw grains I purged the kettles with Co2 and tape them shut with electrical taped to keep out all the unwanted critters. A big one that most home brewers tend to get is Acetobacter. This bacteria produces acetic acid, this is the key acid in vinegar so trust me when I say it gives a vinegar smell and taste. This bacteria comes from exposing your sour mash to O2. The amount varies but from my experience having gotten this bacteria in prior batches it is tolerable in small amounts and incredibly undesirable in large amounts. The absolute best way to keep from infecting your mash with the wrong bacteria or even fungi is by purging your mash vessels with Co2 and keeping the mash temperature as close to 120F without exceeding. I’ve mashed in the past at 100F and have gotten good sour results but it’s a risk because that lower temperature range creates the perfect environment for foreign critters to infest.

48 hours past and it’s time to brew!I steeped the specialty grains in 3.5 gallons of 160F water for 20 minutes and then popped the lids on the souring kettles to drain the grain bags of all their delicious sour wort! There was a nice layer of bacteria growing on top of one of the grain beds and you could tell the other one was just about ready to grow as well. I decanted the sour mash wort into the kettle along with the rest of the wort and began my boil. I boiled for a short 30 minutes and added my hop additions along the way. After the boil was complete I chilled the wort down to 68F and split it into two 3 gallon carboys, I then aerated and pitched rehydrated nottingham yeast in one carboy and rehydrated safale US-05 in the other carboy.
The first time I was exposed to this kind of brewing I wasn’t quite sure what to think, then Travis would go ahead and taste the nasty smelling wort as if nothing was wrong. I thought he was crazy, but after messing around with it a couple more times and dialing in the techniques and proper equipment I’m starting to really appreciate the art to this style. As for the funky rancid smells… I guess you just gotta deal with it.
Stay thirsty my friends…

Jolly Pumpkin Bam Noire Review

5 Jun

Recently I have been searching for some farmhouse ales for inspiration in my beer brewing. I have always wanted to make something along the lines of a Fantome, which is not a very easy task. For those of you not familiar with the Farmhouse style of beers they are traditional Belgian and French ales that were brewed for the farmhands who worked the fields. These beers were the predecessors to modern Saison and Belgian ales. They usually have a light refreshing quality to them and feature multiple yeast strains and brettanomyces which gives the beer a very rustic and flavorful pallet.

In my search to obtain a bottle of Fantome like inspiration in the Oakland area,    I found this.

Its a Bam Noire dark farmhouse ale by Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales from Michigan. I looked delicious so I had to have it.

Opened and poured into a tulip glass this beer pours a smooth medium brown with a hint of red. The head is generous from the higher carbonation but light and dissipates quickly. It leaves very minimal lacing and keeps a very thin head as you drink. This beer smells great, just how a farmhouse ale should smell; bright with hints of citrus, raspberries, a little dark fruit from the malt and lots of Brett funk. It smells almost like a mild Flanders, which is one of my all time favorites. This beer has a huge and complex nose to it and it is definitely the highlight of the beer. When compared the flavor profile seems a little one dimensional which is not quite fair because its still very good. The taste is tart and bright from the carbonation and acid with possibly a hint of sour cherries and chocolate from the malt. Overall very restrained in flavor but very easy drinking with the thinner body and low alcohol(4.3%). In the mouth it seems very bright and hitting some mineral flavors like a sharp white wine with a little bitterness or astringency possibly from the darker malt. It ends on a hint of bitter chocolate with that classic Belgian bone dry attenuation.

I  really enjoyed this beer, it is very easy drinking(I drank the whole bottle) and opens up more and more as you drink it. I do wish it had a little more flavor profile or maybe some more dark fruit but its nothing to complain about. This beer is definitely very unique and has that elusive farmhouse ale quality that I love so much. I am a big fan of what is being produced at Jolly Pumpkin, and If you have never had any of their beers I highly recommend them.

Overall the Bam Noire is a 4.5 out of 5 for me.

As Willy would say, stay thirsty my friends!