Sunday, September 29, 2013

Billy Rigg's Basement Brew - Part 4 (aka patience wanted)

Before leaving for work on Friday, I put a bottle of the home brew in the fridge for when I got home. I realize that it was still early to be cracking them open, but I was curious how it tasted and how the carbonation was going.

The taste was good. The carbonation was disappointing.

Again, I know it's still early, but I was expecting a little more carbonation than it had. It was basically what most people would consider to be a flat beer.

After doing a little research, I'm now extremely confident that it'll improve. Clearly, I still have a lot to learn about this. :)

Some are saying that it could take at least 3 weeks for decent carbonation to develop. In some cases, even longer.

The rule of thumb seems to be: if it's not carbonated enough, let it sit for another week or two. Patience and time will fix low carbonation.

There's a good forum message here, along with a time-lapse video of how a beer changes as it ages: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f35/bottling-tips-homebrewer-94812/#post1030387

As some suggest, check it every week, take notes, and compare how it improves over time. That's what I'll be doing.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Basement Bock

I haven't even had a full bottle of my pale ale home brew yet and I'm already planning the next batch.

The pale ale still has a week to go in the bottles, based on the manufacturer's instructions, but I'll be opening one tomorrow night to see what it's like so far. I've been fighting the urge to sample it for a few days now. :)

Yesterday I decided it would make sense to start a new batch while this one was aging. By the time it's ready for bottling, I'm fairly certain that I'll have more empties for it.

My son wanted me to pick up a wheat beer, but they didn't have any at DeFalco's. They had a blonde, west coast IPA, pale ale, oatmeal stout and a bock. The bock is on my to-do list, so I picked it up. I also bought another 24 PET bottles, some caps, and a tub of sanitizer.

I think we'll get it started this weekend.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Billy Rigg's Basement Brew - Part 3

My home brew has a name: Billy Rigg's Basement Brew

It's a bit of a joke with a friend at work who had a dyslexic moment and said "beely rig", instead of "really big". I said it sounded like some kind of beer brand... "Billy Rigg"... and then I added "basement brew". It stuck and that's my brand for my home brew. :)

I checked on its progress this past Thursday and the air lock seemed to be doing nothing.

I checked on it again today and it had moved, but really there wasn't much going on.

I decided to draw a sample today and check the gravity and taste. I enlisted my co-brewmaster son to help.

This is where things got a little confusing. From what we could tell, it seemed the gravity was higher than it had been when we racked the beer. It was reading somewhere around 1.018 to 1.020. But there seemed to be a bit more carbonation happening in the beer that was making the hydrometer float higher than it should be. We're figuring that it's 1.018.

I was really happy and surprised with the clarity. It still tasted a little light, but it was good. I'm sure it'll be even better carbonated. :)

After taking the reading, we decided to get it bottled.

Priming the beer was simple enough. Sterilizing and rinsing all the bottles was very time consuming. I learned that the next time we do it, I'll probably use my old brew kit pail rather than a camping cooler. It'll be a whole lot easier, I think, with the deeper container.

Bottling was a breeze. I happened to have a bottle filling rod from my last kit that we used. I'm not sure why my new kit didn't come with something like this. It has a spring-loaded tip to allow quick stop'n'go bottle filling. Much easier and less messy than a hose clamp.

We first filled the 8 flip-top bottles that I acquired from a friend at work. We then started filling the 500ml PET bottles that I bought at DeFalco's. This was so much easier than 27 years ago when I used a bottle capper.

When all was done, we ended up with almost thirty-five 500ml PET bottles, five 750ml flip-top and two 1 litre flip-top.

Now we wait for 2 weeks before refrigeration.  We have one partially full PET bottle that I'll probably try in a week's time to see how it's going.

I'm already looking forward to our next batch. I can't decide if it'll be a red or a bock. I'm leaning toward bock.

P.S. A label is coming... and it'll be very cool. :)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Muskoka Harvest Ale

I happened to be downtown on Saturday, not far from the LCBO at Rideau and King Edward, so I decided to drop in and pick up the new Beau's Oktoberfest Mix pack.

They didn't have it, or maybe it wasn't out on the shelves yet. Not one to waste a visit, I picked up a few other beers that my LCBO didn't have.

One of these was Muskoka's Harvest Ale. Judging from the orange label, I just assumed it would be a pumpkin ale, to accompany the other two pumpkin ales I picked up.


I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't.

This is one delicious beer.

It poured a dark amber and had a thick, foamy, off-white head that stuck around for a long time. The aroma was grapefruity with a mix of spice and caramel in there somewhere.

What your nose gets is pretty much what your mouth gets. Grapefruity, spicy, caramel. It's a fairly well balanced beer, smooth drinking, with a slight bitter finish.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and will probably grab another bottle before the season is over. Enjoy in moderation, as it's 7% ABV. :)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Unnamed Home Brew Part 2

Yesterday was day 4 of the home brew. I took a peek in the pail on Monday and saw that most of the surface foam had broken down, so I figure it was ready for racking. But since I had a beer certification class to attend, I had to wait until last night.

I didn't think it would take my son and I that long to do, maybe half an hour, but I was wrong as usual. With clean up, it took just under an hour.

One thing that concerned me a little is that the gravity reading looks to be 1.011. That's already in bottling range. Is that good? Or bad? Like I said, it's only day 4.

I tasted the sample we took and there's not as much flavour as I had hoped. It's not bad, but I expected something a little bit stronger tasting. I'm not sure if that's normal either. Time will tell.

Anyway, we sterilized everything and transferred all the content (minus the yeast sludge) to a glass carboy and capped it off with an air lock. The air lock shows that there's still some fermentation going on, so that's good.

Based on the original gravity reading and the one we took last night, it looks like the ABV will probably be 5.9% or higher.

I'll take another reading in 6-7 days and see where it's at.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Unnamed Home Brew Part 1

We began our first home brew project last night.

Finally.

I had originally planned to do a video diary kind of thing but I decided to not bother, and instead shoot some pics with my phone.

I dragged out a couple of camping coolers the night before to use as sterilization and rinsing containers. My son began the task of sterilizing the equipment as I re-familiarized myself with the instructions. :)

We had some trouble removing the cap from the Fest Brew bag. I had to get a pipe wrench to pry it off. I expected this after watching a video on YouTube a couple of weeks ago from someone also using a Fest Brew kit. Once the cap was off, we poured the contents into the primary fermentation pail. My son said it smelled like molasses.

Next, we boiled a cup of water to activate the yeast. The lesson learned from this is to start that first because you have to cool down the water to 25-30c before adding the yeast, and then wait another 10-15 minutes for the yeast to saturate before adding it to the wort. We put the measuring cup in the freezer for a while to cool it down. The instructions that came with the home brew kit said we could just sprinkle the yeast onto the wort. The instructions we were using came with the Fest Brew mix. I'm not sure if one works better than the other.

Before adding the yeast slurry, I took a hydrometer reading: 1.056

One thing I found a little annoying is that there's very little information included with a kit (this one or the one I got years ago) that gives you detailed info about reading a hydrometer. I watched a few videos on YouTube before I understood it, and now realize one of the benefits of taking before and after readings is to know what the ABV of the beer will be. :) The kits typically tell you what a reading should be before you bottle it. That's it, that's all.

After stirring in the yeast slurry, we sat the lid on the pail and cleaned up.

This kit is a little different than the one I used years ago. It's a 2-stage. There's no air-lock for the primary fermentation pail. The secondary is a glass carboy and there's an airlock for it. The first time I tried a home brew years ago was with a single stage kit, and the pail I have has a hole in the lid for an air-lock. I still have most of that kit, and I'll eventually put it to use after this first batch is done.

So there we go. Day 1 is done. I had a peek in the pail this morning to see how it's doing. I know you're not supposed to, but I was curious to see how the fermentation is going. I'll leave it alone for the next day or two and then check it again in preparation for moving it to the carboy.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Homebrew coming soon

I think I neglected to mention that a couple of weeks ago, I picked this up:


  • One beer making kit with all equipment required (2 stage)
  • One 23L bag of Pale Ale pasteurized brewer's wort

It was a spur of the moment thing where I decided if I'm going to do this, I had to go that day. Besides, my teenage son had been bugging me for weeks about it since I told him it would be a father/son project. (he doesn't drink, but he likes the science behind it)

I drove to Defalco's in Orleans about a half hour before closing. The lone clerk was super helpful. After choosing the kit, I asked for a fairly simple mix to get me started and he recommended the Festa Brew mixes. "Pour it in the bucket, pitch the yeast, and Bob's your uncle."

I was surprised (and very pleased) to find that I wouldn't have to stink up the house boiling the wort. I think that was actually the main deterrent in my mind that made me procrastinate. The first time I made beer in my early 20s, it was a messy and smelly job.

I may eventually give that process another try at some point, but for now I'll take the somewhat easier route. I could have gone even easier with a 1 stage Cooper's Brewing Kit.

The kit now sits in my basement, awaiting me and has been for a couple of weeks. :) I had to wait until our basement was tidy enough that I wasn't stepping (or tripping) over things. That cleanup happened this past weekend.

The only thing standing between us and starting the brew is timing. I'd like to try and make sure that the bottling will occur on a weekend, rather than mid-week, which means getting started mid-week or thereabouts. Perhaps tomorrow.

I'm thinking of video-recording our attempt for posterity. And maybe YouTube. :)

The Darkness

I finally got around to returning the two 32oz growlers to Beyond the Pale this afternoon. Naturally, I needed refills. :)

I picked up The Darkness, which I had tried at the Brewery Market back in July. It's 5.6% ABV, 30 IBU. Pretty easy drinking.


It's not a very heady beer on the pour, unless you intentionally pour fast, but it dissipates fairly quickly.

The aroma is coffee. The taste is coffee with a bitter finish. This might be a good cupcake beer. ;) The carbonation is pretty light. I'd almost think it was rather flat.

I enjoyed it, but the others I've tasted like it that I prefer more.

Imperial Super Guy

The second growler I picked up at Beyond the Pale was Imperial Super Guy.  They call this the granddaddy of their Rye Guy IPA.

This feeds an IPA craving very well.


It's a whopping 9.1% ABV, 90 IBU IPA. Despite its potency, I didn't feel the same kicked that I get from other high ABV beers. Maybe that's a good thing? :)

It's a fairly heady beer on the pour. A dark amber/red colour. The aroma is the usual grapefruit and so is the taste with some malty goodness thrown in. It's a well balanced beer. I definitely enjoyed this and as I said, it fed my IPA craving well.

I need to do a side-by-side comparison of Rye Guy and ISG some time. :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hop Circle IPA

I new find and a new brewery, for me anyway. Phillips Hop Circle IPA:


I had an IPA craving this weekend, and found this at the LCBO.

It poured light golden, with a touch of amber. The head, as you can see in the photo, was pretty thick and it never completely goes away. With the right glass (which I did not use for this first one) you'll get some lacing.

The aroma was grapefruity, as expected, with a touch of malty sweetness. I liked it, and the 6-pack did not last long, but based on other reviews I've read this may not be for everyone.

The ABV is 6.5%. I'm not sure what the IBU is.

Beau's Oktoberfest 2013

These arrived this week:


I won them in a draw that Beau's had at the beer fest. I did have to pay $30 for the bus rides though. I didn't mind at all.

This will be my first Oktoberfest. :)

Speaking of Beau's, the have a new mixtape of music available to download from here: http://mixtape.beaus.ca/

City and Colour Maple Wheat

I first tried this beer at the National Capital Beer Fest. City and Colour Maple Wheat from Flying Monkeys.



It was a 4 token 4oz sample because of the high alcohol content. I happened to find it at the LCBO this past Friday, packaged in an attractive box that only Flying Monkeys could design. :) Naturally, I had to picked it up, despite its rather expensive price for a 750ml bottle.

First of all, don't drink it when it's very cold. I made that mistake. The cold tends to hide much of the maple goodness. I read somewhere that you should let craft beers sit for 15-20 minutes outside of the fridge before drinking. Do that with this one.

The colour is a reddish brown. The head is a light brown and dissipates fairly quickly leaving a thing trace as you consume this fine beverage.

The aroma is maple. No doubt. I often let my 18 and 15 year-old kids smell my beers to tell me what they smell. More often than not, I get "smells like beer". But this time my 18 year-old son said "coffee" and my 15 year-old daughter said "chocolate". It wasn't until after I told them it was maple that they agreed that they could smell maple.

The carbonation is fairly light. And the taste is maple, of course. There's a hint of chocolate and coffee there too, I'm sure. There's a slight bitter finish to it.

The ABV is 11.5%. Watch out. Thankfully, despite its deliciousness, it doesn't come across as a session beer. A 750ml bottle was just enough for me to enjoy. I can't imagine having more than one of these. Unless you're a maple junkie.