A homebrewing blog by a novice brewer. I make mistakes so you don't have to.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Learning the hard way

On Sunday, January 16th I ended my homebrewing hiatus. My awesome girlfriend, Jenni, bought me a dual-tap kegerator for the holidays. "I no longer have to bottle beer!!?," I thought to myself. "I'm back!"

I decided on a Belgian Tripel for my first batch of beer in two years. Belgian Tripels are light, fruity, tasty and very high in alcohol content. For brewing purposes Belgian Tripels are considered a more intermediate beer to brew since a yeast starter is typically required. Hey, why not start out with a more advanced beer? Besides, I had an assistant. My buddy, Brad - also a brewing newbie, came over to give me hand.

Everything was going swimmingly. We steeped the grains and started the boil with no boil over. At the end of the boil my assistant had to run off. This is where things started to go wrong. Now I'm not blaming him for what happened, but it is kind of his fault.

I did not own an immersion chiller at this time, but I didn't think this was going to be a problem since it was 30oF outside. Well, beat me with a rubber spoon if it didn't take 3 hours for it to cool down on its own. That's the first mistake. The wort should be brought down to yeast pitching temperature within the 30 minutes to an hour to avoid contamination.

When it was finally cold enough for me to transfer the wort from the brew kettle to the fermentor I brought in the brew kettle from the back patio and set it down on top the kitchen island. And that is when I discovered, to my horror, that the kitchen island top isn't level! The combination of the soot and condensation on the outside of the kettle made it very slippery. Before I knew it there was 5.5 gallons of sticky, smelly wort all over my kitchen floor.

Fortunately, Jenni wasn't home and I was able to towel and shop vac all the liquid up before she got back. Have you ever walked on a floor full of melted taffy? Me neither, but I'm pretty sure it feels similar to what it was like walking in the kitchen for the next 2 days.

Needless to say, Jenni wasn't thrilled with the sticky floors. She told me the entire brew process was going to have to take place outside from then on.

So the moral of this story is make sure your kitchen counter tops are level..

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Nano-Brewery

My brewery setup like most beginner homebrewers is very simple and very, very small. I did not make up the term nano-brewery, though I wish I had. It's just a cool word that makes me think of the microscopic robots flying around brewing beer. I've seen nano-brewery defined a few different ways, and that is definitely not one of them. Essentially, nano-brewing is defined as very small scale brewing - usually associated with homebrewing.

If you are getting into homebrewing, you should know that the IRS allows you to brew up to 100 gallons per year per adult living in your household without being taxed. Fortunately, I lied on this year's Census and said that there are 16 full grown adults living in my household.

My small operation includes the following standard items:

  • 8 gallon stainless steel brew kettle with thermometer and ball valve
  • 4 gallon stockpot
  • Bayou Classic propane burner
  • 3 plastic bucket fermenters 
  • Racking cane and tubing
  • A giant stirring spoon
  • Hydrometer and hydrometer test tube
  • brushes and cleaning solution

All of the items listed above fit inside a 33"L x 20"W x 14"H Rubbermaid bin. Well, everything but the robots.

One thing that I have that most novice homebrewers do not is a dual-tap Haier kegerator and a couple of refurbished ball lock corny kegs. I keg my beer because I loathe bottling. If you are new to homebrewing I suggest bottling. However, if you have brewed a few times and plan on continuing to do so homebrew do yourself a favor and keg your beer. It will save you hours of cleaning and filling. In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, "It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up."

I make 5 gallon batches of beer and the above setup is perfect. I am missing a couple key pieces that I plan on picking up along the way such as a copper wort chiller and a Erlenmeyer 2000 mL flask to create yeast starters.

Well now you know what I'm working with. My next post will detail my misadventures with a Belgian Tripel. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

About Homebrewing for Kunckleheads

Homebrewing for Knuckleheads is my first blog. I am a novice homebrewer, and as I write this I have brewed under 10 beers and mostly extract beer kits you find at your local homebrew shop. I was inspired to write Homebrewing for Knuckleheads after listening BrewSmith podcast episode 2, "Beer Bloggers and 365 Beers". If you are interested in homebrewing I highly recommend this podcast.

The purpose of Homebrewing for Knuckleheads is to provide you with a learning experience through the eyes of a novice homebrewer. I want to share with you my experiences as a homebrewer, my mistakes as well as my successes so that you can learn, along with me, what it takes to make really good beer. And hopefully I will do just that. That is the point of homebrewing, isn't it? 

My lawyer suggested that I add a disclaimer regarding the title of this blog. "Homebrewing for Knuckleheads" is not meant to insinuate that you, the reader, are a knucklehead. Knucklehead as defined by Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary "a stupid person: dummy". Though you may be a knucklehead for reading this blog, knucklehead refers to the author and his complete lack of knowledge of homebrewing.