Sunday, December 30, 2012

One Hoppy Set of Tasters

My mother-in-law gave me a pair of paddles and a set of mini-lager glasses, perfect for at-home beer tastings.  Kim and I hosted some friends for dinner and drinks on Sunday evening, so I broke out the tasters.

On the paddle, from left to right, is:

  1. Great Divide's Hercules Double IPA
  2. Boulevard's Singlewide IPA
  3. New Belgium's Red Hoptober
  4. My own Ubrewtu American IPA homebrew

The Hercules is simply a fantastic beer.  An ever so slight hint of Belgian sour on a terrific, imperial, hoppy body, this is a spectacular beer.

I have always really enjoyed Boulevard's Single-Wide IPA, on its own.  In fact, I think that was my first Boulevard beer ever.  A few years ago, Kim and I bought a 1968 Airstream Globetrotter.  One trip to the grocery store, Kim picked up a sixer of the Single-Wide IPA because it had an Airstream on the label.  As it turned out, I happened to really like the beer.  That was a few years before we actually visited the Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City, MO.  In any case, stacking this IPA up against these other 3, it strangely didn't stand up.  It's still a very good, drinkable beer.  I get a light, fresh hopped taste with more than a usual amount of citrus for an IPA.  But it was a little thin.

While not an IPA, the other hoppy beer I happened to have in my fridge was my very last of the New Belgium fall seasonal, Red Hoptober.  As suggested by the name, it's something like a tightly hopped Octoberfest, but brewed as an amber ale (rather than a dark lager).  It has a toasty start with a malty, caramel finish, while leaving plenty of hops on the nose.  Certainly a good beer.

I was more than a little nervous to see how my own IPA stood up to the rest.  I quietly thought to myself as I poured the tasters for Josh and I, if all of this homebrewing is entirely in vain.  I mean, it's easy enough to run up to the corner store and pick up New Belgium and Boulevard sixers.  The Great Divide special bottling means driving a little further to specialty beer store, but still that's easier/cheaper/quicker than dedicating a half-day and a half-a-hundred-bucks to a brew day.  But I'm proud to say that I was delighted with how my IPA tasted, even along side these 80+ and 90+ BeerAdvocate pours.  My IPA is my latest brew, and I do believe it's my best.  It has a deep copper color, a fair amount of carbonation and a solid caramel-cream head.  It's sweet, but not overly so.  I has a bit of ABV, but certainly not as much as the imperial double IPA.  In fact, after the tasting was done, it was a pint of homebrew that Josh and I both opted for.  I took that as a nice compliment ;-)


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Extra IPA #7

So the American IPA I brewed for Tim is 2/3 gone already (lots of guests over for Christmas, and this beer was very tasty)!

I needed to get another IPA kegged and carbonated soon.  I've been eyeing this recipe from Austin Homebrew.  I particularly enjoy Sierra Nevada's Extra IPA, the Torpedo.  It's really one of the highest rated beers anywhere.  Tim likes hops in general, so I sure hope he likes this one!

Like my last beer, I used tap water for this one too.  I sure hope this works out, because it's a lot easier than exchanging and refilling 5-gallon jugs.  We'll see...

I recently upgraded my propane burner from an old (30+ years old) that I had inherited, to a nice, modern Bayou Classic KAB6.  My old burner worked okay, but the regulator assembly was a little old.  I was worried about the cracking and aging rubber line might start leaking.  This one is much nicer and does the trick.

I much prefer the "banjo" layout for the burner, rather than the "jet" layout.  It boils my stainless steel kettle much quicker, and gives very even heat which avoids burning the sugar in the middle of the pot.

That said, the regulator totally crapped out.  I had to replace it almost immediately with a new one from Lowe's.

Another new acquisition, Kim gave me a nice, big colander for Christmas.  This makes by-yourself sparging much easier.

 The obligatory brew setup picture.  Here, you can see my Scotch Ale in the carboy, about to be moved from primary to secondary fermentation while my Extra IPA wort is boiling on the burner.

And one more new acquisition for Christmas, Josh got me a 30-ft wort chiller.  This thing is absolutely awesome!  My wort chilled in well under 20 minutes.  I'm really looking forward to seeing this beer in a couple of weeks!

And now, for the first time, not one, but two fermenters going in the closet at one time!  The Extra IPA (primary) is on the left, and the Scotch Ale (secondary) is on the right.



You brew too!?!

Ubrewtu is a play on another of my passions -- Ubuntu.  Ubuntu (pronounced ooh-BUN-too, though many people pronounce it YOU-bun-too), is an open source computer operating system.  It's an alternative to Microsoft Windows or Mac OSX on the desktop.  It also works on some mobile devices, in place of Google Android and Microsoft Windows Mobile.  I have personally worked on the server version of Ubuntu for over 5 years now, where the Ubuntu server is the operating system of some of the largest websites and cloud infrastructures in the world.

In the development of Ubuntu, the ideals of openness and collaboration are essential.  Ubuntu leverages and extends the best of open source software in the world.  Thousands of expert developers come together to build an operating system that's bigger and better than what any smaller group could have cobbled together on their own.

I am who I am because of who we all are.  That's an approximate translation of the concept of Ubuntu, as espoused in the ancient African philosophy from which Mark Shuttleworth initial borrowed the word.

This marvelous idea around the good things that humanity can produce when working together has been applied to hundreds of endeavors.  Famously, Doc Rivers brought the concept to the Boston Celtics, who won the NBA championship a couple of years ago.  Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have used it in their own sociopolitical efforts.

Having seen how effectively the concept of Ubuntu has worked in the open source software world, I'm borrowing those principles for use on a much smaller scale -- that of home brewing with this little Ubrewtu project.

I have a scattering of posts about my passions for home brewing, micro brews, vineyards, wineries, and distilleries -- spread across my personal blog, my family/travel blogGoogle Plus, and Facebook.

This site is intended to consolidate all of those into a single coherent home, document what has and hasn't worked well for me as well as others, collaborate and share our passions for home brewing openly.  I hope you find something interesting here, and I invite you to share your own experiences in the comments as well!



Sunday, December 23, 2012

#6 Scotch Ale

Anyone who knows me well knows that Scotland is simply my favorite place on Earth!  I've been three times now, and can't wait to return again, and again, and again.

As passionate as I am about beer here, I'm probably equally passionate about fine single malt Scotch whisky.  I maintain a nice single malt collection, which I quite enjoy when I'm not thirsty for homebrew.

While the Scots are quite remarkable with their single malt whisky, their rich and creamy Scotch ales are quite delicious too!  I personally think of Scotch ales as a winter time beer (maybe just because it's cold in Scotland?), so I'm brewing mine here in winter in Texas.  Actually, a winter day in Texas is about the same as a summer day in Scotland -- just lightly chilly with a hint of rain in the air.

I started this brew in the early afternoon, knowing that my parents were actually driving into Austin to spend the Christmas holidays with us.  I actually got to show my Mom and Dad a bit about the brewing process.

Once again, here's the brew setup.  No football on TV this time, so I had to settle for some Top Gear on Netflix ;-)

The most notable aspect of this brew is that, for the first time, I used tap water, straight out of my faucet.  All of my previous beers have used purified, bottled, spring water.  This might be a short-lived experiment, if there are any strange flavors to this beer, as everything I've brewed from bottled water has come out quite nicely.  But buying bottled water is expensive, and takes some additional time (and forethought)!

This beer had a ton of sugar, and called for double pitching the yeast (twice as much).  This should be a very big beer, probably close to 9%.

After 6 days in primary fermentation, I racked this beer into a newly acquired plastic fermenter (my second fermenter).  However, I really had a hell of a time getting the plastic lid to fit on it.  All in all, I regretted this bucket fermenter.  Thankfully, the good people at Austin Homebrew accepted it as a return and I applied the value to a second glass carboy.  I'm much, much, much happier with that!


Sunday, November 25, 2012

#5 American IPA

As I finished my keg of Blonde Ale, I actually took a special request for my next brew.  Our friends Tim and Linda are heading down to visit us in Austin in January.  We visited them at their home in Montana a few years ago.  When we were in Helena, Tim and I spent a couple of evenings at his local microbrew pub, The Blackfoot Tap Room.  I became a brewer myself in the time since.

Knowing that Tim has a deep appreciation for quality beer, I was quite excited when he made a special request for an American IPA, perhaps something similar to Portland's Deschutes Brewery Red Chair IPA.  I bought the Austin Homebrew recipe and got to work!

Once again, we doubled up, brewing again with Josh.

While I was boiling my American IPA, Josh was working on his first stout.

Check out the difference in color from Josh's stout (above) and my IPA (below)!

Much like my other post, here's another Vermeer into our brew day :-)  Football on the TV, meat on the grill, two kettles on the boil with a smaller pot boiling our sparge water, an assortment of tools and supplies on the table, and essentially, a couple of pints of Pecan Porter freshly poured and beautifully heady!

Once again, we used dry ice to chill our wort in the utility sinks, and siphoned off the chilled wort down into our carboys.  As you can see, brew day is a family affair :-)

About 12 hours later, my IPA was rocking and rolling, with lots of blowoff.

I would skip the second stage fermentation this time.  I did add a full ounce of Cascade hops a week into fermentation (this is called dry hopping).  This adds that huge, beautiful, fresh hoppy aroma to IPA beers.

Now the most unfortunate part about this whole brew is that I'm trying desperately to hold onto this beer until Tim and Linda get to Austin, but it's going very, very quickly!  A couple of friends have already drawn a few growlers, and we had quite a few pints over Christmas.  I did save one full growler (half gallon) for Tim, but I'm afraid that he probably won't get to enjoy this one straight from the tap head :-(

It was a little more cloudy than I had hoped (probably a bit of yeast still in solution).  The original specific gravity was 1.064 and the final gravity was 1.021.

I'll definitely make this recipe again!


Sunday, October 21, 2012

#4 Pecan Porter

With my keg of Cascadian Dark Ale getting lighter and lighter and the weather in Austin finally getting cooler, I started thinking about a good winter beer.

A local microbrewery here in Austin, (512) Brewing, produces an exceptional Pecan Porter, something that I often enjoy a pint of in and around Austin.  I thought this might fill my dark keg nicely!

For the first time, I brewed entirely by myself (ie, without my brother-in-law, Josh).  I must say, it is quite nice to have a second set of hands for a few steps of the process, and obviously the conversation and camaraderie is nice too.  But I was set up for a pretty nice day, all told...

Above is a nice Vermeer of my brew day...  See if you can spot each of these details in the frame:

  • Feet up, fan on, football on the TV, remote nearby, my last hombrewed dark ale in a chilled stein, meat smoking on the grill, jug of purified spring water, recipe, grains soaking, sparge water boiling, digital thermometer and timer counting down, notebook on hand, lighter ready to fire up burner again, gloves, hydrometer, funnel

I recently picked up a digital thermometer with a built-in count down timer.  This thing comes in very handy for all aspects of a brew day.  It seems accurate enough to me.

So as not to disturb my soaking grains on my propane burner, I use the searing burner on my propane grill to heat my sparge water to 170oF.

So far, all of my brews have been "mini mash", which means that I soak a couple of pounds of malted grains.

These are placed in a mesh bag and soaked in 155oF water for about 45 minutes, but this doesn't provide all of the sugar necessary for the fermentation.

To supplement that sugar, I usually add a couple more pounds of liquid malt extra to the boil.

The recipe, which I typically buy from Austin Homebrew, specifies all of the details.

After the boil, I typically cool my wort in my utility sink in my garage.  I fill the sink with ice and water and try to get my wort down to 80F as quickly as possible.  After that, I typically siphon the wort down into my carboy, just before adding the yeast and beginning fermentation!

This beer was actually the first one I brewed using a second stage fermentation.  This was a little bit of a pain, since I only had one carboy.  I siphoned it out of the carboy, back in my sanitized stainless steel kettle, cleaned and sanitized the carboy, and siphoned it back in.  I've since bought a second carboy and that helps tremendously!

This recipe actually called for two more ingredients to be added to the secondary fermentation -- 3 ounces of bourbon soaked oak chips and a tiny vial of pecan extract.

With both stages of fermentation, this beer rested for a total of 4 weeks, while I was traveling (Washington DC, Denmark, and Sweden).

I was delighted to see how thick and deliciously viscous this beer turned out, upon kegging.  It would take a few days to full carbonate, but once carbonated, this was an absolutely delicious beer.

A perfect for Christmas and winter.

A completely opaque, brown color, with a nice creamy, tawny head, it tasted just fine on its own or even for dessert (over vanilla ice cream!).


Sunday, September 30, 2012

#3 Blonde Ale

As my Pale Ale dwindled away, I started searching for a suitable replacement for the easy-drinking light ale, since it's still quite hot in Austin, TX through the end of October.  I'm not quite ready to try my hand at a lager, so I thought about some of my favorite light ales.  There are two in particular from Texas that I enjoy -- Real Ale's Fireman's #4 and Southern Star's Blonde Bombshell.

I settled on this recipe from Austin Homebrew.

This particular Sunday was absolutely gorgeous in Austin, Texas, so Josh and I brewed outdoors, on my back deck.  Brewing inside in the kitchen, in the air conditioning, is perhaps necessary on a 100 degree summer day, but it does make a bit of a mess.

I'm actually set up pretty well on my back deck, with two huge utility sinks, easy access to a garden hose, and plenty of room for a couple of propane burners.

Once again, we used prepackaged, purified, bottled sprint water.  Our last few beers turned out pretty good, so we opted to do this again.  It does require a bit of preparation, as you need to return the jug to the grocery store, and it does add a bit of expense (about $7 for a 5-gallon refill/exchange).

As neither Josh nor I have a wort chiller (yet!), we're always on a quest to speed up our wort chilling (you must take a 212oF wort down to 80oF in 20 minutes or less).  Typically, we just fill the huge, deep utility sink with about 30 pounds of ice (another $5 per batch), and drop our pot down into it.  This typically does the trick.  However, this time we tried something new...  Josh picked up a couple of blocks of dry ice, which we dropped in the sink water.  Besides being effective, it was also a ton of fun!

My original specific gravity was about 1.031.  The blonde ale (obviously?) is the one on the left.  Josh tried his second lager, this time a dark lager recipe.

As I had some blowoff trouble previously, you can see I now have a blowoff tube for my primary fermentation :-)

I kegged this beer about 2.5 weeks later.

Once carbonated, it was quite a nice beer to follow that pale ale.  Smooth, crisp, and surprisingly clear.  I was very pleased with how this beer turned out to close out Austin's hot summer and fall!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

#2 Northwest Cascadian Dark Ale

I kegged my Pale Ale after about 3 weeks (Mid August 2012) in a primary fermenter.  It's pretty awesome having homebrew on tap, and I am quite happy with my Pale Ale, but, having just one beer on tap is, well, just a little monotonous.  Now that I have a full size fridge in the garage, dedicated to beer, I bought a second ball lock keg.  Obviously, I need to get something in that keg!

So I headed over to Austin Homebrew and thumbed through their catalog looking for something that would complement that Pale Ale.  I landed on a Northwest Cascadian Dark Ale, a nice, hoppy, dark beer that would compare and contrast nicely!

For the second time, I brewed again with my brother-in-law, Josh.  Still pretty hot in Austin, we opted to brew indoors again, in his kitchen.  And I got some quality time with my daughter while Mom got a few hours off.

We found that drawing 10 gallons of filtered water (5 for each of us) from Josh's fridge just took way too long.  So instead, we each bought a 5-gallon jug of water at the grocery story.

This time, I bought my own glass carboy.  I found the plastic bucket a little difficult to deal with, getting the top on and off.  The original specific gravity was 1.055.  Josh actually brewed his first Pilsner Lager (on the right), as he's breaking in his new deep freezer for lagering.

I had a minor blowoff and a bit of a mess in my fermenting closet.  A little too much activity for the rubber-bung-and-stopper valve on this carboy.  I switched to a tube in my batch and that worked much better!  Rookie mistake ;-)

I kegged this one after about 3 weeks in a primary fermenter (no secondary, again).

It took quite a while to carbonate (at least a week).  Once carbonated, though, it turned out quite nice.  Very smooth, but also very dark and hoppy.