Project Update

Summer 15 updates –

Quite a few brew days have passed since my last update, 10 brew sessions to be precise. I’ve not had a ton of time to blog and brew, I chose brewing. I’ve brewed 4 Berliner weisses and one Gose, 2 IPAs (one smoked english, one hoppy american North east style), 2 milds, and a saison. I’m up to batch 49, and thinking about what should be batch 50. I’ve made good progress on Berliners, with 1/2 of my batch 6 being almost exactly what I have wanted. Batch 7 is effectively a rebrew, if it’s where I want it, I’ll consider that beer conquered. I’m waiting a few more days for to taste the beer, to ensure it’s where it should be sour wise. IMG 4368 f it is, I’ll write it up, and finally include the results of my Berliner survey. My Gose, Down Gose Frazier, is also in a similar situation. It’s waiting on final souring / fruit before I can write that up. They are really that different from each other, I’m hoping the recipe changes are sufficient to distinguish them more than just a salty Berliner. Continue reading

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Brewery update, 2014 summary, 2015 goals.

In my 2013 wrap up and goals referred this year to the year of calibration. I wanted to get down to brewing good beer, and I felt the best way to achieve that was to start by making sure everything that could be measured was. I think I’ve made great progress in this area. With my volume chart, http://thebottlefarm.com/ProjetsThoughts2/measuring-volume-charts/ I’ve found I have a much better grasp of pre/post boil volumes. I’m still struggling to work out my boil off and trube losses as it changes so much dependent on hopping losses. After brewing the same beer three times in a row, (Daisy Cutter 1, 2, 3) I learned a lot about the efficiency and consistency of my brewing process. I’d love to call it a system, but frankly I’m still working at being more consistent with it. I did do a great job of taking notes, and logging everything. So I consider this a did, but still room for improvement. I want to etch my brew kettle, but I only have a few limited things left to calibrate.

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12 Batches. I brewed 14 beers this year, 17 if you count split batches, and I still may brew again this year (I have the itch). Interestingly I brewed is a few spurts this year. 3 may beers, and 4 October beers, but a solid dry spell during mid summer. I’m pretty happy with the volume of beer I brewed this year, about 60 gallons (some batches were split). 8 batches were less than 4 gallon batches. I made 4 pales, 2 IPA’s, 2 brown ales, 2 berliner weisses, 2 saisons,  2 milds, and an imperial stout. I consider it a reasonably tight grouping of beer styles. This doesn’t even include cider or mead, which I decided to skip this year. I only had one real failure and that was my attempt at making a super low abv beer by boiling off the alcohol, which just resulted in terribly oxidized beer. It wasn’t too bad for beer bread, but not good for drinking. I even managed to take home some homebrew club bling, with a win with Mike for the dynamic duo competition. Done!

12-24 posts. 19 posts this year, not counting polls. Unlike my brewing I’d like to space these out a bit more. They were grouped around my busy brewing months, and had a similar drop off when I took time away. I’m pretty happy with the content of the blog this year, the brew day posts are long and dry, but I’m working on keeping only the good stuff, and better formatting what I do post, with my new templates. Please reach out to me if you have any feedback, or suggestions on content. Done.

Hone my hoppy Amarillo Wheat Recipe. Fail. I didn’t even attempt to brew this beer once. I have fallen out of love with this beer, perhaps it’ll take a trip to three floyds to rekindle my love of this style. Anyone want to send me a 6er of gumballhead to be sure? I just haven’t had enough luck with it to warrant further investment in the style. I might come back to it this year, but in the words of Mike Tonsmiere ‘Focus on a subset of beer styles’ and I’m not sure hoppy wheats is a style I am going to focus on. I suppose it’s a hoppy pale but… session pales have stolen my heart.

Read and review 12 books – 50% accomplished this goal. It was a noble goal. It prevented me from acquiring a great deal more books in 2014 that I would not read. I still have a list an arms length long to read, and will try to squeeze one more into 2014. I made progress on this early on, and it fell off my radar. Partial.

3.5 out of 5 ain’t bad. I’d like to believe I brewed better beer in 2014, than I did in 2013, I’ll consider this a successful year.

Goals for 2015.

Utilize current hop inventory. Time for some big, burly, hoppy beers. I’m also going to convert some cones to aged hops. I’ve also got far to many pellets to work through. If this means diverging from recipes to use what I have, I’ll make due. I can’t justify purchasing hops when I’ve got as much in the freezer as I do.

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Read all the books I didn’t finish in 2014. Goal is to read 9 books, and buy less than 3 new books. I think I can achieve that.

Plan my brewing schedule so that my beers are ready to drink in the proper season. IE have my berliners ready for spring / early summer, a stout ready for fall, and hoppy beers all the time.

My volume goals are the same as 2014. I found a happy medium of batches and posts, and a good production number. Frequency = familiarity = success. I found that I made the right amount of beer to share, and had enough to enjoy here, but not feel back logged. I would like to be more consistent blogging more brewing, but I have a lot of demands for my time.

Hone my Berliner Weisse recipe and technique. I brewed two this year, and fermented a third. I need to find a way to get the beer more tart. I also want to make more fruited Berliner Weisses. Maybe come up with a very non traditional combo once I have the sourness figured out.

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Evolve some ‘house’ cultures. I made good use of the yeasts I purchased this year, and grew up some dregs this year. I have also captured some local wild yeast. I’d like to work on a clean house yeast blend (1968, london dry & conan), a saison blend not 3711, and some mixed culture for souring berliners. Hopefully I won’t break the bank on yeast this year.

What are your successes from 2014, and what are you going to do better in 2015?

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Milling Table build.

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When Mike told me about his mill table, I thought it was neat but I dismissed the idea of making one myself. While visiting another brewer friend I saw his mill, and asked if he would mind sharing some details of the project. As I’ve found with most home brewers he was very willing to share details and helpful links. At both times it didn’t seem necessary at that time. Then I used mike’s mill at the bow bog brewing party and really liked how it worked. It was very nice to be able to just dump in the grain and crank it up. Not that hand cranking is difficult, but it would save me a little time and manual labor.  Once I took inventory of the required parts, I realized that I could build this with minimal investment. I had the mill, a motor and I had a shelving unit I could use as the stand. It appeared all I was going to need to buy would be some sheaves (pulleys), a belt, a shim, and some miscellaneous hardware and lumber.
Continue reading

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2013 down, 2014 the year of calibration.

For 2013 I set achievable goals, and I believe I met all but one. Not too bad, but I played it fairly safe with the goals. 2014 will be more of the same, attainable goals, focused on quality and consistency. Boring, but hopefully rewarding.

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I’d really like to post about 3-4x a month. – I managed to do this 10 of 12 months. I don’t feel as though I really generated more quality content, some of it was rushed, and not as valuable as I’d like it to be. I’m sure you all care about my brewing logs, swings and misses, but it’s hard pace for me to maintain while continuing to have a balanced life. 

I’d like to brew every other month at least. – Looking back I aimed low on this one, I’m not sure what I was thinking, I like to Brew about once a month, 12 batches a year seems about right. I’ve moved onto smaller batches with the goal of quicker beer turn over, and simplifying some of my process. I nailed this goal with 12 sessions, and 13 batches (11 Beers, 1 perry, and 1 cyser).

I’d like to brew a berliner weiss – I did brew one, I didn’t brew a good one, so this will have to go back on the list for 2014, with an added adjective ‘good’. 

I’d like to finish up some of my pending brewing projects. (keggerator, stir plate, storage). I finished the stir plate, and it’s been really useful for starters. I did a few other smaller projects like building another mash tun, kettle, a keggerator line cleaner, and made plans for a powered mill table. I didn’t really tackle finishing up the keggerator, it could use some finishing touches, but it works as is, and is not stopping me 

I’d like to brew with my buddy Michael. – I brewed twice with Mike, it was a lot of fun both times, but both times were non standard brew days for each of us. The first was a brew party, the second was brewing a huge parti-gyle imperial stout / oatmeal stout combo. I’m not sure either of us really were able to relax and enjoy the brew day, or iron out our processes together. I think it’ll be fun this year to have a few more relaxed ‘normal’ brew day and see how things go. I’m not sure if we’ll settle into split batches, or just play the role of help, either way, I’ll do more of this in the future.

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I’d Iike to brew a beer I can’t wait to brew again.  – This is the one goal I don’t think I completed. I made a few beers I want to make again to tweak, but none I can’t live without. The closest I came this year  I’m really happy with the mild I brewed, and eager to make another attempt at the hoppy wheat, but in general I’m still falling far from the mark on the beers I’m brewing and I need to improve xbefore I’m satisfied with where I am, and what I’m brewing.

 

2014 Goals: Time to tweak and tune my tools, my process and recipes. I have new tools for measuring and calibrating my brewing gear, now is the time to be as repeatable as possible, measure as much as possible.  I plan on focus on smaller batches, with quality, over variety, or quantity. If that means brewing the same recipe 12 times to get it right, so be it.

Calibrate everything.
12 Batches.
12-24 posts.
Hone my hoppy Amarillo Wheat Recipe.
Read and review 12 books. 

For calibration, I’ve picked up some new equipment, it’s important to  measure your results, but it’s just as import ants to ensure your measurements are accurate. On the list of things I’m going to calibrate; my hop scale, and regular scale, my thermometers, my volumes in my fermenters, my boil kettle, and the smaller mash tun. I also plan on calibrating my timings and things like boil off, vorlauf, and sparge time. The more I can quantify, the more consistent I can be. The number of batches should be reasonable to obtain, assuming I continue to have one night a month I can dedicate to brewing. Posting I plan on scaling back from 2013, I tackled some blogging projects I enjoyed in 2013, but at this point the rewards just aren’t worth the level of effort required to blog more frequently. Hopefully with the decrease in quantity will come an increase in quality. I have a few ideas about how I can address my goal of honing the amarillo wheat recipe. I’ve spoken with a few folks about the next steps. I plan to adjust my water additions, tweak the hop ratio more toward amarillo, as well as add some additional crystal. Hopefully this will be I’ll get closer. For reading and reviewing books, this is simple. I will not buy any more until I have read what I own. I have a staggering amount of reading to do. This is an aggressive goal for me, as I’m not much of a book reader, I plow through blogs and forums like it’s nobodies business, but books take a different level of focus. On the to finish reading list: For the love of hopsSecrets from the Master BrewersThe Audacity of HopsThe Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage BeerTasting Beer, Water, YeastThe Brewmaster’s TableWild BrewsBrewing Better BeerPrincipals of brewing science.

 

In general I plan on buckling down, and try to nail a few simple recipes. Nothing too fancy, just get it right. Wish me luck!

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2013 hop crop – Working the bugs out.

Last year I put them in the ground in late april. This year by that time, they were starting their way up the climbing lines. Last year they did ok, but my lack of diligence watering them, and fertilizing them hindered their growth significantly. I managed to only get a few cones last year, but nothing note worthy. After last years watering struggles, I decided to get a watering setup so that I ensure they were getting regular amounts of water. It seems to have paid off. Since mid may I’ve watered 2x a day, for about 20 minutes. I made a simple drip irrigation system with a hose we were going to throw away, a hose cap, and $30 programable water timer. If you do any gardening, are forgetful, lazy, or just gone on a regular basis It’s well worth it. Continue reading

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Site Updates. Now with 100% more logos.

Blog now with logo

I’ve done some spring redecorating around here. I hope you don’t mind. I’ve added a new section to the site, Brewing Gear. This is a description of my brewing setup. It’s a point of reference for my recipes, incase you are wondering what I’m brewing on, efficiencies, losses etc. Continue reading

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Stirplate Finalle?

final stir plate build

You may remember my prior update about the stir plate saga, if not ‘Stir Plate update, or how I let the smoke out of two sets of components’ is where I elaborated on my attempts to create a stir plate. You may want to review that before you read this, so you can understand my state of mind approaching this project. This project has been hanging over my head for nearly a year now when I first received the parts. There is a lot of motivation to get this completed so I can move on to other things. Topping that list, making a heady topper clone, will require a large yeast pitch to fully attenuate. Continue reading

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Project update Q1 2013

Balancing brewing time, brewing project time, and life is a fine balance, so you are likely hearing about projects that should have been long since completed, but might be stalled. I’ll try to avoid duplicating updates, if it’s not updated, it means it’s how it was left when I last updated. Continue reading

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Stir Plate update, or how I let the smoke out of two sets of components

soldiered board

This is project has been on the drawing board for a _very_ long time. When I spotted a post by a peer from my homebrew club offering a set of components to build one last spring I jumped at the opportunity. The kit was all the required electronics, including circuit board, heat sink, even the thermal compound. I only needed to find a Neodymium magnet, pc fan, power supply, and a project box. The required tools are pretty simple too, just a soldering iron. The only thing I needed to buy was a project box, the rest I was able to scrounge from an old pc, old hard drive, and old cell phone charger. Sounds pretty simple eh? Continue reading

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Working out the kinks – rebuilding my immersion chiller

Building an immersion chiller.

One of the first DIY home brewing projects I undertook was building a immersion chiller. This is one of the easiest project you can do. My first attempt was a fairly sloppy mess. Because I wasn’t patient, and I didn’t have a good form to use to keep the coils organized. Also, I was trying to fit the cooler into a much smaller kettle, so I squashed it to fit. This past brew session while cleaning up, I decided to fix it up. Continue reading

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