Product Review: Carboy Carrier

I’ll be up front when I receive a product for review, this isn’t one of those times. I bought this product with my own money, because I’d heard good things about it, and because carrying a large glass bottle full of liquid is a dangerous proposition. I’ve heard one too many stories of accidents where a single slip can result in a loss of a batch of beer, and a trip to the ER.
The Brew Hauler is well worth the $10-15 price tag. The primary reason I bought it, is that I brew out on my back patio, and have to carry the full carboy down to the basement where I keep the swamp warmer. It has made that trip a lot easier. It can also make hoisting a carboy into a chest freezer much easier.
I’m hoping to get a few more for my other carboys. It’s a little tricky to attach to the carboy, but once on, it stays put nicely.You can find them here* Brew Hauler Carboy Carrier on amazon.

*I link to amazon using my Associate ID, but encourage you to buy these things from your local home brewshop.

Home grown hop update.

I’m not going to lie my hop plants look terrible. While this has been a really good year for growing hops, I’ve only had so so success. This is my first year growing hops, so I didn’t expect much as the plants establish their roots. I also didn’t get them into the ground until late in the season, despite our warm spring. The old rhizomes I purchased last year didn’t sprout, so I purchased a new set of plants rather than rhizomes, Perle, Centennial, and Galena. Of the three purchased plants, the Perle completely died. The galena planting has done better, but the centennial is just now showing real signs of growth. I’m still hoping they will have enough growth established to withstand a New England winter. In addition to the 3 plants I purchased, I was given 2 other plants, Hallertau and Cascade. They have done the best out of all of my plants, but have been have been hampered by pests, and the leaves are rusty on the edges. From what I understand it seems like they just aren’t getting enough water. I take full responsibility for not keeping them watered, as for the pests, I’m not quire sure what to do. I should have been much more attentive in watering and weeding. We’ve had a really dry season here, and I don’t have a soaker hose setup. With that said, it doesn’t look like I’ll be harvesting much if any usable hops this fall, unless there is a late surge in growth. I wasn’t’ expecting much from first years growth, but was hoping to have enough for at least one brew, but that’s not going to be the case. There is always next year.
Fresh Hallertau hop
The plans for next year.
Next years plan is to get a 5th plant going. I have an order for wet hops due any time now, and I’m hoping to be able to grow a cutting from the amarillo I’m getting. I’ll also be trying some alternate twine (thanks Lyn for the recommendation), and get a soaker hose setup. A more vertical trellis setup will have to wait until 2014.

Working out the kinks

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. It was pretty easy to loosen it up, and rewrap it around a keg to get approximately the right shape. I did a little weave with the inlet to provide some stability to the chiller, then reattached the in and out tubes. It still needs some type of bracing to keep it sorted, any Ideas?

Brewing AHS Gold Seal Oatmeal Stout

In my prior project update I mentioned the all grain setup, but I had this Oatmeal stout extract kit I purchased from Austin Homebrew Supply that I need to brew. I have told T I would brew her a beer for quite some time, and she enjoys stouts. I also picked this specific kit because it was shelf stable. I wanted to make sure I had something I could be ready to brew anytime, that wouldn’t suffer from sitting around until I had time to brew. I was hoping to brew Saturday evening, but the weather conspired against me. While at the home brew shop picking up the final pieces for the keggerator, I decided to buy liquid yeast. After getting home the yeast was already a little swelled, so I burst the activator with the intention of brewing that evening brew. By the time I was ready to brew, rain was eminent. Once again, I’m left with slightly less optimal yeast. Having to postpone I cleaned stuff and prepped for tonights brew night. Which lead to a funny conversation with T about how much time I spend cleaning stuff for brewing, and how little I spend cleaning other things .

Tonights brew plan:
Put 2 in brew pot.
Increase temp to 158.
Add grain, and steep at 155 for 25.
Fill up swamp warmer w/ water.
Fill 5g pot w/ rest of water to top of boil kettle.
Gather rest of ingredients.
Remove steeped grains and feed to chickens.
Top up water to 5.49 gal.
Add DME while bringing to a boil.
Boil 60 Minutes
@0 add 3/4 oz nugget.
@50 add 1/4 tsb irish moss
@50 add chiller
@60 Stir to whirlpool.
Commence Chilling immediately.
Chill to 65 or as close to as possible.
Transfer to carboy.
Aerate while bringing wort to basement.
Take SG reading.
Set in water bath set at 68.
Some things went ok, like hitting temps and times for steeping and hops.
There are some things I’m still struggling with, cooling, trube, and boil volumes.
I missed my post boil volume significantly, and transferred a ton of crap when I went to primary because I wasn’t able to cool effectively, w/out stirring up a ton of trube.

Things I’ll do different next time.
Steep in 5g pot to allow warming extract and water during steeping time.
Either filter trube, or chill more patiently.

All in all, no fatal flaws, and I hope it turns out well, as we’ll have guests trying it labor day.

Keggerator update

This past weekend I made some additional progress on the keggerator, while I’d like to think it’s nearly complete there is quite a bit of detail work left to finish.
However I could have been pouring beer last night with a few more minutes work. But the perfectionist in me said, finish it up right, don’t just jump to the fun part. This is the short list of what I plan to do in the near term.
  • Insulate the collar. Install foam board, and caulk seams and holes.
  • Hook up the gas line to the regulator.
  • Hook up liquid lines to ball lock connectors and shanks.
  • Hang dehumidifier and setup a circulation fan
  • Mount the temperature controller
  • Mount a drip tray and bottle opener

I guess it doesn’t sound so close to complete with all those punch list items. But I did get a lot accomplished, and it even looks ready to pour beer. What I did:
  • Assemble inner collar from 2x10’s and assemble facade of 1x12’s.
  • Drill shank holes, gas line, and temp probe ports.
  • Put the collar on the freezer, and attach the lid to the collar.
  • Assemble shanks, and taps.
  • Took photos and wrote a blog.
It looks ok, the wood work is amateur at best. It will be overkill for the volume of beer I’ll put through it, but it sure beats having to bottle. I have really enjoyed working on it. I want to have it finished and full for a Labor Day party. Also it’s been a work in progress since July of 2011, when I acquired the freezer, and temperature controller. I have been acquiring bits and pieces ever since. I don’t always have luck with that approach, but for this project it worked. I was able to spread out the investment both in cost and labor. Not including kegs, the freezer, or the few remaining items to purchase I’ve invested about $400 in the project. I could have done it cheaper and saved money, but I’d have compromised on worth while areas. I also become a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to these types of projects. At what I have spent, it is approaching the cost of a prebuilt dual faucet keggerator, just something to think about if you plan to go this route, it’s not necessarily the cheaper way to go.