Thanksgiving Brew Day with Special Guest Brewer Meatballsaurus

This Thanksgiving, or the day after, to be more precise, My Brother-in-law, Nick (Meatballsaurus) from SofaKing Brews stopped by for a brew session. We kicked out a Munich Helles hopped like Founder’s All Day IPA. I call it Awe Hell IPL. Should be a nice, clean, hop forward lager.

Here is a link to the recipe on Brewer’s Friend: http://www.brewersfriend.com/homebrew/recipe/view/284072/awe-hell-ipl

Nick, knocking out the vorlauf with those sweet, sweet SofaKing skills.
Nick, knocking out the vorlauf with those sweet, sweet SofaKing skills.
Beard Brothers Brewing Bare-knuckled Bohemian Bier.
Beard Brothers Brewing Bare-knuckled Bohemian Bier.

Mjölkgård Test Batch

Living in Wisconsin has some truly tremendous benefits. Sure it can be cold in the winters and too hot in the summers. There is a very rural feel to much of the state and many of its citizens. Take that however you want. We are home to several amazing breweries, however. Many who distribute only within Wisconsin. I won’t make a list here as I am sure to miss someone incredible.

One of my favorite Wisconsin beers is a cream ale from New Glarus Brewery called Spotted Cow. Mjölkgård is a Swedish word that means “dairy farm”. It is my attempt to recreate this beloved brew.

Here is the Mjölkgård recipe for 5.5 gallons. I have scaled it down to 1 gallon for today’s test brew.

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My brew day worksheet. Modified from BrewersFriend.com. Download the PDF.
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5.2 pH stabilizer. The manufacturer states 2 oz per 31 gallons. That scales down to 0.064 ounces per gallon.
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Mash target 154° F. I hit 152.9° F.
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pH stabilizer for the sparge water.
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Stay cozy my little friend.
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After mashing for 60 minutes the temperature only dropped a few tenths of a degree.
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Lautering the first run. Nice and clear after about a quart of vorlauf.
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So clear I can read through it. Nice pale color too.
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Time to mash out. Target temp was 166° F.
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Weighing out the hop schedule. The measurements are pretty small for a malty brew at 1 gallon.
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Final lautering.
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Top View
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Starting to boil.
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First hops addition.
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Shameless refractometry selfie. FG is 1.052. Goal was 1.048.
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I put the boil kettle outside in a tub of ice. it is 3° outside. I reached pitching temp in 22 minutes.
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I did a starter so I could pitch and retain ~150 billion cells for a future use. 220 mL out of 800 mL needs to go into the wort.
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I put in a little wort before pitching the yeast, then add the rest if the wort.
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Now adding the yeast. Needed about 34 billion cells to finish clean.
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I attached a blow off tube right away after yesterdays mess.
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That’s a handsome brew.
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Mjölkgård next to Fenrir’s Bite with the aftermath of the airlock disaster from yesterday all over its wooden platform.

 

 

 

Fenrir’s Bite Test Batch

I have been working on a recipe this past week. It is an American Pale Ale with a spicy jalepeño kick called Fenrir’s Bite (recipe here). Today I put together a 1 gallon batch using the μMLT and the yeast starter I did yesterday. I picked up a coarse nylon bag to fit inside the μMLT with the hopes it would make cleanup easier, but instead it just made things more difficult. I was never able to set a decent grain bed and after doing roughly a gallon of vorlauf, the wort was still not running clear. It also did nothing to make cleanup easier, so I think I am going to scrap the idea of a bag liner for the mash tun.

Goal OG was 1.060 and actual was 1.063 (15.8° Plato on the refractometer). I ended up doing a 70 minute boil to get the volume down to just under 1 gallon so I could fit 400 mL of the starter yeast in the glass jug with the wort. For now it is sitting in the basement. We’ll see if it takes off. Hopefully it will have a nice kick to it.

I ended up dumping the boiled jalepeños into the fermenter. I am not sure if that is going to negatively impact the pH or not. I may take a pH reading tomorrow (since this is an experiment) just to see how much the peppers are adding to the acidity.

Jalepeños. About 2 ounces in the mash and 2 ounces during the boil at 30 minutes.
Jalepeños. About 2 ounces in the mash and 2 ounces during the boil at 30 minutes.
Hop Schedule.
Hop Schedule.
Lautering.
Lautering.
I wasn't able to get the wort to run very clear due to the bag (I think).
I wasn’t able to get the wort to run very clear due to the bag (I think).
The end of vorlauf. The grain bed never really set properly on the manifold. The bag was more trouble than it was worth.
The end of vorlauf. The grain bed never really set properly on the manifold. The bag was more trouble than it was worth.
Starting the boil.
Starting the boil.
Now we wait... There is already 4 inches of trub on the bottom. I'll be lucky to get six beers out of this.
Now we wait… There is already 4 inches of trub on the bottom. I’ll be lucky to get six beers out of this.

Update: The next morning

The airlock is full of krausen. Apparently fermentation took off like a rocket during the night. I also grabbed a pH strip this morning to check if the peppers in the jug were adversely lowering the pH of the wort. One problem though… I am out of wort range pH strips. I have some 2.8-4.4 range strips for checking the viability of my spray bottled StarSan, but that doesn’t really tell me much useful information about the wort. All I can say for sure is that the pH is greater than 4.4.

Fenrir's Revenge: The Wolf's Eruption.
Fenrir’s Revenge: The Wolf’s Eruption.
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Note to self… Pick up some more pH strips with a test range useful for wort.

First Yeast Starter

Last week I built a DIY stir plate for yeast starters. Today I hit up the Wine & Hop Shop for some supplies for a few 1 gallon test batches and picked up some DME (Dry Malt Extract) along with the yeasts I needed to do some starters and collect a extra 200 billion cells or so for storage to use in a future brew. I used Homebrew Dad’s yeast calculator, or at least I meant to… I planned for a 1.040 SG starter in 1 L. For some reason, maybe because it is the default volume, I put 1500 mL of water in my flask instead of 1000 mL. I are dumb. The OG turned out to be around 1.027, so not even close to what I wanted, but I should still get a good amount of extra yeast cells, but only about half of what I had wanted. Oh well… leave it to me?!?!?

Obviously I am not just whipping this up to see if I can grow yeast. Something spicy is coming this week!

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Look at that stupid grin. Like I don’t even realizes it’s too much water and I am about to boil over!

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Bottling The “Farm Girl” Belgian Saison

Seven hells this has taken a long time to get here. We started this beer in the middle of January, and here we are in March.

January 18th was the brew day for this Farm Girl Belgian Saison. The yeast we used was the Wyeast 3724: Belgian Saison, and this thing is a picky little C-U-know-what-I-mean. When I took a gravity reading on Tuesday last week, it had reached final gravity. I put it in the 42° F root cellar to cold crash for about 4 days and today I rounded up the micro-team and we bottled it. Total volume after transferring it into the bottling bucket was just a hair over 5 gallons. We ended up filling four 22 oz bombers, ten 16 oz Grolsch bottles, and thirty-one 12 oz long-necks.

So now we wait another 2-3 weeks for this to carbonate in the bottles. I am thinking we should rename it Falkor since this beast has been a never ending story.

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YADIYSP: Yet Another Do-It-Yourself Stir Plate

I have done several batches of beer now, and since I want to try doing a Lager or a Kölsch before winter winds down, I figured I better start making some yeast starters. And hey, another excuse for a frivolous DIY electronics project. Today I put together a stir plate. If you want to make one like this, I have itemized the parts and prices below. You would also need an erlenmeyer flask (we have a 2000 mL flask) and a 25 mm stir bar.

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  1. Desktop Plastic Project Case Box 5.51″ x 4.33″ x 1.38″ $6.90
  2. Thermaltake Mobile Fan II External USB Cooling Fan $10.92
  3. SPST Small Rocker Switch $1.62
  4. USB Extension Cable (2) $7.98
  5. Neodymium Magnets 1/2 x 1/8 inch Disc $5.89

Total cost $33.31

Some disassembly required!

diy_stirplate_0002 I chose the Thermaltake fan because it is 5 volts so I can power it over USB, and it comes with a built in speed control potentiometer with a nice metallic finish knob. I unscrewed the bolts and tossed the cage and stand.diy_stirplate_0003 The potentiometer knob is just held on by tension, but it is a lot of tension. I needed some pliers to pull it off.diy_stirplate_0004

diy_stirplate_0005 There is a small clip on the potentiometer that holds it into the bracket. Depressing the clip allowed the potentiometer to be pulled out.

diy_stirplate_0006 These mounting nibs are in the way for mounting the fan.diy_stirplate_0007A quick buzz with the cutoff wheel on the rotary tool got them out of the way enough to move forward with mounting the fan.
diy_stirplate_0008 I marked out the holes and drilled them out with a 1/8 inch bit, then ran the bolts that held the cage on through the box and fan and used the nuts that came with to lock it down.diy_stirplate_0009 I am using the female end of one of the USB extensions as a power jack. Here I lined it up to the back plate to cut out with the rotary tool.diy_stirplate_0010 4 wires to a standard USB cable, Green DATA+, White DATA-, Black POWER-, Red POWER+diy_stirplate_0011 Test fitting after making the cutout. Meh… good enough.diy_stirplate_0012 Next I cut off the female end of the other USB extension cable and striped the wires on both male ends to solder them together to make a power cable for the stir plate.diy_stirplate_0013 Twisted up and ready to solder. I also used some electrical shrink wrap to make the connections and cable nice.diy_stirplate_0014diy_stirplate_0015I cut out the front plate of the project box with the rotary tool to make a place for the rocker switch.

Had to take out one of the bolts because the switch wouldn’t fit. Three should be enough, right?diy_stirplate_0016Now to wire up the power.

diy_stirplate_0017 I was going to use these handy clips, but my crimping tool is the wrong size and I just ended up butchering the whole pack of clips.diy_stirplate_0018 Oh well, more soldering.diy_stirplate_0019 Now to find a good place to position the potentiometer knob.diy_stirplate_00201/4 inch drill bit seems to be the right size.diy_stirplate_0021Fit is good enough.
diy_stirplate_0022 Hot glued the USB female power jack and the potentiometer to the case.diy_stirplate_0023 Next I centered and hot glued the magnets to the fan. The magnets are stacked 2 high.diy_stirplate_0024 It spins!diy_stirplate_0025 A test run before adding the box cover gets a good lock on the stir bar and creates the expected vortex.diy_stirplate_0026 Unfortunately, with the cover on, I can’t get a lock on the stir bar and it flies off almost immediately. I tried adding another magnet to each stack, but it presses against the top of the box and wont spin. Either way, going to have to do some more cutting.diy_stirplate_0027Ugly cut with a drill bit and rounded out with a rotary tool sanding cylinder.
diy_stirplate_0028 That’s OK, I can pretty it up with some red cellophane tape.diy_stirplate_0029 Little girls love science!diy_stirplate_0030 The colors change. It is whirling and swirling and working as expected.diy_stirplate_0031 Proper glamour shot.diy_stirplate_0032 USB A male to USB A male power cord.diy_stirplate_0033 The power jack on the back.diy_stirplate_0034 The potentiometer knob.diy_stirplate_0035 The power switch.diy_stirplate_0036diy_stirplate_0037 Rubber feet for the bottom.

Son of MLT… Micro Mash Lauter Tun (μMLT) v1.0

This is a 2 gallon Rubbermaid beverage cooler conversion I did yesterday for 1 gallon batches/exbeeriments. I added a 3/8 ball valve.

Beer bottle for scale because I didn't have a banana.
Beer bottle for scale because I didn’t have a banana.

There is a CPVC manifold inside.

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The CPVC manifold is coupled to the bulkhead with a 3/8 threaded to 1/2 inch pipe copper fitting.

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With the manifold pulled out, you can see the slits that were cut into the CPVC with a hacksaw for lautering.

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And here is the micro mash/lauter tun (μMLT?) on top of its big brother, a 10 gallon Igloo MLT.

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Buddies; Grand Opening

The Buddies Blonde Ale has been bottle conditioning for 2 weeks now. Today I cracked the first one open.

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I love malty beers. I like a good, hoppy IPA as much as the next chap, but I am generally not a big fan of “hop forward” beers. This Buddies blonde ale uses 11 lbs of grain and a 60 minute addition of just 1.2 oz of Willamette hops (4.7% AA). The Willamette is enough to balance the malty sweetness with a mild bitterness and a hint of earthy spice, but as I drink this beer, I am blissfully unaware of a hoppy presence and, at the same time, my palate is not being overwhelmed with unattenuated malty goo. It is balanced… Mellow. My mind wanders to images of biscuits and toast. I am swept away to a field of barley, drinking in a sensory experience. I think I want another one. This beer reminds me of an old friend… A buddy. We’re buddies, right?