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International Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day

Today is International Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day so I had a few friends over and made beer. Some of them knew how to brew, some of them did not, and one of the latter is gonna give it a try. I ended up making about 15 gallons of beer in two batches. Allow me to elaborate.

I bought ingredients for 10 gallons of AHS Evil Brown ale and everything was set to go at 10 o’clock this morning. There was one flaw in my plan, you see at the last club meeting we discussed Bryan/College Station water quality. It turns out that our water is simply awful for brewing – there’s too much sodium and hardness. With this in mind I went down to Jacob’s Well and got 20 gallons of reverse osmosis filtered water.

I know better than to brew with only RO water, and thought I had some Burton salts in my box of homebrew supplies. I did not. Nor did I use any tap water in my mash like I should have. My efficiency suffered severely because of this and I extracted 10 gallons of 1.022 wort where I should have seen 1.050-ish.

The remaining grains were still sweet so some of the other homebrews convinced me to do another batch. This time I added about a gallon of tap water to 5 gallons of RO. The mash went through starch conversion in about 15 minutes and I mashed for a total of 40. The resulting wort came out around 1.031 SG. I tossed some left-over Magnum and Goldings hops in the boil and split my yeast starter between the two fermenters. They are in the duck-in cooler right now.

So it took me two mashes and 15 gallons to get all the sugar out of my grains, but I like low-alcohol session beers. I’m curious to tast the brews.

The recipe:


  • 18 lbs 2-row
  • 1 lbs Crystal 60
  • 0.5 lbs Chocolate Malt


  • 2 oz 7.6% AA Brewer’s Gold 60 mins
  • 1 oz 4.2% AA Goldings 15 mins

White Labs 005 English Ale yeast

Batch two used

  • 0.5 oz 14% AA German Magnum hops for 90 minutes
  • 1 oz 4.2% AA Goldings for 15 mins

I had those nagging cooling problems. Next time I will run my pump at a slower speed.

It was a great day. I even found the time to grill two racks of spare ribs and Adrienne made mozzarella. Other folks brought home and commercial brew meaning everyone was well fed and well drunk.

Rye of the Hurricane

Yesterday the eye of hurricane Ike passed 85 kilometers westward of my house in Bryan, TX. It caused no damage to speak of here. Our neighbors lost a tree, but after Adrienne and I helped him cut it down we waited out the storm with some spicy barley soup and laptops. We did not lose power or water like Galveston and wish a speedy recovery to them.

Today was brew-day. I had a crisp rye ale lined up from Austin Homebrew Supply and a starter of Wyeast 1968 ready to go. AHS advertised this recipe being similar to Real Ale’s Full Moon Pale Rye, which I like. Bear Republic makes a great rye IPA and I would like to explore brewing with rye malt.

Had a few friends over to help share some (commercial) beer. The brew went by in a typical way. My efficiency is often quite low (50% today) so I topped off the recipe with a kilogram of dry malt extract. I got about 45 liters out of it which indicates that I sparge too much. OG was 12.8% brix with 41-ish IBUs. The recipe:


  • 7.75 kg Pale malt
  • 2.0 kg Rye Malt
  • 1.0 kg Light Dry Malt Extract
  • 0.5 kg Munich Malt


  • 110 g 5.3% AA Mt Hood (60 mins)
  • 55 g 1.5 % AA (!) Hallertauer (5 mins)

Wyeast 1968 London ESB Ale yeast.

Mashed 2.5 liters of water per kg at 65° C for 60 minutes. Sparged with 37 liters water to collect 51 liters of sweet wort. Measured the gravity to be 7.8% Brix.

I boiled for 30 minutes before adding the Mt Hood trying to get my volume down and gravity up. The wort has a nice sweetness to it, but I do not taste much rye. Chilling the wort is still a problem as I can only get down to about 32° C. When I put together a stand for my equipment I will make space for a pre-chiller. However, the brew is now fermenting in the duck-in cooler I made.

Creativespace ESB

I made 10 gallons of a simple ESB today, and it turned out fine. The ingredients came from Austin Homebrew Supply.


  • 17 lbs Maris Otter Pale
  • 1.5 lbs Crystal 60L

OG 10.75° Plato


  • 2 oz 7.7% AA Brewer’s Gold (60 mins)
  • 2 ox 4.5% AA Yakima Goldings (15 mins)

Est 41.8 IBU

White Labs WLP002 English Ale yeast

What went well:

  • Brewday was quite smooth. I now have a great grasp of how my equipment works together and how to fit brewday tasks into the downtime between hop additions and mash stirrings.
  • I verified that water loss in my mash tun is acceptably small — less than half a gallon. I wondered about losses here because my manifold is not sweated together meaning that suction could be lost before collecting all the sweet wort.
  • I got about 65% efficiency out of my system, which is better than usual. I did a little better on the SG than suggested by Austin Homebrew.
  • The hand-drill paint stirrer is just awesome for aerating wort.

Concerns include:

  • The pitchable tube spent a day in the Texas heat because UPS doesn’t knock very loud. It smelled a little funky when I opened it, but the starter was better.
  • I did not chill down to an ideal temperature before pitching. Threw the yeast into about 95° F wort. The fermenter is in a nice cool room now and I think the wort is cooler than last time.

For my readers looking for an update on the duck-in cooler, I made little progress since the last post. Too much weekend traveling. After the Longshot Competition judging this weekend, though, I will have time to finish it.


First Brew-In

Weeks in advance the word went out through Craigslist, Facebook and TexAgs, trickling through emails from friend to friends. When brewday about 20 people showed to share beer, make beer, talk beer and have a good time. Three people brought their gear and we made 21 gallons of beer. I made an ordinary bitter, Ian made some hefeweizen, and a trio of brewers crafted chocolate raspberry stout.
I would say it was a great success. There was plenty of home and commercial brew going around and there was some great tri-tip off the bar-b-que. As is typical of many homebrew clubs, there was just a little bit of club business to discuss and a next meeting to decide on. Josh and Leslie volunteered their place for the next meeting and we quickly decided on May 3rd. I am pretty excited at the ease with which everyone got along and the eagerness of the group to continue gathering.

For 11 gallons of Ordinary Bitter:
Actual OG 1.034
Estimated IBU 26


  • 12 Lbs Crisp Maris Otter
  • 1.5 Lbs CaraMalt

Mash at 150° F with 1.7 quarts water per pound of grain for 90 minutes.


  • 1.0 oz 5.3% AA E.K. Goldings 90 minutes
  • 0.5 oz 9.0% AA Target (pellet) 90 minutes
  • 1.0 oz 5.3% AA E.K. Goldings 15 minutes
  • 1.0 oz 5.3% AA E.K. Goldings 1 minute

Starter of WYeast 1098, British Ale yeast.

My brew-day went smoothly until the end. My kettle screen let some hop leaves by and they got clogged somewhere leaving me with half-chilled wort. What I should have done was stop the chill, disassemble my apparatus and back-flush the system into the kettle. What I did instead was to dump the hot wort into the fermenter to air cool. I had to walk the fine line between pitching yeast into scalding wort and giving infection too much time to take hold. I think I pitched too hot because it took about 24 hours to see activity from a decent starter. I would really like to get my system hard-plumbed and on a stand.
I had two new gadgets to play with yesterday. The filter worked well once I realized it would be fine if I glued the casing together instead of worrying about replacing the filter after 10,000 gallons. I also bought a “Squirrel” brand paint mixer to aerate wort. That thing whipped up a six-inch head of foam in no time, making it a great purchase.

Where the Fuck Are My Hops Kölsch

First brew-day in Texas! There is no LHBS in B/CS so I ordered a Kölsch and a Bitter from Northern Brewer. I figured Kölsch is a good way to ease any megaswill-drinking new friends into good beer. Last night I went through boxes of packed equipment and retrieved what I need to brew. I had a nice starter ready. Everything looked set to go.

The recipe from NB:


  • 9 lbs Durst Pilsen
  • 1 lbs. Weyermann Pale Wheat


  • 1 oz. Argentina Cascade (60 min)
  • 1 oz. Argentina Cascade (30 min)

Wyeast #2565

I started the strike water around 11:30 (central time) just as a couple of my friends showed up to watch the process. When I went go get the ingredients from the cupboard I discovered that the hops were missing. Either I misplaced them or NB didn’t ship them…. This was the perfect opportunity to introduce the guys to the homebrewer’s creed: “Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.” Lacking homebrewed beer, I pulled out some Fancy Lawnmower ale from St Arnold’s Brewery (a kölsch) and went for the ingredients from the bitter. EKG, Target, Magnum…. This won’t quite make the BJCP standard definition of kölsch.


  • 0.75 oz 8% AA Target 60 mins
  • 1.00 oz 5% AA E.K. Goldings 30 mins

I also couldn’t find my depth meter (an aluminum ruler), so I had to eyeball the amount of strike water. It turns out I had too much, leaving me with a dilute mash and not enough sparge water. My efficiency is way off because in the end I collected about 4 gallons of 11% brix wort.

I am glad to be making beer again, glad to have six or eight new friends (enough to start a homebrew club) to share the process with (in no small part because of the beer for them). I’ll probably find those hops tomorrow.

Makin’ Glögg

Glögg is a Swedish drink that we make yearly. Only last year, however, did we get serious about storing the finished product. Because of the added sugar it begins a very sweet drink – too much for me, but after a month becomes drinkable. Two weeks ago I opened 2006’s batch. With age, it becomes smooth and spicy.

Last year I followed the recipe we have saved in the folds of The Joy of Cooking, but this year that book and recipe is packed away in preparation for our January move to Texas. Good thing Adie has an online copy.

I want to record the recipe I used this year so I can look back at it next year. I had to stray a little because the grocery store was out of a few things this morning (big surprise, Christmas Eve…)

In a saucepan mix:

  • A bottle of dry red wine. This year I used a $3 bottle of merlot.
  • Peel of a navel orange
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup prunes
  • 12 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 whole cloves
  • About a teaspoon of ground cardamom

Simmer for 15 minutes, then add

  • A bottle of ruby port
  • 1 c chopped almonds

Reduce heat to low, cover. In a pan heat over a medium flame

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 bottle Aquavit

Ignite the aquavit and burn until the sugar is dissolved. Add the remainder of the aquavit and cover to extinguish. Add this mixture to the mulled wine.

I left the glögg covered over low heat while I cleaned up, about 30 minutes. Strain out the mulling ingredients, bottle and label.


Brew-in at the LHBS

Yesterday, the Sudzers held a brew-in at Beer & Winemakers, a local homebrew shop. It is a chance to get together with club members and show off your brewery. If you have read some of my previous posts you will know that my brewery is in transition from average-homebrew-size to double-homebrew-size. I have the big pieces of equipment, but not the stuff to efficiently connect the individual vessels. Despite this, and in defiance of previous infections, I packed most of my brewery into the car – resolute to make a full batch.

In order to take advantage of my shiny new counter-flow chiller and false bottom for my kettle, I needed to stop off at the hardware store. There I picked up some copper fittings and hose clamps to connect the kettle and CFC. Since it has been ten years since I last soldered copper, I hoped someone among the brewers there could refresh my memory. The beer path of my chiller was also a little tweaked from a storage accident and I feared the fittings might not set into place properly.

I arrived 20 minutes after the prescribed start to find only Roger St. Dennis set up and mashing. Always jovial, he greeted me and pointed to where I could set up. I was thankful to have a spot near the shade – the previous week was hot and sunny. There were customers, mostly neophyte brewers, checking out our equipment and asking questions about the process. I poured a beer from the jockey box.

Despite being determined to make beer that day, I did not have a recipe. I am beginning a search for a stellar bitter recipe and the owner at B&WM helped me get a start. Off the top of his head, he recommended these ingredients:


  • 20 lbs Maris Otter
  • 2 lbs Crystal 35L


  • 3.0 oz Goldings 5.1%AA 60 min
  • 1.0 oz Goldings 5.1%AA 10 min

I choose White Labs Dry English Ale yeast and the hopping schedule. I poured a beer from the jockey box.

He erred towards the malty side, but even with my brewery’s 68% efficiency that put the OG -about 1.056 – well above range for an ordinary bitter. I could have used half the fermentables and come out at the low end of the gravity range. Not to worry – I like big beers too.

I heated 9 gallons of strike water to about 160° F and mashed in. The only thermometer I brought that day had a tiny dial, so these readings are approximate. I hit around 155° F for my sacc rest and called it good. I poured a beer from the jockey box. While the hot water did its thing, I chatted with customers and set about other brew-day tasks.

Since my 15-gallon fermenter does not travel well, I resorted to two dirty 5-gallon glass fermenters. Cleaning those bottle-necked vessles is a real pain in the ass, but PBW worked well for me. Another beer from the jockey-box. Many people asked questions and I was happy to explain the whole brewing process.

Even with the extra distractions, I remembered to heat up some sparge water in time for mash-out. My crappy software recommended 8 gallons sparge water, but I only brought a 5-gallon HLT. I decided to make due and heat two batches of water to get the correct volume. The first was ready on time and the second shortly afterwards. The brew-day was quickly progressing. I poured a beer from the jockey box.

While waiting for the kettle to boil, I talked with a machinist about how to best handle my bent chiller outlet. We decided that it would be best to shove a hose way up onto a more sturdy part of the outlet and clamp it down. This worked and I was able to solder a hose-barb on to the other end; ugly, but water-tight. I poured a beer from the jockey box.

Hops were added according to schedule and fermenters were sanitized in time. The new chiller worked superbly and I employed ye ol’ shake the fermenter for aeration trick. 30 minutes later, my equipment was clean and put away in the car. The bar-b-que was going and I relaxed until my brew-day buzz wore off before driving home.

Twenty-four hours later, one fermenter is running and the other is just picking up steam. (I think one got more O2 than the other.) I have a crawl-space that maintains about 70° F which should produce a fruity ale. I will report on the process as newsworthy events develop.


Introducing the Midnight Hour Brewery

I have been brewing since February of ought-four. I have a blog here, and occasionally here, but I want to do a dedicated brewing one.

All breweries, no matter how small, need a name. That idea had not yet crossed my mind when I took up all-grain brewing around my 4th batch. As you may know, all-grain beer takes quite a bit more time than making simple extract & specialty grain. In those days it did not matter how early I started the strike water, clean up wouldn’t end ’till midnight or afterwards. It was a bit of inexperience and a bit my style. So, when I decided that I needed a name for my brewery, I picked the Midnight Hour Brewery to remind me to attempt an earlier finish.

Now-a-days I do not finish so late on a typical brew day. My last batch, however, was another late-night finish. It had been five months or so since I made beer and I was really feeling the desire to brew. Finally I decided to play hookey and make beer. I whipped up a recipe for three gallons of Bohemian Pilsner.

Fermentables (est 1.056 OG)

  • 1.5 lbs Vienna Malt 1.037, 3°L
  • 5.0 lbs Lager Malt 1.037, 1°L

Hops (est 45.6 IBU)

  • 1.5 oz Tettanger 4%AA 60 mins
  • 1.0 oz Tettanger 4%AA 10 mins
  • 1.0 oz Tettanger 4%AA flameout

White Labs Czech Budejovice Lager yeast & distilled water.

Why the small finish volume? My kettle is out on loan for one thing, but I am also in the middle of building a stand for some new equipment I got for Christmas and my birthday. I got a great deal on some 15-gallon MiniBrew conical fermenters on EBay earlier last year, but they stand about four-foot-six off the ground. To get the chilled wort in there I would have to lift my 20-gallon kettle full of just-boiled liquid to the top of my pickup’s camper shell and put the chiller on a milk-crate on the tail gate. That crap had to stop, so I got a pump for my BD. A nifty false bottom, a mega burner, an upgraded CFC and a grain mill came for Christmas and at that point I needed to put together a way to chain it all together. So my brewery is in pieces right now, explaining the infrequent and small batches.

The Pilsner was a frustrating process. I decided to do a two-step infusion mash instead of my normal single step mash. I had problems hitting my rest temperatures, mashing at 155° F instead of 162° F like I wanted to. I also collected 5 gallons 1.023, putting my original gravity around 1.059 for 3 gallons, and a two hour boil. That’s a little outside the style guidelines for Bohemian Pilsner, but I wanted it at the high end of that gravity range, and it was the long boil that troubled me.

When I sanitized my new chiller, I discovered that I did not have the right hose diameter to get enough suction and clamps probably would have deformed the soft coper of my new chiller. I had already sold my old CFC to the person who also had my kettle, so I had to chill overnight.

At present, the brew is fermenting away at 50° F so it appears there were no infections. Now I have to wait out a 10 week lager for it to be ready. I’ll probably have my stand done before then, then it’s back to consistent, 10-gallon batches.