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Labeling

Posted in Beer, Wine on January 31st, 2011 by Chris

Today I tried labeling for the first time. The product I used worked well. You can find it here.

I designed the labels using GIMP , which I also highly recommend for anyone needing a free graphics editor.

Let me know what you think!

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Bottling day

Posted in Beer on January 30th, 2011 by Chris

Today is bottling day. I did a quick video to describe the process. Here are a couple of notes I thought of as I reviewed the video.

1. You know your beer is ready to bottle when it’d finished fermenting. You can find this by checking the specific gravity matches your expectation. If you’re using a kit it should tell you what the range for final gravity. In my case, I had it sitting on oak chips for flavor so it had finished fermenting a week ago.

2. The cheese cloth is folded over onto itself to make it four layers thick.

Next up is labeling, so I’ll get some pictures up in a few days.

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Other uses for brewing equipment

Posted in Uncategorized on January 25th, 2011 by Chris

I’m sure some purists would scream … but for me, I have limited space so when possible it’s nice to have things with multiple purposes. So, I use my brewing equipment for multiple purposes. For example, brewing buckets can be used for sap collection in the late winter. You may have also noticed that I’m doing the boiling in a canning pot. So the obvious alternative use is for canning … see it in action here:

http://the2mckees.com/blog/?p=141

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Wild Wine – First Try

Posted in Wine on January 22nd, 2011 by Chris

When I bottled the concord and wild blackberry wine, there was a half bottle left. With only a half bottle I was afraid it would oxidize with time and turn bad … so I cracked it open and tried a couple glasses.  Here are some thoughts …

First, it’s certainly in need of more time to age before it reaches it’s prime. There is still some small amount of harshness that should continue to mellow with age. I’ll likely label them and stash them away until the fall. I have enough maple wine to last anyway.

Other than needing to age, the flavor is complex and difficult to explain. I’ll apologize in advance; for anyone with any experience in wine tasting will probably have an aneurysm at my amateur attempt but I’ll give it my best. The initial taste is dry, earthy and acidic. The typical concord flavor only comes out in the back of the mouth and in the fruity aftertaste. My hope is that the acidity will mellow with age … much like what happened with the maple wine.

Similar to the conclusion about the maple wine … it’s a good first try and can only get better with future attempts.

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Grow Local

Posted in Wine on January 20th, 2011 by Chris

With most plants, there are benefits to growing native species. They are better suited for your environment and thus require less work to provide for them.  For Ohio, that also means they are cold hardy.

Growing native varieties of grapes have the same benefits. Luckily for me, Ohio has some good grapes to be grown in my own back yard. In fact, Ohio has a long history of growing grapes and making wine. There are a good number of wineries currently  in operation in the state. Historically most have used species of grapes native to America. Many of these historical wineries have operated on Catawba, South Bass and Kelly Island and are still in operation as wineries and tourist attractions today. In fact, grapes grow so well in Ohio, it’s the only state to consider them “prohibited noxious weeds” if left unkempt.

We have an old vine on our property which, for lack of better understanding, is always called a concord vine. For all I know it’s a mutant though. It grows like crazy and, once I started pruning it, has produced a good amount of grapes. The juice and jelly taste like concord but the wine doesn’t. So, I still can’t say for sure what species it is.

Of the grapes native to America, the varieties I am interested in fall within the  species called “Fox Grapes”. These include: Concord, Delaware, Catawba, Niagara, and many more. Interestingly enough, the species includes blue, red, and white grape varieties. Typically, these wines are finished on the sweet side (to the delight of my wife) but with the “concord” and blackberry wine we just bottled it’s actually more dry than I was expecting.

This season I hope to propagate the vine which is already growing our property. Once I clear some space, I plan to start expanding with Delaware and Catawba vines, and grow from there. An amazing amount of grapes can be grown on a couple acres, so with time, patience, and a little hard work, I expect we’ll be up to our necks in grapes.

I’ll go into more detail about the varieties I want to grow, but in the mean time … do yourself a favor and go try some wine! We were able to find Concord, Delaware, Pink Catawba and White Catawba wine in the local grocery so chances are you can too.

On that note, I’ll wrap up. With the snow falling outside today I can’t help but think of warmer weather … so here is a nice green picture of our grapes on a sunny day. Enjoy!

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Lager Update

Posted in Beer, Wine on January 18th, 2011 by Chris

Today was the warmest day in the foreseeable forecast at 38 F outside. The lagering beer got up to 52 F in the pantry.

That means with outside temperatures ranging from 8 – 38 F the pantry has ranged from 48-52 F. I’m fairly confident that this will become a yearly tradition. With a stable temperature that requires no equipment, how could I pass it up?

The warmer temperatures make me think about the coming outdoor activities like pruning grapes and tapping maple trees. The grapes will need pruned in a month while it’s still below freezing and the vines are dormant. The maple trees will need tapped in March when the temperatures are above freezing during the day and below freezing at night.

With the grapes this year I plan to leave a couple vines un-cut to propagate new plants. I’ll leave one on end and bury a few buds in the middle so they can root. Then after a year attached to the mother plant, I’ll cut them loose and hope the roots are enough. I haven’t tried this before but I noticed that a vine I missed last year had done this on it’s own just from laying on the ground. Sometimes just observing nature is the best teacher. If it roots by accident, it should do fine when I actually try to propagate the vine in the same manner.

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Cold-ish brew

Posted in Beer on January 16th, 2011 by Chris

I spent some time this afternoon cleaning out the bottom of our pantry so I could put the lager beer into the “cold”.  Once I was finished it has warmed up to 55 F. I put the primary fermenter into the pantry and closed the door. Within a few hours it was back down to 50 F and going down. You can also see the outdoor temperature is in the teens. The temperature outside should stay that way with the exception of one day this week. This gives me hope that it will keep my beer at lager temperatures for at least the week and likely longer.

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Busy brewing day

Posted in Beer on January 15th, 2011 by Chris

Today was a busy day of brewing.

I started by boiling some oak chips to sterilize them. Then put them in some whiskey to soak. This will be added to the secondary fermentation of the imperial Russian stout.

We left that soaking and went out to run some errands. I also picked up another beer kit to lager; a Munich Helles kit. I don’t believe it’s one that I’ve had before, but the description sounded good, and it came with a lager yeast.

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“A light-colored German lager with a malty profile. Slightly sweet with just enough bittering hops to balance the malt. This kit includes a lager yeast that will also perform well if fermented at ale temperatures.”

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More the the point … it’s beer, how wrong can you go?

Back at home, I cleaned everything and got ready to work. Once I had the Munich Helles steeping, I put the wood chips in the secondary fermenter and siphoned the stout into it.

And, for anyone wondering what beer looks like while it’s fermenting … mmmm …. beer.

I tried a bit of the stout as it was siphoning and the result so far was very good. Full of flavor and hoppy without being bitter. The smell of whiskey, oak, and dark beer made me wish the process was quicker. It’ll need to sit on the oak chips for a couple weeks before I bottle it. Then a week or more once it’s bottled to carbonate. *sigh*

I couldn’t spend much time pondering the smells of fresh beer though because there was another batch boiling on the stove. The lager kit was just as easy as the others. There were some grains to steep, liquid malt extract, bitter hops, more LME, aroma hops then terminate the boil. The wort chiller did an excellent job again taking the wort from a rolling boil down to 80 F in 7 minutes. All that remained was to toss in some yeast and add an airlock.

Finally, the result of all that … 10 gallons of beer. On the left, in the secondary, is the stout. On the right, in the primary, is the lager. The pantry behind is where I measured 49 F the other day so I plan to move the lager into there once the yeast has gotten a good start.

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Finally cracked open the maple wine

Posted in Wine on January 13th, 2011 by Chris

Last spring I made maple syrup. After boiling sap for two days it got boring … so, the solution was to turn the rest into maple wine!

The maple wine process works like this … boil, boil, boil … decide syrup isn’t worth it … stop boiling, add yeast, age one year.

Unfortunately, one year is a long time to wait. So, 9 months later … I tried the first full glass. It’s good … but not great. The flavor is good but not enough. Next year I want to stick to it … and boil it down further to concentrate the flavor further. I’ve got more buckets for collecting sap so I hope to get more syrup and more wine this year.

Conclusion: Great first attempt.

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First stab at a logo

Posted in Uncategorized on January 12th, 2011 by Chris

UPDATE: Jan 18th …. try 2.

Two things I learned today:

1) An image of a black dog doesn’t show up well on a black background.

2) Rascal isn’t very photogenic.

Regardless, here is the first stab at a logo. Enjoy!