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Summer Ale is ready

Posted in Beer on May 29th, 2011 by Chris

I was outside working today. We got 10 cubic yards of mulch delivered this week and the weather had turned hot. So, I spent most of the day in the near 90 degree humid Ohio weather. I was chugging Gatorade like there was no tomorrow … but do you know what I really wanted? An ice cold beer …

It’s been a week since I bottled my Summer Ale and I’ve already had a couple … even though it wasn’t done carbonating. Well, tonight when I cracked open a beer, I heard that familiar “pssst” of a beer that’s ready to go. So, I snapped a quick picture and proceeded to drink it down. If there was ever a definition of “drinkable” … this beer fits the bill. With a simple malt profile and only cascade hops, it is an enjoyable beer to drink (even luke warm as it was … ). As so, as I write this, there is a second on chilling in the fridge for further enjoyment.

Final conclusion, I would change nothing …

Recipe here.

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Why brew your own?

Posted in Beer on May 24th, 2011 by Chris

I’ve been asked a number of times “Why brew your own when you can just go down to the store and buy a six pack?” The reasons are endless, so here I will make a sad attempt at naming a few to address that question.

First, and foremost, home brewed beer can and does taste better than anything you can buy at the local grocery. Sure, there are some good beers out there … maybe even a couple great ones. But, who knows what you like better than you? So, who better to make a beer you like? Home brewers can pick their own malts, hops, yeast, boiling times (bitterness) in addition to any number of other ingredients for flavor. You can try flavors and styles you can’t buy even if you wanted to because the fact is … some styles of beer just don’t travel well or bottle well.

Second, it’s cheap. Even using overpriced beer kits you can easily beat the price of ‘average’ beers from the store.  Let’s take for example a simple light lager kit at $25. Making roughly 50 beers, that works out to 50 cents a beer. Better quality ingredients, better tasting beer, for less …. how is that possible? Typically, the massive scale of big business is hard to beat for price and value. Here is one case where homemade has a big advantage. The reason is because of the huge burden tossed onto the industry by the government. Brewers are taxed per facility for the honor of brewing beer. Distributers must pay fees to be able to distribute frothy golden goodness to the masses. Restaurants and stores pay taxes and licensing fees before they’re approved for selling beer. And, finally … you, the consumer, pay sales tax. So, while the average buyer thing they’re paying the standard 6% or 8% in sales tax, it goes much deeper than that. Hence, you can buy some high quality ingredients and brew your own awesome beer for cheaper than buying you own and ‘stick it to the man’ while you’re at it!

Third, you know what’s in it. Did you ever look at your beer from the store? Turn it around, check the case …. see an ingredient list? No? Me either. So, what could go wrong in your beer? Not much, water, hops, malted grain, yeast … but the fact of the matter is that you really don’t know. The only way to know for sure is to know your ingredients. Know the water source, know the grains, know the yeast, etc. Is it healthier? Probably not. Is it peace of mind? For me … yes. Additionally, with my goal of growing my own ingredients … it means I can know what’s in the soil, what variety of grains were grown (GMO or not), what chemicals were used to fertilize the hops and grains, and so on. Am I paranoid? Sure. But, I’ll also make the best organic freakin’ beer out there given enough time.

Lastly, as with doing anything on your own, it comes with a sense of pride and an increased knowledge. Making things with my own two hands makes me feel good. Home repairs, fixing the car, digging up a garden, planting trees, restoring a tractor, welding up some sheet metal, planing down some raw wood, cooking up a perfect meal … it’s all the same feeling. The sense of accomplishment at a finished project is one of the best feelings out there. Akin to these is the sense of pride as you drink that first beer from a new batch of beer. Smelling the flavors you chose to combine, seeing the color produced by the malted grains and the frothy head from your choice of yeast … it’s something every honest beer drinking person should experience. In addition to this comes increased knowledge. Brewing beer well takes research, reading, discussion, and hands on experience. Yet, it’s easy enough that you can buy a kit, follow the instructions, and get good beer right away. It is simple to learn, yet difficult to master. The more you learn more about the process, you’ll likely be even more intrigued. It’s a viscous cycle. Yet, the knowledge you’ll learn is something that’s been past down through millennia of brewers since the beginning of history. If you’re lucky enough to have children … someday, you can pass that knowledge on to them. If there was ever a meaning to life … creating things, and teaching things would rank near the top for me. Turns out, becoming a home brewer accomplishes both.

Is beer the center of the meaning of life? You decide.



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New ways to share

Posted in Uncategorized on May 22nd, 2011 by Chris

I just installed a new app for the website that allows users to share my articles on all sorts of social media websites. So, if you like one of my articles, I’d encourage you to check out the row of icons at the bottom and share away.

One of my favorites is StumbleUpon. If you have ADD and love wasting time on the internet, there is no better site than stumbleupon. When you share an article, it will go into a category. Once it’s loaded into their category people can stumble onto it. When you’re Stumbling, you select a category and click ‘Stumble’. This sends you to an article based on your category and previous ‘likes’. For example, I’ll select ‘homebrewing’ … click ‘stumble’ … and a few hours later I’ve learned some cool home brew techniques. (And wasted a couple hours away on the computer).

Hops and Kiwi Update

Posted in Beer, Wine on May 21st, 2011 by Chris

The little hop and kiwi plants are starting to stretch out in search of something to grow on. Today, I helped them along with some simple structures. If all goes well this year, I will build something more permanent for them to grow on. For this year though, I wanted something simple and quick.

For the hops, my hope it to have them grow up strings along the side of my barn. I put two hitching rings about 25′ up on the side of my barn. I ran some twine down to some metal hoops I made from scrap steel rod. That way, at the end of the year, I can cut down the twine and throw the whole mess on the compost pile. The hope vine is very rough and grips the twine quite well.

For the kiwi, I ran more twine from the grape arbor to the fence such that it passed directly over the kiwi plants. For added support, I put two stakes in the ground (one at each plant) and secured the line of twine to the stake. The kiwi vines are really spreading out quickly with all the rain we’ve had recently.

As for permanent structures, the hops might require more secure ground anchors and the jute twine will not last more than a year. So, long term better ground ancors and rope are the only thing needed. The kiwi is a different story. I plan to replace the grape arbor and when I do, I’ve lined up the kiwi plants with the existing grape vine so that I can put in posts on either end and run stainless lines for both the grapes and kiwi to grow on for years to come. Of course, all that is pending this years outcome.

With any luck, I’ll get a few kiwi and a handful of hops … but being realistic, this year is more of a test run to understand what I’ll need to provide for the plants next year to get a good harvest. And with a good harvest comes kiwi wine and fresh hop beer!

Here are some pictures. I also took some pictures of the grapes. One is showing the “one year grown” I pruned last year, leaving three buds. You can see the new grown came from those buds. The next is showing the baby grape clusters on the new growth.

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Summer Ale Racked to Secondary

Posted in Beer on May 11th, 2011 by Chris

I was keeping tabs on the summer ale closely and noticed the fermentation slowing down. So I decided to take a hydrometer reading and guess what … it’s down from 1.052 to 1.015 in 5 days. This is much faster than the kit yeast I’ve been using. So, that meant it was time to rack it into the secondary fermenter. With racking comes tasting, and wow … so far, I’m impressed. The hops flavor and aroma are very intense but bitterness kept low. The color is a nice light copper. If everything keeps on this track, I’ll be very pleased with this beer.

Also, I’m certain I’ll be able to find plenty to do with the Cascade hops I’m growing.

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How to brew beer – partial mash method

Posted in Beer on May 8th, 2011 by Chris

Yesterday, I brewed up a batch of Summer Ale. You can find the updated recipe here.

While I was at it, I decided to document the process. The resulting video probably isn’t new information for anyone who’s been reading my blog but if it can inspire just one more person to start brewing their own beer then it’s well worth the effort to make it.

This video shows how to brew beer using a partial mash method common to the majority of beer kits available for first time brewers.

So without further ado … here you are:

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Summer Ale

Posted in Beer on May 3rd, 2011 by Chris

Update: I edited the ingredients, boiling times, and expected outcome to reflect what was finally used for this beer.


I was putting away empties today and noticed how few beers I have left. Given that running out is unacceptable it seems necessary that I start planning another batch.  For this batch, I want to accomplish a couple things …

1. Make a light colored, hoppy ale for a refreshing cold summer beer.

2. Use cascade and/or centennial hops to confirm what I’m getting into with the growing plants.

3. Make my first recipe, even though I’ll still be using extract.

After researching online what other people have put together, I’ve put together the following recipe.  In addition, I did a quick search in the Ubuntu repository for a brewing calculator and one came up … it’s called QBrew and so far I really like it. A brewing calculator helps when you’re making your own recipe to know how your ingredients stack up in terms of potential alcohol %, bittering units, and color. I’d recomment QBrew … , and if that changes after I’m done brewing I’ll remove the recommendation!

Here is my recipe:

Black Mutt Summer Ale (5 gal)

2 lb American Munich crushed grain

6.6 lb Golden light malt extract

1 oz Cascade Hops (45 minutes)

1 oz Cascade Hops (15 minutes)

1 oz Cascade Hops (5 minutes)

California Ale Yeast


Estimated Outcome:

OG: 1.052

FG:  1.012  (est.)

Bitterness: 27 IBU

Color: 11 SRM

Any thoughts, comments, or suggestion are welcome!


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